By Karen Wells
A larger than life portrait mural of Jack “Jackie” Roosevelt Robinson is a fitting representation of the “larger-than-life” Major League Baseball (MLB) player who stepped up to bat for the Brooklyn Dodgers April 15, 1947.
A month into the season, his first swing broke the color line of the segregation policy of the MLB. Robinson’s player number was 42. Collaboration between Michael DeMarco, Our 42nd Avenue executive director; Dennis Karas, Cully Neighborhood News advertising manager; and local painter/art teacher John Vance brought the image of the legendary baseball social justice activist to life on the north-facing wall of 5140A N.E. 42nd Ave. two years ago.
In 2016, John asked Dennis if there was any opportunity to install a mural within the Cully neighborhood. During a negotiation meeting, Michael shared a photo of Robinson wearing his No. 42 jersey.
The number was a good fit for the Our 42nd Avenue, and the organization’s primary goal of supporting equity and inclusion of all who live, work, play and do business in Cully and along 42nd Avenue.
John used interlocking geometric shapes painted warm colors of red, yellow and orange – interspersed with cooler ones of blue, green and violet against a black background.
Together they create visual illusions of blocks, diamonds or mountains. Robinson’s image is emblazoned against this background of color. The sense of agency – his innate ability to exert power – is palpable to the viewer. He is positioned to take flight toward the next goal, the future.
John earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in 2004 from Parsons School of Design, New York City, and the following year he moved to Portland. He loves the physicality of producing murals, and the abundant trees, natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. John’s work can be seen at JohnnyTerrific.com/muralsgallery/.
Editor’s note: If you’d like to know more about Jackie Robinson, his life, and his influence on American culture, Karen shares her resources online. Visit ConcordiaPDX.org/jackierobinson
Karen Wells is a retired early childhood communit y educator, health and safety trainer.