The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

SAM Book Club: Up Next – The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

Welcome back book lovers! It’s time to announce this quarter’s read for SAM Book Club.

For those who missed our inaugural installation of this new virtual club, here’s how it works: Once a quarter, I’ll be selecting a book about art to talk about here on SAM Blog. We’ll announce the book about a month before the book club date so that you can get your hands on a copy and read along. We’ll meet back here on the blog a month later to discuss in the comments.

This month we’ll be reading The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith. The publisher describes this newly-released novel as “a collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the golden age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.” I mean, can you resist?

Pick up a copy, take it to the beach, or the pool—or wherever these sunny summer days are calling you—and meet me back here on August 25 to discuss The Last Painting of Sara de Vos!

—Carrie Dedon, Curatorial Assistant, Modern & Contemporary Art

The Harlot Finds a Protector" by William Hogarth, 1732

Graphic Content: Engraving

Last week on Graphic Content, we introduced printmaking and the intaglio method. This week we discuss engraving, a type of intaglio, used by William Hogarth for his print series in Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb. Want to learn more? Study the effects of this method with a visit to SAM and get more tips on printmaking by working with local artists during Press & Print: Drop-In Studio.

Check back weekly through the run of Graphic Masters for more information on different types of printmaking and get creative in and out of the museum.

Engraving

Engraving

To make an engraving, the artist incises a design into the plate using a burin, a tool with a sharp diamond-shaped tip that creates smooth lines with crisp edges. Significant pressure and a steady hand are needed to force the burin into the plate and cleanly remove the excess copper from the surface. Because of the immense skill involved, some artists employed professional engravers to execute their designs.

The Harlot Finds a Protector" (detail) by William Hogarth, 1732

Whether calligraphic curves or stippled dots, engraved lines are clean and precise. Hogarth employed cross-hatching, the angled intersection of hatched lines, to achieve a great range of textures and tones.

IMAGES: The Harlot Finds a Protector, 1732, William Hogarth, English, 1697–1764, engraving, 12 3/8 x 15 1/16 in., Seattle Art Museum. Gift of Lloyd Spencer, 44.298. Photo: Elizabeth Mann. Illustrations: Tim Marsden. The Harlot Finds a Protector (detail), 1732, William Hogarth.
Bent-corner chest

Object of the Week: Bent-corner chest

Spewing facts can bore just about anyone, but there are some really good facts that are enchanting. Here’s a big hat tip to the Seattle Aquarium for its fun-fact billboards and ad banners around town, from which I’ve discovered how ridiculously sweet otters are and some other awesome tidbits. As in conversations about marine animals, facts figure importantly in talking about art because they illuminate the rare, remarkable, phenomenal aspects of great artworks. They lend substance to our imaginings on art and they can also inspire new thoughts and creative responses.

One simple fact about SAM’s Bent-corner chest spurred me on to investigate it further: The four sides of the chest have been formed from a single plank of wood. “Tell me more, chest!” I said.

Bent-corner chest

It boggles my mind to think about forming four sides of a box from a single plank of wood, and apparently it boggles many minds because the bent-corner technique is unique to Native artists of the Northwest Coast. Beginning with a long plank of wood, the artists would shape the walls of the box by carving some portions thinner, readying the plank for folds. At the points where the plank will bend, they cut notches across the plank, called kerfs. Cutting the kerfs carves out the needed space for the wood to fold into itself. The plank is steamed—traditionally over hot rocks and seaweed—making it pliable enough to bend. From there, the artists make three folds, bringing the walls together at 90-degree angles. The fourth corner is joined together with an adhesive. The joined corner remains visible, so the makers would orient that corner toward the back of the room where the chest is placed, and the whole decorative program for the chest would be planned out accordingly, with the primary designs on the opposite, frontal side. It’s a show of perfect craftsmanship and thoughtful presentation.

The designs on SAM’s chest were executed by Captain Richard Carpenter, who is especially important as one of only a handful of named Native artists of the 19th century. Captain Carpenter’s English name communicates his role as a carver and boat maker, and he was also a second-ranked chief. The evenly distributed, sinuous formlines we see are characteristic of Captain Carpenter’s style, as are the large areas of negative space, enlivened with bright blue and red paint.1

Bent-corner chest

Purpose and symbolism converge in the Bent-corner chest, which would have served as storage space—housing clan regalia and heirlooms—and as a seat for a chief. Literally supported by the chest and the items inside that represent the clan’s tradition, the chief has a physical connection to these objects of importance. He also assumes a position of symbolic power as the clan’s guide and protector, figuratively supported by its history.

What does your seat say about you?

