Touring Portland's Murals: Downtown Portland

Last week I wrote a blog post about some of the more interesting and visually stunning murals in Portland located on the inner east side of town. You can read that post here if you are interested. This week I decided to continue that series by showcasing some of my favorite murals in Portland located in the downtown district. Portland's downtown core has always been an good mixture of office spaces, restaurants, small shops, and tourist attractions, making it the perfect area for some rather fantastic public art.

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One of these days I'd love to do some blog posts about the many interesting sculptures located in Portland, but for now I'm going to stick with more traditional mural pieces. All photographs in this post were made with a Minolta SRT-101 camera loaded up with some expired Kodak slide film. Probably my favorite combination when photographing murals.

Number One.

LOCATION: Just south of the Portland Art Museum along the west end of the Portland Park Blocks

I firmly believe that this may be Portland's most surreal mural. Heck, it may even be the most surreal mural I have ever seen in any city. It stands about eight stories tall and features a fantastical figure with a shell for a head drawing starlight out of a liquid container and somehow releasing the contents up into the sky.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure I really get what this mural is even trying to say but I would argue that is probably the point. It's one of those glorious pieces of art that doesn't really need to be interpreted beyond the initial gut feeling you receive when staring up at it.

Number Two.

LOCATION: Just south of West Burnside Street, viewable from the front of the Crystal Motel

This mural is so full of contradictions and polar opposites I just don't even know where to begin. On one hand you have a figure that is clearly up there in years but her clothing is colorful and youthful. It is impossible to tell if she has fallen to the ground or if she is flying through the air. Is the object dangling from her neck a piece of jewelry or a jaw bone? Is the expression on her face one of piece or distress? For me this mural has meant so many things depending on my own mood and feelings as I pass by it.

Number Three.

LOCATION: Just south of West Burnside Street, viewable from the front of the Crystal Motel

This might be one of Portland's more popular murals. I don't know a single person who doesn't love it or isn't aware of its existence. I've seen postcards in gift shops and at the Portland Are Museum depicting this mural in a smaller hand held form. It's all completely understandable as far as I'm concerned.

I mean, what is not to love about this one? It's calming to look at, beautiful, and yet powerful all at the same time. It is a perfect blend of measurable and predictable geometry combined with the flighty symbolism of clouds and sky. This piece would be equally at home above a fireplace as it would be on the cover of a Pink Floyd album. In short, it is pretty darn awesome.

Number Four.

LOCATION: Southwest 12th Street just south of Southwest Washington Street 

Believe it or not, but I've had some very polarizing discussions about this mural on numerous occasions. Some people I talk to absolutely adore it and some people hate it to the point of advocating for its removal. The argument on the negative side tends to be that the depiction is far too stylized and perfect, like the kind of thing one would see on a billboard advertising high fashion or perhaps a perfume ad. In some ways I sort of get that but overall I'm not critical of it either. In fact, I've always interpreted this mural as a bit melancholy and sad, not glamourous.

Number Five.

LOCATION: Southwest 11th Street just south of Southwest Washington Street 

Of all the murals in downtown Portland I fear this is the one most in danger of removal and being covered by development. It is located at the edge of a vacant lot that is ripe for construction in a part of down that is getting denser by the minute. I would be incredibly sad to see it go or get lost by a newly constructed building masking its grandeur.

Andrew Kaiser

My name is Andrew Kaiser, welcome to my site! I have a passion for making images wherever and whenever I can. I seek to capture humanity and the world around me with a focus on the figure. Film, digital, pinhole, and instant photography are all fair game for me.

I grew up in the California Bay Area and started taking photography seriously in High School. I was one of the lucky few who had a chance to go to a high school with a working darkroom and a teacher who understood that making images was an art form – care and patience was a necessity in the image making process from start to finish.

Later in life I attended the University of California in Santa Cruz where I received a Bachelors Degree in the History of Art and Visual Culture. After having my fill of the California sunshine I packed up my life and moved to the Pacific Northwest. I quickly found the overcast skies, lush forests, cooler temperatures, and creative communities to be a perfect match for my work.

Over the years I have exhibited my photographs in several galleries and art shows including the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival and Cascade AIDS Project. I’ve published a few books and taught workshops up and down the west coast of the United States. Through this site I’m hoping to share my work and perhaps inspire others along the way.