Pole Art or Not?: A Special Report


A recent mention on Reddit regarding some of my past Pole Art posts drew me back to noticing this kind of thing. I had written about one of the more perplexing styles of Pole Art because materials used appear less like art and more like something that could, with some explanation, be a functional part of the pole. The use of pieces that resemble bottle nipples, caps or other small leftover household gadgets screwed to poles have the makings of an unnamed subcategory of the Pole Art. A clue was provided by a glue cap I spotted attached to one of my neighborhood poles. Seeing something familiar in a different context made me realize this wasn’t a functional addition to the pole. This object was artistic in nature. It adhered to my belief that anything attached to a pole equals Pole Art. The what and the why is beyond even my imagination. My initial conclusion is that someone is creating what they think looks cool. There’s no shortage of available canvas which in this case is the many electrical poles around Portland.

Then more of these forms of Pole Art appeared, one right after another, on a recent dog walk. They’re small but usually placed at eye level so they aren’t hard to miss. Then again I’m one of the few who would look for them and spread the word of this Pole Art phenomenon to a slightly larger audience. With some thought, I could be inclined to come up with theories about what’s happening. Off the top of my head it feels like nods to forgotten industries, or trophies of dish soap tops, glue caps and drink tops. The mystery is overwhelming. I can’t claim to be the foremost authority on Portland Pole Art but I may be the only one who cares.

Tubular Swells

Tubing, some old Spirograph discs, a bottle cap, I’m not just creating an inventory of art parts, I’m listing the ingredients that have combined with an aura of colorful ridged textures to create a dashing piece of Pole Art.

Hands Across the Plastic

More than anything I had to consider the attachment going on between what looks like a bicyclist water bottle top and the plastic material above it. A close-up doesn’t help. It’s a jagged part that appears to be reaching out to connect the two pieces. Attempts at metaphors of human unity have never been replicated so well in other mediums.

Glue Screw

A glue cap can be a beautiful object to consider once it’s been screwed off of a bottle of glue. The  fact that this one is screwed into a blue cap with a plastic coated screw gives it additional panache. The screw is a fitting choice keeping in line with the overall plastic theme of the piece.

This Wheels on Fire

This is a hallmark of a great Pole Art. The black piece resembles either a pair of binoculars, a Polaroid camera or a VR gizmo. It’s smallness against the backdrop of the wooden expanse of the pole’s timber braces the viewer for ultimate impact.

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6 thoughts on “Pole Art or Not?: A Special Report

  1. Bonnie Sell says:

    I work for an utility company. If one of our linemen need to climb any of these poles all the “art” on them cause them to fall. Their hooks for climb may hit a screw or bottle screw and not go in the pole, The result a person falling from a pole or sliding down one. Not a great experience for that person. They can be hurt badly or killed.

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  2. April Henry says:

    There are a bunch of these in SW Portland. I talked to Omrose, the folks who treat telephone poles, and they tried to tell me they were “sign holders.” But I’ve seen them appear with no signs, and it really doesn’t make sense – why all the layers? I’m puzzled.

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