John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Making Music”

Update: We’ve lost guest Hollis Wong-Wear; she inadvertently double booked.

We’ve replaced Hollis with pianist and composer Dayton Allemann, who lives to think about and make music. Bio below. Do come.

And if you were looking forward to seeing Hollis, you can see and hear her at the Love City Love fundraiser this Wednesday night, with Iska Dhaff and Kingdom Crumbs.  ( Go.

Event Date: Tuesday, September 17 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

We’re back! This time we’ll be looking at making music, from a particularly cross-genre point of view. The list of guests is truly wonderful.

Read on for the details.

The Guests (see the bios below)

Hanna Benn, musician, vocalist, composer

Evan Flory-Barnes, bassist and composer

Steve Peters, musician, sound artist, producer, writer

Dayton Allemann, pianist and composer

The Story

I’ve been wanting to do a music conversation for some time now. We did three discussions about sound a while back, but never anything specifically about music. This one came out of a conversation with Hanna Benn, who seems to me to live in a cross-genre world, moving through classical composition, popular, and experimental music, and sometimes doing so in the same work. I want to look at that freedom of bending genres, but I also want go into the question as to whether or not such conventional divisions in music even exist.

I’m a perennial novice in listening to and thinking about music. It strikes me that music is a stew of frequencies and tempos, chords and harmonies, thoroughly mixed and seasoned with some amount of magic: some amazing juxtaposition, some surprise, a little play between major and minor keys. It took me a long time to realize that music comes from an interplay between physics, innate human psychology, and diverse cultural conventions that have developed over centuries.

I want to learn more about how that magic works, as seen through the lens of what working composers and performers think and do, especially in terms of a mixing of the conventions and frameworks for what music is.

We have an excellent group of guests. But I know hundreds of amazing musicians in Seattle and could have chosen another four to create a completely different conversation (which I may do down the road). For now, I hope some of them show up for this discussion; the point of a roundtable rather than a formal panel is that we draw from diverse and sometimes unexpected sources.

I’m also impressed with the amount and quality of music happening here. Last night I stopped by “LoveCityLove,” a pop-up music venue initiated by Lucien Pellegrin, where two of our guests, Evan and Hollis, were doing musical improv with the ever-excellent musician and impresario Amos Miller. For a couple of hours, it was the best place in town to be. The same happen with Steve Peters’s Nonsequitur events in the Chapel in Wallingford and numerous other corners of this town.

Do come. This will be good.

The Guests in Detail

Dayton Allemann is a pianist and composer based in Seattle. He is heavily engaged in programming and creating electronics to integrate live music with digital media; primarily real-time video.

Originally from California, Dayton graduated from Cornish College of the Arts and went from there to Germany, where he worked as accompanist and performer for the Nationaltheater Mannheim and the Hamburg Ballet. This led to commissions for ballets and other dance pieces and collaboration on experimental choreography projects.

With his company “Magpai Production Group,” he toured extensively in Europe. He was co-founder of the theater space “La Fragua” in Spain, where he led weekly experimental workshops for musicians and visual artists which gave rise to collaborative performances in several festivals including the Biennale Lyon, ImpulsTanz Vienna, Dimanches de la danse aux Halles de Schaerbeek Brussels, AlterArte Alicante, and Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis.

Returning to Seattle in 2007, Dayton played for the Pacific Northwest Ballet and collaborates on theatrical and musical projects (Cafe Nordo, The Spyrographs, DAE, LoFi) and gives solo performances (“Shoulder,” “Der Komet”).

Currently, he works extensively with Arduino and other microprocessor systems to create live performances that integrate acoustic instruments and sensor arrays.

Hanna Benn is a composer, vocalist, and musician currently residing in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts, where she studied composition and sacred vocal music with Bern Herbolsheimer, Jarrad Powell, and Jessika Kenney. She is the lead singer and co-founder of Pollens (Tapete Records), a Seattle-based experimental pop band. Her works and arrangements have been performed by various ensembles including St. Marks Cathedral Choir (Seattle), Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Saint Helen’s String Quartet, Seattle Chamber Players, Opus 7, Fleet Foxes, Campfire OK, and Christ Church Cathedral Choir (Indianapolis). Hanna is currently a member of the choral ensembles The Esoterics and Plymouth Congregational Church Choir. (

Bassist and composer Evan Flory-Barnes is a Seattle native who has been composing and performing music since he attended Garfield High School. He was a member of the award winning symphony orchestra at Garfield while writing music for the hip-hop group Maroon Colony. He is purposeful in his resolve to use his music to remove the barriers imposed on music, musicians, and society – no genres. His vision is to create music that reflects beauty; stirs the emotions; and, enlightens the soul.

