Zoo Cain takes a break Wednesday morning from puttering around his barn in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Zoo Cain is a hip artist and lover of music with an extremely colorful background.

Driving past his farmstead in the Danville Junction area of Auburn, he looks like a quintessential hippie, especially when standing next to his art truck. The longtime Portland-based artist has a positive outlook on life despite a difficult past. He credits embracing art, music and nature for his survival and is getting back to nature as a farmer with his wife in their new homestead.

As a young artist, he did what he needed to fuel his passion, he said.

“I’d head out with a shovel and a sledgehammer and do whatever type of labor needed so I could pay the bills and feed my art habit,” he said. “I worked as a dishwasher, painter . . . whatever I could find to keep me going. I didn’t need much.”

Being in the first few rows of the legendary Woodstock music festival in upstate New York in 1969 rubbed off on him. His experience still resonates in his lifestyle and art today.

Shortly after the concert at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, Cain signed up for the military, where he could choose to be a medic instead of possibly carrying a gun if he was drafted. When he got busted with a few pot seeds, they reassigned him to be a helicopter gunner.


“That’s where the trouble began and eventually I got out with an honorable (discharge), but it wasn’t pretty,” he said. “But me and the VA are all good now.”

After a rough go of drug and alcohol abuse, Cain said he found sobriety and has since worked diligently in a 12-step program, actively involved in helping with meetings and supporting the recovery community.

Cain has been a fixture in the Portland area art community where he had a thriving studio and gallery on Valley Street. However, in 2018 a fire destroyed hundreds of pieces he was storing there while transitioning to his new studio in Westbrook.

That’s about the time he started decorating his pickup truck.

“I call it my Celebration Of Life Truck,” he said while puttering at his farm.

“We always wanted to have a big place of our own to farm and we found this perfect spot,” he said. “We just love it here and love the L-A area.”

The front of Zoo Cain’s Toyota Tundra truck is a colorful sight. The artist and his wife recently moved to a farm in Auburn he says is a “perfect spot.” Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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