Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Art in the Park

This is the spot where they built the very first Seattle Art Museum. Just a few years before, it was a cemetery! But the citizens of Seattle decided that they'd rather have a park here, so they dutifully moved the bodies over a block and thus  "City Park" was created in the late 1800's. (You can read more about the migratory nature of Seattle's graveyards here.) 

The centerpiece of City Park was the Pavilion, featuring the Bandshell, no doubt the birthplace of the Seattle music scene. Other original park features, such as the castle-like Water Tower and the Reservoir are still around, but the Pavilion was torn down just a few decades later to make way for the Seattle Art Museum.

The Seattle Art Museum was founded by Dr. Richard Fuller and his mother heiress Margaret MacTavish Fuller. The Fullers moved to Seattle from New York in the 1920's. Related to both feminist pioneer author Margaret Fuller and genius futurist Buckminster Fuller, the Fullers loved to travel and collect artwork. 

Having amassed an impressive collection of Asian artwork, the Fullers decided to create a museum to house it. The city of Seattle agreed to let them build their museum in the park on the site of the Pavilion. By this time the park had been renamed "Volunteer Park", to honor the volunteers of the Spanish American War. 

Noted northwest architect Carl Gould was chosen to design the new museum. Taking  advantage of the very latest in building materials, Gould used terrazzo in the interior lobby floor and sleek aluminum trim and fixtures. It opened to the public in 1933. The centerpiece of the building, still sometimes referred to as the "Garden Court" originally housed tropical plants as well as statuary. The floor in this room is Cotswold Slate.

Dr. Richard Fuller was a geologist and loved all kinds of stonework including statues and ceramics. He acquired a series of sets of statues from the Spirit Path of a Chinese tomb and installed them along the lawn and walkways leading into the museum.

These statues are now protected indoors at the downtown Seattle Art Museum, but thanks to the Seattle Foundation, there are cement replicas of the camel statues which have given rides to many generations of Seattle children. 

This lovely Art Deco building was home to the Seattle Art Museum for almost 60 years.  
In 1991 a new, bigger building was built for the Museum in downtown Seattle. The building in the park was then rechristened as the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It continues to display the Fuller's original Asian art collection and well as new works by contemporary Asian artists.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Take on Art

I once did an art project about vertibrae. They look like little pterodactyls.
I'm an artist. 
"Everyone is an artist." 
What other profession is so inclusive?
Do people say "Everyone is a doctor"?
(Well, actually, in a way we often do act as our own doctors, but that's a whole 'nother blog post!)

     I've been drawing since the age of 1, according to my mother, and according to an evolutionary astrologer who looked at my horoscope chart, I have been an artist in many past lives. She even said that I've died as a result of being an artist, whether through persecution for my art, or as the result of the backbreaking labor involved, such as being a stone mason.
 Being an artist in any lifetime is not easy but it seems to be especially confusing nowadays. An artist is not guaranteed a steady income, so I pay my rent by working at my "day job," as a security guard in an art museum. I enjoy being around the art and interacting with visitors. Inevitably, though, I hear disparaging comments, such as ever popular, "my child could do that." 
     The thing is, it's entirely possible that their child could have created something similar to some of the art that is on display in our modern and contemporary collections. Art stopped being concerned with technical accomplishment somewhere during the industrial revolution about 100 years ago when it became apparent that cameras and other machines could do the work as well or better than we mere mortals. 
     To appreciate today's conceptual art usually requires that the viewer read something about the artist's intent to fully appreciate it. Unfortunately many people consider art that requires reading and thinking to some sort of elitist scam. The same people would not question having to read an instruction manual to understand their latest gadget, so I can only assume that it's the ultimate result of living in a society that still holds technology and technique over humanity. Maybe we need to refund arts education.

Yesterday I visited an art show where the exhibition design itself was the medium. The name of the exhibit was "horizon" and it was put together by curator Scott Lawrimore, who simply took about 20 of the museum's landscape paintings and lined them up the length of the gallery so that the horizons were at the same height, roughly at eye level. On the opposite wall was projected a video of the fiery ball of the sun dropping into the sea. While in that room, you could either face one wall or the other, peering into the "windows" of landscape paintings or the looking at the electric video sunset.

 The premise of the exhibit, as stated in the wall text, included this concept:
Recent psychological studies suggest that the absence of a literal horizon, or “long view,” in our increasingly dense urban landscape, as well as our fixation on computer screens and smart phones as means to acquire and share knowledge, is contributing to new pathologies of depression. The future health of our landscape is likewise threatened by the lack of a metaphorical long view of our relationship with the environment."

    This struck me since I often wonder how modern civilization's hell bent hurry to grasp the next dollar has left us blinded to our destruction of the natural world and even our own souls. What will be the result from this disconnect, as we willingly prefer to stare at a glowing screen instead of into each other's eyes? I doubt that I would have pondered these ideas if I hadn't read that text panel. but there was definitely something about physically being in this gallery that gave me an overarching desire for the space for new ideas and a need to feel open to new horizons.