Saya Woolfalk

Seattle Art Museum receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Great news! SAM’s upcoming summer blockbuster exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art recently received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

On view June 18, 2015 through September 6, 2015 Disguise provides an updated look at 21st-century evolutions of the mask and explores contemporary forms of disguise.

For this exhibition, SAM’s Curator of African and Oceanic Art Pamela McClusky, and Consultant Curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi sought out contemporary artists from Africa and of African descent to create new installations, visions, and sounds for the exhibition. These artists fill the galleries with inventive avatars and provocative new myths, taking us on mysterious journeys through city streets and futuristic landscapes.

Through its grant-making to thousands of nonprofits each year, the NEA promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from Seattle Art Museum represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

Image: Chimera, from the Empathic Series, 2013, Saya Woolfalk, United States, b. 1979, single-channel video, 4:12 minutes, filmmaker: Rachel Lears. © Saya Woolfalk, Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Masks in the Bullitt Library’s Collection

The Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibition, Disguise, examines 21st-century evolutions of the African mask and explores contemporary forms of disguise. For this latest book installation from the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, we drew upon unique works in our Special Collections related to masks. They run the gamut between the restraint of an early 20th-century collection catalogue and the intensity of an early 21st-century work that delights the senses.

Masks Alone

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Portier, André and François Poncetton. Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique. Paris: Editions Albert Morancé, 1956. SPCOL OSZ NB 1080 P6.

Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique is a large folio edition that focuses its attention on the form of each mask, leaving context to our imagination. It was first published in Paris in 1927, and is authored by the French academics, André Portier (French, 1886–1969) and François Poncetton (French, 1875 or 1877–1950). It includes fifty loose-leaf collotype photographic plates printed in sepia, some overprinted with color. An elaborate, beautifully produced collection catalogue, this work displays the collections of important artists, critics, and writers of the French Surrealist and Dada movements.

Two examples of the overprinted color plates are on currently on view: Masque Pongwé (Gabon), from the collection of Stéphen-Charles Chauvet, (French, 1885-1950), known for his authorship of the first illustrated compendium on Easter Island; and Masque Man (Côte d’Ivoire), from the collection of Paul Éluard, (French, 1895-1952), the French surrealist poet.

Soundsuits in a Box

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From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

“The wearers and their masks participate in a consuming spectacle: sounds, smells, the audience and the setting all play essential roles.” —Herman Burssens, African Faces: An Homage to the African Mask

Unlike the quiet, reflective nature of Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique, this artist’s book by Nick Cave (American, 1961–) has movement, makes noise, and shows us masks represented in a totally different way from that of more traditional books.

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

This Boxfolio is a rare, wonderful, instance of an artist leaving a remnant behind after a show. In 2011, artist Nick Cave held a solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum and this work ultimately ended up in the Bullitt Library. Best described as an artist’s book, this work contains a diverse and fascinating assortment: an iron-on patch, lenticular image, magnet, pin, blow-up punching bag, set of playing cards, set of postcards, hanging ornament, booklet, fiber optic wand, and a Viewmaster. Cave’s Soundsuit Shop tells us that “Nick’s 2006 exhibitions were accompanied by this Boxfolio which, like the Soundsuit, is a collection of unexpected items that make sound when shaken.”

Two of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits are on view in the exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which runs through September 7, 2015.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

The book installation, Masks in the Bullitt Library’s Collection, is on view just outside the Bullitt Library on the fifth floor of the Seattle Art Museum, during the library’s public hours: Wednesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm. (Please note the library will be closed July 1-3, 2015.)

Maps of Time and Place at the McCaw Foundation Library

A map is a visual depiction of a particular place, and it is a reflection of the perspectives of the time in which it was made. We can better understand the way people in a particular era saw the world – and their place in it – by looking at the maps they used.

A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

John Senex’s (English, 1678-1740) New Map of Asia, which dates from 1721, is a representation of the technical information available at the time. It also provides insight into the way European explorers viewed the countries in Asia and their relationships to each other. Senex was a geographer to Queen Anne (1665-1714), and one of 18th century England’s best known map makers. His map of Asia contains a lot of information.

