Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blinded by Science

Next up is a small mural near SE 6th & Oak, painted on an industrial building's rolling steel door. A Flickr photo caption by wiredforsound23 (who's the source for a lot of my mural posts) says this is called Blinded by Science, and says it's by local artist Klutch, who also did the big mural next to Buckman Field. I keep thinking this looks like a hop cone, wearing awesome 80s shades like it's beer's answer to the old California Raisin commercials. But that's just me.

Riggins Remodeling mural

The mural tour continues with another stop on NE Alberta; the next mural is at the Riggins Remodeling shop, facing the alley between 27th & 28th. I wasn't able to find out anything about this one, which happens a lot with art on Alberta for some reason. The local booster association has a murals page, but they only list a handful of RACC and Forest for the Trees ones, which is no help since I've already covered all of those. Oh, well.

Binks mural

Next up is the mural outside Binks, a hipster bar on NE Alberta at 27th. A June 2014 Oregonian article indicates it was painted around that time, thanks to a grant from the Portland Development Commission, but doesn't say who it's by. Which is a shame because I like linking to the actual artists when I can.

I do think it's weird that NE Alberta still gets PDC money, though. If you looked at the area just 15-20 years ago, there were empty storefronts everywhere, buildings in disrepair, potholes in the street, precisely the sort of thing the PDC was supposed to be targeted at. And they did it: Over the next few years, they were able to gentrify the area, first into an edgy-artsy district, and then into an upscale retail street lined with luxury condos (though "Arts District" lives on as an effective real estate sales slogan). You'd think that at some point the street would finally be on its feet and able to fend for itself, and the PDC could declare victory and go elsewhere. It's not that I'm in favor of them going to Lents, or Cully, or Portsmouth, and giving the neighborhood the Alberta treatment, displacing existing (mostly minority) residents in favor of the usual hip artisanal pumpkin spice pod people. I'm totally not in favor of that; I'm just surprised the PDC isn't doing it.

Dream into Reality

Next mural on our tour is Dream into Reality, at the McCoy Academy alternative school on NE MLK near Failing. Other than the Kay's Bird Club post in the first link, I couldn't find any info to share about this one. I would guess this is from the mid-90s or so, going by the faded paint and the inscription "Peace in the Hood".

Monarca murals

Next up on the mural tour we're visiting Monarca Sunrise & Monarca II, a pair of butterfly murals on SE 49th, just south of Division. The latter of the two has an RACC page and description:

This mural is an extension of the mural “Monarca Sunrise” painted by the same artist on the front of the building. The butterfly pattern that extends through the two murals adds continuity and unity with the next door mural “Urban Wellness,” also by Hernandez, in which the butterfly images continue playing an important role as a symbol of transformation. In this way the use of butterflies in this mural reinforces the metaphor of transformation at the dawn of a new day, and the wellness that such a new day could bring.

(And yes, I already posted about the Urban Wellness mural mentioned in the description.)

Urban Wellness mural

Next stop on our mural tour is the Urban Wellness mural on the eponymous alternative medicine office at SE 49th & Division. The RACC description:

The concept for this mural is based on the idea of wellness and well-being in an urban environment. The composition is rich with symbolic imagery, from the lotus as the achievement of health in an urban context, to the butterflies as a representation of change, to the images of the buildings and Mt. Hood as a sign of strength and a hopeful future. The mural integrates these different elements with the architecture of the building and creates a landscape that flows and connects to the next building featuring a second mural by Hector Hernandez, Butterfly Horizon. The subject matter of this neighboring mural is that of hope, and the Urban Wellness mural the blooming of wellness from that hope.

So yeah. Perhaps you're familiar already with my periodic disclaimer: Writing about someone's mural doesn't mean I'm endorsing the business itself. Even if I like the mural, which I do in this case. I'm not saying I thought you personally were conflating the two things, but somebody might, hence the disclaimer. In this case I'd also like to point you at Respectful Insolence, a blog by a doctor who pokes holes in alternative medicine and related woo. It's a good read. Enjoy!

Community Energy Project mural

Next up on our tour is the Community Energy Project mural at NE MLK & Alberta. The RACC description:

The Community Energy Project (CEP) empowers people to maintain healthier, more livable homes, control the utility costs, and conserve natural resources through education, hands-on training, and distribution of weatherization materials. The mural for CEP depicts the positive actions and services they provide to communities, portraying people who are setting an example for others through their daily activities. The imagery reflects both interior and exterior local residential environments involving many factors that make a house sustainable.

This was painted in 2010 by artist Esteban Camacho Steffensen with help from community volunteers. The Community Energy Project itself has since moved to offices on SE Stark, but the mural was still there on the empty building the last time I checked.

Tabor Commons mural

The next mural on our tour is the Tabor Commons mural on a small community center building at SE 57th & Division. This one has a brief RACC description:

The SE Uplift Neighborhood Association mural combines large color fields with imagery relating to gardens and nature in the surrounding community. Contemporary folk art is referenced through thematic content, asymmetrical shapes, and color arrangements that create a lively sense of rhythm, friendliness, and light.

The building his home to Cafe au Play, which describes itself as "a nonprofit coffeehouse and community center with play areas for children and activities for children, caregivers, and the community". Their history page explains that the building was originally a gas station, and was home to a used car dealership, a convenience store, and then a coffee shop / deli. In 2003 the deli was seized by the feds; apparently the owner was making a little extra money on the side selling bulk Sudafed to meth labs. (I'm generally skeptical about federal drug wars and asset forfeiture, but that's a whole other subject.) In any case, eventually the local neighborhood association bought the "blighted" building, and they landed an RACC mural grant to help with the building's transformation. The mural here was created by Laura Bender & John Early, who also did the very large Tapestry mural at the Barbur Transit Center in SW Portland.

Musgo mural

Ok, next mural up is in Old Town, on NW Flanders between 6th & Broadway, outside the Musgo art gallery. The only show listing I can find for this place is from May 2012, so either they're defunct or they have a really bad PR person. The name is the Spanish word for "moss", btw. (As in regular moss, not Spanish moss, which is a whole other thing entirely.) I gather that in the late 90s & early 2000s there was a New Agey shop & gallery here, which might be where the murals came from.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

SE 48th & Hawthorne Roses

Sometimes when I think I've gotten a little too esoteric here, I remember somebody has a Tumblr (and a Google Map to go with it) that are just about Portland murals of roses and nothing else. You probably know about this already because I, uh, link to this Tumblr a lot. Still, I'm reasonably sure that this humble blog is less esoteric than that Tumblr. I like to think this is a fascinating and eclectic corner of the interwebs, at least if viewed over a sufficiently long time scale, e.g. if you want to see something other than murals, just go back to somewhere prior to last August or so, and there's all sorts of other stuff. Ok, it was mostly public art then if I remember right, but there were a bunch of bridges before that, plus vacation photos now and then. And after murals it'll be something else, though I'm not sure exactly what just yet.

Anyway, the aforementioned Google map included a couple of painted roses somewhere around SE 48th & Hawthorne, so a while back I went to track them down. They apparently didn't merit a post of their own on the Tumblr, so I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but eventually I found the one you see here. It was quite the thrilling adventure, as I recall. Although it was a while ago, and it's possible I'm misremembering, and the whole middle part with the tigers never actually happened.

But I digress. Turns out the rose here is identical to a couple on a different building further west on Hawthorne. So maybe it's a sort of corporate logo, though PortlandMaps shows different LLCs owning the two buildings (yes, I checked). Or maybe there's an obscure local rose artist who works in stencil and doesn't sign their work. Dunno.

Second Nature Design mural

The next mural up is at Second Nature Design at SE 47th & Clay, just off Hawthorne. This was created in 2013 by J.Shea, who also did a number of the Forest for the Trees murals that have appeared here before, e.g. the one at Kidd's Toy Museum, and ones at SE 8th & Sandy, and SE 9th & Oak. I think I ran across this one while paging through the artist's website for one of those previous posts. I rather like the others, so I figured I should track this one down too. It's because of stuff like this that I use the word "ongoing" a lot when talking about the, uh, ongoing mural project.

