Rhiannon Worthy pauses outside the waterfront building with the words, “Seattle Art Institute” in raised letters on its outside wall.
Rosie, what’s this all about?
She goes to the glass doors, takes a deep breath, and enters. Inside is a wide-open lobby, the walls of which are lined with artwork. A directory guides visitors to classrooms on the first and second floors, and studio space on the third floor. Near the elevators, a tall, thin individual with long, golden hair, and wearing a mid-length skirt with tights underneath, who appears to be a male in the middle stages of transitioning to female, is standing near a counter, and Rhiannon moves in that direction.
Seeing Rhiannon, the individual approaches and speaks in a mid-pitched, nasally voice. “Hi, I’m Alexis. Are you Rhiannon Worthy?”
“Yes,” Rhiannon says.
“I was told to expect you,” Alexis says. “I guess you’re here to visit the Gallery.”
“I honestly don’t know why I’m here,” Rhiannon says. “I only learned of this place a few days ago. This is my first chance to come over.”
“I see,” Alexis says. “What I can tell you is I’m the student assigned to oversee the Gallery for this school year. I just started at the beginning of the semester, so I’m new to this myself. It’s helpful if you could let me know what you’ve been told.”
“Very little,” Rhiannon says. “I was unaware my sister was maintaining this place.”
“Yes. I’m sorry for your loss,” Alexis says. “I didn’t know Dr. Duchard, but Janis, who was the student assigned to the Gallery last year told me she was very nice.”
“Rosie visited here last year?” Rhiannon asks.
“I’m told she visited at least once a year. Janis said she met her just after she got her assignment and that Dr. Duchard was pretty sick by then,” Alexis says. Indicating the elevator, “You ready to go up?”
Rhiannon sighs. “I guess as ready as I’ll ever be.”
Alexis leads Rhiannon to the elevators and presses an up button.
“The Gallery has been preserved pretty much the way your sister left it,” Alexis says as they wait. “Most of the paintings are hung in the order she placed them. Some had to be relocated for better viewing, but they’re mostly how she left them.”
“My sister, Rosalind?” Rhiannon says.
“No,” Alexis says. “This was Regan Worthy’s loft. What you’ll be seeing is how she left the Gallery in 1970. More or less.”
“Regan,” Rhiannon says to herself.
The elevator arrives and they go up in silence. At the top floor, they step out onto a landing facing two heavy, wooden, sliding doors, secured by a bar with a slot for a padlock. Alexis moves the bar and slides open one of the doors.
“The living quarters are a bit lived in,” she says. “I have lunch up here all the time. This part has been updated with more modern technology, thankfully.”
They enter a small kitchenette, with a stove, dining table, refrigerator, and microwave. Between the large appliances is a counter for food prep. Beyond the kitchen is a second set of hinged doors.
“The Gallery is right in here,” Alexis says, opening one of the hinged doors for Rhiannon. She steps through into darkness, and is met by a slightly musty odor. Alexis says, “I’ll get the lights.”
A moment later, the room is illuminated with spotlights and the scene that greets Rhiannon overwhelms her.
On each of the three facing walks are paintings of a single individual, a young woman with fiery hair, striking a defiant pose. From her empty eye sockets emits a blue glow, and she’s nude, except for a bow and quiver over one shoulder in some of the paintings. Surrounding her are six-pointed stars, as well as alchemic elements depicting earth, air, fire, and water. The paintings are hung in such a manner to show the development of the figure, from the earliest sketches on the side walls, to numerous finished paintings on the main wall, in many active poses. As she directs her eyes to each painting, Rhiannon feels herself tearing up, takes some tissues from her handbag, and covers her mouth.
“Excuse me a moment,” Rhiannon says as she exits to the kitchenette to collect herself.
Alexis follows her out. “Are you okay?”
Rhiannon dabs her eyes. “I’m fine. It’s just been a very long time since I felt I was in the presence of my sister, Regan.”
Alexis nods. “Whenever you’re ready.”
After a moment, Rhiannon turns to Alexis and indicates the Gallery. They re-enter, and this time, Rhiannon walks around, examining each rendering closely. The earliest drawings are dated in May of 1969, and the dates continue into 1970.
“The information we have is that these were painted from Spring of ‘69 through Summer of ‘70,” Alexis says. “After that, she just stopped.”
“She had other things to contend with at the time,” Rhiannon says.
“They’ve never been publicly displayed,” Alexis continues. “Such a tragedy. They’re absolutely breathtaking.”
“I may have some information to share,” Rhiannon says. “I recently acquired Regan’s diaries from this period. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet.”
“That would be wonderful,” Alexis says. “I’d love to know the thinking that went into these.”
“So would I,” Rhiannon says. “Unfortunately, her journal ends in May ‘69. I’m scheduled to meet with the Dean tomorrow morning. Did your predecessor tell you anything else about Rosalind’s involvement?”
“Janis said the one time she met Dr. Duchard, she came up here alone and just sat for several hours,” Alexis says. “A few months after that, Janis was informed that Dr. Duchard had died.”
“All these years, it was just her and Regan,” Rhiannon says. “Why don’t we see what we can do to change that?”
“What do you mean?” Alexis says.
“Rosie left all this to me,” Rhiannon says. “I don’t know why she kept it a secret, but I’m not Rosie. I think the whole world needs to see these.”
“I agree,” Alexis says, with a note of excitement. “I’m sure the Dean will be more than happy to help.”