I have wiggled myself into a hometown residency in a place I have long wanted to explore. Kat and Penny, founders, owners, and head honchos at Portland Store Fixtures are sponsoring my artist residency with a studio in one of their warehouses in the Eastside (Portland) Industrial District.
Portland Store Fixtures (PSF) is on SE Main Street, right along the tracks, about two blocks from the Willamette River. It is a light industrial district, which smells of electricity, exhaust fumes, and burnt coffee. But a quick look at one of the sides of the Portland Store Fixtures building will indicate why these business women are simpatico with an artsy-fartsy painter:
I will have three months to see what I can produce out of this area, full of low slung buildings with tangles of electrical wires and odd bits of charm.
The studio is really mostly a place for me to keep my painting gear so I don’t have to drag it behind me for the 14 blocks it will take to get to PSF. But it also will be a place to paint in if it rains or is too cold for my psyche, and within the building are all modern conveniences, mainly a restroom. I supply the lights, which haven’t yet been put in place. And I have access to the studio 24/7 which isn’t of much interest, since that window above looks out on Madison Street under the Hawthorne Bridge. Just up Madison Street, where the Bridge is very close overhead, is some kind of halfway house. I think there used to be a police precinct house there too. However, the area is also near OMSI and the SE campus of PCC, so while it’s scrufty and strange, it doesn’t feel too scary.
Look at the wonderful rhythms that occur in this kind of space.
Doing this kind of residency puzzles many people, including my nearest and dearest. I have a perfectly wonderful warm and well-lit studio, steps from my back door and within an easy walk of the industrial district. The studio has far better mod. cons. than the warehouse studio provides. Why would I want or need another?
A couple of reasons are straightforward: I need the discipline of a residency, even one as informal as this one is. It will get me away from my home studio, out into the world of working stiffs and street bums. Although it’s just down the street aways, the SE industrial district is another world from the genteel residential area in which I live. I like its bustling¬† grittiness, particularly when I can readily go back to my creature comforts.
And there are discoveries to be made walking down Main Street:
Main Street doesn’t run down to the river; it runs down, and then up, and then down — a bit of lost geography unless you are paying attention or walking it often.
I know that there was a lake about 11th and Hawthorne,¬† where Dr. Hawthorne’s Insane Asylum once stood. So the dip at 11th and 12th must have been a kind of slough where water from Mt Tabor (behind us in the photo) gathered and ran into the lake. There’s something about knowing that that makes this kind of inner city scene feel more connected to the earth beneath.
And then there are the views that surprise the pedestrian:¬† the fog through which the Hawthorne Bridge Towers, in the middle of the river, can be seen, sitting in front of Koin Center, on the west side of the river:
Although the industrial district itself rewards the peripatetic viewer (ie me), there’s also rewards at the far end of the street — the Willamette River and the Eastside (Vera Katz) Esplanade:
Finally, on the days when painting plein air is out of the question, Portland Store Fixtures contains some wonderful alternatives:
I’ve been told I can paint inside the warehouses if I like, and I can see I’m gonna like.
Just looking at these photos makes me itch to get back down there. And I haven’t even shown you the Stamping Works Building #5 nor the rhythms of pre-1940s windows nor the pipes that are bigger than our Honda, running down the sides of buildings. I’m just hoping 3 months is sufficient. –June
Writing from early fog, mid-day sun, and late rain, Portland Oregon.