Monday, July 2, 2012

Art in the Park 2012: Heaven & Earth at Carkeek Park

While I traipsed through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre, British Museum, Rijksmuseum, and more venerable museums as an art history student, what most enthralled me was experiencing art in a natural setting.  In southern France I was fortunate to see ancient cave paintings outside a small village in the lush green hills of the Dordogne region: simple, graceful, powerful images of bovine creatures, painted on raw stone walls.

You don't have to travel to France or Spain to have a similar experience. In an enchanting blend of art in nature, visitors can wander through the forest trails at Seattle's Carkeek Park this summer and see kinetic sculptures and "landcape interventions." What a perfect blend of two of my favorite things: art and the beautiful Pacific Northwest outdoors.

Last weekend while walking on my usual trek through Carkeek, I chanced on a few of the art installations without knowing the Rootbound: Heaven & Earth IV exhibit had just debuted the same day. 

Colorful shards of glass inset into the cyclone fence railing on the stairs down to the beach refracted light from the setting sun.  At first confused, I soon remembered it was about that time of year again: this is the fourth year of this exhibit in Carkeek, one of the few such outdoors art exhibits in a public nature preserve/park setting in the U.S. 

Curated by David Francis of Seattle's Center on Contemporary Art, the exhibit features a variety of mixed media pieces, some of which will decompose during the course of the four-month-long event. While the event features mostly local Seattle-area artists, California, Oregon, and B.C. artists are represented as well.

As I stopped to read strings of hand-painted oyster shells hanging from a tree on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound (pictured above), several children clustered around as well, laughing and ringing the bells at the end of each string. Definitely not a stuffy art museum, where we're told to look but not touch.

Art from 2011 show

I haven't walked the whole 2- to 3-mile stretch of the exhibit, so look forward to discovering more as I go over the summer. I'll purposely not check the map to see if I notice what's different on my usual urban woodland walks.

Have you had an outdoors art experience that left you thrilled, awed, or delighted?  Or have you made it to Carkeek already and wandered through the exhibit?  I'd love to hear your comments below!

And a closing quote from Seattle artist Benson Shaw about the value of public art:

"Public art is important because it makes our built environment better - it shows that the community cares. Then there's also an intellectual component, the artwork usually references something or there's a little mystery in the stories of the artwork and it's fun to think about those."

When You Go
This exhibit officially extends through October 31, 2012, in north Seattle's Carkeek Park.  Be sure and park  at (or least walk to) the Environmental Learning Center, which is immediately to the right as soon as your turn off to enter the park, to see more of the exhibit in the meadow up there. (Most pass this and park down by the beach.)


Joe Leeak said...

I love this stuff!

Anne said...

I think "art in the park" installations are great, when we can see the inspirations of both mother nature and talented humans.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this blog & you’ve inspired me to check out the art in Carkeek Park.

Seanna said...

Didn't even know this existed. Time to walk the dog in Carkeek Park

JGT said...

Cool! Sounds interesting, fun, tactile, and thought-provoking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks much for the article, Jill! We run the show on a shoestring budget and are very dependent on word of mouth publicity and reviews like yours.


Lisa Osse said...

Great post, Jill. I'm a fan of Andy Goldsworthy, the master of 'art in the park,' so would love to see the Carkeek exhibits.

Ed said...

Going to have to grab my camera and head there soon! Especially in the nice weather!