by Cydney Gillis

SEATTLE IS A CITY that loves painting but has a somewhat odd relationship with sculpture. In a region where private galleries and public convention centers are filled with painting, and corporate collections such as SAFECO'S and Microsoft's are known for investing in daring work, many Seattle collectors are still not sure where sculpture fits into the home.

Outdoors, sculpture is easy to find. Following Seattle's lead, cities and towns around the Puget Sound area have invested in monumental works in recent years, creating landmarks along plazas, streets, and even highways. In the Eastside suburbs across Lake Washington, a waterfront drive through Kirkland is lined by a series of popular figurative bronzes, and Mercer Island recently installed a sculpture garden of 12 works along I-90. In downtown Seattle, Joseph Borofsky's "Hammering Man" towers over the First Avenue entrance to the Seattle Art Museum, Henry Moore's bronze abstract, "Vertebrae," dominates the corner of Fourth and Madison, and at the entrance to the Pike Place Market, Georgia Gerber's "Rachel" -- a two-ton cast-bronze pig -- has become a Market showpiece that visitors love to feature in photographs of their trip.

Aside from the Northwest's famous glass and ceramic works, however, a walking tour of downtown Seattle reveals only a handful of galleries with sculpture. Most Seattle gallery owners say the real issue is space. "Sculpture takes up space, and that can be a problem," says Pike Place Market art dealer, Lisa Harris.

Two recent trends in the art market, however, are quickly changing these limitations. Within the last five years, mixed- media works, often incorporating recycled materials, have exploded on the Seattle art scene while sculpture increasingly moves into the "extra living space" of yards and gardens. Like many galleries that have added sculpture in recent years, Harris now features expressionistic bronze figures by John Sisko. Two blocks away, glass dealer William Traver displays stacked stoneware "beach balls" by James Walker and ancient-looking ceramic torsos and broken-apart figures by Doug Jeck.

While no dealer is a newcomer to the field, the oldest venues for sculpture downtown are Gallery Mack at the North end of the Pike Place Market, and Woodside-Braseth, near the Paramount Theater. Mack, who has been selling sculpture for 23 years, explains that 3D work creates a dramatic focal point in front of a window or in a garden. "Once people have their first piece of sculpture and see the difference it makes in their lives," says Mack, "they start buying sculpture in addition to painting." Mack's collection ranges from casts of otters, cougars and wolves by Georgia Gerber, to bronze female nudes by father and son team Ed and Kevin Pettelle, to kinetic sculpture by Constantine Hapaianu. She also represents Simon Kogan, who just received a major commission from the State of Washington.

At Woodside-Braseth -- Seattle's oldest art gallery, the sculpture collection is limited but eclectic, including one-of-a-kind kinetic/ video art by Doris Chase, nature sculptures by Philip McCracken, and organic abstracts by Penny Mulligan, whose six-foot interlaces of willowy bronze rods create a graceful garden-like mystique.

In the longtime gallery hub of Pioneer Square, as well as on Greenwood, Capitol Hill and on the Eastside, single-medium work gives way to monumental sculptures of mixed materials and boxed or free-standing assemblages incorporating everything from hair curlers to stuffed weasels. On Occidental, Foster/ White Gallery represents names synonymous with Northwest sculpture: Julie Speidel, George and Gerard Tsutakawa, and many others. The Tsutakawas are renowned for their sleek bronze abstracts and fountains; Speidel for her Druid-inspired totems.

Meyerson & Nowinski features an impressive lineup of mixed-media works such as Africano's seemingly conscious marble figures. Other sculptors include Brad Rude, who casts oddly mythic combinations of bronze animals (his "Cow and Coyote" is a landmark in Kirkland) and Michael Lucero, whose multi-cultural work mixes metaphors and media.

Further down on First, Mia Gallery, known for colorful assemblages of all descriptions, specializes in folk and "outsider" (or self-taught) artists. On Second, Linda Cannon has three sculptors, all of whom work in steel. Greg Kucera's lineup includes monumental horses of bronze and found metal by Deborah Butterfield.

Up on Capitol Hill the Donald Young Gallery features neo-futurist neon work by Dan Flavin and multiple-monitor video landscapes by Gary Hill. In North Seattle on Greenwood, long-time dealer Francine Seders represents a long list of sculptors, nearly all working in multiple media in small scale.

In Kirkland, the recently-opened Anderson-Glover Gallery carries cutting-edge works including monolithic metal forms by Corky Luster, assemblages of found objects by Lynda K. Rockwood, and Gail Simpson's fabricated abstracts of human anatomy. Howard/Mandville and Moss Bay Gallery offer a variety of wildlife sculpture.

North of Seattle in Bellingham, Rader Galleries displays metal mobiles by Manuel Pimento and work by several well-known sculptors. The Blue Horse Gallery includes figurative bronze and stone works by David Eisenhower and Phillip Montague. The trip to Bellingham is well-worth making to see Western Washington University's remarkable 21-piece outdoor sculpture collection, which includes a painted steel tripod by Mark di Suvero.

On a much smaller scale, outdoor sculpture is currently the Northwest's fastest-growing art market, especially among home and condo owners in the burgeoning Eastside suburbs where a number of yard art galleries have popped up in recent years. "Sculpture is an important art form and has been for centuries," says Barbara Mack. Today's sculptures will be around for generations and handed down through families."

CYDNEY GILLIS also writes on the visual arts for the Seattle Weekly/Eastsideweek

Cougar with Cub Georgia Gerber, bronze 20"h x 75"w x36"d

Twist, John Sisko, bronze 32"h

Quilea, Penny Mulligan, bronze 81" x 36" x 16", 1995

At a Glance:

Anderson Glover
Blue Horse
Donald Young
Francine Senders
Gallery Mack
Greg Kucera
Linda Cannon
Lisa Harris
Meyerson & Nowinski
Mia Gallery
Moss Bay Gallery
Rader Gallery
William Traver

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