Pole Art 3 part 1: A Further Odyssey and Slight Exploration of the World of the Pole Art Phenomenon



I won’t exaggerate and say I’ve looked at every utility pole in Portland to bring you the best Pole Art this town has to offer. All I can serve up are examples from my random encounters. The city has the poles inventoried so there is a record of every telephone pole out there but I can’t tell you if this information collected includes details about Pole Art. Consider the people whose job requires them to wave a gizmo across barcodes posted on the poles. Pole inventories seem crazy for an item that would be hard to misplace. The Portland Orbit gets into the spirit of these inventories by focusing on poles graced with Pole Art.

In previous posts I speculated about committees meeting to discuss what constitutes Pole Art. I have to admit that was a warped fantasy, bureaucracy run amok and a lost cause dream to bring legitimacy to Pole Art. At this point, because I’ve done no research independent of looking at poles, there could be some, as of yet, undiscovered Pole Art scholars out there. As far as I know, I am the sole judge and jury of what constitutes Pole Art. I’ll try not to let this power go to my head. I have even made an effort to create a new genre of art formalizing it with capital letters to make it Pole Art. I could distinguish between categories of Pole Art but I prefer to lump them together. Why should there be a difference if someone decides to hang art on a pole while someone else turns one into an object of art with paint or other art supplies? No one wants to organize committees of art experts who would then meet at a Holiday Inn out near the airport to discuss and draft definitions of what determines what is and isn’t Pole Art. Who needs to expound on Pole Art movements and subcategories either? Say no to Post-Pole Art, Modern Pole Art,  Abstract Pole Art or any other possible combination. Let’s keep it simple and call it all Pole Art.

Join me on yet another Pole Art odyssey.

High in the Polls

Here’s one Pole Art secret that will soon be out of the bag. If you are planning to adorn a pole with art hang it high so no one can jump up and swipe it. It may not be as noticeable but that will keep it around longer. The steps necessary to have this art nusiance removed from a public utility pole might include city workers answering calls about potential bothersome Pole Art, scheduling a pole inspection, making a return visit after retrieving the right ladder while also determining when to remove the offending art piece. This example from the Foster-Powell neighborhood looks like a spray painted stencil. It resembles a homage to a science fiction B-movie featuring an overgrown mutant hairy elephant run amok but I’ll leave it up to others to make their own interpretations. The art is nice in it’s subtlety. Once spotted it adds whimsy to an unadorned pole.

The way to make utility poles attractive is to add metal folk art with intricate markings. It’s does compete with pole’s  beat up exterior of flyer remnants and rusty staples but the art on this NE Alberta Street pole distracts from the rough hewn nature of its surroundings offering a unique piece to appreciate.

Pole Count

photo by Graham Marks

Here’s further proof of the importance of keeping track of telephone poles so they’re not lost. Poles are decorated with random numbers, pole inventory bar codes and medallions, the meaning of which is lost on a laymen such as myself. I have a budding interest, along with a low level of expertise, in Pole Art but anything official looking befuddles me. It can’t help imagine someone having to check an awful lot of telephone pole bar codes while also getting a chance to admire some Pole Art in the process.

A Trilogy of Tidings

Utility poles work double duty. They don’t just hold up wires. On other occasions they act like community bulletin boards passing messages. I spotted these signs in the Kenton neighborhood. This artistic sign with its simplistic Pay Attention message had me thinking that if someone really wants me to pay attention they shouldn’t distract me with signs that I’m going to read that tell me to pay attention while requiring me to take my eyes off the road as I’m driving. Find another way to present this information.

On the other hand I still think about Doug and hope he’s no longer lost. The third sign in the photo offers an official warning making me wary of any pole that displays it. This may be the one thing government officials can do to discourage Pole Art artists and keep them away from poles. Posting official, colorful and cryptic signs should keep literate people at bay. The problem is I have no idea what backfeed is so the warning is effective. I don’t want to experience backfeed of any kind. Possible backfeed is as daunting and intimidating as any other form of backfeed could be.

Flowering Pole Art

A display like this one found in SW is never a good sign. It’s a memorial to someone who has perished in the vicinity. There’s no way to know if the pole was involved but it seems like a tragic spot. Pole Art has it’s gray areas between art and memorial.

Crap Up A Pole

A pole consumed with information in that old college bulletin board way blends into a cinematic montage seen through a kaleidoscopic lens. Invitations to DJ nights, stickers, show advertisements pile on top of each other creating layers of crumpled, ragged and shredded paper flapping in the breeze. The pole combined with other urban elements like a graffiti strewn newspaper box and trash can in the Mississippi District have evolved into a living piece of conceptual art.

Help Me…

A cry for help won’t go unnoticed when it’s posted gallantly on a pole on Lombard Avenue. When there’s no one around to offer help to it’s certain to go unheeded. It summarizes my state of mind after being immersed in Pole Art. Bear in mind this is only part one! Part one will be followed by part two next week rather than keep anyone in suspense for longer than necessary. I think it’s accurate to say we have saved the best for last which may have you wondering how we could possibly have topped the images of Pole Art that you’ve already seen. Just wait.

2 thoughts on “Pole Art 3 part 1: A Further Odyssey and Slight Exploration of the World of the Pole Art Phenomenon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s