Get Your Winter Glow On: SAM Lights

If you live in Seattle, now is about the time when you might find yourself feeling lethargic, despondent, and perhaps a bit irritable. SAM’s got the fix for your Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s not vitamin D, it’s SAM Lights! Thursday, December 14, 6–9 pm get outside despite the cold and join us at the Olympic Sculpture Park for a luminous evening amidst iconic sculptures. There’s something for everyone with performances, food trucks, art activities, and Z Path lit by luminaria. Here’s a preview from two of our partners who will be bringing interactive art activities into the park just for you.

Sensebellum, a company specializing in blending interactive art and tech, is proud to present the Arborealis Tree Lighting System! Over 120+ light fixtures placed in 14+ trees around the Olympic Sculpture Park will light up the night as patrons walk around the grounds.

All of the trees are synchronized by custom software and are driven by an interactive kiosk where a map of the park becomes the interface. Press this button here and you hear a sound and see some light dance from branch to branch. What about that one over there? Better grab a friend because a good ol’ jam session just might occur! Whatever your style, it will sure to be a sight to see and we are sure very excited to bring out one of our favorite installations for all to enjoy!

Bop Bags is an interactive inflatable installation by the Seattle Design Nerds. Partly inspired by fungi that sprout in the wet season these inflatables appear to have burst forth in colorful bloom and are a reminder that our rainy season is still a vibrant one. These eight cuddly orbs invite touch and play by shifting color when tapped or “bopped.” Visitors are encouraged to tap on the surface of this series of gigantic cuddly lanterns which respond by changing colors.

Work together to create a symphony of illumination! As visitors descend through the Gates Amphitheater, the inflatables lure passersby from the path with their subtle glow and bubbly personality. Placed in a sympathetic arrangement to Richard Serra’s Wake, the orbs reward both play and patience. The Seattle Design Nerds are an all volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to design in the public realm. We focus on making exciting things for the public that can be experienced in unexpected locations and ways.

Images: Courtesy of Seattle Design Nerds & Sensebellem.
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Installation view of Sondra Perry: Eclogue for [in]HABITABILITY at Seattle Art Museum, 2017

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

City Arts’ Margo Vansynghel interviewed Sondra Perry, winner of the 2017 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize, about her newly opened installation at SAM.

“When I meet her in the darkened gallery, she speaks softly and fast, her ideas and sentences tumbling over each other like waves without arrest. One can find a similar sense of intellectual excitement and multiplicity in Perry’s work.”

The winter edition of the Stranger’s Art & Performance Quarterly is out! Zoom in on Winter 1946, a painting from Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, in their recurring “Anatomy of a Painting” feature.

Zagat features their picks for best restaurants and bars near SAM—hey, thanks for the tips!

Local News

City Arts on the impending closure of INCA in Queen Anne; this avant-garde gallery hosted Sondra Perry’s first solo show back in 2015.

Chiyo Ishikawa, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, lent her thoughts to this KUOW story by Marcie Sillman on the artistic and civic legacy of the Tsutakawa family.

City Arts names the local artists of the year in a colorful two-page spread, with illustrations by Kelly Björk.

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic reviews Mentors, Muses, and Celebrities, Mickalene Thomas’ show that’s now on view at the Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis.

“[It] is not only about looking at black women, it is about them observing the world around them and finding their place in it, and even amidst the trials and tribulations waged against them, finding ways to rejoice.”

Kerry James Marshall has designed a monumental public sculpture for Des Moines honoring the National Bar Association, the nation’s oldest network of African-American attorneys and judges.

Rumaan Alam for the New Yorker with a charming piece about bringing his children to art museums—and how they’ve changed how he sees and experiences art himself.

And Finally

Kendrick Lamar’s video “ELEMENT.” was inspired by the photography of Gordon Parks; now, the Gordon Parks Foundation presents an exhibition of the video and the works that inspired them.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Sondra Perry: Eclogue for [in]HABITABILITY at Seattle Art Museum, 2017, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: Choir of Pieterskerk, Leiden

This week we’re looking an important art historical genre: portraiture. Only, this “portrait,” by Dutch artist Anthony van Borssum, features not the human figure, but a 17th-century church interior as its subject.