Detail from A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

Detail from A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

It spans a vast geographical area from the tip of North Africa and part of the Mediterranean in the west to Indonesia and Japan in the east; from what is now Mongolia in the north to New Holland (now called Australia) in the south. It notes the currents along the east coast of Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the Indian Ocean. Areas that were most thoroughly explored by the 18th-century English are the ones that include the most detail; those that were not as well-known are more generally depicted, such as the “Land of Less” and “Company’s Land,” which are shown as large, indistinct land masses, as is the “Eastern Ocean” to the north of them. In the upper left corner, a cartouche includes two people in stylized Asian dress, surrounded by representations of some typical animals and plants.

Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

Similarly, cartographer Jeongho Kim’s (Korean, active 1834-1864) Suseon Jeondo (Map of Seoul) shows us what was important in Korea in 1845, during the Joseon Dynasty. This is a map drawn by someone intimately familiar with the area and the people and practices that characterized the time in which it was made and used. The use of Chinese characters is typical of formal documentation of that time.

Detail from Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

Detail from Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

The wood-block print map of Hanyang (Seoul) thoroughly surveys the entire city: major roads, facilities, and villages are realistically represented more or less to scale. These precisely depicted everyday elements of the city are ringed by symbolic portrayals of larger-than-life mountains, creating a significant contrast. These mountains, traditionally a symbolic connection between the sky and the authority of the king, are intentionally drawn larger than to scale to emphasize their connection to the heavens.

We invite you to see these maps in person at the McCaw Foundation Library at the Asian Art Museum. The library’s public hours for the summer are: Thursdays and Fridays, 2 PM – 5 PM; Saturdays 10 AM – 2 PM. (Please note that the library is closed July 2-5, 2015.)

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Bibliography:
Kim, Jeongho. A map of Seoul in the period of Joseon Dynasty. Seoul: J. Kim, ca. 1845.
Senex, John. A new map of Asia: from the latest observations. London: D. Browne, 1721.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

A Tick of the Clock: Dan Webb Carves Through the Summer

This summer, Seattle artist Dan Webb will set up shop at the Olympic Sculpture Park. In a small wooden shed, he will gradually turn a tree into a procession of carved sculptures. He will continue to carve until nothing is left but sawdust.

The ephemeral project pays tribute to the natural life cycle of the tree, which will come from the sculpture park—our chief gardener has selected one that needs to be thinned for the health of the grove. The tree’s seeds will be preserved and planted in the park.

We talked to Webb about his project—and what making art means to him.

Note: Selections from this interview appeared in the SAM magazine for June–September 2015. This is the full interview.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: This summer, you’ll be spending two months carving sculptures out of a tree but I hear that none of the works you make will be kept. What motivates you to do this? What’s your thinking behind this?

Dan Webb: I think it really talks about a certain ephemerality to most things that everything lives for a while. I mean, even if you look at the acropolis or something like that, it’s melting because of the rain and such. There are these things that we’re able to make but we’re not able to make anything that’s permanent. So maybe the conceit of sculpture is that you can hold on to a moment for a bit but a lot of my work really references the idea of time and the idea of a cycle, that you’re born and you live and you die and that just starts another beginning.

And I think wood is a great material to do that with. You know, it’s a material that was alive and is no longer. There’s a way that you can really talk about those kinds of systems, the falling apart and then coming out of the ashes and falling apart, that just seems really natural in wood. You don’t have to reach very far and it doesn’t seem mockish or melodramatic.

The work to me is on the one hand is quite light-hearted and fun and on the other hand is very much about entropy and death and stuff. I feel like that material spans that emotional distance really well. I do want all of that stuff kicking around in there somewhere.

SAM: Something that occurred to me while looking at this project and some of your other work is that you start with block of wood and you start carving. And with this project, you’re going to keep carving until—

Dan Webb: Exactly.

