Three years ago, we moved to Portland. We came for its urban culture and forested parks, the wide Willamette crossed by soaring bridges, and for Auntie Katie and the cousins.
We found all those things, and more. And even in the pandemic shut down, there is a lot of city to enjoy.
PAM, the art museum, is a feast for the eyes and spirit, just a walk away. Attendance is limited to keep folks safe, but the art there can carry you away for a while.
Art isn’t just in the museums, either. It is everywhere, bright and outspoken.
The parks are still wonderful places filled with hundred year old trees, ditzy squirrels, and flowers.
Our city has gotten a bad rap, lately. Mr. Trump says we have been “in flames for decades.” He is lying. Our nightly demonstrations in a few blocks of downtown make him nervous, is all. They show we will stand up to police brutality and racial injustice.
And they are as much a part of what I love about Portland as the museums and the forests. I am glad to be a part of it.
Once I got to the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, I had intended to head right back home, but my Dad’s voice whispered “Go home a different way, so you see something different.”
So I continued across the bridge to the Westside. The pedestrian walkway has recently been finished and makes for a very pleasant, if warm, walk between the bridges. There were more adventurers out and about.
I found Poet’s Beach, a side path lined with stones that are carved with poetry written by students, years ago.
It is loud, because it is right under the double decker Marquam Bridge, but worth a read and a visit.
By this time, my feet and my phone batteries were telling me it was time to head home. I decided to cross back over the Hawthorne Bridge. I love the views of bridges from other bridges!
Of course, political statements are everywhere. I liked this re-purposed public service message.
You can see a lot of Portland from bridges, too. Joggers, cyclists, the Burnside Bridge and the Convention Center are all in these shots.
Once I was back on the Eastside, I realized I was hungry, and came upon Asylum, a food Court on the site of Dr. Hawthorne’s Oregon State Hospital for the Insane. This much-respected institution stood from 1862 to 1883. It closed when the good Doctor died and burned to the ground a few years later.
The space has a steampunk cartoony vibe, with trash containers that made me laugh and really tasty food.
I had pot stickers from the Thai place and enjoyed some people and art watching.
Once I was fed, I still had a mile walk, all uphill, to get home. I paced myself, admiring gardens, appreciating shade, and visiting with nice folks. I had done what I had intended to do, walked a total of 6.2 miles, and it felt good.
By the way, as you can tell, Portland is not “in flames”. We are fine. The protests are being exploited by the President and his allies who want to use Portland as an excuse to use strong arm tactics against his political enemies. He is lying.
Besides being shutdown because of the Corona Virus, Portland is now dealing with Federal troops in our downtown streets every evening. It is also about 100 degrees by noon these hot July days. So I am staying inside.
I have taken Hitoshi Shigeta’s sketchbook islands, sent to us by Jennifer Coile, and run with it! I made a few islands in the original drip-and-spread method, but wanted the features to stand out more. I gave the accidentally created features more contrast with my paintbrush.
As I worked, I began to see where the snow would accumulate, how the melt would flow, and what the topography of the island would be. It became a very real, very happy place for me. I named it Welcome Home.
I realized that my calligraphy skills were not up to labeling the features on my map, so Auntie Bridgett suggested using cut-out letters and words in a sort of collage technique, and I am really enjoying it. Years of Portland Monthly, Better Homes and Gardens, and Sunset Magazines, and all our old maps are getting harvested.
Having gotten my island to this point, I am not sure what to do with it next. But my Dad always said that if you can’t decide what to do, maybe it isn’t time to make that decision yet. So I will put my maps in a safe place and figure it out later.
One of the nicest things about having artists in my life, besides knowing the lovely artists themselves, is getting pretty stuff!
My friend Ruth Inman is an artist who lives in Illinois. She does delightful, pretty, quirky art, with lots of purples, golds, dragonflies, and doodles.
She has gone into business with a company called Redbubble that puts her art onto scarves, purses, face masks, and even shower curtains. You can order these online, which is very nice for these days of not-going-out.
I have been having art classes with Ruth online, and in one of these classes, she made a beautiful piece of art. I liked it so much, I bought it on a scarf from Redbubble. And yesterday, it arrived!
She can be found at Ruth Inman.redbubble.com
It is so soft and pretty, and huge. The colors are blue and a golden brown, which will make it useful for summer and fall, and it feels like a cloud. I am so pleased!
If you have arty stuff needs go visit Redbubble, just for fun.
I took a long walk yesterday, all the way south past Division Street, to meet my dear friend Misha at a park. It was so good to sit in the sun and chat! Of course we wore masks, sat further apart than usual, and were outside and away from other people. We are not foolish. But the company was wonderful.
On the way, I passed this large brick school. I noticed the sentimental chalk graffiti first, then the wonderful bas-relief mosaic murals.
The four murals are each about five feet wide and twenty feet high and show nature as it changes during the seasons. I took pictures to remind me, and looked them up when I got home. They were created by Lynn Takata in 2008 when she was the artist in residence at the school. Ms Takata is a local artist and art teacher at several POrtland colleges.
I was so impressed with such textured, complex, detailed work, and the appreciation of nature that it reveals.
Then, I was intrigued by the Japanese characters under the name RICHMOND over the main entrance.