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

1 Martha Black, Bella Bella: A Season of Heiltsuk Art, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Royal Ontario Museum; Vancouver, B.C., Canada: Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997: 110-111.
Bent-corner chest, ca. 1860, Captain (Richard) Carpenter (Du’klwayella) (Heiltsukw, Waglisla, 1841-1931), yellow cedar, red cedar, paint, 21 1/4 x 35 3/4 x 20 1/2 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of John H. Hauberg and John and Grace Putnam 86.278, Photo: Natali Wiseman.
Graphic Content

Graphic Content: What is a Print?

Get a primer on the printmaking techniques of the masters in Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb. Try making your own prints at home after you’ve been inspired by your visit to SAM, or check out our Press & Print: Drop-In Studio sessions while at you’re at the museum and put these tips into practice with the guidance of local artists.

Let’s start simple!

What is a print?
At its most basic, a print is a work of art on paper that’s produced in multiples from an inked surface. While various types of printmaking exist, the basic components are the same—an inked wood block or plate, a sheet of paper, and a press that transfers the ink to the paper. The process is repeated many times, resulting in multiple impressions of the same image. Voila, a print edition!

How to make a Potato Print!

The development of printmaking
Following the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, printmaking gained popularity as an inexpensive way to disseminate visual information to a mass audience. Early prints—typically illustrations in books or reproductions of famous paintings—tended to be relatively small, affordable, and easily transportable. While fine paintings by important artists were too expensive for most people, prints were within reach.

The Development of Printmaking

Prints did not remain purely illustrative for long. Printmaking came to be seen as a distinct mode of expression capable of producing works of fine art. Artists like Albrecht Dürer established a tradition of virtuoso printmaking. His episodic handling of narrative through print series, like The Large Passion, laid the groundwork for later generations of graphic artists from William Hogarth to R. Crumb.

The technical innovations of artists like Rembrandt van Rijn and Francisco Goya pushed the boundaries of the medium and further elevated printmaking as an art form. Connoisseurs began to build collections of particularly fine impressions. Rembrandt’s Christ Healing the Sick was so sought after that it fetched prices usually associated with oil paintings, earning it the nickname “The Hundred Guilder Print.” But in general, prints remained accessible works of art meant to be viewed and appreciated up close.

Intaglio

Tools of the Trade

Intaglio (Italian for “carving”) is the opposite of relief. A linear design is carved into the surface of a polished metal plate, usually copper. Ink is worked into the entire plate and then the surface is wiped clean, leaving ink only in the recessed grooves and pits. As the printing process wears down the plate, the artist can rework the design to pull more impressions. Altering the plate surface results in a new version, or state. Some artists, Rembrandt in particular, used this opportunity to make dramatic changes to their compositions.

Christ Healing the Sick (The Hundred Guilder Print) by Rembrandt van Rijn

There are several types of intaglio printing: engraving, drypoint, etching, and aquatint. Artists may use just one technique at a time or a combination of several in a single print. We’ll cover each type of intaglio printing in the weeks to come, stay tuned!

IMAGES: Illustrations: Tim Marsden. Christ Healing the Sick (The Hundred Guilder Print), 1643, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, 1606–1669, etching and drypoint, 11 1/8 × 15 1/4 in., Private Collection.
black-vase

Object of the Week: Black pottery vase in shape of hu

SAM’s remarkable Black pottery vase in shape of hu is among the museum’s earliest acquisitions. The vase’s object number, 33.6, communicates that it was the sixth piece formally accessioned in the museum’s inaugural year of 1933, and of the objects added to the collection that year, the vase is the first to survive deaccessioning; sadly, 33.1 through 33.5 are no longer with us.

Dr. Fuller purchased this Warring States period ceramic jar for $150 from a New York dealer named Roland Moore. Roland, the son of a Chinese dealer named Rufus, continued in the family business, selling mainly snuff bottles and ceramics.1  The vase is just one of 259 items that Fuller purchased from Moore, and though not every one of these selections was a home run, Fuller did benefit from the connection, establishing the beginnings of a strong Asian ceramics collection that we enjoy today.

Dr. Fuller, who has been proven over time a very successful collector, was still developing his taste at this early stage. He landed on the Black pottery vase in shape of hu at a moment when he was moving beyond his initial collecting interest—snuff bottles—and looking to jades and ceramics. While expanding the art forms he considered for acquisition, he simultaneously became interested in adding Chinese works from various dynasties to increase the breadth of the collection. This vase, with its intriguing decorative designs, and its 3rd-century B.C. date, added new dimensions to SAM’s Chinese collection.