SAM: —you can’t keep carving anymore.

Dan Webb: Right.

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SAM: This is unique to carving. That if you keep going, your medium will disappear. If a painter just kept layering on paint and paint and paint and engaging in the process, his material would get thicker. His canvas would eventually get thicker but yours will eventually disappear.

Dan Webb: Exactly. Yeah, it’s very much a reductive process—it’s something you think about. It’s something you notice as you carve, you know, that every time I take a little bit off, there’s very much a reference. It’s not a metaphor. It’s very much like a tick of the clock. There’s a little bit gone, you know, and that just percolates through the work.

It’s hard to keep it away so that’s really the beginning of it. I hope that doesn’t sound like a big fat bummer but it’s in there. But along that path of that life and all the stuff that I’m going to make, there’s all sorts of stuff that’s great.

You know, I’m really already planning on making a salad set for the table that I’m supposed to make in the park or making some kind of implements for people when they sit around their table and we have dinner in the park that will come from that tree [Dan is a featured artist for Party in the Park]. I want those things to really live a life and to be touched, to be in the hands of people and to go somewhere. That’s just one idea. There’s a few others too related to that.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: That’s one of the things I want to ask. How will you decide what to carve?

Dan Webb: There’s a lot of improvisation in what happens with a particular piece of wood and some of it is just—to me—sort of silly inside jokes.

I always think of the phrase “ripped limb from limb” because I make so many limbs out of the limbs of trees through what amounts to a whole lot of violence, really. That just seems so dumb and obvious, to carve a limb from a limb, but I can’t help myself.

It’s still great. Not really worrying about the starting point is more of my process. The idea that [Marcel] Duchamp had of chance—the standard stoppages and all that kind of stuff of making, building into his process the way that he does—he isn’t really sure what it’s going to be. I’m sympathetic to that way of working.

I think illustrating my deep thoughts on things as they are would be a whole lot less interesting than discovering things along the way and being sensitive to the serendipity of certain shapes, certain ways that the wood seems to be doing certain things. Just listening to that makes it more than I think I could plan for it to be.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: Is there a point in the carving where you either discover something and your path forward is set or because you get to a point where you’ve made enough decisions that you’re now limited—?

Dan Webb: There is a point at which it’s set. I’m starting to make things where I take a single block and I start cutting chunks out of the block and carving different things from them with a simple joint at the top, a dove-tail joint, and then sliding all those things together that I pull out of the block.

And I’ve found that it doesn’t take very long before there’s something going on with that initial piece that leads to the next piece and then I’m trying to really find that in the block. I’m trying to make sure that I can find that in there. So while there’s improv, there’s also me trying to exert my will on it. There’s a tension between the two.

SAM: We tend to think about the artist as a solitary, isolated figure. I read somewhere that you work in a studio in Georgetown with other artists so you aren’t necessarily that on a daily basis anyway. But now you’re bringing your studio to the park, which is this very public space.

What are your expectations? Why are you interested? Are there things here you’re excited about or worried about?

Dan Webb: Yeah, I know. Well, I think that really has to be part of the work. I am really interested in Robert Smithson’s work, Partially Buried Woodshed, that he made in the 70s. I got a chance to see it actually. It was a woodshed where a bunch of woodworkers were and he poured a whole bunch of dirt on it and left it and it rotted. His work was really about entropy and everything like that. But I was really interested in what happens to those woodworkers inside of that. I know he pulled them out before he poured dirt on it—but the whole idea of what happens to the people, and how do people fit into that work, and his thinking in some ways informs this piece.

I’m very much the woodworker there in the shack. The activity of it, the pretty slow quotidian boringness of it will be on display, as well as the conversations I’ll have and all the rest of it. I hope that’s very much a part of the work.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: What are five things you’ll bring with you? What do you need to work when you’re carrying your studio with you?

