The 2017 edition of the Percival Plinth Project has arrived. Each year, the plinths along Percival Landing – permanent cube shaped bases for sculptures – receive new sculptures for public enjoyment. Now through July 31, voting is open to select the winner of this year’s People’s Prize which will be purchased by The City of Olympia and given a home elsewhere in the city for permanent display. Fifteen artists are vying for the top prize this year, working in mediums ranging from steel to bronze, glass to alder, sandstone to salvaged materials. This year’s sculptures come in a variety of sizes and attitudes and are not to be missed.
You can check out additional information about the Plinth Project via the City of Olympia’s website. You can also pick up ballets along the way, (I found mine near “Wounds of Time”).
The Percival Plinth Project speaks to the creativity, beauty and community values that tie us all together. Armed with fresh treats from the Farmer’s Market and hot coffee from the Dancing Goats Café, I walked this year’s entries from No. 15 to No. 1 and what I saw was nothing less than extraordinary.
No. 15 – “Growing II” by Jesse Swickard
Jesse Swickard began his career in childhood, working at his father’s machine shop. He later went on to study welding formally. Over time, he began mixing welding with paint, making furniture out of snowboards and nurturing his creative spirit. “Most of my art I create is nature based and built to withstand many years and outlast many lifetimes,” shared Swickard.
His piece, “Growing II” stands tall, blending seamlessly into the skyline, the bird’s detailing giving the statue life and depth. A perfect partnership between the cold elements of industrial society and the living species trying to thrive among us.
No. 14 – “Embrace” by Ken Turner
Ken Turner’s statue, “Embrace”, is a delight to the eyes and mind. Delicate metal ribbons seem to dance before you, each of different size and color and shape, all mingling in calm harmony.
“Embrace is the second sculpture I’ve done that’s loosely based on ‘The Kiss’ by Brancusi,” explained Turner. “The first was Prelude, which was in last year’s Percival Plinth. Both ‘Embrace’ and ‘Prelude’ are stainless steel as I wanted the reflective quality. They change with the light and the environment including what the viewer is wearing.”
“There were several versions of ‘The Kiss’, a sculpture ahead of the Cubist movement, though the ideas can be seen in many earlier examples of African sculpture. I am fascinated by how much can be read into such a simplified form. Though my versions become more complicated because of the change of medium I think viewers still read ‘human connection’ in this abstract sculpture whether they know the back story or not. “
No. 13 – “Doryman” by Louise McDowell
Louise McDowell found the inspiration for her entry, “Doryman”, by tapping into her experiences from her time living in Alaska. “In this sculpture,” said McDowell, “I sought to portray the indomitable spirit of the fisherman whose extraordinary strength and courage are hidden beneath ordinary day to day tasks that bring him out into the open sea.”
Louise works in cast bronze, forming the original sculpture in wax, a pliable medium that allows for energy, movement and life to enter the sculpture. “Doryman” portrays something raw and honest, a man worn but not weary, fish nipping at his heels, a tribute to the undefeatable spirit.
“I believe that art can be a force for transforming society,” added McDowell. “It plays a key part in our future, drawing attention to the environment, to social justice and to the love of life.”
No. 12 – “Earthsound” by Jon Kalin
“Earthsound” is a beautiful caricature of life. You find yourself compelled by the young woman – delicate, trusting, barefoot – and the careful, nurturing way she holds her palm to the earth, truly listening. Artist, Jon Kalin, intended for “Earthsound” to be a life-sized sculpture, but after finishing the maquette decided he wanted to preserve it just as it was.
“I went through the laborious process of building a small foundry to reproduce it in silicon bronze. I’m not sure that I can claim a creative process insofar as there was no evolution or development of the idea – the image and the concept occurred simultaneously. The earth is speaking to all of us constantly, and we all should be listening carefully.”
No. 11 – “Diana’s Quiver” by Karsten Boysen
Karsten Boysen crafted “Diana’s Quiver” out of salvaged materials. From pieces lost, forgotten, or discarded rose a statue of magnificent size and power. Each piece appearing war torn and mangled, but somehow all the stronger for it. It leaves one with the feeling of power and possibility. A wonderful example of how recycling and reuse are more than good practice but also the means to a beautiful world.
No. 10 – “Midori Spring” by Ann Fleming
A small woman stands quietly on the pier, a watcher of the water. Her arms extended in gentle welcome, small birds resting in her palms. Every detail she wears, intricate and meaningful.
Formed from pottery clay and immortalized in bronze, Ann Fleming’s statue, “Midori Spring”, is a lovely combination simple grace.
It serves as a reminder of the simple beauty and harmony that exist between us, if we just take the time to pay attention.
No. 9 – “Wounds of Time” by Grant Walker
At first glance, the sheer height of “Wounds of Time” will catch your eye. But at closer inspection, you will note the absent pieces, each of different size and depth, remnants of a story. They reminded me of the struggles and losses we often face in life and the fact that we can still overcome and stand tall in the end.
In “Wounds of Time”, Grant Walker hopes to inspire a conversation about our scarce resources. His statue reflects the life of a tree – burned, decayed, wounded – sometimes by nature and often through human action. “Wounds of Time” presents an opportunity to reflect on our actions and interactions with nature.
No. 8 – “The Wisdom Seeker” by Leon White
Leon White has been creating artwork since he could hold a crayon. Whether painting or sculpting, he knows that an artist must create every day to grow and gain needed experience.
