At a party Friday night, I fell into talking to the great Seattle historian Alan J. Stein. He's working on a piece (forthcoming on HistoryLink), of a controversial public artwork I love: Michael Heizer's Adjacent, Against, Upon. People don't talk much about the piece today, despite the fact that it was Heizer's first urban public commission. If it gets noticed at all, it just kind of looks like an odd arrangement of obdurate objects. But when it was first installed in Myrtle Edwards Park in 1976, it was loved and hated.

Adjacent, Against, Upon is three pairs of objects lined up in a row parallel to the waterline. Each pair consists of one granite boulder and one concrete plinth. In the first pair, the two are next to one another (adjacent). In the middle pair, the boulder rests partway on the plinth, like it's climbing up. Finally, the boulder sits firmly on the plinth in the third pair.

If that's not ringing a bell, watch this short video by UW prof John Young. I never even noticed there were 3, 4, and 5 sides to the blocks. And the linguistic question they talk about has always interested me, too. Heizer evidently assumed people would be looking at the piece from its city side. What a funny idea, since any attempt to look at that sculpture with that majestic natural vista in the background is completely foiled by, yes, that majestic natural vista in the background. The mountains and water swallow anything else in view. I've never even tried looking at Adjacent, Against, Upon from the city side; I've always naturally sidled up to it the other way.

Stein also mentioned Heizer's top-secret ArizonaNevada project City, which the artist has been working on for 40 years and which nobody but nobody is allowed to go and see. Stein sent me a link to some great recent imagery of City on Google Earth. Block that, Heizer!

One side note, if you'll allow me the tangent: Because Heizer's sculpture is about pairing the human and natural environments using pairs of human versus natural objects, every time people talk about the piece (see video!), they say the words "man-made" and "man" to mean "human-made" and "humanity" about 500 times. Please speak with precision when you mean "humanity" and the "human-made world." Nothing in this world was ever made without women. Literally. Hearts and flowers!

Also, Stein's Heizer piece on HistoryLink is not out yet, but if you'd like to read other pieces by him, might I suggest starting with the delightful tale, "Bags of opium wash up on Vashon Island in the spring of 1895." What a saga for poor Mister Mace.