In the foyer a fleet of white Ford Taurus cars with pulsating lights careen from the ceiling.
Consider it an omen of what lies ahead at Seattle Art Museum, nicknamed SAM.
Look both ways. Look up and down. Every direction gives a glimpse into the amazing minds of artists who enhance the lives of the ordinary rest of us.
Hop the escalator to stroll through realism, cubism, whateverism. Your eyes will disappear into the vast dimension of 23,000 objets d'art, expressed through paint, chalk, wood, clay, fiber and metal at this playground of sensory fun.
Spend an hour at SAM or spend a day. Stay for lunch. The museum's restaurant, TASTE, serves wine and plates with saffron scented rice and smoked salmon flatbread.
Or you can do what the busloads of field-trip kids do: kick back on the marble steps of the Grand Staircase with a sack lunch of PB&Js, carrot sticks, juice boxes and Little Debbie cakes.
The staircase is flanked by a wall of windows and Chinese statues. At the top is a mural, depicting a toothy kid with his mouth open. Go ahead, open yours wide and take a selfie.
The area, known as the Art Ladder, is free public access space, as is the foyer with the flying Fords.
Admission to the galleries is by suggested donation. Expect some household names: Gauguin and Picasso are among those with impressive shows in recent years.
On view through May 26 are works by Picasso's chum, surrealist Joan Miro (1893-1983).
"Miro: The Experience of Seeing" is a collection of vivid paintings and quirky sculptures from the past 20 years of the artist's career.
You won't be the first to wonder how he came up with the stuff.
As Miro put it: "I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music."
Snippets that accompany the exhibit provide some clues as to what the man behind the canvas was thinking when he was making those bold strokes, blobs, dots, swirls and colorful abstract renderings.
One thing is for sure: Miro had a thing for women and birds, the theme of many paintings to ignite the imagination.
"You can tell it's a woman, because she has a ponytail," said patron Jen Martin as she admired a masterpiece of ambiguous shapes.
"Or maybe it's not. Even if you're not trying to make something out if it and figure out what it is, they are fun to look at."
Martin, a Seattle-based Lindblad Expeditions leader who has toured museums worldwide, fondly described the Miro sculptures as "kooky and weird."
"He took all these weird found object then put them in wax and then cast them in bronze," Martin said. "I like it."
The artist's philosophy is written on the wall: "Two and two do not make four. Only accountants think that. But that is not enough, a painting must make this clear; it must fertilize the imagination."
The statues are complicated compared to the paintings that look deceivingly simple.
If you're thinking, 'I could do that,' take a shot at it.
The exhibit's interactive studio lets artistes create their own "Miros" using computer painting tools.
Try it. Your imagination will be fertilized.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hammering Man symbolizes a worker. There are Hammering Men sculptures worldwide, including New York, Los Angeles, Germany and Japan. Seattle's Hammering Man "hammers" four times a minute from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. He gets to rest each night and on Labor Day.
About Joan Miro
In his political views as well as his artistic endeavors, Miro was drawn to fellow Spaniard Pablo Picasso.
When Miro went to Paris in 1920, he connected with the literary and artistic avant-garde crowd and was drawn into the orbit of the surrealists.
He developed an abstract and expressive visual vocabulary that set the stage for his career. After years of political turmoil, he moved to a studio on an island in Spain, allowing him to bring together and reassess many paintings previously in storage.
It triggered a new phase. He began to explore new territory in distinctly different styles and sculpture. "It is in sculpture that I will create a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters," he said.
Source: Seattle Art Museum
If you go
"Miro: The Experience of Seeing," runs through May 26 at Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Suggested admission is $19.50 for adults; $17.50 for ages 62 and older; $12.50 for students and ages 13 to 17. Free for ages 12 and under.
There is no admission charge for anyone on first Thursdays, and no charge on first Fridays for ages 52 and up. There is a surcharge on those days for special exhibits.
For more information, call 206-654-3100 or go to www.seattleartmuseum.org.
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