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Sunday, May 14, 2023

More than One Called her their Best Friend

Yesterday I attended the memorial for Chandler O'Leary of Tacoma, WA. I didn't know her well. I only met her a few times, but my sense was that she was an exuberant lover of life as well as a super prolific artist. I first met her at a sketch crawl in Edmonds back in 2013. I remember her sketch - not the ferry dock - but under the ferry dock with sea stars, urchins rocks, and rafters. And I remember well her bubbly personality. 

The memorial was held at the Old Town Dock which, fittingly, displays Chandler's public art installation, "Droplets" - twenty-four porcelain medallions that identify Tacoma waterfront landmarks. In Chandler's words, "Old Town Dock boasts one of the best vantage points in the South Sound with beautiful views of land, city, and sea in every direction. That's what first drew me to the site. I wanted the chance to encourage people to look all around them because there was something to see everywhere you look." 

And it is that vision the attendees celebrated at the memorial. Chandler's brother and several friends spoke telling stories of her contagious enthusiasm, passion for drawing, and love of travel. Every attendee was offered a small sketchbook and pencil for the "moment of sketching during the service. I used min to take in that view from the dock. 

Indeed even the Dock's banners beckoned us: 

Look Closer
Take Another Look
Look Between
Look Within
Look After
Look Lively
Look Sharp
Look Up
Look Around
Look Here
Look Fast
Look North
Look South
Look Down
Look Twice 

There's so much to say about Chandler's all-too-short life. Her website and blog show much of her history as an artist. And you might be able to catch her interview with Rick Steves, scheduled to be aired on May 20 on Seattle's KUOW. 

A retrospective of Chandler's work is on display at the University of Puget Sound Library and the broadsides from her book Dead Feminists are in the windows of the Woolworth's building in downtown Tacoma through July. 

I end with her all too poignant words that she wrote to a friend in 2018: 

"You will get to the other side of this, even if you're not sure what the landscape will look like when you get there. You won't be alone when you do. I love you, Chandler."


  1. Thank you for sharing this.

    Chandler was previously interviewed by Rick in June 2020, about her then-new book "The Best Coast".

  2. Jane, your write up and sketches are a lovely tribute to Chandler. She was quite the artist and personality. Thanks for sharing. Kay T