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BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- The idea of the oversized purse has grown to new proportions at Whatcom Museum in the Washington state city of Bellingham.

Edison-based industrial artist Ries Niemi has installed his 14-foot-tall "World's Largest Walk Thru Handbag" sculpture in the Lightcatcher building courtyard.

The open metalwork of the stainless steel handbag is decorated with images of consumerism and wealth: metal dollar signs, diamonds and $100 bills.

It includes openings on each side to walk through and is accessible to the public without paying for entry to the museum.

The sculpture and some of Niemi's embroidered art will remain on view through Sept. 11.

Part of the inspiration came from the gigantic drive-through tree stumps of the Northwest, as well as the ever-expanding size of women's purses.

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