Can a WILD Mural Wrap an Entire Building?

This Wild Mural Will Wrap around an Entire Portland Office Building

Los Angeles artist James Jean talks about his plans for the Fair-Haired Dumbbell, rising at the Burnside Bridge’s east end.

By Lauren Kershner 4/17/2017 at 12:41pm Published in the May 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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A rendering of the Fair-Haired Dumbbell with Jean’s design

James Jean made a name for himself illustrating covers for DC Comics, painting murals for Hawaii’s Pow Wow Worldwide Festival, and designing prints for Prada clothing. Developers of the Fair-Haired Dumbbell, a wild office building rising at the Burnside Bridge’s east end, chose the LA-based Jean from a competitive pool of international and local artists to give it his provocative touch. Painters begin work on the façade this month.

What’s this project all about?

It’s an incredibly special opportunity to have a permanent mural installed in a highly visible and active location, and to have it wrap around all sides. It’s rare that a mural is intended to be such an integral part of a building’s design.

Did you spend much time here researching?

Sadly, only about four days on two separate occasions. But I did get to explore the city and the surrounding area in the limited time I had there: ingested some good food, hiked a few trails, and took many pictures. The swirling traffic and new activity in the area were immediately evident. I had a meeting with the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and they explained the history of the area and gave the project a fair bit of context. I spent maybe four or five months on the design. Even with all this preparation, it’s difficult to envision how exactly this will all feel in person.

This is going be quite the statement. What was your inspiration?

I imagined that the oblique walls were formed by slicing down the sides to reveal cross sections of thunder eggs and geodes, which are in abundance in Oregon. Ideas of transparency and discovery—of excavating slices of internal anatomy like MRI scans—are meant to echo the creativity of the tenants in the building. Their slow-forming inertia is a counterpoint to the speed of the swirling kinetic activity on the streets. Then, in contrast to the hard, crystalline lines of the thunder egg motif, a lyrical network of flowers links the elements together. That’s meant to evoke growth, adaptability, and interconnectedness. They erupt from the ground and wrap around the thunder eggs at points, symbolic of the city’s relationship with nature and mindfulness of the environment.

What reaction do you expect?

That’s not something I can really predict, but it’s definitely a building that demands attention. Maybe it will become notorious on social media and become a meme. Maybe someone will discover hidden imagery in the design and augment or satirize it. Maybe it will become a selfie mecca. Maybe kids will be inspired and make drawings based on the mural. My hope is that the mural will help the building become an iconic beacon.


Caplan Art Designs Moves!

by Bettie DeWitt

From her recent location in the Streetcar Lofts, Amy Caplan has moved Caplan Art Designs to retail space over at Pearl Self Storage, just on the other side of the 405 on NW 16th and Pettygrove (1323 NW 16th #1001, entrance on Pettygrove).

Amy Caplan - Art work by Nigel Conway
Amy Caplan – Art work by Nigel Conway

Join her for a Holiday Open House on Sunday, December 14th from 1:00 to 4:00. There will be holiday merriment and refreshments to celebrate the season!

Amy will continue to be open First Thursdays at the new space (but not in January and February). The gallery is open 11-4 on Saturdays and Sundays (or by appointment) to satisfy her long list of clients who want to see which new artists she is showcasing. Give her a call at 503.319.6437 to ask for any specifics. We’ll extend the Pearl District boundaries just this once for Amy, so she’s not out of our neighborhood!

New Mural Installation on Block 15!

by Bettie de Witt via Klutch himself

Over the course of the next 3 months Portland artist Klutch and his team will be creating a temporary 130 ft mural at Block 15. He initially planned to do a Kickstarter fundraiser to pay for his supplies but instead took advantage of the nice weather to begin work on Feb. 20. With 3 clear days and donated funds Klutch and his crew have already transformed a bare plywood wall into an very colorful vision of things to come.

Photo: Doug Shapiro
Photo: Doug Shapiro

Klutch says that his vision for this wall is to create a mural that will continuously evolve over its temporary lifespan. Aesthetically the mural’s content will be a mixture of abstract backgrounds and brightly-colored organically-influenced surreal characters. Feathers, plants, clouds, and bubbles are all frequent elements that appear in his work.

Photo: Klutch
Photo: Klutch

This is one dedicated team so expect to see them working anytime it’s not raining. These guys are truly in love with painting murals and the hundreds of hours of their time they are donating to this project is clear evidence of this. In addition, they are also self-funding all of their paint and supplies. Any day now Klutch will be launching a Kickstarter fundraiser to recoup his costs and I will share that link as soon as it becomes live. They are all friendly and articulate guys so feel free to approach them and inquire about the mural.

Klutch and team
Photo: Doug Shapiro

Klutch has been creating visual mischief for three decades and his work had appeared on walls, galleries, and magazines around the world. In 2005 the suite that he painted for San Francisco’s Hotel Des Arts was featured in Time magazine’s annual Best Of issue.

We appreciate all that Klutch and his crew are doing to add to the exciting visual aesthetic of the North Pearl. Can’t wait to see the final result!