Editor’s note: In this three-part series, interns Lisa and Carey will explore new public artacross Seattle. Today’s installment looks at Ginny Ruffner’s latest work, The Urban Garden. —LD
Yesterday afternoon, the once frozen corner of Seventh and Union was set into motion by The Urban Garden, a new kinetic sculpture commissioned by Sheraton Seattle Hotel. Like bees, a flurry of pedestrians gathered to ogle the 27-foot-tall metal flowerpot, complete with bluebells that open and close, a daisy that spins like a windmill, a purple tulip, and a tipping watering can. Designer Ginny Ruffner, a beloved local artist and glass sculptor, was visibly emotional at the sculpture’s dedication, as it marked the end of a seven-year process riddled with red tape and logistical obstacles.
Ruffner is no stranger to public art. After moving to Seattle in 1985, she helped complete projects in places such as the South Park Community Center and Security Pacific Gallery. But in 1991, a devastating car accident put the life and career of the rising lampwork artist on hold. She was in a coma for five weeks before emerging unable to walk and talk. Today, Ruffner has regained most of her verbal and motor skills; her ability to conceive imaginative artwork remains miraculously unscathed.
The playful colors of the flowerpot give nothing away about Ruffner’s misfortune. Instead, they speak more of her relationship with the city. “The Urban Garden reflects my feeling that Seattle is a beautiful, growing, flourishing place,” she said. The structure’s sustainability plays a key role in this concept; a two-gallon stream cascading from the watering can is recycled daily to water the nearby landscaping.
The kinetic nature of the sculpture extends to its interactivity with the viewing public. “I find that if an object moves, it increases its intrigue,” Ruffner said. “I wanted to have something that could be accessed visually from many points of view.” That goal was achieved in part by Ruffner’s favorite detail: a small glass window on the flowerpot that allows visitors to peer into the inner workings of the machinery.
The performance after the official dedication was as much an unveiling as it was a celebration. Amid the blooming umbrellas and staffers in whimsical costumes, a fairy on stilts roused a flash mob into an energetic dance of Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
Now that The Urban Garden is complete, Ruffner hopes to take a short break before her next endeavor. In the meantime, A Not So Still Life, a documentary chronicling Ruffner’s life, will screen at SIFF Cinema from July 22-28.
Video of the dedication and flash mob by Lisa Han.