The Styles of the City: Murals

The fashion for murals in American cities is fairly recent. I don’t remember many when I was a girl. If you want brilliant color that will stand up to wind and weather you probably need modern technology. The Pacific Northwest seems to have a lot of public art of this type, and all of these examples are taken within a three block area of downtown Portland. This one is, clearly, very recent: the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wearing a crown and rendered on the side of an apartment building. The Spanish beside her means “the struggle continues.”


This mural is also on the side of an apartment building, It celebrates the city’s pioneer heritage — see the people in covered wagons on the left? What’s fun is the way it is worked in around the pre-existing windows in the structure. The painted pillar to the left has a real window as its capital, for example.

The final example is on the side of the Oregon Historical Society building. Just looking at the style and color I’d guess that the same artist did the apartment building, above. Again we see the sturdy pioneers, looking vaguely Stalinist in their stern strength. What’s delightful about it however is that this wall is entirely flat and blank except for the central dark vertical windows. All the detail — the pillars, the curving walls with their portals, the brick and stonework — all of it is trompe l’oeil, painted in. You have to walk up and look closely however to see the illusion. Irresistible! I think we can agree that something like this is far more amusing than flat blank walls.

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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