I cannot believe it took me five years to finally visit the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. The park opened to great fanfare in 2007. I wanted to see it from the day it opened but somehow never got around to it, and then I put it off year after year. If there's anyone reading this who loves art even half as much as I do and who has not yet visited this park, I urge you to check the weather forecasts for a warm, sunny day and get your butt to Seattle and spend an afternoon wandering through this fabulous park.
Here's the thing: I've seen lots of sculpture parks that can boast even more works of art than this one -many, many more, in fact; this one is really sparse in the number of works. But I defy you to find another anywhere in the United States that has as fine a collection so beautifully displayed. It is the combination of some of the best modern sculpture in America with a lovely walk through a park with fabulous vistas combining intriguing industrial areas -a railroad no less - with the city skyline, some great architecture, and great views of the waterfront. Sky, trees, clouds, buildings, the trains and the water, and even the Ferris wheel and sports stadiums in the distance are all integrated into a single visual experience.
The majestic form of "The Eagle" by Alexander Calder with its graceful curves and sharp angles has become a Seattle icon almost as well known as the Space Needle, which is seen in the background from the park. The Eagle's reddish orange color contrasts beautifully with the blue sky on a sunny day, as does the newly repainted roof of the Space Needle (returned to its original color in celebration of its 50th birthday).
There is a long bridge over the railroad that is itself a work of art. It is called "Seattle Cloud Cover." It is by Teresita Fern?ndez and it is designed to provide a view of the skyline and the clouds in various conditions, combined with a landscape painting sandwiched between sheets of glass to intergrate the natural and created landscape with lighting that changes with the time of day and sky and cloud conditions.
I wonder how many young people today will even recognize Claes Oldenburg's famous "Typewriter Eraser" for what it is. Since such objects are now obsolete, this giant sculpture is now becoming what, in a way, it always was - an abstract sculpture.
I saved Beverly Pepper's "Perre's Ventagilio III" and Richard Serra's amazing "Wake" for the last, and I'm glad I did, because they are the most memorable pieces in the park. Pepper's "Perre's Ventagilio III" is a series of open cubes that appear to be flipping as if they're cards in a deck. As a clever identification label explains, the highly polished metal surface areas appear to be open holes and the actual holes or interior spaces appear to be solid. It's quite an optical illusion and a beautiful piece of work.
Serra is quite famous, and his work has been reproduced in books and magazines quite a lot, but it really needs to be seen up close and in person to be fully appreciated. It is gigantic, and as you walk around and through it, it looks totally different from every point of view. Take a step to one side or another and huge, gracefully curving shapes that bulge out four or five feet in depth become single sheets of metal no more than an inch in thickness. It is an amazing piece of art.
We're very fortunate to have this park within driving distance. The Olympic Sculpture Park is located at
2901 Western Ave., Seattle, just below the Seattle Art Museum. www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/osp/