Sunday, August 25, 2019

New Sculpture at Bush Park May be a Dud

Council meets on Monday, and I'm not sure there's much to say.

On the Council agenda there are a couple of annexations. Maybe you will have thoughts on that. They look like moves to prepare for greenfield development on the edges of the city. In the information items there are approvals on some small plexes and one that is being appealed. And there's a small street vacation. Mostly the agenda items seem to be block-level things at the neighborhood level, and not things of larger city significance.

But there is some new public art in Bush Park, and let's talk about that instead!

"Sentinals" [sic?] by Devin Laurence Field
(See SAA's tweet and the FB post below)
Some first impressions:
  • What is it with the surveillance theme? The Eye of Salem-Sauron at the Police Station and now "Sentenals"/Sentinels? 
  • But watching isn't the first thing that came to mind. These look like structural steel from the Police Station or part of a shipwreck. They look like ruins. They're rusty!
  • Maybe they evoke Totem Poles, but how would that be appropriate in this context?
  • For a site near a child's playground, it's surprisingly inert and static, nothing that will evoke wonder, playful interpretation, or interaction with children.
  • Why here? How does this relate to Bush Park or the Bush family? It's like random art installation.
Detail of rust finish and the periodic squishing treatment
Over at the Oregon Artist Series they routinely link to more dynamic instances of public art from around the country. Why are recent installations here so dull or hermetic?

Anyway, it's hard to be excited by this. Have you been by it? Maybe you have a different interpretation that really brings it to life.

As for it as an instance of metal work, the bike racking right there is old "toast" rack, wheel-benders, and it might have been nice for a little of the metal budget to go to an upgrade there. Generally there is not very good bike parking at the city's central park.

There used to be a drinking fountain here
They've also taken out the drinking fountain. There's a newer one over by the playground, but that's less conveniently located if you are biking or if you are not with kids.

You may recall that the Art Association wants to put more statuary in the park. But with the gated admission for the Art Fair, new public art that may not be very broadly appealing, and deletion of a drinking fountain - are these incipient signs of a shift to make the park more exclusive or less accessible? This is something to watch.

There will be a dedication next month, but it's only for members, apparently:
In honor of SAA's 100th anniversary, we are proud to present "Sentinals," created by contemporary sculptor Devin Laurence Field.

"Sentinals" was constructed from thick steel plates and was inspired by the natural elements of Bush's Pasture Park. Located in front of the Bush Barn Art Center, "Sentinals" is now ready for all visitors to enjoy.

To learn more about Devin Laurence Field, join us for our Centennial Celebration on Friday, September 6th for a special meet and greet for SAA Members from 5:00-5:30 PM.


Cc said...

I am a member of SAA. I received an invitation to the opening for "Sentinels" (as it says on the card, not "Sentinals").

From 5 to 5:30 there's a meet and greet with the sculptor. (SAA members only)
5:30 (free and open to the public) is a dedication by Mayor Bennett
6-8 PM (free and open to the public) Exhibition reception for the opening of a show at the Bush Barn.

My interpretation of Sentinels near the playground was more in the nature of guardian figures. I am not a lover of abstract metal sculpture and I don't know anything about this piece. I thought the notion of guardians near the playground was sorta cool and appropriate.

The places in Salem that need more and better bike racks is legion! The one at the library is frequently full. That's my pet peeve.

Thanks for your great blog.

Cc said...

I meant "the number of places is legion." Forgive poor proofing.

MikeSlater said...

A couple thoughts:

(1) You wrote: "What is it with the surveillance theme? The Eye of Salem-Sauron at the Police Station and now "Sentenals"/Sentinels?" It's important to realize that Sentinels was commissioned--I believe--before the voters even approved the police station and that it was commissioned by Salem Art Association which did not commission The "Eye of Sauron." You may have a point about the preferences of arts decision-makers in Salem or maybe art trends in general, but it was too different groups at somewhat different times that made the two decisions.

(2) You wrote: "As for it as an instance of metal work, the bike racking right there is old "toast" rack, wheel-benders, and it might have been nice for a little of the metal budget to go to an upgrade there." Good grief yes! The bike rack is depressing.

(3) You wrote: "Why here? How does this relate to Bush Park or the Bush family? It's like random art installation." It's not random, it's literally across the entrance to the Salem Art Association. Art doesn't have to celebrate the Bush Family."

Visually, I think it's engaging and is a nice contrast to the natural environment. The larger question is whether to continue the trend to add sculpture to the park or say with this new project, the Rooster in the barn's foundation bed, and the eurocentric and patriarchal Guidance of Youth sculpture (which certainly speaks to a moment in OR history): enough.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Rush surface? As in when you touch it or rub up against it, you get covered in rust? Ewe! No thank you!

What I dislike is not just the art that we are getting, but the fact that it is getting sprung on us. We pay for this scape metal stuff, right?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(SAA deleted the old tweet and tweeted a revised version, confirming that it's "Sentinels.")

Anonymous said...

The SJ offers a little bit of an interpretation:

'"Sentinels" honors the people who helped the art association get to today. It's a contemporary piece featuring three components of varying heights made out of structural steel.

"The sentinels are looking to the future (and) represent those who have passed the baton over a hundred years," Burnett said.'

Cc said...

The SAA did fundraising for this sculpture and "we" didn't pay unless you count the grant money they got from the hotel tax (TOT?) or the donors. I could always be wrong, but I seem to recall that donors bought it, plus the grant from tourism $$. The Guidance of Youth is one of those statutes that probably wouldn't even get made today. Here's one little blurb from * * * "Guidance of Youth" at Bush Pasture Park on Mission Street in Salem. It was erected in 1959 to commemorate the 100th year of statehood. It is the result of a bequest from Carroll L. Moores, a janitor at the Supreme Court Building, to the City of Salem in memory of the early Oregon pioneers. The first choice for the memorial was a nude woman called ""Venus Victorieuse"", which was unacceptable to the public, and this statue was the result of a contest for another subject. It depicts a father carrying a hoe, and a mother and young son dressed for their trek to a new land. The statue faces east! The sculpture was by Avard Fairbanks of Salt Lake City. The photo is from the Hugh Stryker Collection."

Everyone's a critic. It was ever thus. Even I, who know zero about sculpture, have opinions. Heaven forfend that we should have nude women in our park! Better a father carrying a hoe. ;-)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Well, well, well. It looks like there was a little problem and SAA didn't observe the full City process.

From the October 31st City Manager's Update:

"The Cultural and Tourism Promotion Advisory Board approved The Sentinels sculpture installation and awarded Transportation Occupancy Tax funding for the installation at Bush’s Pasture Park. The installation was approved by the City of Salem’s Public Arts Commission and the Salem Parks Advisory Board. Unfortunately, The Sentinels was installed in Bush’s Pasture Park without first obtaining historic design review approval from the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission. Bush’s Pasture Park is a historically significant and contributing feature to the Gaiety Hill/Bush’s Pasture Park National Register Historic District. The project has subsequently caused an adverse effect to the surrounding National Register Historic District. Staff are working with the State Historic Preservation Office to mitigate the impact. State statute authorizes establishing the public mitigation required for adverse effects."