Friday, January 30, 2015

Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X
Among the items in the bin of obsolescence, you’ll find rotary phones, cassette tapes, carbon paper, hardbound encyclopedias, and a funny little round, rubber circle with a plastic brush attached.  Remember the typewriter eraser?  It has not been forgotten by the famed husband/wife team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen who created a whimsical, 19-foot sculpture of stainless steel and fiberglass called Typewriter Eraser, Scale X for the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

Located on the waterfront north of downtown in the Belltown neighborhood, this nine-acre park combines landscaping, art, and a stunning view of Puget Sound and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to create an urban redevelopment success story. The site was previously occupied by Union Oil of California as a transfer facility and tank farm. When they pulled out in the 1970s, they left behind a blighted, industrial eyesore with soil contaminated by years of oil seepage.

The idea of creating a sculpture park in this wasteland grew out of a collaboration between the Trust for Public Land and the Seattle Art Museum. Sufficient funds were raised to purchase the land, clean up the contamination, and engage the New York architectural firm of Weiss/Manfredi to transform the property into a vibrant green space to showcase art.

The landscaping, an important element in the design, consists of four Northwest ecosystems: Valley, Meadows, Groves, and Shore. Each is planted with native trees (over 500), shrubs, and wildflowers; and the entire area is connected with a 2200-foot long, Z-shaped, pedestrian path.

Interspersed along this path is a collection of monumental, modern sculptures designed by some of the best-known regional, national, and international artists.  Probably the most recognizable is Alexander Calder’s bright red Eagle which provides a perfect picture frame for Seattle’s Space
Caler's Eagle
Needle.  Other noted artists represented in the collection include Mark di Suvero, Richard Serra, and Louise Bourgeios. The twenty-plus sculptures are mostly metal and abstract including benches mimicking eyeballs, curving monoliths in oxidized steel, and a 50-foot tall stainless steel tree.

One unusual piece brings together art and science. The Neukom Vivarium consists of an 80-foot greenhouse occupied by a giant, dead “nursery log” where viewers can observe life and decay amid the ferns, lichens, and insects that have made the tree their home.

The park is open all year and is free to the public. In summer months, a café serves espresso and snacks, and the park’s amphitheater hosts a variety of special concerts and other events.
Love & Loss

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