City Finances New Nightlife Mural in Old Town

Drivers on West Burnside will notice the centerpiece image of the late Darcelle XV.

Ode to Old Town mural (Portland Street Art Alliance)

The Chevron gas station in Old Town doesn’t typically have much to recommend it—the fuel is expensive and the windows across the front are still boarded up from the 2020 riots that swept through the city. But the beleaguered Chevron’s moment to shine has arrived.

Local aerosol artist Travis Fields (who also goes by Campo Graphic) spent two months this winter completing a new mural that wraps around the back and sides of the brick Chevron located on West Burnside at Southwest 4th Avenue. Drivers on Burnside will notice the centerpiece image of the late Darcelle XV with platinum hair and bold makeup and surrounded by sparkling jewels.

The mural is a tribute to Old Town and features images of present and past icons from the area, including drag icon Darcelle XV (Walter Cole), shuttered jazz venue Jimmy Mak’s, the Jack London Revue, Portland’s oldest strip club, Mary’s Club, and legendary punk club Satyricon.

Fields got the mural commission from the Portland Street Art Alliance. PSAA got a grant to beautify the Chevron from the city’s Public Environment Management Office, which Mayor Ted Wheeler established in May 2022 to clean up the city as part of a series of emergency declarations.

Fields, 33, worked on the mural from December to February. He was able to work through the cold, wet, dark months because of the illumination from the Chevron signage and a roof overhang that kept him and his spray paint dry. Many of the artist’s friends and family asked about his personal safety working after dark in Old Town, but Fields says he did not have any close calls.

“I’m a guest in that space,” Fields says. “For people who are local to that area, I am in their living room, more or less. People wandering by would stop and look up and say, ‘That looks really cool. How do you do that kind of work?’ And they’d appreciate it.”

Now, Fields must let go of his mural and accept whatever life it’s going to have, which might be a little rough seeing as it is on the backside of a gas station in the middle of the city. He designed it to be less attractive to taggers by loading it up with details and design, using saturated colors and not leaving much open, negative space that might invite graffiti. (It’s also treated with a protective clear coat and a “sacrificial” wax coat that makes it easier to clean off any damage.)

The fact that he comes from the graffiti world himself might protect the work too, he says.

“Spray paint-based work gets respected more than murals that are executed with brush work,” Fields says. “Vandals have an internal notion that maybe this person has can control and skill because they probably have graffiti roots that they then transferred over.”

Fields encourages viewers to stay awhile and look for so-called Easter eggs hidden throughout the mural, including the entrance to Tube nightclub, a record player and the Willamette River.

Next up for PSAA is a mural paying homage to Portland’s punk-rock scene will go up next door to the Chevron at 33 SW 3rd Ave., starting next month.

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