There is another sky, ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine, though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin, never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest, whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden, where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother, into my garden come!
- Emily Dickinson
American artist Spencer Finch brings the spirit of the forest to the urban landscape with "There is Another Sky," a unique SLU art installation inspired by the words of Emily Dickinson. The piece will enhance an outdoor courtyard area at Block 44, the latest addition to South Lake Union's Amazon campus.
Designed and constructed by Vulcan, Block 44 features a six-story and five-story office building, adding a total of 395,000 square feet to Amazon's ongoing headquarters expansion. The Finch piece adds to the public space, which also includes an outdoor galleria, landscaped terraces, and restaurants with outdoor seating. Targeting LEED Gold status, the new complex contains sustainable features such as rain gardens, a Pronto bike-share facility and an integrated streetcar stop.
Under the Sheltering Sky
Finch topped a cross-block connection of Block 44 with a glass canopy imprinted with a geometric palette of oranges, yellows, and greens − patterns meant to mimic the entwined leaves of a forest canopy. As light streams through the glass, the sunlight paints the alley below to resemble a woodland floor. The constantly shifting but sheltered environment provides an oasis of relaxation and reflection for those in the courtyard.
"Spencer is interested in the changing quality of daylight and the way it colors all that it touches," said Greg Bell, senior curator for Vulcan Inc. "In this work, he abstracted from the ever-changing filtering of dappled light through the forest canopy and how that experience translates to a downtown urban plaza."
Another aspect of "There is Another Sky" is Finch's inclusion of artificial fireflies that will twinkle in the courtyard's planted areas. Approximately 100 fireflies, made of LEDs mounted to thin reed-like brass sticks, will occupy the garden spaces. The faux lightning bugs will engage in the late afternoon when the light begins to lower, transforming the courtyard area into a forest floor at dusk. Finch says the blinking patterns of the LEDs will be choreographed to create a variety of flight patterns throughout the space.
The "Sky" installation is an alluring new component of SLU's public art, a piece that evokes a natural environment within urban space − much as Seattle itself has fashioned a high-tech milieu that integrates well with the area's natural beauty. Come see for yourself the "little forest" with its lifelike shadows – you'll leave there with a quieter heart than you arrived with.
FREE Spencer Finch lecture at the Seattle Public Library
A master of many mediums, from sculpture to works on paper, Spencer Finch is probably best known for light installations that attempt to capture elements of memory, nature and culture − the color of a sunset outside Monument Valley, an afternoon breeze by Walden Pond, or the shadows of passing clouds in the yard of Emily Dickinson's home.
Seattleites can catch a free Spencer Finch lecture downtown tomorrow, September 25, at the Seattle Public Library at 1000 4th Ave. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. for the 7 p.m. talk, to be held in the library's Microsoft Auditorium on the first floor. Seating at this free event will be on a first come, first served basis.
Learn more about artist Spencer Finch at www.spencerfinch.com.