Object of the Week: Bullet

As we have seen too many times in recent weeks, a single bullet can destroy a life, a family, and a community. In this photograph by Harold Edgerton, a bullet is frozen in time and space, its trajectory and destruction momentarily bound.

Born in Nebraska in 1903, Edgerton studied electrical engineering at MIT. His academic background, coupled with his interest in motion and high-speed photography, allowed him to produce images that made visible the imperceptible. After earning his PhD in 1931, Edgerton developed and improved upon various stroboscopic models—a repeatable flash device better known today as a ‘strobe’—ultimately applying for 45 patents between the years 1933 and 1936. The high-powered repetition of the strobe allowed Edgerton to effectively freeze objects in motion in order to capture them on film, resulting in iconic photographs that bring together science, technology, and art.

The history of photography is inextricable from the history and development of military technology—to borrow from French theorist Paul Virilio, “For men at war, the function of the weapon is the function of the eye”—making the bullet a fitting subject for Edgerton to capture.[1] In this photograph, printed in 1961, the bullet serves to represent technological achievement and photographic mastery; today, however, it is hard to see a single bullet as anything other than destructive, especially when they are rarely singular, more often multiplied in the hundreds and deployed in seconds.

Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection & Provenance Associate

[1] Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (London: Verso, 1989), p. 20.
Image: Bullet, 1961, Harold Edgerton, gelatin silver photograph, 9 1/2 x 8 5/8 in., The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 96.48 © Edgerton Family Foundation
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SAM Gallery Artist Creates a Healing Environment

For her recent commission for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), SAM Gallery artist Niki Keenan created 11 paintings focused on healing environments. SCCA brings together the leading research teams and cancer specialists of Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s, and UW Medicine. The treatment rooms in their newly expanded SCCA outpatient clinic in South Lake Union feature Keenan’s work.

Niki Keenan’s paintings are inspired by the natural world, specifically sunrises and sunsets in Seattle. She uses dynamic, bold colors to paint water scenes with bridges and reflections from the vantage point of a boat. Keenan writes, “Each of the paintings in this series depicts a Pacific Northwest bridge, most of them are in Washington State, one is in British Columbia, Canada. I use these bridges as a way to frame the sky, as a way to show off the sun’s rays dancing around the architecture and as an anchor to a specific place. These brilliant sunsets and sunrises are happening all around us and by showing them happening in places we recognize, it makes the experience a shared one. Also, I believe bridges are symbolic of journeys in that they help us get where we want to go.”

In the new treatment rooms at SCCA, Keenan hopes her paintings will help transport viewers and give them something new to focus on, during their treatments. She believes “being transported during times of stress and uncertainty, is such a gift and so vital for healing. Paintings can literally turn a regular wall into a portal and the place you get to go in my paintings is full of hope, happiness, light.”

Keenan began showing her work at the SAM Gallery in 2018 and was quickly discovered by local collectors. SAM Gallery supports local artists and their careers by increasing their exposure and finding audiences for their work. 

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Photo: Dave Keenan. Images: Niki Keenan.

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Art Zodiac: Victorian Radicals

Were the Pre-Raphaelites into astrology? 

There’s a hint in Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement that some were. That hint is in Edward Burne-Jones stained-glass piece, St. Mark, which depicts the saint evangelizing what would become his gospel with a winged lion above him, a representation of his strong character. What is interesting is that the lion is resting his paw on a stylistic blue wave which contains the astrological glyph of Leo slyly repeated in it. Coincidence? I think not.   

It seems that Edward Burne-Jones gave a shout-out to the astrology world.  During the Victorian era advancements were made in astronomy and Alan Leo, a British astrologer who is often referred to as the father of modern astrology, was born in 1860. Seances, salons, and the occult were all the rage during this time and the first Ouija Board was commercially produced in 1890. Astrology could have been a serious topic of discussion in their group. 

via GIPHY

Needless to say, Victorian Radicals contains a fair amount of beautifully-painted depictions of myths that astrologers use to explain and interpret planets and asteroids in charts: Medea, Iris, Pandora, Venus, Cupid, and Psyche are some of the few. Any astrologer can pick out paintings in this exhibition and tie them easily to the planets’ mythology because they are so symbolic and integral to our work. 

I would be remiss not to mention that I picked St. Mark because we are in the middle Leo season right now, and Leos are synonymous with lions, although not flying lions, but you could make a case that a Leo Sun/Neptune conjunction could produce one (Mic drop! Where my astrologers at?). Each year between July 23 and August 22, the sun transits across the sky through the Leo constellation. Leos are one of the three fire signs in the zodiac, Aries and Sagittarius being the other two, which lends to traits of passion, spontaneity, and playfulness. Lions are also the proud, strong, loyal, and loving ones living among us. 

