The Pursuit of Goo-Goo (Part One)

Goo-Goo won me over with prolific stickering, the use of a baby sound proclamation and an image that reminded me of KISS frontman Paul Stanley. Despite Goo-Goo stickers filling me with an unexplained irrational fear of the unknown, I still need to make sense of them. I turned to a valued resource in all things counter-culture my old friend Jeff Bagato who lives in the Washington D.C. area. As an avant-garde artist/musician and author of poetry books and science fiction novels, Jeff is a scholar of all forms of creative expression, a category that Goo-Goo stickers fall under. “I’m assuming that Goo-Goo is a tag, but it could just be a weird phrase; both would appear on stickers,” Jeff noted by email when I queried. “I see it all the time on IG feeds. There seem to be a million sticker artists in Portland and Seattle,” he added. “Tag” and “IG,” those references left me a bit mystified but I’m playing up my ignorance for dramatic effect.

The problem with getting to the bottom of a mystery means it will cease to be a mystery. Once explained my imagination won’t fill in the gaps and my interpretation will probably become invalid. I suppose that will only inspire me to search out other unexplained phenomena.

When thinking about the application of these stickers around town my mind conjures images of a shadowy figure in a Jack the Ripper cloak and wide brim hat. Why this guy, in my mind, is not trying to look less conspicuous is beyond me. I’m sure sticker art is not like that at all. The act of disobedience by decorating the backs of traffic signs is probably duller than I realize. People are sure to be casual and not mysterious about it.

The stickers caught my attention because of the variations of design, color, size and the subject matter. Their ubiquitousness helps. I’m partial to those in my neighborhood. When a Goo-Goo sticker appeared close to my house it led me to think the sticker artist was clairvoyant and had caught on to my Goo-Goo obsession.

Speculation on the meaning of Goo-Goo abounds. Jeff astutely commented that it’s unlikely a reference to the band the Goo Goo Dolls. To me it calls forth the beginnings of language itself, the first attempts a baby makes to speak. The great unknown is the combination of the letters and the face that I so want to believe is a homage to Paul Stanley. That the lead singer of KISS could end up as part of an underground sticker art project is something that has held my attention and kept me on the look out for more of these images. While some would could say Paul Stanley never wore his make up as it is on the sticker others might be quicker to ask: Who is Paul Stanley?

The first time I wrote about Goo-Goo was when a sticker was placed next to a piece of Bill Murray art. I used the power of my limited graphic arts abilities to remove the sticker from one of the images mainly because I didn’t like one piece of street art encroaching so hard on another.

When I reached out to my friend Jeff to help me sort this out he offered an online resource to assist me in my quest to understand Goo-Goo culture. Originally I was too naive, neurotic or nervous to dig into sticker art in a way that didn’t include some support. I was afraid my mind would be blown and I knew I’d need some help putting the pieces back together.

What the hell is that?

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On a recent bike ride home from work I had a look at, well, what it was I wasn’t sure. I thought about it and realized I had seen it before but in all my huffing and puffing getting up the hill I had not given it much thought. It’s bright and colorful. It doesn’t blend into the background still I had to consider what purpose it served and what it was doing on the far side of N. Weidler St, a one-way street. Then I had to ponder my next question: What the hell is that?

Now that line is from an old Steve Martin bit. Let me pause for anyone who may not know who Steve Martin is. If you grew up in the 70’s you knew him. You may have bought his comedy albums, saw him on Saturday Night Live or in his movie The Jerk. If you are figuring out who he is now you’d think he was some old guy. He’s had gray hair since he was about 14 so he’s been distinguished looking forever. Ultimately I just like co-opting his comedy because it’s funny but I make sure to give him credit.


But, yeah, wow, I saw this building, sculpture, thing, and couldn’t figure it out. What the hell is that? I don’t mean it in a negative way. It looks cool but sticks out with its jarring colors and patterns in an otherwise drab section of town.

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After looking it over on my bike, I saw no information indicating what this object could be. It was up to me to use my imagination. I demand a bronze plaque with the title of this art construction or at least the name of the artist or designer. These people deserve recognition.


What the hell is that?

My mind wandered and then I came up with multiple descriptors. I’m sure anyone could come up with better ones but I thought: psychedelic igloo. Not half bad but actually really terrible. Eskimos never seemed interested in the frivolity of psychedelia, especially its genesis in the ’60s from what I can tell. It never would have help them survive their harsh environment.


The contraption also appears circus tent-like, yeah psychedelic circus tent, insect-esque under a kaleidoscope-microscope and the art of it all is a possible nod to Gaudi. It is awe-inspiring in it’s creativity and it made me appreciate my efforts to take a closer look. It could also be a beautiful outdoor chapel for any number of New Age religions. I had a great time looking it over, basking in the form, shape and color of it. Soon enough it made more sense.

What the hell is that?



It’s a streetcar station!

Here’s some Vine footage that brings it on home:

See Bill Murray and Steve Martin try to figure out what it is:


Bill Murray Triptych

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Hanging around the Cully neighborhood in northeast Portland on a recent substitute teaching assignment had me enduring minor transportation calamities in the way of two trashed/flat bike tires (thanks for helping Cat Six Cycles), discovering that a record shop called Jump Jump exists in the neighborhood and the possibility that germy kids put the kybosh on my ability to digest birthday celebration chicken wings. It’s all par for the course I’d have to say and finding Bill Murray’s face immortalized in artistic expression, in triplicate no less, soothed my soul and made it somehow worth it.

Gracing the back of an apartment mail box container on NE Prescott Ave. was the Bill Murray Triptych. Amazingly I was able ride by it the first time without stopping to genuflect. I filed this phenomenon away and returned for a photo. The image seems to come from Murray’s quintessential role in the film Stripes. The art captures Murray in all his Zen comedic charm, smirk and swagger. It has the feel of a Warhol homage in its decal, spray paint and screen print. Where Warhol created art based on one named legends like Elvis and Marilyn, this unknown artist offers passersby a portrait of a man of the people. I’d be hard pressed to consider that the Postmaster General would be have a problem with apartment mailbox vandalism when one look at Bill Murray in any form makes people feel good and would cheer up even the most down and out stragglers who happen by.

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The work is marred only by a fellow vandal who decided to join the fray.  I have no problem with the sticker, subject matter or design. I’ve seen this sticker around and it seems a faint homage to Paul Stanley so maybe there’s a celebrity theme going on but I would have preferred to see the predominant piece of art given some space and not crowded out by a more colors and noise.  Don’t mess with Bill Murray with your GOO GOO for God’s sake.

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A triptych is really the way to go here. One Bill Murray would not have been enough yet any more than three would have thrown the universe off balance. I’m not sure everyone in the neighborhood knows who Bill Murray is but it’s a face and artwork that with one glance returns a sense of serene, comedic calm and possibly even enlightenment. It’s a generous offering of street art, taking it out of the normal confines of the art world and exhibiting it on the side of the road where fine art is rarely seen. I can only imagine how Bill Murray figured out that he could entertain the world, but I’m glad he did. Forget your troubles, stop, and look at Bill Murray.

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