SEATTLE — Seattle sculptor Gerard “Gerry” Tsutakawa was surrounded by art from an early age.
“I think I was unconsciously immersed in art,” Tsutakawa said.
Following the footsteps of his father George, Tsutakawa has been an artist for most of his 74 years of life.
“My father was an artist and also an art educator,” Tsutakawa said, “He was very interested in the arts.”
George Tsutakawa had a distinct style that can still be seen around the Seattle area.
“My father's designs were always very soft volumes. He rarely used a hard edge or a straight line,” Tsutakawa explained.
Beginning to work with his father in the studio at the age of 23, Tsutakawa helped fabricate “Seven Flowers,” a fountain that remains outside of the 8th street Chase bank in Bellevue.
“My father was a fairly strong shadow to work underneath,” Tsutakawa noted, “I wanted to distinguish myself.”
And this is what Tsutakawa has done, so much so that his sculpture has become iconic pieces of local art.
“I really feel like I've created my own identity,” Tsutakawa said.
Most Seattleites, and even most Seattle tourists, are familiar with Tsutakawa’s giant bronze baseball mitt sculpture that greets visitors at T-Mobile Park. This sculpture has become the centerpiece of many a selfie, a fact which Tsutakawa appreciates.
“My philosophy is if it's public art then the public should be able to interact with it,” he said.
Another recognizable piece by Tsutakawa is “Tonbi,” a fountain that splashes in an Amazon Headquarters courtyard.
“‘Tonbi’ is actually the name of a bird,” Tsutakawa said, “and (the fountain) has kind of a spread like it's gonna fly, so that's where the name comes from.
Pleased with the way this 2019 piece turned out, Tsutakawa noted that his favorite part about “Tonbi” is the way it looks different from every angle.
“As you walk around the sculpture, there's no two views that are the same it's constantly changing,” he explained.
This surreal quality is a distinguishing component of Tsutakawa’s art.
“A lot of my creativity and ideas come from dreams,” Tsutakawa noted.
He is currently working on a piece for the new Climate Pledge Arena called “Sea Wave.”
“There was an open call for the Climate Pledge Arena for art proposals,” Tsutakawa explained, “I created this small bronze, and this represents the ocean waves breaking around in a continuous circle.”
Tsutakawa is excited by this opportunity since it will allow him to represent an issue that cares about through his art.
“This is a chance for my sculpture to speak to the idea that the ocean is such a part of our environment,” he said.
In June, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience opened an exhibit highlighting Tsutakawa’s many years of sculpting.
“(The exhibit) gave me a chance to actually look back at forty years of making bronze sculptures,” Tsutakawa said, “so there's maquettes of a lot of the larger works downtown and also a representation of the mitt sculpture. So, go See it!”
Looking back has given Tsutakawa said the opportunity to reflect on how making art has shaped his life. Although he is getting older, Tsutakawa said that he does not plan on stopping any time soon.
“I'm getting up there in age,” he explained, “I'm going to be seventy-four pretty quick, but I enjoy doing the work and I have no idea when it will end. You know, when you have a job that's fun you just want to keep doing it.”
"The Gerard Tsutakawa: Stories Shaped in Bronze" exhibit will run at the Wing Luke Museum through May 8, 2022.