Choir of Pieterskerk, Leiden presents a detailed rendering of Leiden’s late-Gothic Pieterskerk church. However, absent from the scene are the ornate religious sculptures and paintings that one would expect to find in a Catholic church. Stripped bare after the iconoclasm (or beeldenstorm) of the Protestant Reformation, this Dutch Reformed church’s whitewashed walls and columns appear austere, decorated only by heraldic banners that obscure the stained glass windows behind them. The materials used to create this work—pen, bistre (a pigment made from soot), and watercolor—only add to the church’s restrained and unadorned appearance.

As the Dutch empire grew during the 17th century, so did its art market, and church interiors like this one (as well as still lifes, landscapes, and portraits) were popular during the period. Characterized by soaring verticality, vaulted ceilings, and dramatic lighting—all of which diminish the presence of the human figure—the church interior, as a genre, conveys a sense of spirituality, despite the near total absence of religious iconography.

Dutch Reformed churches were non-secular spaces, but van Borssum and his contemporaries approached church interiors to explore light, color, spatial volume, and perspective. In this context, Pieterskerk becomes less a religious site than a patient sitter, a creative subject readily awaiting its likeness to be captured.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Choir of Pieterskerk, Leiden, 17th century, Anthony van Borssum, pen, bistre, and watercolor on paper, 14 9/16 x 9 1/4 in., LeRoy M. Backus Collection, 52.34
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Wyeth’s Cast of Characters: Helga Testorf

“The difference between me and a lot of painters is that I have to have a personal contact with my models . . . . I have to become enamored. Smitten. That’s what happened when I saw Helga.” – Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth painted Helga Testorf in secret for 13 years before the world, and his wife, saw the paintings for the first time. The secrecy and intimacy of these paintings stirred quite the scandal when they were first exhibited and they continue to be a source of much conjecture into the details surrounding Wyeth’s relationship with one of his greatest muses. Find out more about the character of Helga both within, and outside of, Wyeth’s life and paintings during a talk given by Patricia Junker, SAM’s Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, in the Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect galleries.

“Remember, he’s a Bergman . . . He’s creating a world they [his models] don’t realize and they’re acting out a part without any script.” – Betsy Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect is on view at Seattle Art Museum through January 15 and the next Wyeth Wednesday tour with Patricia Junker will take place January 3.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist & Social Media Manager

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Talent among Beauty at SAM

Downtown, we have two galleries dedicated to Chinese and Japanese art. So, while the Seattle Asian Art Museum is temporarily closed, get your fill of Asian art with the latest installation, Talents and Beauties: Art of Women in Japan, on view through July 15, 2018. “We know women as subjects; we see that all the time in artwork,” says Xiaojin Wu, SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art. “But to look at women as artists in addition to as a subject of art—that’s what you’ll see evidenced here from the 11th to the 21st century.”

The heart of the installation features artworks inspired by The Tale of Genji. Written by Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century and debated as the first novel ever written, the illustrations of this literary masterpiece may not be by women, but as Wu states, “How many women writers do we know from 1,000 years ago? How many artworks have been made from every scene in The Tale of Genji, including the contemporary manga? It’s just countless. In a way we are attributing all of these wonderful works back to the original writer, the woman who wrote the tale.” The two pages below excerpt the scene depicted in the right-hand panels of the screen above.

This excerpt and the page below refer to the right-hand panels of the image above.

Murasaki Shikibu wrote The Tale of Genji to entertain the members of her court. Because of this, it was written in an archaic court language that was little used and quickly lost to Japanese speakers. This accounts for one of the reasons why there are so many illustrations of the tale—as a classic piece of literature, the tale continued to be told in images and annotations across the centuries until in the 20th century when it was first fully translated into modern Japanese.

 

The Tale of Genji follows the life of  Hikaru Genji, the son of an ancient Japanese emperor, and his many romantic endeavors. Featuring over 400 characters that age throughout the book and whose family lineages are often intertwined, Genji is considered a feat of characterization consistency for having been written in installments of chapters over a long period time. Although the book does not have what we might consider a plot nowadays (events simply take place and the characters age), it is one of the first pieces of literature to feature a protagonist, supporting characters, strong characterization, and a sequence of events following the lifetime of the main character.

