Saturday, September 14, 2013

Arts Commission Installs Finger Jello in ODOT's Swale - Will it Melt in the Rain?

Why did they do this?

Knox Blocks at ODOT
When they could have done something like this?

Cyclepedia show at Portland Art Musum
According to the Statesman, for a new piece at the recently renovated Highway Department headquarters,
Walla Walla Foundry did a three-dimensional computer scan of an abstract painting by [James] Lavadour, “it looked like the Columbia Gorge,” said Megan Atiyeh, public art coordinator for the Oregon Arts Commission, which chooses art work for state buildings.

“It was from that scan that the foundry took portions for a model and molded it. The resulting sculpture is a transfiguration of his painting.”
The full panorama
Sure, the geology of the Columbia Gorge, formed by the epic Missoula floods, and other geology exposed in road cuts - yeah.  I get that and the relation to stormwater run-off and ODOT's road construction work.  I can see the rhymes and reasons the piece might be appropriate in the abstract.

But it looks like cast-off candy here floating above the grasses!  It's gonna dissolve!

More importantly and more seriously, the State keeps missing opportunities to say something about transportation in the 21st century. (Though the kerfuffle over Barbur Boulevard suggests they may have little interest in being serious even in the bike-nirvana of Portland!)

The beef here is not with Lavadour, please note.  He's a favorite artist, and another work just a couple of blocks away in the North Mall Office Building is glorious and wonderfully evocative - in many of the same geological ways.

Delightful James Lavadour
at the North Mall Office Building
Whether Lavadour's paintings really work "transfigured" as three-dimensional urethane sculpture is a different topic.   That'll take some time to consider.  But the first impression is gelatine, not geology.

The important point is that there was a large body of untapped site-subject matches better suited to public art at ODOT.  It's not philistine to say that ODOT had room for some "applied" art in addition to all the other fine art.

(For more on the ODOT renovation see here and earlier thoughts on the public art here.)


Curt said...

But on the Barbour kerfuffel the PBOT engineers and the PSU planning community are pushing back. In Portland they have values that are consistent and are worth defending. We have no such group in Salem that has the integrity to fight for those values. Salem United against bridges, parking meters and Pringle access will say or do anything to achieve their short term objectives. Whatever the long term vision is doesn't even factor in.

B+ said...

Yes, Curt, I'd say "the vision thing" is the problem, generally speaking. Perhaps this comes with the territory when a town is a particular state's "second city," and doesn't have a good sense of itself as opposed to its much larger neighbor so near to the north. Corvallis and Eugene have enough distance and separate identity through the universities there. But, how to develop vision in a community our size and with its particular demographic?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

swapped out the SJ photo and replaced with two new images.

Curt said...

B+: I wish Salem could graduate to second city status.

1. Portland
2. Eugene
3. Corvallis
4. Bend
5. Hood River
6. Beaverton
7. Ashland

Those are the cities that people outside the region associate with Oregon. But I think the vision in Salem is for a slightly above average place where people can live in Oregon cheaply in relative anonymity. We are a discount town. That seems to be what Salemites are willing to fight for.

McMinnville, Oregon City, and Silverton all have more unique identities than Salem in spite of being closer to Portland, smaller, and lacking large state universities so I don't think those factors are to blame.