Sunday, February 19, 2023

Icarus at Kittyhawk

Next up we've got a fresh entry in a couple of long-running projects here. Some years ago this humble blog was largely about public art, in Portland or wherever else I happened to bump into it. When a new MAX line opened, there would always be a whole new batch of art of -- let's be honest here -- uneven, mostly fair-to-middling quality to write about, with the posts tagged blueline, greenline, yellowline, and so forth to make it easy to check them all out in one go and compare and contrast and so forth. That was a fairly well-defined, limited-scope project, but I still occasionally run across stuff I'd missed earlier, or things I couldn't post about because I didn't know the title or the artist.

Another sort of subproject was tracking down additional art by people whose other work I liked, or at least thought was distinctive in some way, and the resulting posts are tagged so if you just want to binge on Manuel Izquierdo art (for example), it's easy to do that. One of the resulting tags is for the late Lee Kelly, the prolific local artist behind Leland One (aka "Rusting Chunks No. 5") and countless other welded steel whatzits that have cropped up across the Northwest since the mid-1960s or so. I've never been a big fan of his stuff, though I'll admit some of his older work truly radiates groovy 1970s-ness, for good or ill. It's more that his stuff is fairly unavoidable if you try to do a public art project in this corner of the world.

That long-winded intro brings us to Icarus at Kittyhawk, at the Beaverton Central MAX station. TriMet's revised Westside Blue Line public art guide describes it thusly:

Icarus at Kittyhawk, 2005, by Lee Kelly was inspired by the myth of Icarus with its timeless message about the danger of human arrogance.

The 10’ tall stainless steel sculpture with seat was purchased with funds left over from the Westside MAX project and held by METRO.

The title is kind of funny given the location: The Beaverton Central project was a late-90s attempt to transplant Pearl District-style urbanism to the 'burbs: Retail and restaurant space on the ground floor, topped with several floors of upscale condos. That, evidently, was the Beaverton version of flying too close to the sun. The initial project ran out of money during construction, and the main condo building sat empty and exposed to the elements for a number of years before finally being completed in the mid-2000s. The condos eventually sold, and they finished an office building or two to flesh out the complex a bit, and a variety of short-lived restaurants and retailers have sort of cycled through the area ever since. But except for a couple of buildings on the old Westgate theater site, the expected forest of ever-taller imitators spreading across downtown Beaverton never happened. Or at least it hasn't happened yet.

Icarus doesn't seem to have arrived with any great fanfare, as the only mention of it I found was in the June 2005 meeting notes from the "Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation", a now-defunct regional government body:

On April 27th, the pedestrian environment at the Round in Beaverton received an injection of culture with the installation of "Icarus at Kittyhawk," a sculpture in stainless steel by Oregon City artist Lee Kelly. TOD Program staff secured funding for the project and worked in partnership with TriMet, the City of Beaverton and regional arts commission on artist solicitation and selection.

As a former westside resident on and off since the mid-1970s, I'm more than happy to snark about Beaverton all day as a private citizen, but the snide remark about Beaverton getting "an injection of culture" in official meeting minutes is... a bit much.

Come to think of it, going by the timing Icarus would have arrived while I was still commuting into downtown from darkest Aloha, since I didn't move downtown and start this weird little blog until November of that year. I don't recall noticing it at the time, but then again I had no idea I would end up doing weird projects like this, so I wasn't keeping detailed notes at the time.

Anyway, Icarus was also a stop on an exhaustive "Walk • Bike • Drive" map of Kelly art across the greater metro area, along with two others just within Beaverton city limits, the others being Arch with Oaks along Sunset, and another at PCC Rock Creek that I've never seen. In fact the map includes a lamentable number of others that I wasn't aware of and have never visited. Somehow I feel like I have to add them to the ol' TODO list now, although for the life of me I'm not sure why.


Next we've got a few photos of Echoes, the cool wavy glass art outside the new-ish Dianne apartment building in the Pearl District at NW 11th & Hoyt. A small sign next to one of the panels explains:

Transparent glass laid flat becomes opaque,
Sunlight glints over the curved and rippled surface,

Echoing streams long forgotten

Ivan McLean - Anna McLean
Mark Wingfield - Karina Adams - Darrell Adams

This is another post that's been lurking in Drafts for a while, but not due to editor's block this time. I took these photos after having brunch nearby, shortly before Covid really got going, and I was a bit wobbly thanks to mimosas served by the pitcher. (Looking over my photos again, I clearly thought I was taking very artsy and abstract photos of the thing, but in retrospect that was probably just the mimosas thinking.) And so it came to pass that I neglected to either make a note of exactly where this was, or take a wider photo of the setting for context. Which was a problem, because I have sort of a rule here about posts needing a specific location, so that you -- o Gentle Reader(s) -- can go see for yourself if you like something you see here.

When I got around to starting this post, I quickly realized Google was (and still is) completely useless and it had absolutely no useful results for what I was looking for, which seems to be an increasingly common problem. Although they showed me a big pile of unrelated ads in the process, so it was still a win as far as they're concerned. That was my plan A. My Plan B would've been to go do brunch again and see if I could retrace my uneven steps and stumble across the same art again, but this time write down the address, but by that point everything was locked down for Covid and I was busy avoiding everything and everyone, and retracing seemed like a bad plan just then. My Plan C was to wander around the area on Street View instead and see if anything leaped out at me. That was a dismal failure, and to further complicate things McLean's website hasn't been updated since 2016, several years before Echoes was created. At that point I shrugged and this post sank deep down into the Drafts folder and I basically forgot about it until recently (January 2023). On a whim I checked again and realized he'd simply moved over to Instagram, and I just needed to scroll backwards until I started seeing Echoes photos and see if any of them mentioned where it was. Fortunately one of them did, so now all I need to do is make myself stop rewriting this big dumb paragraph.

pdx ✈️ mco, august 2018

So I was rummaging around in old photos recently and found another set of window seat photos, this time from August 2018 when I flew into Orlando on my way to watch a large rocket send a small robot to the sun. The photos are in reverse order because I thought some of the ones just before landing were kind of striking. It was a stormy summer afternoon, with dark clouds and beams of sunlight glinting off the many lakes in the area.

Because I was in sort of a space nerd frame of mind at the time, the scene reminded me of the lakes on Saturn's moon Titan, though honestly that's quite a stretch. For one thing, the lakes on Titan are filled with liquid methane, ethane, propane, and other very cold hydrocarbons instead of swamp water, pesticides, and golf balls. And if you happened to land in a lake on Titan, you'd freeze solid almost immediately, instead of being eaten by backyard tigers or bath salts zombies, or randomly whacked by the cartels. And that's if you aren't shot out of the sky first for violating HOA airspace. The only probe to land on Titan so far (as of 2023) managed to land successfully and then sent data for another half hour without being tasered or eaten, which seems to rule out the presence of HOAs and tigers, so there's that. Exo-cartels are still a possibility, though, especially if they had a someone on the inside at NASA or ESA and knew exactly when to lie low. We should have a better idea about this after 2034 when the next robot gets there.