Courtesy: Tiffany Hedrick, Office of Arts & Culture

Big Tesla

Seattle, Washington

Merrily Tompkins

Seattle City Light North Service Center, 1300 N 97th Street, Seattle, Washington, 98103
Owner:  Seattle City Light
Date:  1982, 2002
Placement:  utilities buildings
Artwork Type:  sculpture (visual work)
Material:  ceramic tile, concrete, metal
Description:  "Big Tesla" is a sculptural portrait of Nikolai Tesla, who pioneered alternating current. Hand cut ceramic tile mosaic covers the concrete sculpture and renders the features of the head. Plantings provide "hair" out of the top of the planter. The artwork, originally titled "Tesla's Head", was located at Seattle City Light's Creston Nelson facility until the early 1980s, when it was removed due to vandalism. "Big Tesla" and several artworks from the Creston Nelson facility were relocated to the North Service Center as part of its renovation. The grounds staff at the North Service Center wanted to incorporate "Big Tesla" into a plaza/garden area which faces the street. The site is located in the Licton Springs neighborhood, just east of Aurora Avenue North.

The artist states: "I decided to do a piece about Tesla because I wanted the art to relate to the electrical theme of the ... site. I have done portraits throughout my career, and I liked the idea of doing a really big one ... Having grass grow out of the top for hair seemed like a logical way to relate the piece literally to the landscape. As the piece evolved, I realized that ... making the grasses seem to emerge from Tesla's head was also a kind of visual reference to his enormous, ubiquitous contribution to the 'domestication' of electrical power."

Seattle City Light 1% for Art funds

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