Saturday, May 13, 2023

hnl ✈️ pdx, may 2023

Here's another batch of window seat photos, this time from earlier this week. Most of these show the north shore of Molokai, which is home to the world's tallest sea cliffs, although the very tallest ones are off in the distance and were covered in clouds when I took these photos. If the weather had cooperated I might have gotten a waterfall post (or several) out of this flight, since that area is home to Oloʻupena Falls (which the World Waterfall Database rates as 4th tallest on the planet at 900m / 2953'), along with several others that are nearly as tall. They're basically inaccessible from land, so seeing them from a plane is your best bet for catching a glimpse of them, short of renting a helicopter or approaching the base of the falls by boat.

In some of these you can also see Maui, Lanaʻi, and the Big Island. Kahoʻolawe is somewhere in that direction too but it might be behind one of the other islands or obscured by foreground clouds in these photos.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Dans la Nuit (Lovers)

Semi-fresh on the heels of Floating Figure (last month's rather stale public art post), here are a few photos of Dans la Nuit (Lovers), also by French-American sculptor Gaston Lachaise. It used to be outside the Portland Art Museum, on the right side of the main entrance, across from Floating Figure, having replaced Auguste Maillol's La Montagne around 2014 in conjunction with a temporary Lachaise exhibit. The two sculptures quietly went off exhibit or maybe left town sometime in 2020-21 while everyone was focused on the pandemic, and protesters were busy toppling statues of various dead presidents right next door in the South Park Blocks.

This post and its companion are another reminder that this humble blog does not aspire to be anyone's hub for breaking news: I took most of these photos back around 2014, shortly after the big Maillol-Lachaise swap-out, before the little nameplates were installed. Obviously I couldn't hit the big orange Publish button at that point, since I didn't actually know anything about the newly arrived art, so I saved a couple of draft posts with placeholder titles and moved on. A year or so later I was in the area and noticed the nameplates and duly took photos of them, but by then I'd moved on to other projects and just left it at that: I knew the photos were saved somewhere in either iPhoto or Flickr and I could probably find them again if I was in the mood to finish these posts, and I could always go back and take new photos if I genuinely couldn't find the older ones. Meanwhile fresh sedimentary layers of draft posts kept accumulating on top of this leftover art stuff from 2014, and eventually the art (and the nameplates) weren't there anymore, and Google was (as usual) pretty useless without already knowing the titles, or at minimum the artist. Then a few months ago I stumbled across the 'lost' nameplate photos during a brief, yet tedious, photo-organizing bender and remembered I'd been looking for them. So I added those photos to the appropriate photosets, updated everything with the actual names, did the usual internet research, even got some words in place... and then saved the posts as updated drafts, to languish for a few more months. Because, as it generally is with these things, taking the photos and researching and writing is ninety percent of the work, while editing is the second ninety percent of the work.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Floating Figure

Next up we've got a few photos of Floating Figure, a sculpture by French-American artist Gaston Lachaise that used to be outside the Portland Art Museum, to the left of the main entrance. (Another Lachaise, Dans le Nuit (Lovers), sat on the right side of the entrance.) It replaced Auguste Maillol's La Riviere sometime around 2013-2014, and went off exhibit sometime during the recent pandemic; Floating Figure is clearly visible on Google Street View imagery dated June 2019, and absent in Microsoft's Bing Streetside View dated September 2021, so that gives us a rough time window for when they were removed.

What I don't know is whether the removal was pre-planned, or happened because of the recent bout of civic iconoclasm that resulted in toppling the dead president statues along the Park Blocks and elsewhere around town, as well as Harvey Scott on Mt. Tabor, the gun-n-bible-totin' pioneers in Chapman Square, and even the Thompson Elk that used to be in the middle of SW Main St. So maybe the museum figured they'd be targeted eventually, once the supply of slaveholding aristocrats and other canceled white guys ran out. Which, I dunno, I don't recall that anyone was toppling statues over cis- and hetero-normativity or excessive Pepe-le-Peu Frenchness at the time, but who knows.

