Sunday, February 16, 2014

Icons of Transformation

Here's another stop on our occasional tour of the art along the MAX Yellow Line; I don't already have a full set of photos like I did with the Green Line last year, so posts are likely to show up with haphazard timing and in no particular order. Today's stop takes us to the Overlook Park station, which sits next to the park of the same name. The north and southbound stations each have a glass tower featuring a number of faces. TriMet's art guide for the Yellow Line says of them:

Fernanda D'Agostino was inspired by research on the healing power of light and nature.
  • Light towers modeled after roadside shrines in Poland feature portraits of community members overlaid with images of nature.
  • Art glass in the windscreen suggests the transforming power of nature.
  • Community map artist Margaret Eccles created a symbol for the relationship between good health and community.

D'Agostino's website bio has one line mentioning this project, which is how I know what it's called. The Yellow Line guide annoyingly doesn't mention key details like that.

The Polish theme is here thanks to the St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic church just north of the MAX station, while the health theme is due to the nearby Kaiser medical center. The more I read about the endless MAX design process, the more I realize just how much diplomacy and compromise went into the design of each station. (And how else would we get a hybrid Polish/healthcare themed station here, and a hybrid maritime/stormwater theme at the Prescott station?) A Catholic Sentinel article (which focuses primarily on the Polish aspect of the MAX station) gives an indication of what the project was like:

'I wanted to show how people's inner life, whoever they are, is really, really rich,' says D'Agostino, who worked with a 175-year-old German stained-glass company to produce the multi-colored and multi-layered panels.

'I wanted the towers to mean something to anybody whatever their spiritual life, whether they are a secular humanist, or a Catholic or a Jew. I was thinking of the spirit as people's inner life and I was getting into people's heads. . . . I was after what gives people a sense of wonder.'

Initial art committee meetings about two years ago presented a 'conundrum,' D'Agostino said. Prevalent in the committee were members of the Polish community, which has peopled St. Stanislaus Parish and a community hall on North Interstate Avenue for a century. But also in the group were representatives of Kaiser Permanente health clinics at the station site and who pushed for some kind of healthcare motif. Added to that were neighborhood leaders touting racial diversity and conservationists pointing to the area's reputation as a gateway to nature.

This is a city that loves process, or at least a city that's easily intimidated by people who love process. I imagine most artists (and most people in general) wouldn't be too thrilled about partnering with a micromanaging Committee of Concerned Citizens and Umpteen Other Stakeholders. I used to wonder why so many TriMet commissions go to the same five or six people, year in and year out; I'm sure tolerance for process pain is a big part of the answer. A track record of delivering on time and on budget probably doesn't hurt either. Possibly we ought to consider sending a few of them to the state legislature. I'm not saying we'd be better off, but I doubt we'd be any worse off.

No comments :