Art of the Day: Gene Kangas tribute to Hart Crane

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 19:18.


There is an amazing sculpture on the edge of the Cuyahoga River by former CSU professor and renowned NEO artist Gene Kangas, created in tribute to near-Cleveland born poet Hart Crane, situated in far less than a park, but a beautiful site, marked by a wordless sign. You'd only know the sculpture if you know the Flats, or Cleveland sculpture, and I only knew of poet Crane for knowing of the sculpture, and I'm glad for both. This 1992 master work by Kangas is the Art of the Day, and Crane is the poet of the day, today. See and learn more below...


This is far from the only major Kangas sculpture in Cleveland, and you are probably familiar with his work at the corner of Superior and West Huron, featuring metal tubes and pigeons (which I can't find on-line). He has another significant work called "Door", in front of CSU, and "Snow Fence", in the Putnam Collection, on the campus of Case University. But, the Hart Crane Memorial is by far my favorite. It has the feeling of a shipwreck, which is reflective of Hart Crane's life and death... I suspect the title of the work is "Wreck of Dreams", as that is part of the poetry incorporated into the work.



Crane was born in Garrettsville, Ohio in 1899 and suffered a brief, brilliant life ending in suicide at age 33, when he leaping from the deck of the S. S. Orizaba somewhere off the Florida coast just before noon on April 26, 1932. Many consider him one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century and I find his work powerful and fascinating. That he is not well known or celebrated in these parts may be because he was gay, and it seems the conflict of being gay in a homophobic world was core to his work and death. Kangas well captures the pain of the peot's life in this work of art, as it feels tragic, fragmented and brutalized.



Kangas brings poignancy and charm to the sculpture and presentation of Crane's memory in many ways. In one area of the work, which looks like a chain torn apart, Kangas has set a small freighter, matching the ships that pass each day along the Cuyahoga and perhaps the freighter from which Crane ended his life.



As further fitting tribute to Crane and his work, Kangas has created a wedge with raised letters that speaks of Crane and quotes his work. He continues this type of tribute with an arch, which visually mirrors the arches of the bridge above, and has cut-away more of Crane's masterful poetry... the words are found at the end of this posting.



As is so often the case, in NEO, the site of the sculpture is far sub-optimized. There is no parking or seating to make the park receptive to visitors, and, in fact, the sign for the park is completely blank, like the city has turned its back on Kangas and Crane. That is good for those looking for a secret place to sit and reflect, while enjoying a spectacular view, but I do not believe it is the intention of community leaders to install $100,000s worth of art and demolish it by neglect, nor to make the city inhospitable to residents or visitors... this is just another example of an impoverished community with too many good assets to take advantage of, letting them waste away... a shrinking major city.



Certainly, without proper upkeep this great sculpture will suffer the consequences of Cleveland's harsh weather and typical wear and tear... it is already in need of repair. For now, it is a wonderful work by a great artist in support of the memory of another great artist, and it is all about NEO. Go out and enjoy it... it is at the corner of Columbus and Merwin right at the bottom of the Columbus Avenue lift bridge... the perfect place for a picnic while the weather is still grand... and I'm sure the work will be just as spectacular in the dead of winter, blanketed in snow. This is work that rises above the environment with its powerful design, execution, message and purpose.



Far strum of foghorns

Fog insulated noises

Midnight among distant chiming bouys



A tugboat wheezing wreaths of steam, lunged past

A sound of waters bending astride the sky


Follow your arches to what corners of the sky they pull you

Where marble clouds support the sea

Wreck of dreams