The sandstone used for his entry, “The Wisdom Seeker”, came from the local Tenino Quarry. This gentle spirit figure has been carved with simple clean lines and easy folds. Under his hood, a small smile that makes you feel as if he really does know something you don’t.
“Most of the time with stone, the stone’s shape and color dictate what the sculpture will be. I usually see an image in the stone’s shape. If not, I spend a lot of time turning the stone around until it speaks to me and declares ‘This is what I want to be’”, said White. “This sculpture evolved to represent a sense of spirituality and meditation. It is an entity that evokes calmness and wisdom.”
No. 7 – “Aqueous” by Cyrra Robinson
“The wonder that I experienced when finding remnants of creatures long forgotten is something that I continue to seek within my practice and hope to spark within any audience of my work,” shared artist Cyrra Robinson. “I always hope that any audience of my work will be struck by the same sense of wonder that I have enjoyed while creating it, and to empower themselves to explore and feel the work with their hands, hearts, and minds.”
“’Aqueous’ is the first sculpture that I have made using only copper. I strive to develop work that evokes a tangible experience, not just passively looking at a representation, but introducing yourself to something that exudes the vastness of the natural world, a vital object. The fluidity and power of natural phenomena inspires me to fossilize movement within my sculptures.”
No. 6 – “Fossil II” by Lin McJunkin and Milo White
“Fossil II” is the creative product of a dynamic team. Lin McJunkin, science educator and artist, and Milo White, whose attention has moved from fabricating large commercial buildings, and even ships, to smaller, more personal sculpture forms.
“Even though we divide our efforts into metal work done by Milo and glass work done by Lin, we collaborate on every step of the design, fabrication and installation processes,” they shared. “’Fossil II’ celebrates the role of honeybees as pollinators of a majority of the world’s food, hence the hexagonal steel shapes filled with cast glass. Due to the worldwide occurrence of Colony Collapse Disorder, hives are dying at an alarming rate. We need to protect them before they become ‘fossils’ to be remembered as part of our distance past.”
“Fossil II” sits close to the water, the sun dancing off each brilliantly colored pane of glass, a wave of DNA and a reminder of both the strength and vulnerability of every living form.
No. 5 – “Sentry” by Kevin Au
Kevin Au’s entry, “Sentry”, exudes both a clean and technical feel. It is a piece of rich color, bold lines and solid craftsmanship. Careful placement of texturing on the base gives the medium a softer feel and at close inspection, almost mimics the lines of the mountains in the distance.
Something about the way Au molded the crowning piece gives you a sense that atop that mountain a power force is waiting and watching, but I wonder what he is waiting for?
No. 4 – “Stargazer” by Timm Duffy
Artist Timm Duffy shows his love for mysticism with his entry, “Stargazer”.
Duffy’s statue seems to have risen from the medium on its own, its lines fluid and raw. The physical nature of “Stargazer” is hardly permanent, despite the attempt to cast him in bronze. You get the sense that this small man sees something your forgot to pay attention to and that he has the means to walk from his platform to seek it. The feeling of movement and change and possibility all combine to create a feeling of unexpected magic and satisfaction.
No. 3 – “Fat Tire #2” by Lance Carleton
Lance Carleton’s entry, “Fat Tire #2”, is unique in that it is made for play.
“Success in my works are the smiles and thoughtful expressions on people’s faces when they connect with one of my pieces,” shared Carleton. “Fat Tire is a series I have created to be an interactive sculpture for people of all ages. It is very hard for anyone passing by to not throw a leg over the bike and get their picture taken and children have fun crawling through the tires.”
“Fat Tire #2” is built from salvaged materials, each with a story that serves Carleton as his windows to inspiration. It’s an easy and fun fit for a community that values the environment and supports bicycle transportation.
No. 2 – “Peace Dove” by Charles Fitzgerald
Charles Fitzgerald began his career as an illustrator for Boeing, moving on to teach high school art for 23 years. Along with life experiences, he finds inspiration and creative fuel from nature and the isolation of detailed shapes and forms.
“The materials I use are determined by where they will be placed. Public art must be able to sustain the elements and human destruction. The man-made qualities of stainless steel and the magic of old growth cedar have the most meaning to me,” he explained.
Fitzgerald’s entry, “Peace Dove”, evolved through biblical symbolism and his wish for more peace in the world. You will find it quietly sitting on the pier, constructed in such a way you may be reminded of the delicacy of a pearl but also the strength that comes with hope.
No. 1 – “Ribbon” by Rodger Squirrell
“Ribbon” is both grand and powerful, like the sea, reminiscent of waves of great magnitude equally awe inspiring and delicate. Sound, rhythm and light play off its stainless steel. Rodger Squirrell crafted his entry through the salvage of materials left for waste after his commission of another project.
“Making something of a bunch of scrap metal is thrilling, whether it is a crazy swing set or an abstract shape. In 2011 I was commissioned to make a sculpture for the City of Lake Forest Park to commemorate its 50th Anniversary. “Ribbon” is the scrap stainless steel from the fabrication of that piece. It was just a reverse engineering project to turn the commissioned piece inside out and create another, completely different sculpture from the scrap.”
Ribbon is livelier, less monumental, than the mother piece which had a specific purpose and tone. “I wanted it to convey a cheerful and more approachable aesthetic, added Squirrell. “This one dances.”