Creating Community Mural, SE Chavez & Division

The next mural on our tour is a large design on the Rite Aid drugstore at SE Chavez & Division. It seems kind of weird that there'd be a community mural on a big corporate chain drugstore, even in SE Portland, but this one actually has a long history. Before it was a drugstore, this building was a Kienow's grocery store (a long-defunct small Portland-area chain), and they let some local residents paint a mural on the store circa 1984. It faded over the years, and the building changed occupants, and by 2003 the people who decide these things felt a new mural was in order, and local artist Rin Carroll Jackson was selected to create the new one you see here. Her website calls this the "Creating Community Mural", so that's the name I'm going with.

The interesting part is that this happened right at the height of City Hall's anti-mural paranoia, after the city lost a court case with an aggressive billboard company. It turns out that under the state constitution, the city can't distinguish between capital-A art and mere commercial speech, and anywhere murals are allowed is fair game for advertising too. So for a few years the city prohibited new murals entirely, and sent work crews around to paint over any illicit wall art they could find. This mural was grandfathered in, though, due to the previous mural. So long as you were painting over something that was there before 1998, and you made sure to paint in the same exact spot and not cover a single additional square inch with anything that looked like Art, the city could allow that without also letting the barbarians through the gate. Eventually the city came up with a couple of maybe-clever legal dodges involving permits and easements that let them re-legalize mural painting, while keeping the nefarious billboard companies at bay, at least for now.

O'Malleys mural

Ok, continuing today's Foster Road theme, the next stop on the mural tour is outside O'Malley's Saloon & Grill, a bar at SE 66th & Foster, just east of the previous three posts here. Their Facebook page includes a 2009 photoset of a few people painting mural panels. I mean, if you're interested in photos of people painting stuff, which I realize is sort of a niche interest. Also has an interview with one of the artists, mostly concerning a much larger mural he did on Hawthorne... which, as it turns out, I already have a long-delayed draft post about. Hopefully I'll get around to posting that at some point.

Bar Carlo mural

Next up on the mural tour takes us to Bar Carlo, at SE 65th & Foster. If you're following along at home, you might have noticed this is just a couple of blocks east of the last two tour stops. I'm still trying to make a dent in my ginormous draft posts folder, and my latest semi-brilliant plan is to go through my remaining draft mural posts roughly oldest to newest, and worry about the non-mural ones -- which do, in fact, exist -- once I'm done with that. Given that the last few posts involve photos from December 2014, I'm not going to predict any sort of ETA on when I'll have this sorted out.

Anyway, going back to the topic of the current post, this is one I ran across in an old Kay's Bird Club post. It looks like a couple of scenes from Russian folklore, but that's not really my area of expertise and I don't get the reference. The restaurant itself isn't Russian, but the surrounding neighborhood has a large Russian immigrant population, so I guess the theme sort of makes sense, maybe.

Bar Maven mural

The next stop on the mural tour is outside Bar Maven, at SE Foster and what Google Maps calls "SE 63rd Ave-SE 62nd Ave Alley". It kind of looks like at least 3 people worked on different parts of this one. Searching the interwebs about it comes back with nothing, though, and I can't make out any of the signatures well enough to search on them. Oh, well.

Meticon Bikes mural

Ok, the next Portland mural on our ongoing tour is at the Meticon Bikes shop at SE 60th & Foster. The old Murals of Portland website gave the artist's name as Stephen Williams, but that's all I know about this one. When I took these photos the shop was closed and I honestly thought it was defunct, and I had a few prepared remarks about how this was a sign that gentrification hadn't reached this part of the city yet, seeing as the neighborhood wasn't able to support a local bike store. Turns out I was wrong and the shop just keeps eccentric hours, so I had to toss all that earnest social commentary stuff. Still, Foster hasn't sprouted any luxury apartment towers yet, so I wouldn't have been entirely wrong.