2016 Betty Bowen Award Winner Wendy Red Star

We talked with Wendy Red Star, the 2016 Betty Bowen Award winner, to discuss her art process and ideas of cultural archiving, inclusion, expectations, and engaging communities through a creative process. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Wendy Red Star works cross-generationally, looking in particular at matrilineal relationships within Crow culture and ceremony. She has critically examined historical portraits of Crow leaders by white photographers and taken apart stereotypical representations of Native American women in a variety of popular culture contexts. Her work centers on photography but sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance are also important to her practice. Learn more about this artist’s compelling work which will be featured in an installation at the Seattle Art Museum beginning November 10. And don’t miss an opportunity to celebrate the winner of the Betty Bowen Award during the ceremony on the 10th, beginning at 5:30 pm, honoring Wendy Red Star as well as  Dawn Cerny and Mark Mitchell who both received special recognition this year. The ceremony and reception following the artists’ remarks are free and open to the public.

Seattle Art Museum: You’ve described yourself as a cultural archivist in the past, can you describe how your work fills this role?

Wendy Red Star: My practice is collaborative and research-based. I am in pursuit of an on-going excavation of historical Native American imagery and material culture. I like to bring these “artifacts” to life in a contemporary visual arts context. Through an art practice that is driven largely by process, I want to unpack the fraught relationship and history of Native images, portraits, self-representation, and do so with wit, humor, and subtle satire in order to have levity in my art without sacrificing integrity.


SAM: You’ve literally annotated a series of images of Crow chiefs. Do you consider your larger body of work to be an annotation? How are your cultural annotations in conversation with the erasure or removal aspects your other work?

WRS: Native voices have historically been silenced, unable to explain or even place our own narrative within the larger society. As a Native person I have witnessed the lack of inclusion for Native artists in particular in the contemporary art world, many of whom struggle for inclusion in important exhibitions. Also troubling is a prevailing but antiquated expectation of what Native art should be, whether from the 19th century or the 21st. This leaves many Native artists feeling segregated into categories of “traditional” work and without a place in the contemporary art world. I consider my practice and the act of annotating, revealing, and erasure a reclamation of my own history and identity. The act is so much more than a rejection of the colonial gaze, it is a deliberate act to take authority and rewrite histories in humanist way.

SAM: How do you see your work in conversation with SAM’s collection, if at all?

WRS: My recent work has had at its center an intensive engagement with my own Crow community and I am seeking to expand that focus into the broader contemporary art world to explore how other artists are grappling with narrative and performative aspects of their work, and how to continue exploring ways of creating greater accessibility and a sense of openness. I am inspired by the work of conceptual artist Fred Wilson who SAM has worked with and the ways in which I could further reappropriate and reimagine the photographic possibilities inherent in portraiture, staging and candid images, institutional critique, and curating museum objects in broader historical and contemporary contexts. SAM is an institution that is open to this process and I find that very exciting and necessary.

SAM: Tell us a bit about your process—how does the fabrication aspect of your creative process add dimension to the final product?

WRS: The actual making of my work happens fairly quick. The majority of my time is spent engaging in research and processing ideas while out walking with my dog in the woods. Once I have settled on an idea the execution happens in many different forms but is almost always image driven witha  focus on richness of color and cultural content.


SAM: How does clothing design fit into your practice? Are you intrigued by your work being up at the same time as Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style?

WRS: My grandmother, Amy Bright Wings, made sure I participated in Crow cultural traditions. She provided me with a traditional elk tooth dress, a shawl, beaded belt, and moccasins—all objects that I have since integrated into my artwork. I soaked up as much of my grandmother’s knowledge as I could by watching her continually making. Although she never actually showed me directly how to make traditional Crow regalia, I learned through the process of immersion. Traditional Native regalia has signifiers that state the honors and virtues of the owner and maker of each individual garment. Every piece of traditional clothing is made with intention and striking beauty virtues that I use to help guide me in all aspects of my art making. I am a self taught seamstress learning the basics about nine years ago when my daughter was born. I have a deep admiration for the construction of garments, fine tailoring, and the sculptural aspect of making clothing. I am looking forward to viewing Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style and seeing the elegant construction and display of clothing. I suspect it will provide me with many ideas.



