A Portland mural artist was surprised to see an RV decorated with a Mount Hood landscape on WW‘s cover last week—because he painted it.
The freelance painter, who goes by Joseph the Human, had spray painted the abandoned Country Camper four years ago when it was dumped in front of his art studio in Northwest Portland.
"Someone left it there in the middle of the night, it was taking up six spaces and annoying the hell out of everybody," Joseph says of the sudden appearance of the large RV.
Before he painted it, this is what the Winnebago that was ditched outside Joseph's art studio looked like.
Joseph and his neighbors, many of whom worked in the Montgomery Park offices, pleaded with the city to have the trailer towed. It took up precious parking real estate and was collectively considered an eyesore.
After two weeks of frustration, and no response from the city, Joseph gathered up extra spray paint he had lying around and went to work beautifying the Winnebago. He says he went inside before he started his mural to see if there was anybody living in the RV, but it was "moldy and unloved—completely ditched."
It turned out the mural changed people's perception of the moldy behemoth almost immediately. As he was painting Joseph says people stopped and thanked him and took pictures.
The RV was hauled away by the city a few weeks later. It is now home to Sheila Fitch, who has parked it in St. Johns.
Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman John Brady says private tow companies can resell towed RVs.
"If an RV that was towed is not claimed by the original owner after a certain period of time, the private tow company that tows vehicles for the city can sell that RV," he says. "If it is road-worthy, they can sell it to a buyer. If it isn't roadworthy, they can sell it for scrap."
What's most confounding to Joseph is the fact that someone now lives in the RV—one he considered a cesspool.
"I see how easy it is to get to that point though," he adds. "These people in RVs use to have homes. They are the forgotten people."
Joseph thinks public art, like his RV installation, could improve perceptions of homelessness. "Art is art," he says. "You might be down and out but you're still a human being."
He hopes to get city permission to paint more RV murals, he says.