An old industrial building in Ellensburg’s downtown was transformed into a space for art on Friday and Saturday by PUNCH Projects, a local art group.
The “Barnstorm at the Bluestone Garage,” a pop-up installation, was packed on Friday night as people showed up to view art and listen to live music.
The art was an eclectic mix of mediums and styles. Videos played on repeat in a small side room. A piece of performance art in the main room featured a woman wearing a white wig, a white painted face, white contact lenses, and a white dress. She sat on a white table writing with a white pen in a white notebook.
Members of PUNCH Projects want to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas, and to use old spaces to feature new art. Local artist Renee Adams said this is the first major event PUNCH Projects has done since closing the group’s Seattle gallery last year. Adams, Justin Beckman, Justin Gibbens and Howard Barlow constitute the PUNCH Projects board.
Adams said they put out an international call and selected art from all different subjects like video, print, sculptures and live performance. They wanted to bring art from all over the world to Ellensburg. The first room featured prints of pieces that ranged from photographs to paintings. By using prints, the artists didn’t need to physically transfer the artwork.
“We plan on making this an annual event,” Adams said. “We want to move to different locations and get new artists and new venues. We want to revitalize underutilized spaces in the valley.”
Artist Philippe Kim had a print on exhibit that showed white molding from a foundry in Walla Walla in an abandoned field.
“For this show especially, (I picked it) because it was out of place and it was something familiar in a different way,” he said.
Kim, who graduated Central Washington University with a master’s degree in art last year, said he likes to create mixed media pieces that reflect the “strangeness” of life and he likes to take ordinary things and mix them up.
Through a doorway, a dimly lit room featured a video of a demolition derby. A VW bus with a fire pit and bales of hay sat next to a bar. A DJ played in the opposite corner underneath the video of cars smashing into each other. And rusted metal pieces were laid on the ground next to worn down concrete. Another screen perpendicular to the main one showed a small animated character flinging giant concrete balls and played on repeat. The giant concrete balls used in the video were stacked up on the floor in front of the screen.
Artist Ries Niemi sat behind the DJ booth in a bright green jacket with orange piping. Niemi has been making art since he was 10 and will turn 62 this year. He usually works with textiles and has been creating clothing sculpture. One of his pieces, a hat made out of blue tarp, hung from the ceiling. He said he has an entire project dedicated just to making clothes into sculpture.
“This is a really great community and a very different group of people making art together,” he said. “To me there’s a conversation the world can have with the rural (places).”
Niemi said he was a member of the PUNCH gallery before the group of individuals closed down the art gallery in Seattle and decided to do pop-up art installations in rural areas like Ellensburg. The Edison, Washington, native said he was attracted the group’s idea to connect rural art in urban areas.
Old and new
Beckman said he considers transforming the space as part of the art experience along with the pieces that are featured.
Bassist for the Killdeer String Band, Jacob Gibbens, said he was there to support his brother, Justin Gibbens who is on the PUNCH board. He added that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and unique venue to play with his band.
“I think it’s so rad to take abandoned warehouses and turn into a gallery-slash-bar-slash-dj booth-slash fire pit with someone’s vehicle, to bring it all together and collaborate,” he said.