Since its dedication in 1985, this sculpture was intended to become an iconic symbol of the city of Portland. Despite being 26 feet tall and the second-largest hammered copper sculpture in the US, it's quite easy to miss as one walks past the Portland Building because it has been placed on the building's facade above street level and a large awning. Sculptor Reymond Kaskey designed Portlandia to reflect its nautical heritage and included the provision that no one could use the sculpture or its image in any commercial fashion. Perhaps befitting its nautical message of welcoming commerce to the port city, the sculpture was crafted in Maryland and arrived in Portland's port in 1985. At the same time, there is great irony that a statue honoring commerce cannot be depicted by any commercial firm-a fact that has prevented the statue's likeness from adorning postcards, t-shirts, and other items that might lead to more people seeing the statue as a symbol of the city.
Backstory and Context
Portlandia was inspired by the city seal of Portland, which features a woman dressed in a flowing gown welcoming traders into the city's port. The pose of the figure was considered somewhat controversial at the time, but Kaskey nevertheless won the Henry Hering Medal from the National Sculpture Society for his work. Portlandia remains the sole intellectual property of Kaskey and cannot be reproduced in any commercial form without his permission.
Since 1985, there have been numerous campaigns to relocate the sculpture to a more visible area. Many argue that the sculpture is hidden and often ignored by residents and visitors because it is situated several stories above ground level. Each time Kaskey has refused to allow Portlandia to be relocated, citing that the piece was designed specifically for that location. The figure is maintained by the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), which oversees art-related activity throughout the greater Portland metropolitan area.