Outside Art: The Art You Need Is Right Outside


Art displayed in the elements around North Portland is there for people to look at whenever they choose.  I prefer to celebrate the phenomenon of Outside art rather than offer explanations. Figuring it out takes time away from enjoying it. Art that could be on gallery walls or in the homes of people as decoration is now becoming part of the outdoor environment for all to appreciate. No color swatches to match or art openings to attend. Outside Art weathers critics, fans and pretensions to hang around fences and on houses. There is the risk of thievery and vandalism as well as the destructive forces of wind, rain, the occasional sun showers and even rainbow rays but this random art showcase of is inspirational through perseverance and its ability to skip the art world/business gamut to exist on its own merits.

House Painting

It’s a bold move to attach a large painting to one’s house. How do you get an abstract piece of art to work with certain colors of house paint? It’s tricky but it makes the declaration that creativity thrives in the home’s environment.

Por qué no? Por qué yes!

Outside Art is the perfect decoration for a business entrance. It creates authenticity. What’s authentic about it, I’m not sure. Let’s say it looks cool. It’s more of a rustic feeling, a shabby chic thing, perhaps. You won’t lose your appetite unless you look at it too long.

Mecca Art Land

The mecca of all Outside Art displays caught my attention last summer when I was out taking photos for future blog posts. It saw a couple of pieces nailed to telephone poles before I caught a glimpse of a section of fence with multiple works of art on it.

This was in the St. Johns area off of Willamette Boulevard and it has to be the work of a North Portland artist I had read about in the Oregonian right after moving to Portland. His name escapes me and his business card may still be floating around in everything that got packed up when I moved but I met him at one of his art shows a couple of years back. He was enthusiastic and willing to talk to me about Outside Art but soon after I suffered a bike accident which took me a summer to recover from. I never got back in touch with him.

This Outside Art display, which features many portraits, makes a statement that art can be a kind of living and dying organism that it doesn’t have to be locked away in a museum to be pickled and preserved forever. I appreciate it’s availability to anyone who happens by.

The Center of the Known Creative Universe: A Beacon of Outside Art

I wasn’t kidding when I felt a deep creative tremor emanating from outside of Mississippi Records that’s rooted to the center of the known creative universe. North Albina Avenue runs through this area and it’s rife with Outside Art displayed by businesses and residents alike. The Albina Press coffee shop boasts huge paintings on their side walls. A building the next block up seems to draw inspiration incorporating a mural on their side walls that gently morphs into huge painted panels.

Further up North Albina Avenue from the Mississippi District, a resident incorporated a couple of pieces of Outside Art with displays of expired license plates.

Even the dentist office on North Albina Avenue gets into the game displaying rudimentary Outside Art that’s more on the fun and frivolous side but it still meets with current Outside Art standards.

 

Outside Art: A Case Study

In the Woodlawn neighborhood I came across art hung on a fence. The work seems competent enough, yet marred by a canvas gash. The question remains whether the art became Outside Art after it was tarnished or if the damage resulted from it being displayed outside.

Tea and Artistry

In a back alley behind a Mississippi District Tea shop you’ll find paintings affixed to the fencing. These colorful, bold abstracts demonstrate that Outside Art can always be used to spruce up even the drabbest of surroundings.

 

 

Self-Entertainment: The Only Year-End-Review You’ll Ever Need

How can be was.

While working on a recent blog post, a feeling of satisfaction and pure joy came over me. Was it a phrase I’d created, a well constructed sentence, an idea that hit me in support of my main idea? I don’t remember but it felt good and made me realize if nothing else, I had the ability to entertain myself. It doesn’t matter who or how many would read what I was writing. The numbers are fascinating but more importantly I was enjoying myself exploring this new world of self-entertainment. It’s something like a selfie maybe, a bit self-indulgent but creating something that, at the very least, entertains me. That’s about as much as I can hope for at this point.

By now the 2018 year end review has been done to death. It’s been list after list of people who died, news events, categories for best music and films, even weather events. Yet my list is the only necessary list. It’s been streamlined to subjects that deserve additional perspective.

Personality Non-Crisis

 

On the Wall of Fame

 

This year I got to know a bit more about a couple of Portland legends, in my mind anyway, that I had long wondered about. Both people worked with kids in a way. Evelyn Collins took care of kids in day care programs in a bygone era and had a passing resemblance to Mrs. Doubtfire while David “How Can Be” Chow has provided bar space for kids to sing karaoke. Rich Reece tipped me off to what inspired Chow’s advertising strategy and I became enthralled with the exploits of a third personality, Scott Thomason, especially the commercials he ran for his car business.

Stuck on Stickers

Goo Who?

What has keep me inspired about sticker culture specifically Skullz and the Goo Goo design is the never ending variety of the images and their placement. Sure they can be a nuisance but they add color and a bit of whimsy to places that need it like the backs of street “signz.” Besides it’s less polluting and more concentrated than other types of graffiti.

