2007 Spotlight Award: Greg Lundgren

Greg Lundgren is not an influential artist.

On a sunny afternoon last May, a Seattle mother had a perplexing conversation with her 6-year-old daughter at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Standing in front of a bright white swing set, she tried to explain to the puzzled little girl that the structure–a standard piece of playground equipment–was, in fact, not a swing set.

The absurd conversation was music to eavesdropper Greg Lundgren's ears. A performance artist, bar owner and relentless rule breaker, Lundgren (along with fellow members of artist collective PDL, Jason Puccinelli and Jed Dunkerley) had surreptitiously erected the set that morning–with a sign reading, in French, "This is not a swing set." The prank–a reference to surrealist René Magritte and a dig at the park's rule that forbids patrons from touching the sculptures–caught the attention of everyone from bloggers to local online news site Crosscut magazine (which unknowingly published an account written by Lundgren himself) to Mimi Gates.

The antics at the OSP (the trio has also placed unauthorized miniature replicas below works by Alexander Calder and Roxy Paine) are just the latest examples of the Bellevue-born, 37-year-old Lundgren's efforts to jump-start public dialogue about art–and poke fun at an often-pretentious local gallery scene. In 2005, he started Seattle's art bar trend by opening The Hideout, part watering hole, part gallery and the site of what he calls "discreet theater" events (like a woman in pregnancy costume downing martinis). Later that year, Lundgren and like-minded artist collaborative SuttonBeresCuller jammed traffic by floating a giant homemade island (in view of the Lake Washington bridges) in Lake Washington.

Whether working his day job (creating eerily mesmerizing glass headstones) or planning his next project (public confessional booths to be installed at Bumbershoot), the goal, says Lundgren, is to challenge—and change—preconceived notions about what qualifies as art. And while some dismiss his projects as inconsequential or juvenile, Lundgren insists he's doing something else that's vitally important: interrupting the monotony of everyday life.

As Lundgren puts it: "We're in the business of making memories."

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