The Fussy Eye: Raining Indoors

The aesthetics of weather.

What—there’s an art gallery inside the hideous, sky-blocking monstrosity that is the downtown convention center? Who knew? Yet January’s meeting of the American Meteorological Society occasioned the group show Forecast: Communicating Weather and Climate, which, if you can find it up on the skybridge-level mezzanines, does not require an umbrella to view. Rather, 36 Washington state artists have their work on display, and the effect is like experiencing four seasons—or more—in one day: glacial scenes, forest fires, postcards from flooded cities, Hurricane Katrina wreckage, abstract cloud formations, and even a water-conservation study down at Pier 62. The weather is brought indoors. Some photos are merely pretty, some installations have a global-warming agenda, and some pieces—e.g., the wall-mounted cloud array by Seattle sculptor Ben Hirschkoff—are just plain weird. Like a wheezing, grinding grandfather clock, his aluminum and plastic clouds are studded with motion sensors and old electric motors that churn out static. The electrical buzzing reminds you of those countless tiny charged particles up in the sky—the vast and terrifying potential energy we see as lightning, but which in a more benign form is daily and invisibly transferred from ocean to atmosphere and back via evaporation and precipitation. Hirschkoff’s mechanical analogue is deliberately creaky, unlike a scientist’s elegant computer model of the weather. Like his crude contraption, the weather is cranky and volatile, never benign. Washington State Convention & Trade Center, 800 Convention Place, 694-5000, Free. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. Ends April 9.

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