Saturday, April 25, 2015

Aeolian Columns

Here's a photo of Aeolian Columns, a Lee Kelly sculpture in front of the Portland Veterans Hospital at OHSU, in a landscaped median between two buildings. Kelly's website describes it:

Aeolian Columns (1989), stainless steel and porcelain enamel columns fitted with organ pipes, c. 198 inches high; Collection Veterans Administration Medical Center, Portland OR. With composer Michael Stirling.

This is about the same vintage as Kelly's better-known (and similarly musical) Friendship Circle (1990) in Waterfront Park, and the family resemblance is uncanny. Sadly, I have a long track record of bad luck with local musical art, and I have never heard either of these sculptures in action. Or any other musical sculptures in town for that matter, except for the Weather Machine in Pioneer Courthouse Square. I'd claim to have some sort of anti-musical superpower, but in reality it's a combination of the art often being broken, and me being too impatient to wait around for it to do something. Anyway, a 1988 Oregonian article has a bit more about Aeolian Columns:

Oregon City artists Lee Kelly and Michael Stirling have been selected from among 64 contestants to create the $40,000 art-in-architecture project for the new Veterans Administration Medical Center, according to Barry Bell, center director.

The artists have created Aeolian columns, a collaborative sculpture and sound artwork created by sculptor Kelly and composer Stirling. The sculpture consists of three stainless steel columns between 15 and 16 feet in length, with bands of porcelain enamel providing splashes of color and highly reflective material.

The interior of the columns will be fitted with two tuned pipes that will produce the continuous series of tones scored by Stirling. The three pieces will be placed in the parklike setting at the entrance to the center, to create a man-made physical and musical grove.

I actually first heard of this sculpture in a Portland Public Art post about OHSU art that mentioned it briefly; the mysterious 'C' behind the blog was even less of a Kelly fan than I am, and said: "There’s an old rusty Lee Kelly in front of the nursing school, and another shiny one in front of the VA. Both hideous." I wouldn't go quite that far; "eyeroll-inducing" is more like it, and in general I do like Kelly's stainless steel stuff better than his rusty work. More importantly, I just hope the organ pipes play something pleasant and soothing, for the sake of the VA staff and patients.

Chiba Clock Tower

Here are a couple of photos of the Chiba Clock Tower at the north end of McCarthy Park on Swan Island. A sign at the base has a short inscription:

This solar clock tower was presented to the people and Port of Portland by Mr. Takeshi Numata, Governor of Chiba Prefecture and the administrator of the Port of Chiba, on June 5 1987. The Port of Portland and the Port of Chiba became sister ports in November 1980 to enhance the friendship and prosperity of the United States and Japan.

Apparently a "sister port" is like a sister city relationship between local port authorities, and Portland has several of these, also including Ulsan, South Korea (which also a sister city of ours) and Tianjin, China. This is in addition to Portland's half a dozen or so "regular" sister cities.

Apart from what the sign tells us, I don't know a lot about this clock. I found a city document comparing Port of Portland recreation facilities w/ other West Coast cities, which mentions the clock in passing, but that's about it. The library's Oregonian newspaper database doesn't seem to have anything about the clock, specifically, but it does tell us the gift-giving was mutal, as Portland shipped a Lelooska totem pole to Japan in 1986. (Lelooska also created the large totem pole next to the Chart House on Terwilliger, and various others around the area.)

You'd think a solar-powered clock from Japan would be a beloved local landmark in 2015 Portland. You'd think hipsters would ride their fixie art bikes to the solar clock and picnic on artisanal donuts and PBR while strumming their ukuleles, and then the tourist guidebooks would find out about it, and senior tour groups from Kansas would show up in giant buses to view Portland hipsters in their native habitat or something. But due to the weird out-of-the-way location, none of this seems to have happened, at least not yet. But at least this way I can talk about the Chiba Clock Tower and say "you probably haven't heard of it", for whatever that's worth.

