A pair of Portland artists turn a new leaf with a one-of-a-kind bookstore.
The combined résumés of John Brodie and Blair Saxon-Hill read like an encyclopedia of Portland au courant. He managed mini jazz orchestra Pink Martini for a decade, owns quaint French crêperie Le Happy, and has shown his original artwork at events like the Oregon Biennial; she is a sculptor, painter, and installation artist represented by the ultra hip Fourteen30 Contemporary gallery. Now, the creative couple is busy adding a new chapter to their varied careers: owning a bookstore.
In May, the pair opened Monograph Bookwerks, a cozy shop in the Alberta Arts district. Inside, artist touches show themselves in warm walls bathed in burnt ochre, vintage book presses, and floor-to-ceiling built-ins (their own design, of course). Monograph draws on its owners’ artistic cachet in its selection, too, stocking a carefully curated array of books on modern and contemporary art and architecture, out-of-print titles from around the world, and small runs from local publishing houses. Expect to leaf through rare treasures like a tome on 20th-century modernist painter Marc Chagall with an original lithograph still bound in the pages or a collection of drawings done entirely in Microsoft Excel. “Part of the idea is to help people discover new artists they might not know,” Brodie says. In the process, the seasoned bibliophiles are making discoveries of their own. “People are always telling us about artists they love,” says Saxon-Hill.
The two are already contemplating using this new medium for art events and publishing projects. But for now, they’re taking it one page at a time.