Dan Webb: Well, I’m going to have a rolling cart that I’ll have to roll into the shack from the pavilion and roll back at the end of the night because there’s—I’ll probably have fifty or sixty chisels with me and saws—a lot of stuff will be required to do this. So I’d be pretty stumped if I had to think of just five. A cup of coffee, my toolbox. What else? What else do I get? Is that two? Technically I’ve already listed more than a hundred because of the tools so I better stop. I’m cheating already.

SAM: I want to ask you about some of your influences and I have to be honest—I’m hoping you’ll talk a little bit about Robert Morris’s Box With a Sound of Its Own Making.

Dan Webb: Oh, yeah, which I just paid homage to ten minutes ago. I love it. I love talking about other people’s work. Well, it’s just a towering work of genius, first of all.

I think what it does for me as a maker of things—it really says that there’s this life lived by someone who made that thing. That new object was brought to this place by a person who thought things through, had all these problems to solve, and was having a hard day that day, and told a really hilarious joke at lunchtime to his friends.

So there’s that really clear, awesome humanity to it.

The other thing too that becomes maybe even more important than the piece—the physical artifact really takes a backseat (maybe) to the idea, to the circumstance, to the context. There’s a lot of things that go into it and the object becomes the artifact of that.

I think about that when I look at the Michelangelo “Slave” Series as well. It’s not that they’re finished or that’s even important. They’re sort of struggling to get out of this block environment. But you can just see his chisel. More than any other piece that Michelangelo made, you see these tourists just running by these things in Florence. Nobody looks at them. I was the only person.

You can see the chisel marks and you make the connection that there was this funny little shrunken dude who was making that stuff.

It seems to be pretty profound to me that there’s the things that you think and feel and hope for. And then there’s the artifact of that life—which is your work. Not forgetting that, not ever forgetting that, is really important.

SAM: That art is made by humans.

Dan Webb: Art is made by humans who are muddling through, and trying to make sense of it, and the issues are pretty much the same [then that they are now].

I think with a lot of other work, before I saw Box With a Sound of Its Own Making, it was harder for me to access some of that stuff. It seemed like this thing had just arrived—rather than feeling like there was a context for why that thing existed or there were conflicts and difficulties with them, which leads to it looking a certain way. You have to grapple with the thing.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: How do you define mastery?

Dan Webb: You know, that word is a real—whenever I hear that word, I think of Caine in Kung Fu or something like that, an impossible TV black belt in a Shaolin temple. I don’t know.

I know that it’s easy to point to history and say well, Michelangelo was and Bernini was and Sam Maloof was. You could point to these people but I wonder if they would say that. I wonder if any of them—I bet they were champing to get to work so that they could get a little bit better that day, the day that they died.

I think at best what you can maybe access is total effort. I don’t know that a lot of people understand what total effort is. It’s not 99 percent. It’s 100 percent and when you’re absolutely, completely—then there’s nothing left.

And to do that over the course of a long period of time, in order to get to a place where something like mastery becomes part of the question or part of the discussion—I think that’s a pretty awesome, gratifying thing. But I don’t know anybody that’s even come close who would say, “Yeah. Yeah, mastery, that’s me. Look up mastery in a dictionary and my picture’s right there.” I think the goal posts keep moving further.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: I have this—well, it might be sort of a sillier question but I know in this book, Jenni Sorkin provides one of the essays and writes that there’s this “uncommon sensuousness” of wood.

Dan Webb: Oh, right.

SAM: And I think romance novels and romantic comedies often cast their male leads as oh, first architects.

Dan Webb: Oh, wow.

SAM: And then often carpenters.

Dan Webb: Wow, really? Man, I need more of this stuff.

SAM: So I’m wondering if you think there’s anything to this romanticizing of wood.

Dan Webb: Oh. Oh, okay. I was thinking romanticizing carpenters. I sure was a carpenter a lot and they’re a bunch of smelly, gassy dudes that just told terrible jokes so I don’t know that worked with the ladies but…

SAM: Maybe it’s tied to this larger phenomenon where our culture romanticizes working with our hands at this point.

