Stacking Wood

W. Scott Trimble builds a path less traveled.

W. Scott Trimble has had enough of being known as "the boardwalk guy," and he's a little tired of handling so much wood. (Lumber is heavy! Then there are the splinters and smashed thumbs to consider.) Yet the Fremont sculptor, best known for his meandering, undulating wood pathways, is simultaneously laughing at his complaints. And as we chat on a recent afternoon, in a sawdusty workshop beneath the University Bridge, he's doing nothing but measure, cut, and stack the wooden components of his biggest boardwalk to date."This is the largest thing I think I've ever built," he says. "It could be upwards of 80 feet long and 12 feet wide." The installation, partially funded with a 4Culture grant, will resemble a similar six-laned piece seen last year at the Tacoma Art Museum's Northwest Biennial, only with three planked walkways on a "large and burly" scale, as he puts it."People were just dying to walk on it in Tacoma," Trimble recalls, but the size wasn't sufficient to support pedestrians; it was more like a large sculpture you admire, but not touch or tread on. Also, the crosswise planking was built of recycled old wooden pallets—not exactly sturdy or safe.He's taking a different tack this time. His newest piece, to be laid out at Artopia, has been assembled from new construction-grade Douglas fir that Trimble hauled from lumberyard to shop in his battered pickup."I'd done a lot of different scales of this project," says Trimble, who makes his money as a home renovator and carpenter. "I've been on the pathway of a sort of life theme, the pathway as metaphor. People can invent their narrative as they go along. You make it up."Working carefully from a blueprint ("I really try to map things out"), Trimble moves nimbly around the semi-covered shed as he prepares the new work. It's an annex into which his landlord's old bikes and miscellaneous salvage are encroaching; clutter constantly impinges on Trimble's precision. New lumber is swiftly marked, measured, and stacked. After the pathways' ramp supports are screwed together, they're neatly stacked by the door for deployment. With NPR on the shop radio, the place has the smell of fresh-cut fir—but not burned with a dull blade. Trimble wields his tools efficiently, like a good carpenter. He handles the table saw with respect (10 fingers all in place), and wears safety glasses when it's running.The neatness and evident care Trimble puts into the modular construction—every piece in its place—contrasts with the rambling, ambulatory outcome. He expects spectators to become users of this "physical, interactive thing." Trimble plans for the three walkways to lead from one platform to another, with bands Mean Recess and F playing at each end. The goal, he says, is to "bring the art to the people. It's architecture, it's art, it's a boardwalk. It's not exclusively one thing or another."As for the underlying form, there are echoes of old roller coasters and the irregular wooden walkways one finds on the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island, where Trimble has hiked. Also, he notes, "I grew up in Santa Cruz, and we do have a boardwalk there."Before coming to Seattle, he worked with metal in small, delicate, geared, and mechanical pieces, Trimble says. "I didn't even touch wood until I started doing renovations. I ended up with all this extra material"—the wood scraps he then began assembling into pathways. "I like the idea of reclamation."Next week, Trimble will also display smaller wooden works—a wheelchair, an Apollo 11 rocket, etc.—at the Pratt Gallery in the Tashiro Kaplan Building, some of which will be burnt as effigies for the First Thursday opening (July 1). "They're not installations; they're objects," he adds. He also built one of the mini-golf holes on view—and meant to be played—at the Kirkland Arts Center through July 29.After that, Trimble may finally be done with wood. He says he handles it enough in his day job.bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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