Science, prehistory 'whacked out' at Museum & Arts Center
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“Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway,” by Alaska-based artist Ray Troll, is part of a new show at Sequim’s Museum & Arts Center.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — Let's face it, museums tend toward the stuffy. DJ Bassett admits that.

But something has arrived at the Museum & Arts Center right now that Bassett, its executive director, finds refreshingly “whacked out.”

It's called “Cruisin' the Washington Fossil Freeway,” and it's about science and prehistory — seen through the eyes of Ray Troll.

He's the Ketchikan, Alaska, artist famous for his wildlife books, salmon and shark cartoons, T-shirts and messages such as “If you must smoke, smoke salmon.”

Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip is one of Troll's books. It's loaded with over-the-top paintings of dinosaurs and other slimy creatures.

Fossil specimens

Those images have taken up residence at the Museum & Arts Center, 175 W. Cedar St., along with 20 actual fossil specimens from the collection of the late John Cowan, whose ranch lies along the Hoko River.

To celebrate the opening of the “Cruisin'” exhibition, the MAC will throw a party Thursday evening, with refreshments and guided tours by science illustrator and volunteer docent Emily Nisbet.

“Washington has a really rich, diverse fossil history,” said Nisbet, who lives in Sequim. “The exhibit really shows that.”

As always with the museum, admission is free to the event from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The show's fossils, Bassett said, “are totally mind-blowing” — which fits right in with Troll's tableaux.

“People say, 'Oh, yeah, fossils are neat.' But Troll puts a whole different spin on it,” he added.

Troll's art “puts people's mind-sets in a whole different place.”

And while Troll exercises artistic license — “he has several of those licenses,” Bassett said — he created the “Fossil Freeway” exhibit in collaboration with a highly respected scientific institution: the Burke Museum of Natural History at the University of Washington.

Highlights discoveries

A traveling show, the exhibit highlights archaeological discoveries across Washington state, including the Manis mastodon unearthed in Sequim during the late 1970s.

“Cruisin'” includes a specially commissioned Washington fossil map and, to go with Troll's art, text by paleontologist Kirk Johnson.

Altogether, the exhibit tells the tale of prehistoric life and death in this part of the world.

“What we hope is that this really stimulates people, gets them thinking,” Bassett said.

“Cruisin' the Washington Fossil Freeway,” he added, is like the rest of the MAC's exhibits: It's meant to give people a deeper sense of the place where they live.

“Cruisin'” will remain through December at the MAC, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Admission is always free, while donations to the nonprofit history and art center are welcome.

To find out more, phone 360-683-8110 or visit


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at

Last modified: October 16. 2012 5:16PM
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