Saturday, December 22, 2007

Turned Away

I know that Fridays are supposed to be for "think pieces"; political and social opinion...but I took these pictures today and found them so intriguing that I wanted to get them posted up quickly.
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To get the context you have to know that I've been working all week on a state project for a fix for a portion of Interstate 5 south of downtown Portland. The area we're working in is on the southeast side of what's called "Marquam Hill", a wooded eminence that forms part of the "West Hills" that give much of suburban southwest Portland its character.

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The site is below Barbur Boulvard, a major arterial that runs south and west from down town parallel to the interstate, along the lower slopes of the hills towards the outlying areas of Capitol Hill, Sylvan and eventually Tigard and Tualatin.
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The work area itself is almost unnoticable, a hidden turnoff on the east side of the road, an abandoned street unmaintained and slowly rubbling back into the forest since the 1960's...
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And down this untravelled street, hidden from sight, almost overgrown by blackberries and English ivy...are these graffitti. Not just simple tags, some one or someones put some real time into these, adding the details and getting the mix of colors and shades right. I was amazed, and pretty impressed.
And of the aspects of this odd, secretive artwork, the oddest is the very secrecy. This is a place where hardly anyone, outside the hardiest of Portland's urban pioneers, briefly visits - far less stops to admire the artists' work.
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What measureless energy drove the creators out to this lonely place, to labor in the woods with only the chittering bushtits and the rush of the traffic for accompanyment? What satisfaction did they feel, looking at their art, knowing that it would glow only to the rain and wind and the changing shadows? Did the last sputter of paint mark a deep, unspoken completion, the perfect conjunction of personal form and functionless function, like the sheeting sunlight on a cartouche on a limestone wall as the door to the tomb closed for the last time, sealing the colors in an endless night?

1 comment:

Meghan H said...

Back when I worked with our old friend Walt W., I had an opportunity to go inside the abandoned Rosemont school / convent building, which was being gutted and renovated as part of the Rosemont Commons project. Inside that building was some of the most spectacular, artistic graffiti (not tags) I've ever seen. And it was inside an abandoned building...I guess it was a great place to practice your "art" before finding more public places to show your skills. I wish I had taken photos...