By Water on Land
An artist reconfigures her sculpture to reflect a neighborhood—and its changes.
In Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, a thriving hub of commerce, research, and industry abuts the lake itself, which is a popular place for boating and host to a weekly summertime sailboat race. Carolyn Law’s By Water on Land makes its home here—at the intersection of Fairview Ave N and Fairview Ave E, near the Cheshiahud Trail that loops around the lake—drawing both its form and its concept from the setting.
The site is a neighborhood and physical nexus. Go one direction and you move into the commercial area. Go the other direction and you go towards the seam between land and lake. This piece makes the place legible in different ways.–Carolyn LawOriginally developed in the 1990s, By Water on Land was created as an integrated work for the new Route 70 trolley that connected downtown Seattle with the University of Washington campus. Major construction projects along the busy Mercer Corridor later led to the removal of the piece—prompting 4Culture to ask Law if she would reconfigure the artwork’s salvaged parts into something new. With the help of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Law reused seven of the piece’s original components, all of which had previously perched atop light poles, moving in the wind like masts and giving a maritime feeling to the street. Today, three of the mast forms retain their kinetic motion. Two recycled utility poles support the sculpture, using the urban vernacular while highlighting persistent changes to the area’s landscape.
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Based in Seattle, Law makes studio artwork, primarily drawings, in addition to her work as a public artist and arts planner. Other commissions for 4Culture include an etched glass poem at the Factoria Recycling & Transfer Station and a bridge that crosses the Snoqualmie River.