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Weekly Art Hit: Paul Sorey’s “Tree Bench”

Sorey PR06.064.01  At a point where two paths meet in Pratt Park, visitors will come across what seems to be a fallen, cross section of a metal tree – Paul Sorey’s Tree Bench. This twisting branch serves as a non-traditional bench, and also symbolizes the Central Area’s multiculturalism.

Sorey believes that trees are appropriate symbols of diversity, and that a tree “symbolizes the living, growing and diverse branches of human culture that come together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.” While titled Tree Bench, the bench is, in fact, not a tree, or even made out of wood. The artist welded hundreds of small, flat steel bars to form the “bark” of the tree, colored mortar and concrete provide infill. By using many pieces of steel to make the artwork bench, the artist shows that a number of different pieces can come together to make something beautiful, useful and greater than the sum of its parts, whether a place to sit, or branches of human culture.

Sorey PR06.064.04Sorey’s past as a landscape architect helped him understand use of space, and he deliberately placed the bench in an intersection of two pathways, inviting all who are passing through the park to interact with the artwork. The bench encourages visitors to sit or play on its surface, and brings people in the park together. The unique nature of this place to sit (which has no back or armrests and has lots of surface area), allows for infinite ways for humans to congregate and come together.

In addition to this unique, metal tree branch bench, Pratt Park also features a playground, basketball court, picnic tables, and Pratt Fine Arts Center, making it a central location to enjoy the outdoors with family or friends.

A video documenting this work and artist can be found here, courtesy of the Seattle Channel.

The artwork Tree Bench was funded with Seattle Parks and Recreation 2000 Parks Levy 1% for Art funds and a Department of Neighborhoods Matching Fund Grant.

Photos by Paul Sorey

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.