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Walking Tour of Olympic Sculpture Park II

Walking Tour of Olympic Sculpture Park II

Olympic Sculpture Park


From the last stop on that walking tour (Persephone Unbound), head back to the main path (Mosley Path on the map). This path can be reached by walking west (towards the water) through an opening in the concrete wall. 

The Seattle Art Museum has had this area barricaded to allow the grass to regrow after the winter, so you may need to walk towards PACCAR Pavilion to the end of the concrete wall to get around it. Once on the main path, head away from PACCAR Pavilion, so the large orange sculpture is on your left (across Elliot Avenue).

We will be heading there in a minute, but our first stop is Bunyon's Chess, which you can view by looking towards the water when you reach the end of the path (before it switches back).




                                                                                                                                                                                                                Olympic Sculpture Park
                                                                                                                                                                © 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

  1.   Bunyon's Chess by Mark di Suvero
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Bunyon's Chess by Mark di SuveroMark di Suvero
Bunyon's Chess, 1965
Stainless steel and wood
22' tall, 18'2" x 21'10" x 20' footprint

Bunyon's Chess is one of two sculptures by Mark di Suvero in Olympic Sculpture Park. The other is Schubert Sonata, which we will visit later.

The large steel, wood, and chain structure was his first privately commissioned piece, intended for outdoor presentation in Seattle. The sculpture looks like some tripod mechanism for handling the large logs suspended in the air. The stainless steel structure provides a stark contrast to the prominent wood elements.

The backdrop for Bunyon's Chess is absolutely beautiful, especially on a clear day with the Olympic Mountains on the horizon behind Elliot Bay.

The next stop on our tour is the large orange sculpture, Eagle, which has largely become the symbol for Olympic Sculpture Park.





2.   Eagle by Alexander Calder
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Eagle by Alexander CalderAlexander Calder
Eagle, 1971
Painted steel
38'9" x 32'6" x 32'6"

Eagle is the most prominently featured sculpture in the park due to its size location in the center of the park. The orange sculpture can be scene from almost anywhere in the park. The Seattle Art Museum uses an icon of Eagle to indicate the location of the Olympic Sculpture Park on its map of Seattle. The orange painted steel of Eagle is reminiscent of Alexander Liberman's Olympic Iliad located in the Seattle Center Sculpture Garden further up Broad Street.

The form of Eagle initially looks like an elephant, giraffe, or some other four-legged animal with a spike on its back. However, upon closer inspection and guidance by the name of the piece, you can see that those abstract forms are large curving wings and a pointy peak. The sculpture actually looks more like a bird when viewed from afar, especially at an angle with the water and mountains in the background from the east side of Elliot Avenue. From that vantage point, you cannot see the base of the sculpture where it touches the ground, allowing the Eagle to take flight.

This is also the most popular spot in Olympic Sculpture Park for people to take pictures. Most people line up their photos in front of Eagle at an angle and distance that shows the sculpture immediately behind them and the Space Needle in the more distant background.

Once you have taken your pictures in front of Eagle, it is time to head to a less abstract and more functional sculpture, simply titled Bench. If you have not already guessed, it is the concrete bench just past Eagle on the left-side of the path.






3.   Bench by Roy McMakin
Courtesy of Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Mark Woods.

Bench by Roy McMakinRoy McMakin
Bench, 2004
Cast concrete
5' x 5' x 3'

If Bench was not listed on the map and guide, most people would probably walk right on by. This functional sculpture is a double-sided concrete bench intended for outdoor display and use. At first glance, it is not much to look at, but a closer look reveals Roy McMakin's attention to detail and craftsmanship.

Visitors to the park gain a deeper appreciation for Bench after viewing Love & Loss, the other McMakin sculpture at Olympic Sculpture Park. And those with tired legs can grab a seat on either side of the bench. One side is guaranteed to be sunny and the other shady, except at high noon.

The next stop on our walking tour is our first peak at Typewriter Eraser, Scale X. The large sculpture is probably best viewed from the sidewalk on Elliot Avenue, but it is difficult to get close to, so this is an opportunity to view it from a different angle. Just after Bench off the main path there is a little trail (Skinner Trail). Walk a few feet down the trail to our next vantage point.


4.   Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van BruggenClaes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Typewriter Eraser, Scale X,1998-1999

Stainless steel and resin painted with acrylic urethane
19'4" x 11'1/12" x 11'8/14"

Oldenburg and van Bruggen are known for their large-scale outdoor sculptures of popular commercial objects. These large-scale outdoor sculptures are widely recognizable around the world, which started with a large trowel in the Netherlands (Trowel, 1971-1976). Other works include a huge flashlight on the UNLV campus, giant binoculars in Venice, California, and Cupid's Span, an enormous Cupid's bow and arrow set in front of the San Francisco Bay Bridge in Rincon Park.

