Community Gallery: Early Masters

As the founder of Early Masters, a Seattle-based art school, I’m always searching for ways to connect children to art history and get them truly excited about artists, artwork, and the museums in which artworks reside. Since 2011, a highlight of our programming has been our community partnership with SAM and our student exhibitions in Seattle Art Museum’s Community Corridor Art Gallery.

For several months, our young artists (ages 7–15) prepare for their opening at SAM through visual presentations, music, conversation, and of course painting. They become familiar with artists through studying their technique and style, what inspired them, and what their world was like.

Our seventh student show, currently hanging, is inspired by SAM’s exhibition, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection. Our budding artists never seem to tire of Monet and his magical home at Giverny or Cézanne and his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire, and they created over 200 paintings inspired by the art in the exhibition. Students loved interpreting works of artists such as Manet and Seurat and often found some techniques more mysterious than others. Comments such as, “I’m getting cross-eyed, how did Seurat do it?” or “I could do dots all day!” were often heard (along with a lot of laughter) around the studio. I’m always amazed at the fearlessness of our young students, and how a blank canvas never seems daunting. In fact, it’s always a welcome challenge.

Our students were thrilled at the chance to examine the paintings in Seeing Nature after having studied them for months. They were surprised by the actual size of the works, the colors, or the thickness of the paint on the original works of art. One thing is for sure, they all feel a sense of ownership and connection to the paintings they studied. They will never forget Klimt’s Birch Trees, or Monet’s Waterlilies, and they certainly won’t forget having their own artwork on display at SAM.

Being part of the Community Corridor Art Gallery is an incredible experience—not just for our young artists, but for the families and friends who come see the artwork and experience the pride of having the work celebrated at SAM.

– Shelley Thomas, Founder, Early Masters

 The Early Masters Student Exhibition is on view through March 26, 2017 in the Community Corridor Art Gallery. Stop by to see work by these young artists for free through Sunday!

Photos: Courtesy of Early Masters

Film/Life: Family Circle

Family Circle: The Films of Yasujiro Ozu

The British Film Institute calls Yasujiro Ozu “one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, in any medium or any country.” Critic David Thomson says that “the Western moviegoer won’t be able to resist Ozu, for he is a treasury of humane intelligence and feeling.”

He was also an unruly rascal. Born in Tokyo (1903) to a stern merchant father and a pampering mother, at age 10 he was sent to school at his ancestral hometown. Instead of attending classes, he earned a reputation for drinking and worshipping Hollywood actresses. Ozu developed a lifelong attitude of not submitting to authority unless it would help him do what he wanted to do. Returning to Tokyo, Ozu, against his father’s wishes, became a filmmaker as a young man. In nine years he made 34 silent films, mostly mischievous “nonsense” comedies, before discovering his grand themes and expressing them in transcendent beauty.

Ozu lived in a conformist society, but he embodied the Zen spirit of harmonizing with nature and human nature, knowing that no dogmatic rules can explain the exquisite mystery of life. Being patient and restrained were of value, but so were impulsive, intuitive gestures. Ozu’s impeccable framing reflects the Zen aesthetic of seemingly “empty” spaces being vibrant with feeling and eternal presence. One of Ozu’s artistic signatures is the unique rhythm with which his images flow on the screen. In the editing process he would stand behind his editor and tap him on the shoulder when it “felt right” to cut to the next shot.

Mar 23: The Only Son (1936)
Among his many talents, Ozu creates characters who are unique human beings. His first talking film focuses on an impoverished provincial mother raising her son alone. She works hard and is able to send him to college in Tokyo. Hearing nothing from him for a long time, she uses up her savings to visit him. She’s surprised to find him married, with a child. He tries to appear prosperous, borrowing money to entertain his mother, but secretly he’s very poor and disillusioned with himself and life. Perhaps in silences and things unsaid, his mother can still teach him a valuable lesson. 87 min.

