John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Trash!”

Event Date: Tuesday, April 16 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

A history of the conversations is available at

The Summary

For our next conversation, we’ll be talking trash. No, not that kind of talking trash. We’ll be looking at the ubiquitous stuff that we generate every day. Read on for the details.

The Guests (see the bios below)

Robin Worley, artist, designer, activist

Julia Hensley, artist, teacher

Karen Hackenberg, artist

The Story

This time, the conversation turns to trash: the stuff we throw out, and the many roles it plays in our lives. It’s invisible, taken for granted, except when it’s not, when we find ourselves swimming in it, say. In Seattle, we’ve trained ourselves to separate our trash and our compost, which can change the nature of the stuff: trash contaminated with meat blood or the rotting remains of last month’s moldy casserole becomes leaking garbage, a different thing entirely from the general things, the stuff, the detritus of everyday life.

It’s no great insight to realize that our trash, or lack of it, is a record of how we lead our lives, what is important to us, how we buy and prepare our food, what we break, what wears out and what doesn’t. Muck like spoor, human or otherwise, it tell us about those who left it behind. When it is not preoccupied with burial remains, archaeology has long been about looking at trash, middens and ruins and broken tools. Future diggers will wonder about out trash. What important object would have been kept in those thick layers of impenetrable and unbreakable plastic? A reliquary? A rare token? Or a pair of cheap earphones? The late archaeologist William Rathje didn’t wait for the future; he spent the past several decades employing the techniques of careful excavation to explore how we live our lives now: His book Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage is essential reading for understanding the nature of what we throw away:

Trash has long been integral to how we make art, from found musical instruments to DuChamp’s readymades and Picasso’s Bull’s Head ( and Tinguely’s self-destroying kinetic sculptures: and

I’ve asked a few artists who have been working with trash in Seattle to join us for a conversation on trash. Julia Hensley just completed BIO, an installation at Joe Bar made from five months of her retained trash ( The installation was beautiful in a way that is unique to commercial packaging. It was also fascinating to look at the piece and realize how much of a self-portrait it was: a revealing portrait of how she lived her life over those months. And Robin Worley, who suggested this conversation a year ago, has long been a spearhead of the trash fashion world: making clothes out of cast-off stuff, to both call attention to the ubiquity of wasted junk in our lives, and produce some truly beautiful clothing. One of my favorites is still the beautiful dress made from a discarded inflatable rubber raft in 2009 (

I’m also working on getting a solid waste person and possibly another trash fashion designer. Stay tuned. And do come.

May’s conversation (May 14) will be the last until fall. We’ll be talking about “Exporting Seattle,” about the culture that we want to be known for as a city, and how to get there.

The Guests in Detail

Robin Worley, aka Rayona Visqueen, is a fine artist and fashion designer who makes her home in the Puna District on the Big Island of Hawaii. She began her illustrious career in Trash Fashion Design in Northern California in 1986 as a model for Polly Ethylena, the founder of Haute Trash, and was then christened Rayona Visqueen. In 1988 Robin/Rayona showed her first full line of couture from trash, and she just never stopped. She took to producing the shows in 1991 and has hundreds to her credit.

Robin lived for a stint in the Pacific Northwest where she conceived of the fashion aspects of the annual Recycled Art & Fashion Show sponsored by The RE Store in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington.

Rayona works semi-annually with the original group in California to produce events and this core group, who now live far and wide, usually always mail pieces back and forth or even travel to be part of the outlying events. The next of these will be April 13th at the Burke Museum, and April 20th in Missouri.

Since 2000, Rayona has toured a mini-show each summer, when she can, to the Oregon Country Fair and then continues on with the New Old Time Chautauqua, an all-volunteer educational vaudeville show dedicated to laughter and community. With this group she has traveled to California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and British Columbia.

Haute Trash is a humorous and irreverent look at this disposable culture we live in. It’s a group of talented designers using society’s waste to create stunning high fashion with meaning. In France the term “haute couture” is understood to be fashion that is more than just pleasing to the eye. It implies fashion that is thought provoking. It is this interpretation of haute couture that guides and inspires the creativity that goes into these fashion shows. We explore the fine line between convenience and real needs. We unveil the mysterious beauty and truth of our waste. We help you look at your trash in a new way.

Julia Hensley is a visual artist currently exploring themes of space, technology, and trash in a range of media from collage painting to sculpture and installation. Matter is a unifying idea in her work, or as she puts in her current statement, “Everything is made of the same stuff, vibrating at different frequencies.”

In BIO, her latest site-specific installation at Joe Bar Café on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, Hensley saved five months worth of trash and installed it on the iconic green walls as a combination portrait of a space, self- portrait, and observation on the manmade ecosystem of consumption we all participate in.

Trained in painting and drawing at Boston University, Hensley has shown her work at galleries including Foster White Gallery in Seattle, John Raimondi Gallery and Sunne Savage Gallery in Boston, and Paul Thiebaud Gallery in San Francisco.

Upcoming events include a multi-site installation for the Seattle dance company UMAMI Performance, a show she is curating at Gage Academy’s Steele Gallery, and a solo show of new work at Sharon Arnold’s LxWxH in Georgetown.


Karen Hackenberg writes:

“Have fun saving the world, or you are just going to depress yourself” – David Brower

The tenuous boundary between living nature and human encroachment is the primary unifying theme in Karen Hackenberg’s artwork.

Her Watershed series of paintings present beach trash as monolithic in the seascape and provide a visual metaphor for the magnitude of ocean debris pollution. Using a light-hearted touch while holding on to a subversive tone, she presents a tongue-in-cheek taxonomy of our new synthetic post-consumer “creatures of the sea” that now rise and take the place of native marine species. By lovingly and meticulously crafting “beautiful” images of conventionally “ugly” beach cast-offs, she creates provocative juxtapositions of form and idea, giving dark witness to looming global disaster. Marquand Books will publish the Watershed paintings this spring as a hand-bound limited-edition book funded in part by a grant by Artist Trust.

During her second Centrum for the Arts residency in 2010, she created a life-size walk-in Water Shed made from hundreds of single serving plastic water bottles, currently installed in “Art Outside” an ongoing exhibition in Webster’s Woods at PAFAC in Port Angeles, WA.

Hackenberg lives and works near Port Townsend WA. She received her BFA degree in painting from Rhode Island School of Design, and migrated west to San Francisco in 1978 before heading north and settling in the Pacific Northwest in 1992.

She developed her first connections with the natural world in the pastures, orchards, wooded hills and gently sloping beaches of rural Connecticut. Her years living in San Francisco working in architecture and as textile designer for Esprit de Corp.’s e-collection sustainable clothing line, honed her environmental values and educated her eye to the juxtaposition of man-made shapes and natural forms. When she moved to the Pacific Northwest her life experiences came full circle; she was again surrounded by the natural landscape. Her past experiences heightened her awareness of the Northwest’s struggle to find balance between increasing population and development and the preservation of wild natural places.

Exhibiting extensively in the Northwest and around the nation, Hackenberg recently participated in a seven-person invitational exhibition about ocean debris, Beneath the Surface: Rediscovering a World Worth Conserving, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science headquarters in Wash. D. C.  Her work is included in many public and private collections, including the new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, the Providence Medical Center in Everett WA, and the New York State Museum. She is a WA State Artist Trust GAP award recipient, and is a Washington State Arts Commission Public Roster Artist. Her artwork will be included in the upcoming 2013 Schiffer publication, 100 Northwest Artists, and will be in the inaugural exhibition at BIMA, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.


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