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Grass Blades

On the eastern edge of Seattle Center, next to the Frank Gehry-designed EMP Museum, stands a tall, quiet, swaying sculpture. It reaches up delicately, the wind moving it slowly back and forth. The strands are steel, stacked and welded with painted segments to create something akin to film strips, bamboo, or cellular structures. They are the simplest of compositions: a singular thing, repeated.

This sculpture, titled Grass Blades, resonates with me on some primal level, its symmetry and movement calming. It evokes the same feeling as watching wind across wheat fields, or waves rolling across the shore. A completely incidental occurrence creating a beautiful effect. Perhaps its the stopping that matters most – the movement that comes from a natural force can be either soothing or destructive, tapping us into something we either take for granted or forget completely: the natural world. I feel small and protected nestled in the reeds of this installation – oddly it’s the same sensation I feel standing next to a Richard Serra’s Wake or Tilted Arc. But whereas Serra’s work feels solidly structural and protective, even when leaning over the viewer; it still carries the weight of threat. It’s disorienting at times. Steel Grass by contrast, shelters and moves with you.

Grass Blades was built by John Fleming after winning a public art design contest for the location. Fleming conceptualized and designed the project with his architectural firm RBF Architecture; and was assisted by artist Susan Zoccola with the paint bands. What I find interesting is how Fleming’s concept drawings for the project remind me of Cristo and Jeanne-Claude concept drawings, sans fabric. It makes me want to see this project realized on an even greater scale! This is a permanent installation, so if you’re ever near EMP or going out to dinner at Crow or otherwise in the area, make sure to check it out. It’s worth the detour, believe!

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