Mar 30: Late Spring (1949)
One of the films that Ozu himself most cherished, Late Spring shows the director further developing his unique ability to portray ordinary events in very moving ways. Ozu’s favorite actors, Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, play a widowed Kamakura father and his grown-up daughter, who’s past the usual marrying age. She’s happy following the childhood pattern of living with her father, but when she hears that he’s thinking of taking a new wife, she begins to ponder her future. The father feels that it’s wise to flow with the natural course of time, not fight against it, but he has a surprising way of showing it. Ozu’s artistry makes us sense something momentous in mundane reality, and he begins each film with a short sequence of poetically simple “placing shots” that introduce the story: A railway station, the sound of a railway bell; a closer view, the steps, the daisies; a temple room; inside, the tea ceremony, the story begins. 108 min.

Apr 6: Early Summer (1951)
Ozu probably drank more than any major film director, since he saw alcohol as a source of artistic inspiration. Beginning with Late Spring, he wrote every film with his lifelong friend Kogo Noda. They would hole up in a country inn, Ozu would cook hamburgers and they would drink a lot of sake. “If the number of cups you drink be small, there can be no masterpiece.” Of Early Summer, Ozu said, “I wanted to show a life cycle, to depict mutability and to leave the audience with a poignant aftertaste.” Six members of three generations live in a Kamakura household, and five of them want Noriko (Setsuko Hara) to get married. They keep parading eligible suitors past her, but she’s not interested. In postwar Japan young people are welcoming a Western influence of self-determination, and Noriko sees marriage as emotional and social serfdom. The nature of happiness is elusive in this family. A man says, “We have it better than most; we shouldn’t want too much or there’s no end to it.” But his wife objects, “We were really happy.” With the eloquence of a seasoned Ozu character, the man responds, “Mmmm.” 135 min.

Tokyo Story (1953)

April 13: Tokyo Story (1953)
Ozu’s tender and perceptive feeling for human shortcomings and generosity is fully realized in this internationally celebrated masterpiece. The director’s focus is the decentralization of a family. The elderly mother and father (Chieko Higashiyama and Chishu Ryu), who live in a southern province, come to Tokyo to visit their two married children, a doctor and a beautician. Too engrossed in their own lives to entertain their parents, they ship them off to a noisy resort for young people. Weary of this, the old couple returns to Tokyo, where the widow (Setsuko Hara) of their soldier son is the one who shows them warmth and kindness. 134 min.

April 20: Early Spring (1956)
This film further shows Ozu’s sensitivity to Japan’s changing postwar society. Young adults are defining life for themselves, rather than through blood ties to family and traditional codes of behavior. Full of high hopes, a Tokyo man lands a coveted white-collar office job, works hard, and marries a sweet woman. But the dreary routines of life become boring, and he starts spending more time with friends and the office flirt, while his wife sits at home fanning herself. Is the big city a corrupting influence? Would accepting a job in the country allow the couple to rediscover the good in each other? 108 min.

April 27: Equinox Flower (1958)
Ozu’s first color film is one of his most beautiful and affectionate. Two rebellious teenage girls make a solidarity pact to protect themselves from the well-intentioned marriage schemes of their traditional parents. One father (Shin Saburi) advises other people’s children to find their own way in life, but then he learns that his own daughter (Ineko Arima) has chosen a man without consulting him. It is said that Ozu, like Jane Austen, perceives the cosmic in the domestic, and his cinematic cut from a satisfied mother sitting in her favorite chair to a brightly fluttering washing line has been called “a moment of truly exquisite transcendence.” 118 min.

May 4: Good Morning (1959)
In his life and art Ozu has been a wise, charming rebel, and here he identifies with two stubborn boys. They pester their father (Chishu Ryu) to buy them a TV set, and when he tells them to shut up they vow to never say another word to him, not even “Good morning.” As if to illustrate chaos theory, the boys’ silence has an often funny, sometimes serious, effect on their entire suburban community. 97 min.

