ALL THIS, AND SPUTNIK TOO?
by Kirby Lindsay
During the recent election of the Fremont Arts Council Board of Directors, Rodman Miller promised to work towards “more permanent art.” Asked if Fremont might not have enough art already, Miller gave an unequivocal, “No.” He wants more works here generally, but a glance around shows Miller hasn’t been shy about sharing his own.
Rapunzel and Elephant’s Child
Miller, who lives and works (as a professional artist) near the Fremont Bridge, saw potential for neon in the towers – and struggled through massive layers of government bureaucracy to install these two pieces. While today they officially remain as “temporarily permanent” installations, Hale’s Ales helped seal their place as local icons when they adopted Miller’s Rapunzel as the image for their Drawbridge Blonde Ale. Even sweeter, license fees paid for use of the image, as Miller negotiated with Mike Hale, were donated to a women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence – like Rapunzel herself.
Flowers for Randall & Neon for The Rocket
Miller distinguishes between his own art, and art designed by others that may incorporate his work. His blown glass flowers decorate the cast concrete ivy on the Fremont Solstice Apartments (3623 Woodland Park Ave N) but he credits Jessica Randall, who designed the piece and, “she hired me to make those.”
Same goes for the Fremont Rocket, transformed from scrap into art by John Hoge. Miller contributed neon portions – for the nose, the fins and the thrusters – but he’s not thrilled to admit it right now. The neon on the nose no longer lights up and “one of the tubes,” he described the fins, “has slipped down and some of the Lucite disks aren’t the right colors.” Being a local artist, though, means he’ll see to repairs – once he figures out how.
The Blue Plate Special
“I still will do neon,” Miller said, but “I find blowing glass much more interesting.” Usually referred to as ‘the finials on Epi,’ the colorful blown glass extends from fabricated steel designed by Miller, and built for him by Anna Sher. “People who notice it love it,” he mentioned about the whimsical piece, installed on the second floor of the southwest corner of the EpiCenter building (620 N. 34th Street), “but many people don’t look up.”
For this piece, located at 3401 Fremont Avenue North, Miller and Sher collaborated on the design – he created blown glass ‘flowers’ that ‘grow’ from her elaborate metal stems and stalks. Miller has since created other fences – at the Wallingford Boys & Girls Club and in San Francisco – and, “I regret I didn’t put more glass in the fence.”
Miller built his Sputnik, a metal and neon representation of the Soviet spacecraft, “in response to Lenin. I always thought it was a great American symbol,” Miller, a Doctor of Science, explained, “the reason we started teaching kids science.” To confuse matters, however, the piece often gets mentioned in connection to The Rocket.
Today, Sputnik has gone kaput-nik. Once installed atop a building behind The Rocket – and in sight of Lenin’s first home in Fremont - Miller retrieved it a while back, damaged and discarded during removal of the equipment it sat upon. “I would love to see it get reinstalled,” he said, and he will when someone offers another roof.
“If I see an opportunity,” for more public art installations, Miller said, “I’ll pursue it.” He won’t apply for big public works projects; “I’ve never won a committee judging.” Instead, he asks for a chance. “I am around Fremont a lot, and I know my way around Fremont. There are some neighborhoods,” he allowed, “if I were to ask, they would look at me baffled.”
As to art for Fremont, Miller insists, “there isn’t ever too much, unless it’s displacing people.” As to the possibility that numerous art pieces could distract from one another, Miller answered with what could be a Fremont motto, “I think it’s fun to have a lot of things going on.”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.