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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Wormy Apple II

This next installment of this humble blog's ongoing, on-again off-again public art project takes us down to Lake Oswego again, this time to tiny Sundeleaf Plaza, a half-acre lakefront park near Stickmen Brewing and the historic Lake Theater. I was either meeting someone for lunch at the brewpub or for a movie, I forget which, and they were running late, and I noticed there was a.) a park where I didn't remember there being one before (it was built in 2011, which tells you how often I go wandering around in Lake Oswego), and b.) there was some public art in the park. So I wandered over for a quick look.

So this is Wormy Apple II (2009), by artist Ed Humpherys (1937-2018), which the city public art site describes thusly:

Purchased as part of the 1 1/2% for art for the lakefront park.

Ed had a religious upbringing and was exposed for many years to the biblical story in Genesis of Adam, Eve, the apple, and the snake. Consequently many of his sculptures have apples, snakes or both. The viewer plays the role of Adam and Eve.

In the beginning Ed Humphreys' intent was to create a series of linear sculptures that visually moved rhythmically around in actual space. Spherical forms were used at the ends of the linear components to visually act as an ending for the movement that was created (similar to using a period at the end of a written sentence). After the first sculpture was completed, Humphreys realized that the sculpture reminded him of apples with worms projecting from them.

Gallery Without Walls 2007-2009

"Gallery Without Walls" is an ongoing city program where the Lake Oswego arts council arranges to borrow a number of outdoor sculptures to exhibit around the city's downtown, usually on a two-year rotation. The art is typically for sale, and the city's walking tour brochure (here's the current 2023 edition) and other informational materials actually include price tags. So if you've ever dreamed of uprooting your favorite public art from a city park and taking it home, this is your big chance to do exactly that. (Athough that's probably not quite how it works in real life.) At the end of the rotation the city often buys a couple of the exhibited sculptures for its permanent collection, which is what happened with Wormy Apple II around 2009. It's kind of a cool program, though I'm not sure it's something many other cities could pull off. A place like Cornelius would probably be thrilled to have ever-changing art exhibits brightening up the place; it's just that the city doesn't have quite so many well-heeled art collectors as Lake Oswego does, and the city probably can't afford to insure the borrowed art, much less buy any of it.

Switching gears abruptly here, the search results I got back when researching this post included a couple of off-the-wall results I just had to pass along.

First up is Bulletin No. 68 from the Washington State Agricultural College's Experiment Station, dated 1905 and titled "The Wormy Apple", specifically page 11. That's an eleven, which looks enough like the Roman numeral II that Google figured there was no harm in sending me this result. So to combat the dreaded Codling worm, page eleven recommends a solution of 1 pound Paris green and 1-2 pounds lime to 150 gallons of water. Paris green being a beautiful and deadly green compound of copper and arsenic that was once used in artists' paint, fireworks, wallpaper, and even womens' clothing, in addition to being an effective general-purpose pesticide. Or to save money you could mix 1-4 pounds of white arsenic with one pound washing soda, and dissolve that in 100 gallons of water, which we're told works just as well for 1/3 the price. The page goes on to say "A grave danger here is over-spraying, i.e. causing the liquid to gather in drops instead of depositing a uniform sediment." (italics theirs), though the next sentence insists that "over-sprayed apples are not thoroughly poisoned", which is a bit less than reassuring.

Secondly, Google somehow concluded that "apple 2 computer" was a related search I might like to perform instead, or at least it's one they'd get more ad revenue from. Maybe it was just because of the "Apple" and the "II" in my actual search, or maybe the "Wormy" contributed too; it seems that four decades ago, way back in the distant year 1982, a Pennsylvania teenager wrote Elk Cloner, a boot sector virus targeting Apple II computers, and it may have also been the very first malware to actually circulate in the wild. Calling it malware is kind of a stretch, honestly; it replicated itself to new disks, and every now and then it performed one of several annoying teen pranks. The second link above actually goes into great detail on how it managed all of this in a few kilobytes of code, which is kind of interesting. I trust, o Gentle Reader(s), that you won't use this newfound forbidden knowledge for anything, y'know, untoward.