More public art for Portland
March 27, 2006
Dear Mayor and City Councilors,
Greetings. It was with much interest, and not a little anxiety, that I attended the meeting a week ago during which you accepted three statues from Portland Sea Dogs owner Dan Burke as a gift of public art. (See our March 21 article, “City accepts Sea Dogs statues as ‘surprise’ gift,” if you need to refresh your memory.) You see, I have also been planning to donate three statues to the people of Portland, and intend to have them placed on public property posthaste. I have attached a few Polaroid snapshots of the clay models for your consideration and approval at the next City Council meeting.
Like Mr. Burke, I intended this gift to be a surprise, and so I have kept it secret for years while the artists completed the project. It is now 97.2 percent done, and thus cannot be changed in any way at this point.
After reading about the brouhaha over Mr. Burke’s generous gift, I was concerned that you would vote to reject his statues. They are, after all, butt-ugly. And what the hell is the male figure doing, scalping tickets? Calling a balk? I still have no idea.
Furthermore, Mr. Burke, through his attorney, acted as if the Public Art Committee you appointed and the ordinances you passed to guide its work were irrelevant, or could be sidestepped simply by claiming ignorance of their existence. I worried that you might take issue with that and insist that the committee and its bylaws be heeded.
What a relief it was to see all of you display such flexibility and understanding in this matter by voting to accept Mr. Burke’s gift despite the Public Art Committee’s near unanimous rejection of the statues for obvious legal and aesthetic reasons!
I was particularly impressed by the logic Councilor Jim Cloutier employed to justify the Sea Dogs logos on the boy figure’s hat and back. I too agree that corporate logos do not constitute “commercial advertising.” Logos are, by their very nature, works of art. (Someone should tell the pretentious artistes who objected to the logos to take another look at their buddy Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can prints! You tellin’ me that ain’t art, Pierre?!)
Anyway, back to my project. The three statues I am giving to the city were made by renowned sculptor Meghan Busby, in collaboration with graphic artist Mich Ouellette.
Busby is a graduate of Portland High School and a part-time student at the prestigious University of Southern Maine. Her recent works include statues of former Portland Police Chief Mike Chitwood, current Portland Police Chief Tim Burton, and soul great James Brown. These works are currently on display on a bookshelf in the office of Bollard Publishing.
Ouellette is a graduate of the expensive Maine College of Art. In addition to his work as a graphic designer and photographer, Ouellette is a conceptual comedic performance artist who performs under the moniker The Fuge. His work as a drunken, diaper-clad Bingo host has been favorably compared to the work of performance artist William Pope.L.. (Writing in the scholarly art journalConceptual Representative Art & Performance, CRAP critic Felix Moot commented, “The Fuge’s work made me question basic assumptions about human decency and the fundraising tactics of the modern Roman Catholic Church. I nearly peed myself.”)
The artist Mr. Burke commissioned, Rhoda Sherbell, found inspiration for her sculptures by observing people attending Portland Sea Dogs games at Hadlock Field. For this project, Busby went to the same location, but observed ordinary Portlanders walking by the ballpark when the Sea Dogs were not in town. We feel this portrayal more accurately represents the city’s diverse population, which includes both well-groomed and slovenly white people.
The first figure, whom we’ve been informally calling “Eddie” around the office, is pictured below. Though he is clearly wearing one of the hip new Bollard t-shirts (available beginning in April for $10, cash or check), the Bollard logo – like the Sea Dogs logo or McDonald’s masterpiece, “The Golden Arches” – is clearly art, not advertising.
The second figure, whom we’ve been referring to as “Kayla,” has the clothing logo “Foxy” printed on the ass of her sweatpants. Again, this is art.
Eddie and Kayla represent a Portland family loitering outside an empty ballpark. We realize this family connection may not be readily apparent, but trust us: Kayla’s three months pregnant.
These two figures are to be placed outside Hadlock Field, in close proximity to Mr. Burke’s – I mean, the people of Portland’s – statues. Including the concrete base, Kayla and Eddie each stand 10 feet tall. (Eddie has been cast in monsterous proportion in order to scare children and keep teens from picking on him. The woman Kayla is modeled after was actually freakishly large; the proportion is 1:1.)
The third statue we are donating is not a tribute to the people of Portland, but a way to thank the Portland Sea Dogs for all they’ve given to our city. This piece requires the removal of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s head from the statue in the public square that bears his name. In its place we have created a likeness of another famous Maine writer: political columnist Al Diamon, a Sea Dogs season ticket holder since the team’s first pitch, whose long white beard can usually be spotted in the crowd behind third base or in the beer line.
At the time this statue was conceived, 1999, the Sea Dogs were still an affiliate of the Florida Marlins, so the base of this statue features both teams’ logos. Again, all three statues are 97.2 percent complete, so it’s too late to change the Marlins logo to that of the Sea Dogs’ current affiliate, the Boston Red Sox. We trust the council will appreciate the “historic significance” of this.
Thank you in advance for your time and unanimous approval. As noted above, these statues were first conceived in 1999, a year before the current Public Art Committee was officially formed. Furthermore, until recently, I was unaware that the committee existed, or that there are city ordinances pertaining to the approval of public art.
Accordingly, I fully expect you will unanimously vote to accept this surprise gift based on the precedent you established last week.
Very truly yours,
owner, Bollard Publishing
Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard.