25 August 2014

[pdx_legends] Working Kirk Reeves - Portland's Patron Saint, Now In Mural Form

He's part of Portland's landscape now … on a permanent, full-time basis.

When Kirk Reeves passed from us, since two years ago as of November, more than one intersecting PDX artistic community gasped in shock, dismay and despair. I'm sure there are those around us trying to still come to terms with it. I, for one, can't hit the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge going east, either straight on from SW Madison Street or coming up the ramp from northbound Naito Parkway, without looking at that little pavement peninsula he sat on with his horn and his paraphernalia, busking in those absurd-but-oh-so-right white tails, sequined waistcoat, and Mickey Mouse ears, wishing that he could somehow come back and do an encore for a while.

Well, Kirk is back … in a way.

Of course, those of us who knew and loved having Kirk around were hoping for a tribute of some sort. You don't lose that sort of happiness without feeling generally betrayed by the world in general, but having a homage to someone who kept others' spirits so high helps us do what healing we have to do to move on.

We loved Kirk enough that we lobbied to have the Tilikum Crossing named for him; the learned heads on the commission decided on another name despite Working Kirk being the popular choice, because learned heads reasons.

But someone did finally come up with something, and it's smashing, and I fancy that Kirk might have approved. At 430 NE Lloyd Blvd – the corner of Lloyd and NE Grand Avenue … there is a small, plain building that was, for years, home to a business called Rich's Delicatessen. Like almost everything that thrived in the 80s, it's gone now, and the building has been remodeled and refreshed, at least on the outside (the inside remains unfinished, a large expanse of gravel taking up most of the middle of the floor. Oddest thing …).

Thanks to the preternaturally sensitive artist, Gwenn Seemel, there is now a firey-passionate mural on that wall …

The style of the painting, seeming to layer small abstract shapes over colors and making up forms from these shapes, conveys a lot of emotion. It depicts, as closely as possible, the quiet riot that was the passion of Kirk.

The permanent beatific smile, the immense personal warmth one felt when talking with the man … it's all there. The message is there too, and rendered in playful, hand-created type.

It's a thing of despair to see that Kirk now kind of iconically stands out in the city he spent his artistic passion in, but it's a hopeful thing too … the combination of the style, the likeliness gazing warmly out at everyone who may pass that way and the message above, kind of makes me think he's really gazing out there. Makes me think I can go by and say 'hi' and he will, somehow, hear me and listen and somehow respond.

He's a part of the fabric of the city now, a patron saint of all of us aspiring artists who are striving to overcome our own obstacles, made real by an artist with a very deft touch.

… watching over a city where food carts roam the streets between gigs …

… and where streetcar tracks bask in the warmth of a somewhat-too-warm late August Portland gloaming.

Being part of the Orycon family, I'd call him a friend; he had closer friends than I did. But I feel privileged that I knew him at all.

He was one of those people who are like that. The world was simply better that he was around at all; it's a bit lacklustre becase he's not here now, but you know you were lucky just to share the same planet with him, if only for a little while. 

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