Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shemanski Fountain

A couple of photos of the Shemanski Fountain, at the north end of the South Park Blocks.

For some reason, I seem to have not taken any pics of the whole fountain, just of assorted architectural details on it. Which, as it turns out, are pretty much entirely female, which I think is typical of gaudy Beaux-Arts baubles like this.

I actually thought about titling this post "The Girls of Shemanski Fountain", but I thought that might be a little crass. I'm sure it would drive page views, though, so if I was trying to sell banner ad space here, I might've gone for it anyway...

Shemanski Fountain

So it's clear, the structure as a whole is the Shemanski Fountain, and the bronze statue in the center is called Rebecca at the Well. "Rebecca" in this case being a character in the Book of Genesis, and thus the subject of overwrought devotional art right up to the present day.

The National Gallery of Art in DC has a painting by Veronese on the theme, for example. I could track down more, I'm sure, but you get the idea.

The Smithsonian's Art Inventories Catalog has a page about both the fountain and the statue here, if you like more factual info about either.

It amuses me that if someone proposed to donate this exact fountain to the city now, we'd have to refuse the offer, as it offends on both religious and nekkidness grounds. Which you have to admit is quite an aesthetic feat.

Shemanski Fountain

Oliver Barrett, the sculptor behind Rebecca, is apparently the same guy who was later responsible for Portland's short-lived Teddy Roosevelt / Spanish-American War memorial next to Harbor Drive, where Waterfront Park is now. Cafe Unknown has a photo in a great post about various Roosevelt-related mysteries. Somewhere between 1926 and 1939, Barrett seems to have switched over from Beaux-Arts trifles to massive, severe Art Deco edifices. I'm not entirely convinced that was a good idea, although I suppose the market for Beaux Arts had kind of dried up by 1939. And being the Depression and all, I guess you'd want to jump at any possible commissions, even if they involve killer androids with swords.

Shemanski Fountain

Now here's the part where I rant about metal-thieving meth tweakers again. Rebecca's been repeatedly targeted by metal thieves. Last year someone tried and failed to steal the whole statue, seriously damaging it in the process. (Cafe Unknown mentioned that incident here.) The fountain was eventually repaired, but in August someone stole the brass nozzles off the fountain. Someone's clearly pretty bound and determined here. And yet, has anyone tried to steal Facing the Crowd? Or Leland One (a.k.a. "Rusting Chunks #5")? Not that I know of. Maybe they're just too big, or maybe tweakers feel a natural affinity for ugliness and creepiness, so they leave certain things alone out of professional courtesy. I dunno. It's a theory.

Shemanski Fountain

More (and probably better) photos at Waymarking, PortlandBridges and the city, plus one on Pbase and another on Flickr.

1 comment :

Not a Good Queer said...

I was thier when the Fountain was damaged. I posted it on my blog called It was an accident, not done by any tweakers or thieves. The kids were just playing and the head fell down on top of a female. It was a complete accident and I took pictures of it as evertything was intact until the police came. Luckily no one was serious hurt but the police did come and raid the park and arrest every youth that they possabley could.