If you haven’t seen the exhibition, visit on September 5 when the rates are reduced to $9.99 and below for first Thursday. Also, there is a painting of Morgan Le Fay by Frederick Sandys which calls to mind the book Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradly and calls on anyone who loves witchcraft to come see their pagan roots immortalized in it. This exhibition is a woo-woo lovers’ paradise packed with supernatural aspects. 

– Amy Domres, SAM’s Director of Admissions
Amy is also a Psychospiritual Evolutionary Astrologer and Healer at Emerald City Astrology

Image: Saint Mark, 1883 (designed 1874), Edward Burne-Jones, British, 1833–1898, stained, painted, and leaded glass, 58 × 25 1/4 × 1 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Bequeathed by J R Holliday, 1927M1016, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts Installation view of Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, © Seattle Art Museum, photo: Mark Woods

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Muse/News: Supporting change, learning a city by foot, and farewells to Toni Morrison

SAM News

SAM director and CEO Kimerly Rorschach shared the museum’s position on proposed changes to Washington State’s overtime rules. These changes are long overdue, and SAM has been a leader in implementing adjustments. However, a slower ramp-up would be more sustainable for non-profits.

Local News

Marcus Harrison Green of the Seattle Times on Blood Lines, Time Lines, Red Lines, the Warren Pope solo show now on view at NAAM that explores the city’s history of racist housing policies.

“Pulling a reverse Henry David Thoreau”: Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on Seattle Walk Report, the comic that explores the magic of the city by foot. Its anonymous creator will name herself soon!

With “Currently Hanging,” The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig gets close to an artwork. Here, she visits a figurative gold sculpture by Casey Curran that echoes previous works by Anthony White and Tessa Hulls.

“The sculpture reminds me of The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa-meets-the-alien-from-Annihilation-meets-Rodin’s-Thinker. All things I love.”

Inter/National News

“The first Abstract Expressionist”: Who would you name? The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has a new exhibition that may answer that question.

DCist on the Phillips Collection’s new exhibition of 100 works by 75 artists on global displacement; director Klaus Ottmann calls it “the most ambitious exhibition the museum has ever undertaken.”

Author Toni Morrison died this week at the age of 88. This New York Times obituary celebrates her “luminous, incantatory prose resembling that of no other writer in English.”

“Ms. Morrison animated that reality in prose that rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act.”

And Finally

Quiet As It’s Kept.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: Daedalus/Upliftment

In Daedalus/Upliftment, a young Black man struggles to take flight. His gaze is fixed on the ground instead of the sky, with eyes downcast and obscured by gold sunglasses. One hand is outstretched to conceal himself. The other grasps a plume of pheasant feathers, with a rope tied around his wrist. A wreath of ostrich feathers adorns his neck, draping his chest and blending into bright white pants. The feathers symbolize the deities Yoruba Orisas Obatala of wisdom, and Osun of love.

This full-body portrait portrays someone steady, yet vulnerable, someone who embodies the emotional juxtapositions of freedom and captivity, hope and doubt. The dazzling high-tops—inlaid with gold leaf and spray paint detail, dripping to the edges of the canvas—paired with grayscale triangle-patterned socks are captivating. Although a symbol of value, the gold sneakers carry much weight: a strain against the aspirations and ability to rise.

Daedalus/Upliftment is from Dr. Fahamu Pecou’s 2015 series, I Know Why The Caged Bird Blings, the series title inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” A visual/performing artist and scholar, Pecou concentrates on Black masculinity in his work. Pecou probes today’s media representations, expectations, and images of Black men removed from Black agency—including stereotypes of violence—and their emotional toll on readings and performances of Black masculinity. In 2017, Pecou was the subject of a retrospective exhibition “Miroirs de l’Homme” (Mirrors of the Man) in Paris, France and a recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation “Painters and Sculptors” Award.[1]

Pecou continues to lead speaking engagements across the nation, and gave a TED Talk in Atlanta, Georgia, “An artist’s counterpoint to black masculinity and identity stereotypes,” sharing his own testimonies as a Black man in America.

Daedalus/Upliftment alludes to the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus built wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape their prison. Despite Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax on the wings, falling and drowning in the ocean. Pecou reinterprets this classic tragedy and questions the actions of Daedalus as Icarus’ father. Daedalus/Uplifting provokes a meditation on paternalism and masculinity, with “the breakdown of intergenerational communication and the emotional complexities within the Black male experience that trouble the desire and ability to take flight.”[2]

In the far-right corner of the stark white background, Pecou leaves us a surrealist poem:

Uplift meant

Uplift men

up… lift men

UP! lift men…

Up.

– Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

Image: Daedalus/Upliftment, 2016, Fahamu Pecou, acrylic, gold leaf and spray paint on canvas, 84 × 48 in., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2016.20 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
[1] “The Official Website of Visual/Performing Artist and Scholar Dr. Fahamu Pecou.” https://www.fahamupecouart.com/
[2] Fahamu Pecou: https://www.instagram.com/p/BItROlBDUIg/?hl=en
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Muse/News: Muholi recommended, radical love, and a new look at Basquiat

SAM News

Aesthetica makes five recommendations from around the world to see, including Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness at SAM.

Seattle Magazine is out with their list of the “21 Best Things To Do in Seattle in August 2019.” Remix at the Olympic Sculpture Park makes the cut.

Local News

The Seattle jazz scene has two sad losses to report: the closure of legendary club Tula’s at the end of September, and the retirement of Clarence Acox, Garfield High School’s jazz band director.

In addition to their booth-to-booth coverage of this past weekend’s Seattle Art Fair, Crosscut has pieces by Emily Pothast and Margo Vansynghel examining the various outcomes of the Fair on the local art scene.

The Big Art Weekend wouldn’t be complete without the incredible satellite events; here’s Gayle Clemans for the Seattle Times on the free festival:festival, which also took place over the weekend (SAM’s David Rue is one of the curators!).

“The festival will highlight ‘artist-driven portraits of identity,’ which will take many forms including visual art and performance, according to co-curator and dance artist David Rue. ‘We’re using this approach so that artists can provide a counterpoint to the dominant narrative told about people that look like them while celebrating the power of culturally responsive rigor.’”

Inter/National News

Baltimore is great city full of great people. And now this! Artnet reports that the Baltimore Museum of Art will dedicate “a year’s worth of exhibitions dedicated to female-identifying artists throughout 2020.”

“What Does Radical Love Look Like?” Hyperallergic’s Seph Rodney explores that question at the Ford Foundation Gallery’s latest show, featuring work by Athi-Patra Ruga, Lina Puerta, and Ebony G. Patterson.

The New York Times has a fascinating look Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story at the Guggenheim; curated by Chaédria LaBouvier, the show centers on a painting that depicts the tragic death of a young Black artist.

‘”This is someone becoming — finding themselves, finding their voice, finding their practice,’ Ms. LaBouvier said. ‘I didn’t want to make him into a myth, or make him into a sort of trauma-porn story either. And I thought the best way to do that was to take a step back and let him speak for himself.’”

And Finally

Evergreen story.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.

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Object of the Week: Mirror with the Judgment of Paris

Homer’s paired stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey have fascinated artists and creators for centuries, generating art, literature, and music. One such artwork, The Judgement of Paris, is an Etruscan piece from around the 4th–3th centuries BCE, and is currently on view at the Seattle Art Museum.

This ancient work illustrates the critical moment that ultimately led to a 10-year war that ravaged the Mediterranean. Deftly etched into the back of a circular mirror, a riveting scene leaps out: four figures tangle with one another, three clad in traditional Greek garments with delicate folds and drapery, and one almost nude (save for a few accessories). This nude woman on the left, the goddess Aphrodite, faces the other three as they each raise their hands to their mouths­­—in shock at her attire or, possibly, at the decision that has just been made in this scene.

The figure hidden behind the remaining two clothed women is Paris, a young man ordered by Zeus, the king of the gods, to determine the most beautiful goddess. Each of the three goddesses represented here—Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite—offer him a bribe. Hera swears to make him a king, Athena promises wisdom and bravery in battle, and Aphrodite pledges the world’s most beautiful, albeit married, mortal woman: Helen. Paris’s fateful decision to align himself with Aphrodite and sail with Helen to Troy would eventually enable the deeply destructive Trojan War of which Homer wrote.

I find this scene quite interesting due to its historical and cultural references, but also for its touch of irony. Used for numerous occasions, ranging from funerals to weddings, mirrors in Etruscan culture feature mythological moments that deal with physical appearance, specifically “any tale in which vanity or comeliness gained its rewards.”[1] Although Paris’ choice did reward him a love affair with Helen, it also caused one of the longest and most famous sieges in literary history. This seductive tableau—simultaneously puzzling and inviting—raises questions surrounding sexuality, fidelity, and appearance in classical cultures.

Emma Ming Wahl, SAM Curatorial Intern

Mirror with scene of the Judgment of Paris, 4th–3rd century B.C., Etruscan, bronze, 10 3/8 x 7 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 48.36
[1] Nigel Spivey, Etruscan Art (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1997), 77.
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Muse/News: A legacy on view, Springfield in Tacoma, and blind spots

SAM News

 A Cultural Legacy: A Series of Paintings from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection is now on view at SAM. This iterative single-painting exhibition celebrates the legacy of Paul Allen. Artdaily, Artnet, Geekwire and Patch all shared the news.

