Portland, Ore. is home to abnormally brilliant people. If you disagree visit Alberta Street every last Thursday of the month. As the sun sets overhead, fire jugglers, mad max styled marching bands, slumming yuppies and brilliant art glimmer side by side. It’s a portrait of Portland’s most sincere art scene. And in the heart of this beautiful commercial, orgy moments and monumental people take art and life beyond your wildest imagination.
L퀨͌�m Qu퀨͌�ng is one of the monumental people whose artwork and gallery, Hi-iH, have inspired the current N.E. art scene.
Beeswax and olive oil keep Qu퀨͌�ng’s facial hair perked and pointed as he pollinates our beloved city with light from wax painted, hand-made, paper flower lamps.
You might get the impression that Qu퀨͌�ng is a distant person, but you’ll find him relaxed and open for conversation with anyone. So enjoy this interview with a local living legend.
What is Hi-iH?
Hi-iH is a gallery and studio where we design, create and sell lamps and light sculptures. We also feature an artist each month, with the shows opening on Last Thursday. We host music events, meetings and parties and as board members of Art on Alberta we are involved in organizing art events on the street.
Who works in the shop/gallery?
I opened the gallery in 1997. Kestrel Gates joined me in the sweatshop a year ago. We work as a team in all aspects of the business, the creativity and our community involvement.
Where did the lantern idea come from?
The idea of making lamps and lanterns evolved from my exploration of making paper and my early childhood memories of the Harvest Moon Festival (Tet Trung Thu) carrying cellophane lanterns as part of the celebration. The process evolved from there and is still evolving
What are you trying to create?
What I have and am continuing to create is a utopia where art is life and life is art. I feel very lucky and humble to be in the center of a lively, active and creative community here in Portland. So my utopia seems to coincide with so many others; it must be the power of collective consciousness.
You seem to live in an organic and psychedelic world of primal knowledge. How do you do that?
By allowing myself to be open to all possibilities. This might sound redundant, but eating/supporting the organic food and life that is being grown within our vicinities really enriches my life and makes me want to add to that richness.
What is the strangest and most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
I guess it all depends on perception, time and place, but I will settle for a mushroom trip at Arches National Park in October some years back. Climbing the sand stones during sunset, sensing, watching the whole magical world of the desert come to life; Juniper trees became gnarled, old men and women crawling, searching for water; orange and red sandstone rocks turned into a line of circus animals connecting mouth to tails marching across the sunset. I spent hours in this magical land leaping, climbing from rocks to rocks dreaming from trees to trees.
What was Alberta Street like when you first opened the shop?
Alberta Street had a few of the long standing businesses on it, a few salons and barbershops, churches and lots of boarded up buildings. I first read about Alberta through an article about Roslyn Hill, how she stood her ground and was taking a chance, opening a coffee shop on the street. Although I only lived half a mile away, I never had a reason to come up here until I came up for Last Thursday. My landlords Sal and Donna, a paper maker, had their gallery open. Kenneth Wright and Brian Borello and a couple other art studios were all that were open. It seemed like an exciting opportunity, the price was right and I was ready to push my art to the next level. When a space opened up two months later I jumped on in and have been here since.
Surely you’ve had obstacles and challenges in the way of what you want. How do you keep going?
My obstacles seemed insurmountable when I stopped and thought about it – trying to make a living at creating art, especially with no formal training. But I kept at it, doing the little things and doing it with style while keeping an eye on the big picture. And most of all having fun at it and of course getting away with a lot in the name of art.
Do you think people expect you to produce the same thing every time?
Some people do, but what I do is so unusual people let me have the artistic license to design and create. When I first opened there were a few people who would come in to give me the “what you should do is…” advice while trying to scam something off me and I soon realized there wasn’t much worth to what they were saying. As for the clients we work with, they come to us with an idea or theme and sometimes a color scheme. The rest is up to us to create a design that is within their budget.
If you could make anything without limitations, how big would you go? Would you make a town out of beeswax and paper?
This is quite an image, flying around with a huge bee, excreting and encasing everything in wax, suspending life in the midst. Here is a more “realistic” idea: how about a light procession with HiiH lanterns snaking through a completely dark city?
Swing by HiiH Gallery at 2927 N.E. Alberta St., or read more at hiihgallery.com