I’ll return to the Jefferson High School Campaign in a post or two – having a blog is really a sanctuary for ADD.

As readers of this blog know – public art and memorials are constantly intermixed.

Roadside memorials are a interesting form of expression – as powerful up close as any sanctioned cemetery or sorrowful poem. And there are many forms – including Ghost Bikes. Sudden and strange, these icons, bikes painted white and set at a fatal accident location, make you grip your steering wheel instantly. Watch out!

Ghost Bike – New York (via the Times, may need reg.)
Ghost Bike – Chicago
Ghost Bike – San Francisco
Ghost Bike – Wisconsin
Ghost Bike – from Portland’s MLK & Wygant, memorializing Chris Burris, killed by a hit-and-run driver on 9/3/2005.

Here are three other roadside memorials which, I think, typify the artstyle. (Click on the pictures for a larger version.)

At the northbound I-5 onramp at Hayden Meadows in North Portland is a humble roadside memorial for Frank Vanerstrom, killed on August 3, 2005 by George C Hoff of Longview, (mugshot here) who according the papers, looked back and saw Frank hurt in the road, then sped off.

Frank, described by the Portland police as “a transient” (see James Chasse) had friends and family, some of whom made this small memorial, set on a grassy hillside by the road.

Hoff was charged with second-degree manslaughter and hit-and-run. He plead guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 90 days in jail (probably time served), 36 months’ probation and lost his driver’s license for five years.

This artwork is made from objects one might find along the side of a road. The classic Christian cross is made here from two wood sticks wrapped in electrical wire and propped up with bricks and rocks. An inscription is written on a scrap two by six with a black marker. Plastic flowers, pennies, a toy peace medallion, and inserted in a crevice a small wooden box holding string and a tie-dyed headband. The ensemble is spray-painted or spackled a ghostly white.

Shango Wade and his girlfriend Debbie Payton were shot to death in their car at North Killingsworth and Rodney after confronting Earl Wilkins at his home nearby. Wilkins later confessed to stealing from Wade and Payton, and though he tried to excuse his actions as self defense, he’s in OSP for a long stretch – not on death row, though he was tried for aggravated murder – See Oregon v Wilkins for all the details.

This time – 1994 – was a scary time for North Portland. Crack was cheap and available on a dozen street corners. The cops were scared or dumb or on the take or a combination of all three. Treatment centers and social services were being downsized. Gangs from LA and Mexico were popular with kids. Even with such noise – this was an awful and memorable tragedy.

Tyler Steven Erik “Ty Ty” Basel of Elmira died July 25 2004. He was five years old. The Register Guard described how his family had pulled over with car problems at a lonely point on I 26, between Eugene and Florence. Somehow Ty Ty ran barefoot into the highway and was killed by a passing motorist.

His memorial is set against the backdrop of the gigantic Sisulaw forest, and seemed to have been built by several people, each carefully avoiding contact with each other.

A piece of scrap marble makes a memorial stone. Ty Ty’s mother has written a short, wrenching remembrance in curlicue script and pasted a department store photo of the boy to the stone. Someone cut steps in the clay, and outlined a small site with cedar timbers, a church of giant trees, of infinite wild nature. A pile of tires. Toys and scraps of paper, plastic flowers. Nettles and giant mushrooms. Menacing cars slide by. The boy’s photo appears again screwed to a tree on with a scrap wood cross, decorated with fishing lures. Above the cross is a slice of ancient wood with “In Loving Memory of Ty Ty – Tyler Steven Eric Basel” deeply etched into the grain.

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