“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Just off of Pike and Belmont, there is a small white room that is, in every way, a shrine to all things geek. Scattered across the walls are a variety of pop art images taken straight from the collective psyche of a generation of nerds, from a tribute to Coen Brothers movies to an enormous portrait of a Stormtrooper heroically hoisting an Imperial flag.
The space is known as the Ltd. Art Gallery, and its owner and curator, James Monosmith, sees his ever-changing pop art collection as a way of reminding Seattleites from every corner of nerd culture about the nostalgia that pop art provides. More importantly, Monosmith sees Ltd. as a conduit for linking these iconic staples of pop culture together and reminding people that the images are more than just representations of nerdy media; they are, in the truest sense of the word, artistic.
“I’m just a big geek,” Monosmith said. “Art should really resonate within you, and art centered around pop culture really resonates with me just because it brings up a sense of nostalgia that I just cherish and love. I think it’s the same with a lot of people; it speaks to them and helps them remember a time when they were young and what they really enjoyed back then.”
Monosmith began his career in art publishing and pop culture consumer products, working on projects that included everything from Star Wars and Disney to Family Guy and Cartoon Network. But the move to curator was one that Monosmith himself never saw coming. It was that nostalgic feeling that motivated him to find a way to impart the same sense of wistfulness to others.
“I love fine art, but I remember just feeling intimidated by the fine art scene,” Monosmith said. “I had never really been into an art gallery until I walked into my first pop culture art gallery years ago and saw what it could be. So I wanted to open up a gallery for people who normally wouldn’t go to galleries at all.”
So, in October of 2011, Monosmith decided to open up the Ltd. Art Gallery with his wife, Melissa, and set about making a space for people of all ages to find a sense of joy in a place that was both accessible and inviting.
“One of my main goals is to create a comfortable atmosphere for people to come in and experience fine art in a way that they’ve never felt it before, and to bring in their children or their friends and do it all together,” he said.
The gallery’s latest exhibition, “Saturday Morning,” is an ideal representation of how Ltd. manages to elicit feelings of childlike wonder.
“I wanted to create an art show that reminded people of what it was like to be a kid, and to wake up on Saturday morning before their parents were up, sit down with a bowl of cereal in front of the TV in their pajamas and watch their favorite program,” Monosmith said. “It’s one of my favorite, fondest memories as a kid was watching Ninja Turtles and playing with the toys. Seeing the commercials for Captain Crunch and Crunch Berries, and being in my own little universe. It was so much fun playing in my own imagination, and I wanted to capture that feeling.”
Like “Saturday Morning,” each showcase is built around a theme or idea of pop culture, and from there he turns to a cadre of pop culture artists, video game concept designers, and geek aficionados who then select their own subject matter from within the thesis.
As is the case for many Capitol Hill galleries, Ltd. is rather small and unimposing, but it’s size and cheap hillside location allow the gallery to maintain itself entirely from the sale of artwork and not from admissions. But, according to Monosmith, the choice of Capitol Hill as the Ltd. gallery’s home was a carefully measured one. His proximity to the Convention Center gave him a unique opportunity to join in on the festivities when PAX and ComicCon come to town, and the people themselves are, in his own words, exactly what make Capitol Hill a vibrant and inviting neighborhood.
“Capitol Hill has a counter-culture-meets-geek vibe that embraces everything I’m trying to do here,” Monosmith said. “It’s the geek scene for Seattle.”