Late Autumn (1960)

May 11: Late Autumn (1960)
An independent-minded marriage-age young woman (Yoko Tsukasa) enjoys living with her gracious widowed mother (Setsuko Hara) and socializing with her lively young friends. Tsukasa has had opportunities to marry, but she’s just not interested. Hara wants her daughter to move forward into adult life so she enlists the matchmaking help of her late husband’s businessmen friends (Shin Saburi, Ryuji Kita, Nobuo Nakamura). Are these three well-intentioned, befuddled drinking buddies up to the task? Setsuko Hara, known as “the Japanese Garbo,” was Ozu’s favorite actress. Ozu, who knows that feelings can’t be fully expressed in words, shows us that nothing is more eloquent than Hara’s half-smile. 115 min.

May 18: An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
Ozu made six films with actress Setsuko Hara and twenty-two with Chishu Ryu, his favorite actor. The two men worked and aged together over three decades. Their first film was 1928’s The Dreams of Youth, their last (and Ozu’s final film) was this wry, gentle chronicle of the autumn of life. An aging, widowed company auditor (Ryu) likes to drink with his similarly aged male friends. One of them talks about how they’re in the stage of their life when most fathers give up their beloved daughters in marriage, and Ryu starts to get ideas. For all his wisdom about intergenerational family relationships, Ozu never married and had children. His own dear mother died during the making of this film, and Ozu died a year later. Ozu has been called a Zen master of cinema, calmly watching the seasons, the storms of life and death come and go, noticing and awakening to the brightness of the day. He shows us the world of Buddhism’s 10,000 things, the trees, the people, the traffic jams. He knows that these seemingly separate things are individual manifestations of an underlying oneness, a wholeness that encompasses all. In a Zen paradox, this everything is also the void.  Ozu’s tombstone bears a single mark: the Japanese character for “nothingness.”

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

All films will be shown in Japanese with English subtitles in 35 mm. Get your series pass to Family Circle: The Films of Yasujiro Ozu, on sale now.

Photos: © New Yorker Films/Photofest.

Object of the Week: Large Plate

A Harvard-educated scholar with impressive curatorial experience, Henry Trubner came to SAM in July, 1968 to lead its Chinese art department. Sometime later, Trubner selected this Chinese Yuan dynasty Large Plate to present to the museum as a gift in honor of the retiring Dr. Fuller, who celebrated his 75th birthday in 1973, the same year he stepped down after 40 years at the helm of SAM. As they say, the best laid plans . . .

The Large Plate, purchased from a notable Tokyo dealer, arrived at SAM in February of 1973. But Trubner then struggled to gather the funds to make the purchase. Delays and negotiations ensued. Dr. Fuller’s June 1 birthday came and went, though not without art aplenty. It wasn’t until May of 1974 that Trubner and SAM could complete the acquisition of the Large Plate that had been in Seattle for some 15 months.1

From Trubner’s description of the piece in a 1983 publication, we see that much of his interest was related to its look: the swirling decorative pattern and rich red hue.

The museum’s tray shows alternating layers of thin red and thick black lacquer, with a fourth black or highly polished dark brown layer on top. The decoration consists of a cloud scroll pattern (ruyi) on the interior, around a central quatrefoil medallion. The same cloud scroll pattern is repeated on the underside of the cavetto. The base is lacquered a deep blackish brown within a low foot rim. This significant example of Yuan lacquer was acquired from Jean-Pierre Dubosc, noted collector and connoisseur of Chinese and Japanese lacquer.2

We can also confidently say that Trubner chose the Large Plate partly for the relationship it would establish with the many lacquer pieces that Dr. Fuller had collected in the early years of the museum, like this very sculptural snuff bottle. Trubner’s strategic vision for growing the collection was a new thing. Dr. Fuller, as director and his own chief curator, had added to the collection by pursuing what caught his eye, happy to be led by instinct and impulse. While visiting a gallery or museum, Fuller would come upon something that struck him, and in his excitement, would learn a lot about it, and maybe buy something for the museum.

