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'Out-create the negativity': Portland artist using sidewalk as outdoor art gallery

Efrain Palermo has created "fantastical" art for years. Art shows & festivals are canceled, so he's taking art to the streets in his own way for Labor Day weekend.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Ask anyone who creates, and you’ll quickly discover their outlet.

“I feel like I’m just a conduit you know, I’m just letting it flow,” said Efrain Palermo in front of his home on Southeast Boise Street. A handyman by trade, Palermo is also a talented artist who loves to share his work.

“I also consider myself a citizen scientist,” he smiled, gesturing toward a piece he did that has roots in biology. “It has parts of a cell, like the nucleus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum. You know, things you might remember from high school biology, right?”

Palermo calls his style “fantastical.” Each one of his pieces has a theme, ranging from karate to mushrooms, and from now on every piece he does will have a hint of COVID inspiration.

His unique process begins with bending thin layers of wood to create a custom frame. When that’s completed, he fills the frame with plaster, carves out the texture and paints it.

“I like to transport someone out of the present situation," Palermo said. "Bring them into present time, but looking at something that catches their eye, but also catches your mind.”

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

With art shows and festivals canceled for the summer, Palermo wanted to bring a little slice of life to his corner of the neighborhood. This weekend, he’s turning the sidewalk outside his home into an outdoor gallery for anyone to come and enjoy.

“There’s some art in the world, some positivity. There’s some love, know what I’m saying? There’s creativity.”

It’s that creativity that he wants others to see, to experience. And he wants people to embrace their own delicate processes.

“Actually what happens is, in some of these cases things break, actually break in half or totally destroyed," he said. "But I use the breakage as part of the work: Yeah, they break but how do I put it back together? And I think that’s actually a lesson in life as well. Because life is hard, what do you do when things happen? Do you throw it away? Or do you actually use that, that scar tissue or whatever is, to enhance your next phase.”

Palermo is calling his outdoor gallery "An Evolution of an Art Style." It will be on display Sept. 5-7, from noon until 7 p.m. at 4217 SE Boise St. in Portland.

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