I’m not thinking about public art right now, so I am not writing about public art now.

Check in again later.

From the Oregonian, October 30 2008

Every old school probably has a storage room like Jefferson High’s, a dusty old space where vintage film projectors, dog-eared class photos and obsolete textbooks linger indefinitely in the darkness.

But at this proud but crumbling inner-city school, there is something more surprising once you get past the cluster of yellow plastic garbage cans and swarms of fruit flies: scores of artworks with tremendous historic value.

In anticipation of Jefferson’s centennial anniversary next year, alumnus Jason Renaud and other volunteers have been working to archive and restore the collection. But proper protective glass, framing and other costs are estimated at about $27,000. More than that, Renaud also hopes to draw parallels between saving the art and saving his alma mater.

“When they built Jefferson in 1909, it was the largest school in the nation,” Renaud says. “People from all over came to school here because it had the best art programs in the state. But when that stopped, it seems like they just dumped everything in this storage room.”

With capacity for about 4,000 students, Jefferson now houses fewer than 600. An open-enrollment policy in Portland Public Schools means that even neighborhood kids are shunning Jefferson, which lacks adequate college-prep courses. Not a cent of school money is available for restoring the artworks.

The collection’s most valuable pieces are 39 lithographs made during the Depression as commissions for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. Names largely lost to history — including Otis Oldfield, Ralph Austin and Elinor Stone — rendered images of the massive dam and bridge projects that would lift the U.S. out of its economic black hole.

Also included are 19 political cartoons by Lute Pease, The Oregonian’s first cartoonist, who created most of these works for the Newark Evening News during the 1930s. In one especially telling cartoon, Adolf Hitler is portrayed trying to get his hands on Iraq’s British-controlled oil supply.

“These would be great to put into the curriculum,” Renaud says. “What better lesson on politics could you have?”

Modern artworks in Jefferson’s collection include a painting by Louis Bunce, who helped establish Oregon’s modern art scene in the mid-20th century and exhibited at some of New York’s top galleries in addition to being an influential professor at Museum Art School (now Pacific Northwest College of Art). Jefferson also has several early-1970s pieces originally exhibited at Portland’s Fountain Gallery, owned by longtime local arts patron and philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer.

Most of the two-dimensional artworks are still in good shape from sitting in protective darkness. But public art at Jefferson — such as a haunting bas-relief World War I memorial on the school’s front facade, or an exquisitely rendered wood mural with the opening words to the Declaration of Independence above the main entrance — is as decayed as the architecture.

As Jefferson’s centennial approaches, Renaud hopes the luster can return.

“This school loves its sports,” he says, standing beside plaques honoring NFL Hall of Famer Mel Renfro and Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker, both Jefferson alums. “But it’s also a school of poets and playwrights and painters.”

EXTRA – Jefferson Artworks

Gresham’s mayor wants outside living room gone
From KATU.com, November 7 2008

Outdoor sculptures that make up a living room setting no longer have a place at a TriMet transit mall in Gresham, according to the city’s mayor, Shane Bemis.

The sculptures, created in 2001 by an artist who has since moved away, have become a magnet for cigarette butts, garbage and crime, says Bemis.

And the mayor is not alone in his thinking – neighborhood associations, business owners who don’t like the look of it and police who say it draws a bad element are all in agreement.

However, there is a lengthy public process to go through before anything can be done – a process that is not without obstacles. TriMet’s policy is that once art is put in place, it should stay put for 10 years. And federal law offers the work and the artist protections.

Bemis wasn’t expecting such problems, but says he won’t give up.

He did say he would be happy to remove the artwork temporarily to try to clean up the problems in the area, but TriMet says that won’t happen unless Bemis participates in the public process.

Trouble in Gresham’s ‘Living Room’
from the Oregonian, November 7 2008

In the cold light of day, “The Living Room,” the sculpture installed at TriMet’s Gresham Central transit station in 2001, looks like the morning after a big party. Cigarette butts spill out of the concrete couch cushions. Plastic soda cups, carried on the east wind, roll around the base of the bronze TV.


Mayor Shane Bemis, fed up with the partying, fighting and the drug-dealing that has cropped up around the sculpture, wants it gone. In September, he asked TriMet to remove it, saying that although the artwork itself wasn’t the issue, the activity it attracts had gotten out of hand.

