Portland art gallery turns vandalism into allegory art

Multnomah County

Michael Parsons Fine Art Gallery is in Southwest Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The fire at Notre Dame is coming to life at a Portland art gallery in a mural that is a “commentary on the antiquities being burned down and the antiquities being lost,” said artist Alex Lilly.

About 3 weeks ago, vandals smashed the window at Michael Parsons Fine Art Gallery on Southwest Madison. Parsons told KOIN 6 News when he first saw the windows and the damage it was disheartening.

“It’s extremely frustrating because we are trying to bring beauty to people and make a difference in the world through beauty,” the gallery owner said. “Then somebody does something really ugly and it’s hurtful.”

Vandals broke a window at the Michael Parsons Fine Art Gallery in Southwest Portland in July 2019 (Courtesy: Michael Parsons)

He said this is the second time that the art gallery windows were broken. Vandals also smashed them during the May Day protest in 2017. But this time, after he cleaned up the glass and had some time to think, he had an inspiration.

Parsons decided “to try to put some positive energy back or put something positive in a dark, negative space.”

So he called one of the featured artists in his gallery, Alex Lilly, and explained his vision.

Lilly got behind the idea — and the flames at Notre Dame came to life. He’s painting the mural on the particleboard where the window was.

“It’s trying to make something beautiful out of all this destruction that’s going on, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Lilly said.

The Michael Parsons Fine Art Gallery shows both new and old paintings that can date back as far as the 1800s or early 1900s. Lilly sees the parallel between the fire at Notre Dame and what’s happening in Portland and the world right now.

Owner Michael Parsons at the Michael Parsons Fine Art Gallery in Southwest Portland, August 10, 2019 (KOIN)

“We don’t know how this actually caught on fire. We don’t know who actually smashed the window, but in a way they mirror themselves,” he said.

Parsons said windows at other nearby businesses, like Higgins Restaurant, were also smashed that night about 3 weeks ago. He wrote to Mayor Ted Wheeler. Staff at the mayor’s office said they reached out to Parsons on Sunday.

“The random vandal went around the neighborhood and inflicted some damage on people.”

But Parsons is concerned the mural may not last. A rally against anti-fascists being advertised for August 17 is expected to draw far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers and Three Percenters to Portland.

Still, he hopes people enjoy it and stop by to watch Lilly finish it on Sunday.

“We think beauty is a powerful force in the world and has great resonance in people’s hearts,” Parsons said. “We aren’t so much focused on making money as we are on focused on trying to do a good thing and bring something positive into people’s lives.”

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