For me, the vase is a tour de force in imitation. Though ceramic, it imitates bronze by its burnished shade of brown-black, echoing patina. The taotie mask that adorns two sides of the vase is a typically bronze decorative motif, but here it is, carefully worked onto the body of an earthenware piece. At the historical moment when the vase was made, ceramic offered an economic alternative to costlier bronze; hence we see a ceramic dressed up as a bronze.

Fascinating geometric and animal designs adorn the vase. As our eye scans it, we notice that horizontal ridges attempt to organize the decoration into separate registers. On the neck and on the largest register of the body, scaly beasts look backward toward curling tails. Jagged vertical lines mark the first register below the neck; the second register features nesting triangles interspersed with sawtooth serrations; in another register beneath that, irregular diamonds run across the vase, linked together by script-like horizontal lines.

Throughout the vase, an interesting dialogue occurs between the potter and the decorator—maybe a conflict between a regimented and more freeform approach to artistic decoration. The indented bands that separate the vase into its various registers would have been formed when the vase was initially thrown, probably on a potter’s wheel; the incised decoration was added later. On the middle of the vase, notice how the legs and feet of the dragon creatures transgress the boundaries of their register, creeping over the horizontal bands. I liken this decoration to coloring outside the lines. It’s as if the dragon, mysterious and powerful, refused to be contained by the space allotted to it. Elsewhere, too, we see incised design overlapping the structuring horizontal bands and playfully interacting with the form of the vase, creating a final impression of an artwork that is, itself, a conversation.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

IMAGE: Black pottery vase in shape of hu, ca. 3rd century B.C., Chinese, Warring States period (481-256 B.C.), black earthenware with incised decoration, 13 13/16 in.; girth: 31 1/4 in.; diam. top: 4 1/2 in. Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 33.6, Photo: Paul Macapia.
1 Josh Yiu, A Fuller View of China, Seattle, Wash.: Seattle Art Museum, 2014; 36-37.
Corey Rawdon, SAM Member

For the Love of Art Member Profile: Corey Rawdon

COREY RAWDON
35–44
Salesforce consultant, Sans The Tie
Patron member since 2014

What’s your occupation? What are your hobbies or passions?
Founder and Managing Director, Sans The Tie. A boutique Salesforce consulting firm. Lover of good wine and espresso, singer of the opening song of the Lion King in different countries while standing on rocks, vegan, and philanthropist in training.

Why do you love art?
Art has texture, art has color, art has form, and art has life—and it’s this life that can appeal to so many yet so few at one singular time. That is why I love art, Often pieces are deeply meaningful to some and yet completely irrelevant to others at the same time.

What’s your favorite SAM location? Do you have a special spot to visit?
As a new member I have only been able to experience the SAM a few times so I have yet to find a truly favorite place.

I’m so glad that you got involved.
We were very involved in the art scene in Dallas. My favorite location in Dallas was the Nasher Sculpture Center because I love sculpture probably more than painted pieces.

I was so excited to find the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s probably one of the main reasons why we joined as members—to hang out there and do some of the cool, fun member events.

We also did SAM Remix at the Seattle Art Museum just a couple weekends ago actually. It was packed but fun.

Corey Rawdon, SAM Member

What role do you think art plays in society? Do we need art? Are museums important?
That’s such a huge question to answer. That’s a really great question because I do not have a long history with art. I never really appreciated art or architecture and all the different styles of architecture, actually, until I met my husband who took me around to all the museums.

I discovered, “Oh, there is this whole other world that I never even knew about or didn’t even think existed in a way that would be meaningful to me.” And through his lens I discovered that there are different types of buildings and architecture. It’s not in a museum, of course, but those buildings themselves are art through the ages.

That’s what really connected me to art—understanding the story and the history.

And then to learn to appreciate Art Deco and what all of the Art Deco buildings really represented, and the parties and the life and the joy that you had. Then to move forward into the Post-Modern era and all the really cool, crazy stuff where people just put a vacuum on a pedestal, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s art!”

So the answer is yes, you need art. Yes, it’s important but that art is going to be something totally different from one person to another.

I think part of the beauty of art is understanding yourself, that lens that you use to view art through, how you find art and its meaning to you.

Membership at SAM is full of perks such as Members Appreciation Night tonight at the Olympic Sculpture Park! Not a member yet? Sign up on Members Night and receive a $10 discount! See you there.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) Directed by David Lynch

Film/Life: The Eternal Return of David Lynch

David Lynch Movie Night Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Wed Jul 20 2016
7:30 Pm – 9:45 PM

Writer, director, furniture maker, painter, musician, songwriter, vocalist, and photographer David Lynch believes in reincarnation: “You die and you have a little time in a dream and, by golly, you come back.”

