I never found Stan Shellabarger. I learned enough about him to find the places where had had been doing his thing. Stan’s artwork is to methodically walk a set course in such a way that he leaves a trace of his passage. Just by walking slowly over and over the same short path his basic presence leaves a mark.
The marks he left in Portland were two white chalk squares indicating the shuffling course of someone rigidly crossing from one corner to the next all the way around the intersection. Two chalk squares – made on the September days when the fall rain came back.
I followed all the leads I could get my hands on trying to find Stan. Along my way I thought I had found him more than once. I asked some fellow coming out of the Pica Headquarters if he had any clues, and was momentarily convinced that the fellow was Stan himself. I’m not sure why, maybe because of the conspiratorial looks he gave me while telling me I would just have to keep looking around town.
I also paused for a while looking at the Bocce bowlers in the NW park blocks. Could Stan be doing a Bocce bowling action? Those people also move monotonously and repetitively over and over the same piece of ground, measuring distance and ordering the passage of time.
The traces that Stan leaves on a place are not obviously the marks of human presence. But knowing that they were made by the humble act of shuffle walking makes the marks poignant. They show an individual person doing little more than existing for a short amount of time on a confined course in the corner of a city. These two scuffed and washed away white square paths show a purposelessness in contemporary life – while at the same time, honoring simple existence as worth noting.