Visual Art

Mount Analogue Is an Arts Space Unlike Anywhere Else in Seattle

Colleen Louise Barry’s bookstore, gallery, and community venue is the collaborative arts hub this city deserves.

By Darren Davis December 19, 2017 Published in the January 2018 issue of Seattle Met

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Barry in her Pioneer Square bookstore. Or is it an art gallery?

Image: Tori Dickson

Walk a few blocks east of Occidental Park, where Pioneer Square shifts from sports bars to art galleries, and suddenly a magic portal appears right there along the sidewalk. Near Foster/White’s stately displays of capital F fine art, a smaller window reveals a space filled with glitter, pink fur, mirrors, and—is that a heart-shaped bathtub? An overflow of giddy people young and old pour from this dreamscape called Mount Analogue. No need to pinch yourself. It’s real.

Part publisher, part bookstore, part arts and community center, the Mount Analogue space sprang from the imagination of Colleen Louise Barry this past summer.

After a stint at Random House in New York City—a real “glossy Danielle Steel and George R. R. Martin publishing experience”—and grad school for poetry at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Barry returned to Seattle in 2015 looking to synthesize these two backgrounds. In short, she wanted to publish books as art objects, then “create worlds around the books I was making.”

As the self-funded small press she called Mount Analogue, named for the René Daumal novel, Barry published her first book in October 2016, by artist and poet Halie Theoharides: Final Rose, a long-form poem intermixed with screenshots of reality TV shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Barry began throwing parties in celebration of this book and then future publications at friends’ studio apartments and small galleries around town, like the Factory in Capitol Hill.

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The Clean Rooms, Low Rates exhibit in the gallery space.

Image: Tori Dickson

In early summer 2017, a lease opened for a space on the street level of the Tashiro Kaplan Artist Lofts in Pioneer Square. Barry quickly secured grant funding and partnered with local press Cold Cube and publisher Gramma Poetry to create the joint art space X Y Z. Mount Analogue threw its opening party on August 3, the same day as the Seattle Art Fair.

Where the Paul Allen–bankrolled art fair aims to place Seattle on the international art stage, Barry wants to create opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration within the city. This idea came partly from shops like Ooga Booga in Los Angeles and the late Flying Object near Amherst: spaces that blur the distinction between bookstore, venue, and art gallery.

It’s an ambitious goal, especially for one person to pull off in a city defined recently by its rising cost of living. But since Mount Analogue opened, its creator has been insatiable. A font of energy and creative curiosity, Barry organized a major installation in each of her first five months; wild, rapturous displays that transformed the space’s glittery floors and sparse white walls into a spaceship, a surreal motel room, a rainbow-colored diorama titled Women in the Style of Taco Bell. And every month Barry continued to host events in this enchanted space and run it as a bookstore.

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A poetry collection from the bookstore.

Mount Analogue installations lean toward the bright and playful, but underneath the glitter, Barry wants to signal boost and engage with the concerns of her artists—like in her ongoing Conversations with Women series, an effort to cross-pollinate among female-identifying artists. “Fun, celebration, color…all of these are attributes people have come to associate with lighthearted work,” says Mary Anne Carter, the local artist behind Mount Analogue’s Women in the Style of Taco Bell who also runs the experimental art space, Party Hat, down the hall from Barry. “But Colleen uses them as a vehicle to capture attention, because it’s easier to engage with things that are fun.”

Barry has already booked up the first half of 2018. In the meantime, she wants to become more proficient on the business side and secure funding for projects like residencies for visiting artists and more monthlong programming. But mostly, “I want to keep it weird.” 

So far, so good: This month, Mount Analogue hosts performances of Susanna’s Secret, the Italian opera Il segreto di Susanna translated and tweaked into a BDSM story. “One of the arias makes me cry,” says Barry. “Even though it’s about walking a man on a leash.” 

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