Dan Webb: I think we’re very, very much in that mode of romanticizing working with our hands. Nobody really wants to do it and nobody knows very much about it. But my wife is a farmer, for example. And there’s all these farm blocks where kids from Brooklyn buy a sheep farm in New Hampshire. Then they start a blog about it and the husband is always a guy who was a part-time model for J. Crew and he looks great when he’s holding the sheep and you just wonder if they’re making money or whatever. They’re probably not, you know, and—

SAM: There’s a trust fund behind them.

Dan Webb: Yeah, so I think now, especially with our super-curated lives that we can do on social media, I think it takes on even more of the patina, this luster. We’ve made chefs into celebrities—the beautiful food that comes out and it just seems like magic—but at the end of the day, who really does want to do that stuff? You know, who really wants to castrate sheep and feed a hundred of them and shear a hundred of them? I mean, that’s a small herd.

It’s pretty romanticized, I would say, and I don’t want to be privy to that. To me, it’s a job, which is totally awesome. I’m super lucky and grateful that I get to work every day and do the thing that I get to do, but it’s really hard. It’s a really hard job for the most part. People will see when I’m in the park how romantic it really is.

That said, it’s not totally crazy to talk about the sensuality of wood. I could definitely go on for a long time about that. I agree with it on the one hand. On the other hand, the nuts and bolts of how to make something are pretty hard, one, and, two, it’s not a path for everyone. Let’s just say that.

Dan Webb: Break It Down - Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM: I have one question left about art and craft and their contentious recent history. Historically, they were tied closely together. How do you negotiate that?

Dan Webb: I still think we really fall prey to seeing things in a really binary way so if it’s art, it’s not craft; and if it’s craft, it’s not art; or if it’s a conceptual, then it’s not an object; or if it’s an object, it’s not conceptual. I’m a little disappointed at how binary even smart people can be about that stuff.

I think we’re at a point in history where an artist can do anything that they want to do and call it art. In fact, if anything’s art, then everything’s art and if everything’s art, then the word just lost all specificity. There’s no meaning to that word and it’s by design.

I think a lot of modernist artists and the post-modern artists, with a lot of effort and foresight, made that word meaningless, functionally meaningless. If you have knocked all those walls down that surrounded this idea of art, where are you?

I think when art gets subsumed by life and the bigger world rather than the art world—then it’s all just the world. And that’s not scary. And art didn’t go away. The idea of having to digest the experiences that’ll happen to us didn’t go away. It’s just that it starts to be more integrated into something bigger and I think it’s a really exciting time for that. Whatever you want to do, it’s all good.

For example, I think the move towards social practice is really interesting. But then you’re in a realm where essentially telling a story or interacting with people becomes your art. If you do that, then you have to understand that—the nurses at the children’s cancer ward, what’s their story? I mean, you’re elevating your story because it’s “art.” When what you’re actually doing is saying, let’s just realize that all stories are part of this conversation.

I think it’s binary to say that the social practice story must be art but that the other stories that are so prevalent in all of our lives are less so because they haven’t identified themselves as that.

If you really want to understand the repercussions of making the word meaningless, then you’re in a big environment with a lot of really incredible stuff. I talk about that with technology. There’re a lot of kids that are really interested in making art with technology. Technology’s got to be this new cool thing and great art will be made from it—but maybe great art already has been made from it. There’s a rover on Mars right now. The rover’s totally rad. If you’ve seen it—it’s so awesome. It’s a six-wheeled super-cool thing and they [the people that made it] become your colleagues. If you want to go down that path, they become your colleagues.

For me, my colleagues happen to be woodworkers and carvers. I really jettisoned the idea that I’m going to fetishize originality or I’m going to say something that no other person in history has ever thought of. That ship has sailed, luckily. I’d way rather feel like I was stepping into a conversation and I was part of something rather than reinventing the wheel and feeling proud of myself for doing that. I just think that’s a function of where we are.

