From the exterior, The Ruins has the appearance of an old warehouse— old enough to be torn down, that is, not old enough to be quaint. There is a painted door with a street number on it, and a doorbell. But it is in fact a “private dining club,” and inside this plain door is a richly dressed garden, and within that, what seems to be a building built within a building. We step through another, more auspicious door, and into a European palace, re-imagined for the Pacific Northwest. It is an eclectic collection of antiques, both real and recreated. A full sized equestrian statue painted all over with flowers stands in the hallway. There are several reception rooms, separate dining rooms, and two chef’s kitchens. It has the feel of something Mad Ludwig might have built, if he’d emigrated to Seattle by way of Venice, dragging with him the spoils of many garage sales.
The ballroom is Baroque, gilded, and covered in murals of Northwest scenes, wildlife, and Native American histories. Jennifer Carrasco spent three years painting these walls and ceiling. I had a couple of hours to copy them before the guests arrived.
As with the challenge of painting a reception in a room full of sunlight that goes dark before the painting is done, this room dims from blue to ghostly black when the chandeliers are dimmed. It glimmers, then. The gold trim shines and the murals glow. The large room feels intimate instead of cavernous. I find myself carving figures into the shadows.
I painted the couple as they danced. This can’t be done with a rapid line. But with a flat brush I could form simple shapes fast enough— a few dark strokes for a tux, a white space for a dress. Details of their faces were added later, as I got glimpses of them throughout the evening.