“The bearded and mighty Scrappers is leaving a house paint rainbow flavored mark in the Pacific Northwest. His visions of lumberjacks and forgotten stars fill me with glee. I think that if he continues his modern experiments in folklore, soon more than Portland will know of his work, and the future will be bright and filled with painted bottles and scraps of wood.”
There is a certain amount of esoteric energy left in the long-toothed forests of the Pacific Northwest. While every nook, cranny and deer trail has been explored and evaluated for its moneymaking potential, a mysterious aura still persists. How else can one explain the tenacity of eco-groovy activists who would sooner crucify themselves to one of our considerable redwoods than see it adorn the porch of a suburban McMansion? Or the persistent creepy draw of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” or the poetic spirituality drawn from the creeks by authors like David Jay Duncan or Richard Brautigan?
The trees, rivers, mountains and beaches of Oregon and Washington hold more stories than there are days to tell them, and it is an honored and talented few who give themselves over to documenting our home. Of these, Justin “Scrappers” Morrison is one of the best [ed. note: Justin Morrison is a former Vanguard employee].
If you haven’t encountered Morrison’s work yet, you must be have just gotten off the Greyhound or are some sort of shut-in. It seems you can’t set foot out the door in Portland these days without encountering the fluid trees, heroic loggers, historic beer ads or Hulk Hogans of Morrison’s imagination. With dozens of shows under his belt both alone and with his Junktown collective, murals in premier Portland businesses (see Reading Frenzy, Acme) and ‘zines in every outlet in town, his vision in Portland is spreading.
Thematically, Morrison paints more than just trees and clouds; he paints Northwest life. From the adulation of our naturalist forefathers, to the pop culture imagery that infests the visual psyche of our generation, to the modern conservationist movement that defines Portland to the rest of the country, images and ideas swirl seamlessly through the worlds created by Morrison.
As a journalist and ‘zinester, Morrison’s continued dedication to the Northwest is apparent. From his work here at the Vanguard to his artistic contributions to the world of ‘zines, including his own Old Growth Journal, Morrison has interviewed and championed our region’s great artists and musicians, giving coast to coast exposure to the Northwest’s hardest workers. Morrison isn’t just paying lip service to the Northwest, he’s repping it proper, from his meticulously researched histories to the 100% recycled materials that make up his work, to his work with conservationist groups like the Ivy Scouts and the Willamette Riverkeepers, the art is just an extension of a dedicated lifestyle.
Morrison’s work itself is an exercise in ecstatic painting. From mythological beer ads to Steve Zissou, Scrappers creates work that is half-Hanna-Barbara, half-Kurt Schwitters or Robert Rauschenberg. The recycled nature of the medium often plays as much a role in the work as the painting itself. The content, its natural progression of loose lines, comic book gestures and saturated colors can be misleading. The images, while at times seemingly arbitrary or irreverent, are made with complete purposefulness, each work highlighting the absolute nature of its materials.
And there is so much of it, and it is everywhere! Morrison is a man who works, and works hard. More than individual pieces you get movements, whole stories told through series of shows. As you wander the group houses and apartments that make up Portland proper, you can follow Morrison’s vision of our Northwest mythology. Works blend together, telling parallel and epic stories from above couches and stereos all over the city, tying the world we love and the world he’s created into one beautiful narrative, albeit untidy. In a world this awesome it takes something more awesome than awesome to tell its story right. Fortunately for the Pacific Northwest, Justin Morrison is up for the task.
Visit the art of Scrappers. His mighty instillation at the Half and Half Cafe (923 S.W. Oak St.) has been held over through November, turning the tiny deli into a (un)natural Northwest museum. And you can crap anytime at Acme (1305 S.E. Eighth Ave.) and step into a enchanted forest of Scrappers’ creation. Get a look out and check out both restrooms, and that’s just the tip of the pine tree.
What’s awesome in Scrappers’ world of awesome
Neon pink paint dripping down the side of a cardboard house floating in a lake of eggnog. Sparkles and stars lingering in the early morning fog playing on the swing sets, stopping only to have lemon blueberry cake for breakfast then back to swinging. Getting hit smack-in-the-head with birdshit, looking up and seeing a blue and yellow Macaw on its way to the ocean. Finding an original, vintage Nike pinwheel or block-letter logo T-shirt in a thrift shop, or better yet a Levi’s "big-E" jacket from the ’40s.
Solar-power and composing toilets are pretty awesome, but what would be more awesome is a solar-powered-composing-toilet that turned your pee-pee and poo-poo into delicious coffee and cigarette flavored chocolate bars wrapped in banana leaves. Waking-up in a Redwood tree fort with your funniest friends who know how to fart and are loud enough to scare Bigfoot hunters. Topographical maps of the ocean floor are more awesome than maps of the Los Angeles freeway system. Warm baths are pretty awesome, but hot springs and naked ladies are more awesome! Some things are simply more awesome then others.
If sock monkeys went on a prank spree that would be awesome. Free dirt is pretty awesome. Free wood is awesome too. However "Free Bird" is not that awesome of a song, furthermore, it’s not even funny when drunken guys yell, "play ‘Free Bird!’" At times, though, not being funny is awesome. Natural disasters that inflict suffering on the humans who caused the disasters – overpopulation, starvation, deforestation, global warming, etc. – are not funny, but it is awesome. What is more awesome than awesome is leading a thrilling life, overcoming obstacles, finding the true meaning of words like willpower, sincerity, triumph, recovery, death, life and mediocre existence. It is more awesome then awesome to use your time wisely and make the world better than how you found it, and if it’s in good shape keep it that way. Awesome is as awesome does.
Visit www.scrapperstown.com for show listings, histories and kick-ass art.