Kelly O

Sculptor Rob Rhee had a one-word reaction to being nominated for a Stranger Genius Award.

"What? What??"

Maybe that's two words. His disbelief belies the respect many other artists have for him, too. He's been in Seattle since 2012; he's an assistant professor at Cornish College of the Arts. In 2015, he had two big shows. For his solo at Glass Box, he revealed a series of what looked like gourds being tortured. They were squeezed into metal cages he'd welded. You can see a few on that wall behind him.

But the gourds hadn't been tortured. He had created cages and sent them to gourd farms with their permission so the seeds could grow up into their own individualized shapes, embracing their cages as their own bones. Rhee grew these gourds, in a way, as an homage to his status as an American with Korean parents. He created them to expresses his individualized version of his heritages.

His other big show in 2015 was mostly art by other artists. He created a functioning Airbnb full of artworks and wanted people to live with art the way artists do—over time, over dinner, not in the white cube of a gallery. Dozens of people stayed at that Airbnb. What you saw if you woke in the middle of the night for a glass of water was different from the daytime exhibition; color, light, and video changed.

Rob Rhee will be celebrated at the free Stranger Genius Awards party on September 24 at the Moore Theatre. He's also in the running for $5,000, no strings attached. To see the list of all 15 artists nominated this year, go to