On the left, a photograph from Canh Nguyens series on Pier 62/63, taken in the fall of 2015; on the right, a drawing by Lead Pencil Studio thats on view at the Frye in the ongoing Genius exhibition.
On the left, a photograph from Canh Nguyen's series on Pier 62/63, taken in the fall of 2015; on the right, a drawing by Lead Pencil Studio that's on view at the Frye in the ongoing Genius exhibition. Courtesy of the artists

Sponsored
Just announced! Jon Bellion at WaMu Theater on 7/16/19. Tix on sale now!

The Photo Center NW recently created a beautiful magazine featuring four artists from our region—simply to get their work out there more (go, Photo Center!)—and it reminded me of the work of Canh Nguyen, a photographer who also was cinematographer on the recent documentary about the Yesler Terrace housing projects, Even the Walls.

This fall, Nguyen shot on and around Pier 62 and 63, the spot where Ann Hamilton will be placing her permanent work on the waterfront. When I interviewed Hamilton in 2014 about her ideas for the piece, which exists only in her imagination as of now, she said she was interested in motion, since the spot is governed by tides, and in the question of how people can be alone together.

Alone. Together? Another of Nguyens photographs from the Pier 62/63 series.
Alone. Together? Another of Nguyen's photographs from the Pier 62/63 series.

All the demolition and construction in Seattle lately is the major theme of the art of 2015, but it's not necessarily new. Seattle itself is an outrageous work of land art, and its outrageousness is an enduring spur, warning, and inspiration to artists. What's different this time is that artists are viewing change not as an abstraction, but as a concrete force, and reinforcer, of human displacement. Change needs to change.

In future visits, Hamilton will be looking not only at the given environment of the waterfront, but also at Seattle artists' responses to it. She may want to consider Nguyen's series of photographs as well as Even the Walls, Lead Pencil Studio's drawings and disintegrating outdoor installation in Genius at the Frye, C. Davida Ingram's videos at the Frye, Zia Mohajerjasbi's films at the Frye, Victoria Haven's videos at the Frye, and everything Ahamefule Oluo does. (Maybe just go to the Frye.)

I've already asked her to visit the NOAA Art Walk with me next time she's here. (She has seen it once before.) Last year around this time, I took my newborn baby to NOAA. Wait for another sunny, cold day like today and take yourself out there this season. The works of art there are embedded in the lakeside place so that the place flows through them.

Is the constant change of the city maybe an example of motion and of being alone together? I guess I feel alone watching all these buildings come down and go up in our shared landscape, because it makes me remember that I'm not permanent, either; that you come in alone, go out alone. In between, we've got nobody but each other. Maybe that's a stretch. I'm not sure. But it feels like that's what 2015 in Seattle is all about.