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I’m a believer that art should make a statement.  Now, that can be anything and I always try to see what the artist is saying.  Sometimes it’s easy.  Other times not so much.  Then there’s the stuff I have no clue about, but I like it just the same.  I have found that I have an affinity for LARGE art and it almost always speaks to me.  “Hey, I’m big and obnoxious.  Look at me!” 

I happen to live in a region of the country where large – huge, really – art abounds. Mostly, it’s public art; ergo, accessible to indigents like me.  It’s even integrated into our waste treatment plants.  The Brightwater plant run by King County, but located in neighboring Snohomish County, claims to incorporate landscape, architecture, wildlife habitat, engineering, ART, yada, yada.  Their PR says the goal is to enhance the local community.  I’m sure the art is going to make it smell real good too, but I digress.

When I decided to write this article and started thinking about all the art I really love in the Seattle area, I realized there was just too much to write about all of it and I needed to limit it somehow.  I’m rather fond of the color red . . . red clothes, red cars, red leather furniture (oh yes, I own some), and red shoes.  Okay, shoes I’m gonna love no matter what, but back to the art thing.  I figured I’d share some of the big, red art I enjoy.  “Hey, I’m big and obnoxious and red.  You can’t help but look at me.”  Please keep you arms and legs inside the vehicle.  Here we go.

The Eagle Has Landed

It is really amazing to have this iconic piece of art here.  It was originally commissioned by a bank in Fort Worth, Texas back in 1972 and called “The Eagle.”  The artist is renowned for large (my kinda guy), abstract sculptures and . . . wait for it . . . the creation of the mobile.  Yes, you can thank Alexander Calder for mesmerizing your wailing infant into quietude.  Bless you Al.  Anyway, this particular piece of public art was privately owned and when the bank was sold, the investor couldn’t find a buyer in Fort Worth for this remarkable sculpture.  After a brief stop in Philly, it “landed” here in Seattle as the centerpiece of the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Seattle Tulip

This piece has delighted me simply forever as it is along the urban trail I negogiated twice a day for nearly 10 years on the plaza outside the Wells Fargo building.  The coolest thing about this painted-steel sculpture is that it changes shape depending on your direction of approach, so I got to see something different on each leg of my trip.  Tom Wesselman, the artist, was part of the American Pop Art movement along with the likes of Andy Walhol, but never liked his inclusion with that particular group.  Artists are so anti . . . well, just anti.  Still, it’s pretty awesome to have a piece of art from an authentic Pop Artist out where everyone can enjoy it.

Hat N Boots

Every once in awhile something is saved rather than lost.  The Hat N Boots by artist Lewis Nasmyths and Architect Albert Poe were originally part of a western-themed gas station in the Fifties.  The hat was on top of the station and the boots served as the restrooms.  How bitchin’ to go poo . . . in a shoe.  Sorry about that, besides it’s a boot . . . never mind.  The station became a local icon and sold more petrol than anyone else in the whole state.  Just goes to show you can never underestimate the power of the outlandish.  The station fell into disrepair and the biggest hat and boots in American were almost lost.  They were relocated to Oxbow Park and restored by the City of Seattle.  You go, Seattle. 

Giant Red Popsicle

OMG . . . It’s a bird.  It’s a plane.  It’s a 17-foot tall Popsicle and its red.  The latest addition to big and red in Seattle was just installed in June of this year.  Located in Belltown, people are loving it.  They can be seen regularly posing with the giant confection for pictures, even (gross alert) licking it. What can I say . . . some people’s kids.  This is local artist Catherine Mayer’s first piece of outdoor public art in the city, but it is unlikely to be her last.  So I have to ask, what will she do as an encore?  A ginormous Drumstick or Creamsicle.  No, I’ve got it . . . a colossal Rocket Pop . . . you know, the red, white and aquamarine, rocket shaped “sicle” . . . or maybe a gigantic Big Stick.  Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be “delicious.” 

Olympic Iliad

One of the most excellent places in the Emerald City is the Seattle Center.  There is . . . our signature landmark . . . the Space Needle as well as the Pacific Science Center, outdoor Mural Amphitheater, and Experience Music Project.  Other mustn’t misses include the International Fountain, Seattle Center Monorail, and Sculpture Garden.  I have a special affection for the Olympic Iliad by Alexander Liberman.  This massive, red-orange monument is one of four unique pieces that make up the Sculpture Garden.  What’s it trying to say?  Beats me, but I like it.  I like it a lot.  I have no highbrow justification when it comes to art appreciation . . . just like, don’t like. Could be I’m going to like anything big and red. 

This concludes my tour of big . . . red . . . art in Seattle.  I’m actually quite proud of the volume and diversity of public art in Seattle.  This is not even the tip of the iceberg, so I’ll just leave a link to a comprehensive Seattle outdoor art site . . . . Seattle Outdoor Art.  Image that.  Knock yourself out.  I’m sure you will agree . . . Seattle public art ROCKS.

Seattle Skyline view from Queen Anne Hill.

Image via Wikipedia

Today I looked like a native, no tailored wool trench, three-inch stilettos, pencil skirt and low-cut sweater.  No . . . I am transformed to fit into the landscape of this place in a tan leather jacket several sizes too large . . . heavy, beat and worn.  It was given to me by a friend, nothing I would ever buy.  My big brown boots, always comfortable to walk in, are the perfect compliment to my khaki pants and beige t-shirt.  The only concession to fashion is a fitted vest, rust with a bit of the ideal shade of green to flatter my eyes.  Ahhh yes, let’s not forget the most important accessory of all in this town, the stylish cup from the expensive latte stand at the train station.  Don’t tell anyone, its cocoa.  I still can’t stand coffee, but it makes a great hand warmer and a steal on a bitter, cold morning for only three bucks.

 

Exiting the train tunnel, I escaped from the herd of commuters by racing across the street against the traffic light right in front of a Metro bus.  I lengthen my stride to reach that same bus before it leaves the next stop.  The smiling driver scolds me for playing chicken with him down the road.  We chuckle and chat for the few blocks to my stop.  It’s a short ride and an easy walk, but it cuts through the park where the homeless sleep . . . the “bad” part of the city.  Was it that long ago I laughed at those fearful to travel on foot through the little makeshift camp?  Faded from my memories, are the days of my youth when I would crawl over drunks and vagrants to open the office each morning in another metropolis I loved and called home.  There the bums were part of the scenery, either nothing to take note of or someone you greeted by name.

 

This particular bus drops me at Madison.  It is a steeper climb up to Ninth than either Spring or Seneca (the next two stops), but it’s a cold morning, the exertion feels good and warms me up.  I note the progress of the many construction sites I traverse.  If you look out across the city at this time of year, you can’t count the cranes piercing the sky with their phallic, steel frames.  Crews work long hours, at a frantic pace to take advantage of the limited production season.  I start to come alive as my blood pumps faster and the chill air fills my lungs.  I pick up the pace enjoying the awakening of my body to the day.

 

The skyline is a compilation of structures I have somehow come to know by name . . . Columbia Center, Two Union Square, Washington Mutual Tower, Wells Fargo Center and the Westin Towers, staid old-timers to the newest architectural wonders like the WaMu Center, IDX and Madison Towers.  I’ve become acquainted with the urban trails that shortcut through and between these monoliths.  I make my way past cookie-cutter, drones lining the streets waiting for the next bus or sitting in their cars stuck in grid locked traffic.  I’ve learned which streets run one-way and their direction.  I can make my way in this human habitrail without thought or notice.  I have been doing it that long now, almost a decade.

 

My smile reflects the haughty attitude of my indigenous fellows, scoffing at those suburbanites and tourists still totally dependent on motorized transit to make their way through this conurbation with much the same scorn bestowed on useless umbrellas with their inane holders peppering these wind-blown, rainy streets.  More each day I become one with this city that I never believed held a place for me.  Today, it seemed just a little like I might feel at home here . . . someday.

 

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