Wine Works Wonders

While serving as a guard at a local museum, I’ve dealt with patrons of all shapes, sizes, smells and behaviors. Everyone should go see art . . . however, there are some visitors at the museum that truly mystify me.

Let’s start with style. Now, I don’t pretend to be a fashion snob; in fact, when an ex once tried to get me to describe my fashion sense  being of a particular decade, my reply was: “Whatever is on sale at Mervyns.”

But even with my lack of knowledge, I can report all kinds of fashion disasters to my coworkers. Yes, when you see us talking on our walkie-talkies, we are not always discussing a highly sensitive security matter; we are occasionally, just occasionally, debating the appropriateness of wearing orange crocs with a purple skirt (or crocs at all).

Such scrutiny has trained me well. Like a good bartender, I’m familiar with the regulars. Take, for example, the Sleeping Lady. If I had to describe her fashion decade, I’d say early ’60s, pioneer hippie — like, hippie when it was still shocking. I first saw her when I was invited by artists Kate Protage and Chris Sheridan to show my own paintings in their studio space at 619 Western in Pioneer Square. The reception was going swimmingly, when I noticed a lady fast asleep in an armchair, wineglass in hand.

Illustration by Demian Johnston for City Arts

An hour later, she had not stirred. This was worrisome. Not only because I didn’t want people to think that my work was that boring, but because Sleeping Lady was a bit long of tooth. And she seemed to be alone. But eventually she woke up and went on her merry way.

I didn’t give it another thought until she appeared at our next museum reception. Aren’t museums supposed to be more refined? Nevertheless, she was there, drinking a glass or two of wine and eventually snoozing on a gallery bench.

I chalked it up to coincidence. But the next time I saw her, it was at yet another showing of my work at Trofeo in Fremont. This venue was too obscure for someone to just randomly appear out of a love of art! But because there was nowhere for her to catch a wink, she only stayed long enough for me to consider briefly that I had a stalker.

Soon after that, I focused on the next step of my art career: finding a new studio. There is a checklist for how to be a struggling artist, and, since I had already crossed off the first item on the list (“Get a mundane job to complain about”), I needed to work on item two: “Find a cool studio to impress my friends.” Then I would only have item three to contend with: “Get discovered and become famous.” No problem.

My last two studios were not ideal: one was a storage room in a basement apartment that lacked natural light and fresh air, but had an excess of dank charm. The other was too close to Safeco Field.  Imagine, just outside your window, a river of baseball fans, vendors calling “HOT DOGS!” and a guy drumming on plastic buckets. Oh, how I prayed that bucket drummer would learn some new material. 

Although there is a certain charm to showing someone a painting and explaining the derelict conditions you had to suffer through to create it, these work spaces did not impress the girls I was trying to win over.

On the other hand, a view of the water, which my new studio and gallery space (named Fat Tiger) at 619 Western has, does impress people. (Of course, to see it, you have to look through traffic on the Viaduct, but that’s just gritty urban life.) And sure enough, at our first reception, Sleeping Lady showed up and napped on our futon, gripping a plastic cup of merlot.

Since then, I rarely go to an art opening where SL doesn’t make an appearance; I see her unconscious on benches, chairs and couches, and once on a flight of stairs. Apart from the occasional spilled glass of vino, she always seems to enjoy herself.

Maybe you can solve the enigma of the Sleeping Lady at the next First Thursday Art Walk. While you are there, check out 619 Western’s unmatched arts community. But hurry, the building will not be around much longer (see: Viaduct demolition).

When they do finally tear it down, let’s hope some art lover remembers to wake up the Sleeping Lady and send her to the next art happening. It wouldn’t feel right without her. •