Trubner’s entry to the scene initiated a new collecting era at SAM, one marked by taking careful inventories of the art market, addressing collection gaps, and courting generous donors to support acquisitions. In other words, the collecting program began to look a lot more like it does today. Our Lacquer Plate can serve as a reminder of that transition to intentional growth.

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

1 Josh Yiu, A Fuller View of China: Chinese Art in the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2014; 151-154.
2 Henry Trubner, Asian Art in the Seattle Art Museum: Fifty Years of Collecting, Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1983; 12.
Image: Large Plate, 1280-1368, Chinese, lacquer, Diam.: 13 1/4 in. Seattle Art Museum, Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund, 74.21.

For the Love of Art: Mary Joyce

MARY JOYCE
Digital Strategy Consultant
Member since 2013

Why do you love art?

Art helps me to think differently, to see the world in a new way. I particularly like contemporary art for this reason—it is bounded only by the artist’s imagination and their ability to physically realize the idea.

What’s your occupation? What are your hobbies or passions?

I am a digital strategy consultant with a particular focus on using digital tools for activism. That means that I help people who want to change the world figure out who they need to persuade in order to do that and then how to persuade them. In the realm of political activism, often people want someone in the government to make a change. But it could be any kind of audience. If you want to change the world, usually you have to persuade someone to take some action and that’s where communication comes in.

I hear you worked on the Obama campaign.

Yes, I did, in 2008. It was very exciting to do the first digital campaign. I was the operations manager for the new media department. We had 60 people working on email, graphic design, and video. It was really cool to see how the technology and communication work was being driven by strategy. There was a Facebook group called “A Million Strong for Barack Obama.” One of the reasons to do that was not only to gin up [individual] support, but to seek media support. They said, “Oh you are never going to have a million posts in a Facebook group.” Then when we did, there was additional media coverage from that. So doing something new was part of the branding.

What brought you to Seattle?

I came here for grad school. I have an MA in communication from UW. Right now I am doing communication consulting and also working on an organization that’s going to do strategy training practice online. There is a lot of activism around right now where people are really passionate but it’s not clear who they are trying to influence or what their demand is. Sometimes it’s ok to go out there and show your feelings, but if you can direct these feelings for some practical change—that’s what I’m for.

Where does art fit into the picture?

Art is basically part of liking humanity. Why would I want to oppose oppression or support human rights? Because humans can do beautiful things like make art. It’s very much an alpha/omega situation for me. Defending human rights, helping people make their lives better so that they can make beautiful things like sculpt, paint, play music, or write poetry—that’s the connection.

Do you think art is something that people are freed up to do once they achieve . . . would you call it freedom?

I think that people are hardwired to create. Obviously, in history, people in horrible conditions have created beautiful art. But if you free someone’s spirit from fear, physical need, or other kinds of oppression, then there is an opportunity for that person to blossom and more fully express themselves. I would say that oppression and art can coexist, but people who are free to express themselves are more likely to do so.

How does the museum fit in?

The museum is where I can easily come in contact with art. We can see art in a magazine or we might pass a piece of public art in the city, but if you want to seek art out you know you can have that experience in a museum. And in addition to their collection, SAM has talks and performances that provide all kinds of artistic experiences throughout the year. It’s also just a relaxing and pleasant place to hang out and take a break.

Why did you join SAM?

I was a student at the time and a friend brought me for an event. I was buying a ticket and the very effective salespeople told me that for $10 more I could become a member for the whole year. The student rate was such a great deal to allow me to support an arts institution. In my family supporting culture is valued. Obviously as a student I really didn’t have resources but because I could afford the student rate and support an institution, I wanted to do that.

Because SAM believes everyone should have access to art and creativity, we offer memberships at a variety levels. Find out more about joining as a student and begin enjoying SAM for free for an entire year. Join now and see Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series before it closes on April 23. The Migration Series focuses on social justice issues surrounding the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North in the decades after the First World War. If you agree with Mary that art is crucial to our humanity, share in art at SAM starting today.

Photo: Scott Areman.