Born and raised in the Northwest (Montana, Washington, Idaho), Lynch, who now lives in Los Angeles, keeps coming back to our neck of the woods to reincarnate one of his most potent and enduring artistic dreams: Twin Peaks. In this international TV phenomenon (1990-91), Lynch’s floating-in-a-dream, emotional-visceral storytelling penetrated the dark woods and rainy mists of a small town to reveal secret desires and enigmatic metaphysical connections.

The idea of exploring beneath the surface of everyday reality is central to Lynch’s sensibility. His father was a Forest Service research scientist who probed pine trees for hidden disease, and for over three decades Lynch, the daily meditator, has plumbed the deep inner stream of his subconscious.

Things hummed along pleasantly in the town of Twin Peaks. People worked in the sawmill, chowed down at the diner, drank hot black coffee; kids went to school, everyone felt safe with Sherriff Harry Truman on guard—and then the sweetheart of the community, golden Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer, was found cold, blue, dead and wrapped in plastic on a lakeshore. Unprecedented for TV, we saw the town grieve for a harrowing period of time. Nothing less than innocence was lost, chaos reigned, an almost cosmic wound was suffered.

Laura Palmer

The FBI sent Dale Cooper to investigate, and he was indeed a Special Agent well beyond the parameters of his job description. He was dressed in regulation black suit, white shirt and dark tie, but his mind colored outside orthodox lines. He was a stalwart and true defender of the law, but he intuitively sought clues by throwing rocks at bottles while reciting people’s names, correctly read folks’ romantic status in a split second, entered “a box of chocolate bunnies” into the official record and voiced a child-like wonder at “those amazing trees you’ve got around here.” Cooper got to know Laura’s parents, her friends and those she loved, but all his efforts couldn’t solve the mystery of her killing. He knew that two plus two sometimes equals seven, but even his creative, non-linear mind couldn’t grasp the shape of an ancient evil that breathed in empty rooms. And he was haunted by Laura;  it felt like his mission was to save a girl who was already dead.

It took Lynch and his writing/production partner Mark Frost so long to reveal Laura’s killer that many viewers dropped out, and Twin Peaks was cancelled in its second season. The continuing story of Laura, Cooper, the town, and its denizens remained an energy-generating locus in Lynch’s mind, so in September of 1991 he and his cast and crew returned to the Snoqualmie Valley to shoot the theatrical film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. (This blog’s author, in stealth mode, witnessed much of the filming, as recounted in his book David Lynch: Beautiful Dark). The filmmakers expected the typical Northwest gloomy chill, but were met with a golden eighty-degree Indian Summer. Lynch believes that “things happen when they’re supposed to,” and he embraces artistic accidents. So since this prequel film would focus on Laura Palmer’s days and nights leading up to her death, he saw the unexpected death-of-summer atmosphere as a perfect fit.

Lynch is very much a hands-on creator, but for part of the TV Twin Peaks run he was away making his film Wild at Heart (1990), and when he resumed production he didn’t like the way the show had meandered away from its essence. So Fire Walk With Me is the intimate, direct-experience (rather than TV’s alluded-to) story of Laura and those she loves and fears. She’s a vital young woman who chooses/is chosen by the shadow side of life, a schoolgirl of the sorrows, but with delivering angels hovering near. For, though no one can convey the terrible power and beauty of darkness like Lynch, he believes in the white-light grace of transcendence. Sheryl Lee’s stunningly committed performance as Laura can make you feel that the order of the universe is at stake. In addition to the TV Twin Peaks’ fine cast (including the late, great Catherine E. Coulson as The Log Lady and Lynch himself as FBI Inspector Gordon Cole), Fire Walk With Me features Keifer Sutherland, Chris Isaak, and a tall, thin gentleman named David Bowie.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)Directed by David Lynch, Shown: David Bowie

Throughout the TV run of Twin Peaks, Lynch’s hypnotic narrative bent time and space, and made dreams invade reality. So, though Fire Walk With Me precedes Laura’s death, it also follows it; it’s a prequel and a sequel—and a bridge to the future. For the third time in twenty-seven years Lynch has brought his continuing story and cameras to the Northwest: the new incarnation of Twin Peaks will air on Showtime cable in 2017.

Get in the Twin Peaks mood with our Fire Walk With Me screening. The trees are green, the coffee’s black, the Red Room is as mysterious as a blue rose, and shades of good and evil color the night. Get your ticket today.

