Bainbridge sculptor mirrors nature in his art

Sunset  – September 13, 2004

Al Philips has always considered himself an environmentalconservationist. When he first moved to his property on BainbridgeIsland 30 years ago, he lived in a van for five years, saving moneyto build a home. The 53-year-old quotes Thoreau, studies salmon,and can identify a bald eagle’s call.

Philips eventually began to capture his beloved natural forms inart ― specifically, glass. Through a collaboration with DaleChihuly, he even learned the delicate technique of working withblown glass. Philips’s early work, on display at his studio onBainbridge, depicts humpback and orca whales in multilayer panesthat look like clouds. Other pieces, on display at Pier 66 andWyland Galleries Northwest in downtown Seattle, depict salmon andother fish in plates and on beautiful, bulbous vases.

Philips’s latest work, an interpretive mural of sandblasted andetched glass that he created with his 21-year-old son, Ben, isperhaps the most moving of his oeuvre. The mural, titled We Standupon the Shoulders of Our Ancestors’ Accomplishments, after aphrase in Chief Seattle’s famous 1854 oratory, portrays a family ofSuquamish Indians as they must have lived on the very same spotyears ago, catching fish with wooden spears and living out of along house built of cedar shake. The mural is outside Philips’sstudio, and when viewed against the eastern horizon, itsuperimposes these images on the landscape behind, bringing theentire scene to life.]CP]

“This beautiful land was around long before we were,” Philipssays. “The mural pays homage to those who were here first and isour way of saying, ‘Thanks.'”

Visiting the studio

Al Philips’s studio is open to the public by appointment. or206/842-4600. ― Matt Villano

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