• 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.

  • Monday, March 15, 2010 7:34 PM | Anonymous

    Calvin Calls Me Sunshine

    Hey, Sunshine, how ya doin’ this morning?” asks Calvin, his smile radiating like a child’s, a stack of Real Change newspapers in the crook of his arm, “Do ya want to help me out today?”

    I say yes I do.

    I like Calvin. I get his need to smile even when the weather scowls. He gets mine. Today we smile together, a duet. We nod. We joke. For a man living on the street, Calvin has a remarkable ability to give us a positive sense of our neighborhood, of us living in it. Of our belonging here.

    And, sure, he likely calls every woman on the block the same sunny nickname. Still, I blush, a sucker for compliments.

    I’ve bought Calvin’s Real Change newspaper for months now, ever since the first time he called me Sunshine. Even as a hard wind blew grit into his eyes and a Whole Foods bag blew past his feet, he smiled. A smile that split his face in two. From that point on, we began to cross a familiarity line, shifting from an awkward exchange of a dollar to matters of the heart.

    That’s the thing about the homeless: they are there. On any given day, if you walk from the Space Needle to Pioneer Square (or the same distance in the core of your city, large or small), you will see how homelessness has spread alarmingly in all directions. It is a living thing, begging and competing, involving not only joblessness, but mental illness and all matters of despair in between.

    These days, I’ve come to view these folks as less of an “other” than as acquaintances. There really is no other choice, other than completely ignoring them, which, I admit I do sometimes, not because I’m a cruel, cold person, but there are days when I’m just trying to hold it together myself, unraveling like a ball of yarn, and I can’t cross the distance, emotionally. So I go about my day, letting in only my life, the one in front of me, the one I need to keep afloat. I admit, on these more-fragile days, I fall back on passivity. I insulate, seal off, so I can move about without caving. Because it’s not only likely that I am going to get hit up for spare change, for receptivity that will break my conscience wide open, it can be depended upon. Until, by the time I reach my destination I’m thinking I need this like a hole in the head.

    To me, though, the Real Change vendors offer a fair exchange — a buck for a well-written paper and the seller’s time to pitch it. Still, as I’m discovering a little more clearly every day, I can’t give money to all the needy vendors I pass in a Seattle downtown day, surely. So I picked Calvin.

    Calvin stands out: his genuine smile, certainly, but it’s more than that. It’s his careful attention paid to his neighbors, his quality of good nature, his intelligent eyes and narrow — but not hauntingly-thin — body. The word that comes to mind about his personality is an old-fashioned one: winning. Even when he asks “How ya doin’?” the question isn’t momentary and without care, disconnected from any real interest. He looks you straight in the eyes and listens to your reply. Ladies! How many men do you know who do the same? Once his kindness caused me to forget my troubles completely and utter what I knew to be a stinking lie: “I’m great!” A better man in need — where is he?

    I assume some of you already know the history of the Real Change News. If not, I’ll give you a short summary: says: Real Change is a hand up, not a handout.

    And it can work wonders.

    One day back in October, Calvin was on Fourth & Virginia dressed in what appeared to be a brand new suit jacket. “Calvin, you look dashing,” I said. “You’ve found your style.”

    About a month later Calvin told me he had a full-time job at the Goodwill Store in Ballard, “but I gotta keep selling my papers, comin’ back to my roots in Belltown.”

    Now? Calvin works in sales at Macy’s. “They seem to like me just fine,” he said recently. “I just hope I can keep at it, keep myself up.”

    I hope you can too Calvin. I can’t write any more just now. You inspire me beyond words.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli’s latest book is Among Friends. Does your organization need a wonderful new fundraiser? Check out The Immigrant’s Table at

  • Monday, March 01, 2010 2:00 AM | Anonymous

    We human beings have a complicated relationship with trees. We get food from them, we once lived in them and occasionally still do, we admire their beauty, and some of us have even been known to hug them. We also cut them down, burn them, poison them, and use them to build houses, toilet paper, sawdust, and toothpicks.

