• Sunday, March 27, 2011 8:00 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    Thanks to Nick Cave, from now until June 5th, you can stroll into the Seattle Art Museum and ask the people at the front desk "How do I get to the Center of the Earth," and they will smile and tell direct you to the fourth floor. Who knew it was so easy? Really, you should try it.

    Nick Cave is an artist, a dancer, a black American, a recycler of abandoned, overlooked and temporarily invisible objects, and an incredibly gifted and exacting craftsman. Working with small army of dedicated cohorts, he has revealed, by creating it, the world that exists at the center of not just the earth but everything that matters, or should matter, to human beings. In spite of the fact that this is a ridiculously ambitious undertaking, he seems to have pulled it off with this impressive body of work. And then put it on again.

    Listening to people's reactions to this exhibit is almost as much fun as looking at it all. And there's a lot to look at. In the space of just ten minutes spent hanging around the entrance to the exhibit, I heard two different people say "Holy cow!" Since one of the things that Cave wants us to think about is the connection between the human and animal worlds, that’s a pretty wonderful comment. But he also wants us to think about the power and freedom that disguise and anonymity offers to people who were born on the wrong side of the color, gender, and identity divides.

    A growing awareness of the ravages of identity politics does inevitably start to sneak up on you the longer you look around. But after a while, the sheer joy you feel with prolonged exposure to the extraordinary depth and breadth of Cave’s inventiveness creates a tidal wave of euphoria that washes over you and tends to overwhelm the more sinister content. And then one more walk around the "Sound Suits" made of twigs or some time spent with the photographs of Cave wearing the pieces that don’t hide his identity or another look at the contrast between the suits made of homemade bits of kitsch where the buttons are attached by those creepy plastic doohickeys that keep the price tags on the clothes at discount stores and the couture-style costumes over in their own private and privileged gallery with their carefully hand-sewn embellishments will bring your feet right back to the ground. And speaking of feet, check out all those fabulous socks. I have a thing about socks and that part of the show took me completely by surprise    

    There’s so much to see that everyone will have a different list of favorites. The big bear upholstered with cast-off sweaters includes a working zipper down the left leg that I really could have used when I had surgery for a broken leg two years ago. There’s a beaded and spangled space-princess suit complete with a fabulous headpiece/shield/carapace that Cave wears in one of the little gallery of photographs. I named one of the pieces that was made of crocheted headgear "The Bad Hat" because it reminded me of the Madeleine book of the same name. But hey, go find your own.    

    The only thing I found disappointing was that I couldn’t actually get into and walk around in one of the "Sound Suits" made of twigs. Cave's description of how surprised he was when he first tried it on and discovered the noises it made was so compelling that I really, really wanted to try it myself. Yes, I understand that allowing anyone - and there would be plenty of us - to climb inside one is impractical but I’m still feeling deprived.

    Still, there is much satisfaction and some kinetic consolation in watching the film loops that are playing on the walls at the very back of the exhibit. One of them is a never-ending parade of Cave-clad dancers striding, floating, flailing, leaping, billowing, and shape-shifting through a white seamless world that seems to have no up, down, or gravity. And the best one shows Cave engaged in a frenzied wrestling match with a suit that looks like a big piece of black-and-white knitted coral. The sped-up action combined with Cave's brilliant choreography is comical and frightening at the same time.   

    If you know any fellow humans, young or old, hip or square, sentient or clueless, who have always thought (sometimes with good reason) that there is nothing in an art museum that might engage, delight, or amaze them, you should invite them to "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth." It's a show for doubters, refuseniks, and outsiders who will recognize themselves looking back out from the center of at least one and probably several of these little worlds that Nick Cave has imagined and built from scratch and inspiration.

    Kathleen Cain

    Kathleen Cain is a Seattle-based writer and bibliophile who follows art, collects buttons, and has a sock fetish.

