Scenes from Saturday: Running, Science, Flowers, and Contemporary Art

I hope everybody has had a super-saturday. Yesterday’s post about identities was pretty lengthy. Todays post will just be some photos and ruminations. 

My day started with a 16 mile run. I cut my mileage a little bit this week to recover from the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon. I’m going to start building up again though: my marathon is only 8 weeks away! If you haven’t donated yet, can I impose upon you one more time to check out my fundraising page for the Seattle Humane Society?

Count the items of teal running gear on the blogger
I started listening to the audiobook version of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” on this run. The majority of the story is told through primary source writings and interviews from a variety of American Indian tribes. I listened to accounts of the relocation of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, and the long walk of the Navajo to Bosque Redondo this morning. The language is beautiful, but the subject matter is incredibly depressing. We, as Americans, have a LOT to answer for in our treatment of the tribes who lived here before we came. I will say that listening to firsthand accounts of mass exodus and systematic slaughter of entire peoples makes all of my problems seem pretty insignificant, and makes all of the hills in Seattle seem pretty small. It is a great listen, but I might stick to lighter subject material on my next run. 

Man- If I had been just a TINY bit faster I could have stopped my watch at 2:22:22

After my run, I had some breakfast. Three guesses as to what THAT was:

White man’s burden to oatmeal. Nice segue, Sam.
Then I mounted my trusty bicycle, named Velox. Together we went out to seize the day!

I had forgotten how lovely Seattle is in the spring. The flowers are beginning to bloom, and everything is lush and green. It took me almost 15 minutes just to get out of my neighborhood because I kept getting distracted by the deciduous displays. 

I finally managed to make my way into work, and I got caught up on some cloning. 

Is anyone surprised that I take notes in three different colors at a time?

Once I got my cells plated and into the incubator, I decided to give the right side of my brain some nourishment so I went to the Henry Art Gallery. The Henry is a non-profit space for exhibiting contemporary art on UW’s campus. They exhibit a great blend of works from established artists while highlighting the work of exciting new and upcoming talent. 

The Henry has a Skyspace, titled Light Reign, by James Turrell! It’s a great place for contemplation. James Turrell is a fascinating artist. I’d love to visit the Roden Crater when (if) he ever finishes it. The work itself seems so simple, but every time I visit it affects me in a different way. I’m always surprised at just how much of an emotional response such a deceptively simple piece brings up in me.  
It’s just a bench, white walls,

and a portal to another dimension

The main galleries were displaying works by Katinka Bock. Katinka Bock is a european sculptor. I enjoyed how her works subverted the typical expectations of how the audience interacts with the gallery space. The works themselves are understated. Each piece, however, is clearly very carefully thought out: learning about the materials and the actual process she undertook to create each work gave them more meaning.  

This is all dirt from the Denny Re-Grade. This piece was created specifically for Seattle
I thought this was stunning 

The lower galleries were given over to exhibitions about two influential performance artists: Gina Pane, and Joan Jonas.  There were photographs, video projections, written explanations and conceptual drawings from some of these artists’ most high-profile pieces. I know next-to-nothing about performance art (although I do unapologetically love Yoko Ono). I enjoyed learning about these two artists, and looking at the photographs, but nothing really resonated with me. After all: performance art is supposed to be a performance. If the performer is absent, it is unclear to me WHAT is on display. Videos of the performance lack the intimacy and intensity of observing the artist at work first hand. Also, a video installation is a completely different beast than a performance piece: there is no inherent risk in a video, no opportunity for improvisation. With a video your attention is being focused for you in a particular direction by the videographer’s eye; I think it makes the experience less personal for both artist and audience.

Photographs of Gina Pane’s pieces.

I REALLY wanted to like this piece by Joan Jonas. It is based on a reading of Dante’s Inferno. I love the inferno: it is an amazing piece of poetry and social commentary. The work left me feeling a little flat. Again, I think this is the challenge of displaying performance art without a performer. Re-runs just never are as exciting as the live spectacle event. 

I thought that this was a pretty effective way to display a performance art piece without actually having the performance, but maybe that is because the piece itself is so simple and easy to describe. 

Every year the Henry gives an award to recognize a local artist with exciting potential. The award is called The Brink (as in on the brink of greatness). This year the prize went to Anne Fenton. Anne Fenton is a multimedia artist. This exhibition was a response to the modern quest for purity and perfection, as typified by the “clean-living” movements. 

My favorite piece was titled “A Restorative Flow.” I took a photo, you can see the results here:

The art isn’t the hammock, and it isn’t really the columns either. For this piece Anne Fenton knocked down a partition wall, revealing the columns and opening up the space. The art is not a physical object, but rather the combined effect of changing how the public interacts with the room.  I really enjoy how she “added by subtracting.” She created a work of art by removing something, and thus altering the flow of the gallery space. 

The rest of here pieces were mostly video projections and mixed media. I thought they were all highly cerebral and interesting, but not particularly emotionally arresting. I am going to steal a mantra from this piece for the next time I need to change my narrative though. 
I decided to bike home through campus to scope the cherry trees. That was a great decision. I spend almost no time on UW’s main campus (my lab is attached to the hospital complex), and I forget just how spectacular my school can be. 

Hi George!

That was my Saturday: I had a nice balance of athletics, academics, and aesthetics. 

Question of the day: Who is your favorite artist (any medium)?

I absolutely love Felix Gonzales Torres‘ sculpture and installation pieces. I am a huge fan of Barnett Newman‘s paintings. I think Dale Chihuly is an insane genius in glass, and ever since Alli and I went to the  Arty Party, I have been trying to learn more about Joan Miro and the early surrealists. 

2 thoughts on “Scenes from Saturday: Running, Science, Flowers, and Contemporary Art

Add yours

  1. I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as a junior or senior in high school. I can remember reading it late at night in the blue bedroom on HIlltop Drive. (It was John's room then Chris's room then I finally got my own room, but that's another story.) As I think about it, the book must have been one of the steps on my transition to a westerner. I remember absorbing the exotic locations like Fort Kearny and Scottsbluff; so different from the eastern woods. And getting a handle on the different tribes and tragic heroes. It had a big affect on me. Like many of the important books in my life, it was a Christmas gift from my Uncle Bill. I ended up with the family copy when I raided my mom's library after she died.
    I've tried to read it since and now its too hard for me to get past the litany of carnage and dishonesty and un-heroism. It's just too much…


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