Modernists made art and their brave, cool selves became their lives, but I think now we live a life and the result is our art. So it’s flipped. A lot of it is flipped and that’s a good place, exciting. It means that I get to have cool conversations about what I do with the lady that comes and reads my gas meter because she’s able to get a little bit of what I do and it’s not for art people. It’s not designed just for the super-smartypants that went to art school.

That’s just a facet of a lot of really incredible stuff that’s happened. Like T.S. Eliot said, you’ve got to read everything. Knowing about contemporary art really puts you in that category. You have to know a lot about visual information and some of that is cats flushing the toilet on YouTube, and there’s an equality to that. You know, there’s Marcel Duchamp on the one hand and cats flushing the toilet on the other and there’s all spectrum in between. I think a lot of us now are interested in putting all that together so—

SAM: All our pieces based on toilets?

Dan Webb: You could do it. I’m sure there’s somebody that is doing it.

SAM: Where we started, to where we are now.

Dan Webb: Yeah.

SAM: Well, thank you, Dan.

Dan Webb: Yeah.

SAM: We really appreciate your taking the time.

You can follow Webb’s progress this summer at the sculpture park. Learn more about the project on our website.
Photos: Matt Sellars

SAM Summer Mondays

Spend more time at Seattle Art Museum this Summer!

Summer is right around the corner and Seattle Art Museum is pleased to announce that beginning May 25, the museum will be open Mondays through Labor Day (please note that the Asian Art Museum will continue to be closed both Mondays and Tuesdays).

The extended hours will accommodate summer visitors in Seattle and provide additional opportunities to see SAM’s summer blockbuster exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, opening June 18.

In addition to the extended hours, SAM is offering free admission to military personnel and their families between Memorial Day and Labor Day as part of a collaboration with Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts and The Department of Defense. Museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa are participating in Blue Star Museums and SAM is proud to join museums of all genres in providing this opportunity.

Up-to-date information can be found on our website or by calling 206.654-3100.

Photo: Robert Wade
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For the Love of Art Member Profile: Laurie Strong

LAURIE STRONG
Retired psychotherapist
Individual member, first joined 1996, lapsed then rejoined 2014

Why do you come to SAM?
I come to SAM to be reminded and inspired. After retiring I turned toward my first love: art. Making, seeing, thinking, dreaming art of any and all sorts. Easily visiting SAM more frequently is the inspiration for my current move closer to Seattle. Until you asked, I didn’t realize what an influence SAM is in my life, even though I haven’t visited that often (but soon will!).

I want to ask more generally about what role you think art plays in society. Do we need art?
We absolutely need art. I was a child psychotherapist for many years, studied at UW, what-have-you, and art therapy was at the very beginning. It’s kind of out of favor now, but you know, to communicate with an incommunicative child through art is a wonderful thing. As a young woman working there I would sit on a little bench like this, and he would draw and I draw.

Art is communication to me, absolutely, always. And it communicates how you feel, it communicates how you see. Going through the art museum you don’t see a lot of angry stuff, but there is a lot of anger in art, it just explodes and sometimes you just absolutely know what the artist was feeling, even if you are totally wrong—so yes, to me art is ultimately communication.

And then, depending on who you are, if you are attuned to pattern or you’re attuned to color—and some people are and some people aren’t—then the patterns in a piece of art, and how they play…it can be calming or exciting.

The patterns in art and the colors in art really connect to our emotions because of what’s in us, not so much because of what’s in the artist. Because we intrinsically see and put things together in a way that is specific to us as individuals.

Laurie Strong
Do you make art?
I do! I actually made these earrings.

When you get old you can’t wear heavy earrings and I always, because I was so tall, wore big, bulky earrings and had to give them up. So I just started making these and I do a variety of things. You can look at my website. On my blog you will see what I do.

I started out in life being very attracted to the arts and doing art in grade school and what-have-you and then you know, because of when I was born and real life, you had to do something to support yourself. I had children and we didn’t have that much money and my art just went by-the-by and took second place. Then as I got older, when I was the director of the mental health center in Port Townsend…if you threw a rock up there you would hit an artist or a gallery. And so we had art therapy for the adults there.

