The Seattle organization MadArt has ventured over to Cal Anderson Park, where six sculptural installations engage park users through playful concepts or opportunities for interaction: There are works that you can walk on, sit atop, and toss balls within.
I do love it when a work of art needs to be watered.
Artist Casey Curran has created a grass-covered wooden disc that juts up out of the lawn for the “MadArt in the Park” exhibition on Capitol Hill. Curran had certain goals for his installation, titled “Slant.” He wanted it to be like a mirror, reflecting the Earth, and to create “a small destination, a place for people to hang out, congregate.”
But, now that it’s fully installed, Curran sees the work becoming “a performative stage and a social experiment.” Needing to water his sculpture frequently, he has left his watering can nearby; it hasn’t been stolen, and he has shown up to find people doing the job for him.
This kind of public interaction is exactly what the art organization MadArt hopes to accomplish with its mission “to support emerging artists in our community, to bring art into our lives in unexpected ways, and to create community involvement in the arts.”
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Apparently, MadArt isn’t just about Madison Park anymore. Last year, MadArt’s founder Alison Milliman and director Bryan Ohno pulled off a feat: organizing a great-looking, site-specific exhibition of art in and around the shop windows of Madison Park.
This year, MadArt has ventured over to Cal Anderson Park, where six sculptural installations engage park users through playful concepts or opportunities for interaction: There are works you can walk on, sit atop, and toss balls within. Artist Jason Puccinelli occasionally sits inside his sculpture “Rocket,” talking with people who are intrigued by the upside-down craft that seems to have crash-landed in the park.
True to their goals, rather than simply informing the public about a fait accompli — a completely finished exhibition in Cal Anderson Park — Milliman and Ohno invited the public to observe and talk with the artists for two weeks as they installed their works.
Artist Casey Curran said that the process of working while interacting with the public was “a little stressful at times, particularly when people would ask, ‘What is it?’ ” But Curran emphasized that the overall experience was “really cool” and that people’s responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
Now that this process is over, the most successful works continue the interactive potential and foster clear connections among people, art and the site.
But some of the works do not. If site-specificity or audience engagement are not the threads tying the works together, it’s hard to say what is. Is there a concept that draws lines between a rocket, a slab of grass, and a pile of giant paintbrushes?
According to MadArt’s website, yes, there is: “Our six selected artists have conceptualized designs as a blip in time, as a glimpse of life in metaphor.” While this theme doesn’t always rise to the surface, the exhibition certainly accomplishes another of MadArt’s goals: to support emerging artists. It is well worth taking a walk in the park with these six artists and keeping an eye on their future paths.