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🎨 Meet these wonderfully weird Portland muralists

It’s Wednesday. 

And that means we’re getting weird with you today.

Every week, we celebrate elements of Portland’s wonderful weirdness in collaboration with Weird Portland United.

If you haven’t read any features in this series yet, you can find our archive of Weird Wednesdays here, featuring The Unipiper, the Portland Sleestak, Spencer Sprocket, Carlos the Rollerblader, Strawberry Pickle, and many more colorful local characters.

We have a real treat for you today, readers — Weird Portland United and Portland Street Art Alliance have been looking for local artists to create a Weird Portland mural, and we’re highlighting the three finalists and their beautiful work. So without further ado, let’s meet our lineup and their art.

🖌️ Meet the finalists for the Weird Portland United mural

🎨 Victor Bizar Gomez

A self-portrait of local artist Victor Bizar Gomez. (🎨: Courtesy of Victor Bizar Gomez)

How did you learn about the WPU mural project and what pushed you to sign up?

I was informed by my roommate, Maria Rodriguez about this opportunity. Maria was part of the Viaduct Arts program, a project that was developed by the Portland Street Art Alliance (PSAA), and from that connection they had become aware of WPU’s open call in search of a mural artist. They passed that info along to me, and it took a bit of time to psyche myself up to apply to it.

I’ve assisted on other’s murals before, and had created one as a collaboration between Maria and my other roommate Anke Gladnick as a part of Fresh Paint Program, a joint venture between Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) and Open Signal. Despite this, I was still nervous about applying because this would be my first solo mural and it would be a doozy. 

After much back and forth, I decided to shoot my shot, and was stunned to receive an email a few weeks later that I was selected as one of the three finalists.

What about Portland inspires you artistically?

The people, really. I’ve been living in Portland for about six years now, and in that time I’ve found the city to be warm and welcoming. There is a laid back culture in the city that has a certain air of “take it at your own pace” that I really appreciate. I feel like it permeates throughout a lot of things in this city; from how walkable the city streets are in certain areas; to the number of specialty shops that I don’t think could exist anywhere else; to the beautiful forests and mountains that are only a short bus ride away. Even for as long as I’ve been here, there is still so much of this city I’ve yet to explore, and I’m really excited to get back out and discover new things.

Something I also want to get off my chest is how much I love the Portland art scene, especially the illustration scene. I think it is very underrated and is easily one of the best in the country. There are so many talented people here, and it is very fortunate that there are so many organizations here that exist to help foster other’s visions.

(🎨: Courtesy of Victor Bizar Gomez)

What do you want to bring to this project if you’re selected?

For me, I really wanted to shine a light on the collection of people who follow the beat of their own drum in Portland. The drive to go out into the world and to try to be a part of a person’s day in a positive way is something that we could always use more of. That being said, I think there is a lot of credit needed to be given to everyone else in the city.

I think there are always weird people to be found all over the country, but what makes Portland unique is that the community is very acceptive of that weirdness. Human beings are creatures who are meant to make art, because all art is really just a form of communication. If you’re someone who wants to go out and do something offbeat, it can be very validating when the people around you see and understand what you are doing, and are positive in response. That to me is something really special.

Where can folks find you online and how can Bridgeliner readers best support your work?

If you’re looking for a collection of the hits, then you can find me at my website. I also can be found at Instagram and Twitter. Lastly, I also have an Inprnt account in which you can purchase one of my prints; so if you’re in the market for buying affordable pieces of art, stop by there to see if you can find something that speaks to you.

I am always interested in new opportunities, so if you have a project that you think I would be a good fit for, please do not hesitate to reach out.

🎨 Eric Mpwo

How did you learn about the WPU mural project and what pushed you to sign up?

I heard it through a friend that sent me a posting about it on social media one day

What about Portland inspires you artistically?

Being able to fully let go an be around peers of similar interests.

What do you want to bring to this project if you’re selected?

I would like to bring the style I have developed as an individual and bring people closers together.

Where can folks find you online and how can Bridgeliner readers best support your work?

If you would like to see some of my work, all is on Instagram @empwo.

Here are a few places around Portland you can find Eric’s recent mural work.

Koken Market

A collaboration between Eric and other Portland Black artists, this mural is on the side of the Koken Market — a local Black-owned bottle shop, convenience, and corner store located on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Stop by to pick up a bottle of your favorite beverage and admire the gorgeous Black Love mural. 

The train cars at OMSI

If you’re lucky, you can spot this beautiful mural of a small child and a lion roaring on the side of train cars against a light blue background among the area’s many incredible pieces. This project kicked off in mid-April and wrapped up last week. Sprucing up the space was a huge endeavor (train cars are pretty big) and it’s a visual knockout. Swing by and take in the impact and power of this mural. 

“The Children” at Hair Haven Salon

A mural from early December of last year, “The Children” depicts four children — two of whom are helping a little girl style her hair — and it was painted on the walls inside the salon. The mural swims with bright reds and crisp, dark shadows. Hair Haven specializes in styling Black hair, staying on top of the latest trends, and community outreach. You can learn more about the salon’s work and services here

You can see more of Eric’s incredible work on Instagram, where you can also get additional information about upcoming projects and ways of supporting them.

🎨 Casillas Oliver

Casillas, working on a local mural project in Portland. (📸: Courtesy of Casillas Oliver)

How did you learn about the WPU mural project and what pushed you to sign up?

I saw the call in a Portland Street Art Alliance Post, with whom I have already worked before, and due to the [preexisting] comfort and closeness as well as the seriousness of their work, I felt the confidence and security to decide that it was a good opportunity to do a great artistic project.

(🎨: Courtesy of Casillas Oliver)

What about Portland inspires you artistically?

What inspires me the most is that strange feeling of realizing that everything is in tune and feeling accepted for who I am and what I do. It inspires me a lot that people in Portland enjoy and also feel inspired by my artistic work.

What do you want to bring to this project if you’re selected?

I want to bring the essence of this city, to be able to show everything in a simple way, and [to prompt] people who see the mural to say “Yes, this is Portland.”

Where can folks find you online and how can Bridgeliner readers best support your work?

The best way to support my art is to follow me on my social media networks and like or comment if you like what you see and share with your friends.  You can always find me on my Instagram, Facebook as Casillas Oliver, and TikTok.

Thank you to our Bridgeliner Unabridged members. Stories like these are made possible with your membership and support.