Museum Parking: The Art of the Garage Door

 

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Look here!

The obsession to collect hasn’t left me. It’s easier when I only need images. Otherwise storage would be an issue. Bulky garage doors are impossible to drag home. This topic, inspired by the Pittsburgh Orbit, had me realizing that what happens in Pittsburgh is probably happening in Portland. I hadn’t thought about this specific type of mural until that seed was planted. Examples were all over town. Two questions remain: Why? And, why not? Every available space cries out for art. There’s no reason to waste an otherwise drab garage door surface. Paint away.

Duck Jump

Garage Art South Burlingame 7

Go Ducks!

I’m for whatever anyone needs to spruce up a garage door. This South Burlingame door has the look of a fathead style decal as opposed to something hand painted.  U of O Duck fans or even Donald Duck aficionados can appreciate this while my focus remains on how decorative elements break up the monotony of bland color schemes.

Squares Squared

Garage Art 8

Modrian d’art

Simple yet effective, this garage door in the Kenton neighborhood combines geometric and Mondrian influences. At the risk of already beating a theme to death, the design makes a dull door not so darn dull. There’s a soothing quality to the way one square slides into the other as a new square blossoms.

Squared Apart

Garage Art 6 North Portlahd

Square squares.

Maybe it’s the brown outlines or the mismatched square sizes, but the decorations of this door in North Portland caught my eye. I’m at a loss to this design’s function. It offers subtle visual appeal compared your average garage door.

Medieval Times

Garage Art 5

Modern Medieval

When doors like these in Sullivan’s Gulch cry out for designs they get them in the form of animals transported to the middle ages back when such creatures sported ancient fashions and toiled in a field.

Below, a continuation of the medieval theme. I’ve since discovered there’s a Gabriel’s bakery connection to this building so the illustration are about the bread making process.

More medieval than you.

Birthday Greetings

Garage Art 4

The medium is a message.

It was great to stumble upon this garage door in the hills of SW,  the specific neighborhood has been lost to time. This is garage door art at it’s finest making up for it’s slapdash nature with vibrant colors. It’s once pressing message is now out of date. What’s the statue of limitations on birthday celebrations? Yet how could anyone paint over this? Beyond that, and living up to this post’s theme, this is a more interesting, as well as mysterious way to spruce up a garage door.

Heart of the Matter

Garage Art 3

Open heart, open the door!

Leave it to the Albina neighborhood to throw it down with art displays of all kinds. They’re already worldwide leaders in outdoor art so it makes sense that it spills onto garage doors. This work takes an intricate and metaphorical look at a heart. The talent is admirable and sure to stop people in their tracks leaving them to overlook the peeling paint and graffiti of the garage.

Abstractions

Garage Art 2

More artsy than your average door.

The abstract art of these doors would make me regret having to open them ever with their great colors and design. How is it possible to look at any other bland garage door again? Worm holes and a pilgrim hat are among the details that must make the residents of the Albina neighborhood proud.

Look But Don’t Park

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Don’t park here.

The way to get across an important message is to inject a NO PARKING sign into a mural with an undersea motif.  Parking gets tight in the Mississippi neighborhood making this message necessary. The octopus can park where he wants but anyone else should remain cautious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When The Fourth Means Flags for July

Give me peace!

The Fourth of July is a flag holiday. Sure there’s the bang-bang of fireworks, the beer and picnics but the real reminder of Independence Day is the flag. Sure the Stars and Stripes fly year round but flag season extends from Memorial Day past the Fourth of July maybe even beyond Labor Day. The Orbit headquarters prefers a banner that promotes world peace but July 4th needs its Old Glory-style patriotic symbol. Last year I ragged on the flag design, a bit. I felt terrible about it the rest of the year. I have to remember to believe in my country and our system regardless of what the flag looks like. This is America. The only King and Queen we answer to these days are Burger and Dairy. When Betsy Ross came up with her design we were pretty much stuck with it. It’s worked so far. This flag got us through the bicentennial after all. It shouldn’t be considered stale or dull in its appearance when we appreciate what it represents. The only thing left to do is go into the world, or in this case a bit more local, and find captivating images of the Red, White and Blue. 