The school is Richmond Elementary Japanese Immersion School. The building was built in 1908, and is the oldest standing school in Portland. It became an immersion school in 1989. The program has been very successful, growing to include Mount Tabor Middle School and and part of Grant High School. The program includes cultural education and even trips to Japan!
It is closed now, of course, because of the Corona Virus. But I am sure that as soon as it is safe, hundreds of kids will be back, learning everything kids do, in Japanese and English, learning how big the world really is.
And once the doctors have found a way to keep us safe from the virus, I hope you are able to get back to school, too.
We had some errands to do yesterday, so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a nice long walk. And since all the places we needed to go were down on Hawthorne, we saw how that street is changing during the lockdown.
We saw that Chez Machin, a lovely French bistro type place, has changed its name to Frog and Snail. I am hoping it is just a name change and the owners are the same. They are nice folks, and too many people are losing their livelihoods because of the shutdown. We will have a taste of their frogs and snails when the city opens up more.
We still found a lot of businesses closed, but the art and messaging is beautiful and hopeful. I took pictures as a way of holding tight onto goodness and love.
I have been so dismayed these last few days at the level of anger and violence that has swept over Portland and the rest of the country that I sometimes just want to curl up and sleep until all the hatred has passed.
But love, beauty and just plain human goodness are making themselves heard, too. And that gives me comfort.
After dropping off dry cleaning and mailing packages, we stopped at Hawthorne Liquor. Auntie Bridgett is on a mission to find a certain kind of yummy cognac that we had on an Air France flight, years ago. We have yet to find it anywhere in the city. But I did have time to wonder at this improbable bottle of pear brandy!
On the way home we stopped at Whole Bowl for lunch, which we ate while sitting on the chairs outside the temporarily closed Common Grounds coffee shop. We stopped at Chase bank to return someone’s lost credit card, and enjoyed some more street art.
By the time we got home, we had walked nearly three miles! I felt pretty accomplished, after these long months of too much sofa-sitting. Maybe we can put ourselves out of this hole, after all.
You know Auntie Bridgett is an artist, right? Well, this week she sold three of her lovely paintings!!
Bridgett shows her paintings, collages, buttons, magnets and zines at SideStreet Arts gallery at SE 28th and Ash Street here in Portland. She is one of nine members of the gallery and also handles the graphic design for their show postcards, their news releases, and advertisements. It is a big job!
This last Sunday was a good day for art selling. The lady who had bought Bridgett’s wonderful collage of Max Jacob last year came by, and they got to chat. It is always nice to know where your art has gone.
Then a couple came in and, attracted by “(I wish I were) A Paris”, they went to the corner where Bridgett’s paintings were. They fell in love with, and bought, three of her wonderful blue “Paris Rooftops”!
I love these paintings, which were inspired by our vacations to Paris, and I am so pleased that people love and appreciate Auntie Bridgett’s art. It makes her happy to create it, and then it goes out and spreads happiness in the world.
I learn a lot when I go to PAM, our art museum, with Auntie Bridgett. She has studied art history, so she helps me see things in perspective.
For example, I always thought that since Modern usually means the newest and most current thing, that Modern would be the newest, latest art. I was wrong! Modern art, as it turns out, had a specific time span, from just before 1850 to about 1950. So Modern art is older than me!
Modern Art also had a lot of different styles in it… Picasso’s cubism, Salvatore Dali’s surrealism, and abstract art are all “Modern” art.
Art that is done NOW, (or at least, since 1950) is called “Contemporary” Art.
Since it is newer and not carried in as many museums or art books, people aren’t as used to seeing it… so they say “That’s not art,” which is exactly what people said about the great Impressionist Monet (1850s-1920) when HE started. It was “smudgy”, “sloppy”, and “unfinished”. They didn’t get it.
So when I see Contemporary Art and think “That’s not art”, I try to hold my tongue. I try to see what idea the artist is trying to get across, and how well that did it. It can be a challenge, but challenges are good.
Art keeps making me ask questions and think harder about things.
As I have said before, the Oregon Zoo here in Portland is delightful. They take good care of the animals by giving them large, interesting enclosures. The keepers make sure the animals get healthy food and enough exercise.
The zoo also educates people about animals and how we can help take care of them, both in the wild and in captivity.
But the zoo is also beautiful. Even in winter, when trees and gardens go bare, there are sculptures and other kid-friendly art. When I can walk slowly and really look around, I see more.
There is a stack of goats just near the entrance which is a great photo op for families. You and the cousins climb on it every time we are there!
The late Jim Gion’s lion sculpture, called Lunchtime, is a favorite with kids. They love sitting on the adults and rolling on the ground with the babies.
The other day when I was at the zoo I noticed two sculptures that I had never seen before. One is a frog about two feet high, called Sunning. It is in one of the buildings with small, tropical animals on display.
My biggest surprise was an outdoor sculpture group near the penguin enclosure. I couldn’t see any plaque giving the name or artist, and haven’t been able to find this information elsewhere yet.
Auntie Katie has identified the man as Charles Darwin. Grandpa Nelson wants to call it Mansplaining, which I kind of like. But I’ll keep looking for the correct name!
Other art, like the stone sculpture garden, is meant to be climbed on.
At a wonderful event called ZooLights, the art is meant to be seen but not touched. Only open at night in winter, most of the zoo is lit up with beautiful colored scenes and animals that seem to swoop and run. It is chilly, but worth the extra layers.