Betty Bowen (1918–1977) was a Washington native and enthusiastic supporter of Northwest artists. Her friends established the annual Betty Bowen Award as a celebration of her life and to honor and continue her efforts to provide financial support to the artists of the region. Since 1977, SAM has hosted the yearly grant application process by which the selection committee chooses one artist from the Northwest to receive an unrestricted cash award, eligible to visual artists living and working in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The award comes with an unrestricted cash award of $15,000.


Images: Apsáalooke Feminist 1, 2016, Wendy Red Star, digital print on silver rag, 34 x 40 in., Courtesy of the artist, ©Wendy Red Star.
Peelatchiwaaxpáash/Medicine Crow (Raven), 2014, Wendy Red Star, inkjet print with red ink, 16 x 11 in., Courtesy of the artist, ©Wendy Red Star.
Apsáalooke Feminist 3, 2016, Wendy Red Star, digital print on silver rag, 34 x 40 in., Courtesy of the artist, ©Wendy Red Star.

My Favorite Things: Barbara Earl Thomas on Vuillard’s Dining Room

Fresh for your viewing pleasure, the newest video of our My Favorite Things YouTube series featuring Seattle-based artist, Barbara Earl Thomas.

Thomas’ storytelling and humor move seamlessly across media as she works in both painting and writing. Earlier this year Thomas won the Stranger Genius Award in visual art and later this year she’ll be honored with a Governor’s Arts and Heritage Award. With a social commitment to her community that is broad and inclusive, she values good citizenship and social responsibility. Numbered among the SAM collection is Echo Tides, a 1991 painting by Thomas depicting the tension between transition and stability.

In her My Favorite Things interview, Barbara Earl Thomas unpacks her interest in Edouard Vuillard’s Dining Room, Rue de Naples, ParisDining Room portrays the home of Vuillard’s longtime family friends. Thomas is drawn to the sensuous and gentle responses to color, light, and form in the painting, noting, “My house looks like this, my living room looks like this. But when I paint, I don’t paint like this.” Responding strongly to the use of Vuillard’s established painterly technique, Barbara Earl Thomas explains, “You get an indication to everything, but nothing is in clear view.”

Watch the interview, and head to our My Favorite Things playlist on YouTube to watch more of our artist interviews.


Object of the Week: Door from the Ca’Rezzonico, Venice

It’s a fait accompli that countless works of art from cultures across the world can no longer be seen in their original contexts, and the works’ relationship to their original surroundings, including their connection to related pieces, has been forever changed. In SAM’s collection, consider ancient fragments like the Achaemenid Relief from Imperial Reception Hall with servant bearing wine: to whom does he offer his honorary libation? Or, think about the ladies greeting visitors at the top of the escalators on our third floor, in Robert Colescott’s Les Demoiselles d’Alabama: Vestidas: Their nude counterparts are striking poses in the collection of the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina. When related works end up separated, the relationship between them is not severed but altered. When the landing spot for related works is an art museum, new relationships blossom: between an artwork and its new surroundings, and between its new home and the homes of its fellows.


SAM’s Door from the Ca’ Rezzonico has starred in the decorative arts collection since shortly after the museum’s move downtown—originally as a long-term loan, and eventually as part of the permanent collection. This lacquered and gilt wooden door features chinoiserie designs, elements that reflect the merging of Asian and European aesthetics. The upper panel pictures a figure on horseback with noticeably Caucasian features, donning flowing robes and a turban in a confluence of diverse cultural associations. As it is currently situated in a gallery focused on Venice as a site of exchange, the Door from the Ca’ Rezzonico exemplifies, and symbolizes, a portal to mutual understanding.


