The kitschy paintings on black velvet sold at thrift stores and flea markets get the full highbrow treatment at Portland's Velveteria. The offbeat museum, which recently moved to a bigger and better location at 2448 East Burnside Street, houses close to 2,000 velvet paintings, some 340 of which are on display at any time. The collection of garish works touches almost every imaginable subject. Cigarillo chomping banditos and teary-eyed clowns share wall space with John Wayne and with a disturbing simian card dealer in a work called Monkey Pit Boss. The pièce de résistance is a black-light room hung with 40 fluorescent masterworks. The museum's owners, Carl Baldwin and Caren Anderson, have spent 10 years hunting down the paintings and are happy to spin yarns about each one, from their first purchase—a portrait of a woman sporting a big blue Afro—to their latest gem-spangled Elvis. In fact, the partners have picked up so many treasures and stories that they've now produced a book called Black Velvet Masterpieces: Highlights from the Collection of the Velveteria Museum. You can buy one as you leave. (503) 233-5100, www.velveteria.com.
Photography by Susan Seubert
This article was first published in January 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.