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To address a problem caused by the Portland Building Code, a builder contracts for public art on its side

RITA A. LEONARD - Artist Jennifer Mark, riding the high lift, adds details to the new 30 x 66 Camas lily mural on S.E. 13th Avenue in Sellwood, between Bidwell and Lambert Streets. Under Portland City Code, if an apartment building is constructed right on the property line, to respect the privacy of neighbors next door no windows may appear on that side of the building. This can result in a tall blank wall. One builder, seeing the result a couple of years ago, chose to attach false windows to his blank wall at S.E. 13th and Tacoma.

A more creative solution was found for the "Kitniss Apartment Building" just now being completed by Sellwood Mixed-Use, LLC, on the west side of S.E. 13th Avenue in Sellwood, just north of Bidwell Street. With the support of SMILE, the owner commissioned a three-story-high mural, painted on the south wall facing the adjacent small strip mall, located diagonally across the street from the Sellwood Branch Library.

Depicted on the large mural is a spray of blue Camas lilies, entangled in a swirling white ribbon. The work was designed and painted by "Open Eye Art" duo Jennifer Mark and Juliet Moran, who tell THE BEE it is intended to extend the message that "All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today."

Jennifer Mark reveals that the mural has a name: "The Resiliency of Nature". She adds, "The painting depicts the struggle and eventual domination of nature over urban environments. It has the potential to tell more of the Native American story of the Willamette River, as well as to educate the community on edible native plants.

"Oregon is home to more than 65% of the named Camas species," she explains. "Indigenous tribes used them as sweeteners, and actively traded them. In 1805, the Nez Perce shared their Camas bulbs with the Lewis & Clark Expedition to help rescue the explorers from starvation. Sellwood was once abundant with fields of such blue Camas lilies. After cooking, the bulbs preserve well, and are a great source of nutrition for people and local wildlife."

The two painters say they hope that their new mural inspires viewers to plant native species in gardens and local wetlands. They comment that Southern Idaho has an area known as Camas Prairie, where these blue flowers spread out like a figurative blue lake each spring. "Native American communities celebrate the Camas harvest, and take care to pass down traditional harvesting sites across generations."


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