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(Image: Sabel Roizen)

Far From Pretentious: Capitol Hill gallery channels a vintage, cozy living room

The Halloween season may have come and gone, but for Capitol Hill's art space-slash-jewelry and curio shop Ghost Gallery, a brooding color palette and design inspiration drawn from the occult are a year-round phenomenon.

"We have a little bit of a witchy vibe without being too intimidating," said owner Laurie Kearney, who has run the neighborhood staple since 2010 and relocated to Chophouse Row in 2018.

Its current incarnation is a cobalt cocoon nestled deep in the fetching mixed-use complex, whose firepit-adorned courtyard already feels like a refuge from a world gone haywire. There are steps up from the mews or an entrance through the back of Cupcake Royale's Pike Street location to reach Ghost Gallery.

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Kearney, who has a background in fine art and museum studies and coordinates the Capitol Hill Art Walk (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19), sees Ghost Gallery as an art exhibition space first and foremost. But by tempering the formality of artwork on display with a curated selection of handmade jewelry, candles, prints, obscure wine, and home decor, Kearney believes she can lower the barrier to entry and cultivate new art collectors.

"Over the years, it's made the space less intimidating than a traditional white cube gallery format," she said. "People feel more comfortable asking questions or envisioning the art in their own home."

Through November 7, the gallery is showing local artist Betty Burgoyne's "Flora." Don't expect delicate Georgia O'Keefe flowers, though, as Burgoyne's intimate illustrations more resemble the guts of plants, part of Kearney's curatorial zest for scientific and environmental themes by women artists. On December 14, the annual Holiday Mini Art Exhibit will show works sized at 10" x 10" and priced at under $300. Now in its 14th year, the affordably priced artwork is ideal for gifting or starting a collection.

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Pairing art with jewelry is another strategy that Kearney has developed over her decade helming Ghost Gallery.

"I'll have guests come in, and they'll be attracted to a certain work of art, but then there's jewelry or home decor that could really go with that," she said.

Assessing Burgoyne's work, which Kearney views as having a celestial aura, she plucks a silver meteorite necklace by Yugen Tribe and an amber glass candle by The Creeping Moon.

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As the eye wanders from the art exhibit on the wall to the display cases containing handwoven copper and sterling silver earrings by local jeweler Unfettered Adornment, it becomes clear that Kearney's curatorial fastidiousness extends to every corner of her shop. A pocket watch with Zodiac markings rests on an amethyst geode slab, creating an ethereal steampunk effect. Elsewhere, necklaces and earrings beckon from inside a freestanding display case with art nouveau brass knobs that Kearney rescued from Virago Gallery in West Seattle. Stationery from Red Cap Cards and an illuminated oracle deck by Claire Mack spill out of a Tibetan apothecary case.

Kearney describes each display as a "vignette" for which she takes the same care as she would in hanging traditional artwork. Even her wine case, a selection of off-the-beaten-track international vintages unlikely to make it onto grocery store shelves, has to meet certain aesthetic as well as oneophilic standards, like the Poggio Anima, an Italian Primitivo (Zinfandel) whose label was designed by a tattoo artist.

But despite such careful considerations, Ghost Gallery is far from pretentious. The well-loved brown leather wingback chair next to the electric fireplace painted jet black invites the browser to sit down and stay awhile. That snug sentiment squares exactly with Kearney's summation: "The overall aesthetic is an antique, vintage, cozy living room."

Ghost Gallery is located at 1111 E Pike Street, Suite B, inside Chophouse Row. It is open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 pm, and by appointment on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Looking to support more small businesses like Ghost Gallery? We're proud to collaborate with Intentionalist, an online guide that makes it easier for you to find/connect with diverse local businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.