Celebrating four years of “Forest For the Trees” mural fest

"Mt Hood on Interstate ave" from Adam Friedman.  Photo credit Anthony Taylor

Over 60 murals in 4 years.  Forest For the Trees returns to Portland with 7 new public art works.

North, South, East and West, for the last four years “Forest For the Trees” has been responsible for bringing domestic and international artists to Portland for the purpose of creating public art.  For this year’s installment, murals are being created by local artist Adam Friedman at the Maker House on North  Bryant Street (at right); Whole9 and Peach Momoko from Japan at Cider Riot on NE Couch; Local artist Jesse Hazelip at Hanoi Kitchen on NE Glisan; Colorado artist Molly Bounds, Alex Gardner (below) from California and Max McMaster from California at Disjecta on North Interstate; locals David Rice and Zach Yarington at The Redd on SE 7th Avenue; Japanese artist Yoshi47 (below) and New York artist Nina Chanel Abney (below) at ADX on SE 11th Avenue; and local painter and sculptor J. Shea at the Portland International Airport Terminal A.

The non-profit festival started in 2013 with the idea of bringing artists from around the world to Portland in order to create public art that would enhance and educate the local community. Forest For the Trees is organized by artist Gage Hamilton, Hellion Gallery owner Matt Wagner and event producer Tia Vanich. The mural festival’s name comes from the phrase “can’t see the forest for the trees,” which signifies the inability to understand the greater picture when you are too focused solely on what is in front of you. Forest For The Trees hopes to pull Portland’s residents away from their daily routines and provide them a moment of appreciation for the creativity that surrounds us in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.  RACC’s partnership with the festival has allowed the project to grow and continue to add to the city’s public art collection.

“Since the 2014 event, RACC has recognized the importance of this program bringing new art to the city’s landscape and supports FFTTNW with funding from the Public Art Murals Program,” says RACC public art manager Peggy Kendellen. “This year marks the first time that all of the murals created as part of the event have become part of the City of Portland’s public art collection. The considerable effort on the part of the curators continues to bring striking murals to the city’s evolving public art landscape while providing great opportunities for local artists, local business owners and neighborhoods to be part of this contemporary art landscape.”

This year’s mural festival brought artists from France, Japan and cities throughout the United States to Portland, where they created murals in neighborhoods across the city. In addition to the murals the festival hosted live performances, short film festival, and public art installations.  In the past the central city area was the focus of the festival. With return of this year’s festival, new outer areas of the city were added. Adam Friedman painted a wall at the Maker House on 1505 North Bryant Street in North Portland.

“I’m obsessed with mountains,” Adam explains. “I think a mountain is the ultimate symbol of the sublimity and power of nature. One of my favorite things about living in Portland is seeing Mt Hood on a clear day.”  His vibrantly colored depiction of Mt Hood faces the Max lines on North Interstate Avenue.

“Some days it looks close enough to reach out and touch,” Adam says. “Hood is such an icon of Portland, and Oregon in general. But as with anything, we can desensitized to something we see every day. By showing Hood in a new light the mural is meant to serve as an homage to our local beauty and a reminder of how lucky we are to live here.”

A new partnership this year is with Disjecta in North Portland.  Disjecta is a contemporary art center that  receives general operating support from RACC.  Besides hosting two of the Forest For the Trees live performances, the art center is the home to 3 new murals for this year’s festival. Artists Molly Bounds, Alex Gardner and Max McMaster have created something really special for the Kenton Neighborhood.

“There are people who do and people that wish they could do,” says Bounds, referring to the overall theme of the wall.  The pastel figurative mural is meant to inspire people to create.

Mural by Molly Bounds and Alex Gardner at Disjecta, N. Interstate.

Mural by Molly Bounds and Alex Gardner at Disjecta, N. Interstate.

On NE Glisan, artist Jesse Hazelip created a piece that reflects a cultural element to the neighborhood.  The piece features a pack of wolves and the phrase in Vietnamese that translates to “unity is strength.”  The artist states, “It’s about the oppressed coming together. I use the wolf as a metaphor for prisoners.  Humans are pack animals like the wolf.  When we are separated from our pack it takes a toll emotionally.”

Another first this year is a mural and sculpture installation from J. Shea at Portland International Airport.  The installation is inspired by the artist’s fascination of all things flight. J. Shea has created a whimsical flowing installation that features some of his favorite floating characters.  The installation is a mixture of a mural and a collection of mobile-like suspended sculptures.  The work opens the viewer up to a colorful world of flying vessels and drifting creatures that sift through the air while always keeping in mind a perfect balance of scale, shape and recycled details.

In the future, The Forest For the Trees mural festival will continue to explore contemporary public art.  This year’s expansion into live performance, short film films and multimedia installation signifies a continued effort to bring new and exciting creative projects to the city of Portland.  The curiosity of the organizers will foster these explorations into new media and innovative artists to add to our city’s community.

For more information and images of all completed murals, visit www.forestforthetreesnw.com.

Mural by Japanese artist Yoshi47 at ADX on SE 11th.

Mural by Japanese artist Yoshi47 at ADX on SE 11th.

Mural by New York artist Nina Chanel Abney at ADX on SE 11th.

Mural by New York artist Nina Chanel Abney at ADX on SE 11th.