Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Quest

The Quest

The Quest


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A few photos of The Quest, the notorious, goofy sculpture in front of the Standard Insurance Center, in downtown Portland. Very few people know it by this name, but it has plenty of nicknames: "Three Groins in the Fountain", "Family Night at the Y", "Quest for the Breast", or just "The fountain with all the naked people".

I've never pretended to be an art critic, and I wouldn't presume to speculate about what (if anything) its aesthetic or political meaning might be. So I'll just call it "eyeroll-inducing", and leave it at that.

Notice that the woman on the right has a fading "NO" circle crudely painted on her torso, so obviously someone was deeply offended by the sculpture. This being Portland I'd imagine the "NO" was put there on feminist grounds, and not conservative religious reasons, but I'm not sure they ever found out who did it. If I remember right, this happened in the early 90's, and I was either still in college or had just graduated. This was back in the heyday of identity politics and "political correctness", so it's not really that surprising that it happened. I'm not sure would happen now or not, but I'm quite sure that no business would, uh, erect something like this outside their offices anymore. At the, uh, bare minimum, the kid would absolutely, positively have to go.

The Quest

  • Everything2 has a nice, informative article about it. Portland Public Art (see below) speculates that the author "Strawberry" is actually Chuck Palahniuk. You know, the "Fight Club" guy.
  • A page at Health Heritage Research is mostly about a mosaic by Count von Svoboda, but has a section about The Quest and a companion piece(!) titled Perpetuity, both with interesting vintage photos. The companion piece is a section of a redwood tree, with bronze sort-of energy rays shooting through it. It used to be on the other side of the building, but Standard Insurance donated it to the World Forestry Center after they took over the building from Georgia Pacific. So it's up in front of one of their buildings now. Andy Kerr mentions it in passing here:
    A couple of years before I moved to Portland, Georgia-Pacific moved its headquarters back to Atlanta. Orange trucks are now more prevalent in the Deep South than in the Pacific Northwest. They took the G-P sign off the building now called the Standard Insurance Center. Mercifully, they also hauled Perpetuity, a work of "art" depicting a young seedling growing in the center of a huge and hollowed old growth log, to the Western—er, now it's the World—Forestry Center, up by the Portland Zoo.

  • Portland Public Art calls it "Corporate Schlock". Which, I think, is inarguable. The post also calls it a "great piece of las vegas funky splurt". Which is more debatable -- I mean, it's far too restrained for Vegas, if you ask me. Someday, when Vegas gets a Portland-themed casino (to go along with the existing New York and Paris ones), their "improved" version of The Quest will be ten times this size, the guy will have a Mr. Universe body and the face of the casino's owner, the ladies will all go up to at least a double D cup, and at the top of every hour there'll be a huge extravaganza with flames, a fog machine, lasers, and cheesy pop music. Also, there might be tigers.
  • Pin-ups from Portland and Visual Rendering both have more photos.
  • Photomic has a couple of nice old photos he took back when The Quest was new.
  • Delenda est Carthago mentions it in passing as part of a photo walking tour of downtown.
  • Roadside America mentions it too, not as Art but as an oddball roadside attraction. Which may be the right way to look at it, now that I think about it.
  • A couple of other mosaic works by Svoboda are at the abandoned Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton, and the
    Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario. The hospital is supposed to be demolished soon, and it's not clear what the future holds for the mosaic.

The Quest

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