sculpture


A wholesale car dealer in Milwaukie, Oregon has built a 60 foot replica of the Statue of Liberty in its parking lot at Roethe Road and McLoughlin Blvd.

EXTRA – more about this landmark at waymarking.com


I loath everything about Raymond Kaskey’s 1985 hammered copper sculpture, bolted to Michael Graves‘ Portland Building.

The name sounds like boosters at the City Club thought it up on a boozy Friday afternoon. The first mention of the name in the paper of record is in 1986. Yes there are female trident-carrying goddess types in local decorative artwork, but these were previously referred to as “Columbia,” a general 19th Century patriotic icon, not Portlandia.

The location, perched on the third floor landing of a garish pomo hybrid government building, surrounded now by leafy trees, is both incongruous and hard to see. An unsubtle message from the City Forester who has selected thirty foot trees to block views of the sculpture from distance at every angle.

(The best place to see Portlandia is the observation area directly across the street in the Standard Insurance building, available 24/7 if you say hello to the security guard. Take the outdoor escalators up one floor.)

The pose of the artwork, at its on the Portland Building, is patronizing. The unsubtle message is, “Here, let the City and County bureaucracy give you a hand up from that hole you have dug yourself into.” Hunched, blank eyed, expressionless, it’s an arrogant provincial spoof of the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps the original proposal called for a welcoming gesture, but in artistic execution and surrounding context that proposed meaning is lost.

An example of how the banality bears fruit; when describing Portlandia, invariably the comment is about how large the artwork is, or how difficult it was to make, or transport. Never about the message, grace or beauty.

Regular readers know my affection for 19th Century narrative sculpture. Kaskey apes the Classical / heroic monument style using witless content, revealing the banality of his patrons. Tho the artwork is maintained on the chamber of commerce tour, visitors are puzzled. She’s large, not graceful; large, but hidden; large but why is it large? All that copper for what? What’s the what?

This is such a collegial, convivial town, true consideration of Portlandia has been an unobserved chuckle, added to a list which later included the Portland Tram and Wapato Jail, as attempts by disconnected politicians to satisfy business interests at the expense of fiscal prudence.


Jack Ohman sums Portlandia up in a recent editorial cartoon in the Oregonian, spoofing both the expense of the Portland Building and it’s poor interior design.

EXTRA – Portlandia Turns 20 in 2005, from RACC


A home on Northeast Columbia Boulevard has kept a concrete monument of the former president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963, in office 1955-1963) in it’s front yard overseeing thousands of trucks and trains each day, for the past 20+ years.

Diem’s amazing, corrupt, and dynamic career set the stage for the US defeat in Southeast Asia. For some Vietnamese who profited greatly in the early years of the wars may consider Diem to be an modern leader for a tiny weak nation stuck between two superpowers. For the rest of the world he was a petty dictator propped up by the French and the US. History hasn’t been kind to Diem or his supporters, so it’s interesting to find this sculpture and note it’s duration in one place.

The features show a young Diem, heroic and masculine. The pedestal has a picture of elks – the sculpture doesn’t fit it correctly. It’s a mash up.

The sculpture is about two-times life size, and I estimate it’s weight at over 800 pounds. I doubt it was cast around here, so it must have been transported, by truck, from where it was cast – probably a community with a large number of Vietnamese in the 1970s, Seattle or San Jose – and the set in position using some sort of crane or hoist. Quite a complicated arrangement.

Another 19th Century plaster cast of a classic, this version of the Choiseul-Gouffier Apollo is a replica of a Roman copy of a lost, probably bronze, Greek original.

This sculpture (right) lives at the Portland Art Museum’s annex, the Mark Building.

The name is even misleading. Kouroi, or statues of naked male youth, were often called “apollos” as if all were images of the god. Choiseul-Gouffier is not the artist, but the French scholar Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste de Choiseul-Gouffier, ambassador to Greece and member of the L’Académie Française. Choiseul-Gouffier brought the marble sculpture from the Sublime Porte, and it’s home is now the British Museum (see image at the lower right).

Contemporary scholars call the sculpture and it’s many versions the Omphalos Apollo, a nickname taken from the navel stone which was found near the Greek original.

The left hand probably held a small bow, and the right either a bough of laurel or a quiver. At the bottom, a version at the Musei Capitolini in Rome, has had ambiguous hands added by it’s Roman craftsman. The full body from a side view forms a slight “S” shape; it’s head tilts away and down, regal and disengaged. The weight is on the left heel, the body is in motion, walking toward the viewer. The nakedness is shameless, elegant, and cold.

When the casts originally came to Portland their nakedness was described as immodest. I think it shows the power of the images to immediately ascribe them with a human character trait. The founders of the Museum decided for the general public the sculptures be dressed in tunics to cover their nakedness. Perhaps more revealing late evening tours were arranged for the burgeoning intelligencia.

Like the Doryphorus described below, this sculpture is stunning. Even with the seams and bolt holes left from a crude casting, the imperious genius of the Hellene artist and his god cuts through the centuries. A teaching tool to leverage a provincial cultural community, this item is still regularly visited and sketched.

Consider the billions of digital photographs littering the internet, taken from every angle, both old and new, together create an entire virtual world of replica images. We take them for granted, and use them to teach ourselves about the state of the world. We don’t doubt the reality of one because it always sits within a context of a billion similar images, all false. As Magritte says, “this is not a pipe.” No, it’s a painting of a dream of a pipe, and so this cast versions of artwork are also a dream of a dream, a bright focused light in the shadows of a pre-historical world.

Several stories to tell about the Portland Art Museum’s casts of Roman statues, which are replicas of early and lost Greek works, including this Doryphorus by Polykleitos (click the picture to enlarge).

Importantly and foremost, these casts were and are teaching tools; replicas yes, but fair representations from a time when travel was difficult and Naples was a far distant civilization. I don’t know why the museum bought a version without arms. Casts or replicas of important artworks was often the only way a provincial community could acquire a grand artwork, and an essential step in developing a curious arts community.

More about the 1890s cast collection at the Portland Art Museum web site.

This plaster cast of something like the Doryphorus of Polykleitos is still breathtaking in it’s simplicity and perfect 6-1 form. The Doryphorus is also called The Spear Carrier (see below, a excellent cast at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow). The original this cast was taken from is at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

According to a card describing the remaining collection in the ground floor hallways of the Mark Building (free and open daily, excellent for evading Springtime cloudbursts), “A group of 100 casts were acquired in 1893-94 by Winslow B Ayer, with funds donated by Henry W Corbett, both museum founders. As the museum acquired more original artworks, the importance of the casts to the museum’s program dwindled. The majority were eventually loaned to to local universities as educational resources for art students.”

Ayers was a lumber and railroad man. Mrs. Ayers went with him to Europe to buy the casts. The funds were $10,000, or $100 apiece. Corbett was in hardware and wholesale merchandising and later became a federal senator. Their actions, leveraging culture at an early moment in Portland’s development, now result in this city not being Spokane or Toledo or Buffalo – their small investment paid high dividends for their ancestors, those who appreciate Portland’s public art.

In 1893-94 Portland still hung a scraping tool for dung at all doorways. These were forward thinking men who carefully planned a cultural attraction for their adopted city.

Cool – this could be a statewide treasure hunt! There are only a handful left on display with the PAM so the remainder, which haven’t been swiped, should still be on display. If you find one of these spooking your college library, post a note below.

An important, growing, and spectacularly weird art-business story is an estimated 60% of all art sold now comes from Chinese city of Dafen, as described recently by James Fallows. Examples such as this excellent marble replica of Doryphorus at Museum Replicas – just $5,400 – show why first the Romans and now the Chinese rule the world (see image at right).

Portland\'s Parthenon Plasters
See a complete slide show by clicking HERE.

The Parthenon Frieze c. 448-432 BCE

From a card pasted to the wall – The plaster reliefs found throughout the promenade and the sunken ballroom [of the former Masonic Temple, now the Mark Building], are from the Frieze which once encircled the Parthenon in Athens. The frieze is an idealized representation of the procession of the Partheneia festival, a celebration of Athena, Goddess of wisdom and war, and protector of Athens – which happened every four years. The original marble frieze was likely finished with brightly hued encaustic paint.

The procession of figures and animals started at the southwest corner and proceeds in both directions, converging at the center of the east facade – the entrance to the temple – which housed the forty-foot gold and ivory statue of Athena.

I think these are from the infamous collection stolen from Greece by Elgin from 1801 to 1812, still locked up at the British Museum.

EXTRA – Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles

From the Daily Astorian – March 20, 2008

Russel Reier said he tried to tell investigators he knew where to find the head of Sacagawea.

The Clatsop County jail inmate said he knew where two heads from a bronze statue stolen from Fort Clatsop were, he just needed someone to listen to him.

A 5 1/2-foot statue of Sacagawea and her baby, Jean Baptiste Charboneau, was stolen from its mounting bolts at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park site Jan. 19. The case attracted national publicity. One man has been sentenced to 50 days in jail after admitting the crime March 5.

As Reier was being moved from the jail to the Community Corrections Transition Center Monday, he approached Paul Tesi, the county jail commander.

Tesi said Reier told him, “Lieutenant, I need to talk to you. I know where the head of Sacagawea is.”

So Tesi took him aside and Reier began to draw a map.

“How about I just take you to them?” he volunteered.

Deputies took Reier a few blocks down Bond Street, where he pointed out a truck.

The law enforcement officers couldn’t see the heads in the truck. And they didn’t have a search warrant. So while they were deciding what to do, they heard Reier behind them yell, “Here they are!”

The man had reached in the truck and pulled out a canvas bag containing the heads.

They were in reasonable condition, although the necks were tangled where they had been ripped off the statue.

The owner of the truck wasn’t available.

His aunt reportedly told police officers that he was out of town … and didn’t plan to return.

READ – Stolen Sacagawea statue head found in pickup truck, KGW.com
READ – Portland Public Art Man gets 50 days for Sacagawea statue theft.
READ – Portland Public Art Art for meth: What an unholy bargain

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