Changing Form

The most popular viewpoint in the city is often a bore for kids. Whenever I walk up to Kerry Park, on the south prow of Queen Anne Hill, shutterbugs, wedding parties, and sightseers are intent on the panoramic view. Watch what the children do, however, when they squirm free of parental grasp or out of the camera’s frame. Installed in 1971 as a bequest from the same family that gave us the priceless strip park, Changing Form is one of those large Henry Moore–influenced abstract steel sculptures that don’t always wear their age so well. There’s nothing fun or frivolous about the two stacked cutout forms, pure geometry, yet kids flock to the 15-foot-high structure. It’s shaped a bit like building blocks from childhood, and the lower portion forms an eminently climbable cradle. Not many visitors bother to read the brass plaque identifying the artist. Would you be surprised to learn it’s a woman? Very little public art in Seattle—or at least that from the pure commission, pre-public-funding era—comes from female hands. Born here, Doris Totten Chase (1923-2008) studied architecture at the UW, then turned to painting in the late ’40s. By that time she was a wife and mother of two kids—not some kind of beatnik, not an outrageous headline-grabber like the celebrated (male) artists of the day. An early-’70s divorce freed her to move to Manhattan, where she worked in film and video and lived a thoroughly avant-garde life at the Chelsea Hotel. Sometimes you gotta leave Seattle to find bohemia. Just don’t tell that to your kids while they’re playing. BRIAN MILLER

Starts: Nov. 17. Daily, 2008

 
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