Up on the Rooftop

Lynn and I were at the Olympic Sculpture Park on Saturday during a rare weekend date when the kids were at her parents overnight, and we happened upon Heather Hart's remarkable The Western Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof off the Mother. It's a temporary exhibit in which the artist and a team built the roof and attic of a house as if it were sunk into one of the hills that makes up the park.

Visitors are invited to climb the roof, all the way to the top. There are some warnings and a volunteer stationed to monitor: no children under 10, no flip-flops or sandals (widely abused), and one climbs at one's own risk. Still many people were at the apex, with an unbelievable view of the water. One could also crouch down and walk into the "attic" and look through a window at the Puget Sound.

This is one of the reasons to love the park, which is part of the Seattle Art Museum. Its setting is unique; design remarkable; art and installations fantastic. But the willingness to take this kind of risk? Beyond compare. It's temporary, too. It will be torn down in October.

While we were there, we noticed something being set up under the Calder sculpture, Eagle, opposite the house. The Calder is treated as something precious, and isn't supposed to be touched or climbed on. Which is funny for me, a Yalie, given that we had a Calder out in the middle of a quadrangle, and nobody ever worried about it. This was true when Eagle was in its old location up on Capitol Hill outside the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAM's original home).

It was apparently some sort of outdoor production of Romeo & Juliet. I looked back at the house and saw a young woman standing near the chimney on Western Oracle, and someone down below photographing her. I asked another woman with a camera watching if these were publicity stills.  

No, she said, they were shooting her daughter's senior-class photo for high school, and the photographer was a world-renowned professional and a friend of the family! They had no idea Western Oracle was there. They had come for the site, not the installation. 

Top of the world, ma. 

 I coudn't see the photographer's face, so I asked the mother, is it Natalie Fobes? Natalie is extremely well known, though more for her wildlife photography, and I'd met her years before. The photographer heard me say that, turned around, and said, no, but I worked for Natalie 20 years ago! I said, Natalie took my picture back then for 24 Hours in Cyberspace! She remembered. I didn't catch her name.

The photo Natalie took around 1996 wound up as the cover of a French novel. The publisher asked my permission, because a) there was no model release and b) moral rights in European countries give those who create and participate in art the ability to nix use of work in some contexts (usually if it's derogatory to the original work). I said, yes, of course, but please send me a copy of the book.

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