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Seattle Art Museum debuts largest iteration of John Grade's sculpture 'Middle Fork'
Massive installation created from a cast of an old-growth tree spans entire length of museum’s Brotman Forum.

SEATTLE, WA.- The Seattle Art Museum presents Middle Fork, a large-scale sculpture by Seattle-based artist John Grade. Now in its largest iteration yet—more than doubling from its previous length of 50 feet to 105 feet—the tree sculpture now dynamically spans the entire length of the Brotman Forum, the main entrance lobby that welcomes guests to the museum.

The highly detailed sculpture was created by Grade, his team, and a cadre of volunteers using a full plaster cast of a living old-growth western hemlock tree found in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. The cast was used as a mold to assemble a new tree from now nearly one million reclaimed cedar pieces. Suspended horizontally from the museum’s ceiling and above the viewer, Grade’s sculpture offers a mesmerizing new perspective on a familiar form.

With its exhibition at SAM, Middle Fork returns home to Washington State. The work was first conceived and built at MadArt Studio and had its Seattle debut there in January 2015. Following that, it was included in the WONDER exhibition at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC (November 13, 2015–May 13, 2016) and was recently displayed at the 2017 Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

With each iteration, Middle Fork has “grown” larger and added more branches. The artist plans over time to continue the sculpture’s growth to match the length of the living tree that it is based on, 140 feet. Eventually, he plans to bring the sculpture back to the forest, allowing it to decompose and return to the earth at the base of that original tree.

John Grade (American, born 1970 in Minneapolis, MN) lives and works in Seattle, Washington.

Inspired by changing geological and biological forms and systems in the natural world, John works with his studio team to create large-scale site-specific immersive sculptural installations. Impermanence and chance are often central to the work, along with kinetics and relationships between the natural world and architecture. His small-scale sculptures and works on paper often follow the completion of large-scale installations and investigate alternative directions that his larger sculptures might have taken.

In the midst of a series of projects related to trees, John spends as much time as possible amongst Bristle Cone Pines in the Nevada Great Basin and closer to home in old-growth groves in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. He is currently working on a three-year project documenting and modeling changing landforms above the Arctic Circle with a particular interest in pingos, tundra polygons, peat mounds and palsas.

John is the recipient of the 2010 Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (NY), a Tiffany Foundation Award (NY), three Andy Warhol Foundation Grant Awards (NY), two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants (NY), the 2011 Arlene Schnitzer Prize from the Portland Art Museum (OR), and the 2013 Arts Innovator Award from Artist Trust (WA).

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