Skull Drudgery

 

Mysterious Pole Attachment

Rewarding Pole Art

Noticing this phenomenon and these objects replicating again and again in my neighborhood mystified me. Over-analyzing the situation and providing the public with a breaking news report provided no answers. But, what a mystery! This art form offers a subtle, streamlined design whose enigmatic meaning inspires debates. Then I began to notice so many of these objects—all over town. They’re simple, yet made out of common household items with an oddity factor and concept that should have me scratching my head well into 2019.

Still Antsy

I still feel like I’m trying to sort out some deep seeded feelings about graffiti every time I explore this topic.  I don’t know if I should analyze it, ignore it, appreciate it, come to terms with it or hate it? But this year I made an effort to seek out opinions and see through the eyes of others, not that this made my thoughts any less muddled, but this antithesis of art and street culture has me continuing my search for understanding.

Multiplying Rabbit Posts

Factory horizon

Rabbit Hill perplexed me. My initial post was lacking. It wouldn’t be hard to reach out to the Rabbit Hill folks for some background. There’s also an area organization called Rabbit Advocates who could shed light on the rabbit dumping phenomenon. Visiting the place with my head full of legend fueled expectations. The area had a mysterious vibe along with autonomous zone potential. It merits more answers from me, the one person interested enough to ask questions.

In Passing

No sooner was I making plans to move to SW Portland than two fixtures of Barbur Boulevard closed. Humdinger’s seemed like a family owned neighborhood burger joint on a busy road. It was decorated in bright primary colors. I can’t say anything about the food but I always considered the hamburger special and the smoothies but then I kept driving anyway.

My thoughts on these two closed restaurants revolves around my imaginings of what went on there. That’s not hard when you have the basic concept of a restaurant down. I never made the time or was willing to spend the money to experience these places. I was focused on getting home. I was told the Golden Touch had cool old school booths and that it was a haven for Lewis and Clark students. I constantly have to correct myself thinking the place was called The Golden Spoon. It was sad to see these institutions close this year. As 2018 itself has come to a close, let’s hope the new year is good for us all.

What’s Up Rabbit Hill?

 

Reading material provided.

It was a casual mention from the guy at my local pet store. It must have initiated from my buying something rabbit related.  As I recall it was talked about in the hushed tones of an old legend. At the check out counter I became enthralled by his tale. In North Portland, a place existed where people dropped off unwanted rabbits to fend for themselves. He gave me directions that involved taking a left at a street mural. I scrawled it down on a paper bag filled with potato sprouts to be planted later. This place I made plans to visit, in search of an oasis for misfit lapins, was known as Rabbit Hill.

Report dumping of rabbits too.

As a rabbit owner, it’s hard to imagine the desperate straits of pet owners who discard animals to fend for themselves. I want to believe that bunnies can get past their cute, docile image and a life of relative comfort to forage for their own food and find shelter when they’ve never had to do this. Newly released rabbits could band together as bunny survivalists or a Lord of the Flies style gang and live free in nature. I believed the guy at the pet store. He was knowledgeable about everything else including growing potatoes but there was only one way to determine if Rabbit Hill was more than a legend; I had to visit and sort this out.

A drag on anarchy.

Tired art?

When I arrived at Rabbit Hill I discovered a place of mystery. Sure it described itself through signage as a place of garden art. There were raised beds so other types of gardening were possible but it felt like a place that was neglected. The dragon/tire art project had seen better days. A headless dragon is not a fierce dragon and there’s no place for the fire to escape. Rabbit Hill is an L shaped strip of land that borders a chain length fence. There were winding paths and a kiosk/bulletin board splashed with an anarchy symbol down the hill. The information posted  offered an explanation of the need for community space:

Our neighborhood is a traffic “island’ surrounded by high traffic volume and high speed streets: MLK, Lombard, Vancouver, and the train tracks – making it very difficult for the children and elderly to traverse our neighborhood safely.

So tucked away in the Piedmont neighborhood was this patch of greenery along with the remains of some garden art made spooky by long afternoon shadows. The sign continued with a message about enjoying the park and being respectful. It included a reference to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” that I didn’t get right away.

GardenArt explained.

Right away I noticed the lack of any presense of rabbits. Not being a rabbit expert, I’m not sure what that means. I wouldn’t have been able to smell them or hear them as they’re a quiet animal. I definitely didn’t see any scattering away as I walked up.

Sun for the ArtGarden.

I’d been planning to get out to Rabbit Hill all summer and I knew the right time to visit would have been dusk.  As I got more and more embroiled in moving this fall I found myself having to get to Rabbit Hill at anytime I possibly could. This ended up being late one fall afternoon in October. Not a great time, mind you, but better than no time at all. This wasn’t ideal rabbit viewing time. I could hear Pittsburgh Orbit publisher, Will Simmons, who’s a some time art director consultant for this blog, screaming all the way from the east coast,“GET A FLASH! DO THESE RABBITS RIGHT.” In my defense things got too hectic and I was making one last-ditch effort to possibly document a bunny phenomenon before moving from the North Portland area.

