International Mural by Mail Project

I’ve been participating in an interesting collaborative art experience for the past month. It’s called the International Mural by Mail Project through Elisabeth Jones Art Center in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Cedar Lee working with fellow Portland artists: International Mural by Mail project: Elisabeth Jones Art Center

We get mural designs that were started by artists all around the world. These paintings are on 8-foot by 16-foot pieces of paper or vinyl. I’m part of a small group of local Portland artists painting these murals in the art center after hours.

Cedar Lee working with fellow Portland artists: International Mural by Mail project: Elisabeth Jones Art Center

Then, we then send them back to the artists in other countries. So far I have worked on murals from artists in Egypt, Iran, Russia, Spain, Australia and more!

A back-and-forth ensues until the mural is deemed complete. There will be an exhibit of all the finished murals at the end.

Cedar Lee working with fellow Portland artists: International Mural by Mail project: Elisabeth Jones Art Center

Here are a few of the murals that I’ve contributed to or started before sending off to international artists. It is both challenging and fun to collaborate with other artists in this way! Deciding where to take a painting is often an interesting puzzle, when the artist who last worked on it it is not there, so you have to guess what was in their mind.

Cedar Lee working with fellow Portland artists: International Mural by Mail project: Elisabeth Jones Art Center

Sometimes we may take a painting in a direction the other artist did not intend, but the twists and turns of a long-distance collaboration is part of the intention of the project. Once we add our bit, we have to let go of the outcome because another artist may change direction. And, when we get a new painting to work on, we have to work with whatever may be in front of us, even if it means struggling to figure out what to do next.

Cedar Lee working with fellow Portland artists: International Mural by Mail project: Elisabeth Jones Art Center

It is also wonderful to connect with fellow local artists and make creative decisions together. We spread the huge paintings out on the floors, surrounded by the art center’s beautiful installations.

We have fun painting together in the empty art center late into the evening.

Cedar Lee working with fellow Portland artists: International Mural by Mail project: Elisabeth Jones Art Center

You may recognize this red-tailed hawk from my painting, “Soaring.” I decided to use it as the basis for starting one of the murals!

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