Spencer Finch: The Western Mystery

Olympic Sculpture Park
Photo by Jordan Chan

One of Seattle’s most unique attractions, and one of my favorite destinations in the city, is the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park in Queen Anne. This free museum has 21 sculptures scattered along the waterfront; most of the artwork are there for long term residency, but there are select temporary collections as well. This rotation, it is Spencer Finch’s The Western Mystery. This installation was in the indoor part of the museum, the Paccar Pavilion.

Photo by Jordan Chan

The installation is simple. There are 90 panes of glass suspended from the ceiling. The artist, Spencer Finch, focuses on “abstract landscapes”, and the suspended glass panes aim to recreate actual Seattle sunsets inside the building. The installation itself was indeed very abstract. If I could somehow afford to commission a work from Finch, I would definitely like to have a similar piece in my house (but Seattle would probably be the worst place to have it because of the lack of sun).

Where Finch’s work is effective is in environments with a high concentration of light. He takes inspiration from Impressionist painters, who would use outdoor light from a specific moment in the day to create their art. I looked up some of Finch’s other works, which are scattered throughout museums around the United States and many of them produce their own light. He has an exhibition called Bauhaus Light which pits two walls of colored lights against each other. The white walls behind the pieces reflect the work, producing multiple replicas.

Bauhaus Light (Kandinsky’s Studio/Klee’s Studio, afternoon effect), 2017, 22 fluorescent lights, fixtures, filters, dimensions variable, unique (via artsy.net)

I love the interplay of colors in any piece of art, however, I don’t think I fully appreciated the potential of Spencer Finch’s The Western Mystery. The hanging glass by themselves were great but it was missing a key element that makes a colored, glass filter work; light. I knew something was lacking when I saw the installation at Olympic Sculpture park. This time of year in Seattle has the groggiest, rainiest weather, which ultimately proved to be the downfall of this piece. The groggy light barely shone through the glass onto the next wall, so the sunset effect was unfortunately meek.

Photo by Jordan Chan

Although this art venture wasn’t totally successful, it did present a future opportunity. I’m sure we will see its true colors this summer. With the long, Seattle summer days full of sunshine, I look forward to spending evenings at Olympic Sculpture Park, trying catch Finch’s installation at its prime.

Spencer Finch: The Western Mystery will be on display until March 3, 2019. If you’re in Seattle this summer, I highly encourage you to see Finch’s production come to fruition. To learn more about the installation, check out the SAM’s website here.


JORDAN CHAN | Wannabe Art Collector | KXSU Arts Reporter


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