Aside from the visual interest it carries, the door has established for the museum a special connection to its original site and the site of its sister. The door comes from an opulent palace along the Grand Canal in Venice, the Ca’ Rezzonico. At one point an extravagant private residence, the Ca’ Rezzonico now serves as a museum for the decorative arts, and its collection features a lacquered door in the same design scheme as SAM’s door. Another bond exists between SAM’s door and one in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Adolph Loewi, an antiques and decorative arts dealer based in Los Angeles—who also handled SAM’s Italian Room—was responsible for splitting these doors, at one point joined together in the Ca’ Rezzonico, into two.

As artworks shift context over time, silver linings do emerge, and one of them is the persistent hope that separated pieces might one day be reunited again.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Images: Door from the Ca’Rezzonico, Venice, ca. 1760, Italian, wood, oil lacquer, gilt, 110 3/4 x 56 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Richard Louis Brown, in honor of Julie Emerson, 2014.17, photos: Natali Wiseman.
Photo: Natali Wiseman

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Austen Mumper

After earning his economics degree at Gonzaga University, Austen worked for Colliers International, a real estate services company. Austen currently attends The Art Institute of Seattle studying animation and pursuing his life-long interest in music and art. Working at SAM surrounded by artwork and conversations with coworkers and museum patrons provides him constant inspiration.

SAM: Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style opened on October 11. What’s your favorite part of the exhibition?

Mumper: Seeing the life of a fashion designer and the process that goes into clothing design is a very new perspective for me. The rooms alone are beautifully arranged, completely unrecognizable from past exhibitions I’ve worked. Still owning hand-me-downs, I don’t think people should be taking my fashion advice, but any person interested in fashion must see this show.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?
Choosing a favorite piece is incredibly difficult. That said, the section I frequent most is the African Art—in particular, Standing Figure (Nkondi), a religious idol made by the Kongo people. Each nail driven into this figure represents an oath between two people. If that oath is broken, the spirit of this vessel will travel out from its base to harm any violators in play. It’s amazing to have something made by a community to help everyone displayed for everyone to see.

Who is your favorite artist?
My favorite artist is Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and manga artist. Miyazaki’s goal was to build a studio where the priority was not success, but making good films. The depth of his characters is amazing, it’s like we know them by the end of the film. His fictional worlds use his personal experience, historical facts, and his opinions to tell you how he sees reality and what he has learned form it. Miyazaki said, “Creating animation means creating a fictional world. That world soothes the spirit of those who are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality.” I keep this in mind each step of the way towards my goals in animation.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?
I encourage anyone to ask questions or simply share with us. We all have unique insights that can benefit both speaker and listener, although taking your time to experience the art is understandable. I appreciate all of the people I’ve learned from, and I enjoy when I can talk about the art with someone who enjoys it as much as myself and the rest of the people working at the SAM.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?
Most of my time is taken up with work and classes, both of which I enjoy. Working at SAM has been its own education—learning about people, places and pieces all telling great stories. I couldn’t have asked for a better position in my attempts to join the art community.

—Kathrine Humphreys, SAM VSO

Object of the Week: Echo

A recent addition to SAM’s collection and an huge impact on the landscape of the Seattle’s waterfront, Echo is the monumental sculpture installed at the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2014. Learn more about this visually confounding sculpture from the artist, Jaume Plensa, and Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Originally modeled on the nine-year-old daughter of the owner of a Chinese restaurant near the artist’s studio, Plensa elongated and abstracted the girl’s features with computer modeling. The sculpture references Echo, the mountain nymph of Greek mythology. Find out what it took to create and install such an intensely large-scale work.

Belle de Jour (1967 France) aka Beauty of the Day
Directed by: Luis Buñuel
Shown from left: Catherine Deneuve, Geneviève Page, Françoise Fabian, Maria Latour

Film/Life: Yves Saint Laurent Selects

As he grew up, Yves Saint Laurent’s personal and professional sensibilities were shaped by the art of film. The Seattle Art Museum and Alliance Française de Seattle present two of Saint Laurent’s favorite films, Children of Paradise and Beauty and the Beast, plus Belle de jour, for which he designed Catherine Deneuve’s costumes, one of which is in Yves Saint Laurent: Perfection of Style.

