Seattle Artifact

The Performance Art of Goddess Kring

Shannon Kringen retains her colorful and quirky personality from her public access tv show

By Brad Holden April 26, 2024

A bedazzled 2010 Honda with thousands of rhinestones.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Long before there were social media influencers, or YouTube, or even the internet, there was public access television. Seattle was first introduced to public access in 1983 when channel 29 was unceremoniously added to local cable TV.

At the time, this was a relatively new concept in which anyone could create and produce their own content, and it would later air in scheduled time slots. As an added bonus, public access was free of any censorship, so virtually anything was allowed. With such a large percentage of eccentric and uninhibited artist types living in the city at the time, it did not take long for some of these people to find their way to this new bastion of creative freedom. Public access TV quickly became a home for the weird, the naked, and the forbidden.

On any given night, channel 29 featured everything from fundamentalist religious sermons to a show called The Bong Hit Championship. You never knew what you were going to find when tuning in, which was a large part of its appeal. It was quite literally the wild frontier of local television, offering a tempting smorgasbord of nudity, political intrigue, oddball entertainment, and paranoid conspiracy theories.

Some of the inhabitants of this televised Island of Misfit Toys included an outlandish televangelist named Rev. Bruce Howard who, when not giving one of his fire-and-brimstone rants, would maniacally laugh to the tune of pre-recorded music. There was also the very peculiar Richard Lee, whose show, Now See It Person to Person: Kurt Cobain Was Murdered, was a one-man campaign to uncover the “conspiracy” behind Cobain’s death. Yet another notorious program was the Mike Hunt Show, which primarily consisted of unedited pornography clips.

Of all the personalities on local public access, though, perhaps one of the most memorable was Shannon Kringen — the colorful pagan woman whose Goddess Kring show featured stream-of-consciousness monologues combined with naked performance art. Kringen recently announced that she had uncovered a large cache of VHS tapes containing all episodes of her show, generating some renewed interest in this bygone era of TV. The discovery of these artifacts led me to reach out to her to learn more about her interesting story.

VHS tapes containing all episodes of Goddess Kring from 1996-2011

Photo by Shannon Kringen

Unsurprisingly, Shannon was raised in a creative and somewhat eccentric environment. Her father was an aspiring comedy writer and folk musician, and her mother was a multimedia artist. As a result, she was exposed to a wide variety of artistic influences while growing up. She tells me that she was quite shy throughout much of her childhood. During her school years, she reports being a quiet and well-behaved student who played on the school tennis team, though she definitely had the family art gene. In her case, she was known for painting shoes in bold and colorful patterns, and in fact, she would later give a pair of these custom-painted shoes to one of her musical idols, Tori Amos, who actually wore them onstage during a concert in Seattle.

Colorful, artistically hand-painted shoes

Hand-painted shoes by Shannon Kringen

Photos by Shannon Kringen

After high school, she attended the Cornish College of the Arts but dropped out after a couple weeks, as she was scared that she wasn’t extroverted enough to be a good actor. To support herself, she worked a series of different odd jobs, including a stint at the Kinko’s in the University District. She was also a dancer at the Lusty Lady — the since-closed downtown strip club with the iconic marquee sign out front, and was always able to find steady work posing as a live model for local art classes. Such employment was intentional as it helped to force her out of her shell, thus setting the stage for the much more uninhibited character that local TV viewers would soon become acquainted with.

Her public access career started in 1995 after she was surprised to learn that anyone could submit shows to the station. Kringen set up a video recorder inside her cramped Capitol Hill apartment and began filming herself talking into the camera. Initially, her shows were a cathartic form of selftherapy allowing herself to emotionally work through the heartbreak of a romantic break-up. She eventually began inserting artistic elements to her monologues and, before long, she had developed her own unique style of televised performance art that was unlike anything else.

Like the late David Bowie and his famous 1970s alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, the previously bashful Shannon Kringen soon found herself being transformed while on camera into a persona known as Goddess Kring, which became the name of her show. In a 1998 interview with a local reporter, she said, “For me, being a goddess is an exaggeration of certain parts of myself. A more fearless part of me.” She added, “Goddess Kring is like The Wizard of Oz, while Kringen is like the slightly shy person behind the curtain.”

It did not take long for her Goddess Kring show to catch on with local public access aficionados. This was a few years before the advent of e-mail, so Kringen set up a P.O. box as a way for viewers to contact her. “I immediately got both fan mail and hate mail,” she says. It was way more volume than she ever anticipated, and for every letter that called her a “narcissistic attention whore,” she also received plenty of mail praising her for being an inspiration. One guy even wrote in asking her to marry him and come live at his remote cabin in Alaska.