Building a Digital Collection: The Photographs and Lists of William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains

Do you ever wonder how Seattle Art Museum acquired enough porcelain objects to fill an entire room? Through my Directed Fieldwork (DFW) at the University of Washington I decided to illuminate a piece of the provenance story behind some of SAM’s porcelain objects in the beloved Porcelain Room.

Not much is known about the New York dealer, William H. Lautz’s life outside of the porcelain world, however William Lautz was a key figure in the growth of eighteenth-century porcelain in the United States during the 1940s and 50s. I’ve created a digital collection of porcelain object photographs and associated descriptive lists from the New York dealer, William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, from the physical collection held in SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library.


As a dealer of European porcelain, Lautz helped form the Warda Stevens Stout Collection at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis1, the Martha and Henry Isaacson collection in Seattle, and the Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, also in Seattle; the latter two now located partially at the Seattle Art Museum.


Both Martha Isaacson and Blanche Harnan were founding members of the Seattle Ceramic Society, which stimulated the collection of European porcelain through study groups. Their stated goal was to collect European porcelain worthy of exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. To that end, they connected with important dealers in the field.

In the mid-1950s, Lautz sent barrels of porcelain to the Seattle Ceramic Society, accompanied by photographs and descriptive lists of the pieces. In turn, the Ceramic Society members selected pieces and returned empty barrels to Lautz with checks for their purchases. This method became known as the “Seattle Scheme” and continued while the Seattle Ceramic Society members grew their individual collections.2

Over time, the Seattle Ceramic Society and its members held five exhibitions of their European porcelain collections at the Seattle Art Museum between 1949 and 1964. Many active members of the Ceramic Society donated pieces of their collection to the Seattle Art Museum, including the aforementioned Martha and Henry Isaacson and Blanche M. Harnan, along with Dorothy Condon Falknor, DeEtte McAuslan Stuart, and Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser.

To create this digital collection, I scanned all of Lautz’s photographs into JPEGs and all of his descriptive lists into PDFs. Using Adobe Acrobat’s OCR function, I made the lists keyword searchable. I then created a spreadsheet with the associated metadata for each file to improve online navigation and searching. The files and associated metadata are now available on Shared Shelf Commons, which allows you to browse and view them alongside contributions from many other institutions.

Once the collection was in Shared Shelf Commons, I used Omeka to create an online exhibition by linking photos of the Lautz pieces that ended up at SAM with their descriptions. By providing online access to William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains photographs and descriptive lists I hope to encourage researchers and others to investigate the porcelain objects in SAM’s collection and to visit the Porcelain Room at SAM to see some of the objects in person.

–Nicole Sonett, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Note: We want to thank Julie Emerson, the former Ruth J. Nutt Curator of Decorative Arts at the Seattle Art Museum, for her assistance in identifying porcelain objects from William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains that are now featured in SAM’s Porcelain Room.

1 Nelson, Christina H., and Letitia Roberts. A History of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain: The Warda Stevens Stout Collection. Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Easthampton, MA; New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2013.
2 Sebastian Kuhn in “Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain,” in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen et al. The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50. New York, NY: Frick Collection in association with D. Giles London, 2008.
Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Object of the Week: Wilkinkarra

The year 2016 wasn’t all bad, and in fact it proved a remarkable year for the growth of SAM’s permanent collection. Just in the area of paintings, the museum acquired Robert Colescott’s colorful Les Demoiselles d’Alabama: Vestidas, on view on the third floor at the top of the elevators; the beautiful Nicolas Colombel Cupid and Psyche now installed in the large European art gallery on the fourth floor; and quite a few other cool things. The largest painting SAM acquired, and among the most visually striking, is Wilkinkarra, a blast of spotted color spread over a 6-by-10-foot canvas, from Australian Aboriginal woman artist Mitjili Napanangka Gibson.

Wilkinkarra came to SAM from the distinguished collection of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, out of which a whole survey of Australian Aboriginal art was culled. Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art came to SAM in 2012 and showcased more than 100 artworks that, for many of us, provided an introduction to the history and thriving culture of Australian Aboriginal painting.

