Art Appreciation at Land Ports of Entry

August is Art Appreciation Month, and to celebrate, we’re putting our attention on some of the art on display at Land Ports of Entry across the U.S.

Non-Sign II, Peace Arch Land Port of Entry, Blaine, Washington

Non-sign II artwork
Non-Sign II, Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo
(Click to enlarge)

Located on Semiahmoo Bay south of Vancouver, British Columbia, the Interstate-5 border crossing in Blaine, Washington, represents one of the most heavily trafficked points between the United States and Canada. Peace Arch Park, where the first monument to world peace was erected in 1921, straddles the international boundary.

It is also home to one of many Art in Architecture installations commissioned by GSA for land ports of entry along our northern and southern borders.

Non-Sign II, produced by artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Seattle-based Lead Pencil Studio, greets travelers as they cross from Canada into the United States.

Part of the 3-year modernization of the Peace Arch Land Port of Entry completed in 2011, the artwork is erected from small stainless steel rods in a way that creates the negative space of a billboard. While most billboards draw attention away from the landscape, Non-Sign II frames the landscape that inspired its artists and focuses attention back on it.

The Grand State of Maine, Van Buren Land Port of Entry, Van Buren, Maine

The Grand State of Maine, sculpture of a moose
The Grand State of Maine, Glenn Hines and Nina Katchadourian
(Click to enlarge)

More than 3,500 miles to the east stands a life-sized bronze moose near the bridge across the St. John River to St. Leonard, New Brunswick. In the spring of 2008, snowmelt and heavy rain caused extensive flooding of the river, forcing more than 600 residents of northern Maine to evacuate their homes. In the town of Van Buren, where the river marks an international boundary, the flood also destroyed the land port that welcomed travelers from Canada. The rebuilt facility, has been an award-winning structure.

The Grand State of Maine first took shape, unadorned, in 1998 when Glenn Hines sculpted his homage to the comical and majestic creature. In August 2012 conceptual artist Nina Katchadourian purchased Hines’ moose, and the two teamed up to embellish it with everything Maine – including a few unofficial symbols – to pay tribute to its resident state.

Katchadourian sent Hines photographs of Maine’s emblems as she envisioned them affixed to the moose sculpture indicating the size and position of each one. Hines sculpted the emblems in clay, made rubber molds, cast them in bronze, then welded them onto his original work.

The Maine coon cat rides on the moose’s back and the tips of its antlers are perches for the state bird, the chickadee. Even though neither the lobster nor the potato has been designated an official state emblem by the Legislature, their popular association with Maine is acknowledged on the statue. A can of Moxie, the official state soda, rests on the bronze base supporting the statue and a leaping landlocked salmon, the official fish, jumps away from the moose’s front hoof. Other emblems represented around the base of the statue are the official state dessert (blueberry pie), treat (whoopie pie), flower (pine cone and tassel), insect (honeybee), fossil (pertica quadrifaria), herb (wintergreen) and mineral (tourmaline), which is surrounded by a ring of nautical rope.

Americans for the Arts selected The Grand State of Maine as one of 37 winners honored from among 340 total submissions for their 2014 Year in Review. The other Art in Architecture winner: Cliff Garten Studio’s Ribbons courtyard design at 50 United Nations Plaza in San Francisco.

An Album: Sewing into Borderlines, Mariposa Land Port of Entry, Nogales, Arizona

Photo of video installation
An Album: Sewing into Borderlines, Kimsooja
(Click to enlarge)

When the modernization and expansion project wraps up at the Mariposa Land Port of Entry later this month, pedestrians and drivers will be treated to more than new walkways and increased lanes.

Kimsooja gained notoriety in the mid 1990s following one of her most famous video-graphic pieces to date, Bottari Truck. Through subsequent combinations of performance, video and installation, the artist has further developed the abstract concept of bringing together people, cultures and civilizations.

Filmed in Nogales, Arizona in 2013, An Album: Sewing into Borderlines consists of silent video portraits of community members who live with the daily reality of commuting between both countries. The portraits show each individual in three different positions: facing the viewer, facing away, and turning back towards the viewer. These poses represent the individuals’ journeys through past, present and future.

“In these three distinctive postures I see both a physical and psychological borderline,” said Kimsooja in her final concept proposal. “I believe the Mariposa Land Port of Entry could serve as an example to bring cultural understanding and positive interaction between the two countries by sharing the emotions, memories, and aspirations we all have in our lives.”

The figures facing the camera suggest arrival/encounter, whereas those same figures facing away from the camera evoke departure/separation. The artist provoked the action of turning back towards the viewer by calling the name of each individual during filming, offering the opportunity to re-enter the memory of a reality left behind.

The new-media work of art and its position at the border crossing ask the viewers who pass beneath it to do the same – to look back over their shoulders and reflect on their own personal, interior journeys.

Metallic Cloud, Tornillo-Guadalupe Land Port of Entry, Tornillo, Texas

Sculpture of recycled metal mirrors and auto parts
Metallic Cloud, Steve Badgett and Matt Lynch
(Click to enlarge)

In border town Tornillo, Texas (population 1,568) SIMPARCH artists Steve Badgett and Matt Lynch propose to re-purpose a collection of rear- and side-view mirrors used on tractor-trailers and other large vehicles operating on the nation’s roadways. SIMPARCH, founded in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is an artist collective whose chosen name and artistic aims are to interrelate simple sustainable life and architecture.

Much like Kimsooja’s video album that exposes emotional and aspirational journeys taken at international border crossings, Badgett and Lynch have transformed these common, practical objects into an evocative sculpture that offers many potential meanings about the function of the port facility and ideas about crossing borders.

Yet to be named but likely to be titled Metallic Cloud when it is installed at the U.S. Land Port of Entry later this fall, the artwork resembles natural forms like tumbleweeds or clouds that convey movement and transformation. The sculpture will have no moving parts, but its appearance will change as light falls and shadows are cast upon it throughout the day.

In the artists’ words:  “The intent of the work is to function on multiple levels: A convergence of elements that are drawn together at this remote, energized location where material goods and human energy become condensed for a time, then released to continue on their journey. As a formidable, amorphous form, it will capture and manipulate light, sparkling like a rough diamond when the sun is in full radiance.”

Additional Information

  • Nature and culture inspire Mariposa Land Port artworks [GSA.gov]
  • Great Lakes Region celebrates Art Appreciation Month [GSA.gov]
  • GSA’s Art & Architecture and Fine Arts Programs [GSA.gov]
  • GSA’s Public Art Board [Pinterest]
  • Follow GSA on Instagram [Instagram]