You enter a dimly lit room with a high ceiling and sit at one of the many tables in an otherwise empty space. You become mesmerized by twinkling lights that swirl and cut through the darkness. Shimmering curtains in the back of the room are made of mystical, metallic material. A soundtrack of a loud, sweetly distorted guitar solo fills the still air. Your eyes fixate on a single pole that appears in a spotlight. Out saunters a dancer in a leather bikini with fringe hanging from the waist band, being quite naive, you had no idea they made those. Her hips sway as she moves like the star of an alternate culture ballet. She approaches the pole, reaches up with both hands and wraps one thigh high up and around. Your mind drifts to another kind of pole art.
You can’t help it. It seems strange but it started with shoes attached to poles and you saw more examples of it and had been trying to figure it out. It occurs to you that there is no way to know what qualifies as a true example of pole art. You’ve never been sure, at least not sure enough to expect to have telephone poles dragged into the Portland Museum of Art for a major pole art retrospective from the last two decades. Besides, pole art is anonymous and more in line with street art. A pounding drum solo disrupts your revery. A dancer lies in a concentric circle at the bottom of the pole. All of your money has leapt out of your wallet and remains crumpled up on the floor. A bouncer is tapping you on the shoulder and tugging at your collar. You long to escape to the purity of this other world, a different kind of pole art.
The versatility of poles is evident in their ability to hold up wires and display art. One of my earliest recognitions of pole art was found in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood. The exact street has been forgotten, but I saw it off Ainsworth St. Others might describe it as found objects affixed to a pole–more eyesore than art which may be getting us closer to a pole art definition. As a resilient repository, poles can withstand nails and staples and suffer through affixations of flyers, poster hangings, spray paint, street signs and other displays.
There are the times when it’s hard to say what artistic statement is being made or if the attempts at art are serving an actual purpose. Gizmos like the screwed in plastic gadgets, have a function that is anyone’s guess. They resemble bottle caps. It’s hard to imagine the concept behind anyone wanting to screw something into a telephone pole as an artistic statement. I lean towards them having some functional use because I’ve seen similar devices on other poles. They do spruce up an otherwise dull piece of wood though.
Another artsy type accouterment I’ve seen on poles is this tulip/headband looking number. See below:
I’m not sure who is trying to dress up the poles around here, but the nailed in, red, star flower symbol with a strap is really jazzing up the look of the poles in my neighborhood. It means something to someone and something entirely different to someone else.
END of PART 1
I know, ah, it’s that similar feeling when a show ends with a to be continued message. There’s so much more coverage concerning Pole Art that it will have to be continued. I apologize for the difficult week you will have to endure as you wait and wonder about what else can be written on the subject matter. Tune in for part 2 anyway and be glad you only have to wait a week.
(Sadly, you will be waiting more than a week due to a bike accident. Check back in August.)