October 26
Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)

Children of Paradise (1945 France) aka Les enfants du paradis Directed by Marcel Carné Shown from left: Pierre Brasseur, Arletty

Young Yves Saint Laurent and the cinema-goers of the world were swept away by this visually lush, romantic, witty, and ironic epic of intertwined life and art in the 19th-century Paris of Balzac. There are comedies and dramas in the teeming streets of the Boulevard of Crime and on the Funambules Theatre stage. Outside, the soulful mime Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) saves the beautiful courtesan Garance (Arletty) from being falsely accused of theft. She is the mistress of the sly, murderous criminal Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), but this doesn’t stifle her sudden surge of love for Debureau. Over the years, this threesome’s dance of changing partners and betrayals is joined by a classical actor (Pierre Brasseur), an  aristocrat (Louis Salou) and a young actress (Maria Cessarès) as director Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert show us that “poetry and cinema are almost the same thing.” And we can throw in “the world is but a larger stage” for good measure. Stunning art direction by Alexandre Trauner, costumes by Mayo. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 195 min.

November 9
La Belle et la Bête/Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946)

Beauty and the Beast (1946 France) aka Beauty and the Beast Directed by Jean Cocteau Shown from left: Jean Marais (as La BÍte), Josette Day (as Belle)

One of the most enchanting films for adults and children opens with poet-writer-director Jean Cocteau’s words: “Let me begin with the true ‘Open Sesame’ to childhood: Once upon a time . . .” In this marvelous live-action version of the classic fairy tale, an impoverished merchant (Marcel André) picks a rose for his daughter, Beauty (Josette Day) in a mysterious castle garden, and is confronted by the leonine Beast (Jean Marais), who accuses him of stealing. The Beast will spare his life if he sends Beauty to live at the castle. To save her father, she agrees, but faints when she first sees her fierce new companion. As her fear blossoms into compassion and affection, Cocteau conjures a wondrous realm of magic mirrors and golden keys, where tears become diamonds and “love can beautify ugliness.” It’s easy to see how this film about physical and emotional transformation could inspire Yves Saint Laurent, who would brighten women’s lives with creations of fabric and form. Art direction by Christian Bérard, costumes by Marcel Escoffier. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 95 min.

November 30
Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 196

Belle de Jour (France 1967) Directed by Luis Buñuel Shown from left: Macha Meril, Francoise Fabian, Catherine Deneuve

With abundant self-knowledge, Luis Buñuel, the cinema’s master Surrealist, said that “in the hands of a free spirit, the cinema expresses the life of the subconscious.” Beneath the chilly, reserved surface of a beautiful Parisian wife’s (Catherine Deneuve) bourgeois life, a torrent of unexplored sexual desire gushes. Like an innocent discovering an obscure pathway to her psyche and her body, she crosses the threshold of a brothel and goes to work. What she learns about herself in the house of women is a treasure of selfhood that she keeps secret, but her involvements with a young hoodlum (Pierre Clémenti) and her husband’s friend (Michel Piccoli) threaten to expose her. The film poses the provocative question: Is Deneuve’s narrative of emancipation all a dream or fantasy? One thing’s for sure: she wears, and steps out of, costumes by Yves Saint Laurent, one of which is in our exhibit Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style. Art direction by Robert Clavel. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 100 min.

Get tickets now!

– Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Courtesy of Photofest.
Woman and Girl (Frau und Mädchen)

Object of the Week: Woman and Girl (Frau und Mädchen)

In the 1960s Donald E. Gordon, a scholar of the German artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, was producing a new catalogue raisonné on the artist, with the help and cooperation of Roman Norbert Ketterer, a collector and dealer who also served as executor of the Kirchner Estate. Gordon was a professor of art history at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where he served as chairman of the Department of Fine Arts. He had secured two Fulbright fellowships that took him to Germany for direct study of many Kirchner works, first at the University of Hamburg in the mid-1950s, and then at the University of Marburg in the mid-‘60s. By way of his study and connections Gordon familiarized himself with the entirety of Kirchner’s oeuvre. He successfully produced the catalogue raisonné, published by Harvard University Press in 1968, a herculean effort because of Kirchner’s productivity in painting and graphic arts. The same year marked the premiere of a retrospective exhibition on Kirchner that Gordon had organized, and for which he also authored the exhibition catalogue. The Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, this museum’s first space dedicated to the display of modern and contemporary art, was the first of three venues to host the Kirchner exhibition. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner debuted there on November 23.

