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Brenda Mallory’s New Installation Takes Flight at PDX

Mechanics of Hither and Yon

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People do a double take as they head down Concourse A at the Portland International Airport these days. What had been a stark, white corridor has now sprouted exotic objects that mimic airborne seed pods and spore-like forms.

Installation Artist Brenda Mallory

Christie Hazan

Travelers seem to like the unexpected splash of art in an otherwise drab airport terminal. “I come through here every week,” commented one recent visitor, “and it’s so cool to see something here.”

They’re talking about a work by installation artist Brenda Mallory. Mallory creates her multimedia sculptures with an unusual combination of welded steel, waxed cloth, and nuts and bolts. Inspired by the location, she calls this piece The Mechanics of Hither and Yon.

It’s the largest installation she has ever done.

“By far the largest,” says Mallory. “It was overwhelming given the short time frame. It’s one of the few times I had to build a scale model, because what you think is big could get lost in a space that large.”

The airport’s Art & Entertainment Program Coordinator, Greta Blalock, asked Mallory to design artwork to cover three walls, each 24-feet high, with the longest wall stretching 40 feet. It’s an enormous installation with huge exposure.

“It’s a great opportunity,” says Mallory. “Millions go through the airport and my work will be up for an entire year.”

Christie Hazan

Between 11 and 14 million travelers pass through the Portland Airport annually. Anyone taking a short hop on Horizon or Alaska airlines will see Brenda Mallory’s work. The installation opened in mid-November and she’s already received commissions from people who have seen her work at the airport.

The Port of Portland sets aside money in its general operating budget for arts and entertainment. The stated mission is “to provide a portal into the dynamic cultural life of our Northwest region.” They treat visitors at the airport to musical performances, four art exhibits that rotate every six months and two year-long installation works like Mallory’s The Mechanics of Hither and Yon.

Greta Blalock discovered Brenda Mallory on OPB’s Oregon Art Beat.

“I watch Art Beat all the time and make notes,” says Blalock. Mallory’s work immediately caught her eye. “I like all the organic forms. I like the fact that you look at it and you’re not quite sure what it’s made of.”

In her mind, Mallory makes a connection between these forms and the travelers in the terminal. “Seeds, insects and ideas. Traditions, technologies and germs. All travel through the world changing the places they leave and the places they land.”


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Mechanics of Hither and Yon