    "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth" by Nick Cave is on view through June 5 at the Seattle Art Musuem, located at 1300 First Avenue in Seattle, Washington. For more information, please visit the website or call (206) 654-3100.

  • Monday, December 20, 2010 5:16 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    If you’d like to treat your hearts and minds to a new body of work by an internationally renowned artist in an almost ideal setting, don’t miss this new show of Ginny Ruffner’s latest work at the Bellevue Art Museum. Artistic Director Stefano Catalani and his staff have done a masterful job of re-staging and designing this exhibit that was originally developed by the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner where it was first shown in 2008.  

    Like all great art, this show is difficult to describe but it’s an exuberant and wildly imaginative exploration of what would happen if entities that possess neither genes nor the ability to reproduce (at least as far as we know) were able to cross-pollinate, exchange DNA and merge into each other. Among other things, you see “The Gene for the Grace of Falling Leaves,” “Floral Splashing,” “The Force That Shapes Seashells,” and what happens “When Lightning Blooms.” You’ve been warned; be sure to arrive with your mind wide open.

    In case the title of this show doesn’t make it completely clear, you should know that although Ginny Ruffner is an artist, deep down inside, she’s really a geek. It all started in high school when she was president of the Science Club and it has been seeping into her art ever since. Her current circle of friends and regular correspondents includes an impressive assortment of distinguished scientists and mathematicians. She is fascinated by all the cool sciences and she finds them no less mystical, mutable, and mysterious than the so-called arts. In other words, Ginny has never believed in sorting things into separate piles of what does or does not constitute the realm of artistic endeavor; no matter what kind of information her muse sends, she uses it. 

    Although Ruffner’s titles and concepts are fantastical and outrageous, her work is more intellectual than emotional. Inspired by rigorous and challenging ideas -- evolution, the expression of DNA, the origin and nature of consciousness -- she applies her own personal torque and tension to them. The result is a kind of corkscrew logic that merges the solid and the uncanny and makes you suspect that these strange genetic connections have always existed but we never realized that they were there until she showed them to us. When asked where these ideas come from, she shrugs and demurs: “Who knows? I’m just an output device for these messages from the cosmos.”

    Captured in mid-contortion, Ruffner’s creations look like they’re trying to do the Fibonacci, to swing and sway or twist and turn into something entirely new and improbable. Although they are beautiful, warm, and ethereal, they also harbor a shimmering undercurrent of darkness, mystery and secret intentions They sometimes seem as curious about you as you are about them, ready to stretch out a tentative tendril (or is that a tentacle) and pull you closer for a little friendly mind meld.

    My favorite piece, full of magnificence and menace, is the towering double helix called, “Tall Artistic Creativity Gene.” Elegantly suspended from the high ceiling of the BAM lobby and trailing a bower of glass flowers at its feet, this delicate but imposing structure of metal and glass seems as if it might suddenly break free and begin spinning and spiraling toward you, bent on gently rearranging your polypeptide chains. It’s a fitting introduction to an exhibition that gradually unveils the unbridled spookiness and audacity of this artist’s imagination.

    While she was still working on the pieces in this show, Ruffner asked her friend and Nobel laureate, the biochemist Kary Mullis, if he thought it was arrogant of her to create her own model of the DNA molecule. He wrote back: “None of the existing images can even come close to capturing this snapping, glowing, sizzling, writhing, freaking King of Molecules. There are no humanly conceivable images. It’s up to you to look at these things and imagine something yourself.” Which is exactly what she’s done.

    So leave your slide rule at home, forget everything you know about the boundaries between art and science, and go catch a glimpse of what the world might look like if evolution began making stuff just for the fun of it. Or maybe, with a little nudge from Ruffner, it already has.

