|4/23/17 Middle Fork, Seattle Art Museum lobby|
John Grade’s Middle Fork is a remarkable piece of art inspired by a 140-year-old tree in the Cascade Mountains. Along with a huge team of volunteers in Seattle, Grade built the 105-foot-long work from thousands and thousands of tiny pieces of reclaimed cedar glued together. Hanging above the Seattle Art Museum’s lobby, Middle Fork made my jaw drop, and I couldn’t keep my mouth closed even as I sketched. I’m guessing others felt the same way, as it was a popular sketch subject yesterday morning with Urban Sketchers Seattle.
First I went all the way to the back of the museum lobby and sat under it to take in as much of its full length as would fit in my sketchbook spread. Then I went upstairs to the museum’s third floor to look down on the opening of its wide end. In either case, I don’t think I quite captured its enormity, but I tried.
Nearly five years ago, USk Seattle met in SAM’s lobby, where I sketched a small part of Inopportune: Stage One, a sculpture by Cai Guo-Qiang, consisting of actual cars and flashing neon lights suspended from the same ceiling where Middle Fork now hangs. While Inopportune was controversial during its long exhibition there (many loved it, many hated it – it’s difficult to feel indifferent about a bunch of cars hanging overhead at various angles), Middle Fork seems to be unanimously praised. I have no doubt I will gaze at it with awe each time I enter SAM for as long as it’s there.