Bid at the Bunyan: art with an ax to grind

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter loves his Lee Kelly, and is exceedingly fond of Buster Simpson‘s Host Analog, that ever-changing downed Douglas fir sprouting fresh growth outside the Oregon Convention Center.

Paul Bunyan statue in North Portland, by Victor A. Nelson and Victor R. Nelson, 1959. Photo: Cacophony/2006/Wikimedia CommonsAnd especially during this absurd election season, he smiles every time he sees Raymond Kaskey‘s renegade gambler Portlandia down on her knees, tossing the dice: private casino in the ‘burbs draining dollars from pockets that can’t afford it, anyone?

But when it comes to public sculpture in Portland, Mr. Scatter’s heart belongs to Paul Bunyan, that 37-foot-tall behemoth of a bearded logger stranded in the urban wilds of the Kenton neighborhood. (He is also partial to the rotating carton of milk doing a tilted twirl atop a roof on Northeast 20th Avenue, just a little south of the Interstate 84 overpass.)

The brawny Mr. Bunyan, erected in 1959 to help celebrate the centennial of Oregon’s statehood, is just a wood-chip or three away from Disjecta, the scrappy art center that hosts everything from a biennial art show to shadow-puppet theater to rock’n’roll. Two nights from now — on Friday, Oct. 29 — Disjecta is throwing a “Bid at the Bunyan” preview party offering a sneak peek at pieces by the 60-odd artists who’ll be part of Disjecta’s fourth annual art auction Nov. 13. Friday’s preview is 8-10 p.m., at 8371 North Interstate Avenue. It’s free, and you can start the silent bidding on pieces you like.

Mr. and Mrs. Scatter like the idea of benefit art auctions. Indeed, they own a few pieces picked up at auctions here and there, mostly at old Pacific Northwest College of Art functions: an Arvie Smith hanging over the desk, a George Johanson staring down from an office wall, a Tom Prochaska tipping its hat in the dining room, a prized Gordon Gilkey monoprint hanging above the fireplace.

In the case of the Gilkey, especially, part of the appeal is personal and sentimental.

The prized Gordon Gilkey monoprint, with seasonal companion.Gilkey, the late curator of prints and drawings at the Portland Art Museum (his own donated pieces, many from European masters, still constitute the core of the collection) was a brilliant and crusty fellow who at his age (he was born in 1912) took very little guff.

Mr. Scatter vividly remembers one evening quite a few years ago, when the museum was throwing one of its splashy society parties and all the curators had been ordered to show up in good clothes and better manners. He ran into Gordon sitting alone in a hallway away from the action. Gordon was thrilled to have someone around so he could unload the depths of his displeasure.

“I’ll wear the monkey suit,” he said, growling like a cornered polar bear. “But I’ll be god-damned if I’m gonna go in there and TALK to those people!”

Among the artists with works to be auctioned: James Lavadour, Michael Brophy, Holly Andres, Eva Lake, Melody Owen, Ben Rosenberg, Jim Riswold, Anna Fidler. Gotta be some good pickin’s in there.

An auction exhibition runs from noon to 5 p.m. November 5-7 at Disjecta, and the main auction is 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturday the 13th.



  • Paul Bunyan statue in North Portland, by Victor A. Nelson and Victor R. Nelson, 1959. Photo: Cacophony/2006/Wikimedia Commons
  • The prized Gordon Gilkey monoprint, with seasonal companion.