June 2006


Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare’s second annual art show, artist’s reception, and fundraiser is Journey Through the Mind’s Eye.

(Well, actually “Cascadia” is a business, not an artist. And the artwork is not by the staff of Cascadia; the artist’s are people who receive services or housing or something through Cascadia. Only slavish employees or patronizing clinicians identify in this sort of collective “we.” In this case, perhaps both. The show does not take place in one of Cascadia’s dozens of buildings bought with public dollars. And I doubt the show received any financial support from Cascadia – not billable hours, after all.)

Meet the artists, explore visual and other art, purchase your favorites works, and support a studio run by individuals who rely on art to lead them to their recovery from mental illnesses.

Here’s the 2005 flyer for the first annual event. Curious how it links to the Cascadia site – which does not link back. Hmm.

Both of these paintings, the red flowers and the blonde horse, are by James Harger. I am bringing my checkbook, James. I hope you’re there.

Opening Artist’s Reception and Fundraiser Friday, July 7, 2006 6 – 9 PM

I like “Opening Artist’s” replacing the typical “artist’s opening.”

Here’s a bunch of info about prepping for the 2005 event. (PDF file)

At ecoPDX at 2289 North Interstate Ave., Portland, 97227. This looks like a cool place.

Call or write for tickets: 503-552-6265 or events@cascadiabhc.org (this email address does not work for people outside of Cascadia). No price given or address to write to. Phone number is for an admin staff person at Cascadia, not an artist or person receiving services.

Art will hang and remain on sale at ecoPDX until July 30.

For all the promotional blunders, the artwork looks very interesting.

Read – Through art, they master peace of mind – The Oregonian, July 7
Studio – Cascadia Behavioral clients paint their way past society’s labels about mental illness

To celebrate the 100th post and the 10,000 unique visitor to Portland Public Artwork, we introduce this blog’s photo archive of artworks, now available through Picasa’s web album.

Click here to see the full archive – or in the future simply click on the Picasa logo on the right hand side of the screen.

Currently archive “albums” are divided by the five sections of the city – North, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and then more specifically downtown, St. Johns, Washington Park, Vancouver Washington, Pill Hill (OHSU) and Portland State University. Photos are still being uploaded, not all are in place now. Close to 250 megabytes of images are now available.

The archive is the largest photographic archive of public art in Oregon. It is not limited to a specific collection, but to the whole city. Because the archive is limited only by geography and artistic merit (and this blog is consistently liberal with both of those boundaries) it will eventually be significantly larger than archives available through RACC or the Oregon Art Museum or the Oregon Art Commission. Once captions to each picture are added the archive will surpass all public internet repositories of public artwork in Oregon, perhaps in the nation, perhaps in the world.

The archive is also completely interactive. Like this blog, you can leave a comment about any piece of art. Please add information! For many artworks, especially non-traditional work, it’s almost impossible to source the artists name or precisely when the work was made. In many places, the archive needs names of the artist, dates the work was made, materials, sizes, titles and background about the work and it’s context.

Please feel free and welcome to use the pictures in any way you like. Of course the archive works perfectly with any browser and cost nothing to create.

Phew.

A series of six shiny silver squared pedestals, about 18 inches on each face, with a large rock on top. The height of each pedestals is measured so the rocks are level as the sidewalk is at a mild incline.

Provocative? No. Beautiful? No. A reminder of our collective experience? No. Happy surplus? No. Expensive crap? Yes.

Right on the SW Sixth Avenue Transit Mall – just one errant bus could take this series out with a hard left hand swerve.

Called Soaring Stones, these were created by John T Young of Seattle in 1990 for the Rouse Corporation’s Park Place Ltd. in 1990. Young is on the faculty of the University of Washington, which also hosts the best of the rest of his awful artwork on their web site.

So who cares? Soaring Stones was paid for and is maintained by the shopping mall – a private concern. It didn’t cost us anything. Just tourists and lawyers and the homeless look at it. And people who ride the bus. And bike messengers. And people who are lost. And people who work at the mall. And lunch time wanderers. And annual parade watchers. Hell that’s sufficient, a quorum.

Regardless of who pays for a piece of public art – as long as it takes a public space it remains public business, our mutual concern. And art is not relative, not in the eye of the beholder, and not something obscure or academic or requiring a license to undestand.

What’s true with Young’s Soaring Stones is 99% of those sharing the sidewalk absolutely ignore it.

Finally, art is hard to make and harder to sell. When bad + expensive art is given a prominent and permanent place, it discourages artists to even attempt to create or market their art. Keeping Soaring Stones, and not sacrificing a bus to demolishing it, is a minor selfish act with wide repercussions.

UPDATE December 2006 – As part of the renovation of the Portland Bus Mall, this sculpture has been removed. Don’t hold your breath for it to reappear.

A twenty-five foot tall message in sign language?

An expensive art school project parked?

A trophy from the former Soviet Union?

An enormous frozen Talos buried under NW 5th and Glisan in a anonymous parking lot?

What the hell is this? Why is it sitting in a parking lot in downtown Portland?


After the controversy of siting the Oregon Holocaust Memorial has died down it’s time to take a look at what’s there.

The location in Washington Park was worth fighting for. It’s absolutely exquisite, calm and quiet, surrounded by high timbers, gardens and winding paths. It’s very accessible, and yet alone – a solemn mystery in the woods.

As you come up the stone path early morning a startling corner-of-your-eye sight. A doll (a child) black (burned?) left behind (abandoned?) set modestly on a curved stone bench. There’s another – what’s that? A suitcase?

Step to the level ground. Trees shape a bowl, bright blue sky above. Things are strewn about a dignified park. A black wrought-iron streetlamp.

What are these things? A child’s shoe. A broken violin. Cracked spectacles. A bent menorah, spilt.

The items make a wandering trail to a heavy solemn wall of stone. Tears are streaming down my face. Why? Because I have a soul.

Approach the gray marble, the mass of text blotted out with tears, gravel crunching under foot. This memory device – this memorial – made by those who followed, to clearly know what happened, to understand the cause and effect, to teach to illuminate to illustrate, to change the hearts of others who follow. The text, beautifully scripted by John Laursen of Press-22, is grueling. Facing the forest wall of life are the names of the families of current Oregonians lost in the Nazi genocide.

Does remembering the past alter the future? Possibly, immeasurably. But the black cloud of hatred and death continues unabated. Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Afghanistan Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan. It’s happening right now, today.

Can a soul be touched, changed? Absolutely.

So the second function of this memorial, and those like it scattered in civilized communities, is to serve as a placeholder for those who did not survive to create their own memorial. When they arrive, I hope Portland can give them a nicer welcome.

Work begins on long delayed Oregon Holocaust Memorial – The Jewish Review

Oregon Holocaust Memorial – Pacific University, which is part of the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center.

Holocaust Memorial, Portland, OR – City of Dust – blog, July 2005

Holocaust Memorial Finished – The Jewish Review, September 2004

Holocaust memorial dedicated in Washington Park – KATU, August 2004

Very depressing. I strongly identified with the visiting parents who come to see what’s become of the $100,000 in tuition, fees, room & board they’ve paid out.

SHRIEK!

I can’t describe the show, other than the artwork was sloppy and thought-free. I didn’t want to take pictures, and can’t encourage anyone to go visit.

I go to this show every year, mostly because it takes place between this and that for me. Every year there is something that makes the viewer cringe – the nature of developing spirits. But this year the show – across the board – was alarmingly bad.

No – the arithmetic to becoming an artist has never penciled out. If you want educational ROI look at name-brand schools in big cities and prep for MBA and never MFA.

All the Pacific Northwest College of Art spaces are interesting. The equipment is fine. The location is terrific. The cost is steep but standard. The staff + faculty are nice, accessible, usually adequate instructors, and often are still making art themselves. There’s plenty of coffee and the PNCA library is fine, cozy – but very usable.

So what’s the problem? Ahh – the remaining factor. The students.

This poem ran in the Oregon Journal to welcome Alice Cooper’s Sacajawea to Portland’s Washington Park.

