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Interactive sculpture exhibit showcases UW alumni talent at Cal Anderson Park

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"Park Bench,” built by UW alumnus Alex Hayden, provides a different experience to the nature around it.

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“Rocket,” located in Cal Anderson Park is designed by Jason Puccinelli and has interactive features.

With the Olympic Sculpture Park downtown, the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge, and the Department of Forensic Morphology Annex outside the law school (the stainless-steel igloo blob), Seattle is no stranger to outdoor works of art. MadArt in the Park, a new temporary installation series at Cal Anderson Park, however, hopes to start a new conversation about outdoor art.

“It’s an opportunity for interaction,” said Alison Milliman, the founder of MadArt, an organization that supports local emerging artists, and host of the event. “We can bring art to the public domain in unusual ways to spark that interaction.”

During the first period of the MadArt exhibit, a 12-day creation phase that started Aug. 1, the audience will be able to talk with the artists as they build. Milliman hopes the installation phase will let the audience participate in a process it usually doesn’t get to see. That interaction can spark new creativity, she said.

“The opportunity for the audience to be part of the installation (creation process) is rare,” wrote Amy Johnson, one of the participants, in an e-mail. “I think it is important for the community, and I fully support it, but for the artist, I think that the creative process is so individual that it doesn’t matter if there is or is not an audience during the installation period. … I hope that those who are interested come out and feel that the artists are approachable for questions and conversation.”

The six artists chosen for the series are building pieces that challenge the obvious views of the environment of the park, forcing the audience to reexamine the area surrounding the installation.

Johnson, a UW alumna from the MFA program, is creating “Wake,” an Alice in Wonderland-inspired piece including a golden tree, a human-sized bird and a “deceptively cushioning” bed of blackberry vines.

“My work is typically composed of darkness and severity, even something that alludes to pain or uncomfortableness,” Johnson wrote. “Simultaneously, however, it also consists of objects that are seductive. It is this co-existence of something painful and something that is seductive and beautiful that I am ultimately interested in.”

Another UW graduate, Alex Hayden, is constructing “Park Bench,” a seat with an undulating silhouette to echo the landscape. He hopes the bench helps the audience experience nature in a new way by seeing it as a part of its environment, then noticing the environment in a new way when the viewer sits on the piece.

Casey Curran’s “Slant” and Jason Puccinelli’s “Rocket” draw the audience to imagine what might exist beyond our everyday world. Stephen Rock’s “Brush Pile” sends viewers’ gazes into the past, and Justin Lytle’s “Albatross” examines our desire for material goods.

The second period of the installation, the exhibition phase, begins Aug. 12 and runs through Sept. 12. It will kick off on the first day with an artists’ reception and Film Festival in a Box, an interactive movie screening. After four short films play, viewers can text votes for their favorite. The reception begins at 7 p.m., and the screening begins at 9 p.m.

Reach reporter Ashleen Aguilar at arts@dailyuw.com.

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