Sunday, February 17, 2013


Hey, it's time for yet another installment of me wandering around taking photos of obscure public art around town. Today's adventure takes us to the south end of the South Park Blocks, where we find a small piece titled Holon, by Don Wilson, the same guy who created Interlocking Forms, a much larger, but similar-looking sculpture along the Portland transit mall. We're told Holon is a recent (2004) addition to the Park Blocks, and there isn't a lot about it out on the interwebs. The few descriptions of it I've come across seem to be taken from a single source via a game of telephone:

  • PortlandOnline:
    Installed in 2004, this work made of white Indiana limestone by Oregon sculptor Donald Wilson is entitled Holon. The word comes from the Greek holos which means whole, entire, complete in all its parts - something that has integrity and identity at the same time as it is a part of a larger system.
  • CultureNOW:
    Holon is the most recent addition to Porland's famed Park Blocks. Holon comes from the Greek word "holos," meaning whole or complete in its parts. Oregon sculptor Donald Wilson intended his piece Holon to be whole, with integrity on its own while being a part of a larger system.
  • Regional Arts & Culture Council:
    “Holon”, originally commissioned in 1979, was dedicated to the late Dr. Gordon Hearn, the first dean of the School of Social Work at PSU, and reflects the school’s holistic design.

I frankly have no idea what "holistic design" even is. The word "Holon" is a technical term in philosophy, and the above descriptions seem to be trying to give a definition of it for a general audience, with little success. I'm not even going to have a go at that; if you're interested, just go read the Wikipedia article.


The RACC page I linked to gives an original date of 1979 and notes it was "re-carved" in 2003. The 1979 date would explain why it looks so much like its 1977 sibling on the transit mall. I'm not sure what "re-carved" means, but a 1981 "In Memoriam" piece about Mr. Hearn, and a mention of Holon in a human behavior textbook both indicate Holon was somewhere on the PSU campus as of the late 1970s. So re-carved could mean repaired, or replaced, or updated to reflect its creator's true vision, like with the first 3 Star Wars movies. Dunno.

Holon Holon Holon Holon Holon

Monday, February 11, 2013


Today's stop on the ongoing tour of Portland Transit Mall art is Continuation, a group of pieces on SW 6th between Clay & Columbia, in front of the swanky Hotel Modera. TriMet's public art guide describes it:

With the five sculptures that make up Continuation, Michihiro Kosuge reused red granite from an earlier sculpture and fountain installation on the Portland Mall. To create relationships between the sculptures while allowing each one to stand on its own, the artist sculpted pieces with interconnecting visual elements that include repetition, tension and stability.

Without that description, it's not at all obvious that the sculptures are basically made from construction debris. I'm not entirely sure what the previous piece was, but I think they may have been part of the rim of the late, lamented "Bathtub Fountain", another piece of which reappeared briefly a few blocks north of here before vanishing again. If I recall correctly, TriMet had originally promised to rebuild the fountain in a new location, but you can only claim this happened if you have a very flexible definition of "rebuild".


I don't know whether the nickname "Bathtub Fountain" had anything to do with it being used as a literal bathtub by the homeless, but I witnessed that happen more than once. Call me a cynic if you like, but that sort of thing pretty much guaranteed the city wouldn't rebuild the fountain in its original form, much less provide a more dignified bathing option for the city's homeless. It's possible I've lived here too long. Although it's not like other US cities are famous for their kindness and generosity toward the homeless either.

Continuation Continuation Continuation Continuation

Thursday, February 07, 2013

cherry trees, nw 19th & lovejoy (2013 edition)

cherry trees, nw 19th & lovejoy (2013 edition)

In what's become something of a pre-spring tradition, here are a few photos of the two cherry trees at NW 19th & Lovejoy, in NW Portland. Every year these two trees bloom many weeks before any other cherry trees in town that I'm aware of. In fact the first blossom was out at least a week ago, before the end of January, as seen in a so-so Instagram photo I took then.

I'd previously assumed the pair must be an unusual variety of early-blooming tree. This year I noticed there's also a maple tree at the other end of the block, at 19th & Marshall, which has only just begun dropping leaves, as if September has finally arrived there. So I'm going to chalk this phenomenon up to some combination of a bizarrely warm microclimate and global warming. (Quick editorial note here, if any astroturfing climate-denier trolls see the phrase "global warming" & show up wanting to argue, I'm just going to go ahead and delete their nonsense. I don't feel any obligation to engage with them or offer them a platform. Fair warning.)

cherry trees, nw 19th & lovejoy (2013 edition) cherry trees, nw 19th & lovejoy (2013 edition) cherry trees, nw 19th & lovejoy (2013 edition) cherry trees, nw 19th & lovejoy (2013 edition)

Saturday, February 02, 2013

untitled (6th & washington)

Today's adventure in Portland Transit Mall art takes us to 6th & Washington, home to a piece I repeatedly failed to see and walked right past while taking photos of other sculptures on 5th & 6th. This is Untitled, a chunk of stainless steel wall created by Bruce West (the same guy who created Sculpture Stage, & Land Form), and apparently it's graced the Transit Mall since the 1970s without me ever noticing it. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it; it's a perfectly pleasant decorative object, and failing to notice something this big has to be at least partly my fault. But you have to admit it doesn't draw the eye the way, say, Kvinneakt does, or for that matter the also-untitled (but colorful) 1970s bus mall sculptures at 5th & Oak and 5th & Ankeny. A snarky Portland Public Art post about Mr. West's works around town has this to say about Untitled:

Transit Mall thing politely titled, untitled. Part of the 1976 or 77 splurge on low-maintenance art for the Mall startup.

Can we get exchange this untitled thing for a picnic table?

Untitled, 6th & Washington

Knowing this city as I do, the answer to that rhetorical question is that if you put a picnic table on the transit mall, sooner or later a homeless person would sleep under it, on some cold rainy winter's night. Local businessmen would be outraged, and the city would remove the table posthaste. And even if they could keep people from sheltering under the table, we only have three, maybe four months of picnic table weather each year anyway.

In any case, in addition to the West pieces in the Portland Public Art post, Cafe Unknown tracked down yet another piece of his, half-forgotten and cleverly hidden in a subterranean parking garage downtown. As you might imagine, it's been added to my todo list.

Untitled, 6th & Washington Untitled, 6th & Washington Untitled, 6th & Washington Untitled, 6th & Washington Untitled, 6th & Washington

Ventana al Pacifico

Photos of Ventana al Pacifico, a sculpture by Manuel Neri at the front entrance to Portland's Gus Solomon Courthouse at SW 6th & Main. A 2005 Portland Public Art post about it is mostly about its strange, awkward location, on a perch high above the main entrance and off to one side. It's a shame because it's a mysterious and attractive piece; apparently it's also far too valuable to let the unwashed masses near it. If you really need a better look, the Smithsonian does own a roughly-similar maquette for the piece, which may or may not be on display at any given time.

Ventana al Pacifico Ventana al Pacifico Ventana al Pacifico Ventana al Pacifico Ventana al Pacifico Ventana al Pacifico Ventana al Pacifico Ventana al Pacifico