Tania Albrandt and Leigh Riibe are sitting in a wood-floored second-story walk-up inside the Pound, a squat building on Capitol Hill that has housed artist studios for 25 years. A scrawled painting by Susan Robb, of her dog, remains on the front door from years ago when Robb rented there. This is now where Riibe, Albrandt, Kim Beecroft, and a silent partner are making their stand, operating a new art-film-music venue called Hard L.
"Capitol Hill has turned into a cesspool of jackasses," Albrandt says. "You heard about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence giving out rape whistles? ... It starts on Wednesday nights. It's Wednesday night through Sunday night."
Riibe nods. "A lady friend of mine took a photo of a drunk driver in the parking lot at Havana and got beaten up so bad she had a broken bone in her face," Riibe adds. "A safe space is definitely needed at this point."
So they made Hard L. No jackasses allowed. The women of Hard L have an ethos, not an aesthetic: "To give underrepresented artists, women and queers especially, an ongoing space to exhibit their work, meet other artists, and gain empowerment and inspiration," their website says. "What's crazy is that we still need a place like this," Riibe says.
They held their first art exhibition on February 14, a varied response by 26 local artists to the all-women show Elles at Seattle Art Museum. Hard L has held three more one-night-only art shows since, including paintings made in the dark by Liana Kegley and photographs by Alice Wheeler, who, after having shown in magazines, museums, and galleries, said this felt like a welcome return to her punk roots.
There also are dance fundraisers and film nights (free popcorn). An evening of local film shorts in March included Beecroft's (Hotsy Totsy Pictures) The Churning of Misty Whistle. Plot: "A beloved spokesmodel for a famous brand of margarine has a career-ending accident that disfigures her face permanently. The public disdain and her personal despair at the rejection transforms her into a homicidal maniac with a very specific victim in mind." Hard L is planning its first extended-run art show, Queervoyant (16 artists invited to create one work representing a vision for the future), for Pride weekend, with live music.
Thursday for art walk, Hard L has Dancing with Dummies, a series of magisterially creepy doll sculptures by Eve Cohen and Sonja Peterson, two artists only recently introduced to each other by Riibe. (Riibe is no-nonsense warmth embodied, a natural connector. She's a longtime Seattle person who only began showing her own art recently, with a series of her teenage works called Live Through This at Vignettes, and she is also co-organizer of the mail-order mixtape series Tender Validations, which is open to anyone.)
Coincidentally, Cohen and Peterson both make creepy doll sculptures, love swimming, and worked day jobs at side-by-side restaurants without ever meeting. They use whatever materials they can find for their pseudohumans: stuffed pantyhose, porcelain, antique bra parts, cardboard. According to Riibe and Albrandt, both Cohen and Peterson, independent of each other, have been making their own elaborate pig costumes for some time. The pigs may also meet Thursday.