On a trip through the Portland Art Museum I came across an eerie sculpture that I couldn’t help but stay back from my group and continue to admire it. The piece was Useful Art #5: The Western Hotel, by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz. The sculpture was a construction of multimedia that looked as if it had been taken straight out of the back country of Arizona or New Mexico. The piece was a moment in history, entirely preserved by resin that could have been seen as time itself, coating the two pipes and lighter resting beneath the lamp that sat atop the bedside table next to a homely looking cushioned wooden chair. The chair rested on top of an old style Mexican looking comfort rug with a pair of slippers and a half finished bottle of jack daniels to keep it company. The table top was also home to a mantelpiece clock connected to a small metal statue of a horse and a used yellow bowl with a spoon resting inside. Beneath it, the table top sheltered two western magazines and an old school radio that I would expect to find in my grandmother’s attic. From the radio, sad country songs were played at a low level giving the piece a melancholy feel that makes you wonder what a depressing life the inhabitant of the chair must lead. Just behind the table is a small wall with a window with credit card stickers and a red glowing neon vacancy sign in the upper half of the window which gives the illusion that the chairs’ inhabitant must spend hours at a time waiting for a customer to the hotel if not just a soul to talk to. Despite the lamp on the table and the neon vacancy sign, this sculpture was far from dynamic, with an eerie sense of stillness. The entire piece was placed on a red brick armature.
- Enrico Macias-Zepeda