These quiet bits of visual punctuation on telephone poles in Albany caught our eye recently and we thought immediately of fairies, pixies, and sprites. Who else would care enough to adorn wooden telephone poles along a non-descript strip of sidewalk in the Delaware Avenue section of the New York State capital?
Each assembly is a collage, an individually drilled collection of wood pieces painted and glued and arranged according to its own eclectic sense of order. Some are geometric, others organic in form, they strike you as a form of city folk art because of their handmade and idiosyncratic nature, but they not quite “crafty”.
Themes are surreal and unfixed, or scientifically diagrammatic, or campy reassemblies of 60s pop sci-fi and hair-salon motifs. Certainly the pieces are outside – You may not refer to them “outsider art” however.
Friends Barb and Bobbie, who have lived in the neighborhood for years, tell us that these are the work of artist Patrick Picou Harrington and that the neighbors have grown attached to them since they started attaching themselves to power poles.
Each installation is a sort silent surprise that catches you off guard, Bobbie says as she points to another a few yards away. You may walk past them many times without noticing them and once you do, their tiny scale requires a certain amount of intimacy between viewer and the art, says Barb.
A little Internet digging reveals that these are part of a planned 365 day installation on these utility poles by Harrington last year that was cut short at 107 days when company officials discovered the project and firmly asked him to stop. Many street artists don’t ask for permission, preferring to apologize if caught, and he had already been identified. Still these pieces remain.
As you can see, many of the poles are heavily pocked and addled by nails, screws and staples from myriad commercial and political signage that regularly gets posted here and presumably those protuberances are approved or at least not troublesome enough to remove.
Either way, Picou Harrington’s half-pint interventions, some small enough to fit in your hand, may alter your strolling experience when they wink at you from their perch; a piece of the personal and the imaginative in the public sphere, studied before they are worn away by the elements.