The bronze 'Portlandia' sculpture downtown is a symbol of our city. But sometimes Portlanders can have a hard time getting close to the aloof, 36-foot goddess.
No 'Portlandia' T-shirts, key chains, refrigerator magnets or coffee mugs are available for citizens or tourists to purchase at local shops. That's because Raymond Kaskey, the sculptor who created 'Portlandia,' owns the rights to her image and guards it closely.
Artist Amos Latteier, previously known for his collaborative aerial photography project using carrier pigeons, decided to raise the sculpture's profile and have some fun at the same time.
For the landmark-challenged, 'Portlandia' leans down from a perch on the west side of the splashy Portland Building, overlooking the transit mall on Southwest Fifth Avenue. It is the second-largest hammered copper statue in the United States; the biggest is the Statue of Liberty.
Latteier's latest photo venture is inside the lobby of the Portland Building, which has a designated nook for temporary works of public art sponsored by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, a publicly funded arts organization.
'Be Portlandia' lets people get close to the statue by posing as 'Portlandia.' Step onto a small platform, grasp the nearby trident and pose in front of the backdrop. When ready, squeeze the handheld shutter release and say 'cheese.' Your picture will be taken. Latteier develops the film throughout the week, and places the color snapshots on the wall. Participants who like their photo will receive it at the end of the exhibition run, at no charge.
Before he got started on the 'Portlandia' project, Latteier faxed sculptor Kaskey a proposal, wrote up a contract and assured him that Latteier himself wouldn't profit from it.
'It was real interesting to talk to the artist,' he says. 'He's a bit of an interesting curmudgeon. I had to negotiate with him real hard to get him to allow me to do this project.'
Latteier thinks it's unfortunate that 'Portlandia' is not a bigger symbol of the city, and that the image isn't better known.
' 'Portlandia' is not really the image of Portland, the way that the Statue of Liberty is the symbol of New York or the Space Needle is in Seattle,' he says. 'It's not super high-profile.'
'Be Portlandia' is open to the public 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in the lobby of the Portland Building, 1120 S.W. Fifth Ave., through June 13.