Monday, February 03, 2014

Flight of Birds

Today's art foray takes us to Lloyd Center again. This is Flight of Birds, another Tom Hardy bird sculpture, which hangs over the escalators at the mall food court. I'd never really paid much attention to it until now, but it turns out Flight of Birds is one of the few remaining vestiges of the original groovy 1960 open-air mall.

A July 31st 1960 Oregonian article describes Flight of Birds along with the other (now vanished) examples of then-avant-garde art the mall had commissioned:

A flight of steel birds will soar over the east end of the Lloyd Center skating rink as one of the market's principal objects d'art.

Constructed by Oregon artist Tom Hardy, the 30-foot long assembly of metal-winged birds will be suspended from a barrel vaulted ceiling.

Some 70 feet above the rink, the "Flight of Birds" was made of 10 and 16 gauge steel and painted gold to show up against a white overhead.

Hardy, artist in residence at Reed College, cut sheet steel and welded it together for many weeks before the aerial sculpture was completed.

Commerce promoted art at Lloyd Center back then, and art returned the favor. The long-vanished Sieberts home furnishing store in the mall held a show of Hardy sculptures to coincide with the unveiling of Flight of Birds:

Sieberts at Lloyd Center is presenting a one-man show for Tom Hardy using the artist's huge "Birds in Flight" done for the Ice Arena as inspiration for the exhibition of smaller Hardy works.

Since Hardy's welded metal sculptures are becoming increasingly popular for home interiors and patios the store has arranged this showing in conjunction with furniture arrangements indicating the most effective use of the sculpture for enjoyment in the home.

Both large and small scaled sculptures are in this most recent Hardy showing. Smaller sculptures include fox heads done in copper, a small horned toad, bird studies and bison. A larger version of the bison theme is done in steel on silver leaf platform. A handsome metal screen, turquoise banded, features a giraffe motif. A number of pieces are birds poised on pedestals rather than being shown in flight. Drawings augment the showing.

A brief 1964 item mentions a showing of a color film of Hardy creating Flight of Birds. I imagine that film would be an interesting period piece if it still exists somewhere.

If you're curious about what the rest of the mall used to look like (before it was renovated & enclosed around 1991), check out these photo-filled posts at MidCentury Modern League, Malls of America, and Vintage Portland.

I grew up in westside suburbia so we didn't go to Lloyd Center very often. Mostly I remember being cold there because it was an open-air mall in the Pacific Northwest. I still kind of looked forward to going there though, because it had what I was convinced was the world's greatest candy and nut store. Childhood memories about candy stores are notoriously unreliable, but I recall window displays overflowing with red and green pistachios, which were especially tantalizing because mom wouldn't buy them due to the artificial colors. Once I talked mom into getting some old fashioned rock candy, because it looked cool, and she'd talked about having it when she was little, but I didn't care for it. Another time I ended up with a bag of hot salted pine nuts (and I'm kind of amazed they had pine nuts back then, in retrospect), and I didn't really care for those either. Come to think of it I'm not really sure why I thought it was the world's awesomest candy store, because I can't think of a single thing I got there that I have fond memories of now. I'm sure it must have been visually stunning, though. If there are any vintage photos of the store out there, I probably don't want to see them and realize how ordinary it actually was.

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