Weekly Art Hit heads into the ‘90s with Seattle artist Jeffry Mitchell’s Ballard Sculpture Garden from 1995. Mitchell created the two-part artwork consisting of a concrete frieze and a sculpture garden for Seattle City Light’s System Control Center in Ballard. The cast concrete frieze follows the upper portion of the center’s curving façade with a repeating pattern of plant and animal forms based on the intricate designs of Arabic rugs. Nearby, Mitchell designed a formal European-style garden with wooden benches on top of mock-Delft, blue-and-white legs and ceramic columns topped by what the artist called “prosaic garden sculptures.” The sculptures in the forms of rabbits, bears, squirrels, an elephant, Dutch children and a gnome, all painted with elaborate decorative motifs.
Mitchell’s artwork provides an intriguingly fanciful counterpoint to the functional nature of the facility. Referencing whimsical Old World traditions, Mitchell creates a whimisical tableau using “identifiable, modest, cheery” artwork enjoyed by the surrounding community.
The artist also has three portable artworks in the Seattle City Light 1% for Art Portable Works Collection, including Petit Nature Morte (Bunnies) (1989-90). In 2009, he was awarded the Stranger Genius Award for Visual Arts. In 2012, the Henry Art Gallery hosted the retrospective Like a Valentine: The Art of Jeffry Mitchell. You can watch the artist share his thoughts about the experience on Seattle Channel’s video.
Ballard Sculpture Garden was funded by Seattle City Light 1% for Art funds.
IMAGES: Jeffry Mitchell, Ballard Sculpture Garden (1995); cast concrete files and ceramic sculptures. Located at Northwest 46th Street and Sixth Avenue Northwest.
Weekly Art Hit is featuring artworks every week from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the city’s public art program.