As with other public access programming, part of Goddess Kring’s appeal was that she was often naked while delivering her spoken word. However, her nudity was never profane or perverse; rather, it was simply another ingredient in her artistic repertoire. The first time I remember seeing Kringen’s show, back in the ‘90s, she was delivering a monologue about self-doubt while attired in nothing more than psychedelic body paint. To me, her show was always more of a shamanic performance than anything pornographic.

However, not everybody saw it that way. At some point, complaints began pouring in from local cable customers about some of the more shocking and salacious content on public access. It eventually caught the attention of local officials, sparking widespread debate about censorship, civil liberties, and freedom of speech. One of Washington state’s U.S. senators at the time, Slade Gorton, even weighed in on the matter, exclaiming, “It’s outrageous! No parent wants their kid to be looking for Barney and find a group of naked people jabbering instead.”

Bowing to public pressure, TCI Cable temporarily suspended any public access shows that contained nudity and sex acts. This prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to become involved, and the matter eventually ended up in the courts with one local U.S. District Court judge ruling in favor of public access censorship, stating, “This type of programming wallows in adolescent sexual retardation.”

As a result, some of channel 29’s most controversial shows were pulled from the lineup, and eventually the whole operation was switched to another channel, thus representing the end of an era. Adding to the demise of this golden age of public access TV was the arrival of the internet, which made such programming seem almost irrelevant. After all, why stay up late in the hope of glimpsing something provocative on television when you could be guaranteed to see something even more shocking with just the click of a mouse? Almost overnight, many of Seattle’s public access celebrities were thrown into obscurity. Goddess Kring managed to remain on public access through 2011, though the programming on the new channel didn’t quite pack the same punch that it previously did.

Today, all these years later, Shannon Kringen is pretty much exactly as you would imagine her to be. That is to say, the quirky and colorful personality once known as Goddess Kring is still very much doing her own thing. She continues to financially support herself through a variety of odd jobs, including pet sitting, model work, and most interestingly as a “medical actor” in which she helps nursing students at the University of Washington determine a correct diagnosis by acting through a specific set of symptoms.

Above all, though, she is still very active as an artist. She self-published a book titled aRt, Identity and the Sacred, is an avid photographer, and is currently working on digitizing her VHS tapes in order to make a “Goddess Kring” documentary about her time on public access. One of her more interesting projects has been her foray into the world of “art cars,” bedazzling a 2010 Honda Fit with thousands of rhinestones. She figures she has spent hundreds of hours and over $2,000 in the pursuit of artistically covering her car in eye-catching gemstones. Indeed, just as Kringen once grabbed Seattle’s attention with her naked performance art, she continues to arouse the public’s interest whenever she gets behind the wheel.

A car covered in rhinestones

Goddess Kring’s ‘Opal Moonstone’: An art car adorned with sparkling rhinestones.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kringen

Besides her physical art, Shannon continues to live life in an almost improvisational, day-by-day manner, loving each moment as it happens. She hopes that her life’s work helps inspire others and when asked about her overall message to the world, she smiles, and her immediate and confident response recalls the positive affirmations of her Goddess Kring days: “Love yourself and be yourself and have a positive inspirational impact.”.

Follow Us

Trailblazing Women: Lynne Varner

Trailblazing Women: Lynne Varner

CEO, Washington STEM

I don’t see myself as a trailblazer. Instead, call me a trail runner nimbly following paths laid by so many brilliant, amazing women who came before me. Some of those women are mentors who showed me not just who I could be, but how I could be. We tell young people...

Double Victory

Double Victory

Ballard High cheer notches National Championships

Visit Seattle’s Ballard High School, and you can’t help but notice the championship banners hanging from the gymnasium rafters...

Trailblazing Women: Merrie Williamson

Trailblazing Women: Merrie Williamson

Executive Vice President, Chief Customer And Revenue Officer, Equinix

I’ve been in the technology industry for more than 25 years. I’ve had an incredible career journey taking me from building microchips in a silicon manufacturing plant for Intel, to the big stage recently with Microsoft’s Satya Nadella speaking to developers at this big AI moment. Along the way I have been asked...

Trailblazing Women: Tahmina Watson

Trailblazing Women: Tahmina Watson

Founder, Watson Immigration Law

I am a servant leader who leads with love. It has taken four decades to know this about myself. And now I am unapologetically loving to everyone. My journey to this realization was paved by my dedication as an immigration lawyer, a profession where compassion is a key ingredient. Yet, being a lawyer and running