Hannes Wingate's The Burnside Nest, Portland's newest public artwork, looks like a bird's nest on steroids.
The spherical sculpture is built to resemble an oversized bird's nest. Way oversized. So oversized, guests at the piece's May 10 preview climbed the 30-foot-tall tree it's in to lounge and take in the view. It seats five. (Sorry, the public isn't allowed to climb into the nest, which is on private property.) A stone's throw from the Burnside Skatepark, it's just north of the east side of the Burnside Bridge at Northeast 3rd Avenue, on the future site of the Burnside Bridgehead business/residential development.
Wingate, a Swedish artist who lives in Portland nine months of the year, built the nest out of branches gathered from the site and from elsewhere in town. He also incorporated human-made materials, just as birds do when making nests. "Only humans consider nature as separate from themselves," the artist tells WW. "The bird does not. Therefore, it forages for materials that are usable for the nest and doesn't care if they're 'natural' or not, as long as they work." Ergo, woven into the nest are a box spring, a street sign, part of a chair, some rebar and two-by-fours. The piece recalls sculptures by noted British artist Andy Goldsworthy, who uses natural materials in his site-specific "Land Art" installations.
The day Wingate started constructing the nest, he was stopped four times by the Portland police, even though he'd secured a land-use permit from the Portland Development Commission. The skaters nearby were skeptical, too, although Wingate says he's since won them over. It's easy to see why—The Burnside Nest is damned cute. It's a nest, for crying out loud, primal symbol of home and nurturing. And although nobody is likely to mistake it for a High Modernist masterpiece by Constantin Brâncusi or Henry Moore, the sculpture has a crunchy, eco-friendly coziness that could bring out the kid in even the most jaded curmudgeon. It's a shame it will have to be taken down at the end of July to make way for Burnside Bridgehead, but Wingate has talked with developer Jeff Pickhardt and Jeff Kovel of Skylab Architecture about possibly returning the nest to the site once the building is completed.
SEE IT: Find more information and photos of The Burnside Nest at facebook.com/theburnsidenest.