Surge Washington State Arts Project at Bainbridge Island High School


Consider the wave in the form of a cross section, or a silhouette and you will observe how similar a crashing wave is to an opening fern frond.   Both follow the golden ratio, which describes predictable patterns often found in nature. The design similarities of the unfurling fern frond and the wave are used to create an unfolding of one image into another. The three images are in sequence, first the fern then a wave building and lastly, another wave releasing. 


Surge celebrates the people of Bainbridge Island, traditional land of the Suquamish. Residents speak of the ties between the island and the main land, and the the abundance of nature.  In the language of Lushootseed Suquamish means “people/place of clear salt water.” The local populations hold the land and water connection of high importance. These factors inspired the artwork design.

Culturally the island is know for its farms. The Japanese strawberry farmers of the 1900s are important historically and culturally.  The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial commemorates the islanders sent to internment camps during World War II. The fern is featured throughout the landscape of these Memorial grounds.  Ferns are used in traditional Native American life: they were eaten as greens, boiled into herbal teas, woven into mats, and used in cultural dance.  

Fern and water imagery reference a rich history and speak to the interconnectedness of the land and the sea. Presently, the native fern is endangered and of concern as some species on the island are mysteriously dying. This is likely linked to draught caused by global warming. As a community so connected to the water, this interdependency is relevant. With all of this in mind, I chose to use the combined imagery of ferns and water to define the sculpture.


The imagery speaks metaphorically to the lives of students. They come of age and find themselves, create ripples, churn, and ebb and flow. The wave is a positive force forward and a metaphor for students going on to discover their place in the world. The integrated words create texture and embed meaning. I met with students to include their ideas for the word choice. The words support the three images as three concepts: The unfolding fern as Becoming and Learning; The tall cresting wave as Challenge and Resilience; The final crashing wave as Creativity and Imagination. These three cross-sections sit on a cement wedge that acts as a gathering place. The geometric wedge form of cast concrete grounds the waves in an aesthetic that ties in to the modern architecture. The building adjacent to the sculpture houses the creative arts and was a  consideration in the concept design and the artwork placement.                                                                                         

Location: Bainbridge Island High School

Commission: Washington State Arts Commission