"expose yourself to art ™"
The story behind the story
In late 1979, Errol M. Beard, a friend of photographer Mike Ryerson and the model Bud Clark, was starting his print and poster art business at the same time the image for “expose yourself to art” was created and the now famous text was selected for the poster being developed. From the start Errol thought “expose yourself to art” was the perfect mantra for his new business and wanted to use the phrase as his new art publishing company's mantra. Spoke with Mike and Bud about it on many occasions but the image was gaining popularity by the day. It was shortly after this that Errol began doing work on "The Bridges of Portland" print with David Woliver. Michael Ryerson was marketed the poster successfully for a few years then in the early 1990s Errol now ErrolGraphics (The Mt Hood JAZZ Festival, Portland Bridges, The American Skyscraper, Golden Gate Bridge, Artquake, The Bite, Hawthorne Bridge, Empire State Building…) became the exclusive distributor for the poster. A few years latter the copyright rights and the TM were acquired by E. Michael Beard from Michael Ryerson. Errol has been watching over the image and mark "expose yourself to art™" ever since adding the mark to all ErrolGraphic’s images as his mantra.
Ryerson's story, how and why the image initially was created and distributed in the early years, is below. Please read it as it is an excellent description of the act of “creative process” and how inspiration plays a role in creative process, regardless of one’s chosen discipline.
The poster still sells throughout the world and a few times a year individuals, corporations, universities and non-profit organizations request the copyright rights to use the image and trademark in their marketing campaigns, publications or movies. Some of the places where it has been used are listed on ErrolGraphics' Page: http://www.errolgraphics.com/pages/credits.php
“expose yourself to art™” is viewed by individuals, art retailers, poster publishers, poster distributors and art aficionado's around the world as one of most recognized poster prints of the past 50 years.
expose yourself to art™
by Michael Ryerson / Photographer of the image "expose yourself to art"
It began 25 years ago this coming March. I was putting together a neighborhood newspaper in my home in Portland. At around 5 or 6 in the morning, I heard someone shut the front door upstairs and come clumping down the steps.
As I looked up, I saw a pair of heavy work boots and bare legs, then an overcoat and a bearded face with a funny looking hat on the top of it. It was my friend and neighbor, Bud Clark.
The first words out of his month were, "Are you ready to go?" "Go where?" I asked. "To go flashing," he replied. "Did you forget what we were talking about last night?" I finally remembered that I had agreed to take a photo of him exposing himself to a nude statue on the downtown bus mall (Norman J. Taylor's statue, titled "Kvinneakt", which means nude woman in Norwegian). The idea had seemed very funny the night before, but for some reason the humor went away in my sleep.
Bud was very active on the Venereal Disease Action Council, and he wanted to make a poster drawing attention to their cause. The Council had produced a T-shirt to promote awareness in the high schools, which at the time had an alarmingly high level of this problem. It was titled "Zap the Clap," which was on the T- Bud was very active on the Venereal Disease Action Council, and he wanted to make a poster drawing attention to their cause. The Council had produced a T-shirt to promote awareness in the high schools, which at the time had an alarmingly high level of this problem. It was titled "Zap the Clap," which was on the T- shirt he was wearing (under the overcoat).
We arrived downtown at daybreak. It was a Sunday morning, and there was hardly any traffic. Bud quickly struck a few poses, and I snapped five frames of him flashing the statue. He defended himself by saying it looked like the nude was flashing him. Before we left, we took a couple of shots of Bud in his short pants and the "Zap the Clap" T-shirt.
Once back to my basement I developed the film, and we had a good laugh imagining one of the shots as a poster. Several captions came to mind but we really couldn't settle on anything. One I remember was, "Expose yourself to the arts." We both agreed that we should run the photo in our neighborhood paper (The Neighbor) and let the readers name it. We offered a $25 prize to the person who came up with the line we would eventually use.
Several hundred people responded with some very funny and clever entries. My favorite is still, "Wanna buy a watch?" We also got a few angry letters from women who were offended by our joke.
