Public Art as a Yardstick

I love the fact that I’m now living in a city where public art is the norm. I often pass by sculptures and murals here in Seattle, and they never fail to make me smile. It’s always a pleasure to have a bit of beauty and humor or a dash of whimsy injected into one’s day. I love having my thoughts provoked and my perspectives challenged. And some of these sculptures kind of feel like a part of my family now.

I used to live in Jacksonville, Florida, where public art was rather thin on the ground. It was often viewed as too controversial, or not in keeping with family values. (Though I wonder if their statue of Andrew Jackson astride a stallion still stands? I bet it does.)

Some artists in Jacksonville have been known to go rogue, I think, out of sheer frustration. They’d paint any flat surface they could find. Sadly, they always seemed to be quickly shut down and/or painted over.

Allowing art in one’s city takes a certain level of political courage. (And I’m not talking about historical monuments and statues, here. That’s another debate entirely.) There will always be people who don’t like a particular piece, or they will misinterpret it. It is easier to offend than to delight or inspire, it seems. It’s a confident city council that allows self-deprecation and social commentary to be out in the open, for all to see. It’s a brave mayor that doesn’t see creativity as a threat.

I think one of the many factors one should consider when deciding where to live is the amount of public art in the city in question. That will tell you much about the quality of life that you will experience in that community. It will tell you a great deal about the maturity and emotional health of the municipality as well. These are considerations you should never overlook. The ability to express oneself is the hallmark of civilization.

Crane

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Exploring Seattle — Olympic Sculpture Park

It’s a rare thing in life when everything comes together just right to create a perfect day. I had one of those recently. It was my day off. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was 70 degrees out. No humidity. It was almost as if there were no atmosphere to contend with at all. I felt neither hot nor cold. And I had the opportunity to spend the day out of doors. Bliss.

I had an errand to run in downtown Seattle, and rather than grouse about the outrageous cost of parking, I decided to combine that errand with a visit to the Olympic Sculpture Park. As with many of the parks in this city, this one comes with a spectacular view. It overlooks Puget Sound, and across the water you can see Bainbridge Island with the stunning, snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the background. This view alone would have been enough to satisfy me. I could have watched the ferries and container ships passing by all day long. But to add to the beauty, there are also sculptures and wildflowers.

My photos don’t do this park justice, but here they are:

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After wandering amongst the sculptures for about an hour, I simply sat down on a bench and gazed at the mountains with a stupid grin on my face. I’d probably still be there except that eventually I got hungry. So I wandered down the street to the docks and had lunch at Paddy Coyne’s Irish Pub.

I love it when I ask for ginger ale at a pub and they say they don’t have it, but they can make it. Make it they did, and it was the best ginger ale I’ve had in a long time. I sat outside and savored it while I waited for my Irish Style Potato Skins, which were filled with “savory Shepherd’s pie meat, Tillamook white cheddar cheese, sour cream and green onion.” My mouth is watering just thinking about it. And because this is Seattle, after all, I was told that it was gluten-free.

If there is ever a massive epidemic and I’m one of the few who survive, I am moving into that pub and claiming the sculpture park as my front yard. I think that’s one of my more brilliant ideas. Then I could look out the window and remember a perfect day I had once in 2015, and smile.

Cosmic Pinball

I am always amazed at how the most random encounters can change the trajectory of one’s life. It’s as if we are all pinballs in a great machine, bouncing off this or that obstacle, and being propelled to greater and more dizzying heights. You never know when you wake up in the morning if your life is going to change for good or ill by the people you meet. In a strange way, I love this about the universe.

Here’s an example. I used to be very active in the art community in the virtual world called Second Life. This gave me the confidence to become a fractal artist. You can see my work here. Because of this, I met a young man who lives on the other side of the world in Viet Nam. I helped him get his first art show in Second Life, and we became good friends. I am very impressed by this young man’s talent. Not only does he do drawings and photography and 3D virtual sculptures, but he also writes quite well. you can see his work at his deviantart page.

He’s 19, and wants to study abroad. One night while we were chatting on facebook, I mentioned the Savannah College of Art and Design, because I had always wanted to go there. He looked into it, and is now applying. So there you have it. A random and improbable encounter between a 48 year old in America and a 19 year old in Viet Nam has sent him in the direction of Savannah, Georgia, a place he had never heard of before this. I hope it works out, because my young friend has an amazing talent and a bright future.

So, without further ado, here is some of the amazing art of my dear friend Cong Le Nguyen. I’m proud to know him, and I’m glad our paths intersected. Enjoy!

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