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Friday, February 8, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Here's looking at you, squid! Pike Place Market gets a new piece of sculpture

Seattle Times staff reporter

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"Giant Squid" didn't just pop to mind when Pat Wickline got the nod to create a sculpture to fill the Pike Place Market's angular atrium.

Along the way to the 200-pound copper and steel cephalopod, suspended 30 feet up, Wickline was inspired by a friend with a new book, auto-body mechanics and the Statue of Liberty.

At least 200 people turned out yesterday for a belated dedication party for Wickline's "Giant Squid," a 26-foot-long artistic rendition of the world's largest invertebrate. He had finished his work in September, installing it in the Market atrium hours before terrorists flew the first airplane into New York City's World Trade Center.

Last night, in the Market's common space, on First Avenue across from the Showbox Music Club, local gastronome and Seattle Times columnist Kathy Casey served up squid snacks while Roland Anderson, Puget Sound curator at the Seattle Aquarium, spoke of the mystery surrounding what many call a real-life sea monster.

"There have been legends and myths surrounding (the giant squid) for four centuries," Anderson said.

Two multimillion-dollar expeditions funded by the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institution have failed to find Architeuthisin the wild.

"It's got this cachet of myth because we've never seen one alive," said Anderson, noting giant squid have been found caught in fish trawls and the stomachs of sperm whales. Puget Sound squid are generally 6 inches long, although some grow to 6 feet, Anderson said. Giant squid are at least 60 feet long and are believed to live in deep ocean canyons off Newfoundland and New Zealand.

The giant squid is the most mysterious, reclusive animal on the planet and has inspired sea-serpent legends, from the Scylla of Homer's "Odyssey" to the giant squid that battles a submarine in Jules Verne's novel, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

Wickline, who is known for abstract sculptures made from metal, was chosen in November 2000 to create a work for the Market atrium, a room with big wooden beams, ramps and stairs "that are all very angular," the artist said. "It needed something to whoosh up the shape." Experimenting with copper-wire models in his Ballard studio, Wickline said fellow artist Kevin Tripp saw one and said, "Oh my God, it's a giant squid."

They went to Tripp's house to check out a book he'd just bought, "In Search of the Giant Squid" by marine biologist Richard Ellis.

"With a good idea, you know immediately," said Wickline, a self-described natural-history buff. "Puget Sound, the Market and an ocean theme — it just came together and gave me an excuse to make something really big with lots of lines."

Wickline became enamored with his subject — its eight legs, two long tentacles, two hearts and eyes that are each the size of a human head. Borrowing a technique used by artists who created the Statue of Liberty, Wickline heated and pounded cooper with mallets he carved out of hickory.

He enlisted the advice of auto-body mechanics, including Californian Ron Covell, who is famous in metal-working circles for building hot rods, Wickline said.

The squid replaces another sculpture — of a cactus and a dog — in the atrium. The squid and its genesis are a much better fit, said Robert Squaglia, the Market's director of operations.

"This is a space for people who say, 'I want to do something,' " Squaglia said. "It's just kind of the nature of this Market and how things naturally evolve here."

Sara Jean Green can be reached at 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com.

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