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Art, nature find common ground

[6/28/2003]

A park meadow becomes a gallery for a Sunday opening.

Shirley Weibe lopes onto the meadow where, in less than a week, she must build a sculpture.

The artist has driven straight through from Vancouver, B.C., but with just six days until the opening of Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council’s temporary sculpture exhibit, she wastes no time.

Weibe loads up a cart she has brought with tools and wheels it to the Blakely Harbor Park site where she will weave an aluminum lath sculpture resembling an overturned canoe.

“I’m just getting here with the materials, but I’ve already made two site visits,” she said. “And I’ve been sketching ideas for months.”

The Canadian sculptor joins eight other local and regional artists creating work for “Art in the Meadow: A Whispered Conver­sation with the Land,” which opens this Sunday.

The sculpture is spread over two acres of the park, once the site of seasonal Suquamish encampments and then home to the world’s largest lumber mill.

The city acquired the park’s 38 acres of waterfront and woods from Port Blakely Tree Farms in 1999 and 2001, aided by fund-raising efforts by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.

“Art in the Meadow” – the island’s first temporary art exhibit – is the brainchild of BIAHC’s Public Art Committee, which conceived the idea a year and a half ago.

Early last April, the committee tapped noted Seattle artist Carolyn Law to curate the show and help select the artists.

“It’s been a fabulous opportunity to work collaboratively with a group of artists ,” Law said, “and to bring one’s ideas to fruition in a short period of time.”

In early June, Law brought the artists to tour the woods, meadow and two streams that compose the exhibition space.

Law says she envisioned artists creating works that responded to the natural cycles and the industrial and cultural history of the place – and to each other.

“The idea was to work with the site as a whole,” she said. “To do that, their pieces had to work together conceptually to link with each other. So there was a lot of online discussion.”

That coordination becomes clear as visitors follow the paths from piece to piece, many of them using natural materials found on-site.

Island paint­er and architect Diana Liljelund and Seattle scul­p­­­tor Michael McCaf­ferty’s neighboring works relate through coordinated color.

McCafferty stained the traces of ivy stripped from standing trees.

Liljelund has stained the ends of a pile of logs that were once a single big-leaf maple, and varnished the trunk.

“I had (professional tree cutter) Bob Cederwall come and explain how it was cut,” Liljelund said, “which piece sat on which piece.

“You start to see where the saw marks are. It’s a little bit of archeological research – where did it stand, when was it cut? It’s how to tell that story.”

Island sculptor Tollefson built contrasting artworks at each end of a short path. Starting each day at 5 a.m., she has cut blackberry bushes to make her art: a horseshoe-shaped woven hedge of bramble cuttings 30 feet around, and its contrasting companion piece, a sculpture shaped from the living blackberry bushes.

“The piece has to do with tensions of a site that’s been interacted with by humans and now has been allowed to grow wild,” Tollefson said. “It’s nature disturbed and nature regenerating.”

Flexibility was the key to success for island artist Gregory Glynn.

His first vision – cordoning off long swatches of the meadow’s tall grass to evoke shadows of the downed giant – unraveled when the meadow was mistakenly mowed before the artist arrived.

“I was trying to leave the meadow intact to have a whispered conversation. What we got was something entirely different,” he said, pointing to the half-sheared field, dotted with small mounds of raked grasses.

“As an artist you have to be able to adapt, so I thought I’d use the grass. It looks like I’m creating a Millet painting,” he said, referring to the 19th century French pastoralist.

By Thursday afternoon, most of the grass mounds were reconfigured into two large spirals.

The paths to the installations were marked with stakes and string, and the whine of a weedwhacker indicated that Tollefson is clearing another area.

Across the meadow, the varnished logs gleamed like a giant pile of jewels.

“It’s been a rewarding process,” Liljelund said. “Hopefully it will cause people to stop and think about the natural cycle and the history of this place.”

* * * * *

Bloomin’ art

“Art in the Meadow: Whispered Conversations with the Land,” opens Sunday in the west meadow at Blakely Harbor Park.

The outdoor installation includes works by Carolyn Law, Gregory Glynn, Michelle Arab, Andy Sheffer, Diana Liljelund, Kristin Tollefson, Michael McCafferty, Jon Gierlich and Shirley Wiebe.

Free and open to the public, the show will be up through September in the meadow at at the corner of Blakely Avenue and Country Club Road.

“Art in the Meadow” is funded by the city’s 1 Percent for the Art Program, and administered by the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council.

Information: 842-7901, or see www.artshum.org.

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