Xiaojin Wu is planning “. . . a sequence of installations that look at various patronage and audience groups. Following Talents and Beauties we’ll focus on aristocrats, and then samurai.” Make the time to visit this gallery for new perspectives on Asian art and culture.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist and Social Media Manager

Images: Installation view Talents and Beauties: Art of Women in Japan, 2017, Seattle Art Museum, photo: Natali Wiseman.
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji,  trans. Royal Tyler (New York: Viking Press, 2001)
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SAM Gallery Artists on Seattle: Leslie Stoner, Liz Tran, Sheryl Westergreen

Seattle is one of those rare places where it isn’t considered droll to talk about the weather. The SAM Gallery artists in Color Excursion, on view December 8 through January 7, offer an escape from grey days into exuberant artwork. Below, three of the artists in this show share the ways that living in Seattle and the surrounding area impact the way they see the world. For such a moody and dramatic locale, you may be surprised by their vibrant, lively work. If you’re looking to recharge your senses, come to SAM Gallery for the Color Excursion Opening Reception on Thursday December 7, talk to the artists about their work, and find out how you can rent or buy artwork from SAM Gallery.

Leslie Stoner

This year I moved from Green Lake to Whidbey Island. Previously my work originated from a contemplative state of creation. I found inspiration through travel and memory and emotions but now living on Whidbey, I’m in it. On the island your surroundings are constantly in flux. The winds whip in and carry things away, the storms batter the shoreline leaving treasures on the beach. The nights are deep and dark and full of creatures. Everything feels alive and in a state of change. The beauty and the drama of my surroundings constantly barrage my eyes and fill my brain with endless creative ideas and the solitude of the island allows these ideas to come to fruition in my studio.

When invited to make a body of work for Color Excursion, I was elated. I’m addicted to color. I mix my own colors using wax and powdered pigments and when working with this medium it becomes something else, something more tactile. It’s hard to explain, it’s like I’m making a soup but I’m loading it with saturated color until it’s thick, and I want to eat it. That’s what initially drew me to encaustic painting and I think it’s what draws people to want to touch an encaustic painting.

Liz Tran

The use of color in my work is an unapologetic form of escapism from the long stretches of grey weather that continually blankets my Pacific Northwest home. Each year my palette of luminous, unnatural hues provides a defiant objection to winter’s approach. Pulsing fluorescent paints massage the naked eye with ultraviolet light, creating an energized glow impervious to dull environments. Maroon does not belong to me. Tubes of brown remain unopened. There is safety in muteness. My paintings speak to extroversion, experimentation, and play. Through color, I aim to activate.

Sheryl Westergreen

Color Excursion immediately brought to mind the idea of travel, taking an excursion lavish with color. My work in this show was inspired by a trip to South America one year ago. Although the paintings for this show do not reflect Seattle, much of my work is inspired by my daily routines and surroundings. For example, the Across the Lake, Cloud Dreams, Inside a Cloud, and Inside a Leaf series are all the result of my daily walks in my Seattle neighborhood.

I let my experiences germinate and then abstract them on the canvas, translating a memory of a place or an experience. I work in layers of color and compose the image while working. My paintings are oil on canvas or board. Working with oil means that each layer needs to have a bit of time to dry before the next layer can be applied. I find that when I return to the piece it changes and evolves in surprising ways.

 

Images: Detail of Leslie Stoner’s studio, photo: Alison Blomgren. Afterglow Two, Liz Tran, 30 x 24 in., mixed media on panel. Easter Island, Chile, Sheryl Westergreen, 36 x 36 in., oil on canvas.
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Object of the Week: Still Life with Calendar

As we prepare for the last 31 days in our 2017 calendars, it becomes clear how quickly time flies. Where did the year go? In this 1956 work by Northwest artist Wendell Brazeau, Still Life with Calendar, time is certainly a preoccupation, as well as developments in abstraction imported from Europe during the years following World War II.

A painting that could only exist after the pictorial revolution brought about by Cubism, and Paul Cézanne before that, this work is a marker of an important moment in American painting when European theories made their way to artists living and working in the United States. Like many, Brazeau studied in Paris and worked first-hand with the European avant-garde, bringing such ideas back to the Northwest and pollinating the region with new modernist theories.[1]

One of the main genres of Western art, the still life takes many forms; whether arrangements of symbolic objects that point to the brevity of human life,[2] or celebrations of material wealth, the still life has fascinated artists for centuries. In more recent art history, the still life has become a foundation for formal experimentation.