In yonder city, glory crowned,
Where art will vie with art to keep
The memories of those heroes green,
The flush of conscious pride should leap
To see her fair memorial stand
Among the honored names that be
Her face toward the sunset, still
Her finger lifted toward the sea!

No history research required here beyond Portland’s parks site.

A bronze statue of Sacajawea, the heroic Shoshone Indian woman who helped lead the Lewis and Clark explorers through the mountains of the west, is located near the Chiming fountain.

Mounted on a rough boulder, it was first unveiled on July 7, 1905, at the Lewis and Clark Centennial. Among those present at the unveiling were Susan B. Anthony, Abigail Scott Duniway, and Eva Emery Dye.

The project was promoted and paid for by subscriptions solicited nationwide by a group of Portland women headed by Mrs. Sarah Evans.

The committee commissioned Alice Cooper of Denver, at that time an understudy of Lorado Taft, to sculpt the statue. It was cast in New York and required more than 20 tons of Oregon copper, donated by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe of Portland.

In April 1906, the statue was placed in its current location in Washington Park. Its inscription reads, “Erected by the women of the United States in memory of the only woman in the Lewis & Clark expedition, and in honor of the pioneer mother of Oregon.”

Some parts of the Portland Parks & Rec. web site are great. Why rewrite history? Here is a longish section from their site…

In the main circle of the park is what is simply referred to as the Washington Park fountain, although some call it the Chiming Fountain.

Water drips chime-like from one bronze pan to another, and gargoyles around the base spout water.

Commissioned by the city for $400 in 1891, the cast iron fountain was created by Hans Staehli, a Swiss woodcarver and artist, who designed it after a Renaissance fountain. Originally the fountain was painted white and was topped by a cast iron figure of a boy holding a staff from which water spouted.

At some point over the years, the figure disappeared. The last known record of it was in 1912 when McElroy’s band was photographed in concert nearby.

In 1960, the fountain was in such disrepair that the city was ready to scrap it. Local longshoreman Francis J. Murnane, whose avocation was the preservation of historic buildings and objects, appealed to Mayor Terry Schrunk and the park bureau was authorized to begin restoration.

Much of the original decoration had disappeared so replicas were created from existing pieces for $450. With the additional costs of reassembly and installation, the total came to a little over $1,772 – considered a good investment in art circles!

Enough!

1. The fountain looks today as if no one has tended to it since 1960. Rust, cracks, shifting concrete. It’s a mess. A quick sand-blasting, a new cast concrete pool and a coat of paint might save it.

2. There are no rabble-rousing art-loving longshoremen left. Perhaps an enterprising history-loving hippie might take on the powers that be. Anyone out there to love a cast iron faux Renaissance fountain?

3. And those powers would be? City Councilman Dan Saltzman at dsaltzman@ci.portland.or.us, and Parks Director Zari Santner at Pkzari@ci.portland.or.us.

Portland’s finest, Washington Park is a complicated set of areas, covering almost 130 acres. Let’s take a few days and closely examine a dozen or so pieces of artwork in the park.

The formal entrance to the park is at the peak of SW Park Place (not to be confused with SW Park Avenue downtown). There is a monument to memorialize the travails of the Corps of Discovery. Henry Walton Goode and Henry Corbett, presidents of the Lewis & Clark exposition both have memorial plaques. The monument includes a single pedestal with four circular bronze plaques marking the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. There’s not much of a scorch mark left.

Portland’s parks department allows any citizen to make a recommendation – to essentially buy – a piece of park furnishing or to place a suitable RACC-friendly piece of art in our parks. It’s an ingenious notion which seems mostly to be made up of memorial benches.

Visit the Portland Parks Washington Park web site.
Visit the Portland Parks Citizen Initiated Projects site.

None are more thought provoking than the memorial to Wesley Hewitt, a simple wood and iron bench, symbolically surrounded by irises. I am very glad to see the original bulbs have bloomed again this season.