Amid impressive amounts of researching and writing Gordon was wheeling and dealing, too. He came upon Woman and Girl (Frau und Mädchen) in the collection of Mrs. Maria Möller-Garny, the widow of Ferdinand Möller, a Nazi-era art dealer. Woman and Girl (Frau und Mädchen) had fallen under Hitler’s ridiculous category of “degenerate art,” prompting Nazi officials to remove the painting from the Staatliche Gemäldegalerie in Dresden. Because it was taken from a state-funded museum by the government in power, it was a legal seizure at the time. Tellingly, Möller, though in the business of dealing, recognized it as a fine example of Kirchner and kept the painting in his private collection until he died. In April of 1968, seven months before the doors opened on the Kirchner retrospective in Seattle, Gordon provided the connection between Frau Möller-Garny and SAM (for a small fee, of course). Gordon’s letter to Möller-Garny notifying her of the museum’s intention to buy, part of which we have reproduced here, is fun whether or not Sie lesen Deutsch.

Gordon's letter to Möller-Garny

The next week, Gordon wrote to Thomas Maytham, then Associate Director at SAM,

Both Mrs. Möller-Garny and I are pleased that you were able to secure the Seattle Art Museum’s decision so promptly, and hope that the sale may be consummated with similar dispatch. From my long knowledge of and admiration for this masterpiece, I am also personally happy at the prospect of its permanent entry into a major American museum collection.

The purchase was heralded in Seattle, timely because of the Kirchner retrospective in which it featured, and high-profile because of Kirchner’s importance in the history of Modern art. On November 17, 1968, Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Northwest Today featured a color reproduction on the front page—unfortunately adjacent to a rhetorical headline wondering about this city’s aesthetic potential.

November 17, 1968, Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Northwest Today with a color reproduction of Woman and Girl (Frau und Mädchen)

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Image: Woman and Girl (Frau und Mädchen), ca. 1922-1923, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, 1880-1938), oil on canvas, 66 1/8 x 46 7/8 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Richard E. Fuller, 68.120, Photo: Paul Macapia.
For the Love of Art: Ben and Gary

For the Love of Art Member Profile: Ben Bryson and Gary Monday

Dual members since 2014

You both presumably like art. Why?

G: Where do we start? Why do you like art? My experience with art is that it’s always a moment for me to step out of busy life and focus. I can make it my own through the experience—that’s really interesting and fun for me. That’s why I like art.

B: I search for inspiration all the time. I am inspired by art, inspired by people, inspired by writing, and inspired by design. I think art is all part of that universe of inspiration. That’s what keeps me going and keeps me near creative solutions—whether it’s for work or with each other. I like seeing people who are inspired to create something and I like getting into the psychology behind the art; that’s how I connect to it—not just visually.

What do you do for work, Ben? What are you seeking inspiration for?

B: I work for a nonprofit and we are always looking for new and innovative ways to get more donors and more money or more connection with our mission. I think in this day and age creative solutions are important. How do you communicate with people and talk with people? I think when you manage people it’s a creative process, too.

Gary, what do you do? What is your job or your passion?

G: The part of my life that I consider what I do is—I’m a square dance caller and I have been for over 30 years. It’s the only real artistic outlet that I have. What I do working with people and calling square dancing allows me to express myself. The result of that is that people have a lot fun and so that’s what I do. I enjoy the square dance element of my life and being a caller and producing that for people.

B: Together, we like to travel. Wherever we travel to we always go to the museums. So wherever we go, we go to art. Always, no matter what city.

For the Love of Art: Ben and Gary

Is that just because you like art and you’re there?