Hear my elephant roar.

While I like the title Social Critic, that’s not really my aim in creating this blog, so I don’t want to be too vocal in what felt like a bit of disappointment in seeing Rabbit Hill compared to what it was intended to be. Many a project begins with the best of intentions and those relying on volunteer help can run out of momentum. The Facebook page seem to mirror this by being woefully out of date. It sure seemed like it had been a long time between pancake fundraisers. That’s not to say the place was decrepit. It wasn’t overgrown or overrun by graffiti. The elephant looking sculpture was elegant. It felt like a great place for local neighbors to walk dog  or hang out to create and maintain art installations. It had the feel of a much-needed bit of space between all the industrial, road and train activity. My hope is that the area residents can get back to what they started.

That feeling someone’s watching.

From what I read in a kid’s book, rabbits make burrows and hide underground. They’re crepuscular so they’re active at twilight. Wikipedia would argue that they’re more on the nocturnal side of things. I saw no evidence of rabbits nor did I see any abundant plant life that might sustain a colony. Then again, I wasn’t there as the light was fading out nor was I armed with a spot light that may have helped me catch a fleeting glimpse of rabbit activity. While reflecting so much on Rabbit Hill, I found out there’s a children’s book of the same name that was written in 1944. It’s hard to say if this inspired the park’s name but I’d like to hope the area is full of creatures that resemble the book’s high jumping, evil-looking cover star. I want to believe that rabbits flourish at Rabbit Hill. If they are forced to relocate against their will I want them to find success and stay alive. I’d like to see them make a life for themselves tucked away on a slope of nature and garden art remains.

Read the book not the blog.

 

 

The Turkey Of St. Johns part 4: A Return to Normalcy

Thank me.

Every Thanksgiving my mind drifts back many years when I believe I spotted a burly, living turkey waddling around outside a dog house behind a chain link fence on a front lawn of a house in the vicinity of St Johns. The image gets murkier with time. Putting the word out through Facebook never revealed anyone with a more distinct memory than my own. I believe what I saw. The Turkey of St Johns has become a Thanksgiving totem I memorialize. It was real. I know I saw it regardless of whether anyone else ever did.

Turkey Jerky

Call me David. Some years ago, never mind how many precisely, having little to no obligations in my life, and nothing to interest me in my own neighborhood, I thought I would wander about a little and see parts of St. Johns. In this way I found myself riding my bike, and now venting my spleen after having circulated through the neighborhood. Whenever I find myself growing grim this month, when it’s this damp and drizzly November, whenever I find myself pausing, lost in a memory of that unforgotten turkey and bringing up the image of a funeral for that possibly, long gone bird and especially whenever my hypochondria gets an upper hand of me that it requires a strong impulse control to stop me from thinking I’m sick of not knowing about the Turkey of St. Johns, then going anyway and knocking on doors in the general vicinity where I remember seeing it and screaming, “WHERE’S THE TURKEY AT?” Then I account it’s high time to stay out of St. Johns as much as I can.

Possibly a good book.

I quietly take to thoughts of that turkey. It doesn’t surprise me being a mystery I’ve been unable to solve for many years. This is my substitute for loneliness and no actual live turkey. I don’t have to get all philosophical and name drop Cato and talk about him leaping into his sword. That whole thing sounded horrible, by the way. These feelings are not that dire. I just want to remember a turkey I saw long ago. If no one knows anything, maybe not even some guy with a degree who’s really smart, some one or another might cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the Turkey of St. Johns with me.

Faster than a turkey?

Transmissions from The Portland RV Scene

This summer proved to be less about an explosion of recreational vehicles showing up and parking all over town, not in the way it felt the summer before. Perhaps RV hysteria has died down. Around the Portland Orbit office, we always wondered where people were getting these vehicles. Sadly the one person who could have provided insight into the RV scene, Darlene from the barbershop 7 Bucks a Whack passed away. From what I recall from a detail that jumped out at me while reading one of the weekly newspapers, she was an expert in RV parking regulations. Whatever I might have learned from her, had I found the time to ask, makes me also realize what a potentially amazing rant has now been lost to the ages. While noticing the recreational vehicles I’ve seen around I discovered communiques emanating, mostly from notes on the windows. The messaging is sometimes personal—related to life on the streets, other times cheery or vague and other times strictly business.

Messages of Mystery and Amicability

Spotted at an Indian Pow Wow at Delta Park, this RV may not belong to a local but the messages it carries are an example of what RV transmissions should strive for. References to love and being nice, with cheery colors mixed in, add joy to the world.

