Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mark Jenkins & Jeanne d'Arc

Every time I drive around a certain rotary in Portland, this heroic golden lump of statuary, the stereotypical steed rearing up on its hind legs, guides me safely around its circumference.
I have been mildly curious to find out which Stumptown war hero had been memorialized in bronze—perhaps it was a young James Beard, or maybe a victorious Chuck Palahniuk—though never  curious enough to walk up to the base to read the inscription.

But the other day, in my quest for the rare, and unusual, and the new (to me) I picked up a 2008 copy of Juxtapoz magazine. In it was featured an artist by the name of Mark Jenkins who describes his outdoor art as "litter." By that he means that when he creates something, be it a Plastic Bag-Eating Giraffe made from packing tape, or a plastic baby pulling down a bus stop sign (Storker Project, left), he has no intention of ever getting the thing back, nor does he harbor any illusions about its permanence. 

Most of his works are gone in a few days or weeks. In an interview in the magazine, he has this to say about his work: " I like seeing them as litter ... especially the raw packing tape pieces like the babies, which are compositionally equivalent to the rest of the post-consumer plastic trash out there—wrappers, bags stuck in trees, etc. I like giving trash a new aesthetic."

So Jenkins's work got me thinking about the hulking golden steed in the roundabout which is everything that Jenkins's work is not: big, permanent, and serious. On a deliciously warm and golden Portland morning, I walked over to it to have a closer look.

I was surprised that it was neither Beard not Palahniuk but Joan of Arc, the maid of Orleans who single-handedly ended the Hundred Years' War by kicking the English's ass out of France. Now what Joan of Arc has to do with Portland, Oregon I have no idea—most likely nothing—but the thing's erection was donated by Doctor Some-BigEgo-or-other, a monument to the idea that nothing should ever change.

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