Ok, these are a little too big for a pocket, so they aren't *technically* pocket beer, but you know what I mean. JK
Even though galleries around the city are open for business, communing publicly around art while inside a building is still forbidden due to the pandemic. It's been months since I swilled cheap (and free) wine while snacking on warm cheese and crackers, taking in art at a sweaty opening or during a public art walk. I weirdly miss the feeling of studying a painting or installation at the same time as a whole group of other people.
But there's still an opportunity to safely admire art—in public—while sipping on a cheap alcoholic (or not!) drink of choice. In this quick and dirty guide, I chose five rather discreet public art installations to admire in the dying heat of this socially-distant summer. You just have to bring your pocket beer and cured meats from home.
STACY LEVY’S "CLOUDSTONES" (2004) AT MINERAL SPRINGS PARK
Me n my visor n the sky. JK
These Cloudstones come to us via Pennsylvania-based artist Stacey Levy
who frequently works with the environment to create thoughtful and beautiful pieces. In Mineral Springs Park
, there are 13 black and white granite and marble domes that line one of the paths in the park, subtly leading viewers into the meadow areas. Not all of the stones are the same shape—some are oblong while others are wide and squat, perfect for perching yourself on. The shiny black marble brings the sky down to you, with puffy clouds drifting by in the cool dark mirror. The black domes have different names of clouds and the type of weather they bring sandblasted around the base. The white ones describe celestial formations. When I went on a late weekday afternoon, a group of bros had cracked some beers and were playing frisbee golf in the park. "Cloudstones" is a right off the main path and rows of trees block you from any errant frisbees that might be thrown your way. There's ample space around the ground sculptures to lay down between them with your quarantine mate and look up at the summer sky they reflect.
PERRI LYNCH’S "STRAIGHT SHOT" AT MAGNUSON PARK
Like dominos...or deliciously crisp slices of fried halloumi. JK
If you get bored of soaking up the rays on the beaches of Magnuson Park
, wander a bit into the foliage and you'll find "Straight Shot" by Twisp, WA-based artist Perri Lynch stoically lined up in all the greenery. Composed of limestone, these twelve stones mark the Sandpoint Calibration Baseline, which is a series of marked locations on a one-kilometer long pathway running from south to north in the park. It's used by surveyors to verify the accuracy and calibrate their electronic distance measurement equipment. Lynch's piece was commissioned to demonstrate the importance of that baseline and its preservation. There are even two holes bored into each slab allowing viewers to peer down the long row of stones and mimic the stature a surveyor might take while surveying the land. Each slab is placed at double the distance of the one previous. It's a great piece to traverse while sipping from your pocket beer or hard seltzer, pausing in between them to peer through the holes so you can find that perfect straight shot.
RICHARD SERRA’S "WAKE" (2004) AT OLYMPIC SCULPTURE PARK
Forgive me for being a basic ass bitch, but I love this work. JK
I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the great public-ish artworks on display at the Olympic Sculpture Park
. I went on one of the hottest days last week and instead of setting up closer to Elliott Bay, I found myself drawn toward these five weathering steel sculptures by Richard Serra in the Gate Amphitheater. It's mostly quiet back there with enough seating for you and a friend to crack open a cold one and admire the art while maintaining some distance. And the shadows from the looming sculptures provide enough shade to escape the late summer sun. The rusted pieces imitate the water of Puget Sound as the ferries, boats, and ships navigate their way through the cold waters. And as you walk through them, so does your own body and gait. Each of the five individual sculptures that compose the piece are identical to each other, but inverted, created by computer imaging and machines that manufacture ship hulls
. "Wake" is surrounded by bright green trees that contrast against the reddish-orange steel for a very PNW vibe.
JOHN ROLOFF’S "SEVENTH CLIMATE (PARADISE RECONSIDERED)" (2006) AT I-5 COLONNADE
Delightfully cool underneath the I-5 overpass. JK
I walk past I-5 Colonnade
every week on my trek to Scarecrow and had never furrowed my way into the space until recently. It's mercifully cool down there, with the damp air from Lake Union and the white noise of the overpass creating an environment that seems far removed from anything else in the city. And it's fitting that Oakland-based John Roloff's "Seventh Climate (Paradise Reconsidered)" is set up in this "public wilderness
" as Stranger
writer Charles Mudede called it in 2005.
Roloff's environment incorporates four types of trees bound together as one, a simulation of lighting and artificial rain from pre-freeway 1960 Seattle, sunlight and moonlight cycles from the lights positioned on I-5, and the current weather of whenever you encounter it. I visited it in the early evening as people were walking their dogs and commuting through the park. Though it was too bright outside for the lights around the piece to have any noticeable effect, it was a strange experience to linger in that space that feels like its existence hinges on you being there. There are several alcoves around the park to sit and enjoy a beverage as you contemplate this swath of land (and art) hemmed in by hundreds of tons of concrete with speeding cars banging on from above.
ELIZABETH CONNER’S "DRAWING THE LAND" (2012) AT JEFFERSON PARK
The grass is gross and the art is nice. JK
This artwork is so subtle that you might not notice it. Especially as the grass in Jefferson Park
turns that dead brown color it gets just after the peak of summer. Still, there's beauty in how Vashon-based artist Elizabeth Conner's "Drawing the Land" cuts through the mounds of earth in the park, dedicated at the Jefferson Park Jubilee
in 2012. The piece, which she collaborated on with landscape architects Berger Partnership, calls attention to the reshaping of soil over the park's reservoir which was covered in 2009. Some of the long rectangular "contour lines" contain poetic musings on the constructed nature of the park—"...now filled with earth..." is a fragment I was able to catch—as sandblasted ovals appear at intervals along the lines to indicate elevation above sea level. Despite the pokey grass, there's enough space to comfortably wedge yourself in between those lines so that they cradle you, hugging you deeper into the ground. Slurp down a beer while traversing the piece, stopping to take in the city from the western perch in the park—a perk to viewing art outside traditional spaces.