G: Until three years ago, I lived in a very rural setting and didn’t have access to a lot. When I go to a city one of the things I do is seek out art wherever it was available, because it wasn’t that available where I used to live. We both like modern art the most as far as going to museums. If we go to NYC, it’s always going to be a visit to MOMA.

B: Where are the gay bars, where are the museums? I like architecture as well. The experience of the Guggenheim—even if the art isn’t very good, the experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s dizzying structure is really cool. I think you have been to the Pompidou, too, right? That was the very first one that really blew my mind in Paris.

Is art something you do together? You enter into a museum together . . . but then what happens?

B: We go into a museum together and go very fast and we absorb as much as we can and let ourselves be drawn to something. I don’t know if it is our attention span but that was one of the things we clicked on as a couple early on.

G: I think we have an equal awareness of what is at a particular museum, so we already have a little bit of knowledge of why we are drawn there.

Why did you join SAM?

B: I remember when they first built the building here downtown. It was great to have a nice art museum here. I am at a stage of my life where I want to integrate more with my city. In the ’90s it wasn’t cool to integrate with establishments. It was just the ’90s. The city has changed, it’s ok to support them and also I aged a little bit from the 20-something that I was. I think integrating into this is really good for us right now. We’ve been together for a long time. There are things we do together and things we do apart. This is something we do together.

It’s a relationship thing you can integrate into your life as a couple. It gives you a date night with an event.

G: Something we definitely enjoy together.

B: I am really excited about the extended hours on Thursdays. We love to do a late night event at SAM and then bop around downtown.

Be like SAM members Ben and Gary and get excited about the upcoming season of Art of Jazz, taking place at SAM every second Thursday of the month. Presented in collaboration with Earshot Jazz 88.5 KNKX, next up is an Art of Jazz favorite, the Kareem Kandi Band on October 13. These events are free and funded in part by SAM Members. Consider supporting SAM by becoming a member today and make it a late night on the town with SAM next Thursday!

Photos: Scott Areman.


10 Things Unseen in Mood Indigo

10 Things Unseen in Mood Indigo

Mood Indigo: Textiles From Around the World is more than meets the eye. Pam McClusky, curator of the exhibition now on view at the Asian Art Museum, shares ten bits of insider information that reveal the multi-layered meaning of indigo across cultures, the process of mounting a large-scale exhibition, and some surprising contemporary inspiration. You’ve got less than a week to put this knowledge to work with a visit to see Mood Indigo in person—it closes October 9!

1. The AV master’s work

Norbert Herber's audio configuration for "Mobile Section"

Hidden from view, this monitor was installed by Norbert Herber who created a unique sonic landscape for the entry gallery. He recorded sounds of indigo processing which algorithms organized to create what he calls a “gauzy” effect that compliments the large enclosure of cloth that shares the space.

2. The deluxe “spa” treatment the tapestries received in Belgium

The tapestries got a bath and repairs were made

Large looms held the tapestries during repairs

The magnificent colors of three tapestries were enhanced by their trip to the Royal Manufacturers de Wit, the world’s leading restorer of European tapestries which was founded in 1889. Each tapestry was cleaned with aerosol suction, a patented process, and then all stray threads were carefully repaired.

3. The inspiration that comes from living artists

"Broken Star" by Anissa Mack, 2008.

The force is with us . . . as the opening of Star Wars are a point of departure for the denim quilt by Anissa Mack. She attests that “I wanted very much to stress the Americanness of quilts . . . and to marry the concept of a backward/future narrative with the idealism of American frontier denim.”

4. Impeccable installation coordination

Exhibition map and a familiar face still wrapped from storage

The SAM team hanging tapestries

When exhibition plans are posted by the designer, it sets off an intricate chain of steps taken by installers. They manage to get art into place while never forgetting how delicate and fragile it can be.

5. The back sides of textiles

The back of a tapestry can be just as fun to look at at the front!

Front views of textiles can be deceiving. Precise compositions are seen, while the underside may be an explosion of threads that showcase the job of the weaver. Putting on this shawl from the Kashmir region of India would envelope the wearer in lovely, soft goat hair.

