Oregon is known for its moss. We get a lot of cloudy days and a decent amount of precipitation. Moss tends to grow on everything. On our roofs and in our yards. It’s typical to find moss growing into the seals around the windows of cars, not just abandoned cars but any car that stops long enough or often enough in a shadow. It’s really difficult to figure out which is the north side of a tree based on moss, ’cause it’s everywhere. People joke around about moss growing between the toes of Oregonians. For the record, that’s not universally true.
The other thing that this climate causes is rust. Rusty metal, it has precedence as a cultural reference in the northwest and I understand that, in art it can represent the old, the solid, the consumption of man by nature or any number of other things. Some people find beauty in it; classic car enthusiasts clear coat over where the sun and weather has worn down the paint enough and the rust is starting to appear; they call it a patina and it shows the history of a vehicle. I prefer my paint clean and polished but then again I drive a two thousand and something Mazda Tribute which will never be considered a classic. No I generally don’t find rust to be pretty.
My question is this? Why does it seem that every new piece of public art going up in Portland these days is made with rusty metal? Now, I’m not complaining that art has to be pretty and shiny, or that I have to like it for it to have merit. I’m not saying that the art going up doesn’t have merit. All I’m asking is this; when a city puts up public art, shouldn’t it choose a mix of styles and subjects that give multiple points of view, that offer a little bit of something for everyone, and by everyone I mean on both the creator and the patrons side of the art? Doesn’t the art a city chooses say something about that city?
Is this how we see ourselves?