Evan’s work spans the depth and breadth of the musical spectrum. His unique creative and expert skills in his art are a natural gift and talent inherited from both sides of his family.  He has been blessed to have benefitted from training and wisdom from his mentors and teachers: Marcus Tsutakawa, Barry Liebermann, Doug Miller, Marc Seales, John Clayton, Rufus Reid, Ray Brown, Francois Rabbath, John Patitucci, Jovino Santos Neto,and Hadley Caliman.

Evan has performed regularly with:  Meklit Hadero, the Marc Seales Quintet, Jovino Santos Neto, Correo Aereo, Skerik’s Bandalabra, Jason Parker Quartet, and Choklate.

Evans’s own bands and orchestra:  Threat of Beauty, Industrial Revelation, The Teaching, Rubato Hug, and Thrown Together With Love. Evan’s transcendence of genres and musical limits has allowed him to collaborate with all of these groups on compositions that augment their musical styles. His peerless performances represent his talent as a composer and artist. (

Steve Peters makes music and sound for a wide range of contexts using environmental recordings, found/natural objects, electronics, various instruments, and human voices, assembled in the studio through an intuitive mix of structure, improvisation, and chance. He played in indie rock bands in Olympia and free improvisation in NYC in the 1980s; in the 90s he lived in New Mexico, where he played with Spanish folk musicians and a Javanese-American gamelan, made radio and sound art, and studied old-time fiddle. He also studied gamelan selonding in Tenganan, Bali. Now focused mainly on site-specific sound installations, he performs with the Seattle Phonographers Union and has collaborated often with visual artists, film makers, and dancers. Since 1989 he’s been Director of Nonsequitur, a non-profit org presenting experimental music and sound art, currently via the Wayward Music Series at the Good Shepherd Center Chapel in Wallingford. He also freelances as a producer, writer, and curator. His work has been released on such labels as Cold Blue, Palace of Lights, Dragon’s Eye, and 12k, and presented at art venues including (locally) Suyama Space, Anchor Art Space, Arts & Nature Festival, Jack Straw Productions, CoCA, Pt. Angeles Fine Arts Center, and Portland Art Center. His sound installation, Lições dos Antepassados (“Lessons from the Ancestors”), was created during a 2011 artist residency in Portugal and will be at Jack Straw New Media Gallery from September 20 – November 8. A collaborative project with visual artist Anna McKee will open at Francine Seders Gallery in October.

Hollis Wong-Wear is a writer, performer, and creative producer. Born in Petaluma California, she currently lives in Seattle. From her roots as a spoken word poet, she has gone on to rap in the hip-hop duo Canary Sing and sing/play keys in the groups The Flavr Blue and The Heartfelts. In 2012, she was featured as a vocalist and songwriter on albums with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Don’t Talk to the Cops, and Bocafloja. Most recently, her band The Flavr Blue appeared at SXSW, the Capitol Hill Block Party, and Bumbershoot. Recent appearances with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis include Good Morning America and Jay Leno. She is currently working on solo material.

Hollis has produced a multitude of events from youth poetry slams to all-ages hip hop shows to a panel series for Bumbershoot. She has also produced seven music videos, including Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop.” She currently works as the Operations Director for Blue Scholars, and performed in February in the original musical “These Streets” at ACT Theater in Seattle. (,,


The Conversations This Fall

Hi All,

I hope you all have had a wonderful summer. Autumn is fast approaching, and for me, that means a return to the bar at Vermillion, and a new season of conversations. Here is what I have in store for the coming months. Conversations are at 7 pm; details will be forthcoming. (The dates are fixed; the subjects might change, but probably not.)

As always:

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

September 17: “Making Music.” There are many thousands of ways one might approach this topic; it is, of course, huge. For this conversation, I want to explore the passionate edge between formal composition, classical music, experimentation, and the latest trends in popular music. For guests, I currently have the impressive Hanna Benn and Evan Flory Barnes; I’m looking for two more.

October 15: “Wildness.” Thoreau’s quote is famous: “In wildness in the preservation of the world.” I think he’s right, but it does suggest a question: “What is wildness?” We tentatively have artist Susan Robb as a guest; I’m working now on formalizing the full list.

