If you are crazy about public art, then you can pick up “A Guide to Portland Public Art” at the Pioneer Courthouse Square Visitor Center, then look until you drop with 125 public art locations. For this walk, we’ve picked some murals that will knock your socks off. They are giant paintings in Downtown Portland. In some cases, they are as tall as the buildings on which they are painted.
Follow this Route
- Walk to Little Red’s Bakeshop & Cafe for coffee and fresh pastries.
- Tiffany Weston Rose – on the Tiffany Center Building behind Red’s – SW 13th & Yamhill
- Mary Lou Fendall Rose – corner of SW 14th & Morrison Street
- Greg Chaille Rose – SW 12th & Morrison Street
- Ghostly Woman in Gown Mural – SW 11th & SW Washington Street
- Rose Between Thorns Mural – SW 12th & SW Washington
The Weston Rose Murals
Meet the artist: Jere Harley (1944-2007)
In a tribute to Jere Harley, the man who painted the Weston Roses, the Portland Oregonian in 2017 published a major article praising his art. The story followed Harley’s death in 2007. He was only 62 but left a legacy of work far beyond his years.
The newspaper headline was ‘Eclectic artist’s heroic work keeps on truckin’. The trucking reference was to the fact that “He painted bald eagles and American flags on trucks in huge truck barns while discussing Sufi poet Hafiz with truckers munching doughnuts and listening to heavy metal.” Wow, what an image.
The article notes that Harley was “mostly an outsider” in the art world, which looked down on his successful career as a commercial artist. When you consider that he painted gigantic roses on 21 buildings owned by Joe Weston in Portland, Milwaukie, and Vancouver, including the Tiffany Center in downtown Portland (most of which endure to this day (2019), you can only smile, knowing he got the last laugh; he’ll leave a lasting legacy while so many other so-called artists slip from memory.
Cancer may have claimed his life in 2007, but his spirit lives on. Those who knew him intimately, like his family, will forever love the man whose hair was always a little unkempt (according to the Oregonian) and his wardrobe adorned with prayer beads. He was a man of substance and, through his artwork, a man for the ages.
Tiffany Weston Rose Mural (1994) at 14th Avenue and Yamhill Street is painted on the Tiffany Center, a unique event and wedding venue. The building was erected in 1928 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the blog Cyclotram, “There’s a rose here because this is yet another building owned by Joe Weston, the local real estate baron, and (as explained in a previous post) he likes murals of roses. This rose and the building it’s on are named for his daughter, which I suppose is one of the little benefits of being a real estate baron.”
Mary Lou Fendall Rose (1995) Mural and an American Flag decorate the Morrison Plaza Building at 1400 SW Morrison Avenue. Our research turned up a good explanation of this and subsequent rose murals on buildings downtown. Blogger Cyclotram explains (October 2014 post): “… Joe Weston simply likes roses and had been commissioning them for buildings he owns over the last 20 years or so, naming them in honor of colleagues, friends, and family. As a side benefit, the roses are thought to ward off taggers as well, on the theory that they won’t touch a building that already has art on it. Fendall was his children’s former nanny and a family friend. If Google serves, she’s also the sister of the late John Helmer, of the famous local haberdashery.”
The Greg Chaille Rose (2011) on the Terminal Sales Building at 13th Avenue and Morrison Street is another Joe Weston commissioned Rose. I know I often wonder why a person is singled out for a monument, road sign, highway or street. Here’s what a little web search turned up about Chaille (from a 2011 Portland Oregonian column): “For 24 years, Chaillé’s been president of the Oregon Community Foundation, which manages more than $1 billion in long-term investments designed to give ongoing annual donations to charities and nonprofits across the state. The 38-year-old foundation is the sixth largest of its kind in the country. But when Chaillé became president in 1987, it was exponentially smaller — holding about $40 million in funds. And its focus was mostly Portland. Today, its influence spreads across the entire state. Now the onset of Parkinson’s disease symptoms has persuaded Chaillé, 62, to leave the job — and to think about his life and all he has accomplished in new ways.
Ghost in Gown
Created by Faith47, one of the most famous female street and graffiti artists in the world. Entitled “Capax Infiniti” (“Holding the Infinite” in Latin), the South African muralist painted this beautiful piece showing a ghost-like woman with her back turned to us.” — Street Art News and Wikipedia.
The Australian artist Rone painted this stunning mural entitled “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” in August of 2013 at the corner of SW 12th Avenue and SW Washington Street.