"Who are You?" Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, WA


By Frank Vinlaun, Seattle Times
November 3, 1999

When construction on the new Bellevue Art Museum begins next month, people of all shapes and sizes will surround the construction site. That's the vision Cambridge, Mass., artist Douglas Komfeld has for a construction-site fence he describes as an artwork of both form and function. Each of the fence's 60 panels will bear a cut-out figure of a person, but with a twist. The figures play off the universal stick-figure symbols for men and women, and are intended to challenge the generalities people make about each other.
"When you look at people as symbols, you don't look at them as human beings," Komfeld said. "This art is really supposed to ask you a question: Why is it we use a symbol of a women in a dress when so few women wear dresses anymore? " Titled "Who Are You?," Komfeld's fences have surrounded construction sites in Providence, Rhode Island , Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Boston, Massachusetts.

Bellevue museum officials approached Komfeld about the fence because he has work that uses the gender symbols now on display in the museum. Komfeld said he began working with the symbols about 10 years ago when he became bored with painting and switched to computer graphics illustration. "The paintbrush was high-tech in the 10th century; the computer is high-tech now," he explained. Using a graphics program, he manipulates the figures or exaggerates their features. Komfeld came to Bellevue's Crossroads Community Center late last month to help about a dozen students and senior citizens design the panels