Outside Art


When I see Outside Art I admire it. I do wonder why people display it outside. Outside Art tends to look discarded unless it’s hung properly. There are fancy pieces, oil paintings that look valuable yet they are in the elements as if the weathering process is part of the artistic process. It reflects the impermanence of our material world while not being so obvious about making such a statement. There’s something to appreciate about art being displayed in an unusual way outside the typical art gallery or walls of a home.

Octopuses Garden

Octopus’s Garden

I asked Jeff Dodge about the Outside Art he has on a fence tucked away in a corner of his backyard and surprisingly, he had no real story. The way he described it, it felt like it had always just kind of been there. He was pretty sure it came with the house. There it hangs an unobtrusive dash of art in a shadowy section of a backyard.

Can anyone find the bridge?

Can anyone find the bridge?

Detail, Outside Art

Detail, Outside Art

In the Woodlawn neighborhood I saw this piece on a shed. In the upper photo the piece fits in well with the truck, trash can and recycling bin making these elements more homey. People must respect the art. Up until the point I took photos, no one had stolen the painting. The subject matter captures a bridge to nowhere scenario which feels like a fitting theme for Outside Art, an outdoor scene that remains open ended and mysterious.

Subject matter clouded by distance.

Subject matter clouded by distance.

Nice day for a bike painting.

Nice day for a bike painting.

Another nice fit for this spot between North Williams and Vancouver is this energetic portrayal of outdoor bike riding. It might make more sense if the building is affiliated with a bike shop which I think it is. It’s in a combination Leroy Neiman, Jackson Pollock style. All right, so I’m proving that I know nothing about art when I break out random names. At least I didn’t say Bob Ross. The painting is also appropriate with its location being in a heavily traveled bike corridor. There might be something to Outdoor Art gravitating to an outdoor theme if only on a subconscious level.

Not bugging me.

Not bugging me.

Bugs are perfect subjects or, in this case, specimens of Outdoor Art. This one on Mississippi Ave gets bonus points for being a kind of three dimensional piece complete with a tile frame and some additional tile pieces. It looks like the art is cemented into the building making theft impossible. An art hater or thief would have to use a chisel. It’s a handsome bug too, more arty than creepy.

What is it about this recurring theme about art theft? I’m really not sure but having watched TV shows and movies about it has planted the idea in my brain. Art works that might be easy pickens may not be the type of art that fetch high prices in the underground art market and art thieves hanging stolen art on their walls are reminded of their crime every time they see it.

Color My World

Color My World

One nice thing about Outside Art is the freedom it has to spruce up dreary spaces. Behind Cup coffee shop in North Portland and beyond a graffiti splashed fence hangs a piece of Outdoor Art on a shed. It’s bright background highlights a stenciled, business suited man from another era. My first out of date reference was Hugh Beaumont, but Don Draper will work. He doesn’t have to do much besides look over the fence and be pleasant while standing in front of a sunny backdrop. He appears to be a good listener if that stuff that look like butterflies is going into his ears instead of heading out. The coffee ring stains are a nice touch.

Join the party!

Join the party!

Some art is left outside for varying lengths of time either for display purposes or perhaps it’s part of a curing process. More proof that I may not know as much as I think I do about art. I mean curing process? This painting was placed on a porch by a neighbor and it accentuates the already outstanding taste in exterior design. The theme of the painting mimics the flesh and bone themes used in the porch decor.

Sidewall, sidewalk Art

Sidewall, sidewalk Art

This piece, propped up against an auto body shop in Kenton, has an industrial look to it. Besides that there’s no story I know as to who left it behind or created it. The rust factor in this abstract piece is perfect for it’s outside nature but it looks abandoned. It’s hard to tell how long this synthesis of industrial art loitering outside an industrial workplace will last. Every once in a while an example of Outside Art makes the sad transition to discarded art.