When encountering something new, we often try to connect it to something we already know and understand. This is natural because our brains are wired to make sense of new experiences and stimuli by comparing them to ones that already exist in our mental databank. Looking at Wilkinkarra, I was struck by how the aesthetic is distinctively “modern.” Countless bright pops of bold color—pinks, purples, blues, yellows, and oranges—emerge in organic patterns, encircled in heavy black outlines. The dotting approach echoes pointillist painting in the late 20th century, and we could also picture this piece fitting cleanly into newer schools of abstract art.

Only this is not an abstraction, but a representation of a specific landscape, pictured from a bird’s-eye view, and created within a unique culture and school of art-making. While we might see immediate, purely visual connections to the Modern art that we already know, there are still more meaningful connections to be made.

In the exhibition catalogue for Ancestral Modern, Lisa Graziose Corrin finds one of those connections in the idea of journeying. First, note that the features of the land itself, and the idea of moving through the land, have special meaning in Aboriginal culture: “Mitjili Napanangka Gibson’s Wilkinkarra refers to a ritual walkabout in her homeland. For Aboriginal artists, travel through the landscape is spiritual, something performed as well as painted. The ritual walkabout and the represented walkabout are equally significant mappings of sacred cultural experience. Both ensure the continuation of Aboriginal cultural memory that is deeply embedded in the topography of ceremonial places.”¹

Second, consider Corrin’s idea that “At one level or another, contemporary culture is a traveling culture.” The city of Seattle plays host to crowds of neo-nomads. The actions of moving, traveling, journeying, and migrating affect many of us in profound ways, shaping how we understand ourselves and how we relate to the people and places we encounter. Global Modern and contemporary art reflects these ideas. At SAM we see it in works like Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, and in William Kentridge’s Shadow Procession. Lawrence, Kentridge, and now Gibson remind us that sharing about where we go, and what we go through, is a very human thing to do.

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

¹ Lisa Graziose Corrin, “Staging Australian Aboriginal Art,” Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art, exhibition catalogue, Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, in association with Yale University Press, 2012; 46.
Image: Wilkinkarra, 2007, Mitjili Napanangka Gibson (Australian Aboriginal, Warlpiri people, Western Desert, Northern Territory, born ca. 1940), synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 78 3/4 x 120 1/16 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, 2016.25.

The Park In Balance: Siting the Olympic Sculpture Park Collection

Walking through the nature and art of the Olympic Sculpture Park, from the low-lying valley around Richard Serra’s Wake to the span of open water that fills the sightlines of Jaume Plensa’s Echo, one experiences an impeccable balance of nature and whimsy. “I think the way all of the art in the park works together, in combination with the way everything is spaciously placed, is what makes the Olympic Sculpture Park truly unique. You have breathtaking views, while the art can really stand on its own and be appreciated,” said Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

But, the process of achieving this effect was far from simple. SAM’s former Director of Exhibit Design, Michael McCafferty, led the process of arranging the park’s permanent sculptures within Weiss/Manfredi’s architectural design while collaborating with artists, curators, museum staff, and other partners. McCafferty approached the placement of the art as if he were working with a “very complex gallery”—a larger, outdoor version of the exhibit spaces he designed at SAM’s downtown location and the Asian Art Museum. He worked with a to-scale model of the Park that included the varied topography of its landscape, as well as miniature, hand-painted versions of most of the 21 works that were on view when the Park opened.

McCafferty began by placing the largest pieces that would be on view, such as The Eagle by Alexander Calder, the Sculpture Park’s founding gift from trustees Jon and Mary Shirley, as well as Stinger by Tony Smith and Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Cales Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen. “I would take the various models of the sculptures and move them around and around, considering the best viewing angles for someone who will walk all the way around the piece while they’re in the park and also for someone driving along Elliott Avenue,” McCafferty said. The medium and smaller sized works were then sited, through a design that balanced their weights and masses with the larger sculptures and the landscape, in a spirit he likened to a Japanese garden.