    And if you’re interested in learning more about the life and work of this remarkable artist, check out the new documentary, “Ginny Ruffner: A Not So Still Life,” directed by Karen Stanton and produced and released this year by the Seattle-based film company, ShadowCatcher Entertainment. It won the Golden Space Needle award at the Seattle International Film Festival this summer and is being screened at several other film features around the country. You can find out more about it online at

    Kathleen Cain

    Kathleen Cain is a Seattle-based freelance writer and bibliophile who follows art and is a big fan of the double helix.

    Ginny Ruffner’s exhibit, “The Aesthetic Engineering: The Imagination Cycle,”  is on view through Febraury 6 at the Bellevue Arts Museum which is located at 510 Bellevue Way NE in Bellevue, Washington. For more information please call (425) 519-0770 or visit the website

  • Monday, December 20, 2010 5:12 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    Rose, your email came at just the right time!

    Because here it is, a new year. And I’ve been at a loss. What can I possibly write that captures its essence? Everything “new year” has been written before. I have my doubts as to whether I can find a fresh angle to any of it. When you become a writer, you’ll understand this dilemma, I promise.

    Your saying you read my work is the finest compliment, believe me. Sure, your mom and I know each other. Still, knowing her, knowing you, I infer no female in your home is deciding what the other female reads, period.

    What I need to tell you, readers, is that Rose wants to be a writer. When she shared this information with her guidance counselor, she didn’t get quite the reaction she’d hoped for. In Rose’s words, “My counselor thinks I need a back up plan. But I really want to be a writer.”

    Rose, trying to do the jigsaw of maturing is no easy feat. But, trust me, if you have already found work that makes you happy, a huge piece of you will not go missing. I will go so far as to say your passion for writing may turn out to be your truest friend in life. This might not be an easy thing to hear in your BGF world, but no friend, especially no boyfriend (doubly hard to hear, sorry), will be able to fill that place inside you that longs for so much. Only you can fill it. And writing will help.

    I was thrown into a tizzy with all the remembering that came gushing up. See, in the seventh grade, I once called my Home-Ec teacher by my English teacher’s name and, humiliating me in front of my classmates, she yelled, “PAY ATTENTION, Mary Lou!”

    I was mortified. I know how important names are. I’m just so bad at remembering them. But ask me anything, anything at all about what she was wearing, the ever-changing color of her hair, and I knew. I knew.

    Even then, I could enumerate, interpret, elaborate. But retrieve someone’s name, I go blank. I soak up the visual but I’m resistant to names the way some people are to colds. In this area, I have what my mother would call “a strong constitution.” Until I get to know someone, I’m porous to their name. It leaves me.

    Just think how much time I could have saved if my guidance counselor had picked up on my wordy, descriptive babbles (I had quite the reputation for them) and leaned me toward writing instead of laying the secretary/nurse option on pretty thick. Vulnerable me might have left high school with hey, I’m going to be a writer! Instead of a vague I have no clue how to fit in.

    I look back at the two of us sitting face to face in her office trying to come up with what I should do, who I should be, with fifteen minutes for her to study my file, and all that she was able to help me with was…absolutely nothing, that’s what.

    Here’s what she said to me: You can make more money as a secretary. But if you go to nursing school the benefits for your family are better.

    Benefits? Family? Death to a seventeen year old.

    She certainly said nothing that helped me perceive my peculiarities as the very traits a writer needs. Gradually, through the years, I learned this on my own. There are amazing guidance counselors, I’m sure of it. Just as I’m sure the word “guidance” affixes the word “counselor” for a good reason. But I knew, even then, that the woman before me was going to be of no help to me whatsoever.

    High school, for me, bristles with so many of these memories.

    Luckily, in time, all the lost little parts of me came together, together enough anyway (there are still plenty of holes), to make me see how I really had no choice about what I was meant to do in this world because I was already doing it.

    Just as you are, Rose. And it’s terrific, isn’t it?