November 19: “The Artist as Entrepreneur.” I’m thinking that more and more, especially with traditional arts funding sources stretched to the bone, we are seeing artists creating projects that function a lot like small businesses. They’re entrepreneurial, risk taking. How does all that work, and how does the entrepreneurial activity affect the art? The first guest is Joselynn Engstrom, managing director of the Acrobatic Conundrum; I’m getting others.

December 17: something about food. Stay tuned.

Best Regards,


A Conversation with Julia Hensley

at the opening of “BLACKgreyWHITE”

Gage Academy of Art’s Steel Gallery

Event Date: Friday August 2, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (Conversation at 7 pm)

1501 10th Avenue East

The Vermillion conversations remain on hiatus until September. Bur we’re continuing with a set of one-off conversations throughout the summer. Next up is a discussion I’ll be having with Julia Hensley as part of the exhibit she put together as guest curator at Gage.

In the show, black and white works are linked by gray works in a structured installation, with new work by Amy-Ellen Flatchestedmama Trefsger, Counsel Langley, Robert Hardgrave, Troy Gua, Cable Griffith, Anne Blackburn, Sharon Arnold, and Hensley herself.

Julia and I will engage a conversation about the following:

Artist statements, curator notes, wall texts, visitor guides, and reviews each serve a purpose, but how does their presence affect how we encounter visual art? What is the relationship of written and spoken language to silent, visual language; and how do words influence both the viewer’s experience and the artist’s process?

Do come.

Julia Hensley is a visual artist and visual arts educator currently exploring themes of space, technology and trash in a range of media. Trained at Boston University, Hensley’s work has shown at galleries including Paul Thiebaud Gallery in San Francisco and Foster White Gallery in Seattle.

To link to this notice:

To link to the exhibit notice:

Art as Adventure, a Conversation with KeseyPollock

Event date: Tuesday, July 9

8 to 9:30 pm

2231 First Avenue

As always, the conversation is free. Tell your friends.


We’re back, a little sooner than planned, with a one-off, non-Vermillion conversation. Read on….

Regular readers of these notes know that earlier this year I had my head, shoulders, and chest cast in wax. The experience was part of a huge project by artists Steph Kese and Erin Pollock. The two worked for months casting people, sometimes just a mask, but more often a partial figure or a full body. They would select and cast someone, and then they would paint the resulting sculpture to create a figure who was often strangely different from the person cast. They would place each figure into that character’s backstory and photograph the scenario created. Then they melted each figure and recorded the process. Jen Graves wrote a good description of the project for the Stranger, at (My sad doppelganger is at For more background, see

The resulting exhibit, filled with photos, videos, paintings, and drawings, opened in Belltown over the past weekend and runs through July 14. The show brings up many questions, and I asked the two if we might do a conversation.

I like the work a lot. But I think that what has impressed me especially is the two women’s passion, their devotion to a practice, to a set of ideas and an aesthetic. It’s the extent to which they turned their art into a deeply experienced adventure, marked by ingenuity and exploration, with a willingness to work long and often grueling hours to produce the current show.

So there’s a lot to talk about: the artist as entrepreneur, the whole idea of lavishing huge amounts of work on an artifact, only to destroy it and thus create another artifact; the role of the voluminous notes and topographical drawings in the process; the passion for vivid color; the exhausting value in cross-disciplinary art; the insertion of narrative in the process, and so on.

(The discussion begins at 8, but the space will be open from 4 to 8 for regular hours, so come early to get a look at the work.)

Wine will be served.

Do come.


And of course, one plug: The Acrobatic Conundrum opens next weekend, (, fusing acrobatics, aerial performance, dance, and theater. In July, with “The Way Out,” Conundrum artistic director Terry Crane and managing director Joselynn Engstrom join forces with choreographer Elizabeth Rose, who has also worked to bring together dance and aerial in such projects as TickTock and Physical Graffiti.

The show happens weekends in July at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center on Delridge in West Seattle. Info and tickets: Here is a video pulled from past work: Here is a wonderful piece that the group put together as part of a video contest sponsored by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: They didn’t win, but were runners up, and the video has had more than 25,000 views.

Conversations, the Summer Ahead, and a Few Good Plugs.

The conversations always go on holiday for the summer. They’ll be back in September. It has been a good year, with discussions ranging into theater, trash, exclusion and inclusion, the art of intoxication, the future of this city, and conversation itself. I’m looking forward to more great encounters in the fall.

For now, I want to leave you with some words about a few of the things in Seattle that are exciting me this summer.

First is the long-awaited opening of the KeseyPollock show on June 29. After raising a record $45,000 on Kickstarter (video at, these two artists have been working 70/80-hour weeks for months, striving to finish what has become a massive project. They’ve been casting people in wax and various other meltable substances, painting the figures, and then melting them and capturing the melt in photographs, video, and drawings. They’re not making portraits; I was cast late this winter, and the figure they created was someone I didn’t recognize. It was, well…, maybe you’ll just need to show up and see. I watched my figure being melted, but I haven’t yet seen the video documentation of that. I’m very much looking forward to it.

The opening promises to be the art party of the summer, complete with Peruvian cebiche bar. Basic facts: June 29, 5:30, 2231 First Avenue in Belltown. “All are welcome.” The show runs June 30 to July 14. See for more information. And go.

Also that night is Chocolatada, a big fundraiser for the much valued and wonderful Backbone Campaign, the political theater and activism group originally conceived in 2004 to give some backbone to the Democrats, as I recall. It’s “a night of chocolate, wine, fingerfood, & fun,” with much music, aerial performers, and more. Sounds excellent. That happens from 7 to 10 at Om Culture, on the north side of Lake Union. Maybe after a stop in Belltown…. For more info, see

Longtime readers of these notes know that I love circus, especially circus that bends the limits and strives toward creating something completely new. In Seattle, the best practitioner of such things is the Acrobatic Conundrum (, which fuses acrobatics, aerial performance, dance, and theater. In July, with “The Way Out,” Conundrum artistic director Terry Crane and managing director Joselynn Engstrom join forces with choreographer Elizabeth Rose, who has also worked to fuse dance and aerial in such projects as TickTock and Physical Graffiti.

The show happens weekends in July at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center on Delridge in West Seattle. Info and tickets: Here is a video pulled from past work: Here is a wonderful piece that the group put together as part of a video contest sponsored by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: They didn’t win, but were runners up, and the video has had almost 25,000 views. I’m pleased to note that both Elizabeth and Terry are alums of this conversation series, as is Macklemore, for that matter.

This Saturday afternoon, I’ll be emceeing one of the stations of the Solstice Parade in Fremont ( I’ll be in front of Wright Brothers Cycle Works ( Do come by if you’re around. This is the parade’s 25th birthday, and there are some changes in the works. For the first time in 25 years, the parade is starting at 3 pm rather than noon. I’m guessing that a lot of people may still show up very early, so it makes sense to do the same. Fear not: for those so inclined, the parade will now feature beer gardens right on the route. One will be in the parking lot next to Roxy’s; the other in the lot in front of Makerhaus, where Evo used to be, near the beginning of the parade. And you can dash around the corner to check out the fair and the art cars

But the most amazing new development is that the Parade and Honk Fest West ( have joined forces, so that the streets will be filled with wild and wonderful street bands, before the parade, in the parade, and afterward, at the big party at Gasworks.

Intiman’s delightful summer theater festival is back, with four plays: Dario Fo’s great “We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!,” a production of Lysistrata, an inspiring and heart warming musical about the nation’s first openly transgendered mayor (in Silverton, Oregon), and “Trouble in Mind,” telling the story of an integrated theater company on Broadway in 1957. . For those that need to, check out the pay what you can previews.

Smoke Farm’s LoFi Arts festival is coming on August 24. It promises to be fabulous. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the amazing collaboration between Sari Breznau and Bret Fetzer, among many other performances and installations. Walk the fields and encounter art and music scattered about. I’ll be telling a few stories at the festival, fantastic stories but still grounded in the flora, fauna, and history of the place. For tickets:

There’s so much more. Just looking around, next week starting June 27, there’s an art show at Seattle Central Community College “Leaves from a Different Tree. Curated by the inestimable Alan Lau, it features works by Lucia Enriquez, Kanetaka Ikeda, and Mark Takamichi Miller. And this Friday night is clothing designer Michael Cepress’s big “American Dreaming” showcase:

And so it goes, and goes. Seattle is a vital city.

I hope you have a wonderful summer. 

John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Kicking Seattle up a Notch or Two”

Event Date: Tuesday, May 14 from 7:30 to 9:30 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 about what it would take to greatly raise Seattle’s profile as an arts center, “taking Seattle up a notch,” for want of a better tagline. Read on for the details.