Over the past ten years, the park has grown and changed. The Aspen trees around Stinger stretch taller, the grass beneath The Eagle has thickened and new sculptures have entered the collection. One of the most recent is Jaume Plensa’s Echo, a large-scale piece depicting a tranquil visage that was donated by trustee Barney Ebsworth in 2013. Maintaining the approach established during the Park’s initial design, Echo’s placement, looking out onto the Puget Sound, was made by considering the pedestrians and cyclists who pass beneath it, as well as those who approach it from the water. The location of Echo also thrilled the artist, as Ebsworth described: “Jaume Plensa said how wonderful the placement overlooking the Olympic Mountains is because the sculpture’s subject is from Greek mythology. It’s perfect because Echo looks out towards Mount Olympus.” This siting of Echo between nature and art, between open space and calculated design, between land and sea—embodies the ethos that makes the Olympic Sculpture Park a uniquely Seattle place to experience art.

This post is the second in our series of stories exploring the history of the Olympic Sculpture Park in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Over the course of this year, we will continue reflecting on the Park’s evolution over the past decade.

—Erin Langner, Freelance Arts Writer and Former SAM Adult Public Programs Manager

 Photos: Paul Macapia

Object of the Week: March of the Weavers

In 2015 SAM acquired this small—but powerful—etching by German artist Käthe Kollwitz. March of the Weavers is the fourth plate of six in a series Kollwitz called Ein Weberaufstand (The Rise of the Weavers). This series proved to be one of the most important works of her early career, as its public display in Berlin in 1898 catapulted her to national recognition. With the content of The Rise of the Weavers, Kollwitz was responding to a theatrical play by Gerhard Hauptmann, titled The Weavers, which told the story of an 1844 revolt over wages. In her diary, Kollwitz remembers the excitement and inspiration she gleaned from viewing that play, as well as the challenges she faced producing the series:

“A great event took place during this time: the Freie Buehne’s première of Hauptmann’s The Weavers. The performance was given in the morning. I no longer remember who got me a ticket. My husband’s work kept him from going, but I was there, burning with anticipation. The impression the play made was tremendous. The best actors of the day participated, with Else Lehman playing the young weaver’s wife. In the evening there was a large gathering to celebrate, and Hauptmann was hailed as the leader of youth.

“That performance was a milestone in my work. I dropped the series on Germinal and set to work on The Weavers. At the time I had so little technique that my first attempts were failures. For this reason the first three plates of the series were lithographed, and only the last three successfully etched: The March of the Weavers, Storming the Owner’s House, and The End. My work on this series was slow and painful. But it gradually came, and I wanted to dedicate the series to my father. I intended to preface it with Heine’s poem, ‘The Weavers.’ But meanwhile my father fell critically ill, and he did not live to see the success I had when this work was exhibited. On the other hand, I had the pleasure of laying before him the complete Weavers cycle on his seventieth birthday in our peasant cottage at Rauschen. He was overjoyed. I can still remember how he ran through the house calling again and again to Mother to come and see what little Kaethe had done. In the spring of the following year he died.”1

Kollwitz might have contented herself with the satisfaction of sharing her art with proud family members had it not been for the timely help of a friend:

“I was so depressed because I could no longer give him the pleasure of seeing the work publicly exhibited that I dropped the idea of a show. A good friend of mine, Anna Plehn, said, ‘Let me arrange everything.’ She entered the series for me, sent it in to the jury, and a few weeks later it was in the show at the Lehrter Station. Later I heard that the jury—Menzel was one of the members—had voted that the Weavers be given the small gold medal. The Kaiser vetoed the recommendation. But from then on, at one blow, I was counted among the foremost artists of the country. Max Lehrs, director of the Dresden collection of engravings and drawings, bought the series and succeeded in procuring the gold medal for it. To this day the Weavers is probably the best-known work I have done.”2

In The March of the Weavers and the series of which it is part, Kollwitz expressed solidarity with the working force. Her concerns were not only socio-political, but also aesthetic. Physical effort visualized in moving masses captured her imagination. For Kollwitz, celebrating workers became a cathartic release, one she would return to throughout her career:

“My real motive for choosing my subjects almost exclusively from the life of the workers was that only such subjects gave me in a simple and unqualified way what I felt to be beautiful. For me the Koenigsberg longshoremen had beauty; the Polish jimkes on their grain ships had beauty; the broad freedom of movement in the gestures of the common people had beauty. Middle-class people held no appeal for me at all. Bourgeois life as a whole seemed to me pedantic. The proletariat, on the other hand, had a grandness of manner, a breadth to their lives . . . And portraying them again and again opened a safety-valve for me; it made life bearable.”3

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

1 Käthe Kollwitz, Diary and Letters, ed. Hans Kollwitz, transl. Richard and Clara Winston, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955; 42.
2 Kollwitz, Diary and Letters, 42-43.
3 Kollwitz, Diary and Letters, 43.
Image: Weberzug (March of the Weavers), 1893-1897, published ca. 1931, Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945), etching, 10 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of DeAnn and David Finkel, in memory of Harriet Clayton and Daniel Clayton, 2015.20.1, 2015.20.1 © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Kittie McAllister

Kittie (known as Katie by her family) grew up on a beautiful farm in Carnation, Washington, riding horses and exploring the woods with her dog. As part of her Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree at Bellevue College, she excelled in hand-drawn animation classes (and was published in her mentor Tony White’s book, How to Make Animated Films) but decided she wanted to be an oil painter. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Studio Art from Central Washington University in 2016, where she discovered her love of making three-dimensional objects and using her painting skills to give them sophisticated surface qualities. Working as a Visitor Services Officer in the galleries of the Seattle Art Museum keeps her engaged in her greatest interest—art history.

SAM: Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series opened January 21 and is running until April 23. What is your favorite piece in this series?

McAllister: Every painting in The Migration Series is full of earth tones, so Panel 5 struck me for its vibrant colors and total absence of browns. A black locomotive speeding through the deep blue night, with its yellow bell swinging in the force of the wind and light penetrating the darkness ahead, gleams like an emblem of hope for the migrants leaving deplorable living situations behind. The yellow paint of the bell is even brighter than the bold yellow seen throughout the series, perhaps emphasizing it as a symbol of liberty and progress.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?

The huge Mann und Maus sculpture by Katharina Fritsch, for the BIG reactions it always gets! I often hear adults say that waking up to giant vermin on their bed is their worst nightmare, while children perceive the “mousy” as cute and funny; one child thought he got so big from eating too much cheese! I see dark symbolism in the piece and feel a little uneasy when posted in its imposing presence.

Who is your favorite artist?

As I delved deeper into John Lennon’s music, I became curious about the woman he wrote such desperate love songs about, and I discovered the avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. Her sculptures and poems are minimalistic and give simple commands to the viewer—the act of physically, or mentally, carrying out those actions focuses your cognizance in the moment. A brief writing example of Yoko’s:

LIGHTING PIECE

Light a match and watch till it goes out.

1955 autumn

One of my favorite works is a white ladder that, when you climb to the top and look through a magnifying glass hanging by a delicate chain, you can find the tiny word, “Yes” written on the white ceiling. John Lennon fell in love with Yoko when he felt refreshed by her positive message in this interactive art piece.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Make a day of it! I always recommend starting back in time on the fourth floor with our most ancient art objects, and working your way back to the present with our more contemporary works on the third floor. SAM celebrates diversity and is a safe space to be yourself and unabashedly explore the eccentric world of art.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?

Recently I had a painting in the Erotica exhibition on Capitol Hill for Second Thursday Art Walk—it was such a hoot! Now that I’m finished with school I have time to get back into my guitar and I love spending lazy days just journaling. My shorthaired black cat, Tobias Funke, always demands my attention, and I’m simply enjoying my time with friends and family now that I’m back in Seattle. I’m always making little plans and schemes for my creative notions—working at Seattle Art Museum keeps my creativity fueled!

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman.