Friday, August 09, 2013


Today's obscure public art excursion takes us to NW 27th between Thurman & Upshur, where a mysterious bust sits on a pedestal, seemingly a monument to some important (but nonhuman) historical figure. This is Mimir, another sculpture by Keith Jellum; several other works of his have appeared here previously: Electronic Poet, Chimney Swift, Portal, and Transcendence,.


A 2007 Stumptown Stumper in the Portland Tribune wrote about the mysterious bust:

The piece is grounded in Norse mythology. According to one legend, the god Mimir was sent by Odin to rival gods to help resolve a dispute, but Odin received his envoy's head in return. Since Mimir was noted for his wise counsel, Odin mounted the head as an oracle for his Aesir gods.

'I'm not sure where (the image) came from,' 67-year-old Jellum told Stumper. 'It's just at the time I was doing a whole lot of drawings, and it just popped out and sort of appealed to me. It's part fish, part space creature.'

Jellum said he added the hieroglyphic inscription on the plaque as a 'play upon plaques. You see all these plaques around and they give all this 'important' information. I thought it was just irrelevant to the piece. I like the idea of putting something up there that didn't have any information on it.'


The Smithsonian Art Inventory description is terse but intriguing: "Decorative obelisk with a mask mounted at the top. The mask has a cone-like nose and tusks. It wears a layered breastplate with shoulder pads".

The Smithsonian page also mentions that the statue is "administered" by the city Parks Bureau, which caught my eye because I was curious about the little plaza where Mimir is located. Because, well, that's the sort of thing I tend to wonder about. The plaza's essential to selling the gag: It looks like a whole city park dedicated to the memory of a heroic yet mysterious fish alien. The experience is not unlike visiting a strange foreign city, with parks and statues and cryptic inscriptions honoring people you've never heard of. I guess fittingly, the plaza isn't actually a city park; Portland Maps says the parcel is connected to belongs to the Upshur House Apartments, a large affordable housing complex immediately east of here. The property as classified as a "subsidized garden", whatever that is, and apparently it's been exempted from property taxes since 2009.

A 2010 Daily Journal of Commerce story about renovations at the then-dilapidated apartment complex mentions that it was originally built and later renovated by Walsh Construction, the same firm that commissioned several of the other Jellum sculptures that I've covered before. So that seems to have been a fruitful long-term partnership. I'm starting to think I should just track down random projects of theirs and look around for the art.

Mimir Mimir Mimir Mimir


DarkuS.MotH. said...

This looks like shit, no wonder it's located in Portland.

Somesound said...

Saw this the other day and was curious... Your blog post was enlightening... DarkuS.MotH. Hasn’t seen the light obviously...