Holly Varah of Port Townsend is showing her new collection of cyanotyped hair on silk and cotton at Northwind Art’s Jeanette Best Gallery during December. (photo courtesy of Northwind Art)

Holly Varah of Port Townsend is showing her new collection of cyanotyped hair on silk and cotton at Northwind Art’s Jeanette Best Gallery during December. (photo courtesy of Northwind Art)

Artist to reveal new project at Northwind gallery

PORT TOWNSEND — Since last spring, Port Townsend artist Holly Varah has been creating artwork unlike anything she’s done before. And yes, she says, it’s both strange and beautiful.

“For the most part, I’ve held this project very close to my chest. Very few people have seen it,” Varah said.

Her new collection of cyanotype photograms on silk garments, cotton cloth and paper is debuting in December at Northwind Art’s Jeanette Best Gallery. Following Varah’s unveiling of the work at Port Townsend Art Walk on Saturday, these pieces will stay through the month in the gallery at 701 Water St. The venue is open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays.

There’s nothing unusual about cyanotype, a printing process using chemical compounds and sunlight to print on paper and cloth. Many crafters make prints of flowers and ferns on T-shirts and note cards.

Varah’s work is something else. She prints images of human hair: thick and fine, straight and wavy. On a deep blue field, the hair is silhouetted in white.

“I’ve always had a reverence for hair … as a subject matter, visually, it has always been compelling,” Varah said.

“I’m one of those creative people who will acquire whatever skills I need” to realize an artistic vision.

Another local artist gifted a collection of hair to Varah; then she proceeded to learn how to make the cyanotypes.

“A lot of patience is required, which is not my first skill,” the artist admitted.

“There was a lot of waiting for things to dry, to sublimate,” while Varah loved the scientific nature of the process. She also loves the way it uses sunlight to capture a singular moment in time — on a silk shawl, on a square of paper, on a tunic.

Varah was committed to using silk, a material that is both tough and light, for her wearable art pieces.

“I love how it moves,” she said.

A longtime Port Townsend resident, Varah’s art practice has also included jewelry making and an old-fashioned photo booth she set up at the old Cellar Door. She’s likewise versatile in her “day jobs”: tending bar at the Uptown Pub & Grill, working as an apprentice cobbler at Puffin Shoe Repair, and providing infant child care.

This newest project, mixing what she calls the power and magic of hair with silk and sunlight, may make some people uncomfortable, Varah acknowledges.

These images can be alluring and seductive — and unsettling: “We all have that push-pull” when it comes to unusual art.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about that,” she said, adding, “I don’t know if people will like it, and there’s no basis for comparison.”

In any event, she’s very proud of this work, and excited about showing it in the gallery, where it will be surrounded by the work of other local artists.

“I cannot wait,” Varah said.

More in Entertainment

Stuart Elway
What do polls really tell us?

Veteran pollster to offer guidance

Sponsors step up for 2024 Sequim Sunshine Festival

SEQUIM —Three local organizations have once again agreed to be title sponsors… Continue reading

Dramas, comedy on tap this weekend

Plays, comedy and music are highlighted this weekend on the North Olympic… Continue reading

Family concert to be presented Saturday

The Sequim Community Orchestra and the Sequim Community Youth Orchestra… Continue reading

Comedy night offered in Port Angeles

Cougar Wolf Comedy will present Comedy Night at Bourbon… Continue reading

(Northwind Art Richard Coletta) 
Richard Coletta of Port Townsend admires Caryl Fallert-Gentry's quilt titled "Electric Snails," part of the "Burst of Color" exhibit at Jeanette Best Gallery.
Final ‘Burst’ in Port Townsend

This is the final weekend for “Burst of Color,”… Continue reading

Jenner Fox of Bainbridge Island and singer-songwriter Jermey Elliott are set to debut their one-day-old CD, “The Moon That Moves the Sea,” at Concerts in the Woods in Coyle for a matinee show on Saturday.
Fox, Elliott to play at Concert in the Woods on Saturday

Jenner Fox of Bainbridge Island and singer-songwriter Jermey Elliott will… Continue reading

Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra to perform February concert Sunday

The Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra will present its February… Continue reading

Chicago Bob Longmire, on left, and George Yount will conduct a three-day harmonica workshop.
Harmonica workshop offered in Port Townsend

Chicago Bob Longmire and George Yount will conduct a… Continue reading

The Candlelight Concert this month will feature classical pianist Mike Carroll.
Michael Carroll offers an evening of classical piano

Classical pianist Michael Carroll will perform at Trinity United… Continue reading

From left to right, Richard Lionheart, portrayed by Sean Stone of Port Angeles, and Prince John, portrayed by Charlie Medlong of Sequim, at a recent rehearsal.
‘The Lion in Winter’ opens this weekend

The Port Angeles Community Players will open its winter… Continue reading

Small Island Big Song brings artists of Taiwan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti to the Field Arts & Events Hall in Port Angeles on Sunday.
Field Hall presents Small Island Big Song’s ‘Our Island’

International tour supports Maui Strong Fund