Remembering Seattle print artist and muralist Kristen Ramirez

Ramsay says she and Ramirez were doing everything possible to get help. “Her doctor was trying different medications, but it takes a while to see what’s working, to get the balance right,” says Ramsay, adding that Ramirez’s health care provider didn’t have a perimenopause expert.

“I have a lot of anger toward our health care system,” says Hougland, Ramirez’s ex-husband. They split in 2014 but remained friendly, as co-parents and neighbors. “She had so much trouble getting help. It’s such a tragedy.” He says over the years she experienced some anxieties, “but it was never debilitating, it never prevented her from doing anything…. She was not a person with depression.” On the contrary, he describes her as passionate, driven and impatient to execute on big ideas.

“If I made a list of people I know, and the likelihood that any of them would do self-harm,” Engstrom says, “she would be absolute last.”

Johnson echoes others who say it felt like something came and took Ramirez away. “She would n’t want her legacy from her to be that this happened to her,” Johnson says. “But she would want other women to get help.” Friends hope more open discussion of perimenopause and its mental health effects might be one positive thing that comes out of such loss.

“In those last three months she was tortured in a way we can’t imagine,” Falchuk says. “She had been completely hijacked.”

Ramirez would have turned 51 on April 6. Her spirit lives on in her son, and in his art — which she fostered enthusiastically, arranging coffee shop exhibits and making sticker versions of his drawings. Her influence on her is there in the students, artists and friends she inspired and elevated, as well as in the ongoing public art projects that she had embarked on with collaborators Engstrom and Johnson. (“I hear her voice telling me, ‘You got this,’” Johnson says. “It feels good to keep her alive with this work.”) And she’s here visibly, in the murals that enliven our cityscape.

In the course of writing this, I drove up to the Wayne Tunnel on a dismal gray evening and dove inside its pinky-orange glow. As Ramirez had learned from the tunnel users she surveyed, the acoustics are incredible. Passers-through frequently yell or whistle — which is why she painted two fish at each end, with speech bubbles reading “HELLO,” “HONK,” “HOOT” and “HOLLER.” My husband and I walked its length, whooping and cawing, and then he surprised me. Kristen Ramirez! he shouted, and her name echoed back and forth, resounding in the air and art all around us.

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