    So keep following the swerving stretch of road onto the next page. And more than anything, insist on passion.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Sanelli’s latest book is Among Friends. She is a featured speaker at the 2011 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. For more information, visit Mary Lou Sanelli’s website at
  • Thursday, October 07, 2010 2:32 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Federal Building located at 815 Airport Way South in Seattle, Washington, becomes Inscape Art Studios. Opening events are to be held on Saturday and Sunday, October 16 to 17 and include bands, art, and more! For information, please go to

  • Thursday, July 01, 2010 1:37 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    I’ve been around the neighborhood long enough to bore people with my “used to be” stories: the art gallery that used to be a hardware store, the New Age Bookshop that used to be a video store, the video store that used to sell gourmet food.

    Honestly, if not one new “it used to be” ever popped into mind again, I could write the past tense, happily forever, just by reliving the basics: the kitsch shop that used to sell flowers, the leaf-blowers that used to be rakes.

    There’s a subtext here, of course, and I’m at the mercy of it: I found a photograph of my husband. Or, Larry how he “used to be.”

    I thought about shoving the photo back into the book it fell out of. I don’t want too much history backing up on me, which will surely happen if I stare at Larry too long. After all, I fell in love with him when I was twenty. Larry—so self-directed, so handsome.

    I wind up focusing on the photo until my thoughts find their way into the deepest, most stunning places, kindling the most tender feelings I’ve felt in a long time. From my ears to my knees, a thunderbolt of nostalgia. One memory after another. I see love in the photo as clearly as I see my own hand holding it.

    I stash it. Unlike most of my friends, I don’t have dozens of framed photographs adorning the shelves of my home. I will one day again, surely. But right now, my work requires I be a tad nomadic, and too many photos sort of short circuits my flow.

    I remember when I tried letting all the photos on my hard drive revolve as my screen saver. One by one, my entire past came at me in two second intervals. It drove me bonkers. I’m quite proud of my achievements, the lives I’ve lived. But, I swear, every time I passed my monitor, I had a little heart attack. All that emotion really slowed me down.

    Anyway, I’ll forget half of what I saw in the photo if I don’t get on with it: Larry. His hands, specifically. How swollen his knuckles were from building the boat we were to live in. A dory. Our first home. His fingers were the color of wood. New skin grew right over the dirt. His callouses were so thick they added a good half-inch to his palms. If he nicked them, they drew no blood.

    And look at that mess of curly hair! No wonder my dad said he looked like Charles Manson.

    About a year before the photo was taken, Larry picked me up hitchhiking to the Olympic Hot Springs. I moved in with him a week later. We lived in an old barn in Sequim. It was the eighties.

    My most vivid memory of his hands then, in total-lust stage, was how he couldn’t let his hands rub my legs covered in nylon tights without making a crackling sound, or lay in the dark with me on a double sleeping bag, unzipped and opened flat, with hands that prowled easily, without catching on each lofty seam.

    That’s how Larry’s hands used to be. I study such things.

    Which brings me to Larry’s hands now: Smooth, nick-less as a slab of marble. Around the age of forty, like many the boatbuilder before him, he left the “sail around the world” dream to find work that 1) paid, and 2) let him use his mind as much as his hands.

    Larry’s hands are so clean now I call them white-collar-pink.

    Either way, in boat building or business, then or now, Larry never wavered from being the kind of man who would never, ever drive a bent nail deeper into the grain of wood just to get the job done.

    Rare, huh?

    And why, I believe, there is more at work in our marriage than two people trying their best.

    Hands. I know you know what I mean.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli’s latest book is Among Friends. 
  • Thursday, July 01, 2010 1:32 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    Here, the night is yours.  

    No one lurking in its dark folds.  

    Marvel in the journey.   

    Rest your head against a tree bole,

    slide onto a dilapidated bench,

    or march into Green Lake.   

    No one will ask where you’ve been.  

    Enter night’s quietude, pull it inside you.

    You are beholden to the Milky Way,  

    the maples, and stones tripping feet.  

    You don’t grow more balanced,

    but find ease with being unbalanced.   

