One year after she was installed in the dark of an October night, the anonymous artist responsible for placing the nimble steel sculpture, “Grace,” atop a pile of rusted slag near Bellingham’s Taylor Dock quietly removed the piece. A few days later, the Cascadia Weekly received the following missive. Read on to get the scoop.
Question: “Grace” is gone?
Anonymous: Yes, she’s gone—“Loss of Grace.”
Q: What happened to her?
A: “Grace” was not aging well. While she still looks great to biased eyes, I fear she was not representing Bellingham, or public art, in the best light. I had vainly clung to a fantasy that the cancer of iron oxide would consume her in some uniform fashion. She did not, however, abide in this request and chose instead to become a splotchy mess of rust and rivets. Faced with years of staring at a jaundiced sculpture, I took her down.
Q: Where did you take her?
A: “Grace” is now installed under some cedar trees and enjoying the flora and fauna of a forest environment. She will likely welcome the relief from the effects of saltwater, but will miss sharing spectacular sunsets with the thousands of visitors scurrying along the over-water walkway. She won’t miss seagulls.
Q: Will she be replaced?
A: That is going to be up to the City of Bellingham and its citizens. To those who forgot or never knew, “Grace” was always a temporary experiment as compared to an outright donation. My public statement that I would remove “Grace” when “rust and time won their day” was hopefully going to be enough to keep me out of jail and would complete the loop of responsibility I created by violating the City’s rules and processes with this selfish, and, it should be noted, absurdly dangerous, stunt.
“Grace’s” sole mission, as I saw it, was to kick-start a discussion as to whether something installed on that island would look good. I think she accomplished that goal and represented herself well as a valid benchmark for future possibilities. The grudging endorsement of two Bellingham mayors, several pertinent City of Bellingham staff, and various citizen committees suggest that others agreed with the general cosmetic impact while, justifiably, disdaining the illegal tactics I used to install her.
Despite her advocates, however, there were some who loathed “Grace.” Others, who I obviously disagree with, believe Slag Island is a sacred and (mysteriously) cheerful icon of the over-fishing and waste that once occurred on this site. Putting aside my delicate ego, I do regret the trauma I inflicted on these people. My only absolution, I suppose, is that I feel like I always advocated for a better work than “Grace.” As for the island itself, well, it is nothing more than perfectly placed and pretty pollution. I’ll never have sympathy for its defenders beyond agreeing it is exceptional enough, as a pedestal, to deserve really exceptional public art.
By now, the time of this “exit interview,” the City of Bellingham’s Arts Commission has possession of a template for the bolts I left epoxied in Slag Island’s guano-spackled skull. This template delivery signifies that my hijinks are done; I’ll be curious to watch from the shoreline, most certainly, but I’m no longer going to harass this agenda.
Q: If you are done, why remain anonymous?
A: There are other people who suffer through the legitimate public process, real artists with real skills, who should be offended if I gleaned status simply from being a daring jackass. If this community decides to pick up my thrown gauntlet, however, then the knowledge that a proper talent would be tasked with replacing “Grace” would be a higher reward, and a more lasting one, than seeing my name in bright lights. Also, I’m a bit awkward socially.
Q: Or, perhaps, you have something up your sleeve? More guerrilla installs?
A: I don’t think so. I’ll certainly never do another work as small and as crappy as “Grace,” anyway. That squishy stipulation—desiring frottage with massively scaled and potentially deadly hunks of metal—will have relevance on installation and would force me to be legit.
Q: Anything else, final thoughts-wise?
A: Just thanks. Thanks for your enduring “Grace,” Bellingham, and for future efforts, if any, that might permanently remember her. By rights and by law, the City of Bellingham could have fired up a demo saw, looped a chain around her neck, and yarded this sculpture to the nearest recycle bin. I’m grateful that didn’t happen, and hope those who had a chance to see her share the sentiment.
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