May 5, 2010

Open to the public

The city of Portland's catalog of public art has added several pages in recent years. We took a look at some of these highly visible displays and found a few clinkers, but also lots to like.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Various public art projects in Portland, photographed on Friday, November 13, 2009.

click image to enlarge

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Various public art projects in Portland, photographed on Friday, November 13, 2009.



This statue has been controversial from the moment Portland Sea Dogs owner Daniel Burke first tried to give it to the city. The Public Art Committee denied it because the sculpture did not meet the public art ordinance, but the City Council overrode the decision. Outside of the procedural breakdown, however, the sculpture represents Sea Dogs fans as a kitschy and slovenly lot. Sloppy, unfocused and disunited, this caricature is hardly a model family. As a sculpture, it sits awkwardly on a short pedestal. Its fussy details want it to be high up while its human scale wants it to be directly on the walk. Burke's noble intentions aside, this work fails as sculpture and delivers a particularly unflattering portrait of the people of Portland. -- D.K.

This work is a home run. It exemplifies the place of baseball in our popular culture -- a bit of folk art, a bit of kitsch, a bit of fun, although one of the children does look a little fiendish. It follows the trend of current work at Cooperstown, and that's good enough for me. It is also a meticulous record of what we looked like when it was made. That will fascinate generations down the line. Don't put all public sculpture on a high moral or intellectual "pedestal." This piece is just where it ought to be -- taking us to the ball game. Maybe you'd feel better about it while eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks. -- P.I.

CLOUD BENCH AND RUSTLE DIPTYCH II, Vivian Beer, Winslow Park along Baxter Boulevard

I actually think these pieces are handsome. The artist is a graduate of Maine College of Art and has acquitted herself nicely since graduation. It was an honor for her that these pieces were chosen for this project, which was completed in 2008. But this installation suffers from its location. These pieces are too delicate to be grandly viewed by passing traffic. They work better for pedestrians, but even then they fail to stand out and make themselves known. -- B.K.




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