All photos by Ken Klotzbach.
What the heck is that?
Art can have that effect on people. Today, if you travel along Rochester’s downtown bike paths, your eye likely will be captured by mystical creatures and shapes, sculptures of giant fish, metal birds and objects not easily described.
The works come courtesy of Art4Trails, a new public art initiative of the Rochester Arts & Culture Collaborative. The works of five sculptors, mostly from the Rochester area, were installed last month at various points along a 2.5-mile stretch of Rochester’s bike path.
Now, I don’t consider myself a person of great artistic discernment. I might, if pressed, be able to tell the difference between a Jackson Pollock and a Jack-in-the-Box.
But public art is meant for everybody — for the masses. Right? It’s meant for people like me. Pedaling along the bike path as described in the Art4Trails brochure — past the old fire station at Silver Lake Park through Mayo Park to Slatterly Park — I go in search of art.
Which is how I found myself at the corner of Silver Lake Drive and Seventh Street Northeast, staring up at tree-like sculpture made of old tire trends, rebar and bicycle wheels. I was fortunate to be joined by PB photographer Ken Klotzbach, who brought to my quixotic adventure a superior sensitivity to art.
“If art can start a conversation, it has been successful,” says Mary Ellen Landwehr, who helped organize Art4Trails. “In order for art to start a conversation, it has to be edgy.”
Now I don’t know what, if anything, “Treecycle,” by Joshua Schroeder, has to say. The tree-like structure, made of recycled materials, suggests renewal, growth. But “Treecycle” is kind of impressive. It forces you to take notice. It compels a, “What’s the heck is that?” moment. Bikers stop and stare. I like it.
I know how a lot of people will react to “Bags of Leaves,” by Chris Delisle and Crist Dahl, because my first response was, “That’s art?”
It’s subtle, that’s for sure. It’s located at Mayo Park, east side of the Zumbro River. Many people who drive by probably don’t take notice of it. But once it falls under your gaze, you get to puzzling over it, scratching your head. Out of the corner of one’s eye, it looks like five gray, nondescript blobs, notes photographer Klotzbach, who appears to like it instantly while I climb on the blobs and jump off like a child.
Context is everything. If “Bags of Leaves” were in an art museum, like at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center, there would be no question that it’s art because, well, it’s in an art museum. It’s the equivalent of a big neon sign saying and pointing, “Art is here.”
But here at Mayo Park, there is no such context. But maybe that’s why it works.
“Sunrise, Sunset” is something that does catch the corner of your eye. Glittery and sparkly, the work is near Bags of Leaves, also on the east side of the river. From a distance, the object looks like some abstract work, an eye-catcher. But as you get closer, the piece, made of stainless steel-type circles, resolves itself into a more conventional object: A boy and his toy truck paired with an old man with a cane.
Some art comes on cat’s paws, so softly you barely notice it. “Blue Heron” is nearly impossible to find. I biked past it once, unable to spot it. Without the aid of a map and eagle-eyed Klotzbach, I might still be looking.
You have to look down, down, down, at the water’s edge at Mayo Park, on the west side of the river near the boat launch. Blue Heron is made of a mix of metals like iron, steel and copper. Geese and ducks, which circle nearby, take more notice of it.
“Blue Heron” comes with a $7,200 price tag. At first, it seems odd and a bit crass that a price tag would be attached. But putting on a price tag does raise an important point about public art. No matter what you think of an art work, art isn’t free. Artists do put a lot of time into it and they should get paid.
It’s called “Flathead,” but I call it “Big Ole Fish.” It’s made of all kinds of stuff: drill bits, rebar, giant screws and bolts. It casts a large shadow as if swimming along the ocean floor. It’s a pretty cool, dominant, whale of an art element at Slatterly Park, near the bike path.
Rochester resident Lori Dolm was passing by on her motor scooter. It was obvious she liked it immensely.
“As I was riding up, I was thinking, ‘What is that?’ The closer I got, I thought, ‘That’s so cool!’” Dolm says. “There are so many artists around Rochester. Rochester needs to promote art more than they do.”