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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Single NW City Seeks Non-B&W Art About the Weather

Posted by on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 3:43 PM

BEHOLD THE MOST WANTED PAINTING IN AMERICA It, too, is related to weather and atmospheric phenomena. It also includes a bonus George Washington, three kids, and two deer.
  • BEHOLD THE MOST WANTED PAINTING IN AMERICA It, too, is related to weather and atmospheric phenomena. It also includes a bonus George Washington, three kids, and two deer.
No, seriously. This just arrived in my inbox (and it must have been fun as hell to write):

The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), is seeking two-dimensional or three-dimensional artwork depicting weather-related or atmospheric phenomena for a competitive, direct purchase for SPU’s Portable Works Collection. The rotating collection is exhibited throughout the utilities’ offices, engaging both employees and the public by helping to create an interesting and diverse work environment.

Artwork should reference air, water, temperature or light and may or may not be representational. All types of media will be considered. Artists working in color are encouraged to apply.

The call is open to professional artists residing in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Montana, Idaho or Alaska. Applications close 11 p.m., Jan. 28, 2013 (Pacific Standard Time). To apply, artists may submit up to 10 images of artworks that are available for purchase. Multiple artworks by an individual artist may be purchased. Go to for a link to the online application.

A total of $125,000 for all artworks is available for the direct purchase. The purchase is made possible with SPU 1% for Art funds administered by the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. Purchases will be chosen by a panel of arts professionals who are charged with selecting high-quality artwork that reflects diversity of expression.

Now, despite the fact that it's weird*, calling for weather-related art has every chance of resulting in good art being selected by the panel that will be put together by the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. But in any case, here are a few tips for artists hoping to satisfy the city's classified ad:

1. If your art is not "weather-related," do not fret! Rather, begin to devise how it references "atmospheric phenomena." Paintings about your ex=like that time lightning almost struck your house. Begin the massaging of metaphors in your artist statement now.

2. The sentence "Artwork should reference air, water, temperature or light and may or may not be representational" should in all fairness replace the word "but" for the word "and." The willy-nilly, overly amicable use of "and" rather than "but" in conflict-avoidant Seattle ought to be banned. Is it just here, Internet? Is this happening everywhere?

3. Since the art should "reference" weather but need not "represent" it, artworks only have to nod in the general direction of "air, water, temperature, or light." And who can ever tell exactly where any nod points, hm? Whiting Tennis's trompe l'oeil painting of a blue tarp, though evidently "about" a blue tarp, might fairly be said, under the rules of May Or May Not Be Representational But Is Referencing A Thing, to nod in the general direction of least air and water and, arguably, temperature and/or light.

4. Perhaps the best way to make your artwork relate to the weather is simply to make something inscrutable but somehow the color of air, water, or light—any color!—then say it is related to the weather. Or, as discussed previously, atmospheric phenomena, which are as infinite as can be.

5. You really ought to reconsider if you work in black and white. Apparently, people who work in city offices—where these artworks will be displayed—want color. And they are not alone. In a project from a few years ago by the Russian artists Komar and Melamid—in which they created the world's most and least wanted paintings by surveying 1,001 people to find out what they most wanted to see (written survey results here, actual artworks depicted here)—pretty much nobody wanted their painting in black and white.**

May the best, or let's say the most phenomenal, artist win.

*Who decided this round of collecting had to be dedicated to weather art? I would love to see that memo.
**This rule may or may not apply to photography, but that's tough luck for you if you shoot in black and white and want your art seen in the offices of the City of Seattle.


Comments (5) RSS

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tainte 1
hey, that's awesome. i got laid off from spu a couple of years ago. now they're spending 125k on art.

Posted by tainte on January 3, 2013 at 5:20 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 2
So following your logic, it would have been "weird" for the Department of the Interior to have acquired and commisioned its fabulous collection of American landscapes which would otherwise not exist or be in private hands. Should museums of modern art open their collections to antiquities? What's next, no human figures at The National Portait Gallery? Why shouldn't they have a curatorial point of reference?
Posted by thatsnotright on January 3, 2013 at 6:14 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 3
1. I didn't know our 1% for art sometimes ends up simply decorating offices. I feel like if my utility bill's going to pay for art, it should be in some public place where I can see it.

2. I'd love to see how hanging art creates a "diverse work environment". Maybe they're planning on selecting a style of art that makes straight white men want to quit.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on January 4, 2013 at 7:29 AM · Report this
@2: Our perspectives on what constitutes a perspective worthy of the description "curatorial" differ.
Posted by Jen Graves on January 4, 2013 at 10:34 AM · Report this
thatsnotright 5
@4, our perspectives on the word "curatorial" may differ but you dodge the question. What is "weird" about an individual or organization basing a collection on something in which they have an interest? From the tone of your article I get the impression that your scorn for this project arises from its lack of an "art-pro" of whom you approve. Your article reeks of snob.
Posted by thatsnotright on January 4, 2013 at 11:21 AM · Report this

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