December 2006

The duty of most public servants is to suffer and be forgotten, and yet our city is filled with streets and parks and various geographic nodes named after dead white men, no longer powerful.

Many cities recognize their mayors with the same banal trophies – but interestingly – Portland hasn’t. Especially in the arts.

Let’s make a list. Mine is incomplete because my brain is incomplete. If you can think of a commemoration, artistic or geographical of a recent Portland mayor, make a comment below.

And we’ll soon see who has been forgotten – already.

Tom Potter – nothing yet.

Vera Katz – Eastbank Esplanade and bronze sculpture by Bill Bane near base of Hawthorne Bridge.

Bud Clark – Commemorative plaque under West end of Burnside Bridge, and with former County Chair Don Clark, The Clark Center – a homeless shelter. I also remember a portrait by Henk Pander. Wonder where that is?

Connie McCready – nothing.

Neal Goldschmidt – nothing yet. But greatly deserved.

Frank Ivancie – nothing.

Terry Schrunk – Commemorative plaque in Terry Schrunk Plaza, adjacent to City Hall.

Fred Peterson – nothing.

Dorothy McCullough LeeSee right – a plaque outside of City Hall Council Chambers.


The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association has been a heavyweight advocate in Portland’s city hall for a couple of decades now, winning most of their advocacy battles using the Historic Old Town Business Association. Rewards for public advocacy are often ironic or flubbed, and theirs is no exception.

Just installed are two structures bracketing NW Davis at Fourth Avenue in the midst of what Portland calls Chinatown (truly an unhappy memory for folks 60+), created by Brian Goldbloom of Amboy, Washington. The structures are of pink granite enclosed in a stainless steel frame – from a distance is looks like a horrible dental extraction. Close up, it isn’t better. One of the steel garrotes is throttling a dragon by the neck; below is a archaeological mess of kitchen equipment. The pink granite stands on top of a large white stone dais, which dwarfs the artwork.

One block of Davis has been rehabbed with sidewalk cement in the street and out-of-place palm trees. It would be an excellent demographic exercise to watch the number of pedestrians accidents in this busy thoroughfare, now freely mixing cars and wandering tourists.

From November 29, 2005 PDC press release“The Regional Arts and Culture Council has commissioned eight public art “lanterns” for the project area from sculptor Brian Goldbloom. The sculptures celebrate the multi-cultural history and promise of the neighborhood and reflect its rich history and diversity.”

No mention of the artist, Brian Goldbloom, on the Regional Arts and Culture Council site (the stewards of our public-paid-for artworks). No press release. No signature on the work. And, no lanterns.

The artwork has drawn immediate negative responses from local businesspeople, and the Portland Clean & Safe dude who showed me the damage to the dragon’s snout, “a ball peen hammer, if I don’t miss my guess,” he exclaimed with a conspiratorial glance.

Here’s who selected this artwork.

Selection Panel

  • Doreen Binder, Old Town/Chinatown Steering Committee
  • David Davies, Portland Development Commission
  • Deborah Horrell, Artist
  • Jack Lee, Old Town/Chinatown Steering Committee
  • Louis Lee, Old Town/Chinatown Steering Committee
  • Lloyd Lindley, Landscape Architect
  • June Schuman, Nikkei Legacy Center
  • Deb Stoner, Artist
  • Ellen Vanderslice, Portland Transportation
  • Public Art Manager: Kristin Calhoun,

The most peculiar part of the two sculptures – on opposite sides of the Davis Street – is that dragon’s head on the South sculpture has been shorn clean off – clearly dragons North and South are demonstrating “before and after” with hideous imagery.

Below the captured North Dragon, snarling and staring at the doors of House of Louie (terrible feng shui!), in rough granite are an overturned wok, a duck and chicken heads, some spatulas. Below the headless South dragon is a ubiquitous salmon, an abacus and a pocket calculator!

Wow. I thought the Britney giving birth was in bad taste. (Here’s a great collection of super-bad public sculptures!) But this unnamed artwork is both badly made, badly conceived, no – just a bad job all around.
Sculpture’s portrayal of dragon, wok draws complaints – Oregonian, 12.5.2006

Verdict: Art misses mark – Chinatown finds little to like in dragon sculpture – Tribune, 12.3.2006

Some days after the artwork is installed, RACC posts info on it’s web site.

Brian Goldbloom – Artist Registry

PERCENT FOR ART PROGRAM: Financial allocation process is informal, inconsistent, and may not fulfill requirements for public art – RACC audit, August 2005

Editorial and comments on this blog at Portland Mercury’s Blogtown (some comments are in bad taste).

It’s S Clay Wilson meets Adam & The Ants with a rollicking yar har har. (And for those cautious pop wizard parents, CB&S is completely perfect for kids 2 through 14 – which reveals an opportunity for the evening set as Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates.)

Pieces of 8ight, shot at Kennedy School by Food Chain Films and Vance Malone makes a send up of 16 Military Wives by those god awful bores, the Decemberists.

Catch Captain Bogg & Salty circulating in local libraries and digging for the lost treasure chest in public school sandboxes.

Eat a Lime!

Captain Bogg & Salty – web site
Portland Pirate Festival – web site and photos

Matthew Courtney, charismatic & friendly, with a clear bell voice and love of the limelight, art lover and lonely, went off to New York City in 1983 or 1984, lived the life, helped launch ABC No Rio and wrangled wild poets and performance artists, kept his head clean, made others welcome and generously showed them the way to the stage, wrote verses in his journal, held day jobs and held it together. Until it fell apart.

See pics of Matthew, selling artwork on the streets of New York.

I’ve seen the best spirits of my generation, hungry & frustrated art beatnik types make a hard hard decision to leave their home, get on the bus and go to New York. It’s a classic challenge within the arts – can you do it at home, and if you do, so what? Are you relevant outside your navel? Do you matter? Does your work stand within the context of others – or do you stand alone, out there in the provinces, paintbrush or microphone or camera in hand, but alone – just you and your Artforum subscription.

It’s a desperate lonely life 1. being an artist, a watcher and collector of ideas and treasures, and 2. being an artist alone in the sticks, surrounded by comfort and love perhaps – but alone in your heart and spirit, and 3. knowing knowing knowing something is happening out there – somewhere – probably right now and probably in New York City.

It’s a tantalizing dream – finding your kind. Imagine 1963 and walking into Cedar Tavern, and there they are – luminaries, talking sharing giving. They recognize your aura and call you to join them, Robert Rauschenberg buys you a beer and Tuli Kupferberg asks to read your poetry. Everyone loves you and you are at peace.

Counsel – we carry loneliness with us, regardless of where we go. No oasis resolves the dread singularity; it cannot be doused by alcohol or scoured with cocaine. And unresolved, loneliness limits creativity, stains every utterance, and becomes a complete subtext of artwork, visible like a secret code, “help me.”

If you see Matthew on the streets of the Big Apple – tell him we still love him in Portland. You can always come home to the City of Roses.

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