Flag For Passers-by

A salvaged flag.

Tucked away in a window of Salvage Works in the Kenton neighborhood, this flag is folded and framed to reveal some star and stripes leaving the rest to the imagination.

Eagle Drop

Ram tough, eagle powered.

There’s no better way to display civic pride than opting for a window backdrop seen in action on NE MLK Blvd. It features giant stars, bursting stripes and our national symbol–the eagle, swooping by. Now I’ve always wondered how anyone sees out their back window with this kind of thing. It must take some side mirror adjustments to pull it off.

Faded Waves of Grain

Rain proof glass.

This sticker is a classic. It’s a stubtle reminder of patriotism that has stood the test of time. Spotted in North Portland, the most wear and tear it receives is fading from the sun’s reflections. At least the glass keeps it dry.

Cover Up With Flag Wearables 

Flag fashion for sale.

You can do it. You can pulls off the flag fashion with what I’m guessing is a bathing suit. If these are shorts they’d be good for a laugh and a source of pride at any July 4th function. This fashion statement comes off as a bit ironic with a certain crowd but I’d prefer to consider it decorative, functional and patriotic clothing. Get this look at the Interstate Fred Meyers. These get-ups may even go on sale after the holiday.

Flagging Fencing

A better window.

This flag was part of a larger, artistic fence design the Orbit covered in a past post. Spotted in the Portsmouth neighborhood, this was a decorative Stars and Stripes made from an old window that stood out from other elements included leftover sleds and skis. 

Stars + Stripes = Decorative Tin Flag

Tin flags are special.

Out in SW, the outskirts of town, this flag has a folk art, homemade vibe, but who knows these might be mass-produced and sold out of big box stores. Stars twinkle on a rustic blue backdrop, stripes are a blend of red and white popping from shadows; this banner flutters despite its flat fence confines.

Demanding Keister Respect 

A flag to sit on.

You have to go all the way out to The Dalles and the community of Mosier to witness the glory of this Old Glory bench. Purposeful, functional flag art is as exciting as most flag displays get.

Fast Flag

Pick up that flag.

By now it’s a cliché, the flag bearing pick-up, but ultimately, if it’s an American made truck, if that exists these days, then why shouldn’t trucks bear all the flags they want. It’s good for the US flag market. Those flags take a high speed beating  as they rustle around the highway. They often need replacement.

Functional Flaggery

Keep the car cool flag.

It’s not a real flag but this fragmented design does double duty keeping this car cool while offering patriotic fervor at the same time.

Game Flag Wave

Only a stripe or two.

One stripe is all that’s going to show up on the video screen at the edge of PGE park that offered an animated flag fragment at a Portland Thorns game.

Mobile Flag Art

Spray-on flag.

How could I not be impressed by this spray paint design on a car seen parked outside the Dancing Bare in Kenton. Despite crude art work, this message of American spirit rings true. Stars and Stripes forever or as long as the car lasts.

 

More Fourth!

https://portlandorbit.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/fourth-of-july-flags-unfurled/

This was a tradition begun by the Pittsburgh Orbit. Check out their July 4th coverage!

 

A Post Post: What’s Holding Up Your Mailbox

Generic!

There was a time in my life when I could get excited about an oddly decorated mailbox. I still muster some enthusiasm  but that’s a post for another time. Moving from North Portland to SW allowed me to rediscover mailboxes. In North Portland people had mail slots in their doors. In SW, what sidewalks I’ve encountered have mailboxes planted in them. Mailboxes are a great invention. They offer opportunities for creativity. This didn’t distract me from looking under mailboxes. It happened on a twilight walk heading towards Maricara Park on SW Maricara Street. I spied multiple posts that were not run-of-the-mill or generic. Ingenuity is happening on this street. Mailboxes are being supported in creative ways. This could be a competition among the neighbors or they might draw inspiration from each other. Either way, it makes a walk to the park more scenic.

