Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gem of the Lakes © 1990

There’s a plaque at the foot of the larger-than-life bronze sculpture in the Winter Garden at 311 S. Wacker in downtown Chicago, which is also part of a fountain. The plaque says: GEM OF THE LAKES © 1990 Raymond Kaskey.

Kaskey is best known as the “principal artist” -- the detail man, in other words -- of the World War II Memorial in Washington DC, designing the bronze eagles, the wreathes, the many bas-reliefs, the haunting bronze star field on the Wall of Valor, even the flagpoles. As such, I’d say he did a fine job. It was the overall design by architect Fredrich St. Florian that didn’t greatly impress me.

I thought that © was odd, right there permanently on the bronze plaque. But then I read about another statue by Kaskey in Portland, Ore., called “Portlandia” (1985). Joseph Streckert writes in Not For Tourists, “Downtown Portland's Fifth Avenue transit mall has a lot of what you would expect -- buses, trains, and commuters, for instance. Look up, though, and you might notice a giant woman holding a trident.

“Sitting on the ledge of Michael Grave's postmodern Portland Building is 'Portlandia,' a symbol of Portland that never took root...  Most of this can be attributed to artist Raymond Kaskey's retention of 'Portlandia's' copyright. Kaskey never allowed his work to be put on key chains, t-shirts, shot glasses, or calendars. Portlandia was to be in the (not very good) Madonna film Body of Evidence, but Kaskey sued Paramount and had footage of his statue removed from the final cut.”

So the © is in character. If Kaskey feels that strongly about it, I won’t publish any pictures of his statue here, fair use though it may be, and it will just another (incredibly minor) step on the way to future obscurity for him and his work, despite the high visibility of the WWII Memorial. It’s a moot point anyway, since the light wasn’t right for good pictures, especially of the face. But of course other people have published images: Google Images reveals some, including the statue wearing a Blackhawks jersey, which must have been after that team won the Stanley Cup.

Emporis, at least, describes the work this way: “It depicts a large Neptunian figure drying himself over a seashell fountain.” I’ll go along with that. A buff dude with a long beard. And still very green after 20+ years, so building management must keep him nice and clean.

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