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Arts and Culture

PMA Unveils New Robert Indiana Sculpture

Nora Flaherty

PORTLAND, Maine - The Portland Museum of Art is now home to a new sculpture - an eight-foot-high number "7", which sits just outside the museum's entrance. The piece, by internationally known pop artist Robert Indiana, is called - appropriately enough - "seven." The sculpture is being officially presented Friday evening during Portland's First Friday art walk.


Credit Charles Rotmil / via Wikimedia
Sculptor Robert Indiana at work in Maine in September, 2007.

Indiana is probably best known for his "LOVE" image, which hangs - and stands as a sculpture - in museums and public places all over the world, and made into stamps for the U.S. Post Office. In Maine, Indiana is also known as a longtime resident of Vinalhaven.  PMA chief curator Jessica May says Maine has become a source of inspiration for Indiana.

"There's this sense of rugged heartiness that characterizes his relationship to Maine," May says, "but it is also the place from which now decades of his own creative practice have generated."

"Seven" is one of a few sets of sculptures Indiana has created in the form of the numbers 0 through 9. Some are big and bright; the one at the Portland Museum is made from core-ten steel, and it has a warm, rusty color.

Credit Nora Flaherty / MPBN
Portland Museum of Art Jessica May stands in front of Robert Indiana's "7" sculpture.

May says the idea for Indiana's number sculptures started with the LOVE image. "While he was conceiving that an artwork could be both an image and a word, he was also thinking that numbers could mean both numeric representation as well as having this fascinating and quite beautiful form unto itself," she says.

Now, pop art can be hard to get your mind around. The art itself is often very simple - the LOVE image is a great example - but the thinking behind it is very - well, high-falutin'. And standing in front of a pop art piece is probably the best place to hear, "But how is THIS art?"

I asked Jessica May how she'd respond to someone who said, "But it's just a big 7!"

"I guess I would say, 'Yeah, it's a really big 7!' The thing about it is it's got this kind of jaunty and fun spirit, it doesn't ask to be more than 7. The thing with so much of Indiana's art is it's deeply pleasurable."

Seven is also - not coincidentally - the street number of the museum, which is at 7 Congress Street. The sculpture will stand in front of the museum indefinitely; May says it's just part of the museum's plan to display much more outdoor art.