When I was a kid, well into my sullen teen years actually, we equated the suburbs with “the sticks.” We were living in the middle of a suburban quagmire that was part of an endless metropolis slowly devouring itself, but those stifling teen years had the feel of a life in the middle of nowhere. You could hardly go anywhere without a car, and I did live within a couple hundred yards of a cow pasture with cows and a farm that was eventually abandoned. Whether my SW digs have that exact feel is irrelevant. That suburban spirit is more present out here and can be felt when I take a left down the street to the unlit section of the road. It feels like that old Woody Allen joke about the suburbs. (That’s the long ago,  funny Woody not the current creepy version.) Referring to that living-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feeling he said, “there’s no place to walk after dinner and there’s Dick and Perry.” I’ve yet to encounter Dick and Perry** but thoughts of after dinner walks are met with feelings of exhaustion. It’s too far to walk anywhere. These days the sticks are more about what’s holding up mailboxes. These posts fight the stigma of ordinary while often supporting standard mailboxes. Observation is about taking a closer look.  You might find something interesting.

They Stoned Me

A post that rocks!

When I feel like I’m becoming a mailbox post critic it scares me. I mean how much actual work is there for this kind of thing. This mailbox is a work of art. It has beautiful, smooth stones and it’s set in a rich landscape of small boulders and flowers. This is excellent cement and design work. Anything to keep a mail person interested in their job.

They Stumped Me

Almost a wood stove.

This has to be the best kind of repurposing one can imagine. It appears to be a utility pole leftover. Regardless, it does its job of balancing a mailbox.

One on the Trunks

Mail tree

More sticks here but the real coup de grâce is the how the double trunk cradles the front and back of the box. It looks natural. It appears be an actual tree that was in the right place to be trimmed to form a post. This box holder is due an award in a best supporting role.

Plow Some How

Plow it up!

All right, all right, this isn’t exactly a post but it is a decorative element that sure spices up an otherwise unglamorous mail delivery system. It serves double duty. When it’s not plowing harden it spruces up the mailbox post.

Tree Huggin’ Again

I’m stumped.

The answer to any post dilemma is in using what’s available. This may not be the most attractive piece of wood but it gets the job done.

At Least I’ll Get My Welding Done

Metal rules!

This one is down the road on SW Huber Street. It involves something I get excited about: Welding! This art is serviceable sculpture, a subtle accent to the metal container above it.

Brick-à-Brac

Brick house for mail.

Not so much a creative use of postery, but this example is included to demonstrate what types of set-ups exist. This is a rugged, sturdy, box holder that also seems like it could cook pizzas as well as store mail at the same time.

**Read Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood.

It’s a Purple World, You Just Haven’t Noticed

Prince’s death shocked the world and inspired the Portland Orbit to look for a way to honor him. Tonight a pedalpalooza ride will celebrate his legacy. We have to live with a diminishing output of Prince material. Regardless of how many recordings are in the vault it won’t be the same without a living Prince creating new sounds and musical trends. While things will never be the same, it doesn’t stop us from seeking out another thing Prince left behind: his love of the color purple.

There can’t be much to the Prince/Portland connection. Sure he came here for business trips but it’s unclear if he noticed enough purple to make him feel at home. The only thing I could come up with online was a blog post from the Portland Orbit which was pure speculation, miles away from hard journalism and the blog could only surmise what’s already been said here. There’s no evidence, one way or the other, about whether Prince had a soft spot in his heart for Portland but the world has a soft spot in its heart for Prince.

On this anniversary of Prince’s birth, as spring roars hopefully into the more level headed season of summer, it feels like time to pause and consider purple. Purple reminds us of Prince and reflects his spirit. You won’t have to be a Prince fan or even a fan of the color purple to appreciate this post but it will help. Sit back, catch your breath and contemplate these purple hues.