The Guests (see the bios below)

Andrew Russell, Artistic Director, Intiman

Andy Fife, independent consultant, teacher, writer

Greg Lundgen, artist, impresario, and restauranteur

Shari Behnke, creative philanthropist

The Story

This time we’ll be talking about Seattle’s reach and reputation, how those affect what we do in terms of making art, and how they might grow. I’ve been thinking about the city’s tendency to see the world of the arts a place of finite resources. What are the alternatives? Greg Lundgren, in a recent presentation at the Hedreen Gallery, called for more ambition among Seattle’s artists, something he’s channeling with his Walden 3 project. Another idea I’ve heard lately is the desire to be more like Austin. Should we be better exporting our arts? Or become a stronger destination? Or build our own audiences? What would any of those look like?

It’s easy to treat one’s city as a closed system, a finite system, a zero sum game, whether in building support, getting audiences, or finding artists. What you see around you is what you get. That’s especially true here, in Seattle, with the city as isolated as it is, perched out at the northwest tip of the country. Sure, we have two neighbor cities, but there is surprisingly little collaboration and cooperation between the three, and each is a bizarro version of the other two. So we function chiefly on our own. And if we see the rest of the country—or the world—as a source of sustenance and support, it is merely as a place to go, to tour a band, get an out-of-town gallery, get published or produced.

But what if there’s another whole element to Seattle’s relationship to the world around us? What if this city became a cultural destination to an extent that it has not dreamed of since the summer of the Seattle World’s Fair? How might that look? And what would it do for the vitality of the city’s cultural scenes, for the sort of resources we have available? Would it be amazing, or maybe a complete disaster?

I’ve been in several conversations recently about what it would take to move the city’s profile up a notch or two. In recent years this town has become something of a laboratory, with a level of experiment and risk taking that can be electrifying. But then what? We share our wares to our friends, bring them into our projects, put on small—or even good sized—events, and then the project dies, or maybe we think about taking it elsewhere. But what if there were ways to grow the pot, either through bringing in outsiders, growing local audiences, or raising our own sense of what a destination we have here.

And what would we want to be known for? We’re already a theater town. But we’re also a dance town, an experimental music town, a literature town. And we’re definitely a hip hop town: We produce fine graphic novels ( and we have a growing and energetic circus community:

So what are we? And what can we become? Come and talk about it.

The Guests in Detail

Andrew Russell is Artistic Director at Seattle’s Intiman Theatre where he has directed several productions, workshops and readings. Other credits include directing the acclaimed new musical THE CALLERS for Washington Ensemble Theatre, FOR A LOOK OR A TOUCH for the Seattle Men’s Chorus, Jeanine Tesori’s AMERICAN SONGBOOK concert for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and overseeing Tony Kushner and Tesori’s COURAGE IN CONCERT at The Public Theater. Also in New York, he has directed for Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Subjective Theatre Company, The Gallery Players, Downtown Urban Theater Festival, Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, Columbia University and New York University. While in NYC Andrew also interned with Warner Bros. TV Casting, was an agent with Peter Strain and Associates, and worked in creative development with David Stone. BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in Acting.

Andy Fife is an independent consultant, coach, teacher and writer in arts and nonprofit management, located in the Puget Sound Region and working throughout the country.  His primary focus is on the intersection of art, civics and commerce, helping cultural institutions and programs to bring relevant and impactful social benefit to broad and diverse communities.  He has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience in arts and nonprofit management, especially in small- to mid-sized organizations, and specializing in new initiatives, programs and businesses.

He most recently served as Executive Director of Shunpike, a nonprofit arts service organization that provides support to hundreds of arts groups and projects annually.  At Shunpike he served as the primary spokesperson, consultant, advisor and director for all programs and activities.  Prior, he coordinated the Publicity Office of the Seattle International Film Festival, and was Director of Operations at the former art center Consolidated Works.

Current board responsibilities include the Washington State Arts Commission and the Seattle Arts Commission’s Facility and Economic Development committee. A musician, theater director and writer, he received a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and participated in Seattle’s Leadership Tomorrow program, a series of training activities designed to develop effective community leaders in the region.


Shari D. Behnke is president and founder of the New Foundation Seattle. She is a creative philanthropist and art collector based in Seattle, WA. She has a varied history of contributing to the growth and vitality of the community in which she lives by participating on non-profit boards and creating programs that serve the public. In the past twenty-five years Shari has created: the Behnke Foundation, which under her leadership founded The Neddy, an unrestricted cash award for Seattle-based visual artists; The Child Care Fund at Cascadia Revolving Fund, a micro-lending program for Day Care providers that was recognized by President Clinton in 1977 for its innovation; Two Cupcakes Production, a manufacturing company of fingerless gloves whose profits funded the “It’s a Wrap” award and a scholarship for apparel design students at Seattle Central Community College; The Brink, a collaborative award with the Henry Art Gallery for an emerging visual artist in the Northwest region; and most recently, she co-chaired the Innovation Campaign for Building Changes.

The New Foundation Seattle was created to strengthen the position of contemporary visual art and production through concentrated support of individual artistic development, and the presentation of public programs that foster the exchange of ideas about art and its role today.


More information about Greg Lundgren is at and

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.

Next Episode: “Inclusion/Exclusion”


Event Date: Tuesday, March 19 from 7:30 to 9:30 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

This time, we’re talking about exclusion and inclusion, about welcoming in and about pushing out. See below for the whole story.


The Guests

You, this time….


The Story

I’ve been thinking lately about inclusion and exclusion. These opposing concepts tend to intertwine, and they often lie in tandem at the center of the ways in which we create our societies. They are at the root of tribalism: members of my tribe, clan, gang, platoon, ethnic group, or football team are better than those who are not members of my tribe, clan, and so forth. And they are at the core of the dynamics of adolescence: in youth, too often one is either part of the school in-crowd or the various groups who cluster around the in-crowd, or one is an outcast. Or in the case of a great true dork, even joining the outcasts is unattainable.

Exclusion and inclusion also form the root of how we build concepts of class, and of course of race, especially in terms of exclusion from place and from opportunity. And they are integral to how we build a sense of privilege. They are how we build deep friendships and exercise compassion, and how we inflict pain. They are how some of us live in exclusive gated communities, while others are exiled to a life on the street.

I’ve been wondering what would be the qualitative differences—and parallels—between these two statements: the first that old saw of white separatists, made all the more vicious for its ostensible innocuousness, “I have nothing against black people. I just don’t want to have to live next to them.” And the following: “Let’s not invite Betty to Thanksgiving dinner this year. She talks so much, and she’s bound to get into an argument with your uncle.” Is there a parallel?

In the arts, discussions of inclusion and exclusion seem to be everywhere these days. I’ve sometimes heard it said that large parts of the visual arts scene in Seattle are cliquish. I can easily see where that perception might come from, but I don’t think it’s true. To the extent that there is a certain incestuousness here, I think that it comes from laziness more than anything else.

Instances of the discussion pop up all over. The lovely musical play currently at ACT, “These Streets,” is in part an attempt to remedy the exclusion of women musicians from the history of Seattle grunge. ( Anna Telcs reports that her ongoing project “The Dowsing” is in part a response to the exclusiveness—and exclusion—of contemporary fashion ( and

Or listening to Karen Finneyfrock read from her new young adult novel, “The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door,” at Hugo House a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the ways in which Celia negotiates that pure pain of being alone, a high school outcast. And by the fascinating juxtaposition of that isolation with the outpouring of inclusion that bathed Finneyfrock that evening. She was surrounded by friends, colleagues, and fans who obviously love her very much (

Or looking at the offerings from the amazing and peripatetic White Privilege Conference, which will descend on Seattle this April ( Privilege, especially when it is built so seamlessly into the fabric of everyday life, is all about insidious forms of inclusion and exclusion. If we seek justice, to what extent does injustice stem from a lack of access, access to just about everything.

And I’ve been thinking about the many recent conversations about Charles Krafft. As laid out in Jen Graves’s well-written and well-researched Stranger article ( and Krafft’s interview on a podcast (, Krafft, a veteran artist who has long included Nazi imagery in his work, identifies as a “White Nationalist” and sees the Holocaust as “a myth that is being used to perpetuate multiculturalism and globalism.” He feels that in the United States “we are living under a Marxist tyranny.” The reaction to the Graves article has been intense, spawning a number of articles, discussion threads, and Facebook posts. Some conversations devolve into an absurd back and forth as to how many Jews were killed in World War II. Others involve thoughtful discourse, while still others seem to be dialog from bad theater. And meanwhile, the discussion has spread across the continent, as in and

In Seattle, the conversation among artists has been colored by the fact that a lot of people here have genuinely liked Charlie over the years, liked him for his perverseness, a deep sense of the weird, and his role as a provocateur. For now, the surge seems to be toward excluding the excluder, banishing him and his artwork from polite society, or at least polite artistic society, if that’s not too much an oxymoron. But I’m not sure what that exclusion means; I think that Krafft exiled himself some time ago.

Or elsewhere, on a lighter note: I’ve just missed another year of the fabulous BIL Conference, which happened last week in Los Angeles. BIL is a low-budget, very-low-cost, heavily participatory, and volunteer-run conference of ideas ( It reminds me a little of the much smaller Smoke Farm Symposium ( BIL is in part an inclusive response to the elitism of the TED conferences. The BIL organizers are proud that the cost of putting on an entire 600-person BIL conference is less than the cost of two or three tickets to TED. TED recordings are plentiful. But with tickets at anywhere from $3,500 to $7,000, actual attendance to a TED event has long been primarily reserved for wealthy jetsetters. BIL goes the other direction. Oh, and as for what the name means, think BIL and TED….

Finally, I haven’t put together any formal guests for this conversation. As a wise friend pointed out, having invited guests to a conversation about inclusion and exclusion doesn’t make a lot of sense. As usual, you’re the experts.

Come and talk, or come and listen. Or both.

Next Episode: Conversation!

Event Date: Tuesday, February 19 from 7:30 to 9:30 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

This time, we’re talking about conversation, looking at why and how we talk. We’ll have a guest host, Randy Engstrom, the Interim Director of the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. And we’ll have one guest, noted conversationalist John Boylan. See below for more details. And please note the time; we’ll be starting a little later than usual.

The Guest (see the bios below)

John Boylan, writer, raconteur, provocateur

The Story

This will be a conversation about conversation, why we talk, what we say, and what we expect to find when we talk with each other. And we’ll go into why this conversation series exists, and what it has—or has not—accomplished over the years.

John Boylan writes:

I tend to see conversation as a core glue or mortar with which we build both our identities as individuals and the relationships with which we construct our families and our communities. It’s how we become who we are. It’s not the only glue, and it may not be the most important. But it certainly has the deepest potential for both stark pain and soaring uplift. It is, after all, how we are educated, how we make decisions, how we most immediately express our desires.

Often conversation delights. For me that happens when I find myself in discussion with someone of excellent imagination, or someone who just knows a lot and in the course of an evening’s conversation can make me stretch my mind.

Sometimes conversation pisses me off, as in a crowded theater…, but let’s go into that when we meet. Do come.

Thanks to John Perkins, Meredith Clark, and Randy Engstrom for excellent conversations that led to this one.

The Guests in Detail

Randy Engstrom has been a passionate advocate and organizer for cultural and community development for over 10 years.  He is currently the Interim Director of the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. He served as Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission in 2011 after serving 2 years as Vice-Chair, and was chair of the Facilities and Economic Development Committee from 2006 to 2010. He was most recently the Deputy Director of the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA), a community development organization that seeks to create a thriving neighborhood through a variety of creative programs and services. Randy served as the Interim Director of the King County Food and Fitness Initiative while working at DNDA, where he stewarded a multi-faceted program that sought to create policy and systems change in the food-retail, school and built environment sectors.  He was also the Founding Director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, a multimedia/multidisciplinary community space that offers youth and community member’s access to arts, technology, and cultural resources ( opened in 2006. Prior to DNDA and Youngstown, Randy spent 3 years as the Founding CEO of Static Factory Media, an artist development organization that owned and operated a record label, bar/performance venue, graphic design house, recording studio, and web development business. Before Static Factory Randy was the Program Coordinator of the Fremont Unconventional Center, a non-profit event space dedicated to helping other charitable organizations with their fundraising efforts through event facilitation and support.  He is also a founding member of Stronghold Arts Collective, an artist live/work project comprising four neighboring houses collectively owned by eight resident artists. In 2009 Randy received the Emerging Leader Award from Americans for the Arts and was one of Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. He is a graduate of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, and he received his Executive Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs.

John Boylan is a writer, conversationalist, and provocateur. Since the 1997 he has run a roundtable conversation series about art, politics, and culture at large. The series has featured more than 300 guests, including some of Seattle’s most fascinating artists, scientists, poets, engineers, writers, musicians, composers, architects, actors, impresarios, and culture workers of all stripes. A history of the conversations is available at

John is active on a number of cultural and community fronts across Seattle, including service on the board of directors of Art Corps (, Seattle’s largest nonprofit arts education organization.

From 1994 to 1996 he was the editor of Reflex Magazine, which covered the visual arts in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and since has written irregularly about art and culture in Seattle. He also has several fiction projects in the works, including Ship, an experiment in serial space opera, which is about to resume production after lying fallow for some months:

John is employed by the Microsoft Corporation, where among other things he runs a website for software developers, He has two bachelor’s degrees from the Pennsylvania State University, in history and English literature, and a master’s degree in communications from the University of Washington. His master’s thesis looked at the ways in which the New York Times contextualized the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations for an American audience.

Next Episode: The Art of Intoxication

Event Date: Tuesday, December 18 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

A perfumer, a chocolatier, a whiskey maker, and a poet/wine merchant walk into a bar…. See below for more.

The Guests

Chocolatier Joanna Lepore

Perfumer Christi Meshell

Poet and Wine Merchant Doug Nufer

And a whiskey maker, still to come

The Story

We’re full on into the holiday season, with all the lights and the parties, and the feasts, and of course, huge amounts of crass mass merchandising. But generosity abounds, and this year, I’m seeing an exceptional degree of optimism, along with more thankfulness than there’s been in a long time.

As I write this, people in Washington state have begun taking their first legal tokes, legal sort of. More important, lesbians and gay men have begun joyously getting marriage licenses. Family relationships that have endured for decades have finally become legal. And this coming Sunday, hundreds or thousands of people will kiss the bride or the groom, each in a heady, rapturous moment of excitement and exhilaration.

It’s time to talk about intoxication, and the art thereof.

No, this is not a conversation about the art of getting drunk. We can leave that to the packs of restless twenty-somethings who roam the streets of Pike-Pine or Belltown at 2 am on a Saturday night, desperately seeking something.

Instead, I want to talk about moments of exhilaration, a rush of often-complex pleasure or meaning, of deep sensation. I want to look at those precious moments of experience, stimulation, even delirium, when the head is spinning with too much: too much pleasure, too much insight, too much input, life showing its overdetermined side, in the language of Freud and Marxist critique.

We all constantly have such moments, maybe more than we realize. Everything becomes so intense, if only for a few seconds, that everyday life is displaced; we step outside of ourselves. A moment of intoxication can come with an epiphany so deep that one runs naked down the street shouting “Eureka!” It can come in that split-second when, exhausted and in a zone, one feels the finish-line tape breaking. It can come with a first step into a pine forest, with everything rushing in at once: the scent, the prickly softness of the forest floor, the cool feel of the air, the majesty of the space. Or when we find ourselves doubled up helpless with laughter. Or it can be that moment when one meets someone who, through force of intellect, an extraordinary smile, or simple power of personality or spirit, leaves one completely breathless.

A conversation about intoxication might be approached from many angles, with maybe a theologian, a psychologist, a daredevil, and a great comedian as guests. But instead, this time I want to bring together people whose art and livelihood provide moments of sensory exhilaration: the first taste of a complex wine, the feel of a piece of chocolate as it coats the tongue with a rush of sensations, a jolting and delightfully flavorful sip of whiskey, or the scent of a perfume that evokes love, or a time far gone.

Come. Talk about the art of intoxication.


Conversation series alum and Seattle Met style editor Laura Cassidy is curating a film series “Screen Style” at NWFF this weekend. Each film was chosen by a local style expert, including two other series alums, Robin Held and Anna Telcs. All will be at a panel discussion at NWFF this Saturday, December 8. Laura writes, “The panelists will join me in talking about these movies and others, and the way they inspire us to better understand and adorn our world.” For information on the films and the whole project, see


I am truly impressed at the work that series alum, fellow Canoeist and scenic designer Jennifer Zeyl is doing to put together the wedding chapels for this Sunday’s huge wedding extravaganza at City Hall. Wonderful.

The Guests in Detail (actually, this time there’s not much detail; I’m expecting more bio information soon)

Joanna Lepore is Confection Production Manager at Theo Chocolates.

Christi Meshell is the proprietor of House of Matriarch, an award-winning natural perfumerie in Seattle.

Doug Nufer is the author of seven or eight books, including the poetry collection We Were Werewolves and the novels Never Again and By Kelman Out of Pessoa.  He has been in the wine business for nearly a quarter century, in a wine shop on Capitol Hill.