Sunday 1.31.10

The Blue Line...

The Blue Line is 1500' long. It is the pyramid I built and must now decorate. I spent 13 hours at NBBJ today, a Sunday. And I wasn’t the only one! There were lots of busy architects preparing for project deadlines. Actually, I spent my morning in Vivace, transcribing notes from my little red journal into my computer. I went up to approach The Blue Line at 11am. I worked on it for a while before a worker came in with his partner. She was not accustomed to the work space. Her voice was louder than all the voices on a typical workday. I was having some difficulty concentrating so I decided to go see what else I could do.

Transcribing The Blue Line

I found myself at the beginning of my line, transcribing it into my notebook, something I’d been meaning to do for a long time. I had no idea it would take so long. I spent 7 hours transcribing The Blue Line. It was fun to revisit my thoughts and words. This task brought with it a few mysteries to solve. In 3 short sections, the words had been lost, washed away or moved. O my! In one section, a longer strip had been lifted and put in the trash. I set about rescuing it. Come out of that bin this instant, dear words. I pulled a snowball of blue tape out of the bin, pulled it apart, straightened it and pieced it together in broken lines on the floor. Then I transcribed it and put it back in the bin and moved on. No tears.

Baladeuse, The Green Lantern

I asked about the public art in the alley. I got various responses, from excited to cool to neutral, but no one seemed to have any information about it. I did a little research today, even found the artist's telephone number. I decided to call him up. After two messages, we connected by phone and had a lengthly conversation. I was sitting at the work tables on the second floor of NBBJ, within view of the sculpture, with my notebook in hand. We spoke for half an hour. The artist answered all my questions and more. I did my best to keep up as he spoke and spoke. I certainly feel like I got the story.

James Harrison

The sculptor responsible for the green polygon in Alley 24 is James Harrison of Portland, Oregon. He was hired by Vulcan to make an outdoor sculpture for this space. He was not the original choice for this site, but when the initial artist fell through, James was contacted as a second. He had worked with Vulcan before and they liked his art. James knew the piece would live in an alleyway and that the building was once a laundry and that an architectural firm would reside in the building. The artwork, made of colored art glass and illuminated from within, is titled Baladuese, which is French for wanderer or lantern. The term has some less flattering connotations as well, such as wandering finger or wandering hand, avoir la baladeuse has to do with moral behavior.

The artist had three things in mind when developing this work: (1) The dirigibles of Brazilian aviator, Santos-Dumonte, (2) jewelry design and (3) the mathematical construction of a heptadecagon (17-sided polygon).


Alberto Santos-Dumont (20 July 1873 – 23 July 1932) was an early pioneer of aviation. He was born in Brazil and spent his adult life in France, designing, building and flying the first practical dirigible balloons, demonstrating that routine, controlled flight was possible. He won the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize in 1901 on a flight that rounded the Eiffel Tower making him one of the most famous characters of the early 20th century.

I suppose if you turned Baladeuse on its side, it would look like a dirigible and its size, in relation to the buildings around it, might suggest the hopeful Dumonte flying around the Eiffel Tower. The metal butterflies in the piece are meant to reference Dumonte's questionable sexual orientation. I didn't find any mention of this in the biographies online. It was only mentioned that he never married and had but one love, a married woman with whom he spent little time.

Giant Gem

The artist confessed to a fascination with jewelry design and liked addressing this interest in sculpture as it appealed to him an an architectural idea. He sees the piece as a giant jewel, faceted with delicate sensibilities.


Baladeuse is 17-sided, which makes it a heptadecagon. 17 is an odd & rare number in math, one that references a great mathematician, Carl Gauss. In 1796, at the age of 19, Gauss, one of the greatest mathematicians of all times, discovered a construction of the 17-sided polygon using a compass and ruler. He was so excited he requested a heptadecagon be carved into his tombstone. And so, the 17-sided figure & reference to Gauss is a bit tongue-in-cheek from artist to architect, as a reference to non-euclidean geometry in a world based on strict euclidean lines.

Martin Puryear

James explains one of idols is Martin Puryear who's pieces are prototypes or pre-objects, objects before they are objects. As you move around them, as shadows are cast on them, they become things, different things. James wants his pieces to be baggage-friendly. He's happy to have people bring interpretations to them and was surprised to hear the plaque with his name and the title of the piece was gone.


I told James I was wanting to do something to activate the alleyway. He seemed excited and willing to do what he could to support this. He even suggested a willingness to call the appropriate authorities to authorize the tying of things to his sculpture. He seemed thrilled as well with the feedback I'd given him and commented on how, as as sculptor, you don't get responses to your work, you just sort of put it out there into the world.

1 comment:

Isabella McPeak said...

Thanks Mimi for a great presentation at the Rotary Club of Lake Union this morning. I really loved the blue line, the shark fins and the blind poet project. You changed my perception about poetry and how it can truly enhance the business world.

Twitter @isabellamcpeak