    All of these ideas are explored in words and images in “Speak for the Trees,” an exhibition and its companion book, both of which are showcased at Freisen Gallery from now until May 29. The book contains images of all 76 works that were submitted by painters, sculptors, photographers, glass artists, and conceptual artists from all over the world; many of them were created exclusively for this project. More than 50 of these are in the exhibition and that selection includes pieces created David Hockney, Yoko Ono, Mark Ryden, and the Starn brothers. The Northwest artists featured in this show are Julie Speidel, Spike Mafford, Michael Brophy, Martin Blank, Catherine Eaton Skinner, Laura Sharp Wilson, Steve Jensen, Janis Miltenberger, and 2009 Neddy Award Nominee Lynda Lowe.

    It’s pretty easy to get a little sentimental when it comes to trees, and some of these artists do. But that’s understandable. Trees are, after all, are the original performance artists. They live with their feet in the ground and their heads in the sky. They drop their clothes and go naked in the winter, then put them back on in the summer. Trees neither spin nor toil, unless you count that essential little product called oxygen. And they are such flagrant poets, flapping their leaves in collaboration with the wind in a million different ways to expand its vocabulary from gentle gossip to howling complaint. Think back to your earliest memories and see if they don’t include the shifting colors and mysterious sounds made by the wind playing in the trees.  

    But all of their art-for-its-own-sake tendencies tend to divert us from the fact that trees are much more than vegetable poets or hapless victims of our neglect and stupidity. They’re our caretakers. We don’t own them; they own us. Sit up and take notice because without them, we die.

    The more you look at this book and exhibition the more you understand that we’re the ones who are going to be destroyed if we don’t stop destroying trees. The trees portrayed, observed, and sometimes flagrantly worshipped in this book and exhibition, possess dignity, power, wisdom, mystery, and most especially, a fine disregard for human presence. Some of the them are a bit sinister, it’s true, but even the most benign and whimsical ones don’t seem as if they will miss us when we’re gone. These trees may be temporarily vulnerable to our stupidity but if we don’t start paying attention to their survival, we will simply disappear. They will go on ruling the earth just as they have been doing since long before we showed up. And they will be here long after our dust has settled. After all, it wasn’t the missing people who miraculously rose up out of the ashes of Mt. Saint Helens. It was the plants and trees.   

    There are plenty of pieces I like in this show but I have room to mention just a few. Lin Rabin’s “Minuum #8,” a simultaneously nano and macro point of view, leaves you wondering whether you’re looking at trees from far, far away, or deep inside a chlorophyll molecule. Tom Zetterstrom’s romantic yet respectful portrait of an American Elm makes it clear that this is a tree you would never presume to hug without a formal introduction. Jennifer Bolandis spookily manipulates images from old postcards to remind you that it’s probably not wise to venture into an Irish forest at the close of the day. Catherine Eaton Skinner’s elegant encaustic panels of trees flanking one of her signature 108 grids won’t be in the show, but the piece that replaces them is every bit as fascinating and intricate. And Louis Reiner’s painting, “On Via Fagina #4,” reminded me of how a tree looks to a child: lofty, mysterious and grand but also nurturing and very much alive.

    The trees that inspired these artists are neither fragile nor helpless. They don’t need us in order to survive; in fact they don’t need anything from us. It’s the other way around. Whatever we do to trees, we do to ourselves, only faster and more efficiently. So when we speak for trees, we’re really speaking for ourselves.  

    The message of this exhibit is that the seed has always been mightier than the sword. So go take a look. And even if you’re not a tree-hugger, you will probably start thinking about what trees have to do with our own survival.

    Kathleen Cain

    Kathleen Cain is a Seattle-based free-lance writer and bibliophile who follows art, admires trees, and refuses to sleep in the woods at night.

    “Speak for the Trees” exhibit is on view from April 1 through May 29 at Friesen Gallery which is located at 1210 Second Avenue in Seattle, Washington. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., Saturday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. The reception with many showcased artists in attendance is to be held on Thursday, April 1, from 6 to 8 P.M. For more information, please call (206) 628-9501, email, or visit the website
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