Friday Scatter: Back to business

So, yes, Scatter had a momentary, um, hiatus. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Actually, we were up in Seattle, lots of us, and we took hundreds of slides! There we are with Gramps splashing in the pool. Uh, Gramps? Pull up the trunks. Yeesh!

Anyway, the best thing about traveling, even just up I-5 a ways, is coming back and telling your dear friends all about it. Which would be you. Stop that cringing once and for all! This is going to be quick…

Northwest African American Museum: Part of a reconverted school in Seattle, this museum is small — and almost perfect in its way. Its first show features the art of Jacob Lawrence (who moved to Seattle in 1970) and James W. Washington Jr., a neat pairing, both deeply interested in the African American history and daily life. But for me the real revelation was the permanent exhibit, most of which is a big timeline of African American history in the Northwest. Dense with information and photographs, it does an excellent job of conveying basic knowledge — the faces of early black settlers, the churches they built, what their lives were like. But then it brings us back to the present with video interviews with present African American residents of Seattle, Portland and Yakima, who talk about what it’s like to live here now. It’s great stuff. I would say Portland should have a museum like it, but this one has taken since 1981 to build (it opened in March), so maybe it’s best to concentrate on this excellent beginning.

Wing Luke Asian Museum: The new building of this museum is also excellent — a conversion by architect Rick Sundberg of an old tenement into a light, airy museum that still reminds us of the tenement it used to be. But the Wing Luke could take its cue from the African American museum on coming up with a clear historical timeline of Asian American history in the Northwest, although it should work well as a community meeting place. Another Seattle artist, sculptor George Tsutakawa, is featured here, though perhaps not given enough space. The best idea? Moving the shelves and counters from a Chinese store that opened in 1910, the Yick Fung Company, and re-installing them stocked with goods in the new building.

Olympic Sculpture Park: OK, you already know about this, right? Sculpture by the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, Tony Smith, Louise Nevelson, Mark di Suvero, Anthony Caro, Alexander Caro, etc., in a new park overlooking Puget Sound and staring straight at the Olympic Mountains? Some of the moments are beautiful: In a clearing of white Aspens nests a large black Tony Smith rectangle that creates its own clearing inside the clearing, an arena inside an arena. But maybe it’s best as an “urban renewal” project. The park straddles and spans a major arterial and a railroad track, reframes and reconditions them, and then gives us a great view across the Sound. A bit of urban design genius by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi.