Mike Rathbun: N45°23.871′ W122°38.864′, The Marylhurst installation

Mike Rathbun: N45°23.871′ W122°38.864′

Since 1995, Mike Rathbun has titled 11 constructions and installations by their geographic coordinates.

The Marylhurst installation makes it an even dozen.

Often his installations employ skeletal constructions of boats suspended above or lying alongside wave-like wood structures. These ambitious projects have been sponsored by sculpture parks, contemporary art institutes and university galleries, including Franconia Sculpture Park and the Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minnesota; Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York; and Claremont Graduate University and California State University in San Bernardino.

In a recent conversation, Rathbun mentioned his interest in The Log from the Sea of Cortez, author John Steinbeck and biologist Ed Ricketts’ account of their 1940 trip to the narrow sea between Baja California and the Mexican mainland. Rathbun was particularly interested in a passage in the book where the authors assert that truth is the ocean and a compass bearing. For the past 10 years, Rathbun has sought to make work that creates, like a compass bearing taken at sea, an experience that is both anchored in and transcends a specific place and time.

The desire to reference this type of experience grew out of a 70-mile solo voyage Rathbun took across Lake Superior in a handmade sailboat in 1995. As the son and brother of Baptist ministers, it also rises out of his religious tradition.

In The Art Gym (N45°23.871′ W122°38.864′) the public can explore and think about a set of three interrelated structures: a “wave floor,” a suspended 20-foot-long boat and a ceiling-high matrix of 2,800 linear feet of two-by-twos that the artist hand-cut and split from logs over a period of two and one-half months.

Rathbun’s installation engages The Art Gym’s particular spatial qualities. The work calls attention to the grand volume of space overhead and changes the experience of the gallery floor by overlaying it with a rippling sea of wood, thereby offering visitors the opportunity metaphorically to “walk on water.”

In addition to the RACC Artist Project Grant that supports this installation, Mike Rathbun’s work has been recognized with many prestigious grants and fellowships, including a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, Minnesota Artist Fellowship, Bush Artist Fellowship and The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Artist grant.