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The Arts Scene: An obsession with hollyhocks

As a fourth-grader in Ellensburg, Betty Van Ryder took art lessons with Beth Banko, an art student at Central Washington University. She spent Saturday mornings at Central exploring art in a variety of media.

In junior and senior high school, she made decorations for school dances. In college, she double majored in art and English at Central, then spent 14 years teaching ninth-grade English at Franklin Middle School.

Upon retirement, Van Ryder took a painting class with Bob Fisher at Yakima Valley Community College and worked with oil pastels. She says that “he is a fine teacher, an exceptional artist and a dear friend.” She spent three years learning from Sue Grimshaw, from whom she learned the basics of colored pencil, resulting in an alphabet book of flora and fauna.

Then she took a collage workshop at the Larson Gallery, taught by Carol Hassen. The first day of the workshop, she created a landscape. The second day, she brought dried hollyhocks. These, she said, were from “my collection of the thousands of hollyhocks I dry each year. The result is the small hollyhock collage titled ‘Lithe Spirit.’”

Van Ryder left the workshop eager to continue working with dried hollyhocks.

Using the techniques learned in the workshop, she began making larger and larger pieces. The largest piece is titled “Hollyhock Obsession” and is on display at the Cellar Gallery at Gilbert Cellars.

Each dried hollyhock is taken apart and glued with a soft gloss gel made by a company called Golden. Van Ryder says she “thought of patterns and designs as I fell asleep and hurried through the day’s must-do’s to get back to arranging petals and sometimes adding watercolor.”

Her obsession with hollyhocks is described in a section of one of her poems:

I am known in my neighborhood as the hollyhock lady.

They reign supreme in my garden.

Unlike roses that have fragrance that permeates the air,

Hollyhocks are odorless but make up for their lack of scent

with exquisite flowers colored across the spectrum:

white, cream, yellow, pink, peach, magenta, almost black,

each spring anticipating which colors will bloom.

You can view the exhibit “Hollyhock Obsession” throughout the summer at Gilbert Cellars, 5 N. Front St. in Yakima, including on First Friday, June 7, when Abigail Smith will be performing.

• David Lynx is executive director of the Larson Gallery at Yakima Valley College. Learn more at

Reach Tammy Ayer at or on Facebook.

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