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Photo: Photofest. Photo: ABC/Photofest, © ABC. Photo: New Line Cinema/Photofest, © New Line Cinema.
Crystal Math

Object of the Week: Crystal Math

Don’t do this, but. . . If you were to bring a stack of Marvel comics to the Seattle Art Museum, ride the escalator to the third floor, take a left turn, pass the video installation, and look up at the wall to your left, you’d find installed on that wall a custom-built box that fits your comics perfectly. However, it’s sideways, and it’s a museum artwork.

The piece you’d be looking at is sardonically called Crystal Math. It visualizes a collaborative effort between brothers Oscar Tuazon and Eli Hansen. As brothers do, they’ve worked together on projects since their childhoods and this piece represents the particular interests of Tuazon in architecture and Hansen in glass art. Their collaborative art takes on traditional views that separate “high” and “low” art forms into different contexts. Crystal Math thoughtfully, playfully mingles them all.

The humble material of plywood, simply arranged into a box, contrasts the precious blown glass, artfully made. The cerebral architectural theory that informs the glass geodesic domes, which are references to the visionary Buckminster Fuller, contrasts the world referenced by the pipe-like spout on the upper dome, recalling drug paraphernalia. Then there’s the fact that Tuazon and Hansen have incorporated a box fashioned by their father for holding their comic books into an art installation on the wall of a major museum. Thinking about this piece in terms of high or low art forms, fine art or craft, really leads us nowhere; thinking about it as a creative act brings us to all kinds of fun readings.

Tuazon, who won the Betty Bowen Award in 2007, is a local artist with international appeal. He and his brother were born on the Port Madison reservation on the Kitsap Peninsula, just East of Poulsbo and North of Bainbridge Island, and they attended high school in Port Townsend. Tuazon studied at Cooper Union in New York and also completed the Independent Study Program through the Whitney Museum of American Art before moving back to the Northwest and working in Tacoma. He moved to Paris, a biographical detail that reflects his many connections abroad, and has now settled in Los Angeles. Tuazon has exhibited work in Zurich, Brussels, Berlin, Geneva, Rome, Oslo, Paris, and Tokyo, as well as in New York and LA.

Both Tuazon and Hansen participated in the residency program at Pilchuck Glass School, and right now Crystal Math joins works by other Pilchuck students, most notably Dale Chihuly, in SAM’s galleries. It also offers a point of connection to Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb. Not only does Graphic Masters feature the art of a legend in comics, R. Crumb, who I’m sure would be pleased to hear of Tuazon’s and Hansen’s comic book box, but it also juxtaposes work that many would consider traditional with Crumb’s notably anti-traditional illustrations. Plywood and print works, Picasso and pipes—they’re all coming together at SAM!

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

IMAGE: Crystal Math, 2007, Oscar Tuazon (American, b. 1975) and Eli Hansen (American, b. 1979), blown, cut, assembled glass and plywood, 36 x 30 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Merrill Wright, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.69, © Oscar Tuazon and Eli Hansen, Photo: Natali Wiseman.

SAM Creates: Bleu de Travail (working blues)

Get in the mood for Summer at SAM open studio sessions with this short video by artist and videographer, Rachael Lang featuring a hand-dyed Isvald Indigo dress and the whimsical evening sky of Seattle.

Every Saturday in July you can learn to dye fabrics with Izzie Klingels at the Olympic Sculpture Park. These interactive open studio hours explore traditional methods of indigo dyeing using natural, organic indigo to create a communal installation celebrating indigo and indigo workers.

“It’s such a multi-dimensional dye, with luminance and depth that you don’t find with other dyes,” Izzie Klingels told City Arts Magazine in a 2015 article on her hand-dyed clothing line, Isvald Indigo. Using repurposed clothing typically sourced from thrift stores, Klingels clothing line is the most recent of her many endeavors which have included illustration, video, branding, and nail art to name a few.

“My style is loose and experimental,” she says. “You stitch or tie a design and you don’t really know how it will look exactly until you untie it.” Be prepared to bring a sense of experimentation to the Sculpture Park as you create pieces for the installation. Inspired by Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World on view at the Asian Art Museum through October 9, we’re sharing the unique abilities of blue to evoke moods by offering a way to become intimate with the process of dyeing using indigo.

Indigo-bearing plants have had a huge impact on our visual world. Once artists discovered plants containing the gift of blue, an infatuation with indigo began. Nothing compares with this dye’s ability to capture the blues of nature—a midnight sky, early dawn, or an impression of the sea. It can also define a mood—of melancholy, of mystery in the dark hues, or joy and vitality in lighter variations. Show us your true colors beginning Saturday July 9, 11 am.