Local muralist remembered for vivid creations, inimitable spirit
After a seven-year battle, Larry Kangas succumbs to non-hodgkins lymphoma
Regarding Larry Kangas initial aptitude as a navigational pilot, fellow Air Force reservist Roger Worrall felt Kangas made ... one heck of a mural artist.
He was fighting the left brain, right brain thing, but he finally got it, said Worrall, 75, who as a flight instructor and evaluator was charged with whipping Kangas into shape. We just flew the devil out of him on 10-day trips. It was the height of the Vietnam War. That was our job, to shuttle material back and forth between McChord (Air Force Base in Washington) and Vietnam.
So began what turned into a lifelong friendship between Worrall, who settled in Sherwood, and Kangas, who developed his career as an artist and muralist in Seattle and Beaverton, where he spent the last 13 years of his life.
On Nov. 25, Kangas lost his seven-year battle with follicular lymphoma.
His work and vibrant spirit live on, however, through the more than 1,000 murals he painted throughout the Portland area as well as Washington and the rest of Oregon.
At the time of his death at age 65, he had several projects going, including a mural at the relocated Holistic Health Clinic at Southwest Second Street and Washington, and a lotus flower-based design. Some of his higher profile murals include a detailed nature scene on a pier of the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks depicting the Columbia River Gorge when Native Americans roamed the land, and a more recently completed 65-foot-long village-like scene at the corner of Northwest 23rd Avenue and Vaughn Street in Portland.
Worralls home wine cellar is adorned with an elaborate Kangas mural that transforms his basement to something resembling Naples, Italy, more than Sherwood. He cant say enough about the detail in his late friends creations.
My perception of it, is the reality of his work, he says. When you walk into a room with one of his murals on it, you just feel like youre there. The wine cellar he did for me, its all on sheetrock, but the beams on the mural feel like beams, and the rocks in the wall feel like rocks.
It feels like stark reality.
Larrys wife, Sandy, met her future husband in a yoga class at 24-Hour Fitness on Northwest Cornell Road. The pair remained friends for nearly eight years before they married in 2008.
He listened to me, and he was a very thoughtful man, she says. Those are things men arent very famous for. He listened to me after our yoga classes, and it was such an honor to be listened to.
Sandy, who believes Larrys ability came quite naturally, says part of his innate ability was knowing even more what a client wanted than the client did.
He did what the client wanted, she says. Sometimes the client doesnt know what they want. He was very patient with them. He was a realist. His things would look the way they should look.
Bev Ecker, who worked with Kangas on the Beaverton Arts Commission and the Beaverton Downtown Association Design Committee, praised Kangas for his combination of vibrant creativity and tireless productivity.
He is the most prolific and creative mural artist I have met, she says. He has a way of making a scene come alive with vibrant colors, brilliant design work and amazing realism. Larry was a true visionary and a generous contributor to the creative projects that we undertook on the design committee. He was well-loved, and he will be deeply missed.
Diagnosed seven years ago with a slow-growing lymphoma, Kangas continued working even when the disease escalated in the past year or so into follicular, non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Despite a large bump on his neck and cancer spreading into his left arm, Kangas continued to paint. He declined a regimen of chemotherapy.
He did a lot of natural health kind of things, Sandy says. He was feeling good, so we thought, why knock himself down with chemicals?
Increasing physical pain eventually cost him the use of his left arm and landed him in the hospital. Still, the artist maintained his irrepressible spirit.
Larrys main defense was denial, Sandy says. He was very optimistic about his disease. He kept it under control and didnt talk about it often. One of the reasons this has been surprising to people is because he would never explain the seriousness of it.
In Kangas final days in the OHSU intensive care unit, he
encouraged his attending nurses to check out his murals around town.
Theyd say, Woah, I saw your mural this morning! Sandy recalls with a smile. Up until the last minute, he was making new fans. It was hard to hold him down. It was classic Larry.
To learn more about Kangas and his murals, visit muralz.com.Add a comment