    Even in solitude, you aren’t.  

    The crows, the caterpillars,

    the squirrels in their dreys.

    The ground you traverse

    will not mislead you.  

    It will hold you up.

    Janée J. Baugher
    Seattle, Washington

    Janée J. Baugher, originally from Renton, is the author of the collection of poems, Coördinates of Yes (Ahadada Books, 2010). She teaches Creative Writing at Richard Hugo House.  Visit:
  • Friday, April 02, 2010 12:21 AM | Anonymous

    A few weeks ago Art Access publisher, Debbi Lester, shared some news with you about an exciting new collaboration that Art Access has developed with Scene in Seattle. We hope you’ve had time to take a look at this new Art Access website. We officially launch it to the world on First Thursday in April.


    The new website includes many of the features you’ve come to trust from Art Access, plus a whole lot more. We’ve designed it to be a comprehensive source for Northwest art information that includes exhibition listings, artist images, maps, searchable data bases, live news feeds and promotional videos. The result is a fantastic site that positions Art Access and Scene in Seattle as the clear leaders for information about the Northwest art scene.

    We’re incredibly excited about what we’ve done; click here to check out our official announcement, or paste the following link into your web browser

    The team at Scene in Seattle will be
     stopping by soon to assist with updat
    ing your Gallery Profiles. Look for Lanae, Rebeqa and Emma to help you maximize your presence on this great new tool. If you wish to schedule an appointment, please do so at:

    We’d also like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Scared of Genre videographer Brad Strain, our trusted
    resource for video footage of the
    Seattle art scene. You can schedule a First Thursday video shoot 
    or a gallery venue shoot by contacting Brad at:

    As we’ve fine tuned the details of this exciting new venture, even more
     opportunities have come up that I’d like to share with you. 

    Art Monaco

    We have the chance to promote Art Access to the global art community at Art Monaco ’10 Special Edition in April. La Familia Gallery will be one of the exhibitors at Art Monaco, and they look forward to promoting the new Art Access website as the premier portal for information about the Seattle art community.

    Teatro ZinZanni and SIFF
    In an effort to expand the reach of our message and present art to a larger audience, Art Access is also collaborating with Teatro ZinZanni and Seattle International Film Festival. The first event is coming up soon--please join Caffe Umbria and Art Access as Teatro ZinZanni presents "A Feast of Fools" on Thursday, April 1, 6:30-8:30 P.M. at Caffe Umbria, 320 Occidental Avenue South in Seattle. Celebrate a souffle of songs, silliness, sumptuous coffee, and the launch of the new Art Access website

    All of this activity - new collaborations, new website, new video features, marketing at Art Monaco - reflects Art Access and Scene in Seattle’s shared passion for increasing Seattle’s presence in the regional, national and international art scene, and our desire to make Seattle a “destination spot” for great art. We hope you enjoy. 
  • Monday, March 29, 2010 12:12 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    At 90 Alden Mason still makes it to his Ballard studio three to four times a week. But for a few canvases from the 1990s, Mason’s current show at Foster/White Gallery consists of 20 recently made works on paper all sized at 26 by 35 inches. 

    In these latest works, lines of oil stick create a resist for watercolor and India ink. Gaze long enough and you can see Mason’s delicate pencil lines beneath, outlines whose makings calm hands that otherwise shake.  

    In “Untitled: White Writing Square Heads,” cartoon-like figures bounce in an active field. Watercolor clouds of emerald green that match the color of gems made from Mt. St. Helens’ ash balloon across oil stick ‘writings’ to envelop ultramarine blue globs of watercolor paint that one could re-moisten and dip a brush in. Crisp rims of bare, white paper left where watercolor approaches oil gives the illusion of shapes having been cut out and pasted on. You could call this work
    organically optical.  

    One could pitch these works as “Sam Francis meets Jean Dubuffet,” because everybody meets somebody.  

