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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Annie and Daniel and Sam, Sitting in a Tree

posted by on August 8 at 16:56 PM

Sometimes artists stick to one subject their entire lives. Other times, subjects seem to stick to artists.

Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio were having a perfectly normal conversation with Philadelphia-based architect Peter Bohlin when he informed them that they were finalists for a project involving Sam Hill.

Yup, that Sam Hill—the eccentric early 20th-century roadbuilder who ended up, in spite of himself and with the help of the Queen Marie of Romania and a modern dancer named Loie Fuller, founding the Maryhill Museum in remotest Washington, near the border of Oregon.

This was the same Hill that the artists lived with for three years in the research, construction, and experience of their terrific outdoor installation that stood across the Columbia River from the museum last summer, Maryhill Double.

“What are the chances?” Han said when she explained the story on the phone just now.

Turns out that, in time for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the border-crossing between the U.S. and Canada at Blaine, Washington, needs to be seriously expanded. It will basically be torn out and replaced.

The GSA—which in this region is headed by an art-loving Bush appointee, a Republican art angel, really—will be overseeing the rebuilding, led by Bohlin’s architecture firm. The artist’s names had been thrown into a list of artists from the Washington State Arts Commission roster without their knowing.

And the monument that will remain untouched on the site?

Sam Hill’s 1921 Peace Arch, one of the several odd monuments he left strewn about. (Another is a World War I memorial that’s the first American copy of Stonehenge. It stands near Maryhill Museum.)

The artists, who operate under the name Lead Pencil Studio (and who won last year’s Stranger Genius Award), have been selected to make a piece for the reconstruction of the border-crossing, on property that butts right up against Hill’s Peace Arch. (No, they are not planning a double.)

“The coincidence is really something, I have to say,” Mihalyo said.

“We just started,” Han said. “We make a proposal on the 30th, three days before we leave for the Rome Prize.” (They’ll be at the American Academy in Rome for 11 months, but can travel back occasionally.)

The budget for the project is about $200,000, and the site was once a fishing ground where four Native American tribes overlapped. Trains roar through it. And it’s the only property in the U.S., Mihalyo said, that’s co-owned by two nations.

Maryhill Double was only up for three months. It’s remembered only in photographs, videos, memories, and writing. Now it gets another (unwitting) memorial. Sam Hill strikes back.

Maryhill Double - Sky Section, Lambda print, 2007

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Another great aspect of the border crossing at Blaine is that it was the site of the only invasion of America by Canadians - in 1970 (the same week as Kent state) some Vancouver yippies protesting the invasion of Cambodia walked into Blaine and fucked some shit up. The Canadian government asked them to apologize and they responded to the effect of 'We'll apologize once the US withdraws from Cambodia and apologizes to everyone in SE Asia.' The border hadn't been violated since 1812.

A monument commemorating that would fucking rule.

Posted by labronk | August 8, 2007 10:31 PM

hey, my girlfriend and i are in the spliced video they shot!

didn't the canadians burn down the white house? that's what they always claim...

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