These signs are unclear but seem to communicate that the occupants of this recreational vehicle are off working to pay for upkeep in an effort to keep any particular street parking authorities and other wolves at bay. The notes indicate that working people need a break. I’m clueless as to why exactly Rush should talk to Mark though.

In the Woodstock neighborhood this message related potentially cozy nights spent in the musty sleeping loft of a camper. Perhaps the rest of the slogan needed to read: LAY ME DOWN AND LEAVE ME ALONE.

The Business Of RV

I expected to find a for sale sign and I did in the Kenton Neighborhood. No doubt sales transactions are a big part of the Portland RV scene. The other sign I noticed on an RV parked next to the Interstate Fred Meyers is the result of what happens when the wrong ad runs on Craigslist.

I suppose the other side of the business of RV is the act of calling in an RV or camper that’s parked, possibly illegally, in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood. I’m not sure who called or the specifics of the why, but I do know when they called and that seems good enough at this point.

Don’t Come a Knockin’

Just to be clear, people do want and probably deserve their privacy when they’ve parked their RV on a public street.

The street that leads to the back parking lot of the Interstate Fred Meyers across from the fire station proved to be a popular spot for recreational vehicles. These transmissions tell a story directed at some specific people. I can imagine why the RV owner wouldn’t want to be hassled by either tweekers or someone with the authority to tow their vehicle. Somewhere there is footage of me doing my journalistic due diligence to get the photos needed to create this post. I’m going to be famous!

Special thanks to Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit for the opening Barn Tavern RV photograph.

Ghosting the Blogosphere: A Not Too Scary Halloween Spooktacular

I can’t get enough homemade Halloween decorations and ghoulish scenes that pop up this time of year. There’s no need for over-the-top special effects. It doesn’t take much to delight me. I appreciate any effort. Where there was nothing but lawn, a cemetery arrives. Ghosts sway while skeletons roam the usually dull streets. It’s a nice diversion.

At least one of these ghosts is friendly.

Blow up decorations may seem tacky or lazy. They’re not homemade but they add pizzaz to any holiday decor. Ghosts that appear overly friendly prove there’s not much to be afraid of in late afternoon sunshine.

Mom and egg are doing fine.

What’s scarier than a dragon? The easy answer is a mother dragon guarding her egg. I might have considered seizing that egg to make a giant omelette while somehow avoiding being scooped up and dropped into the nearest volcano. There’s something about that egg being just the right detail. It terrifies me to consider Dragon-Mom rage and it reminds me of where dragons come from.

dragons & pirates

Set sail for Dragon Island.

Pair the mother-of-all dragons with a ship full of pirate skeletons spotted in Arbor Lodge and you have the beginnings of quite a tale that might eventually involve an omelette feast. The homeowner assured me it was even better at night and recommended that I bring some kids by.

Crash through the cemetery gates.

Someone out there should be protesting outside cemeteries to stop Halloween from giving them such a bad rap. They’re supposed to be places of peaceful, eternal rest not cobweb ridden terror terrariums. Halloween brings out misnomers but front yard cemeteries do add the right amount of seasonal creepiness. We can only hope this scene spotted in Kenton contains the remains of political canvassers and door-to-door magazine salespeople.

Fear strikes the heart.

In southwest Portland, I spotted such creepy decor that I was afraid to get too close. It didn’t help that there was someone, seemingly oblivious to the carnage outside the window, watching daytime television inside the house. Take a red cloaked skeleton and combine it with a snake chasing a rat around a clavicle and my chills start feeling attacked by my heebee-jeebees.

Bones hanging with bones.

Some neighbors go out-of-the-way to create an environment like this one spotted in the Kenton neighborhood. It may not make sense but that ups the scare ante. There’s a cemetery, decorations stuck to a wall and a scene featuring the proper burial of a Wicked Witch. These scattered ideas combine to form an unsettling tableaux.

Hang it on the wall like a moose head.

Buried witch grows skeletal head.

 

Ghosts join leaves.

Ghosts in trees, like autumn leaves are a joy at Halloween. Between the rustling and the low level ghost moans it’s not the Season of the Witch without a sighting like this. These ghost folks showed up in my new SW neighborhood to welcome me.

If you need more Halloween decor check out this Pittsburgh Orbit post on the folk art creations of Gary Thunberg:

https://pittsburghorbit.com/2018/10/30/october-surprise-halloween-at-thunberg-acres/

Or see our past Halloween posts:

https://portlandorbit.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/halloween-spooktacular-spiders-and-ants/

https://portlandorbit.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/the-portland-orbit-spooktacular/

Post Script:  I know few are wondering but I pulled a disappearing act this October only being able to surface at the beginning and end of this month. I spent a good part of the month moving from north Portland to southwest Portland. I may be entering a bit of an Obi-Wan crazy hermit phase, only time will tell. The move took me away from my usual existence involving stuff like blogging and other forms of social media but I hope to get the Portland Orbit back on a semi regular publishing schedule next month.