Indeed, here flat geometric forms and bright planes of color unify a spatially ambiguous plane. We see lemons or limes perched precariously on the left-hand corner of the table, as well as a chair, coffee pot, flower vase, and fruit basket, all nearly sliding from their fixed positions. Behind this array of multi-toned vessels and objects we also see a small section of an incomplete calendar—a tongue-in-cheek inclusion that seems to simultaneously honor and scrap the genre’s interest with the passage of time. A knowing departure from the still life paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, Still Life with Calendar playfully explores the possibilities of abstraction while wittily honoring the subject’s antecedents.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Still Life with Calendar, 1956, Wendell Brazeau, oil on board, 41 3/4 x 46 in., Northwest Annual Purchase Fund, 56.254 © William A. Brazeau
[1] Brazeau studied art at the University of Washington for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. For more, please see Barbara Johns, Modern Art from the Pacific Northwest in the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1990), 16.
[2] Vanitas, for example, contain objects—such as musical instruments, skulls, candles, and flowers—that serve to remind the viewer of their own mortality, as well as the worthless pursuit of earthly goods and pleasures.
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Sondra Perry: Opening Up Through Technology and Media

Artist Sondra Perry is the first video artist to win the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize! Using a wide range of digital platforms and tools including 3-D avatars, blue screens, Chroma keys, and computer graphics software, Perry’s installations and performances draw from an eclectic mix of inspiration. She is focused on how a lens can turn a subject into an object. See Perry’s immersive and unique (bring your hard hat!) installation, Eclogue for [in]HABITABILITY from December 8, 2017 through July 1, 2018 at SAM.

Below, Perry discusses how the internet, technology, and her personal history factor into her investigations into representations of black identity. This is taken from a talk she gave to SAM staff this February. She opened the talk with a tutorial video from YouTube on how to play an Isley Brothers song on guitar, so we will too!

The interesting thing about this clip is that he’s talking about that soaring note at the beginning of the song. That’s an E Flat played backwards. In the sidebar, all of these people who have also done tutorials for this song reference this video for showing them how to play that note. This is a piece of internet archaeology that touches on my interest in the parallel; two things happening at the same time in this YouTube space. The original and the improvised other. And also, like he’s amazing. He reminds me of my uncle who played guitar for lots of different people.

I spend a lot of my time on YouTube. Tons, probably too much. Not too long ago, when there were many black people dying, being murdered at the hands of police. I found this YouTube channel that was not connected to any news agency that does 3-D renderings of space travel, biology, and crimes. One of their 3-D renderings was the slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson. I am interested in the rendering of the body, of this man in a 3-D render space. I’m interested in circulation and how these images are represented outside of the video of someone being killed. That’s not what I’m interested in at all. I’m interested in how those things are able to happen.

When I was younger I read the Superman books. In the Superman Universe, the Phantom Zone is a parallel dimension that acts as a prison, an ethical one. Superman’s father, Kal-El, was the Security Minister on Krypton before it blew up, of course. He created this parallel dimension that was the Phantom Zone where you could send people to be rehabilitated. In the Phantom Zone you could see what was happening in your dimension, but you couldn’t interact with it. I’ve taken this Phantom Zone, spinning, 1980’s special effect to visualize some notions of double consciousness. I’m also playing with how a video can act as a space where there are multiple perspectives. So, you’re not just looking directly at an image—there are other things happening. I’m trying to encompass all these things into one really vibey piece of art.

I’m interested in video and its production spaces. In 2016 at The Kitchen in New York I created an installation, Resident Evil. The back is a Flesh Wall—an animation of my skin with the contrast boosted. I do this through programs used to make 3-D renderings of things. The ocean modifier I used for this is supposed to help you make a realistic 3-D rendered ocean.

This installation is where I transitioned from using the Chroma key green to the blue screen. The Chroma key is a video, film, and photo production technique that allows you to separate the foreground of an image and a background. So usually these images have a person in the foreground and in post-production you’re able to take that out and replace whatever kind of background you want in there.

The blue screen became interesting to me because it’s the technique you would use when you’re trying to replace a background with something that’s dark because of its relationship to the end of the spectrum. I like this idea of this blue space that is simultaneously a black space that is my grandmother’s house, a park at night, or the Avengers destroying Manhattan. I like the collapse of all of those things and that’s why I decided to start covering as much of the physical spaces I was putting these videos into in this color, that is also a space.

