8" x  10"
reserved for exhibit

i got to thinking about feral structures again when kate lebo asked me to do a cover illustration, inspired by these photos by james d. griffioen,  for her forthcoming book on wildcrafting.  for a while now i've been pretty obsessed with the idea of abandonment, deterioration, decay, and obsolescence.   there was a time when i painted a vintage of portland buildings that i knew, somehow, were going to be erased; either torn down or gentrified.  and one day, while looking through a "daily painters" network, i found the paintings of stephen magsig to be highly compelling and similar in spirit: images of urban decay and recession in detriot. ultimately, the images were beautiful as evidence of the power of nature to regain control of its land.  it was also interesting to see the results of an economic boom followed by a severe crash.  i appreciate, and long for, a bygone era of architechture and building that celebrates true materials integrity, from the solid wood construction down to the copper pipes.  with enough neglect, wood will decay or be eaten by insects, copper snatched for quick cash, and a once beautiful farmhouse crumbles to the earth, gone forever.

  for the sake of progress and modernity, many architectural masterpieces are being mowed over like tiny  frogs in the tall grass.  take the story of waddles:  designed by renowned architect pietro belluschi, it was renovated two years ago into a hooters without much ado.  this kind of thing saddens me greatly.  i am attached to the aesthetics of anything old, rusty, vintage, antique, because (as the old fellas say) they don't make things the way they used to.  i also like things to stay the way they are.  hasty progress frightens me, and so does change, because it so often overlooks the long-term repercussions and damages. if all we have left are memories of the past (and memories so often get skewed), if we can't see our past for what it was, how are we to learn anything at all?


  1. I thought about this recently driving around near where I grew up. I kept passing beautiful old farmhouses that were abandoned. Often the families were still living there, having moved into a mobile home that was wedged onto the property next to the sad empty house. It really upset me, I just wanted those old homes returned to the beautiful structures they had been and I wanted those families back in them, instead of in the depressing mobile home. Those feral house photos make me feel the same way, just very sad. At one point those houses were showcases, they held families, and stories, and they could still be beautiful but now they are just falling down.

  2. This is why I'm so happy you have the Lucky D! I love your magical old building and am so glad it found two people to love it and prolong its life.

    Kate's book cover looks awesome, by the way!

  3. it's true heather: when we first moved here we had termites, snakes living under the floorboards, bees nests in the wallboards, spiders, cobwebs, rot, postbeetle, and a stench something awful that came special on high tide. some people even told us the building was a "teardown". these days, we're pretty much in the clear on everything but a little rot repair. here's to the power of elbow grease!

  4. Jess, you know you are totally my inspiration when I get overwhelmed by the mini-farm. I'm way more easily overwhelmed than you two brave souls, so you are lighting my way.