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.

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