There are so many good people doing cool and interesting things underneath this McMenamins’ umbrella, and certainly among the most remarkable are the artists and the wondrous work they do all around us! At the moment, around 25 artists are immersed in the creation of panels for the new Anderson School project in Bothell, Washington. More about that in a future post. For today, we spotlight the latest work of Lyle Hehn, who has been amazing and befuddling us for decades with ingenious, clever, thought-provoking, convoluted and stunning panels, murals, pipe-elbows, etc.
And his latest is one of the best yet, for sure. Depicting a gathering in celebration of the Hillsdale Pub & Brewery, past and present are appropriately intertwined, and appearances and tributes are made by several icons (created at different times over the years by the artist’s hand and imagination) hailing from other Mc realms and/or dimensions. It’s worth a special trip to the Hillsdale to take it all in!
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Because no one else is capable of adequately explaining Lyle’s work, we’re going to let him tell you in his own words about this piece:
My job was to do a painting that commemorates the history of McMenamins Hillsdale Pub in Portland, Oregon, and the rather ritualistic and musical tasting parties that regularly take place there.
Imagine you are dreaming of walking into the scene of Da Vinci’s famous mural “The Last Supper.” People are lined up along one side of a long table, and this reminds you of how people sit at tables during press conferences and panel discussions. This thought causes your unstable dream reality to supply microphones to the center of the table, and soon the whole scene transforms itself until it reminds you of Lewis Carroll’s “Mad Tea Party.”
The party has just begun. The music has started, but the glasses are still empty. The champagne has just been opened and wine is being served out of a water pump on the table. There’s an empty chair at the center and you are the Guest of Honor. The drinking can’t start until you take your place and give a short speech to the assembled panel.
The twelve members of the Panel are, from left to right: “Alice” (otherwise known as the girl in the bas-relief sculptures at the Kennedy School). She’s only having tea; Hammerhead; Seamus McDuff; Dad Watson; the Crystal Ballroom Jester; Twin Wind Goddess Bagpipers from Edgefield; Ruby; John Barleycorn; Satan the Cat as the Cheshire Cat; Fred Eckhardt as the Mad Hatter (only without a hat); The Black Rabbit from Edgefield as the White Rabbit.
Various ghosts of the Slavin Family, who lived on the site of the Pub in the 19th Century, observe in the background.
Another spectral witness, on the left, is Max Zimmerman, local master-brewer from the 20th Century, who supplied us with the mystical ingredient-1945 Lanson Champagne (see note below for additional info about Max).
The rest of the painting is crowded with graphic symbols from McMenamins company history and a number of its locations in Oregon and Washington.Twin Fish Gods (from the Spar Tavern in Olympia) guard the central Crystal Ball that lights up the scene. They are holding hydrometers from Max Zimmerman’s estate.
The mushrooms are from the Rock Creek Tavern. The Barley Mill sits behind “Alice”, while the Hillsdale copper kettle (another item from the Zimmerman estate) can be seen behind John Barleycorn. Smiling down on the whole scene is the Thundercone Ale clown, on either side at the top, providing rumbling percussion to the music.
Now don’t you just want to take a seat with these fine folks and join the celebration?
Lastly, a note offering a few more details about the significance of one panelist, Max Zimmerman:
Max Zimmerman was a famous Brew Master. He worked for Blatz Brewing in the Mid-West, then was recruited to come to Portland to oversee brewing at Blitz-Weinhard. After he passed away, his son John, a Hillsdale regular invited Mike and Brian McMenamin to his father’s estate sale. In addition to procuring what would become the Hillsdale’s original mash tun and brew kettle, they found an un-open case of 1945 Lanson Champagne. Can you imagine? 1945 was possibly the finest vintage of the century in France. It was the end of the war. It was French Independence. And the case of wine was in great condition but for two bottles. For ten years straight this Champagne was the foundation ingredient of our Barley Mill Pub Anniversary Ale, which of course is always brewed at the Hillsdale Pub. The first bottle inspired the name of the 1986 anniversary ale, Longevity. The last bottle went into the batch of 1995, fifty years after the end of the war. For a visual of this, go see Jenny Joyce’s fabulous panel at the Barley Mill Pub.