Exotic Defacement


When an official looking green sign caught my eye, I decided to walk the dog over and have a look. It was a public notice taped to a side wall of a of a dormant building, home to a small and former, nondescript auto repair shop. I thought notices were usually orange but this one, regarding a Marijuana Regulatory License, made its green color all the more appropriate. Finding out about another pot shop moving into the neighborhood is not the story here. The more the merrier, I guess. Even a marijuana dispensary taking over a potentially contaminated auto shop space is not reason enough to call the EPA. What would be the point?


On my way over to read the public notice I took a picture of a poster on a utility pole. There were messages scrawled on it and a splash of red ink that looked like an anarchy symbol. It was getting dark when I photographed the poster so I didn’t look at the image until the next morning. That’s when I made the discovery: Someone had it out for the Exotic Ball.

Poster torn!

Poster torn!

I remembered that I had seen similar posters torn down. My theory was someone was defaming while someone else didn’t like the defamation or was offended by the poster. Assumptions flooded my mind while traveling by Max train and bus to work on a rainy morning. My questions were: Why take anything out on a poster? What has it done to anyone besides try to look foxy and do a bit of advertising? If you need a platform for your political message why use someone else’s sign? You don’t jack someone else’s poster. In the name of free speech people should be able to display ads without reprisal by those who might be offended. The best theory I’d considered revolved around a loner who couldn’t get a date to take to the Exotic Ball. It’s like an R rated Stalker/Cinderella plot. Someone type up that screenplay right away!


Let’s consider this defamation. First there’s an awful lot of gobbledy gook obscuring the image of two ladies, with fantastic taste in foot wear, perhaps in a bathroom, an image of how wild things get even in the restrooms of the Exotic Ball. Then we see 666, I mean really if the devil doesn’t go to the Exotic Ball who the hell does? Or who admits to it, anyway? Also, I’m wondering about Hot Shot and Lord Pound.


While riding home that day after work, I realized the poster had nothing to do with the Exotic Ball because it doesn’t exist. I had confused exotic with erotic, easy to do when the words are one letter different. This post is becoming one of those elderly hard of hearing jokes. It’s the Erotic Ball that’s held at varying times each year at the Crystal Ballroom. My assumption was that it’s held in February but there probably is already enough romance that month. I remember being at a Crystal Ballroom event and getting an unsolicited earful and an over informative report about the experiences of one participant. There was one specific clue from the poster that had me taking a long, slow fall from my jump to conclusions and embarrassing myself while dealing with the realization that I had just written my first piece of fake news.


It hit me, the medium is the message. The interpretation is anyone’s guess. I can see Marshall McLuhan from that scene in the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall but now he’s talking directly to me. “You know nothing of my work,” he says.


The women in the defaced poster were Exotic pinups from a magazine that’s distributed from various area strip clubs. I went from defending the Erotic Ball to dealing with something that became weird and possibly not in the realm of upbeat, positive Portland sanctioned weirdness. This was an attack on pin up photography which included prankish and juvenile Satanism. I characterize it that way because the easiest way to shock people is to reference Satan. I understood what made people want to tear it down. There’s a Satanism bias that occurs when people see the number 666. I tend to laugh these things off but there’s a disturbing element to all of this. A perfectly good Exotic pin up poster was trashed multiple times.

Reaping wind!

Reaping wind!

Now I have to ask myself, or maybe the world, a series of different questions that may never be answered. Who designs posters by scrawling over Exotic Pinup February 2017? What is the message? Who tore the posters off the other utility poles? Did the devil make anybody do any of this? What’s the point of including an illegible (uh oh, legible on another poster) email address? Who would I be emailing and what would be said? Something like: I’m an admirer of your illegible, satanic, insanity, perhaps? I have no answers at this time but I’m only half as confused as I was when I started this blog post.

Auto Message


It can be a nice life if you’re easily entertained as I am. If something out of the ordinary catches my eye I want to document it. This compulsion has grown since I’ve had pages of a blog to fill. I was attracted to the handwritten and homemade feel of these messages that I spotted on cars and in car windows. I appreciate people’s needs to communicate especially by way of automobiles which have the potential to be roving bulletin boards.

Honkies Stop!


If the first part is too faint to read it says:

Do not beep your horn to make me go faster. These roads are for walkers, bikers; the old and the young.