6. Details hidden in plain view

Space Age Inspiration

Nature Inspiration

Focusing can encourage imaginary connections. In the bold geometry of a Laotian ancestor or Japanese trees, there is an affinity with space age imagery. In the swerving curls of cloth from Uzbekistan and China, you can see tendrils of vines and leaves that burst out of the deep dark blue.

7. The original owners of the textiles

Japanese Firemen

Batak of Sumatra

Photographs of indigo wearers can be revealing. Edo firemen of Japan wore garments soaked in water to protect themselves as they attacked flames. A shawl among the Batak of Sumatra can carry a blessing that is read by a priest who suggests ways to enhance the wearer’s future.

8. Conversations with researchers about the ups and downs of indigo

Indigo vats in India

During an exhibition, one hopes that great conversations emerge. For this, numerous scholars and artists have come to offer perspectives on the labor history of indigo in India and America, and often point out the fact that the rebellion in India led by Mahatma Gandhi was a major factor in changing the course of that country in the 20th century.

9. Stories about rabbits in the moon

Rabbits pound mochi on this vest

Japanese rabbits abound over several textiles on view. On this vest for an actor, a whole group are gathering what is needed to celebrate the full moon, including a mound of freshly-made rice cakes (mochi). Why rabbits do this is best explained by a view of the moon, whose silhouette is thought to resemble a rabbit pounding the rice for this very purpose.

10. A theory about indigo fascination

Indigo vat

Indigo dye vats offer a magical transformation of cloth in many parts of the world. Also around the world, the color of indigo emerges each morning and night, and is often found in water and in moods. From space, the earth is said to resemble a blue marble as water covers 70% of the planet’s surface. One could say that blue is the earth’s signature color.

– Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art

Images: Photo: Stephanie Fink. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Courtesy of Royal Manufacturers de Wit. Photo: Courtesy of Royal Manufacturers de Wit. Photo: Courtesy of Royal Manufacturers de Wit. Broken Star, 2008, Anissa Mack, American, born 1970, quilted denim, 84 x 144 in., Patricia Denny Art Acquisition Fund, 2009.11. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Pam McClusky. Pam McClusky. Pam McClusky. Ceremonial shawl (Pa Biang) (detail), ca. 1920, Laos, cotton weft, silk brocade, metal toggles, 14 1/2 × 96 1/2 in., Dr. David and Marita Paly, T2015.54.5. Bedding cover (futonji) (detail), 1900-1912, Japanese, cotton, hand-woven plain weave, resist dyed (kasuri) with indigo dye, 76 5/8 x 59 3/4 in., Gift of the Christensen Fund, 2001.442. Furnishing fabric (detail), ca. 1860, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, silk warp, cotton weft, resist dyed warp (ikat), natural dyes including indigo, 40 1/2 × 74 1/2 in., Loan from Dr. David and Marita Paly T2015.54.7. Hanging (detail), ca. 1750-1800, Chinese, silk with embroidery (satin stitch), natural and synthetic dyes, 30 in., L.: 41 1/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 37.32.1. Fireman’s coat (hikeshi banten), mid -19th century, Japanese, quilted (sashiko) cotton cloth with freehand paste-resist decoration (tsutsugaki), indigo dye, 34 3/8 x 46 7/8 in., Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, 89.81.1, Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Courtesy of Pam McClusky. Sacred Shawl (Ulos Ragidup) (detail), ca. 1900, Indonesian; Batak, cotton, warp resist (ikat), supplementary weft, natural dyes including indigo, 44 × 96 in., Dr. David and Marita Paly, T2015.54.4, Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Courtesy of Pam McClusky. Photo: Oscar Mallitte. Kyogen Theater Vest (kataginu) (detail), 19th century, Japanese, hemp fiber, paper with paint (applique), indigo dye, 30 3/4 x 27 3/8 in. with ties, 59 x 28 in., Gift of the Christensen Fund, 2001.403, Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Rowland Ricketts.