Tuesday, November 30, 2021

a long-gone mural @ ne 15th & burnside

So a fun thing about losing track of old draft blog posts is that occasionally the subject of the post no longer exists when I circle back to the post again. This happens a lot with murals in Portland; other than a few city-owned ones, there's no expectation they'll stick around for the long term, and usually no budget to touch them up as they age. Some fade away, while others fall prey to vandals, developers, or others located somewhere along the vandal/developer spectrum. Then there are a few spots around town where every so often they just have someone come in and paint a new and different mural over the current one, which is what happened here. Where "here" means one side of the Columbia Art & Drafting Supply building, at NE 15th & Burnside. So the one shown here was painted in 2013 by Portland artist Ashley Montague and was apparently just called "Columbia art mural". And, well, that's all I can really tell you about it, to be honest.

Montague painted a second mural on the same building a few months later that went by "Visual Guardians", which drew a bit more attention at the time, maybe because of the large tiger. It featured in a 2014 r/Portland Reddit thread that in turn links to an Imgur photo of it being painted in late 2013. I somehow got the idea it was called "Beastmaster", thanks to someone else's Flickr photos that I ran across, and did a post about it under that name. So it's about a long-gone mural, under the wrong name, and the embedded "Beastmaster" (1982) movie trailer I included due to the wrong name is now a dead link. Which -- if nothing else -- is an impressive amount of brokenness and wrongness for such a brief post.

A comment on the "Beastmaster" post says the mural had been replaced sometime before November 2016, while current (as of right now) Street View imagery is dated June 2019 and shows what the building's 3 mural spots looked like at that point. If they're on something like a 3 year rotation, they may have cycled through up to 3 new designs since I took the photos here. Which is fine, of course; I'm just mentioning this in case anyone still thinks this little website here is some sort of slick, professional breaking news and current events operation. This may be hard to believe, but we (as in, I) don't even have a single news helicopter. Strange but true.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Community Garden Fence, McCoy Park

Ok, next up on our temporarily(?)-revived public art thing, here are some photos of the Community Garden Fence at McCoy Park, created by artist Suzanne Lee. The brief RACC description:

The New Community Garden Fence panels mark each of the four entries to the garden and represent different areas of the world. The images of food and plants along with their quotations offer visual and cultural references which reflect both the similarities and differences between cultures.

As you might've guessed, this is another post that sat around as a forgotten draft since 2014, shortly after I took the photos here. So the standard disclaimer applies: Old photos mean it may or may not look like this now, your mileage may vary, no refunds. The last photo in the set is from a distance to show more of the fence in context, which is the only photo I took of the garden itself. Which is a little odd since I had an occasional "take photos of community gardens" project going at the time, but I always tend to do this, going full tunnel vision on one particular topic for a while and not noticing the mural I walked past on my way to look at an obscure bridge, and a month later not noticing an obscure bridge on my way to an especially interesting waterfall, or not attending to the growing stack of real life to-do items that pile up while chasing this stuff. I do really enjoy chasing rabbit holes all the way down, but I can't pretend there isn't a downside to being like this.

This was originally supposed to be the third of four public art posts set in or near the same park; the fourth would have been about Ancestor Tree, a very large conceptual art thing that was meant to be a centerpiece of the park. It was a chunk of a huge London plane tree that had been cut down during the New Columbia rebuild, trimmed and flipped upside down so it looked like a tree stump balancing on the tips of its roots. I was not a big fan of it based on photos I'd seen, and snarking about it might have been fun. But apparently the ex-tree was no match for the elements in its new form, and it began to rot not long after installation. So the city removed it in 2012, before I got around to stopping by for photos. The article talks about maybe finding some sort of replacement art to take its place, but I gather this never happened and the site remains an open grassy field instead, which is a perfectly fine thing to have in a city park.