But removal — if approved — would not be as simple as just prying the bronze TV, and other concrete and bronze living room pieces off the land and sending them off to some big public-art furniture warehouse.

TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen, in an Oct. 8 letter to Bemis, says a public process is needed. Furthermore, according to TriMet, federal law gives the artist, Tamsie Ringler, certain rights, including “right of integrity,” which protects artwork from “distortion, mutilation or other modification.”

That means the sculpture would probably need to be removed in a manner protecting its physical integrity, and preserved. TriMet suggests that could involve substantial cost. A transit-agency policy adopted in 2001 says removal should be considered only 10 years after the date of installation or if a work has been damaged beyond repair, and then only after careful, impartial evaluation.

So far, no next step is decided, says TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch, and Bemis continues to gather information from police to shape his position. “I’m disappointed obviously with the process,” he says. “It seems like we ought to be able to get our arms around it a little more quickly. … But we are still committed to working with TriMet.”

TriMet has decommissioned only one art feature, Cattail Tunes at Quatama/Northwest 205th Avenue station on the west side: tall flexible poles with metal heads that were intended to sway in the wind but were susceptible to vandalism. They were removed in 2000, before TriMet established the artwork “deaccession” policy in 2001.

Ringler, reached by phone at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., where she teaches sculpture, was saddened to learn her sculpture — one of Gresham’s first pieces of public art — may be removed, particularly since city leaders are simultaneously working to bring new public art to a public plaza under construction downtown. Ringler, who used to teach at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, says the busy transit center would face the same kind of issues whether or not the sculpture was there.

Young people love “The Living Room,” she points out, and in Gresham they have few public places to hang out with their friends.

“Probably some of the kids (who frequent the site) come from troubled homes and they have no living room that they can feel safe in,” Ringler says. “So they hang out in a public living room — I think that’s sadly ironic. It’s something the city needs to address.”

Instead of removing her work, Ringler says, TriMet should keep the site tidier and work to repair the sculpture and the surrounding lawn after years of heavy use. “It’s being loved to death,” she says, estimating that while TriMet spent $25,000 for the piece, its real-dollar value is closer to $150,000.

“I think people do realize what they have, but it’s a shame government doesn’t realize what they have. It’s a very unique vision — it seems so everyday and common, but that’s exactly what’s special about it. It’s a celebration of the commonplace in our lives.”

Sampan Fisherman by John Kelly

Sampan Fisherman by John Kelly

Craig’s List poisoned newspapers. They are the walking dead, yearning for the final blow (though all copies of the NY Times sold out in downtown Seattle, New York and Portland by 10 AM November 5 – keepsakes, perhaps.)

Boats, cars, furniture, boyfriends – online classified ads are overwhelmingly more robust, free, interactive.

But it looks like Portland art galleries are not in any danger of being replaced by the online juggernaut. Caveat emptor!

Montage at Night oil painting by Terrance Gasca – originally sold by Lawrence Gallery $2400 – now $1150.

Statue under the Sea, oil paining by T Heczko – $2000

Sampan Fisherman, print by John Kelly – $1295

Samovar and Jar, oil painting by Ettina – $1200

Wherever He Leads Me, print on canvas by Greg Olsen – $3500

Five paintings by Jennifer Grey of the Lawrence Gallery, paid value was $3500 – now $1200

Russell Chatham lithographs made in 1988, cash or trade for diesel motor home – $52,400 (note: original value might have been a 10th of this price.)

Bridge of Hope reproduction of some sort by Thomas Kinkade, bought originally for $2600 – now $1365

Garden Wall an oil painting by H. Gordon Wang – $5000

Z. Z. Wei “investment grade original” oil painting – $12500 or trade for “BMW 3 series or Audi of similar of comparative value (nothing older than 2000/01 please). “

lv.FRAME.jpgYou could describe them as gallant or blasé or ignorant or bankrolled, but I am sticking to my earlier prediction, Obama or not, 15 out of 41 art galleries in Portland will be out of business by April 15.

