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Southeast's turning into a showcase for authorized, subsidized 'street art' -- in the form of murals

What is the difference between graffiti and street murals? Probably the most important difference is that graffiti is painted without permission, and murals are. In fact, they are often commissioned and paid for. Another difference is that graffiti is self-obsessed and repetitive, and is contemptuous of the surface it appears upon. It's vandalism. Although we may never see an end to graffiti – it even appeared on the volcano-buried walls of Pompeii, two millennia ago – we are seeing more of street murals these days in Inner Southeast Portland. The business owners of the Woodstock neighborhood are even commissioning them to create a neighborhood ambiance in a coordinated way. Here are details of new murals in the area, and those who have painted them.

"Curiosity" mural at S.E. 17th at Rhine Street

RITA A. LEONARD - In August, Gary Hirsch painted an interactive mural with a Curiosity theme at S.E. 17th and Rhine Street. A new 20 x 50 foot mural was painted in August, facing the MAX line at S.E. Rhine Street, and its artist, Gary Hirsch, calls it "The Curiosity Mural". That's because large robotic figures in the painting ask viewers, "What makes you curious?" He actually wants to know – and your answers can be registered at #Botjoy.

Hirsch told THE BEE, "I like to make murals that are interactive with viewers. Hopefully, the art will give them something to think about. I look forward to reading their responses. This work is a labor of love, although the owners of the building covered the cost of my materials."

Gary started sketching monster figures as a kid to help him address images from his nightmares. This allowed him think about his fears, and gave him a creative outlet for handling problems. He hopes his street art helps others with their own concerns.

Hirsch is co-founder of "On Your Feet", a consultancy that uses improvisation to help people work together better. He also illustrated "Everything's An Offer", written by Robert Poynton, his partner in the consultancy. "Improv helps you to recognize opportunities, even in hard times," he says. For more information and tips for using visuals for moving forward in life, check: www.botjoy.com

Sellwood mural appears on brick wall

RITA A. LEONARD - This mural is painted on the south brick wall of the Sellwood Market, S.E. 13th and Bidwell Street.A colorful 7 x 40 foot mural by the artistic team "Rather Severe" now graces the south side of the Sellwood Market convenience store at S.E. 13th and Bidwell Street. The unusual aspect of the "Sellwood Market Mural" is that it is rendered on a bumpy brick wall instead of on a flat surface. A time-lapse video only a little over a minute long is posted online – www.dumbwall.com/rather-severe – and shows the duo creating sketches and then completing the mural with spray paint.

Its creators, muralists Jon Stommel and Travis Czekalski, who each earned BFA degrees at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio, formed their business seven years ago. The duo has has created hundreds of murals, including two in Woodstock: The "peacock tail" on the side of Red Fox Vintage Clothing, and the mural at Cloud City Ice Cream.

Rather Severe's website – www.rather-severe.com – reveals, "We've worked together professionally since 2010 to bring our combined aesthetic styles to the worlds of murals, illustrations, and public art, in an effort to inspire the community and enrich the experience of being in public spaces."

Ryan Bubnis completes mural at Classic Pianos

RITA A. LEONARD   - In August, Ryan Bubnis designed this 27 x 100 foot mural on the west side of the Classic Pianos building, at Powell Boulevard and S.E. Milwaukie Avenue in Brooklyn. In August, Ryan Bubnis and his team painted a mural on the west side of the Classic Pianos building in Brooklyn. The 27 x 100 foot work was created for the fifth annual "Forest For The Trees Mural Festival" (#ffttnw), and features an assemblage of figures and common images from the artist's portfolio.

Bubnis is a multi-disciplinary artist, illustrator, and educator, whose work is described as "urban folk." He tells THE BEE that through a simplification of shape and form, he is commenting on themes related to the human condition. His work has been exhibited across the United States, and abroad. He is an Assistant Professor at Portland's Pacific Northwest College of Art.

"Forest For The Trees" is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating contemporary public art, aiming to help viewers see their city as a literal canvas and gallery. The organization's website – www.forestforthetreesnw.com – remarks, "We believe that by improving the visual landscape of the city through quality artwork and providing [artistic] opportunities...we can encourage continual growth of the arts in Portland."

Two new murals in Brooklyn by Dominic Sigari

RITA A. LEONARD - This mural by local artist Dominic Sigari appeared at S.E. 13th and Pershing in September. Two new murals by Dominic Sigari appeared this year in the Brooklyn neighborhood. One faces the MAX light rail line at S.E. 13th at Pershing, on the wall of the parking lot at Greencoast Hydroponics. The other, completed in March, covers the front of Artist and Craftsman Supply Co. at 3393 S.E. 21st Avenue. Sigari's striking geometric designs add interest, color, and movement.

He is a prolific, but self-taught, artist – working mostly with spray paints. Each of his murals takes about a week to complete, and many are done for free. "The companies paid for the paint for the two Brooklyn murals," he acknowledges. "I've loved to paint ever since I was young. I also tend bar. I usually sketch out a basic idea first on paper, but it often changes during the painting process, when a new idea pops up."

Sigari lives nearby in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood on the north side of Powell Boulevard, and paints under the name "dominatah" when working alone.

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