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John Grade installs major sculpture at Seattle Museum of History & Industry
John Gradeʼs sculpture perforates the museumʼs ceiling at over sixty-five feet, and extends through the floor of the museum into the lake waters below.

SEATTLE, WA.- Cynthia-Reeves announced the permanent installation of John Gradeʼs monumental sculpture, Wawona, at the Museum of History & Industry, located in Lake Union Park in Seattle, Washington. The museumʼs new facility, which features Gradeʼs work in their Grand Atrium, opened to the public on December 29, 2012.

John Gradeʼs sculpture perforates the museumʼs ceiling at over sixty-five feet, and extends through the floor of the museum into the lake waters below. It is a powerful visual, linking sky to water, element to element, and history to the present. Fabricated from huge beams of Douglas fir, Wawona is literally repurposed from an old wooden shipʼs hull dating from the 1800s. Grade fashioned each articulated segment of his vast, suspended work to create a sculpture “that opens to the lake below, rises to the very rooftop to let in the sky, and gently sways with the movement of those who quietly slip inside the folds” of its hull like form, MOHAI executive director, Leonard Garfield, says. The entire piece undulates and creaks, as does an old ship when out to sea. The beautiful range of coloration in the sculpture comes from the original iron spikes rusting in to the wood fibers, and from the fish oils that leached into the hold when the original boat was plying its trade.

Garfield writes: “History is a funny thing—you think you can capture it with dates and names, with facts and figures. Thatʼs what we like to believe at history museums anyway. Artist John Grade knows better. He knows that history is something much greater, much deeper. It is a complex and mysterious cycle of constant change, of creation and decay and recreation, endlessly repeated through time.

“Gradeʼs powerful sculpture Wawona reminds us of that central truth—that history is at once elusive and enduring. In salvaging the timbers of a decayed 19th century schooner, which once carried wood from Northwest forests to distant ports, Grade allows us to engage in history in ways that go beyond words and images. His dramatic soaring sculpture re-crafts the remnants of the ship into a work of art that evokes a far more distant time, to a place where the intersection of natural history and human experience was intertwined and elemental.

“Its carved surface allows the light of Seattle in, invites the touch of our visitors, faintly smells of Puget Soundʼs ancient forests and even sounds like the rigging of a distant ship. In every way, it is unexpected, yet seems so much at home. Placed in the center of the Museum of History & Industry, Wawona is a monumental but living presence.

“Like the ship it is built from, the sculpture Wawona will also evolve—through the movement of people, through the passage of time, through our changing perceptions of how we mark our moments in this place. In Wawona, John Grade has invited us to enter that historic continuum —a gift both profound and transitory.”

John Grade has done a number of large scale projects for public and private institutions, including exhibitions at Fabrica in the UK, the Whatcom Museum, the Kohler Museum, the Bellingham Museum, the Boise Art Museum, Galerie Ateliers L'H Du Siege in France, and numerous site-based installations both in the United States and abroad. In 2010, Grade received the highest award in sculpture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City, conferred to him by noted American sculptor, Martin Puryear.

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