Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Thompson Elk

For the final First Thursday assignment I felt it would be suiting to choose a local public art piece. This sculpture is located downtown on Main Street between the two Plaza Blocks. It is position in the middle of the street and I have always thought that it was an interesting location choice for a statue being that its surrounded by moving vehicles and not easily accessible to view.

I had never got close enough to the statue to notice the inscription, due to it's location, until I purposely visited the statue. I discovered that the statue had been erected in 1900. This made much more since for it's interesting location in the road way being that the city grew around the statue as opposed to being constructed in the road way. I also learned that there have been several attempts to have the statue removed, but these have been foiled when the statue was designated as a Historical Landmark in 1974.

The statue was commissioned by David P. Thompson who served as Portland's mayor from 1879-1882, assisted with building the first Oregon railroad and was Captain in the First Oregon Calvary. Thompson commissioned the American sculpture and painter Roland Hinton Perry to create the sculpture as a gift to the City. Perry has crafted a number of monuments that can be found in Gettysburg, Washington D.C. and the Library of Congress to name a few. The fountain that surrounds the elk was constructed by local architect H.G. Wright. The fountained was crafted from eastern granite and designed to function as a water trough for horses and dogs. Another interesting fact I read was that the Exalted Order of Elks (aka Elks Lodge) refused to dedicate the statues stating that it was "a monstrosity of art". It seems that this Elk statue has had a rough history, but after so many years it still stand as a historic Portland landmark.
The sculpture of the elk is made from casted bronze. The elk was made to be life-sized and realistic, achieving both very well. The gesture of the elk with it's head swooping upwards and it's antlers cascading downwards gives the statue a feeling of movement and grandeur. The fountain around the elk was crafted from granite and functions as both a pedestal for the elk and as a surrounding fountain. The fountained was built in a hexagonal shape with 3-level stairs encircling the perimeter. I feel that the piece as a whole has variety and balance that result in a appealing art piece altogether. I also am appreciative of any piece of art, especially pubic, that serves a functional purpose, in this case the fountain being intended as a water trough. On the other hand I can't but help enjoy the humor in cars having to swerve around the elk statue as they drive by, like dodging a dear in the road. I enjoy this piece as apart of Portland's public art and learning it's history made me enjoy it even more.
-Lindsey Dixon

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