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July 24th, 2013 WW Staff | Featured Stories
 

Best of Portland 2013: Best Art

bop_2013(best-billboard)“$pon$or$ Needed. Mural artist Larry Kangas (muralz.com).” - IMAGE: Evan Johnson

BEST BILLBOARD

As you exit Highway 30 into the Northwest Industrial District and take a left onto 23rd Avenue at Vaughn Street, you are greeted by a lovely and intricate community mural on the side of a scooter shop. It seems to depict—in idealized form—the market district one block away, at 24th Avenue and Thurman Street. Saint Honore bakery and Food Front are vaguely recognizable, though subtly improved and a bit Romanesque. The industrial intersection, empty of pedestrians, has people colored in on the wall. Painted on the left side of the mural are the words, “$pon$or$ Needed, 503-222-3779.” The wall has reimagined itself as a better version of its own surroundings, and advertises only itself. It’s like a combination of community spirit and reality TV. Which is to say, it is the most honest wall in all of Portland. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


BEST STATUE

“I envision this eagle soaring through the ancient native hunting grounds,” Rip Caswell writes. “Its keen eyes watching over the sacred land and protecting the ever-present spirits of the Native Americans.”

Caswell wrote this statement to accompany Guardian Spirit, a 14-foot bronze on Monterey Avenue and Stevens Road in Happy Valley’s Eagle Landing development. One look at the massive bald eagle screeching from a boulder, eyes alert and talons extended before a billowing American flag, and you’d be hard-pressed to disagree. Portland has public art on almost every corner, but none that so aptly sums up a shared worldview. This statue, which sits among very large new homes, above a megachurch and shopping mall, is a statement of purpose for Clackamas County.

Caswell, based in Troutdale, created it in the likeness of the eagles he mounted as a taxidermist. “There’s something about those eagles that exude power and grace all at the same time,” he says. Besides the big bird, Caswell designed life-size eagle heads to watch over every home in the Eagle Landing development. Caswell says he has received letters of appreciation, and knows some people even pull over at the roundabout where Guardian Spirit sits to marvel at it. “It was exciting to get to do that project and capture the spirit of the American bald eagle,” he says. HALEY MARTIN.


BEST ROCK-’N’-ROLL PORTRAIT GALLERY

When McMenamins bought the historic gay bathhouse Club Portland in 2007, it wasted no time changing its theme from man-on-man to rock ’n’ roll. Today it’s known as the Crystal Hotel (303 SW 12th Ave., 972-2650, mcmenamins.com/crystalhotel), and each of its 51 custom-decorated rooms is painted in the theme of a song by a band that once played at the nearby Crystal Ballroom. The hotel’s hallways are filled with photos of bands in concert and classic-rock posters from the distant past. In just five months, McMenamins transformed rooms based on bands like the Pretenders, Reverend Horton Heat and the Grateful Dead.

As customers are paying to sleep in the rooms, you can’t just tour them. I was only allowed to see room 201, based on the song “Big Dipper” by Idaho indie-rock band Built to Spill.



The room was designed by Eona Lorberbaum and Boise concert-poster artist Ben Wilson, who has painted many posters for BTS gigs; it’s got a headboard depicting a guy with a guitar riding a brontosaurus, which must have stood a thousand miles high, laying on its side up in the sky. RICHARD GRUNERT.


BEST FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS (HAT AND SHOE DIVISION)

“I just like to do things that are outside the box,” says florist Francoise Weeks. “It would be quite boring to just do vase arrangements.” This is how Weeks describes  her European floral-design business (francoiseweeks.com), which finds her making eccentric arrangements to adorn high-heeled shoes and be worn as hats.

Weeks works in a Southeast Portland home that looks like it was built in an overgrown meadow. A cheerful woman in a baggy green sweater with shoulder-length white hair and a Belgian accent, Weeks didn’t own a pair of heels until age 59. She didn’t wear dainty pumps, but turned them into a canvas, covering them in delicate orchid and poppy petals, with sprigs of green swirling whimsically up toward an invisible ankle. Weeks also makes “botanical headpieces” from spiky succulents, spongy moss, berries and tall leaves. The pieces are arranged in the shape of a massive hat—creations far too large and outrageous for any vase. HALEY MARTIN.


BEST WEATHER VANE

No matter which way the wind is blowing above Dr. May Chang’s office (1744 NE 42nd Ave. 287-0072, maychangdds.com), it’s always pointed in the direction of dental health. High over the Hollywood District, the city’s most awe-inspiring and truly bizarre weather vane flits in the wind: a gold-leaf tooth perched proudly on a toothbrush with a fresh dab of paste on its bristles. The vane has graced the roof of her dental office on Northeast 42nd Avenue just off of Sandy Boulevard for about 15 years, but Chang says most people don’t seem to notice the toothy wonder. While it’s quirky, it also suits her specialty: gold fillings and restorations. Chang, a dentist for more than 30 years, supplied photos of teeth to the vane’s creator, local sign-shop owner Lee Littlewood, for enameled inspiration. Littlewood carved the vane out of Styrofoam and covered it in gold leaf.  Next time you’re running from the Hollywood Theatre to Trader Joe’s, stop and listen to the whispering of the wind: Dooooon’t fooooooorget to floooossssss. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.

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