Sunday, March 16, 2014


On a recent sunny day, I wandered out of the office for a walk down part of the Willamette Greenway Trail. There's a long stretch of trail that begins just south of the South Waterfront area, and continues south beyond the Sellwood Bridge into Powers Marine Park. (The southern end of the trail is closed beyond SW Miles Place right now due to Sellwood Bridge construction.) For much of this distance the trail is bordered by low-rise two and three-story condo and office buildings, generally dating to the 1980s or late 1970s. The tracks for the on-again, off-again Willamette Shore Trolley run parallel to the trail, usually a bit inland but occasionally right next to it. At one point, the trolley tracks are on a raised, curved trestle that looms over the trail, with the boxy brick 5550 Macadam office building right behind it. If you look closely, you can see the tip of some sort of rusty metal object past the trestle and in front of the building. Turns out that object is today's stop on the ongoing public art tour.

The large sculpture in the above photos is Omark, yet another giant Cor-Ten steel thingamajig by Lee Kelly, the guy behind the infamous Leland One; Memory 99 in the North Park Blocks; Arlie at the art museum; Arch with Oaks in Beaverton; and too many others to list. The building here was once the corporate headquarters of Omark Industries, a major manufacturer of chainsaw chains. It seems the company already had a substantial corporate art collection, and when they moved into this new building in 1983-84, they apparently felt a huge abstract sculpture would really jazz up the joint. This particular corporate temple of the arts was short-lived, however, as the company was bought out in November 1984. The sculpture stayed put, obviously, because moving it would be expensive and annoying, but its days as the centerpiece of a major corporate headquarters were over. Since then it's languished in obscurity. Possibly brightening the days of a few office workers, or annoying them for blocking the view of Mt. Hood, and going unnoticed by everyone else. To get a good look at it, you have to take a nearby underpass under the trestle, and go up a flight of stairs to a yard/patio area in front of the building. There isn't a "No Trespassing" sign or anything, much less a gate or any sign of a taser-crazed security force, so I just wandered up and snapped a few quick phone photos.

I actually ran across this one first in the Smithsonian art inventory database. RACC doesn't have it because it wasn't publicly funded and it's outside of downtown. The Smithsonian page merely calls it "(Abstract)", but a page at Kelly's website titles it Omark. (For what it's worth, his Nash, in the Central Eastside district, is also named for the company that commissioned it.) In any case, I imagine he of all people would know what the correct name is supposed to be.

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