Yesterday & Tomorrow: An Orbit Obit

It dawned on me. Yesterday & Tomorrow was closed. I kept driving  past it on my way home from work and nothing was happening. The plantings around the house were overgrown. No one seemed to be entering or leaving. I’m not sure if I noticed any lights on in the past but the business was deserted.

As most Orbit Obits go I tend to write about places that have gone too soon, too soon for me to visit, that is. It seems like a place that had always been there and always would be there.  I was curious and had meant to visit some time in the ten years I’ve lived in Portland. There a sadness to my procrastination when I realize a store I’ll never experience has closed.

Yesterday & Tomorrow was a business run out of a house which felt like a barrier. It was hard to get past the idea of shopping in a personal environment. I remember the sign that sat on the corner next to the electrical pole, but I still had a hard time getting a feel for the kind of art they sold. I saw stuff for decorating lawns and imagined more of that inside. The deteriorating sign couldn’t have made it any clearer. This business was an art gallery. I missed my chance to see any of the type of art that had been displayed in the various rooms. Art of any kind would have been worth checking out at least once.

The unkept front yard was full of sculpture. It didn’t look like your typical big box store lawn ornament inventory. What I saw when I visited the site this summer reminded me of the work of Carlton Bell. This store was a possible link to the work of this mysterious artist that might remain unexplored.

I blame myself for the demise of a business like this. Local businesses, especially those in a different setting, need support. It’s a lesson. Never put off until tomorrow, what you’ve been meaning to do for years. If you think you’re going to do something someday, consider the one thing I remember from seeing the play Sacramento 50 Miles in elementary school.  “Someday may never come.”








 

The End of Summer: Sigh, A Sign Round Up

I never complained about this summer’s heat. It’s a memory I’ll need some cold, damp, March afternoon when I’m half way between this summer and the next one. I opened my mind to the sun light and tried not to think. Appreciating the last of this summer has led me to post something requiring the least energy possible.

Caution Step Up Then Down

This homemade/handmade sign provides a valuable public service. Placed on a side door of a bar on North Lombard Street, the message could become more confusing as the night wears on. The caution warning alerts people to the need for the tricky two step dance necessary to get through the entrance.

No Dumping By Order of City Eng’r.

This sign caught my eye on Willamette Boulevard. The road is on the top of a sloping hill that runs down to an industrial ravine. It’s sure to tempt polluters or anyone who needs to dump something in the underbrush. I found amusement from the sign’s need to include a mention of the City Eng’r (City Engineer?). It’s tough to tell if this is an intimidating enough authority figure to get people to heed this warning.

Watch For Pedestrian

I don’t doubt there’s a need to warn people to watch out for pedestrians on this tricky corner of the St. Johns neighborhood near the bridge. I couldn’t tell if this was poor planning on the part of the sign maker or if there are fewer pedestrians than one would expect.

If You’re Not Outraged…

I don’t know the history of this incident but it’s worth noting that this sign spotted near the Lloyd Center has either survived since 2007 or someone continues to bring attention to the situation. The outrage feels never ending and the reminders always necessary.

Drop Your Pants Here

In the days of #metoo, this sign seems a bit crass but it’s the nature of this dry cleaners to risk letting the world know they have a sense of humor because, well, they spend their work days in the confines of a dry cleaners. It’s nice to try to loosen up a little bit although not to the point where one takes the sign literally. If the photo looks a bit too much like an advertisement I can attest to the work they do, which is, pretty good.

Stick With It

Not so much a sign but a message applied to a garbage dumpster in the Kenton neighborhood. Anyone seeking out inspiration on a dumpster would usually be out of luck but a trash receptacle bearing this message has a certain inspirational quality not usually found on dumpsters.

Notice of Free Range Rabbit

Having spotted this next to the curb on the outskirts of Kenton, I assumed the sign was staking out parking territory. Seeing it up close, I was surprised to learn about the parking strip maintainence performed by a free-range rabbit who’s whereabouts were unknown at the time I took the picture. I’d say only Jimmy Carter should heed a beware of Bunny message. My preference would be to remain mindful of the rabbit’s maintenance munching.

Got Laundry?

Oh to the ad campaign that lunched a thousand, or more, parodies. This one is funny to a certain someone I know. It seems to be trying to remind people driving down North Lombard Street to round up their dirty clothes and head back to the laundromat.

Jesu Loves

The grape vine obscures a handsome sign with an uplifting message spotted  in the Kenton neighborhood. You can tell I didn’t leave the neighborhood much this summer. The sign may yet return to glory when the leaves die back.

Please Stop Stealing  

                         

It’s a shame someone has to post this kind of message. It’d be nice to think that people could leave their stuff out and not have to worry about theft. Another sign of the times seen in the Kenton neighborhood.

Please Do Not Steal the dogs water dish!