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X is less identifiable because computer's have made the object obsolete. This sculpture, formerly at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. looks kind of like a pizza cutter, or maybe a guitar.

The large wheel is the actual eraser portion, typically 2 inches in diameter and an eighth of an inch thick. The blue "hair" above is a brush meant to clear away paper dust and eraser crumbs. We will get a better view later when we revisit Typewriter Eraser, Scale X from the sidewalk on Elliot Avenue.

From this side-view of Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, proceed a little further down the path and you will be in the middle of the five pieces composing Wandering Rocks, our next stop.









5.   Wandering Rocks by Tony Smith
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Wandering Rocks by Tony SmithTony Smith
Wandering Rocks, 1967
Painted steel
43-3/8" x 28" x 23" Smohawk, 63-3/8" x 28" x 45-1/2" Shaft, 43-3/8" x 28" x 45" Crocus, 64-3/8" x 28" x 23" Slide, 32-3/8" x 83=12/" x 23" Dud

Wandering Rocks consists of the five pieces listed above. These rocks are black geometrical shapes inspired by the inherent forms found in molecules and crystals. The organization of Wandering Rocks is a tribute to the Ryoanji Zen garden in Kyoto, Japan.

Tony Smith began his career as an architect, and he believed that forms held mythical and archetypal symbolism. The name Wandering Rocks comes from the wandering of the famous character Ulysses.

From Wandering Rocks, proceed back up the trail in the direction you came, past Typewriter Eraser, Scale X to Seattle Cloud Cover, which serves as one wall of the bridge that crosses the railroad tracks.






6. Seattle Cloud Cover by Teresita Fernández
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Seattle Cloud Cover by Teresita FernándezTeresita Fernández
Seattle Cloud Cover, 2004-2006
Laminated glass with photographic design interlayer
9'6" x 200' x 6'3"

Seattle Cloud Cover is part of the 200-foot glass bridge connecting the main section of Olympic Sculpture Park to the waterfront. The glass features saturated color images of Seattle cloudscapes sandwiched in laminated glass.

The photographs are beautiful when viewed from afar, allowing visitors to clearly see the sky and clouds depicted in them. Up close, the view changes with a unique reversal of perspective. We are used to viewing scenes with the sky and clouds in the background. However, this translucent display lets you look through the clouds in the foreground at something else in the background.

Olympic Sculpture Park spans from Western Avenue down to the water, while seamlessly skipping over Elliot Avenue and the tracks – a remarkably innovative and clever design for a park in the city.

After passing Seattle Cloud Cover, the bridge juts out on the left to our next stop at the far end of the elevated bridge structure – a bird's eye view of Father and Son.




7.  Father and Son by Louise Bourgeios
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Father and Son by Louise BourgeiosLouise Bourgeois
Father and Son, 2004-2005
Stainless steel, aluminum, water and bronze bell
36' x 26' fountain basin, 6'5" father, 4'9" son

This view from above is not recommended for anyone extremely afraid of heights. The perch can feel a little precarious, but it allows you to view Father and Son without getting wet. The wind can be pretty intense down by the water causing a light mist from the fountain if you are right next to it.

The fountain features a man and his son with outstretched arms, separated by the water of the fountain. The water rises first over the father and then over the son illuminating an insurmountable divide.

We will revisit Father and Son up close, but first we must get to the waterfront by heading north on the Z-path down the gradual hill to our next stop, Love & Loss (marking by the rotating ampersand).






8.  Love & Loss by Roy McMakin
© 2007 William Watson licensed to, Inc.

Love & Loss by Roy McMakinRoy McMakin
Love & Loss, 2005

Installation with benches, tables, live tree, pathways and illuminated rotating element
40' x 24'

Love & Loss looks like a waterfront picnic area at first glance, and it can certainly be used in that way. Roy McMakin shows off his style of blurring the lines between form, function, and meaning. This piece consists of two benches, two tables, curved pathways, a partially-painted live tree, and an illuminated rotating ampersand (&). As a whole, the display spells out Love & Loss.

Walk around the display so you are looking at the & with Space Needle directly behind it. The two benches have white-painted "L's" around a circular "o" table, serving as the intersection of Love and Loss, as Love reads from left to right and Loss reads from right to left.

The "v" in Love is painted on the trunks of the split tree with the "e" painted on the top of the table on the far right. The two "s's" in Loss are raised concrete structures. The first "s" is painted, and is tall enough that it can be used as a bench.

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