On Monday, March 29, 2010, hundreds of Blue Morpho butterflies (Morpho Menelaus) are predicted to descend on the public sculpture, Baladeuse, in Seattle’s historic Alley24. Seattle’s first and only migration of Morpho Butterflies, with their metallic, shimmering shades of blue, is expected to attract hundred of peepers and transform Alley24 into social meeting ground. Alas, though, the Blue Migration will last only two short weeks, so hurry on down and don’t forget your camera!
Seattle resident and installation artist, A. K. Mimi Allin, wishes to address the ways in which public art and public space come to mean. How can a sculpture, without plaque or provenance, come to signify? How do spaces become places? Allin will fuse and cut light and dark blue silk to craft fabric butterflies for this migration.
Alley24 connects residents, shoppers and workers along Yale & Pontius Streets. At the heart of the alley stands Baladeuse, 18’ tall, 17-sided and lit from within. Baladeuse is French for wanderer or lantern. Those who live and work in Alley24 are quick to respond with, “I love it” or “I don’t care for it,” but Allin questions their taste. She believes relevance, and not matter, makes an object mean and that by imparting relevance, we can drag an object out of the pale and into the system. In the relevance model, it is meaning that imparts value and, well, that’s what poets were put here to do.
Educated at City University of New York in Museum Studies and Poetry, Allin is keenly aware of the predicament of art and artists in modern America. She believes that, in our product-driven world, it’s hard for people to know what they want and believe.
Allin has been planning, since mid-January, ways in which to address the alleyway. As part of her artist residency at NBBJ, she telephoned the sculptor, James Harrison, asking for information about his sculpture. Harrison told her the metal bowties or butterflies on the piece had a two meanings: 1) like dovetail joints, they call up the vocabulary of cabinetry and architecture, and (2) they hint at the questionable sexuality of 19tth century aviator and dandy, Alberto Santos-Dumont, the dirigible-flying character after whom Baladeuse was modeled. This information provoked Allin to see the butterfly as a key to not only her wishes for the alleyway, but to the sculptor’s wishes and the wishes of NBBJ. It was NBBJ who so carefully designed Alley24 into “a narrow European street.”
Allin has a unique relationship with Alley24. In January 2010, she became the nation’s first corporate poet when she partnered with global architectural and design firm and Alley24 resident, NBBJ. She was testing a model for cooperation between poets and corporations and that model was supported by a CityArtist grant from The City of Seattle Arts & Cultural Affairs. For more info about this project, see: http://corporate-poet.blogspot.com/.
Now at the end of a 2-month residency, Allin is stepping out the doors and into the alleyway. This move from private to public, a sort of backward permeation, seems a natural way to go, considering the intentions of Alley24.