Eye River

Supersize versions of old logging tools.

If you’ve walked, biked or driven down Southeast Clay Street in recent weeks, you may have noticed Portland’s newest public art. They’re three sculptures by artist Linda Wysong, collectively titled Eye River, although many people call them “log dogs,” after the old logging tools they’re based on. At 6 feet tall and 500 pounds apiece, the cast-steel sculptures look like oversized needles: widening from their bases, flaring out, tapering, then widening up top. If you squint, they look like a woman with an hourglass figure. You’ll find them along a 12-block section of Southeast Clay Street at 12th, 7th and Water avenues. The one at Water Avenue has a stylized wave in its “eye,” made out of blue and green glass, while the sculpture at 7th Avenue features an antique map of the city’s industrial Southeast. The most elegant version, at 12th Avenue, has an open, empty eye, inviting you to project your own interpretations.

Wysong based her design on small steel tools used around the turn of the 20th century to rope logs together and float them down the Willamette. These log dogs became the artist's central motif for the project after a long process of community input, coordinated by the Regional Arts & Culture Council and the city's Bureau of Environmental Services. According to the bureau's spokesman, Linc Mann, the sculptures cost a total of $59,800, funded dually by the city's "Percent for Art" program and a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They're an aesthetic component of the otherwise utilitarian "Route to the River/Green Street" project, which has improved stormwater management by adding drainage swales and greenery in targeted areas around Portland.

With its richly rusted surface, Eye River shares visual currency with the nearby Inversion: Plus Minus—public-art structures by Seattle's Lead Pencil Studio. But unlike the soaring Inversion, the new sculptures don't dwarf pedestrians; they're roughly human-sized and, indeed, have a welcoming, human feel. When you stand on the sidewalk and look at them, they seem to look right back at you and say: "C'mon—this way to the river!" "Some people have told me it reminds them of a goddess shape," Wysong says. "It's interesting that some people can look at it as a goddess, but other people see this macho industrial tool from the logging industry. So it has a range, an abstract beauty that’s not limited.” We couldn’t agree more.  

GO: For more information about Eye River, visit lindawysong.com.

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