Wes had been mad for a while, but 1997 was all about running. Yes he had been a bright prospect – admitted to Reed at 16, a musician, a martial artist, a spiritual seeker. In 1997 music didn’t mean anything anymore. Family was far far away. A divine spirit burned fiercely inside him, and blocked out everything else. He flitted about all over the nation, a dream in the daylight.

Tired. He must have been tired. It’s such a battle – and Wes was full of battle. On his final night, after being rejected and then ejected by the ER staff at Good Samaritan Hospital, Wes somehow clambered up to the brick plaza of the Lewis & Clark Memorial, drank gasoline, poured the rest over his head, and lit a match.

There isn’t an explanation or anyway to understand why. There just isn’t. Margie Boule wrote a wonderful article. Advocates for people with mental illness came together for a emotional memorial. A civil trial vs. Good Sam went nowhere. What can you do?

You can remember him as he would want to be remembered – at his best. So when you trundle through to smell the roses, stop for a moment and consider the irises and sit on Wes’ bench. I imagine he would appreciate it.

Map of Washington Park (PDF file)

Remember “informal” and “murky”? Still the operating principle in the City of Portland art purchases. And – it’s completely complicated inserting art into architecture, or getting artists and architects to work together. There are examples around town where art works with it’s surroundings – or is neutral like Georgia Gerber’s wonderful water animals on the transit mall – but the more common result is a collision.

Judy Pfaff’s large fiberglass and metal sculpture attached to the ODS building downtown is the most horrendous example. Just feel sorry for everyone. Ruined, perverted. I’ve been avoiding writing about this – Randy Gragg wrote about this conflict, and Pfaff’s piece in the Oregonian when it was unveiled in 2000. Ilan Averbuch’s installation at the east end of the Broadway Bridge is another example. The first impression of the artwork is RACC (in 1995) was too cheap to mail Averbuch a Polaroid of the site.

Well, yesterday RACC sent out a press release announcing the unveiling of a sculpture of former Portland mayor Vera Katz. A minor comment on the work – the press release neither included an image of the artwork or the name of the artist. Uh oh – red flag.

Don’t assume politics. I think Vera was a great mayor (and we’re really on a streak of great mayors – considering Portland’s history!)

I would like to see some sort of artistic commemoration of both Neil Goldschmidt who just about single-handedly saved this town from becoming Spokane, and of Bud Clark. Henk Pander did a classic portrait of Bud near the end of his term. I’d love to know where that picture is now.

Both KATU and OPB forgot to mention the artist or comment on the work. The Oregonian, KGW, KOIN, KXL, et al forgot to show up.

The plaque hasn’t been installed yet. The signature on the bronze is “R W B######” just a scrawl. Well, we’ll find out eventually. I guess it doesn’t matter.

UPDATE – JUNE 7 – The artist of the Vera Katz sculpture is Bill Bane of Newberg.

What matters is the artwork. It’s meant to fit into the environment, and to some extent it does. Vera is a small person (actually I think this body is circa 1975 and the face is circa 1990) and her sculpture is small too. Accessible. You’ll see over the decades plenty of snapshots of tourists posing, sitting side by side. The face is recognizable, lips, teeth, brow, all similar.

You’re trotting along, minding your own business, and hey! There’s Vera. Rain or shine.

The pose is a big problem. The face is open and engaged, both listening and expressing, but her body is a knot, clenched, tight, crossed up. Actually the teeth are clenched, she clenches a handkerchief in her hand, legs are crossed – she is accessible – to a point.

If the pose expresses the message, and form follows function, this artwork should have taken the form of a snarky letter to a local libertarian blog. Not a $70,000 (my estimate, RACC doesn’t make purchase costs public) bronze sculpture.

Following from the awkward and uninformative pose is the choice of clothing. She’s dressed in sensible shoes, plain pants and an anonymous jacket – no expression. A high collar swaths her neck. A set of gravity defying pearls. A dead rose pinned to her breast.

My theory is the artist worked from snapshots – and did not have Vera pose for the artwork. The pose might have looked great in 2-D, but fails completely in 3-D.

Go see it yourself. On the east bank of the downtown esplanade, now renamed the Vera Katz Esplanade just north of the fire station at the foot of the Hawthorne Bridge.

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