Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Mythscape – Day and Night by George Johanson

  • Title: Mythscape – Day and Night
  • Artist: George Johanson
  • Medium: Hand painted tile
  • Size: 3'h x 10'w
  • Creation date: 2009
  • Added to collection: 2014
  • Donor: Purchased by Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: B7/1 Main Entry - study area
Comprised of some 108 ceramic tiles 6x6," Mythscape, Day and Night  presents an idealized and abbreviated view of the Willamette River south of the Marquam Bridge, tracing the course of a day from sunrise on the left to the arrival of night on the right.  It is a lyrical and idealized vision of the city: the on-ramps have been abstracted into ribbon forms, which are repeated in the undulating shapes of roads, railways, riverbanks and clouds.  In the custom of ancient maps. a globe is included in the right corner with Oregon helpfully pointed out by a leaping cat.  This work contains three of this artist's favorite subjects: cats (the artist's wife was an animal rights activist and a founder of the feral cat collation); kayakers (the couple were enthusiastic kayakers into their 80's) and the cityscape of Portland, the artist's home for over 60 years.
The technique of this mural is similar to scratchboard; a white ceramic tile covered with black glaze is scraped away with tools to make a black and white image.  After it is fired it is remarkably durable, and this durability led Johanson to use ceramic tile for many public arts projects, including the murals above the swimming pools at Peninsula Park, the Washington County Correctional Facility in Hillsboro and the Multnomah Public Library Central Branch, where a larger similar work  (featuring the Fremont Bridge) is installed on the stairwell of the third floor. The strong graphic quality of the tiles relates to the artist’s  woodcuts.
Johanson, a lover of magic tricks and visual puns has included a brain teaser for you:  if you study the mural carefully, you will find the artists has placed one tile upside down.