Northwest Wining and Dining Confronts MIRROR

September 23, 2013

SAM MIRROR art installation

This is an open letter to MIRROR, a 120-food-wide LED installation by artist Doug Aitken that wraps around the northwest corner of the entrance to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), cater corner  from our condominium building, 98 Union. 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Dear Mirror,

I wanted to like you, I really, really wanted to like you.

For several months, I patiently endured the blasts of hammers and whining of saws while you were installed on the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) facade.

I looked on in wonder as the artist who created you and the technicians who made you possible tested your main LED panel and the flashing spikes that run vertically up the mullions on the north and west sides of SAM.

SAM MIRROR art installation

After many months of construction and testing, it was finally time for your grand unveiling in March. I stood on our tenth-floor balcony, which provided a bird’s-eye view of the crowds who gathered, members of the Seattle Symphony who serenaded your arrival, and even Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn who came to welcome you.

After a few tense moments when it seemed you might not light up correctly, your colorfully choreographed images finally started to move.

The crowd applauded. SAM big-wigs pontificated. The donor’s son waxed eloquent.

I snapped photos and put them on my blog.

A few hours later the stage and podium had been dismantled, the crowds had disbursed, the musicians were on to their next gig.

SAM MIRROR display

But the residents of 98 Union Condominiums were still there, just beginning to realize your unbelievably negative impact on our lives.

From the very first moment, your giant screen overtook our condominiums like an incessant, unwelcome distraction.

The jagged, ever-changing spikes of flashing light invaded our living spaces so much so that many of us have been forced to shut our blinds to keep out obsessive light pollution.

And your hours are extraordinarily long–from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. seven days a week. Unless we want to “live” from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. when you are dark, we can’t get away from you, as hard as we try.

Your reviews were mediocre at best. CityArts reviewer Erin King said, “Looking at Mirror for eight hours a day beats a plain gray wall. Its sleek sparkle hearkens back to a cheerier 2007, the year it was commissioned and the pinnacle of big shiny Aughties art. But as its light spills over the First Avenue sidewalk, Mirror already feels like a reflection of the past.”

In a review entitled, “Image Grab,” The Seattle Weekly’s Brian Miller says, “The mountains, greenery, orange Port of Seattle Cranes, silhouettes of pedestrians—these source images are too benign. They don’t grab your attention like the signage in Times Square, and they don’t seem grabbed from our immediate, lived world. . . .But that’s also why MIRROR is so boring: It just reflects an anodyne, outsider’s view of the Northwest. It’s tourist Seattle, not our Seattle, and even the tourists aren’t buying it.”

Have you seen MIRROR? If so, what do you think about it?

If you come to look at Mirror, isn’t it better to simply turn around, walk to the dead end of Union Street by the Four Seasons Hotel, take a deep breath of sea air from Elliott Bay, and marvel at REAL-TIME views of the Seattle Great Wheel, ferry boats , and the Olympic Mountains beyond?


Gorgeous Shots from the Puget Sound Cam

July 10, 2012


Since its inception on April 1, 2009, we’ve been very proud of the reliable performance and sheer usefulness of the Puget Sound Cam.

The PSCam documents the activity in Seattle’s Elliott Bay, which is part of Puget Sound. Through an intricate set of waterways, this “inland sea” runs about 50 miles to the Washington coast and the Pacific Ocean.

The PSCam is located in Spencer’s studio/office just five floors from the condo in which we have lived for the past 20 years. We’ve watched the landscape along the Waterfront change over the years, but never as dramatically as recently thanks to building of the Seattle Great Wheel.

We’ve been watching with bated breath as the Wheel takes shape, and welcomed it once it was spinning.

The Wheel is so pretty at twilight. . .

And dramatic at night.

I love this shot with the ferry boat heading toward its berth in the background. . .

Getting closer. . .

The Wheel almost looks like a band of sapphires in the nighttime sky. . .

Fiery and dramatic here!

All dressed up for a special light show to celebrate July 4 in this one! (Photo courtesy of Seattle’s KIRO, Channel 7, website.)

One final spin before the Wheel says “goodnight!”