Purple Wall

Plain, yet purple, this wall color spot lights elegance, perhaps shining above the blues inducing and unsightly nearby garbage can. As part of a dry cleaners on Barbur Boulevard in SW, this color choice on part of the building caught my eye for being the right splash of color in the middle of drab surroundings.

Purple Mountain

Bringing truth to the phrase “purple mountain’s majesty,” this portrayal of Mount Hood does it in style with just the right lighting conditions. Its part of a longer mural on the side of a building on Interstate Avenue.

Purple House

Living in a purple house is as close as some of us get to the Prince lifestyle. It’s a bold choice and it’s the right choice. It gleams in sunlight and cheers up the Foster-Powell area neighborhood on a gloomy day.

Purple Counter

Not too many of us look under the counter at restaurants but while waiting for a take-out order I drank in the purpleness of the counter’s base. It struck me as the right kind of deep and glorious purple for the Kenton neighbor establishment of Po Shines. Another color might have run the risk of blending in, remaining hidden under the counter and going completely unnoticed.

Purple Ex-Coffee Shop 

I’ve been saying good-bye to this place for a long time. The purple paint job, in all of it’s three shaded glory, is something to behold. It’s tough to imagine this Piedmont neighborhood ex-establishment becoming anything else especially a business that might require a new paint job.

Purple Decorative Bike

While getting into an almost realm of dental art by virtue of being placed in front of a dental office, this bike qualifies for inclusion in a purple post instead. It stands out with it’s old-timey style and lighting. This bold bike may not even inspire anyone to make an appointment for a cleaning but it jazzes up the landscaping.

Purple Bike Rack

Where else would you lock a purple bike but on a purple bike rack. Here’s further proof that purple is a versatile color for any municipal equipment. It brings a bike rack into the realm of art object.

Dual Purple Garage Doors

No one gets excited about garage doors but when there’s two of them and they’re purple excitement does begin to gurgle. Tucked away in the SW neighborhood of Arnold’s Creek, these  double doors of purpleness exude tranquility. It’s a strong accent to a more utilitarian and often overlooked aspect of a home.

Purple Planter

Perhaps we have to stick with this newly coined adage, “if you’re feeling down, keep some purple around.” Surrounding an orange tree with a purple planter is one way to stay color coordinated and purple, like Prince himself, can get you out of one funk and into one that’s way better.

Royal Living in North Portland

As I was trying to explain who I was and why I was calling, I started getting a good natured razzing. Telling the guy on the other end of the line that I was a blogger had him joking about how bloggers are the ones who don’t make any money from their writing. I could only laugh being too familiar with my impoverished blogging pursuits. At this point I was proud for doing something challenging, namely picking up the phone and making a call. The voice on the phone preferred to remain anonymous. All jokes aside, the man was making my penniless endeavors worth it by telling stories about something I’d long wondered about.

I’ve marveled at the twin apartment buildings, Queen Johanna and Queen Jeannette for a long time. My curiosity outweighed my need to know but here I was talking to someone in the know—the owner of the Queen Johanna building. Looking through an apartment webpage featuring the Queen Johanna, I dialed (does anyone dial anymore?) the number on the site. Soon I was talking to a friendly, chatty guy who told me about the twin Queen apartments in the Portsmouth section of North Portland. The apartments were built by a man named T. A. Nelson, first name Thomas, who named them after his daughters. While one of the Queen apartments was sold, Jeanette still owns the building named for her.

The apartments were built around 1974. Mr. Nelson’s excitement over his accomplishment inspired him to rent a limo to drive his friends over to show off the buildings. When asked what he thought people might think about living in buildings named for Queens, my anonymous source said they might appreciate it but they didn’t know the history. The apartment owner suggested the royalty theme was inspired by how much Nelson cherished his children.

My source then served up a triple bombshell telling me that Nelson also built an apartment building named Carroll’s Castle. The building’s namesake, another daughter, lives in one of the apartments of the place named after her. Not only that, he built more apartments called King Arthur’s Court and you guessed it—his son inspired the name. It never occurred to me that these buildings, with a royal theme, were related but in hindsight it’s easy to see how it couldn’t be coincidental.

