Indigenous artist incorporates ancestry into Lake Oswego art installation
When people enter the new City Hall building, it'll be hard not to notice a giant mobius strip hanging from the ceiling outside of the Lake Oswego City Council chambers on the third floor.
"We're really excited," said Arts Council of Lake Oswego Executive Director Nicole Nathan. "It's going to be a really stunning piece — the shape, the narrative around the piece, the pieces of glass (which) have symbols on them."
The suspended art sculpture created by Lillian Pitt and her team of fabricators, Juno Lachman and Ben Dye, was installed Tuesday, Dec. 21.
The art installation project came about because the city passed an ordinance in the 1990s that requires any public project or use of public funds to have 1.5% of the overall budget dedicated to artwork. The art piece cost about $135,000.
"Because the City Hall building was a new project, that is one of the reasons that the 1.5% process is triggered — so this piece is part of the interior piece that will be going into City Hall," Nathan said.
She added that the suspended sculpture has "a really interesting design because it has all these mathematical properties to it. (It) has some really interesting reflective qualities (and) almost glows to a certain degree on its own. It changes color … it really exhibits a rainbow of colors as you walk around it as light hits it."
The piece is powder-coated metal in a reflective copper color.
Pitt was selected in spring of 2021 after about 12 artists were solicited for the project.
Pitt is an Indigenous artist from the Portland area with ancestry in the Columbia River Gorge. Honoring those ancestors is at the forefront of her artwork, and it took her about six months to complete her piece for Lake Oswego.
"It's just nice to expand my artwork to a place where there's not too much Native American people … so I thought, 'well that's a good place to be,'" Pitt said. "It's the images that are on it. The images are petroglyphs and the people, some of them are my people; they're people of all different colors, shapes and sizes."
Specifically, the piece showcases arrowhead petroglyphs. Pitt said there were once roughly 200,000 arrowheads in the Columbia River Gorge, until people came along and stripped the arrowheads from the land.
"Many different tribes lived there for hundreds of years, so I wanted something to represent that — letting people know the Native American people are still here," Pitt said.
The Arts Council of Lake Oswego also announced an exhibition of Pitt, Lachman and Dye's artwork at ARTspace from Feb. 18 through May 13, 2022.
The pieces will be for sale.
"I think it is the exact perfect piece at the right time and in the right building," Nathan said. "Lillian is just an amazing artist. She has so many pieces in the Portland area. We are fortunate and extremely lucky she was able to come up with a great idea for this situation and this application, and we're really honored to have a piece of hers here."
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