February is a dark, cold month, and that’s why this is the time for the Portland Winter Light Festival. About six years ago, Chris Herring, an artist and engineer from Portland, visited Lyon, France, and saw their festival. He decided that was just was needed here in Portland.
He got in touch with all sorts of other folks here in town, and they have created our Light Festival for these dark evenings.
Friday evening, we walked out to the two small installations that are closest to our house. It was really cold, so we didn’t go far. They are in the shop windows of an auto parts store and a vintage clothes shop.
A glowing origami style bunny was in one window and a weird, day-glow scene with bouffant hairdos and tiny aliens was in another.
There are bigger installations across town, but they are a long, cold walk away. maybe we will drive there tomorrow evening. But for now, here are some of them, taken from their website.
Did you know that your Auntie Bridgett Spicer was a cartoonist? From 2009 to 2012, her comic strip called SquidRow ran in the Monterey Herald newspaper. It was about an artist living in a touristy seaside town. Since Auntie Bridgett was an artist living in Seaside, California, it made perfect sense. The strip was really popular, too.
After we moved to Portland, she took a few years off from cartooning to do painting. She joined the Sidestreet Arts Gallery and helped make it a better place for people to see and buy art. And now she has starting cartooning again!
Her new comic strip is called AuntieBeeswax, and will be in the Willamette Week newspaper here in Portland. Auntie Beeswax is an eccentric lady who lives in “Roseport”, a thinly disguised version of Portland. She keeps bees, cats and chickens, rides her bicycle everywhere, and is an organic gardener. In other words, she is a delightfully ordinary Portlander. But she always does things just a little differently.
The comic will be about her adventures, and will include a young niece who learns about life ‘outside the box’ from her Auntie Bee.
I am so happy to see Bridgett smiling and sketching, getting her stories all ready. I look forward to reading about Auntie Beeswax!
Your Auntie Bridgett Spicer has her show at Sidestreet Art Gallery this month. It is a very big deal, taking months of work to prepare. I think it is wonderful.
The show is called “A Sketchbook(Ed) Life” and includes her sketchbooks and art created from them. Since she is on her 155th sketchbook, she has a lot to ‘draw’ from!
I love watching Bridgett draw. She has so much skill and so many funny ideas that cartoons just jump out of her pencil. Her sketchbooks have told the story of quiet times at home, history and language lessons, and all our travels together.
The main themes in her sketchbooks are coffee and the people who drink it, cats, and ghosts and monsters. The art for the show reflects this. But there are also sketches and art from her comic strip “Squid Row” and from her zines.
To see her show online, you can go to SideStreetArts.com. The information for her First Friday ZOOM and her Sunday Art Talk will also be there. Come and join the fun!
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.