We had a whole program and a lot of the schizophrenic patients and other people like that did art. We would put on art shows periodically and then various staff who wanted to would put on another show. If you look at my blog you’ll see that way at the bottom is a book art that it’s obviously an Indian image. It’s bright red. That was the first thing I did when I was at that center and we started doing art. Then I just totally got back into it again. That’s me and art.

That’s great! That’s really fun. Did you raise your family around art?
Yes. I did and I didn’t. One of my sons thinks he’s doing art. He unfortunately suffers from mental illness so sometimes he does these things. But my daughter makes her living doing art in Monterey and the Peninsula with all those rich people down there. She does decorative household art. Some people flew her to France to make the steps in their villa look older and be decorated. Nice life indeed! She really works hard and I think on her website you can see her doing art in a rotunda—she’s an artist. That’s actually a very old-fashioned way to earn a living as an artist. Like Michelangelo used to do. House decorator.

And her son is a photographer and he lives here. And my other son has no artistic talent whatsoever. There’s always one. My daughter and her son are practicing artists so she makes her living doing art and her son has had photography shows and what-have-you, I’m not sure he’s doing a lot of it right now.

Do you have a favorite piece of art here? Do you have a favorite in general? Do you like a genre?
Here? No. Things change for me. I like art as color and pattern and decorating so there is something I would like in that, that I might not like someplace else. I am pretty broad, actually. You know, I’m not all that impressed by Rembrandt, because the subject matter is boring to me. I like more splash.

It all depends, you know. I just love lots of different things.

Join Laurie as a SAM member today.

Sharing the Beauty and Diversity of Asian Art through Books

Books and catalogues about the collections and exhibitions at the Asian Art Museum are available at the McCaw Foundation Library. The library participates in an exchange program with museum libraries around the world, providing SAM’s exhibition catalogues in return for theirs. Engaging, beautiful, and diverse, each of these catalogues provides a captivating glimpse into the wider world of Asian art. You are invited to visit the McCaw Foundation Library to enjoy these and more resources to expand your knowledge and understanding of Asian art.

Book Cover: Chŏng-hye Pak et al. Celebrating Events with Banquets and Ceremonies in the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul: National Museum of Korea, 2011.

Book Cover: Chŏng-hye Pak et al. Celebrating Events with Banquets and Ceremonies in the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul: National Museum of Korea, 2011.

Celebrating Events with Banquets and Ceremonies in the Joseon Dynasty. Chŏng-hye Pak et al. Seoul: National Museum of Korea, 2011.

The National Museum of Korea celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009 with the exhibition Scenes of Banquets and Ceremonies of the Joseon Dynasty.  The Joseon Dynasty ruled over a united Korean Peninsula for more than 500 years, from 1392 through 1910. This catalogue is rich in visual descriptions of the traditional celebratory feasts, or janchi, which were characteristic events of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. Celebratory rites and festivities of the Joseon royal court, and celebratory customs among the Joseon people and government officials are rendered in beautiful and exacting detail.  Images in the catalogue include photographs and drawings of the special clothing worn to various ceremonies, among them a headdress for a first birthday celebration and a wedding veil. The catalogue includes detailed descriptions of the events, and essays that provide cultural detail and context.

Book Cover: Bromberg, Anne et al. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013.

Book Cover: Bromberg, Anne et al. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013.

The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas. Bromberg, Anne et al. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013.

The Dallas Museum of Art’s collection of South Asian art includes nearly 500 works, including Indian Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, Himalayan Buddhist bronze sculptures and ritual objects, artwork from Southeast Asia, and decorative arts from India’s Mughal period. This book details the cultural and artistic significance of works ranging from Tibetan thangkas and Indian miniature paintings, to stone sculptures and bronzes. Relating these works to one another through interconnecting narratives and cross-references, the text provides a broad cultural history of the region.

Book Cover: Strong, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1660. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002.

Book Cover: Strong, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1660. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002.

Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book. Strong, Susan. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002.

