Holly Senn on Broadway

Look closely at the large display window at 908 Broadway – that’s not a mirrored reflection of the Pantages Theater’s grand facade you see, but an exquisite rendering of some of its architectural details, made from paper. Artist Holly Senn created Re-Present, an ingenious installation funded by Spaceworks Tacoma, using pages torn from aged books to mold the classical botanical forms that are usually made of plaster. The Pantages Theater, built in 1916-18 by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca, was designed after a theater in the Palace of Versailles.

Re-Present (detail) by Holly Senn

Re-Present marks a departure for Senn, whose earlier work focuses on biomorphic shapes such as seed pods and buds. The new work, presented against a black backdrop, embodies a formal, stylized elegance in key with the landmark that inspired it. Senn notes that “the block that the theater now occupies was once the site of, among other things, Tacoma’s first library” – an uncanny detail, given that the artist culls her working material from discarded library books (she is also a virtual reference librarian at Pacific Lutheran University). “Theaters present the ideas of playwrights, composers and choreographers – later generations recompose or reenact some of these performances,” she says. “In this installation I reinterpret architectural details from the exterior of the theater. This theme of re-presentation is related to my interest in how knowledge is transformed over time.” Re-Present is on view at 908 Broadway through Jan. 5, 2011.