Walking the Line: Douglas Senft

Written by: Diego Rodriquez and Sophie Bégin

I always imagined public art as being gargantuan and spectacular.  That the sculptures or installations were simply art objects used to bring attention to a space.  At a closer look, it gets a little more complicated than that.

A few months ago I was walking along Cambie street between 8th and 7th street and I found myself watching a mother scowling her young son for walking on top of a person’s artwork.  I couldn’t help but laugh at the boy’s facial expression once he heard this.  To be fair, I always assumed it to be a bicycle rack because of its horizontal dimension.  I hadn’t, until recently, taken the time to look at it up close or from afar.

At a second glance, it becomes clearer that the sculpture has multiple purposes. Underneath the artwork are large vents to circulate oxygen into the underground parking lots.  So in a sense, public art can also be created out of incentive to answer to certain liabilities. Technical concept aside, WALKING THE LINE also refers to the environment that surrounds every day.  Using the topography of the West Coast, Senft designed his sculpture to resemble the mountains of the North Shore.  I see this as an opportunity to be reminded.  To even consider the Mountains as something more than an epic background.

I have to wonder still:

  • Does Douglas Senft mind or intend his work to blend in?
  • Would he be concerned that his work might be confused for non-art?
  • Or that children go to it for a fun obstacle?

Here is a link to the page for this artwork on the Vancouver Public Art registry!

Douglas Senft / Walking the Line

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