I do believe there’s a semi-colon in the message written in marker directly on the car. Or, is it a stray random dot above that comma? The poor sad semi-colon feels like a dying breed in the punctuation world. A message could get lost due to over analysis. No matter – the message is clear. Is it possible that some of the honkers are people still mad about past elections? Since the message is fading it’s harder for people to read the driver’s anti-honking proclamation.


Rage in the Machine

This statement is bolder and may be easier to see in a traffic jam. Visibility is hard to gauge since I have not had the pleasure of seeing this sign bring its message to where it’s needed the most: to the people stuck in that traffic. I use the word pleasure because I know I need a good laugh and reading material, ideally a combination of the two, when I’m stuck, ass-deep in bumpers and car exhaust and I’m not going anywhere for awhile.

I’m trying desperately not to acknowledge the typo in this message just as I would hope my audience would not throw the errors in this blog back in my face. No one has ever gotten mad enough or made any signs that I have seen about the traffic engineers who designed our roads and created this stasis induced road rage leading to nightmares about a traffic system. These folks seem never to have anticipates an influx of traffic year after year. I suppose that message is too complicated to express on a sign taped to the inside of a back window.

Driving Blind


You have to love this simple, yet effective and humorous sign. It’s a great depiction of a nervous dog. It’s hard to imagine how anyone gets a nervous dog to pose for a picture but here’s proof that it can be done. The message about a seeing eye dog insinuates that the student driver is sight impaired. Is that even safe?  To top it all off the sign is unceremoniously taped to the window with wide gaudy yellow tape. Nice touch. Who put the sign on the vehicle the dog or the blind driver?



Buddy Holly Lives On


This graffiti has been a fixture in the Kenton neighborhood for years. It can be found on a building that looks more commercial than residential but it does not appear to be a business. The first time I saw it I considered old Buddy Holly and I agreed. He lives. Holly died young on that fateful early February night fifty-eight years ago and left a lasting legacy. This is a tale of graffiti with a few revisions. The original wasn’t something I bothered to document. Fortunately neighborhood instagrammer and raconteur, Graham Marks, had taken a picture. “Buddy Holly Lives,” it said until someone added the word “on.” Now Buddy Holly Lives on.


In the time I spent working in a group home I had a routine with one of the clients. We played music while I helped him get dressed for work. We wore out his slim cd collection. Then I discovered the weirdly reasonable selection of cds for sale at Rite Aid. There was a cd of Bruce Springsteen demos, some Dylan, Aerosmith, Willie Nelson and Meat Loaf.  We passed on Meat’s greatest hits as too bombastic for the group home. When I saw a Buddy Holly cd it was my client’s era and it gave me a chance to get past the hiccuped hits and delve deep into his discography. Weeks after that shopping excursion a Rite Aid employee oddly enough was trying to push a Buddy Holly recording on me. I may have been standing near the cd section. I fought off any need to discuss my interactions with Buddy Holly’s back catalogue. I was avoiding “mansplaining” before I even knew that was a thing. The idea of having a cultural interaction with someone at a drugstore, however brief, was something I appreciated though.


Sometime later, an infinity sign was added to the Buddy Holly memorial wall. Someone must have felt this was necessary. Perhaps it was a certain Rite Aid employee. I would like to think that Holly’s music will be appreciated as long as recorded music exists. Infinity, I don’t know about. That’s forever. We still kind of remember Virgil the Poet although I’m not sure he had any “Top XL” hits. I’d like to imagine someone will be googling Holly two thousand years from now.

Buddy Holly was an iconoclast who won’t be forgotten soon. His death being referred to as “the day the music died” is proof of his impact on rock music history and his influence on The Beatles is also notable. Sadly he didn’t make the cut on that gold plated disc NASA sent into space. Chuck Berry somehow seemed like a better representative of early rock. He missed out on an intergalactic audience but there’s is a bronze statue in Lubbock. And in Kenton a spray painted slogan reminds the world not to forget Buddy Holly.


Have a gander at Graham Mark’s instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/geemarks/

Next week’s message will be an Auto Message.