Friday, February 3, 2012

Eugene Group (1974) by Hugh Townley - Alton Baker Park - Eugene Oregon

 i have taken the liberty of naming each of the figures after kalapuyan tribes, who were the indigenous inhabitants of the willamette (whilamut - where the river ripples and runs fast) valley region.
numbered sculptures match those in the aerial photo in the lower right
1 - atfalati (tualatin)
these eight figures were created by the american sculptor and printmaker, hugh townley (1923-2008), for the oregon international sculpture symposium in 1974. unfortunately, it would appear that the middle "prong" on the top of sculpture 3 has been broken. (click here for my "plasticine group" version with the prong intact).

working mainly with wood, hugh townley's whimsical forms drew influence from nature and native american culture.

(here is a cool picture isolating the first figure (or atfalati as i call it), taken by nativeagle on flickr. the twin pines on the right appear to serve as backup singers for the regal, sculpted concrete monolith, whose shadow seems to depict some kind of headless muscleman).

2 - ahantchuyuk
the sculpture is located at alton baker park in eugene, oregon and indicated by the red square in the aerial photo to the left.

to me, they are somewhat reminiscent of something the spanish artist, joan miró (1892-1983), may of done, exhibiting the same sort of playfulness that was typical of his art. (harlequin's carnival, pictured below, has always been one of my favorite miró's).


the harlequin's carnival - 1925 (with a townley twist)

3 - yamhill


here is a wonderful bit of insight from hugh townley into how every so often, something we take in through one or more of our senses from our external surroundings, will excite a place inside of us enough to ignite our imagination, and perhaps even without us fully understanding what it is we are feeling deep within our very dna, it reaches that critical point where we are compelled to reify the thing back out into a tangible form, whether a painting, a sculpture, a song or a socioeconomic arrangement, to become the evolved and shared expression of that experience:



"the following poem is by kalidasa sukunta (translated from the sanscrit by w.s. merwin) says something more about me and the mode in which i live and work:


4 - chepenefa
even the man who is happy
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glimpses something
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or a hair of sound touches him

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and his heart overflows with a longing
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he does not recognize

then it must be that he is remembering

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in a place out of reach
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shapes he has loved

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in a life before this
trans.gif the print of them still there in him waiting

5 - chelamela


i work in as direct a fashion as i can. i rush into some ideas. sometimes i rush out again. as each piece becomes more ordered my studio becomes more disordered. then, look i am done! committed to each new work as it is, and above all to another, and more besides. surely there is no end.
- hugh townley
bethel, vermont june 2006"


6 - yoncalla




i love each and every one of these stately and resolute figures. their shape, their positioning, their shadows, their texture, the way they look in different lighting conditions, their imposing might, but also their vulnerable fragility.

there are smaller ones and taller ones, wider ones and narrower ones. some of them appear to have pieces playfully removed from their bodies with a cookie cutter, while others resemble a single slab and are solid like some majestic monolith.

some appear to be dancing with the wind on their flared legs. others stand forcefully erect and almost seem to challenge the observer in a powerful show of mute defiance.

7 - chafan
all of them look as though they are animated ancient petroglyphs, meandering about the park communicating with each other in their own mystical way, unfazed by those around them. or perhaps they are trying to tell us something, and we can only conjecture what it may be as we muse their abstruse meaning.
8 - santiam

they seem to celebrate life while appearing at the same time to be representative of lives that are no more. each of them has its own unique personality, yet they are inextricably interconnected with one another through the relationship of their spatial arrangement and in their enduring strength against outside forces beating down upon them.


here is an original song that i put together as a tribute to hugh townley and this grand and beautiful sculpture




i wanted to chose names from the kalapuyan indigenous people in keeping with the "talking stones" theme at alton baker park, (click here for a pdf brochure for more information about the stones) where a series of eleven rocks have been placed at points around the park featuring words of the traditional kalapuyan language.

as you can see from the map below, the group names chosen for the figures more or less match the arrangement of the sculpture.
the area highlighted in blue and indicated by the black rectangle, was the region occupied by the kalapuya (shown in more detail on the larger map on the right). note the sculpture arrangement in the aerial photo in the upper left and compare that with the groups i have named them after.

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