    If the world were more attuned to University of Washington’s David Shields who believes we ought to be able to use other’s quotes and passages without having to credit them, rather like a DJ sampling songs, I could simply run together all the fabulous lines from past reviews of Mason’s work.   

    In a Seattle Times article from September of 2004, critic Matthew Kangas wrote that Mason has a “…talent that is split down the middle between total non-objective abstraction and exuberantly figurative works.”

    On the local online site Artdish back in 2007, Reiko Sundahl described Mason’s work as, “…like watching Looney Tunes through a glass of Alka Seltzer.” Description doesn’t get much better.

    In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer back in March of 2008, Regina Hackett quoted Mason talking about a childhood spent growing up in the Skagit Valley, shooting muskrats to sell for painting supplies. She quotes the artist as saying that as a child “…I loved cartoons, with figures jumping, hopping, and smooching. They were having more fun than I was. They lived in a brighter world.”

    This emotion has fueled Mason’s work for over eight decades. Tulip images from when he and his mother visited those fields are still showing up in paintings along with spirit birds, cows, and totems fashioned of chickens, dogs, and salmon.

    Mason distinguishes himself in his paintings as the guy wearing the hat. It’s the same thing with local artists James Martin and Gaylen Hansen; what is it with all these graybeards painting dark whimsy and showing up in their paintings wearing hats? Mason started wearing his when young to keep hay from going down the back of his shirt.

    In life Mason is in a wheelchair. In his paintings he skips ropes with friends. How lucky to live so long and collect friendships like a rolling snowball. Having taught at the University of Washington for 40 years – and received his BFA and MFA there! – allows for a lot of friends and fans. A few of his ex-students have also exhibited at Foster White, including Allison Collins and Chuck Close.  

    Gayle Clemans wrote in the Seattle Times in 2009 that Mason believes that his work is all about improvisation. He calls his hand a smart ass for what it draws when he closes his eyes. He calls Arshile Gorky a “kindred spirit” what with that duality of playfulness with calamity. In the same article he says that he learned while in Papua New Guinea that a blackbird is a messenger between the living and the dead.  

    Art is a messenger, and Alden Mason still uses it like it was yesterday.

    Molly Norris

    Molly Norris is an artist and writer living in Seattle, Washington. She is currently working on a documentary about the Webster’s Woods sculpture park located at the Port Angeles Fine Art Center.

    Alden Mason’s exhibit, “Endless Flirting on Paper,” is on view through April 27, at the Foster/White Gallery located at 220 Third Avenue in Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. There is a special event, “Tea with Alden Mason,” Saturday, April 17, 2 PM, please RSVP to the gallery by phone (206) 622-2833 or email For further information, please visit Also upcoming is an Alden Mason exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum from November 6, 2010 through August 21, 2011.

  • Monday, March 29, 2010 12:08 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    It is so hard to say what the dead really want.

    In the lost fires of the notebook, words stumble

    down the columns of green and white paper.

    In the notebook of the unknown index, blank

    description, we lose our blue hours. Begin with forget

    shore line, heart line, forgive me serum.

    If we’re lucky, the mind sits up straight

    in our interior garden, our house of sky

    the remodeled one car garage. Open the suitcase

    of ink and erasures; let language spill out

    in mid-air. Between ferryboat and bicycle,  

    between daybreak and meteor shower

    we create something holy:  

    apples and crackers and quiet.

    Susan Rich
    Seattle, Washington

    Susan Rich is the author of three collections of poetry including
    The Alchemist’s Kitchen just published by White Pine Press.
    Recent poems appear in the
    Antioch Review, Harvard Review,
    and The Southern Review. Visit her at

  • Monday, March 29, 2010 11:52 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    Opens April 24 at the Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. For more information, please call (360) 778-8930 or visit the website, The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 P.M. The admission is $10 general, $8 student/senior/military, and $4.50 children under 5.

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