David Nechak,Voyeur, 1998. Mixed media.

HorseHead Sculpture Project ’98


Sand Point Naval Station

The former Sand Point Naval Station north of the University of Washington is attracting a lot of attention for hosting various indoor and outdoor art projects since it was consigned over to the City of Seattle by the U.S. Government. “HorseHead Sculpture Project ’98” is the latest and most impressive event yet at this half-mile-long strip along the western shores of Lake Washington. Independent curator Matthew Lennon went all out for his 10th anniversary edition, earlier versions of which were held in Duvall and Bucoda, Washington.

With invited artists from Ghana, Northern lreland, Japan, and the U.S., Lennon generally held to his hands-off approach, and let the artists choose their own sites- the only proviso being that minimal alteration of the environment occur. The results were 34 art pieces that took many manifestations, from installation art and discrete object sculpture t0 earth art and environmental sitings.

Lennon took advantage of a prior history of outdoor sculpture sitings as well because, just to the north, at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency regional headquarters, there is an impressive grouping of sculptures by Martin Puryear, Siah Armajani, Scott Burton, George Trakas, and others. HorseHead’s artists seem extremely austere and benign in terms of site-intervention by comparison to the NOAA group because HorseHead is meant to be temporary and everything at NOAA is permanent.

Given the landscape setting of lawns, forested areas, and military architecture, the artists had plenty of sites from which to choose. Some, like Tom Gormally, incorporated the lawns as part of their pieces, in his case, a giant picnic table with benches, Life’s a Picnic (1998). Malcolm McLaren sought out the vast and bleak parking lot to set his two. scrawny, Giacommetiesque figures, Adam and Eve, taking advantage of the viewer’s approach on foot to the isolated sculptures. Lauren Grossman took over the adjacent garage for her pulley-driven installation of a red rubber-cast Christ effigy, StigmaIization, in which the figure is repeatedly crucified through viewer participation with the pulleys.

Brian Kennedy, Gold Stones (detail), Basalt and gold leaf.

Canadian artist Lycia Trouton and American David Scott-Risner with the aid of the City of Seattle youth summer conservation corps, built a giant dirt cube, Terra FIux, actually a functional water tank surrounded by compacted peat, earth, and hay. Michael McCafferty dumped dirt too, forming his Following the Moles, a curving, three-foot-high series of mounds at the extreme south end of the park area.

There was a wonderful blend of well-known Northwest artists like McCafferty, Grossman, and Julie Speidel (Samhain) with younger emerging artists both from Seattle and abroad. Sean Miller, Craig Miller and Dan Corson collaborated on Untitled (1998), a four-part piece that included an abstract sugar-cube sculpture; suspended recycled bottles; a rectangular pond of yucky chemical residue; and a set-up tea party for two.

Among the international artists, Eze Anamelechi emulated Ibo tribal altars of Ghana in his forest clearing area, and Ken Parker of Belfast made five cast-concrete tables with glasstile insets. Some of the works, like Parker’s, badly needed the backdrop of the disused industrial sheds to support otherwise bland or symmetrical compositions. However, in the eeriest example of using the old military buildings, David Nechak brilliantly placed five blue-tinted convex mirrors on metal poles in front of the former concrete brig. The effect was the cleverest of all at manipulating the site to garner more than the sum of the parts: military surveillance; memories of military justice; and reminders of the ubiquitous sense of monitoring in our own society (each mirror rotated on a motor).

Finally, some of the most successful pieces were also the most recessive ln their physical presence. These included Larry Bemm’s barely visible colored nylon discs swaying in the wind and Brian Kennedy’s (another Irishman) clear glass teardrop shapes suspended from a tree branch, and his Gold Stones, painstakingly gold-leafed boulders placed at strategic points along a forested pathway. Enhancing and enriching nature without unduly altering or violating it was the common theme here as elsewhere throughout HorseHead.
-Matthew Kangas