More theft to report, with this occurring down the road in a no man’s land between the Kenton and Woodlawn neighborhoods. It almost doesn’t matter what thieves steal. It’s always annoying.

Try Vegan

The camera optics at dusk aren’t always great but this is a cardboard plea near the Lloyd District that’s polite and offers a low frill, yet ultimately high tech way to explore the vegan lifestyle. Is the hash tag going to get you propaganda? Recipes? There’s only one way to find out.

DON’T STAND HERE

Sure it’s good information, a notice that surely has saved many lives. The sign straddles the tracks by the North Denver Max station. This blurry photo reveals that if you only stop for half a second, or less, you can get away with standing next to the sign without violating the sign’s strict request.

Never Been To A Riot: A Collage of Coverage

riot and coffee

Riot gear.

On Saturday, August 4th something was going down downtown. If I couldn’t be there in person I at least had to monitor it. The build up had me expecting confrontation between Joey Gibson’s Proud Boy crowd and whoever showed up. I was scared off by the gun talk. One unleashed bullet would have been too much. With or without gunfire, a riot seemed inevitable. A.C. Thompson, speaking on Fresh Air, expected the Patriot’s Prayer Rally to be “the next Charlottesville.” What I ended up witnessing had the posturing of a Pro Wrestling event minus the physicality.

The pre-rally provided an understanding of the importance of facing the Patriot Prayer gathers. I wasn’t sure if it was Mic Capes’ rap or his speech before hand, but I got a sense that violence didn’t have to happen. The pre-rally meeting fired people up with quotes like we have “a world to win,” and “Organize your grandma!” A speaker from Jobs for Justice said the Proud Boys were disenfranchised by getting fooled for their belief in the American Dream. The crowd chose engagement over sitting at home watching Facebook Live.

Standoff.

After the rally people made their way to the Waterfront. An interview from the crowd set the tone. “We have to make a stand,” a woman said adding, “We’re not going to give up our country.” The counter-protesters were greeted with a robotic sounding Police announcement commanding people to stay on the sidewalks and out of the pedestrian cross walks. The two parties were separated by Naito Parkway. Patriot Prayer Rally USA chants mixed with the counter-protestors singing “Eye On The Prize” and “This Little Light of Mine.” I heard myself saying, “We have to move the riot into the kitchen.”

Riot in the grapes.

The third pot of coffee had me pacing and writing illegible notes. An out-of-town interviewee described a festive atmosphere and was impressed that a brass band showed up. The feed sputtered and someone cussed. KGW-TV apologized. I lost the feed when my battery died so we switched to another phone. KGW-TV was on the counter-protest side explaining that they couldn’t cross the street due to Police Orders. I switched to KOIN coverage which was in the middle of the Patriot Prayer Rally. “It’s not about the hate over there,” Gibson was saying. It seemed like time to make potato chips. Soon after, on the Patriot Prayer side, a discussion of a dance-off began. My thought was: Joey Gibson doesn’t dance but I have no evidence of this. The whole notion of the people downtown that day channeling their aggression through dance seemed absurd but it would have been an attempt at unity. Not much was happening with the Patriot’s Prayer Rally. Would there be group prayer, recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance or more standing around?

Chip preparation.

Meanwhile the munchies were in full force. My wife was creating a dish she called “Cheese sushi,” consisting of avocado and chili oil on chunks of cheese. When KOIN’s picture froze I migrated to KATU’s coverage noting that the number of viewers was hovering between 798 and 804. The Police issued orders for people to clear a certain area or be arrested. It felt like chaos was more likely once the Police tried to manage the crowd. I returned to KOIN but their coverage seemed oblivious to the live format. A reporter was on the air texting and making phone calls  to figure out if they were going live on their television channel. When Joey Gibson was swarmed with reporters an impromptu press conference broke out. Even KGW-TV managed to cross the street. Joey didn’t seem to want to talk. “Are you running for Senate?” He was asked. “Yes,” he responded. It all ended too soon and had me wondering how anyone could run out of questions for this guy.

Clown to the left.

The KATU reporters kept throwing it back to the studio where Wesleigh Ogle told them, “continue to be safe out there.” The riot was portable. We headed to the porch where traffic sounds and barking dogs mixed with the coverage. I stumbled onto the feed of Unicorn Riot. It had the feel of an Saturday Night Live skit before I realized the reporter’s brain was buzzing with college knowledge. He approached people on the Patriot’s Prayer side focusing on the shirts worn by some of the Proud Boys that carried a message about Pinochet that declared he had done nothing wrong. The reporter knew history and made an effort to find out what statement the group was making. Those he talked to seemed incoherent, making comments like, “my kids are illegal” while mentioning that the Confederacy fought to free the slaves and wondering why he wasn’t reporting the facts or talking about what past presidents had done.

Standoff part 2.