The Seattle Times includes SAM show Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness on their “Look Ahead” list of recommendations for the month of August, calling their portraits “a soul-shaking experience.”

And Seattle Met recommends Remix, our “bona fide fete,” on their list of “13 Seattle Events to Catch This August.” Get your tickets now for another radical edition of our art-filled, body-moving, late-night out.

Local News

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig devotes the recent “Currently Hanging” post to Birmingham by Toyin Ojih Odutola, now on view at the Frye Art Museum.

The most recent edition of Crosscut’s arts newsletter by Brangien Davis includes a shout-out to the Seattle Arts Voter Guide, created by Seattle University students in a Public Policy and the Arts class.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores on the Tacoma Art Museum’s new exhibition, Bart at TAM, featuring over 150 cels of hand-drawn art from The Simpsons.

“The cels in the exhibit come from Heeter’s personal collection of more than 900 Simpsons animations, which he started collecting in the early ’90s. ‘I had a full head of hair when I started collecting and now it’s all gone,’ he says.”

Inter/National News

Read about 2017 Knight Lawrence Prize-winner Sondra Perry’s new show A Terrible Thing, “an institutional critique of MoCA Cleveland.”

Great news reported by Artnet’s Sarah Cascone: “A consortium of foundations … has bought the historic archives of Johnson Publishing, the Chicago-based company behind Ebony and Jet magazines.”

Don’t miss this conversation-starting New York Times piece by Elizabeth Méndez Berry and Chi-hui Yang that calls for more critics of color.

“…the spaces in media where national mythologies are articulated, debated and affirmed are still largely segregated. The conversation about our collective imagination has the same blind spots as our political discourse.”

And Finally

Keep an eye out for an 8-foot-tall yellow bird.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

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Object of the Week: Slow Cooker

With these works, we have created art pieces that serve as cultural and historical artifacts that value and document the experiences, struggles, and achievements of those who have found their way, often through migration and exceptional sacrifice, to new places where they now work to contribute meaningfully within their communities.

  – Margarita Cabrera

Soft vinyl covers the customary porcelain, metal, and glass of this trusty kitchen crockpot. While the clear lid is left exposed, plush fabric replaces the sturdy handles and appliance parts. Red stitching adds a playful contrast against the sky blue base, and the remaining long, loose threads speak to homemade craftsmanship.

Slow Cooker is part of artist Margarita Cabrera’s soft sculpture series, which reimagines commercial objects from bicycles and cars to household tools and cleaning supplies. Cabrera was a featured artist in Pop Departures, a 2014 exhibition at SAM that explored contemporary artists who look to Pop Art for artistic inspiration or critique. The malleable and everyday forms of Cabrera’s sculptures draw on stylistic elements of works by Pop artist Claes Oldenburg.

Cabrera is an artist, activist, and community organizer. She infuses her art with socio-political and personal reflection as a Mexican American. Topics of cultural identity, migration, violence, inclusivity, labor, and empowerment—with a focus on US-Mexico border issues—are at the forefront of Cabrera’s art practice.[1] In her transformative justice initiatives, Cabrera organizes artistic collaborations in local communities. For her 2010 outreach project, Space in Between, Cabrera partnered with Latinx immigrants from Mexico and Central America to create sculptures of Southwestern US desert plants.[2] Using fabric from the uniforms of Border Patrol forces, the soft sculptures recall embroidery techniques from Los Tenangos, Hidalgo, Mexico and traditions of Otomi Indigenous communities. The workshops empowered the participants to share their journeys of tremendous danger and sacrifice, crafting dialogues of unity, healing, and resistance.

Playful and interactive, the collapsible textures of Slow Cooker invite touch and public engagement. The bold, bright colors are illustrative of traditional woven Mexican designs. Slow Cooker provokes us, and perhaps teases us, as consumers and viewers, to reconsider these unassuming objects and the hands that made them. Cabrera shatters the invisibility of immigrant laborers in factory, farm, and service jobs—engaging the need for active listening and policy change at the ground level, igniting a political conversation that remains urgent and necessary.

Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1] “Margarita Cabrera.” © Margarita Cabrera, https://www.margaritacabrera.com/sample-page/
[2]“Margarita Cabrera: Space in Between. February 10 – June 10, 2018.” Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, https://www.hamilton.edu/wellin/exhibitions/detail/margarita-cabrera-space-in-between-1-1-1-1-1-1-1
Image: Slow Cooker, 2003, Margarita Cabrera, vinyl, thread, and appliance parts, 13 × 8 × 10 in., Modern Art Acquisition Fund and General Acquisition Fund, 2015.7.2 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
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