Thursday, March 17, 2011

Art Spark at the Nines (03-17-11)

I made it to the Art Spark meeting, held at the Nines this month.

Refresher: the old, elegant, beloved Meier & Frank department store in downtown Portland was bought a few years ago, gutted out, and reopened as a state-of-the-art Macy's. Despite clearly expressed hopes for a res-to-ra-ti-on, what we got in fact is a black and white plastic horror reminiscent of those modernist scenes in A Clockwork Orange. After the heartbreak of my one trip to the store after the remodel, I stopped going there altogether, because the jarring decor is too painful to see, and to know what it was like... (No more slow-moving old-fashioned rickety escalators, no more 12-days of Christmas window displays, and no more kiddie Monorail.)

As for the hotel above-mentioned, the decor is equally horrid. Where elegance and luxury could have been brought back to life, in homage to the building's history, with velvets drapes, gorgeous glass chandeliers, golds, to even give it that gaudy 60s opulence, we got more modernist crap. A spartan entrance that has the personality of an airport check-in desk. Stainless steel elevators. All around, plastic, geometric shapes, long swooping expanses of minimalist drapes, and psychedelic flowery shapes hanging down from the cavernous open ceilings, medusa-like. Add a few neo-classic armchairs painted white, black, or pinkish-purple, with that 50s teal one sees everywhere nowadays, and the usual putty or taupe colors on the walls, and you got it. Oh, and I forgot to mention the painted mannequins set in edgy poses, a "friendly nod," I suppose, to the department store origins of the place.

But I digress. The focus for this month's meeting was to feature the Northwest Jewish Artists organization. So, aside from the run-of-the-mill Art types dressed in all black waving their hands around and spilling their drinks on the floor while loudly pontificating about the sorry turn Art was taking in this city, there were crowds of nice white-haired older ladies in pantsuits, talking about what inspired their artistic expression...
That lime green satin dress had to have been painted on...
I took in the space around me, a vast, spacious open area in the center of the building starting with the 8th floor all the way to the glass roof high above, the setting for a posh restaurant pretentiously named Urban Farmer. To quote them: "The ambiance is at once a tribute to the quaintness of a restored farmhouse and the aesthetic audacity of mid-20th century modernism." A restored farmhouse? Where? With the plastic disks handing from the ceiling?! Or the square chairs with metal feet?!

I took advantage of the Happy Hour to order an "urban" beef slider from the stunning cocktail waitress who was working the crowd; she was wearing the tightest dress I had ever seen on anyone. At $5, the slider was no bargain, consisting of a big hunk of hamburger patty dripping cheese, precariously held inside a greasy muffin with a bamboo stick, and this did not even include a napkin to hold it. I had to lick my fingers clean. And I had to chase the waitress down, after reminding her, not once, but twice, that I was waiting for change for my $20 bill.

Since I am at it, I will also mention the trip I made to visit the restrooms, a most pleasant surprise (aside from the plastic bag someone had tried to flush in one of the toilets), with eggplant colored walls and, instead of the ubiquitous paper towels, single rolled up cloth napkins to be placed in laundry hampers after used. Now, that was pretty cool!

In conclusion, the best thing about the visit were the great views of the Pioneer Courthouse cupola from the windows by the elevators, and the restrooms. On my way down, I shared the ride with sunglass-wearing creative types dressed in black and tourists in name-brand sweatsuits. It figures.

On the Milwaukie bus line (03-16-11 and 03-17-11)

I had to go work on a QA localizations downtown for a few days (Yours Truly occasionally uses her left brain to do French translation, interpretation and editing work), and I made the effort of taking TriMet to get home. In this case, it means the # 33 bus, the McLoughlin Blvd. to Oregon City line.

this guy was laughing to himself...
It's pretty clear, from the very few times I have taken this bus, that the passenger are the type that take no s...: working class people, women who look like 50s diner waitresses, hard-core skaters, or sort-of scuzzy types with tattoos and/or those ear things that give me bad shivers just to think of it. In fact, the demographics of the old suburbs are pretty different from the passengers who ride the # 4 bus, in our old neighborhood: sustainably-dressed people getting off at New Seasons on Division, trendy hipsters, and the occasional bum.

When I draw on the bus, I have to be discreet about it. I don't want someone to come up to me and challenge me to show my sketchbook. So I draw a snippet here, take a glance there, and rely on my memory to fill in the blanks. I like this drawings, because it means working around a few core sketches, and adding details that will be meaningful but not detract from the whole.