In 1993, artists Gloria Bornstein, Timothy Siciliano, Ned Kahn and Horace Washington were selected to work as a design team to develop artworks for Seattle Center’s International Fountain area and Founders’ Court (between Cornish Playhouse and Exhibition Hall). The project was part of a major redevelopment at Seattle Center. They worked with Nakano Dennis Landscape Architects and Atelier Landscape Architects landscape architects to create an overall theme reflecting the history of the Center.
Bornstein’s Neototems (1995) consists of two bronze whales, a mother and her calf, that appear to swim through the lawn bordering the International Fountain. Their near-life size backs crest above concrete pavers that have been inlaid to resemble the surface patterns of water, heightening a sense that the whales are traveling beneath Seattle Center grounds. This imagery evokes a Native American myth of an ancient underground spring nearby that allowed whales to travel between Elliot Bay and Lake Union. Bornstein later created Neototem Children’s Garden an artwork thematically connected to Neototems that was installed in a different location at Seattle Center.
In Siciliano’s Acrobat Constellation (1995) three brightly-colored metal acrobats poised atop blue spirals form the energetic finials of three poles. The poles are suggestive of wayfinding markers that were traditionally placed at crossroads. The hands and feet of the performers point out possible directions for a journey through Seattle Center. At night, fiber optics light up star shapes on the acrobats’ costumes. The artist’s inspiration came from the traveling circus historically sited on the Denny Land tract, which now contains the Center, and the fact that entertainment for children of all ages continues today in Key Arena. Acrobat Constellation is located on the southwestern edge of the International Fountain area and on the east side of Key Arena.
Kahn’s Encircled Stream (1995) is a granite and black anodized aluminum vortex fountain into which jets of water are released and recirculate. The water flowing through an off-set drain creates a series of oscillating rhythms and patterns in the central whirlpool. The artwork evolved as a metaphor for the countless cycles of floods that have sculpted Western Washington’s terrain, as well as an allusion to the diverse currents of people that passed in the last few centuries over the land we now call Seattle. Encircled Stream is located in the Founders’ Court.
Washington designed a curvilinear relief pattern in seating/planter elements in the Founders’ Court. Included in the pattern are inset granite disks that match the courtyard’s stone pavers.. The untitled artwork (1995) portrays the pattern of earth strata exposed by erosion, reflecting the meandering granite pattern in the Court’s pathway. The artist also incorporated two bronze medallions adapted from George Tsutakawa’s “Century 21” coin design for the 1962 World’s Fair into 6-foot diameter medallions at either end of the Court.
The artworks were funded by Seattle Center Levy 1% for Art and construction funds; Water Department (now Seattle Public Utilities) 1% for Art funds.
– Joan Peterson, Public Art
IMAGES: (Left to right, top to bottom) Gloria Bornstein; Neototems, 1995; cast bronze, concrete, bronze lettering. Timothy Siciliano; Acrobat Constellation; 1995; aluminum, painted steel, fiber optic lights. Ned Kahn; Encircled Stream; 1995; anondized aluminum, granite, pump mechanism. Horace Washington; Untitled; 1995; medallions: cast bronze and granite; seating: cast concrete and granite.
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.