Veteran set designer Rick Araluce‘s individual artistic practice has tended toward the miniature in past years, from tiny houses with working plumbing (one of which lived on a ledge in Freeway Park for a few months in 2014) to stacks of palm-sized shipping palettes, though he has also done large scale installation, such as Uprising in Suyama Space in 2012. (That collaboration with artist Steve Peters filled the space with a tangle of fake pipes emitting a mellow soundscape and was one of my favorites in recent years.) His meticulous craft and clever visions earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship last year as well as a City Artist Award, which along with a grant from 4Culture is supporting his latest macro installation, The Great Northern—a half-scale replica of the tunnel of the same name running beneath downtown Seattle.
To create the illusion of great depth, the arch of the tunnel dwindles from almost 13 feet at the front to a mere 9.25 inches in the back, framed by a massive, stony facade fabricated from wood and styrofoam. The laborious process has been visible from the street as Araluce has worked for weeks with volunteers in MadArt‘s studio on Westlake. The tunnel will face the large windows, giving passersby the illusion of staring into a deep, long tunnel from its public opening on January 17 through February 27. Guests are free to get a closer look during gallery hours and experience the added light and sound elements that deepen the sensory illusion.
More than just a bit of stage magic, the installation is an ode to a great historical engineering achievement (once the highest and widest tunnel in the US) which to this day is a part of Seattle’s infrastructure, though one typically out of sight. Araluce brings it into the open in a gesture that is a little romantic and wistful, and also a little disconcerting. Like Uprising at Suyama Space, it’s a reminder that there’s a lot happening underfoot, literally and metaphorically. Look out below—and look forward to the opening this month.
Rick Araluce’s The Great Northern
When: Sunday, January 17 through February 27
Where: MadArt Studio in South Lake Union (325 Westlake Ave N, #101)