— Jackie Genis

The shower is where Seattle metal artist Matthew Dockrey was when inspiration struck to masterpiece the large steel tentacle bursting through a manhole in Uptown Village on the corner of West 23rd and Main Street.

“I had been thinking about designs for the application,” said Dockrey, after successfully applying and then capturing Arts of Clark County’s call for artists to create the first interactive public art work to complement the street life of Uptown Village. “I was stuck on some vague ideas for a tree shape involving lots of exposed hex bolt heads and getting nowhere.”

That dilemma didn’t last long for the skillful and award-winning artist.

When the tentacle inspiration entered the artist’s creative heart, Dockrey said he had already been experimenting with a technique for taking a 3D model, “unfolding” it, and cutting it out of steel to form that kind of tessellated (tiling of a plane) shape.

“I knew I could make it,” said Dockrey, whose artistic journey began at the Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2012 with his first large-scale art installation, The Harmonic Fire Pendula. His body of work has since grown into bigger and bigger installations.

Aptly named The Visitor, Dockrey’s monster-like sculpture is now here to stay. A formal celebration event took place last month to reveal the magnificent, quirky, and cool new piece of $9,500 public art. The city of Vancouver issued a $12,000 grant to cover the project’s cost. The purpose of the project has been successful, as The Visitor is indeed interactive and generating thoughtful and fun comments from the community. The clever creature also fits in nicely with the character of Uptown Village.

“We chose The Visitor because it was unique and iconic, and we hoped people would become attached to it and others would search it out to have a photo with it,” said Karen Madsen chair of Arts of Clark County.”

Madsen said that among the received proposals and the limited funds to manage the project, the organizing committee was amazed to be able to select such a unique and contemporary piece of work. The art work was ultimately selected, said Madsen, due to the belief that The Visitor would not just be a street decoration, but instead, it would draw people to the area.

This belief is gathering evidence too. Jake Ike, 20, a musician from Wenatchee, Washington, is in town visiting his family. Ike grew up here and is thinking about returning. Observing The Visitor, Ike looked amused.

“It’s really cool — a great contrast between creativity and imagination,” said Ike. “It’s not a monster – maybe he is just waving at everyone – What’s up?”

Ike said walking trails along the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers features public art like this. A big sphere ball and a massive and detailed horizontal foot are among metal sculptures triggering conversations among communities there.

For us, Dockrey’s intentions are simple and clear.

“Honestly, I just wanted people to smile and maybe do a double-take,” said Dockrey, who also has a strong background in science, technology, and engineering. “I love being surprised by public art when exploring a city, and I hope that The Visitor provides that experience for other people.”