My contact explained that these were particulars of the story he had heard. There was a point where I began to fear this anonymous voice might be making up an elaborate tale and pranking me. I found an online bizapedia entry for T. A. Nelson Buildiers Inc. a company that started in 1967 so the story seems legit. The one sure way for more details would involve tracking down Carroll of Carroll’s Castle. Sadly, my source had no contact information for her.

When I joked about how Carroll’s Castle might feel like living in a castle, a question that was tounge-in-cheek and inspired by the peeling paint on the apartment’s sign, I was given a history lesson about how nice the apartments were for their time. These were some of the first apartments in a neighborhood described as being full of cheap houses.

“Back then when they were built, those buildings were like dynamite. That was it,” he exclaimed. When I said it sounded like the apartments were state of the art for the time the Queen Johanna owner elaborated, “the buildings were like condos, but they’re not.” The garages were an added bonus and an unusual feature for apartment living. He told me if I tracked Carroll down I should ask her if she’d sell him the building. “I love that building,” he said. I asked him if I got a deal going whether there’d be money in it for me. He laughed saying I might have a broker in me. He did promise a bookstore gift card if I assisted on a deal. Having made all the calls I have time to make this week, I can only hope to hunt down the rest of the story from Carol, Arthur and Jeanette one of these days. In the meantime I’m off in search of my inner real estate broker.

* * * * *

Royal living isn’t just for North Portland residents. If you’re hoping to live amoungst Kings and Queens there are options out there.

Get Your Royal on at Royal Crest

I’m not sure if these apartments inspire jokes about the Royals in this Game of Thrones era but if you’re interested in moving to Beaverton you can find out.

Live like a King On NE MLK BLVD

You can live like a king or maybe live on a street named after a King, nonetheless the building name checks the highest level of royalty you can muster in Portland.

Fences Make Interesting Neighbors

Consider fences. Most of the time they’re damn dull. They do their job without making a fuss or a fashion statement. At the Portland Orbit, we’re interested in any stabs at creativity we can feast our eyes on. You might think there isn’t much people can do with fences but I here’s proof to the contrary.  Fences can take on elements of yard decor that make them unique. There might be windows added or fences made from scrap doors and window frames. A structure can take on the look of a mixed media piece of art when elements of whatever might be lying around are mixed in. These days people have realized that fences can straddle the line between practically and art.

Backside Barrier

This homemade barrier had us stopping dead in our tire tracks so I could jump out of the car and take a picture. It encompasses everything I love. Homegrown ingenuity for fencing from an unlikely source which includes mannequin materials that launched some old familiar and feverish feelings. This yard in SW near Multnomah Village is also directly across the street from a Christian school so one could only imagine the backstory. This is form that follows function as fencing goes. It inspired me to think of other examples of interesting, yet less exotic styles of fencing, that I needed to bring to the public’s attention.

Nautical, Not Knot to Call

In the University Park neighborhood off of Willamette Boulevard, I spotted a fence that took  elements of a nautical theme combined with a kitchen sink approach to fence design. The water decor works well given that the fence is in front of a house that backs up to the banks of the Willamette river.  It weaves netting and ropes through trees and logs.  A closer look revealed decorative items that brought color and a touch of whimsy to this kind of yard marker. Who knew how artsy an old rake could look when grouped with old logs, nautical floats and a random cat mask?

The Windows to the Soul Approach

First I would consider why anyone would want a window in their fence. Fences are all about privacy. Right? But at the Portland Orbit any time anyone asks why? The response is a guaranteed why not. These windows offer a dramatic decorative element that may also serve a function if anyone ever needs to see who might be creeping along the fence. This is something that any fence builder should contemplate. A wall of wood doesn’t always do much good. I mean all that grain and stain really could stand to be broken up by a few windows.