On the other side of the street, an Infowars reporter squared off with a man in a Mexican wrestler mask. News broke that more counter-protestors arrived. By then I was into my third hour of this coverage and I felt like I was at a screening of The Sorrow and the Pity. The audio was cutting in and out. Technology can only do so much. My ears wouldn’t have been doing this if I had been there. Like Pro wrestling, when the referees look the other way, a Proud Boy seemed to have snuck a weapon (foreign object) past the Police while alluding them to creep towards the counter protest side. Over caffeination created this melodrama. I lost track of how it turned out. Tension ratcheted up when the Police declared the gathering a Civil Disturbance. The crowd was expected to disburse but one man said, “We’ll go home, when they go home.” The gathering devolved into people yelling at the Police. One man flipped them off. Natio Parkway was open to traffic but the image of a Juggalo looking guy riding through the rally in the back of a U-haul pick-up truck felt out-of-place.

Burn notice.

At this point I began to get ready for a 3pm collage workshop at our local library. I took the riot into the bathtub. I had the afternoon following the downtown activities but had seen little. Much of the coverage focused on looking at the Proud Boys from across the street. I didn’t see the Antifa presence until a member was spotted burning a flag. There were clowns too. They’re presence was mysterious, but a welcomed for its comic relief. The coverage waned. KATU’s feed skittered with views of the ground and people’s shoes. I had watched in suspense knowing that something could happen but still missed the Police crack down on counter-protestors who were accused of throwing objects across the street.

Not clowning around.

I was happy to have a refuge after my riot binge. We met Michael Albert a collage artist, who was traveling the country holding workshops. I realized how much I needed an escape from the noise and tension of the downtown gathering. Michael was upbeat, talking about his art and the enjoyment of taking time to be creative. The hours I spent watching the coverage felt like an aural and visual collage of dream imagery swirling in my mind. Gladiator costumes mixed with roaming clowns while a soundtrack of chants, brass instruments and Police announcements created a feeling of underlying chaos that can break at any moment.

***************

Post Script: The title was a lifted from the Mekon’s song which I was unfamiliar with until I wrote this piece. The lyrics are impenetrable. I couldn’t find them online. The song is about a guy who never gets to go to the riot because he’s always on the toilet.

Riot gear photo by Ronna Craig

 

A collage of collages.

 

Ansty About Antsi Part 2



This piece is an effort to sum up feelings of ambivalence about graffiti. I’m divided on whether my reporting on something many consider delinquency means I’m supporting or even glorifying the activity. I offer a disclaimer when I’ve written about it before, a statement that has found me wallowing in wishy-washy conceits. I embrace creativity and graffiti is too pervasive to ignore. It’s on buildings, street signs, poles, highway barrier walls, jersey walls and every other wall. I’ve seen it removed, usually painted over, but it sprouts back after it’s covered. Some markings linger when they aren’t cleaned up. So, we live with those.

I’ve wondered if it’s right to bring attention to street art. A past commenter questioned responses to a previous graffiti post noting that other comments, mine included, sounded like they were written by “a bunch of people who have not had your property vandalized.” It was a mild rebuke that had me searching for where I stand. I’ve been lucky not to have had personal property tagged, but I realized that graffiti in my neighborhood is something I have to look at. I responded to another commenter with a quote from film maker Andrew H. Shirley about his movie Wastedland 2 that appeared in the Willamette Week. Referring to graffiti he said, “It’s anti-everything. It’s punk. It remains outside of the system. It alludes to dysfunction and allows a public audience to see that people without a voice still have a message, and by any means necessary will get it out to you.” The quote made clear grafitti’s unstoppable nature. It’s easier to take other’s thoughts and see how they reflect my view-point and that quote put things in perspective. Some days I complain, other days I admire. This may be my opportunity to use my blog as a way to get a dig in at all the lesser, yet omnipresent expressions of amateur-Cy Twomblys or maybe, just a chance to make a Cy Twombly reference.

Graffiti has that feeling of being something it shouldn’t be. It can be called art but it’s art foisted on an unsuspecting audience on a unordinary canvas. It’s an intrusion on people’s property or businesses. For clarity, I sought input from other sources. I had heard rumblings of a Matt McCormick film about graffiti. Matt is a film maker who keeps a tight grip on his work mostly showing it on the big screen. I was surprised to see it appear in multiple versions online. When I contacted him through messenger, he directed me to his film The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal. An earnest narrator talks about graffiti cover-ups that mimic art movements, something I’ve touched on, and I found this to be humorous reaction to municipalities dealing with graffiti. He commented on something I’m guilty of: “It does creativity a disservice to lump all graffiti into the same category,” he wrote. He touched on the conundrum of the varying skill levels of people who are taking spray paint to public places noting, “there is some beautiful, creative work out there being made by some talented artists, but there’s also a lot of crap that’s just uglifying the urban landscape.” This reflects my inability to appreciate squiggles as much as someone who makes an effort to create something viable and uses a relatable tag.

