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I’ve lived five minutes away (by bicycle) from Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park for two and a half years; but I only discovered this a month ago. I’m making up for lost time. During two recent visits to the park, which is sited along the shoreline of Puget Sound, I’ve taken nearly 500 photographs in and around the park. I’d like to share twenty of my favorites with you.

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The lone photo of an actual sculpture you will find in this story. Who doesn’t love a Calder? (Or the Space Needle?)

The sculpture park features an assortment of rather odd sculptures, I think. Most of which are not my cuppa. Ironically, if one looks beyond the obvious, many unintentional sculptural forms will reveal themselves throughout the park. I’m concentrating on those. Perhaps I’ll post photos of the sculptures the park was created to highlight in the future. For now, you get the alternative.

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Train yard metal structure.

I don’t know what it is; but I can tell you candidly: it’s better than many of the park’s “real” sculptures. The weathered finish is the result of many years of exposure to the elements, doing whatever the hell it does. Or did.

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Wood and metal assemblage.

This assemblage could also compete with any of the park’s sculptures as far as form, composition and interest are concerned. Workers simply stacked materials…. Were they laughing while they made it?

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Industrial art.

I found more fenced-off designs on my walk near the railroad tracks. I’m sure one of my readers can say what these are. Duct work? — But I was looking for found art, and that’s what I’m calling these objects.

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Grain elevator.

Sunlight and shadow play on the massive, old grain elevator located next to the park.

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Grain elevator.

Another, more complete photo of the huge grain elevator, taken at sunset. Growing up in Eastern Washington, one of the world’s great grain growing regions, I saw grain elevators every day. But nothing — nothing! — this massive. And you want sculpture? You’ve got sculpture. Squares, oblongs, cylinders, pyramids.

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Iconic freight-hauling logo.

I grew up just blocks from the train yards of Yakima, WA. There were no structures between our home and the tracks, to block my view — just a big, empty place we called Bum Canyon. Every night, for five years, I watched and listened to the trains rumbling slowly through the yards. When I see a train, I am reminded of my storied boyhood. — The car itself is composed of oblong, triangular and circular forms. The BNSF logo is shaped like a Plains Indian medicine wheel.

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Louis Dreyfus Switch Engine.

What a beautiful piece of machinery. Built for moving large numbers of freight cars short distances. Not built to go fast; built to pull heavy loads.

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Cross-tie piles, modern freight car with spray-painted graffiti.

There are unintentional sculptures all around the park. The application of the graffiti on the train car completes the picture.

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Nature’s own woodwork.

This beautiful work, created by nature, waits near the shoreline, hoping to draw attention away from the huge typewriter eraser sculpture, the neon ampersand sculpture and the eyeball sculptures. In my case, it succeeded.

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Container ship framed by a huge driftwood sculpture.

I photographed a huge container ship motoring on Puget Sound, through the hole in the above-depicted driftwood.

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Light, water and rocks.

The sun creates a column of light over the water of Puget Sound, which splashes against the rocks. The constant exposure to water and wind, over the eons, has shaped the rocks into the most artistic forms.

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Cairn.

Near the shoreline, a park visitor has mounded stones into the form of a cairn, a shape humans have created since ancient times. The simple design epitomizes the term “sculpture”. I just happened to glance upon this as I prepared to leave the park. I had to smile when I saw the mindfully-made piece.

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Large driftwood skeleton.

Another structure thrown up by a visitor. Large pieces of driftwood form a skeletal shape which features all the elements of sculpture.

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Seattle skyline at the end of the day.

Of course, the array of high-rises in downtown Seattle comprises its own enormous sculpture park. Here it is framed by the Port of Seattle’s ship-loading mechanisms reaching out from the grain elevator.

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Tubular.

I wanted to move these objects onto the other side of the fence, where onlookers could more easily enjoy them. Much of the best art was fenced off. Of course it was not intended to be art. That was just my fantasy.

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Sunset over the Olympic Mountains.

The park’s namesake mountains, masterfully sculpted over the eons by gigantic glaciers, are nearly as beautiful from a distance as they are when one is hiking in them. However, mine was an urban hike which began one mile from Seattle’s financial district.

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Cross-ties, rails and fittings.

The park has existed since 2007. The train yard and shoreline have been in place for a much longer. To my way of thinking, there was already an Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. It was simply waiting to be discovered.

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The human form.

And finally: the handsome gentleman pictured here was practicing Tai Chi. I received his permission to snap a photo. I think the human body is the most beautiful sculpture.

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Bonus Coverage:

Speaking of sculptural forms, here is our Seattle Public Library building, built in 2004.

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Seattle Public Library.

 

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