by Peggy DePersia, guest blogger
Given the associations I have made with the city of Seattle as well as it’s climate and weather from my earliest school girl discoveries, the result of elementary school geography studies, it seems appropriate and emblematic that a large scale, bright red, inverted umbrella against a vivid blue sky would strike me as such an iconic representation of most of what I understood about Seattle as a young girl.
It turned out to be a sort of ‘cherry on the sundae’ of my recent experience of Seattle and an introduction to an expanded sense of the sculptural treasures, both old and new, traditional and contemporary, embraced by the ‘city limits’ of Seattle. The umbrella was just the beginning.
Even the downtown public library in Seattle feels like a modern day sculpture intended to be viewed from every conceivable vantage point and grounded in the heart of a bustling urban landscape. How often, when once is experiencing a big city library does one say: Well, I have to walk around the block on this one and then I have to walk around the block again.
I didn’t want to miss a single point of view and then marveled at how functional this building / sculpture is for meeting all of the needs for which it was designed for the folks of Seattle. Anyone who’s been to the city could probably describe a walk that involved some huffing and puffing due to the steep hills one might have to navigate. The ‘walks’ around the library block definitely took care of our aerobic needs for the day.
But, back to sculpture. Though it certainly appears that the people of Seattle love their sculpture, there are other ‘big ideas’ they care about as well…..so, why not speak to the idea through a work a work of art; how about a sculpture? When we walked into the lobby of the Seattle Museum of Art or SAM, we were greeted by a monumentally scaled, contemporary, kinetic sculpture of a man striking a tool to the surface of some article on which he appeared to be hard at work. I felt a wave of respect for the figurative representation of manual labor and the work that underlies the making of any and every thing. And that was just the entry.
Inside the SAM, spanning the length of the lobby’s high ceiling was a stunning sculptural fabrication of a ‘real regional tree from a forest’ made from small pieces of wood in segments by individuals who were part of various construction collaboratives (now there’s a 21st century term for you). Think tree huggers, not in the political sense but in the sense of anyone who can appreciate the awesomeness of a single tree in the wild. The story is really too long to tell here yet splendid in every way.
In addition to the city’s monumental landmark variety sculptures, the SAM also houses collections of more traditional sculpture unique to the Pacific Northwest as well as special exhibits of internationally recognized artists and contemporary American artists like Nicholas Cage. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that a visit to the SAM is well worth the effort.
Not to be overlooked and at the heart of the original center of the old city of Seattle in an area referred to as Pioneer Square are numerous galleries with sculptures and paintings alike but let’s save that for ‘next time’.
Photography by Jerry DePersia