For decades, Leigh Sorensen wanted to create sculpture.
Then, “I arrived on Vashon, and here it was, waiting for me,” she said.
For Sorensen, now 80, it seems inspiration arrived right on time. Her sculptural dreams have been realized as curated and assembled driftwood — in an exhibition titled “Sea Change,” now on display through the end of September at the south side of LS Cedar.
The pop-up gallery space, across the street from Vashon Center for the Arts, became fixated in Sorensen’s mind as she hunted for suitable material for the bases for the sculptures.
Loren Sinner, the owner of LS Cedar, smiled as he recalled the ask from Sorensen.
“It was her idea to put it there, and it’s awesome,” he said. “Everyone loves it.”
Sorensen, a former journalist and landscape architect, has felt an artistic pull from the sea since childhood.
“In 1956, I made a driftwood mobile that still hangs in my family’s house on Fire Island,” she said.
That memory of that mobile has perhaps seeped into a current piece on display at LS Cedar, “Riff Raff” — a Calder-like assemblage comprised entirely of driftwood.
The collection of work has a whimsical air, but the origin story is more serious.
A recent transplant to Vashon, Sorensen wrote in her artist’s statement about how climate change has impacted her life, in part driving her, after the death of her husband, from the home they had shared for more than 40 years, built on a saltmarsh estuary in New Jersey.
“Our house on the New Jersey shore had flooded many times in our years there, and with climate change, the floods were more frequent,” she wrote. “I could not imagine coping with them without the help of my husband. Ironically, what made me flee the East Coast has been a boon to me on the West Coast.”
Here, Sorensen noticed the driftwood immediately — because there was so much of it.
“There is scarce driftwood on the East Coast because of a fully developed shorefront,” she said.
Sorensen lives near Portage but said that Governor’s Row, on Burton Beach, is her favorite place to hunt for inspiration, always accompanied by her dog. She’s also keen to thank her neighbors, Alun Vick and Judy Wright, for helping her transport and assemble the installation.
“Sea Change” will come down at the end of the month to avoid seasonal weathering, but Sorensen plans a return show in the spring.
“Pop-up art on Vashon makes so much sense,” she said. “There are so many beautiful outdoor spaces. The shapes of nature are so wonderful — the undulating shoreline, the way the tide leaves a mark in the sand on the beach, the mountains, the way the trees twist. I find it all absolutely irresistible.”
Correction: In The Beachcomber’s print version of this story, Leigh Sorensen’s last name was incorrectly stated, as Sullivan. We regret the error.