Article by Amanda Alfonso
Although the Henry Art Gallery seems somewhat small, it manages to pack five little exhibits. It’s also easy to find, being connected to the University of Washington. While every current exhibit on display at the moment strikes interest and inspiration – one intrigued me in particular, and that was Doris Totten Chase: Changing Forms. I had never heard of Doris Totten Chase until this exhibit but what attracted me most to it were the eerie sounds emanating from the corner of the gallery floor. I had it set in my mind, after viewing two of the exhibits, that I would head home – being tired from having walked all day. I decided instead to keep walking through, and picked up a pamphlet on the way.
The exhibit is interactive and invites you to watch different experimental videos that explore shapes, movement and sound. Using technology available at that time, the videos span from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s – and it’s pretty obvious. The videos display either shapes – usually rectangles or circles – spinning forward or backward with layers of different colors. They’re entrancing to watch, especially with the eerie compositions in the background. Some of them feature dancers or actors, moving their bodies in different neon colors or reciting a monologue. The compositions score them moving at first a full-bodied outline, then transitioning into impressions as if dissolving into a thermal image of themselves.
The exhibit also displays Chase’s paintings, which display mostly disc outlines, almost looking like springs in movement (the pamphlet states that “circles would remain a constant throughout her career.”) And although these are also intriguing, there is something about the videos that are particularly striking, mostly because of how much time has passed, giving the videos, I imagine, a different context and reaction. Maybe what was once viewed as only experimental or avant-garde when they were first projected, could now be called nostalgic (in terms of technology) or even dystopian – like watching Bladerunner in the 21st century. In fact, her videos even look like something that could be taken and placed in some technology-driven dystopian film.
I was glad to continue on to the exhibit and become inspired by an artist of many different mediums – and who was also born and raised in Seattle. The exhibit will be on display until October 1 and entry only costs $10 (even less for students!) – and while at the Henry Art Gallery, I highly suggest exploring the other exhibits, which are equally worth checking out.