Curator’s Eye: Tomiko’s Floating World


The most innovative art opening of the fall was by far the hardest to find: Tomiko Jones’ Uncovering the West Tributary (shown above), a one-night art installation on September 24 in a “water detention facility” in the middle of Kelsey Creek Basin in the Bel-Red Subarea.

Historically the Eastside’s most culturally invisible nine-hundred-acre patch, it’s full of asphalt and empty ghost marquees, buried streams and wetlands with salmon, ducks and beavers. “It’s a hidden place in Bellevue not normally open to the public,” says City of Bellevue arts specialist Mary Pat Byrne, whose fifteen-hundred-dollar grant (matched by 4Culture) funded the artwork, with some free help from stream biologist Kit Paulsen, who kept the installation eco-safe.

“It’s like a forgotten natural space caught between light industrial parks,” says Jones. “It’s been pretty trashed by debris and runoff water. But it’s being reclaimed. In a philosophical way, I’m trying to bring that beauty back.”

“It takes a certain kind of imagination to look at a place with no art and to see art there, and that’s what Tomiko does,” says Byrne. On a beautiful evening, about sixty people found an illuminated sign behind the Coca-Cola bottling plant at 124th Avenue Northeast, walked to the shore of a pond, heard strange ambient sounds from hidden speakers and watched video images projected onto scrims up to twenty-eight feet wide, resembling sails.

“If I tried to fill the space, it would be like a Christo,” says Jones of the artists best known for wrapping iconic structures in clothe. “Instead, I take a reductive approach. It’s like a Japanese garden, full of masked views and reflections in the water.”

“It had a strong dreamlike quality,” says Byrne. And the city has big dreams for the area. “All of these streams are going to be uncovered.” Instead of disappearing into culverts and hidden underground passages, they’ll flow free. “There will be multipurpose walking and bike paths, and Sound Transit will come there soon,” says Jones. “It will transform a light industrial neighborhood into something creative.”

“This project is a first step for the Arts Commission,” says Byrne, “to get the public to dream about an arts district in Bel-Red.” Says Jones, “Who would have known such a gem could be hidden in the muddy divide between Coca-Cola and the Metro base?”