Saturday, December 07, 2013

Sky to Earth

The MAX Green Line's SE Division station is bordered by a curving blue chain-link fence. The is actually the art installation for this MAX stop, which Trimet describes thusly:

Sky to Earth, by Carolyn Law, is a vivid sky blue fence that rides the visual edge between the light rail tracks on one side and the expansive topography of the surrounding land along the other side. The artwork's flowing and changing sculptural line shifts between solid and transparent, activating the site and the experience of MAX riders.

The artist's website has photos from various angles (all of which seem to be better than my viewpoint aboard a MAX train), and a longer explanation:

The design of the artwork relates specifically to the nature of the site and the alignment of the light rail track as well as dealing with the striking openness and topography of the land where the station and access paths will be located. The artwork rides the visual and experiential edge between all the site’s characteristics.

The site is an intense place with an expansive, open landscape framed by freeway lanes on one side. It can be viewed at many speeds and angles. The other sensory and physical undercurrent here is the sky and the wind. The wind appears to be nearly a constant. The grasses ripple elegantly and somewhat hypnotically, registering the caprice of the wind’s directions from moment to moment.

Within this landscape, the fence is a flowing, changing sculptural line of one color and a form that shifts between solid.

The same page also links to a story about Sky to Earth from "World Fence News", a trade paper that apparently exists. As a trade paper, it points out that a couple of local companies, Portland Fence Co. & Albina Pipe Bending, were key to putting this together. Not mentioned in that article, but found elsewhere on the net, a third company did post sizing and foundation design for the project.

In 2010 the national Chain Link Fence Manufacturers Institute awarded Sky and Earth its 2010 Les Grube Memorial Design Award; previous winners include the prominent architect Frank Gehry, so it seems like this is kind of a big deal, at least within the fence industry. The 2011 award went to a somewhat similar project in Boston, and the 2012 one went to a fence project for an overpass in Kansas City. The 2012 link goes to a page by the design firm explaining the project and going on about what a cool (and unfairly overlooked) material chain link fencing is.

The same year, the group Americans for the Arts named Sky to Earth one of 40 exemplary public artworks completed the previous year.

I suppose I'm pointing out the awards it's won, and the local construction and art fabrication jobs involved in creating it, because this is an artwork that would be easy to demagogue. It's easy to imagine people on talk radio or Facebook ranting about how it's not really art, it's just a chain link fence, we paid how much for it, the citified liberal elitists are trying to pull one over on us, etc., etc. It got a brief and mostly positive mention in an OregonLive article about some weird & alarming art along the WES commuter rail line. Surprisingly the article only has four comments, and they aren't all negative. I suppose modern art just isn't the conservative hot button issue it once was in decades past. That, or they just figure anything within Portland city limits is a lost cause at this point.

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