At the center of the atrium at MOHAI, newly relocated to the Naval Reserve Armory in South Lake Union, is a permanent new sculptural installation

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The Fussy Eye: Salvage Art

At the center of the atrium at MOHAI, newly relocated to the Naval Reserve Armory in South Lake Union, is a permanent new sculptural installation that helps anchor the museum to our maritime past. From 1897 into the '40s, the schooner Wawona carried cargo on Puget Sound. Then it was moored for decades, rotting, near the Center for Wooden Boats (now MOHAI's neighbor). The upkeep wasn't worth it, and the hull was dry-docked for salvage four years ago. That's where artist John Grade comes in. As part of MOHAI's $60 million renovation, Grade was commissioned to create something from the old Douglas fir timbers that had been preserved below the waterline. They've been dried and sanded, carefully drilled with little round fissures (suggesting both ship's portals and worm holes), then bolted and hung from the ceiling in a hollow, tapered tower that recalls both a ship's mast and a tree. The five-and-a-half-ton Wawona is intended to be kinetic, Grade told me at its unveiling: "I want kids to bang on it." Enter the enclosure at its base, and you can push and sway the whole structure, the loose metal fittings creaking like a ship rocking in its berth. Look up through the 65-foot tower, and it pierces the roof. Below (viewed through a Plexiglas window), it almost touches the water. Both ends are intended to decay over time, says Grade: "I'm interested in how things change. Nothing's permanent." The fate of the old Wawona bears him out, yet this recycled new Wawona is a prime example of regionally sourced art. "It's about as local as you can do it," Grade adds. "It's definitely my most ambitious piece." Museum of History & Industry, 860 Terry Ave. N., 324-1126, mohai.org. $12–$14. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Wed., 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Thurs.

 
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