The University of Washington is always a great place to walk around, but there’s no better time to take in the beauty of the campus than now. MadArt, which brings the work of local artists to public spaces, has organized a vibrant campus-wide outdoor art exhibit that runs through October 25. The exhibit is fun, delightful, and free, set in one of the most beautiful locations in Seattle. Its website, madartseattle.com offers a map for a self-guided tour: http://madartseattle.com/exhibits/mad-campus/.
Some of the pieces are easy to spot, such as Kevin McCarthy’s “Sentinel,” a shiny robot that stands at the northern corner of the campus, or Piper O’Neill’s “Lone Stranger,” a gigantic inflated cowboy that looks like it stepped out of a Pixar movie. One imagines that in the middle of the night, when even the most die-hard students have left the 24-hour library, the cowboy and the robot come alive and roam the grounds.
Near the southern entrance of the campus is W. Scott Trimble’s fabulous “Wave Sine,” an undulating wooden pathway that refers to how light and matter travel through space and Tory Franklin’s “Six Swans,” which consists of beautifully cut, life-size puppets resting in a tree, including a white bird that floats elegantly through leaves.
In the Medicinal Herb Garden is “Hortus Curiosus,” by Maki Tamura and Saya Moriyasu, who are both inspired by a mix of 19th-century Asian and European art. Tamura often brings together disparate images from fairy tales, ukiyo-e prints, and Victorian illustrations. Moriyasu, who is biracial and grew up in a household where a “beautiful Kannon, or goddess of mercy, shared the same space as a polyester Afghan blanket,” writes in her website that living with that mix made her love that same odd mix in chinoiserie, European art made in a Chinese style. “That wrongness is right to me,” she writes.
That kind of right/wrong is apparent in their long, hand-painted fabric banners that depict monkeys wearing colonialist garb, telling a bit of the university’s history: The UW was originally in downtown Seattle, and relocated in 1895. One of the banners states that the new location provides “ampler grounds removed from excitement and temptations of city life.”
Along with the banners is a variety of faux bois, or fake wood that was popular in the 19th century. The concrete tree stumps refer to the old growth forest that once covered the university grounds, and have been arranged like furniture for a garden party. The artists wanted the space to become a gathering place for people, and indeed, when I was visiting there, a student was sitting with her computer on one of the faux bois. Xingyee Gan, a senior chemistry major, said that she’s been coming to the garden more because of the installation, and wishes that it wouldn’t be taken down. “It’s perfect here,” she said.
Further up near the middle of the campus is Paul Komada’s humorously named but very informative “Global Bloblem,” which overtakes a large oak tree. A set of flags sewn together and then inflated, the work is like a colorful 3-D infographic on climate change. The flags on top represent the nations that contribute most to gas emissions, while the flags on the bottom are of countries most affected by the problem. Unsurprisingly, the United States is on top, along with China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Among those most affected by global warming are Bangladesh, Sudan, Siberia, and Australia.
Komada, who has done a lot of work with hand-knit yarn, said that the “Blob” was his first sewing project. “The month of June was dedicated to watching numerous YouTube ‘How To’s.’ July and August were the most torturous months in my life fabricating the Blob in my Pioneer Square studio,” he said. He finished sewing the pieces in September, and made a time-lapse video of installing them on the tree.
“Global Bloblem” is closely related to another of Komada’s work, “Going Cascade,” a large map of the United States which has been on display at a window on Mercer and Terry, near the Amazon campus. The map, made of 150 pieces of handknit square fabrics, expresses the energy of new workers moving into the neighborhood once known as Cascade. “I feel that the neckbreaking pace of South Lake Union’s transformation is something we could only see few times in our lifetime,” he writes on his website. “I embrace and am excited by the booming energy of the region. However, a lingering melancholy of the disappearing Cascade is always in my mind.”
Try to catch Komada’s “Global Bloblem” and the rest of “MadCampus” before it disappears on October 25.