D K Row sets the scene today in the Oregonian – Local galleries deal with a struggling economy

Bob Koch of Augen Gallery is quoted by Row with this curious and uneven remark, “Art may take a hit price-wise,” says Kochs. “But at some point (later on), prices will get re-inflated because the wealthy will always see buying art as a good place to store their wealth.”

“Store their wealth” implies an active accessible resale market – not Craig’s List. Resale for this? Where? Anybody know?

It’s got everything. Roses, Elvis, a charging stallion, Portland / Willamette background, sexy sweat.  This is maximum mojo.  Thanks to Willamette Week.  Who’s the artist?

There’s been little public art of interest made about George Bush.  No serious sculptures commissioned I know of, no heroic paintings ready for statehouses or stately homes.  Many essays in the New York Review of Books, Checkpoint by Nicholson BakerNovember by David Mamet, W by Oliver Stone,  There’s plenty of material to work with, but so far few if any artists of interest have taken up the challenge.  No doubt Tom Wolfe is working on something.

But November 4 will be a change for the arts – which as usual had no affect on political discourse of the past year.

Artists of all sorts have been making images of Obama, and the Obama Art Report has been tracking much of it.

Did you know?  Rapid City, South Dakota has lifesize bronze sculptures of many presidents adorning their downtown?

Have you seen great Obama art?  Use the comments to send us the link.

Happy election day – America’s greatest holiday.

Wordstock finally gets A1 above the fold

Wordstock finally gets A1 above the fold

Wordstock – Next week!

Saturday, November 8th & Sunday, November 9th 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Wordstock Book Fair
At The Portland Convention Center, 777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd.

Thursday, November 6th 9:00 PM
Wordstock Superstar Poetry Slam Competition
At The Bagdad Theatre, 3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Thursday, November 6th  7:30 PM
Literary Arts Presents: W.S. Merwin
At The Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

Saturday, November 8th  Cocktails At 6:00 PM Ball At 7:00 PM
IPRC Presents: The Text Ball
At The Leftbank Building, 240 N Broadway

Saturday, November 8th  8:00 PM
Live Wire Presents: The 4th Live Wire Wordstock Extravaganza
At The Aladdin Theatre, 3116 SE 11th Ave.

Sunday, November 9th   7:30 PM
Literary Arts Presents: The Oregon Book Awards
At The Portland Art Museum’s Mark Building, 1219 SW Park Ave.

Interlocking Forms - by Don Wilson, 1977

Interlocking Forms - by Don Wilson, 1977

These reddish plywood boxes hold Interlocking Forms, 1977, by Don Wilson. It’s a fairly immovable sculpture set in front of the Portland Building on SW 6th Avenue, and it’s been there since about 1977.

As the sculptures begin to return to the Transit Mall after a couple of years in storage, it’s a good time to revisit these works and figure out if they have relevance in our current century.

I appreciate they left breathing holes.

Buckman Community by Joe Cotter

Buckman Community by Joe Cotter

A wonderful geographical mural of the Buckman neighborhood by Joe Cotter is underway at 12th and SE Morrison. This replaces another Buckman mural shown here.

These pics are from about two weeks ago. Work is ongoing. Joe was up on the scafolding yesterday adding the color.

EXTRA – Mural Underway at SE 12th and Morrison, Buckman Voice

Leland #1 - Lee Kelly & Bonnie Bronson

Leland #1 - Lee Kelly & Bonnie Bronson

This weathered Lee Kelly sculpture, made from Cor-ten steel and enameled steel is Leland #1, wedged in an unfindable public space between the three condo towers east of PSU. Made at the Leland Iron Works in Oregon City in 1975, now owned and not maintained by the City and RACC.

Mike Watt, Eddie Vedder & Company – Against the 70s

I asked him if he knew what time he had
He said he wasn’t sure, maybe a quarter past

I peered in his eyes as we stood in line just to have a look
But the pages I found looked like an unbound coloring book

It’s not reality, just someone else’s sentimentality…
It won’t work for you…

Baby boomers selling you rumors of their history
Forcing youth away from the truth of what’s real today

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s

Stadium minds with stadium lies gotta make you laugh
Garbage vendors against true defenders of the craft

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s
It’s not reality, just someone else’s sentimentality…
Look what it did to us…

(Speakin’ as a child of the 70’s)

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