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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Currently Hanging: A Sculpture That Breaks Through the Building

Posted by on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 2:47 PM

First, just look at it. It's hard to describe in words. It's by a Seattle artist, John Grade, and it's on permanent display at a Seattle museum, MOHAI, which commissioned it for its new facility. (It's MOHAI day.)

This great big wooden thing is Wawona. Its a brand new sculpture by John Grade. Its inside the new MOHAI, smack in the middle of the museums main room.
  • Photos courtesy of John Grade
  • This great big wooden thing is Wawona. It's a brand new sculpture by John Grade. It's inside the new MOHAI, smack in the middle of the museum's main room.

It's made of the wood from the Wawona schooner, built in 1897 out of Douglas fir. It still smells a little, like fish and oil.

You walk inside the sculpture, which is hollow. This is the view inside it looking up. That's sky.


This is the view inside it looking down. That's Lake Union. The artist built the window in the floor and lit the sculpture as it stretches down into the water.


The sky part is more complicated than the lake part.

To actually cut through the historic building required all kinds of special pleading and permits, and the psychological effect is powerful: You disbelieve your eyes and sort of can't stop looking up toward the sky and down into the water as you're standing inside the sculpture.

When you look down, the water under your feet is dark. Grade wishes a beaver would swim by someday.

When you look up, what you see isn't actual sky. (It is not like Yoko Ono's 1966 Sky TV.) You could be forgiven for being fooled, because looking at the building from the outside, the sculpture juts up from the roof of the building. That's trickery. Grade couldn't get permission to cut through both floor and roof, so he had to pick. (He chose well.) Near the top of where the sculpture meets the ceiling, he cut out an area of hidden false roof. Inside it, he mounted a video projection of sky, and that's the surface you see when you look up.

What's playing is a recent loop of actual sky shot right there on site. But it can be swapped out for a movie of faraway sky, or better yet, sky from another time period.

They say the past is a foreign country, right? When you're inside the heart of the new history museum, the time period under your feet is always the present, but the time in the sky is mutable.


Comments (11) RSS

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Wait, so he could cut through the floor OR the ceiling, but not BOTH?
Welcome to Obama's America.
Posted by paulus on January 9, 2013 at 2:57 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 2
I love this.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on January 9, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Posted by rob! on January 9, 2013 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 4
That's beautiful but sad. The story of the Wawona is very much like the tale of the attempted restoration of the Kalakala. But over more time and with far less publicity.

It's nice to see part of it was saved but it is a shame it was never restored to seaworthy condition.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on January 9, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 5
Special pleading? Really? Because it's a fallacy and it's not supposed to work.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on January 9, 2013 at 4:49 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 7
Chris Burden made a sculpture that actually breaks the building:…
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on January 9, 2013 at 5:54 PM · Report this
seandr 8
Pretty damn cool.
Posted by seandr on January 9, 2013 at 7:32 PM · Report this
I was there. I saw it. I was impressed with its ugliness. It made me think of an old tree still suffering from the burst pimples of its youth.
Posted by Juan Alfredo on January 9, 2013 at 9:43 PM · Report this
What kind of stupid asshole are maiking complaints abbout this sculpture. It's awesome, I saw it. Stay home.
Posted by steakhaus on January 10, 2013 at 8:41 AM · Report this
@paulus: Yeah, the President is responsible for everything you don't like. Isn't it past your bedtime?
Posted by isaako on January 10, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
sharonArnold 12
my boyfriend and I were just there last weekend - John Grade always makes beautiful things but this one is just amazing.
Posted by sharonArnold on January 11, 2013 at 12:38 PM · Report this

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