The article doesn't say what happened to the semi-rotten art afterward. They probably just woodchipped it, but sometimes it's easier, from a bureaucratic standpoint, to just ship things off to an obscure warehouse to be forgotten in long-term storage, like at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. So who knows. It would be weird and unsettling to run across it lurking in a shadowy corner of a vast, dimly lit warehouse, but I guess that's still better than being stuck with a warehouse full of unwanted Confederate statues like a lot of cities in this country. So there's that, I guess.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Moons and Stars, McCoy Park

Next up, here are a few photos of Moons & Stars, another public art piece at McCoy Park, taken on the same visit as the previous post (as in, these photos are from 2014, and things might have changed since then). This one was created by by Hong Kong-born Portland artist Horatio Hung-Yan Law, and its RACC page includes a brief description:

The moon’s phases are represented by the granite disks found embedded in the pavement. Various cultural ideas about the cycle of life are captured in the quotations, proverbs, folk sayings and myths you’ll find etched in the disks.

Squirrel/Salmon Benches, McCoy Park

November seems to be a designated month for people to do ambitious projects: Writing a novel in 30 days; growing a luxurious handlebar mustache in 30 days to raise prostate awareness, and other worthy causes. I'm not feeling anywhere near that ambitious, but it occurred to me that my infamous drafts folder is a mix of recent hiking & outdoor posts that lately seem to take forever to finish, and a smaller set of public art and city park posts from a few years ago that I never quite finished for various reasons and kind of forgot about. So I thought I might switch gears and start at the back of the drafts folder and see how many of those I can finish this month. Unless I get chosen for jury duty later this month, in which case all bets are off.

So the first thing we're looking at this month is "Squirrel/Salmon Benches", a couple of cute circa-2005 park benches in North Portland's McCoy Park. The second link, which goes to the freshly-redesigned-again RACC public art database -- has this to say about it:

The squirrel & salmon benches were designed to reflect Northwest wildlife. Mufu Ahmed is a Nigerian poet, sculptor and textile artist who combines the imagery, traditions and stories of his Yoruba culture with the techniques, materials and applications of the Western world.

I really like the squirrel design, and the salmon one is fine as far as salmon art goes, although it's a heavily overused theme in this part of the world. At one point I started tagging posts about salmon art with "Heroic Salmon", as the fish are usually depicted bravely struggling back to their streams of origin to spawn and promptly drop dead. An inspiring life story from which the public is meant to draw important life lessons, I guess. Or maybe I'm reading too much into that. Anyway, the really striking thing about the benches, and a big clue that they're from 2005 and not 2021, is what's not there: No metal bar down the middle to keep people from sleeping there, no spiky bits to make it unpleasant to sit on, no electrified razor wire or whatever the latest anti-homeless technology is. They're just plain old park benches, which are rapidly becoming about as common as pay phones. The big asterisk here is that these are not recent photos, and for all I know the city could have built a piranha-filled moat around the benches by now. Your mileage may vary widely, in other words.

Oddly enough, one of the other recipients of the aforementioned "Heroic Salmon" tag (and subject of a 2012 post here) is a fountain inside a parking garage at the Lloyd Center mall. And in a weird coincidence, the entire mall is being repossessed as of this week, and the would-be repossessor says they plan to demolish the mall and put in offices and housing instead, and the Lloyd District will eventually look just like every other gentrified part of town, with identical buildings sporting the same hip local chain stores and restaurants. I mean, I realize the shopping mall era is over, and this particular mall's been declining for years now, and a vast shopping mall just across the river from downtown was always a an awkward fit, and an open-air mall was never a good idea in this climate. And even after its 1990s revival slash heyday it was never actually 'cool', because it was still a shopping mall. And a mall with awful timing, too; in the 90s renovation the owners managed to rip out or conceal all of the mall's original Midcentury character, just before that look became cool again, and now the mall's goofy 1990 postmodern stuff is about to meet the same fate, probably just before that look becomes cool again. All of that said, I do have fond memories about the place during that particular time period, though, I will actually be sad to see it go. It's hard to explain.

The park here is actually the result of another demolish-replace-and-gentrify effort, this one from a late 90s/early 2000s effort to replace the city's most notorious public housing project with a twee suburb. But we'll get into that when I finish the post about the park itself. Which might happen this month? Or if not this month, soon at least. Ideally.