Frame by Frame

In the St. Johns neighborhood this house had an approach to fencing that seized my imagination. Windows and doors along with elements like skis and a sled have been utilized to create this fence. A neighbor, out walking his dog, described it as looking “hooterville” when I was getting some photos. He did counter the thought by adding “to each his own,” as he and his dog continued off on their walk. I have to say I might feel different if I had to look at this everyday. My only problem would be that I wouldn’t be able to stop looking at it. I’d always be finding new objects that I may have missed. These kind of things keep the design fresh and interesting especially when it stands out in of a crowd of generic neighborhood fences.

Detail: Fence wash board

 

Welcome sledders and golfers!

 

 

A Feast For February Eyes: Birdbath Mania in Laurelhurst

photo by Will Simmons

Even before the first day of this February a funk settled over me so deep it would have made James Brown envious. January ended with two days of winter sunshine and I couldn’t take it. Cold gray skies have slithered back that may bring a wintry mix allowing me to get back to daydreams of real sunshine emanating from the cloudless blue skied August afternoons like the one that had a friend and me stumbling upon an overly decorated, yet endlessly fascinating explosion of birdbaths in the Laurelhurst neighborhood.

In the previous times I’d spotted this yard, my head always snapped back as I tried to catch a glimpse while speeding by on my way to get some place. It was a startling to see the yard in slow motion. The opportunity arose when Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit was in town for the World International Orbit conference held in August of 2017. On one of our many bike tours we headed through the Laurelhurst neighborhood on what had to have been Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Here was a place I’d been meaning to experience for a long time.

I know next to nothing about the origins of this superb example of birdbath mania. It’s possible that things have changed drastically since I last saw it a year and a half ago. It’s even more likely that it remains the same except for slow decay from time and weather. Neighbors could either see it as a source of pride or annoyance. It would take some organization to rid the neighborhood of what the unenlightened might consider an eyesore.

The yard has a feel of a folk art environment. Of course the art in question seems to be of the store-bought variety but there’s art in the arrangement and yard art quantity. This cluttered approach to exterior decorating overwhelms the eye with visions of disintegrating sculptures and cement. Birdbaths spill over the ceramic retaining wall, out of the yard’s boundaries and past the sidewalk. Grumpy, old-fashioned children haunt me while lawn deer and smiling frogs attempt to lighten the mood.

I can only wonder what birds think of the yard. The baths didn’t exactly teem with life. No birds were spotted. The birdbaths didn’t appear to contain water. Other signs of decay included dried plants and worn out statues. One figurine, absorbed in a book, remained oblivious to her feet having crumbled and fallen off. The volume of ceramics, figurines, statues, knickknacks, birdbaths and cement that combine to form this bastion of over-decoration overshadows what probably was never intended as a bird spa anyway.

 

Post Script: It’s cemented in my brain that February can be a tough month. I may have remained unwary of this phenomenon had it not been for the comments of Rich Reece that appeared in the Portland Monthly a few years back. Life can be a slog at anytime but when you throw in recurring grime, blankets of rain and a constant shade of gray people can get depressed. Advise like not impulsively quitting your job or your significant other is good all year round but it’s also fitting for a month that wears on people. Be glad it’s a short month. Stay healthy, don’t let your misery get exponential and fight that temptation to yell at man-bun sporting jaywalkers. A quick culture fix spent staring at an odd assortment of birdbaths may be the cure for winter doldrums—weather permitting of course. 

photo by Will Simmons

photo by Will Simmons

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 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 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 crawling with Outside Art displays from businesses and residents alike. The Albina Press coffee shop boasts huge paintings on their side walls. A building the next block over seems to draw inspiration incorporating a mural that morphs into huge painted panels.

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

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

Outside Art: A Case Study

In the Woodlawn neighborhood, I came across art hung on a fence. The work’s merit is marred by a gashed canvas. 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 fencing. These colorful, bold abstracts demonstrate that Outside Art can always be used to spruce up even the drabbest of surroundings.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.