Later that day Matt posted on Facebook about a new form of cover up he’s noticed that he named “cross-hatch.” I’ve noticed this and wondered about this technique, as had many commenters. Who is doing this? Does it save paint? Does it make someone who creates graffiti upset to see their work only partially erased?

Other cover-up styles include blotting out the image with black spray paint, an homage to Robert Motherwell, perhaps, or painting over it with squares that usually don’t match the paint job. I’ll touch on these questions and more when I take on graffiti abatement and clean up in a future post.

Will Simmons, who writes the Pittsburgh Orbit, explained that in Pittsburgh, “there’s a whole lot of graffiti that just feels like dogs marking their territory—stupid tags and whizzle-jiggles that seem to cover every street sign, lamp-post, building backside and bridge support.” Will finds these “cool in a gritty, urban America way,” something he explained he didn’t experience growing up in a small town. Seeing old buildings defaced bums him out though. “(Graffiti) occupies a very interesting and entirely subjective netherworld between public menace and cultural institution,” he wrote. Will derives joy from what he calls, “graffiti in another state of mind, stencils and wheat paste and cool murals and weirdo installations–the artists *know* this stuff won’t last, won’t bring them any acclaim, nor any monetary gain, but they still give it to the world.”

While working on this piece, I witnessed a tagger in action. I always thought this happened in the dead of night with the world asleep. Around 10pm during a dog walk, I stumbled upon a tall tagger wearing a white hoody. Brazen! He was applying the last of his tag on the side our neighborhood motel that’s being renovated. The next day, my inner arm-chair quarterback had me searching for a response. I could have rushed him, attacked him, at least yelled at him a bit, or called the police. I realized what bothered me more, besides not knowing what to do, was the realization that I was going to have to look at the loopy script and strange combination of letters until the renovation was finished. I’m particular about my graffiti. Anyone blatant enough to tag before bedtime deserves flak. My doing nothing led to a plot line out of a comic book. Not scaring this tagger away, with a Batman-like vigilantism, led him to return and mark up the motel’s mural. I hated seeing it tagged.

I also contacted Jeff Bagato, my go-to authority on all things underground. He offered educational tidbits, perspective and slang terminology. He has an appreciation for the “rich and diverse” street culture of Portland adding “there’s a general blackout in mainstream media regarding graffiti, most likely because they fear that publicizing it will only encourage the artists; nonetheless, these same outlets have no problem publicizing the work of serial killers, mass shooters, and monomaniacal presidents, with the same result.” This had me thinking that I have only seen one local news story about graffiti since moving to Portland ten years ago It was a story about the City’s abatement office that seemed understaffed and overwhelmed.

Like the others I’ve polled quality is an issue. “You get beginners and toys slopping cutty tags around, or you might get fully developed pieces or really interesting stickers or posters,” Jeff wrote. “Good with the bad. I believe graffiti is one of the major art and counterculture movements of our time, perhaps the only one that has remained on the edge over its life cycle since the 70s. While other movements have been commodified to some degree, graff and street art remain dangerous and unacceptable to many people. Even to photograph it, or to write about it, can be seen as an accessory to the vandalism.” Jeff pointed out that taggers get respect for the work they do, not necessarily for attention from bloggers. He schooled me on the “real hierarchy between “real” graff writers and street artists, between petty tagging and full pieces, and between those who do a couple of things when they’re bored or drunk and those who bomb the hell out of a town. There is a code among writers and serious street artists about respecting the work of others and the spots where it appears.”

Jeff included in his email a plea that people see beyond the “perception that writers and street artists are thugs or vandals or just playing around” adding that no stereotype applies because “many (street artists) are serious, educated and accomplished artists of all ages and walks of life.” He directed me to the story of Ultra, a DC street artist, who theses days teaches art and creates airbrush paintings. I may still be confused and in the middle of an unrelenting battle but the fight to stop graffiti seems unwinnable. Sure there is bad graffiti. Most would consider all graffiti bad, but those who heed the call to tag have to start somewhere. We can only hope they improve. Meanwhile people can find ways to deal with it. These other viewpoints have helped me accept graffiti. Jeff advised me to write about subjects I enjoy. Compared to ugly billboards selling me things, graffiti isn’t half bad. There’s plenty of clutter out there, blaring and blasting away at our senses. We live with it.

So what’s good graffiti?


Mook writing his name on the back of this I-5 highway sign took daring, planning and a need to  figure out how to get four letters on the back of three signs. Combining the two O’s in one panel did the trick.

This rabbit motif in pink takes the sting out of the visual clutter. Sure it’s a nuisance but a pink rabbit-like thing seems harmless.

Fast food can be equated with graffiti if you’re going for a fast food vs real food, graffiti vs art kind of debate. I’ve always appreciated these fast food meal creations. This one is operating on a scale larger than usual. The numbers are a mystery but this might be a work of biting satire.