Best National Printing Distributor
“Oh! We have one of those in Georgia,” said a young intern at the Portland Garment Factory, when I mentioned I was about to visit a letterpress workshop housed in a van. “Same one,” I told her, as her eyes widened. “It’s been around.“ Over the last year or so, printmaker Kyle Durrie drove her Moveable Type mobile letterpress studio (type-truck.com) approximately 30,000 miles, to about 180 cities in 47 of the 48 continental states. (She swears there was nothing specifically wrong with South Dakota.) Durrie had run a successful Kickstarter campaign to buy an old linens delivery truck, and then get it retrofitted as a printing studio by a carpenter who usually works on movie sets. The van was equipped with an old Showcard sign press from the 1960s, and a Golding Official No. 3 tabletop platen press from the 1870s that was, when she acquired it, “a seized-up rusty piece of metal.” But it all cost more than expected; even though she doubled her $8,000 funding goal, the money was all gone before she even kicked the rocks out from under the tires. So Durrie took out her very first credit card and set out for nowhere and everywhere with nothing in the bank and a $500 limit. It was kind of like a ’70s road movie, but without all the crime. Turned out she didn’t need the credit card, though. Durrie slept almost exclusively in a tiny bed in her van (with a tiny ukulele hung overhead) and made trips to schools, farmers markets, community centers, libraries—wherever somebody might be interested in learning how to make a poster or card the old-fashioned way. Sometimes she was paid out of visiting-artist budgets, sometimes through donations in a jar, and sometimes she got her gas money by selling the fruits of her own design and printing company, Power and Light Press. “I think I actually came back with a little more money than I started with,” Durrie says, before remembering that she left with nothing at all. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
For a couple years there, people shared their most personal problems with a complete stranger: Sugar, the anonymous advice columnist on online magazine the Rumpus (therumpus.net). But in February, Sugar revealed herself as none of than Cheryl Strayed, the Portland-based author of 2006 novel Torch, new memoir Wild, and an upcoming collection of Sugar columns, Tiny Beautiful Things. “It started to become one of those secrets that wasn’t so secret anymore,” Strayed says. Why? Because part of what makes Sugar so lovable is the heart-wrenching stories she shares from her own experiences—which obviously originate from the same life Strayed writes about, too. But don’t fear: Little else has changed. The column is still as kind and foul-mouthed as ever, and Strayed assures us she won’t shy away from the intimate biographical details. “I’ve never felt more connected to so many strangers in my life,” she says. Now, there’s just one less stranger in the equation. EMILEE BOOHER.
Best Public Art Trend
It felt insidious, at first: Repurposed Realtor-brochure boxes and DIY display cases popped up in a handful of well-appointed front yards throughout Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods. Each displayed printed verses of (mainly published) poetry on regular rotation. It all seemed evidence of a half-assed campaign by homeowners looking to endear themselves to the younger, increasingly rental, neighborhoods that surrounded them. Or was it simply an earnest way to display a love of the written word? The movement has a more official title as Portland Poetry Posts, a community effort whose website (poetrybox.info) features a comprehensive map of participating homes, though there is also at least one enterprising local business that will set you up with your own HOA-compliant roadside art box (for $100-plus). So a tour of participating homes might give way to an agonizing struggle about the role of commerce in art—though isn’t that the spirit of poetry, after all? SAUNDRA SORENSON.
Best Historic Historical MarkerTen years ago—on April 1, 2002—the newly gentrifying Alberta Street area was plastered with a number of terrifically authentic-looking signs marking the area as Portland’s Historic Redline District. “In Portland’s past,” read the signs, “‘redlining’ practices created exclusionary zones for ‘Negroes and Orientals’ by real estate, banking and insurance companies.” Two years previous, the neighborhood had caught a battery of sarcastic “Starbucks. Coming Soon” signs on the same date. But this prank, if it was a prank, had the merit of being true: Minorities in the Vanport, Albina and eventually Alberta Street neighborhoods were victimized by redlining practices that remained legal in Oregon until 1972 (and reportedly continued well into the 1990s). The mass displacement of minority renters caused by the ’hood’s new gentrification was also alluded to on the signs, but is no longer new; the historically black neighborhood is now majority-white, and the streets are lined with art boutiques, artisanal coffees and Salt & Straw. But one of the signs still remains, in futile protest. On the south side of Alberta Street between 21st and 22nd avenues, the sign peers out from behind a chain-link fence, carefully locked away from a neighborhood now lost to what it represents. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Best Place to Set Kids Loose
The passage to Wallace Books’ (7241 SE Milwaukie Ave.) inner cave for children’s begins at the front door of what was once someone’s home. Move through the living room, then the kitchen (is that a sink under all those books?) and out to what was the garage. Step down, way down, as if descending into a cave, and wander in the deep recesses of high shelves. Here, Julie Wallace, purveyor of one of the last great neighborhood bookstores, has created a child’s hideaway, a clubhouse, a den of wonder for kids’ books. For parents, it’s a moment of relief: Unlike other stores, where a child might wander off when you get engrossed in that poet you should have read years ago, there’s nowhere for the kids to go. Their room is the end of the line: They are safe, contained, and probably seeking treasure in the drifts of books Wallace has waiting for them. The sagging shelves and the teetering titles—there are more books crammed into this store than you would think possible—lend an air of suspense, as if a volume yet undiscovered might tumble into their laps, begging for its secrets to be revealed. Watch for the modest sign and screaming yellow paint. BRENT WALTH.
Best Art Imitating Life Imitating Art
It all started, as things in Portland so often do these days, with a Kickstarter project. In November 2011, artist and writer Sean Joseph Partick Carney was looking for $2,000 to help his label Social Malpractice Publishing release a book called Fucking James Franco, “a collection of erotic fiction that describes hypothetical sexual encounters with the greatest American actor, writer, and visual artist of all time.”
“It kind of came out of hearing that phrase muttered—“Fucking James Franco!”—in a disparaging capacity by a lot of different artists I know,” says Carney of the dilettante actor. “At a certain point, I started thinking, ‘What about fucking James Franco?’”
He approached artist friends from across the country to contribute, and set up the Kickstarter page to fund a short run. With such a provocative title, the Internet caught on quickly, with sites like the Onion’s A.V. Club, Gawker and Gothamist all writing about it—though most assumed it was ironic fan fiction rather than real art.
Nevertheless, the project was a success. The book sold out of all 500 copies. Carney moved on to other things.
Then in April this year, Franco slammed the book in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Later that month, the actor tweeted, without comment, a video of him screen-printing the cover of the book over and over while sniggering. “I watched that in disbelief, laughing, not having any idea what he’s doing,” says Carney. “As a joke, I made screen prints of those screen prints he made.”
In May, the true purpose of the prints was revealed. Franco, notorious for enrolling in artistic grad-school programs, unveiled his graduate thesis at the Rhode Island School of Design. The installation, “Love Shack,” was a small hut, wallpapered entirely in the prints, with a giant pink neon “Fucking James Franco” sign on top. Inside was a mattress, sex toys, and blaring videos.
“I’m simultaneously flattered, but a bit confused, because I don’t know the intention,” says Carney. “But that’s part of the reason I like art.”
Despite all the renewed interest, he says, there will be no more copies of Fucking James Franco printed.
“I like that it’s not for sale, you can’t get it,” he says. “It was an edition, an art object, and that’s it.” RUTH BROWN.