Artistic Oregon

At Voodoo Doughnut in Portland

At Voodoo Doughnut in Portland

For a change of pace, I am reaching back to a vacation I took in 2016. This post is the third in a series about art and culture in Oregon. If you haven’t seen the other posts, please take a moment to read Part 1 and Part 2.

I took the following photos back in September of last year, when Jerry and I took a trip through Portland, Salem, Mt. Angel, and Lincoln City. It was a truly beautiful experience that was frankly hard to leave behind!

The most relaxing portion of our journey was definitely Mt. Angel Abbey, pictured below. It is a Benedictine monastery set in the hills north of Silverton. The grounds are open to the public, and we did spot several locals hiking or walking the Stations of the Cross. There is also a retreat house for people who want to make an extended stay.

mount-angel-abbeyWe spent some quiet time in the church (left), which is open all day. The quality of silence and serenity was palpable — like nothing I have experienced before. If I had access to the peacefulness of that space on a regular basis, I think I would be a much calmer man. The few people we did encounter — monks, students, and visitors — were respectfully quiet. There is a seminary across from the church, and we enjoyed visiting its campus bookstore and cafe.

For the first time, we got to see Oregon’s rugged Pacific Coast. Specifically, we visited the little town of Lincoln City. The drive to the coast was literally the most dazzling, scenic road trip I have ever taken, full of mountainous vistas and dramatically winding roads. And the destination itself did not disappoint. I have never seen anything quite so bold and awe-inspiring as the Pacific ocean water charging up onto the unkempt beaches.




We spent most of our trip in our favorite city, Salem. One of those afternoons, we wandered around Riverfront Park, a 23-acre public outdoor space that follows the banks of the Willamette River (right). There were dozens of attractive features, including splash fountains, a pedestrian bridge, and the Gilbert House Children’s Museum. I was really taken with the statue in front of the museum (below). I couldn’t find any information about the artist, but there is another nice photograph of the piece here.


We noticed right away that the bricks along the park’s walkway were randomly interspersed with hand-painted tiles (below). One of these tiles bears the year “1996,” which was the year the park opened. As with the statue of the little girl, I couldn’t find any information about the origin of these tiles. I am guessing they were created by local school children. If so, what a cool way to leave your mark on a public space!riverfront-tiles-1

riverfront-tiles-3-2There was one piece in the park that didn’t rip-caswell-statuepresent an unsolvable mystery! To the right, you see a powerful statue of Tom McCall, the storied Governor of Oregon from 1967-1975, sculpted by artist Rip Caswell. Mr. McCall was instrumental in cleaning up and beautifying the riverbanks and in establishing urban growth boundaries.

with-kenny-scharf-poleNo visit to Oregon would be complete without a pilgrimage to the totem poles (left) by Kennyin-jamison-square-fountain Scharf in Portland’s Jamison Square and a foot-baptism in the park’s stepped fountain (right). This has been one of my favorite spots to visit since our very first trip to the Pacific Northwest. It feels like entering an Acropolis or Saqqara built by Pop Artists.

If you ever get the chance, visit artistic Oregon!

Hope Smiles

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year
to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier’
– Alfred Lord Tennyson

When I read the news these days, I am filled with anxiety and confusion regarding the future of humanity. From climate change warnings to an increase in prejudice-fueled attacks, there is a lot to fear.

hope-lime-green-versionThe only balm for these uncertainties is hope, which always looks ahead expectantly for something better. Hope isn’t mere pie-in-the-sky wishing; hope inspires real planning and action that can create the future we long to see. Without hope, we may walk passively and apathetically into calamity.

I was inspired by the Alfred Lord Tennyson quote at the top of this post, which comes from a play entitled The Foresters. As we move into the new year, I think of a child looking out on the world with eyes untarnished by disappointment. This is anhope-red-version especially potent symbol today on the Winter Solstice, when the light begins its rebirth.

I used this image of a child for a series of five Hope cut-outs, two of which I included in this post (above and to the right). I also created some Hope Christmas cards (below). Astute readers might recognize the child’s pose, which is a modified version of a Holy Family design from two years ago.

christmas-cards-2016The boy in the picture could be the Infant Christ, the Divine Child of Yule, or even the Child Archetype that dwells within each of us. All of these references illustrate the same thing: a beautiful new beginning, dean-with-hope-serieswhen the future is totally undefined and every possibility is within reach.

Let us look to the future with the eyes of hope.

Urban Icons

Here are a couple of new pieces for 2016. Longtime followers will know that they fit into Chicago Art, my ongoing solo show at Natural Elements Salon. A marketing genius who recently visited the space described the pieces as “Urban Icons” — and he is right! My goal is to explore Chicago-centric visual symbols, which take on a life and meaning independent of the people and objects that inspired them. That is more or less what icons do.

Pablo and The Picasso

Pablo and The Picasso, 2016

With the piece above, I bring back The Chicago Picasso statue, a symbol I have explored in numerous ways throughout this show. With this piece, I combine the same reference with another theme I have been exploring lately, portrait-as-symbol. I like the way Pablo Picasso and his statue seem to be examining one another. The stripes on Picasso’s shirt almost mirror the lines of the statue.

With the piece below, I am in full-on Pop Art mode, appropriating a symbol from advertising art. It was less than a year ago that I claimed I could never be a true Pop Artist, because I did not take inspiration from the outside world. As I inevitably do, I have contradicted my own statements and embraced that which I once rejected. Thus do I reconcile the dualities within me.

The Salt Girl, 2016

The Salt Girl, 2016