Not long ago, my husband and I took a very brief trip to Seattle. It was an incredible day, all sparkling fall sunshine and bright autumn leaves, so in the little time we had free, we visited the Seattle Art Museum’s new Olympic Sculpture Park along the waterfront. It’s a lovely setting, with sloping hillsides overlooking the Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains rising in the distance. I even found myself enjoying a Richard Serra sculpture of huge rusty wave forms embedded in sand that would have left me cold had it been installed in the concrete of some bank building plaza.
As I zigzagged towards the water, a remarkable sight caught my eye: a large red neon ampersand rotating atop a flagpole. The meaning of the work seemed very clear to me: the artist had been struck by the powerful insight that everything the world offers is present at the same time. These trees with their yellow, orange and bright-red leaves & this green grass, the brilliant blue of a clear fall sky & the watercolor washes of the distant mountains, this old woman sleeping on the bench & that boy chasing pigeons, this park & the busy street beyond it, the pain of life & all its pleasure in the very same instant: an abundance that is also a totality.
It look a long time to descend the hill, what with stopping to gaze at the view and take in the installations along the way, but I kept up my rhapsodic monologue admiring the artist’s brilliance all the way down…to reality. The piece by Rory McMakin, entitled “Love and Loss,” included a table and chairs, benches, pathways and trees, all of which cleverly spell out the words of the title (the tree is the V in love, for instance), and none of which moved me at all that day.
What we make in our minds of what we see through our eyes makes all the difference. As postmodern as it may sound, isn’t everything in the eye of the beholder? It’s mid-morning in my world, and I’ve already sat in states of deep misery and deep peace. A friend of mind tells me that when she is disturbed, her antidote is to remember that whatever is plaguing her coexists with the rest of life. So that is happening, she tells herself, and what else? Life is this & this & this & this until it ends, far in the distance, I hope.
Here’s a view from ground-level, captured by my friend Araya: