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Just another manic Monday? Not really

January 22, 2007

Ho-hum, another week begins. Breakfast, coffee at Cafe Racer, go do something. It was supposed to rain, but it isn’t. That’s good.

Before relating today’s adventure, I would like everyone to know that I am as generous with praise for good behavior as I am with raspberries for bone-headedness. So here’s a shout-out to the fellow in the silver Dodge Neon who stopped well short of the crosswalk at Westlake and Broad because he not only saw me, he saw the curb lane was blocked on the other side of the intersection and knew I would need to move over one. And I’m guessing he has enough of a grasp of the laws of physics to know that a 213-lb. scooter can get up to speed much faster than a 2700-lb. Neon, meaning no impediment to him or anyone who might be following. Thank you sir; if you happen to be reading this, let us know who you are.

Anyway, now that the hordes have retreated to the Eastside, I figured today would be a good day to check out the Olympic Sculpture Park. Easy to get to from my perspective, and really easy to park a scooter on Western Avenue (just remember, you need to pay during the week).

Calder's 'Eagle'

'The Eagle' by Alexander Calder

I go for an hour’s worth from the green kiosk (and no, I’ve never had anyone steal my sticky receipt, even though bikes and scoots have to place them on the headset) and cross the street. No red-shirted docents today, but hardly any people.

Whatever you may think about the works of art, the view is wonderful. There’s a pavilion on the southeast corner of the park (it’s closed on Mondays) that houses some interesting stuff, but the real attractions are the giant works of sculpture.

To this observer, the one that works the best is Alexander Calder’s “Eagle,” which is stationed at the best elevation for viewing Elliott Bay. Take the virtual tour to see it and other works here.

'The Eraser' by Claes Oldenburg

Yes, the most notable piece is Claes Oldenburg’s gigantic typewriter eraser, simply because it’s visible from Elliott Avenue. And it is well-done. But down along the shore, another piece that made me smile was the gigantic neon ampersand (i.e., ‘&’). That kind of stuff was considered cool to put on your walls back when I lived in college dorms.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like that what used to be a hazardous waste site is now a park, and as the vegetation grows in it will be homier and more inviting. Still, there is so much about this place that makes the phrase “brie-eating elitist” stick in my head so much, like Zippy the Pinhead I just want to shout it repeatedly. Full disclosure: in college, I was an art major!

Let’s start with the signs. “Don’t walk on the grass, so it has a chance to grow.” Nice sentiment, but pretty much everybody was walking all over the grass.

“Don’t touch the art! The slightest touch will cause the art to DIE!!!” Okay, let’s review: all the pieces are outdoors, in the weather; they are made of materials that are generally considered impervious to weather, like metal, stone and thick glass. Most puzzlingly, if touching the works is so detrimental, why the heck can people walk right up next to them? The Mona Lisa is in a climate-controlled cabinet, and David is roped off; if human contact is not good, why not do the same here?

It makes you wonder if the people who came up with this thing know what sort of a neighborhood they’ve moved into. In spite of a decade of rampant gentrification, Belltown is still what real estate people like to call “edgy.” Drug deals go down regularly and often after dark, homeless people camp out in alleys, and shootings and stabbings are not unusual.

In fact, harm to the place isn’t going to come just from the denizens of the street; all over the place, progressive folks in natural-fibre clothing, who most likely got there in their biodiesel-fueled ’79 Benzes and Jetta wagons, were allowing their Urban Dogs to crap all over the paths, and not cleaning up after them, as the law says you must. Other such folks were walking all over the grass, blissfully unaware of the numerous signs.

Discussing this earlier at Cafe Racer, I said the only sensible way to design a piece for a place like this is to assume it will be tagged and otherwise vandalized. After all, much graffiti art has an energy and spontaneity that makes it very appealing, and incorporating that into a public work of art would make a whole lot of sense to me.

But no. There is one work that sums up the Olympic Sculpture Park–Roy McMakin’s Bench. This is a very simple, functional seating solution that looks like it could be extruded from some giant pastry bag… think Jersey Barrier you can sit on. But to sit on it, you have to walk on the grass! And if you sit on it, you will touch it, AND IT WILL DIE!!! Favicon

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