Three readers submitted "Expose yourself to art," and it seemed like a natural for a poster to promote the arts.
Nothing was done with our idea for several months because nobody was willing to invest $500 to get a couple of thousand copies printed. I approached the board of the Northwest District Association with a proposal that would allow them 50% of any profits that I might make off the idea. They had a good laugh too.
One board member Penny Davis offered me the money, and insisted I just pay her back when I could. I accepted her kind offer and immediately had the poster printed.
Now the real challenge: How would I sell this thing? By chance, the Neighborfair was coming up the next weekend and I was already committed to being there. A good place to test it. I bought two bags of rubber bands and took the posters to the waterfront, where the event was being held. With some borrowed masking tap, I hung a copy from the edge of a folding table. (Hardly an adequate marketing approach for this kind of fine-art-print.) The price was $1.00.
The first lady bought two copies one for her and one for the dog who damaged the sample. I knew I had a hit. For the rest of the day the dollars keep pouring in. I sold 800 copies, enough to pay Penny back and still have over $300 in profit.
I then mailed the remaining copies, along with a PRICE LIST, to poster shops and art galleries around the county to see how big the market might be. Bang! I had a winner. Orders for thousands came in.
The Neighbor newspaper, my main livelihood at the time, was hurting financially. In the next five years we sold over 250,000 copies of the poster, and they made their way all around the world. The profits were a real shot in the arm for our publication. We also marketed post cards, note cards and T-shirts. I always wanted to see how the image would have sold on shower curtains as well. The bottom line was, Penny Davis kept neighborhood journalism alive in Northwest Portland.
During those years the poster was being copied by every rip-off distributor around the country. One buyer in New York alerted me that a guy named Johnny Palacino was printing his own and selling thousands on the East Coast. I naively jumped on a plane to New York to seek out this dishonest individual and politely advised him to stop stealing from me. I found Johnny in Manhattan, and I gave him a call to try and hook up with him. He informed me that I had the wrong Johnny Palacino and that I better go home. He kept printing his own copies and I left him alone. He was pretty nice about it though. I realize now that I could have been walking on the bottom of the Hudson River wearing cement loafers.
Lara Sydney, owner of Lara Sydney Framing, located at 12th and NW Holt was a teenager in the 1980s and assisted in the rolling and shipping of the thousands of posters that where shipped to the galleries and poster retailers around the country. (The framing for the "expose yourself to art print" on display was courtesy of Lara Sydney Framing).
In 1983 Bud told me that he was planning to run for mayor of Portland. My first thought was I hope that poster doesn't damage his chances. The next May he was elected and the incumbent Frank Ivancie had only referred to "The Flasher" in a last-ditch effort when he trailed in the polls.
Time, Newsweek, Playboy and every major city newspaper picked up on the story. Bud even appeared on the Johnny Carson Show with the poster. A barkeep/flasher becoming a mayor was big news.
At first slighted by all the attention the poster was receiving, a show was arranged showing some of Norman Taylor's (the sculptor) works here in Portland. We became friends and he gave me a few copies of the renderings he made while developing the design for the statue. It was originally to be a male. That wouldn't have worked well for the poster.
The poster continued to sell, and Bud sold signed copies to help pay off his campaign debt (assisted by Errol). The operator of a curio shop on Cape Cod refused to let him sign his tattered copy in the summer of 1984, though. He knew this curious-looking fellow claiming to be the man in the poster—and further he thought the mayor-elect of Portland was wacko.
At the corner of Northwest 23rd and Lovejoy on the site of Good Samaritan Hospital, there's a stone engraved "1978." Behind it is a copper box that serves as a time-capsule. When the box is opened in maybe 100 years or so, they'll find a copy of the famous photo without a caption. We'll let them write their own.
First located at (1979): on 4th between SW Washington St. and Stark St. (east side of the street)
PRESENT location (today): on SW 6th between Morrison St. and Alder St. (east side of street)
expose yourself to art™ and ©1981