The art and character of parked bikes, coming to Alberta Street

Detail from show flyer.

As an unabashed bike nerd myself, local artist Chris Davis is someone I relate to. When he sees bikes parked on the streets of Portland, he doesn’t just see wheels and metal tubing, he sees an underlying character; a character he has attempted to manifest in a series of paintings that will be on display in a cafe on Alberta Street through the month of June.

I asked Davis to share a little more about the inspiration behind them. I liked his answer so much I thought I’d share it in its entirety:

“Little Brother” by artist Chris Davis.
More of his work here.

“I was a messenger in San Francisco for a couple of years, in the ’90’s. There was a delivery I made once, to the Westin St. Francis, and as I was parking my bike, locking it to a parking meter or whatever, one of the doormen came up to me. He was dressed in this pretty wacky Renaissance Faire sort of outfit, and he walked up to my bike while my radio was squawking at me, said something, and made this sort of motion like he was bringing water to my thirsty horse, which he’d take care of while I ran inside. Which was a hugely goofy idea, of course, but I was kind of cosmically amused by it.

Ever since then, I’ve always liked to look at my bike as having a sort of character, the way I imagine riders used to relate to their horses — which probably weren’t so easy to just look at as vehicles or machines or toys or “a mode of transportation.” So, to come back to all the figurative practice I’d been doing, since I started drawing and painting bikes here in Portland, I’ve tried to find those sorts of cues in posture and gesture, the clues to character in all the stiff, inanimate bikes that people leave locked up and leaning all over town.”

The titles he gives to his paintings gives you those “clues to character”: “The Shimmer of My Tassle,” “Nuzzling Grips,” “Little Brother.” You can see more of Davis’ paintings on this Flickr set.

Davis’ paintings are on paper using primarily acrylics, but he also uses watercolors and ink as well. His bike paintings will be on display at Suzette Crepes (2921 NE Alberta) through the month of June (opening reception is this Thursday night, 6-9:00pm)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Anne Hawley
13 years ago

What gorgeous work. I may have to brave Last Thursday to go have a look.

13 years ago

unless you are an alcoholic, i’d recommend coming to alberta on any day _except_ last thursday.

13 years ago

yay! this is so great to see! suzette has been kind enough to host several shift meetings. jehnee, the owner, is super excited about “bike month” at suzette. she’s showing 4 free bike-related movies throughout the month of june in honor of pedalpalooza.

here’s what she sent out in a recent email:

On Friday we begin our Alberta Street Bicycle Movie Festival.
5/28 Bicycle Thief (1948) 7 pm
6/4 Breaking Away (1979) 7 pm
6/11 Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) 7 pm
6/18 Beijing Bicycle (2001) 7 pm

hurray for the month of june.