Spike Flower

One of the long-running ongoing projects here at this humble blog involves tracking down local public art, taking a few photos, and writing about it. I deny having any particular expertise on the subject, but it's been a consistently interesting project, at least for myself, and hopefully for a few Gentle Reader(s) out there. I've run a bit low on new material within Portland city limits, so I've started looking at the 'burbs too. Recently I realized the city of Vancouver, WA has a small public art collection of its own, mostly concentrated in the city's small downtown. At some point -- I'm not sure when, exactly -- the city closed a block of E. 9th St. between Broadway & C St., and turned it into a sculpture garden featuring a number of mid-20th Century Portland-area artists. The thing that jumped out at me was that they had something by Manuel Izquierdo, whose work I'm usually a fan of (albeit in a non-expert fashion, as I keep pointing out). You can check out the blog's "izquierdo" tag for quite a few other examples.

So, with all that explanation out of the way, here's a slideshow of Spike Flower, at Vancouver's aforementioned Broadway St. sculpture garden. There isn't much about it on the net other than the city's art page, so we have to rely on the little sign next to the sculpture for info. The sign doesn't give the year Spike Flower was created, but notes it was donated to the city in 2001 by a local nonprofit, and includes a quote from Izquierdo:

The possibility that there is such an accurate mechanism in the creation of an object that expresses and amasses an unknown geometry of feelings, ideas, and aspirations, which are unclear at the very beginning of conception and are discovered through the process of creation, is one of the wonders of human endeavor. These human efforts are driven by a sublime need to reveal the spiritual reality which humans have experienced from the beginning of recorded time.

Our Ancestors left a record of their lives, their myths, and their gods painted and carved on cave walls and cliffs. These paintings and carvings show an immediate and revealing visual language which was created out of the pure need to communicate with other humans.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Doernbecher Rose

Believe it or not, I still have a few posts about Weston rose murals sitting around in drafts. Honestly, when I started this mini-project I had no idea there were so many of them. So the next one up is the Doernbecher Rose, on the sprawling U-Store complex east of NE 28th, next to I-84. As I've mentioned in an earlier post or two, the storage complex was once home to the Doernbecher furniture factory, which closed many decades ago. The mural's visible from I-84 and the adjacent MAX tracks. I actually hopped on the train just to take these photos, in fact. Which sounds kind of silly, and afterword it occurred to me that MAX occasionally hosts nosy TSA VIPR Teams, and explaining this weird little project to those guys might have been a challenge.

Aprisa Mural

The next commercial mural on our ongoing tour is a long, low painting of various fresh vegetables, located on a retaining wall at the Aprisa Mexican restaurant at SE 8th & Division. The mural's by Oregon artist C.H. Wilhelm, who either painted or repainted it in August 2013. Wilhelm's Instagram page includes more examples of his work. As for the restaurant, I haven't been there for several years, but I seem to recall it was pretty good. I'd try it again, but I always forget this corner of town has restaurants now. I'm used to it being a sketchy industrial area, and even today there's no sign of the city's gentrification tsunami in this corner of the Central Eastside district. Though I expect that won't last forever.

Gilbertson Machine Shop mural

The mural tour pays another stop in inner SE Portland, this time at the Gilbertson Machine Shop at SE 8th & Belmont, where a large mural shows a collection of classic American cars. Unlike a lot of murals done for businesses this is actually signed by the artist, but it's done in traditional graffiti style and I can't make out the name. Google's no help either in this case, so I can't tell you who did it, much less link to their Tumblr blog or Facebook page, or LinkedIn profile I guess. I've seen an increasing trend of artists including an URL or Twitter handle along with a signature. I'd like to encourage more people to do that, if for no other reason than making my job here a little easier.

I'm sure my dad would be able to identify all the cars on the mural, but I can only pick out a few: Model T hot rod, VW Bug hot rod, a mid-60s Corvette, maybe a 1959 Cadillac next to the Vette (though I could be wrong about that one). And what looks like a mid-1960s Lotus F1 car on top. The others I'm not sure about.

dusting this thing off...

Ok, so last month I only managed a single blog post, and it was just an explanation/gripe about being too busy with Real Work to put any real posts together. Things have settled down a bit since then, so I'm going to try to resume semi-regular posting. In truth I probably could have done this a couple of weeks ago, but I saw the sheer size of my drafts folder and shrank back in alarm. I'm starting to think my genius New Years idea of consolidating everything into a single huge drafts folder was possibly unwise. A good idea organizationally, but bad in terms of staying motivated. Anyway, let's try this again, shall we?