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.

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