In early May an orange billboard popped up along Aurora. It reads, “My destiny is louder than my comfort,” and leaves you wondering what, exactly, it’s selling. Then you see the signature and find you’ve just read a work by widely-acclaimed poet Yrsa Daley-Ward.
On May 3, the works of 13 artists collaboratively commissioned by Vignettes, Gramma Poetry, and Mount Analogue started to appear throughout Seattle. The citywide exhibition, A LONE, displays text-based visual work in easily detected, accessible places, each piece part of a unifying theme: the paradoxically collective and individual experience of loneliness in a city.
Mount Analogue's multi-hatted chief Colleen Louise Barry understands that several hundred thousand neighbors in one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. doesn't seem like a picture of loneliness on the surface. “That’s why it’s so hard to talk about, because it’s paradoxical," she says. "One of the amazing things about art is that it can hold paradox in that way. So we want to honor that and give that space.”
Billboards are the sweet spot for A LONE exhibition, since they so typically display commercial messages. In addition to Daley-Ward’s piece, this guerrilla art has taken over several billboards around town. In Sodo, a sign reads “Will the last bad ***** leaving Seattle— / Turn out the lights.”
Outside the Capitol Hill Light Rail station, Martine Syms has installed a piece titled Nite Life, which displays transcription from Sam Cooke’s dialogue with an audience in 1963. The words, like other A LONE pieces, are huge. Removed from original context, they feel less like inconsequential conversation. “Is everyone alright how you doing out there” seems to dig for an answer. “What’s wrong with me,” sans question mark, takes a moment to grasp.
One commenter on Mount Analogue's Instagram reacted to this particular part of the piece: "it’s not a UW advertisement, it’s an art piece! Purple and white threw me off."
In response, Barry said, “That’s exactly the space that we’re trying to occupy.”
A LONE will show through the end of May, and a map of the installations can be found here. Parts of the exhibition are also on display at Mount Analogue and Gramma Poetry.