It’s New Year’s Eve 2007. Our resolution at Portland Public Art is to remain aloof to style and ever anonymous. Our continuing goals are to skip the prestigious art politic, catcall the artful and overpaid, find the overlooked genius mixed evenly with the banal, remind the unwary the meandering boundaries of kitsch, explain pointless provincial details for history and geography at great length, and finally capture, chronicle, describe and define Portland’s artwork which exists in the public world.

The bronze sculpture pictured here is not in Portland, but in nearby Sandy, Oregon – a turgid bedroom community, with stupid dangerous cops, and about the only eastbound road over Mount Hood.

The artwork is by Roger McGee of Enterprise, Oregon. Sculpted first in clay, cast and sited in 1987 in Sandy, Oregon adjacent to Meinig Memorial Park (home of the annual Sandy Mountain Festival) and a fairly good donut shop.

Skiers keep their eyes glued on brakelights, so although this artwork overlooks a two lane, one way highway, it doesn’t get much attention from visitors.

The bronze (shown in the B&W photo in clay with McGee, the artist) is dedicated “in loving memory E W “Ernie” Eldridge and all veterans of foreign wars – The Eldridge Family.” Eldridge died in 1987. His daughter Kathleen is long affiliated with the local chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors and sits with the local Chamber of Commerce.

It’s quite a peculiar piece of artwork, perhaps because of the rural and bucolic environs. That’s a M-16 he’s toting, and quite a mustache, on a Vietnam era US field soldier. A carefully detailed puzzle piece, out of place, out of context, intrusive.

Included with the bronze are a high screen of evergreen bushes and a flag pole with both the stars and stripes and the black Vietnam War POW flag (“You are not forgotten”). Clearly this work, it’s sponsorship, and it’s strange context are part of that theme, of not forgetting that ridiculous criminal war, of reviving or honoring or respecting or memorializing the soldiers who served, and their leaders who connived, lied and ordered genocide.

Out of context, a visitor could assume dignity and purpose. In context, a visitor would feel shame and revulsion.

Feel bad about what happened in Vietnam? Those who kindled and fed this war are still alive and exist within this context of no context. Give Robert McNamara a piece of your mind – (202) 667-5550, 700 New Hampshire Ave NW # 101, Washington DC, 20037-2407 (Watergate Apartments).