Seattle’s Newest Jewel

My sister is a volunteer at the new outdoor sculpture garden in Seattle, called the Olympic Sculpture Park. (How about that for connections!) When we were up scouting colleges for my son last week, she gave us a private tour. (Just one piece of advice about this tour: The best is last!)

This is a fountain, called “Father and Son,” by the recently deceased Louise Bourgeois. In this photo, the water is obscuring a similar statue of a naked young boy (who faces his naked father). The water shifts back and forth obscuring the son, then the father, and so on.
 You are on your own for deep meanings here. 

 These “Eye Benches” are next to the fountain, and are also by Bourgeois. The 9-acre park runs along the banks of Puget Sound and is divided by diagonal walkways. 

We all loved this piece, called “Love and Loss,” by Roy McMakin. If you look closely, you can see the letters of the title. My sister told us that tree is the only non-native in the park, chosen because they needed a species that produced the “V” letter shape.

And what sculpture park is complete without a Calder? My sister told us this signature reddish orange paint color used on “Eagle” is actually patented by Alexander Calder. Space Needle (from 1962 World’s Fair) in background.

How can you not at least try to get a little arty on the photography?

Steel work called “Schubert Sonata” that actually moves in the wind (a really, really big wind, that is)

This piece, called “Seattle Cloud Cover” by Teresita Fernandez, shrouds a pedestrian bridge that crosses the railroad tracks and has a layer of photographic material between the layers of glass.
 During the day it reflects the sun and at night it is lighted and glows.

The all-native plantings in the park are amazing and the grounds are divided into spaces meant to replicate different environments/habitats of Washington (meadows, valleys, seashore, etc). This is a grove of budding Aspens.

If you go to Seattle, and can’t make it during the summer, spring is amazing. The place is literally exploding with cherry blossoms and blooming magnolias and all sorts of gorgeous trees and plants! Of course, you can visit in the winter–if your thing is dreary weather.

So many flowers and ferns unfurling this time of year.

This one is a riot! Called “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X,” is by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. My sister told us that one day a woman set up a little table with a typewriter here and let little kids pound out messages. How brilliant! (Isn’t my sister a good tour guide?) My teenage kids had no idea what this was the first time they saw one at a different sculpture park several years ago. You forget, sometimes, how times are a changin!

This one is by Mark di Suvero and is called “Bunyon’s Chess.” Although a lot of visitors really like this sculpture, I had to work to like it at all. Maybe you had to know Paul.

If you are from the L.A. area, you probably recognize this style from the works of Richard Serra at the Eli Broad collection at LACMA. This is called “Wake.”

Serra said this about it: “The subject of this piece is not its image and it is not the steel. It is you. Your experience in walking through becomes the content.”

The best for last. Or next to last. This is a stainless steel tree, called “Split.” It’s by Roxy Paine.

The artist is into creating artificial landscapes. I will try not to gush. But, I LOVE IT!!

I told you the best was last! You can only go inside to view the sculpture if there’s a volunteer on duty. And guess what, my sister has a key!! Inside this sci-fi greenhouse is another sculpture called the “Neukom Vivarium,” by Mark Dion.

Get this. Along that entire shelf is the trunk of a 60-foot-long Western Hemlock (tree!). This is a living installation of what’s called a nurse log–a fallen tree that sustains other seedlings and plants as it decays–that is maintained in this climate-controlled incubator room. (That’s my sister, the now-famous tour guide, Kristin, in the red coat.)

I wish my photos were better (how the heck do you shoot in all that green light?), but this is the base/root ball of the Western Hemlock, which they brought in from the Green River Watershed, located near Tacoma.

 Neukom is the name of the family that sprung for this exhibit;
 Vivarium means life giving.

This is part of the tree’s complex mechanical life-support system that is entirely visible to visitors. 
 Other artists designed these tiles for the Vivarium.

Visitors are provided with microscopes and magnifying glasses to examine all the life–bacteria, fungi, lichen, plants and insects–on the tree.

So that’s it. I feel so lucky my sister has introduced me and my family to this amazing city, and took us on this wonderful tour of its newest jewel! Thanks, Kristin!!

7 thoughts on “Seattle’s Newest Jewel

  1. I live south of Seattle, and I've never been to the sculpture park, so I really appreciate your tour. I've got to get in to see that nurse log, it's cool.

    Great pictures of the ferns unfurling.

  2. Ok. This is incredible. I haven't been to Seattle in nearly 3 years, and this makes me really want to go back!

    I will definitely be sending this link to a couple of sculptor friends as well as a whole crew of "from Seattle – now transplanted into Brooklyn, NY" friends who will, I'm sure, love seeing your great photos.

    Thanks for sharing this one!!

  3. Nice! Love the tree. I love sculpture gardens. Wouldn't one in nearby be nice? If you are a fan of Calder (American artist), did you know Orange County Museum of Art has an exhibition, "Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy"(– running from now through September 4. I'm going today! Very excited.

  4. I live just south of Seattle, but haven't been to the Sculpture park either (we natives tend to get thrown off by the I-5 corridor backups and scarcity of parking!) but now I know I gotta pack up the family and head up to see it.
    I'm glad you got to see Seattle with sun. It's SO pretty in Spring with sun.

  5. Fantastic photologue Janine, love all that sculpture but as you said the last bit is the best! Fantastic concept, a wonderful natural phenomenon outdoors in the forests that I never thought could be recreated indoors, under glass. Superb!

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