It’s also a proposition to myself and the viewership because it is a space of production. In thinking of these colors as spaces, they are not complete. I’m trying to propose that maybe we’re the ones who figure out what’s happening there. It’s a space of contemplation.

via GIPHY

Have you seen Coming to America? This movie is really funny, but there’s also a lot happening in it. You have two American men making a film about a fictional African country and there’s the contrast of Black folks from the states and Black folks from the continent. I was thinking about this family of upwardly mobile Black people who make a fortune on selling other Black folks things that change their visage in order to assimilate. There’s something complex about what it takes to be an upper-class, upwardly mobile Black person. Maybe you have to shapeshift. In that shapeshifting, there is this kind of grotesque thing that happens. They left a mark of themselves, like on this couch. I’d wanted to make this couch for a really long time and I finally did.

The bike is a workstation that comes with a desk. They’re sold to people that work at home and want to maintain their physical health while they’re working. I’ve been thinking a lot about these efficiency machines that do that capitalism thing. They fix a problem that is kind of inherent in these issues of overwork. People shouldn’t work as much as they do, but rather than change, we make objects like this is bike machine. I made an avatar of myself that kind of serves as the Operating System and it talks about being efficient, efficiency, what that does for you. I don’t primarily work in video, but when I do I like working on a multi-monitor workstation because it’s a lot easier; you have your preview monitor and you have a monitor where you can edit. This set up is just a way to produce video that I wanted to mimic in the installation.

Across all of this my interest is in the possibilities of blackness related to my body and also blackness as an idea of expansion, of radicalism. These things open themselves up to me through the technologies I use and through the media I gravitate towards. The issue I find with representation is that we assume that all we have to do is figure out the right way to look and we will know what something is or know what someone is. I think that’s an impossibility.

– Sondra Perry

Awarded bi-annually since 2009, the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence prize grants an early career black artist who has been producing work for less than 10 years with a $10,000 award, along with a solo show at SAM.

Images: Young Women Sitting and Standing and Talking and Stuff (No, No, No), April 21, 2015, Sondra Perry, performance at the Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery in NYC with performers Joiri Minaya, Victoria Udondian, and Ilana Harris-Babou. Installation view of Resident Evil (Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation in foreground) at The Kitchen, 2016, Sondra Perry, Photo: Jason Mandella.
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In the studio: Creating a K-12 art lesson on Wyeth

Going through Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect you will see a white house over and over again. The house belongs to the Keurner’s, some of Wyeth’s neighbors. Wyeth was fascinated with Karl Keurner and his wife Anna and his paintings reveal that.

For students visiting the museum we wanted to create a lesson that captured the narrative point of view in Wyeth’s paintings in order to share how the artist’s perspective reveals much more than a hillside with a white house on it. We also wanted to bring in some of his process as an artist. Wyeth’s work is so technically beautiful that we were afraid students would be intimidated, so we decided to create a model in the studio. We bought a simple doll house, painted it white and grey, and paired it down to open rooms and windows with doors swinging partially open. Stories abound just looking at the house.

Students were first asked to look at Wyeth’s work and to find the large shapes in it. Wyeth often worked by breaking a scene down into large shapes, and sketching them out on paper. Students then translate it into their own looking experience. We created eight points of view based on the paintings in the show, ranging from bird’s-eye view in Northern Point to looking-up view, in Mother Archie’s Church, to the windswept view in Airborne. Students can choose their point of view, or if they can’t decide, they can roll some dice for a random pick.

After all this, students begin drawing through observation. They are invited to move around the house to find a good spot, older students can take a photo with their phone if they want. All the while they should be thinking about the larger narrative. What information will help them tell their story? We are using water color pencils on watercolor paper and, once they have their sketch, they can activate the dry colors by using water, brushes, and blending to create fields of color. As students finish up their artwork they can create a visual story together with their class or table groups.

For more info on School Tours and Art Workshop Programs at SAM, please email or go visit our website. Try a variation of this lesson plan with your school group if you come for a self-guided tour!

– Lynda Harwood-Swenson, Program Associate for School and Educator Programs

Photos: Natali Wiseman, Elizabeth Humphrey, and Lynda Harwood-Swenson
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