Seth David Friedman is a fusion of scientist and utopian, working as a pediatric neuroscientist by day and a stonecarver by night. His carvings are homages, continuations, or perhaps summonings dedicated to the spirit of the late stonemason James Washington: “A way to honor the kinship felt to a man who had a similar affinity to stone. A way to invest in the health of his legacy.” The similarity between the professions of stone working, medicine, and religion come together where each requires another person to carry on the legacy, to apprentice under a master, and to eventually take up the craft and pay their respects to history.
Originally from Gloster, Mississippi, the longtime Northwest resident was a painter, stone sculptor, and a colleague of artists such as Mark Tobey and Diego Rivera. Washington was entirely self-taught, basing his entire knowledge and interest in art off of a natural curiosity for the manipulation of materials in order to express new meanings. As an artist he was determined to create works that would be universally intelligible and valuable, and is best known for his stonework ranging from pet-like birds (owners are rumored to prefer holding the objects in their laps instead of displaying them on a shelf) to large classical or prehistoric-looking busts. Pieces like My Testimony in Stone, 1981, combine a mystical and religiously inclined eye for symbols and meaning with a craftsman's attention to simplicity and the magic of how materials can fit together. It is of course no surprise that this 33rd degree Mason was of the opinion that, "Everything we deal with is symbols, and all symbols lead to truth...Symbols can convey an emotional state beyond the capability of words." It is easy to empathize with Washington's interest in reaching universality of meaning through symbolic knowledge and the construction or deconstruction of signs or materials. What is crucial is that no one can remain stagnant or refuse to follow the pull of their own potential.
With such a deep and uncomplicated interest in following his own artistic will, alongside a passion for social justice and revealing to all students their tremendous potential for creation, Washington is an inspiring and sometimes wizardly figure. His old house in Seattle's Central District, the Foundation's base, is filled with artifacts from his travels, books, and happens to feature a yard full of buried and signed sculptures.
301 Occidental Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98104-2839
Tuesday through Saturday 11- 4 (until May 26)
Studio, House, and Garden
1816 26th Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98122
Monday through Friday 11 - 3