A unique blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles, Mughal painting reached its golden age during the reigns of the emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan in the 16th and 17th centuries. This gloriously illustrated book is the first to examine the Victoria & Albert Museum’s remarkable collection of Mughal paintings. The text contains fascinating research, and images include: elaborately detailed battle scenes, scenes of court life, a remarkable series of portraits, studies of wildlife, and decorative borders.

Book Cover: Yiu, Josh. A Fuller View of China: Chinese Art in the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2014.

Book Cover: Yiu, Josh. A Fuller View of China: Chinese Art in the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2014.

A Fuller View of China: Chinese Art in the Seattle Art Museum. Yiu, Josh. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2014.

In 1933, Dr. Richard Fuller founded the Seattle Art Museum and began to exhibit his collection of textiles, porcelain, and Buddhist sculpture.  From the beginning, Dr. Fuller’s collection has been particularly rich in Chinese art, notably sculpture; and over time it broadened to encompass a wide variety of art including: Japanese art, Northwest modern art, European and American painting, and decorative arts. This book, written by SAM’s former Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, Josh Yiu, studies the growth of the Chinese art collection, and includes fascinating analysis of single pieces and the collection as a whole. Color plates throughout capture many unique and beautiful pieces that comprise the collection.

The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story. Condry, Ian. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2013.

The Soul of Anime investigates the rise of anime as a worldwide pop culture sensation. This systematic cultural study was informed by interviews with artists at some of Tokyo’s leading animation studios. It discusses how anime’s fictional characters and worlds become platforms for collaborative creativity, and that it has grown out of a collective social energy. Mostly text, this book takes on a visual phenomenon with eagerness and passion.

Book Cover: Koyama-Richard, Brigitte. One Thousand Years of Manga.  Paris; New York: Flammarion, 2014.

Book Cover: Koyama-Richard, Brigitte. One Thousand Years of Manga. Paris; New York: Flammarion, 2014.

One Thousand Years of Manga. Koyama-Richard, Brigitte. Paris; New York: Flammarion, 2014.

Manga originated in Japan in 1814, gained steam in the 1950s, and continues to evolve in today’s popular culture. Earlier echoes of manga can be seen in centuries-old temple paintings and medieval scrolls.  This book is a both a textual account of the history of manga and a visual delight. It contains over 400 illustrations – some rare, some familiar, all charming.

Book Cover: Osaki, Tomohiro. Art Will Thrill You!: The Essence of Modern Japanese Art. Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

Book Cover: Osaki, Tomohiro. Art Will Thrill You!: The Essence of Modern Japanese Art. Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

Art Will Thrill You! The Essence of Modern Japanese Art. Osaki, Tomohiro. Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012. To mark the occasion, it presented a major retrospective of its Japanese modern art collection. The emphasis on Japanese art of 1950s showcases pieces that transcend genre boundaries, in a period when artists collaborated in experimentation and mutual development.  This book includes text in Japanese, and images of paintings, sculptures, and photographs.

Book Cover: Mr. by Mr. Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki, 2003.

Book Cover: Mr. by Mr. Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki, 2003.

Mr. by Mr. Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki, 2003.

Taking his name from the national baseball superstar Shigeo Nagashima’s alias “Mister,” Mr. began as the protégé of Takashi Murakami, and has worked as an artist for over eight years.  Mr.’s works are “Japanese” in their anime-inspired, large-eyed characters and flat color fields.  This book is written in Japanese and contains full-color images of painting, and black & white photographs.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

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The Masks We Wear / The Ghosts We Share

Artist Sam Vernon’s stunning black-and-white graphics just took over the PACCAR Pavilion of the Olympic Sculpture Park. The installation, How Ghosts Sleep: Seattle, is a prelude to Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which opens June 18 at the Seattle Art Museum.

Her project for the sculpture park’s pavilion began with a visit to see the Seattle Art Museum’s collection of African masks and the Art Deco architecture of the Asian Art Museum. Afterwards, she mixed in designs from textiles and inspiration from formal studies of leaves, trees, flowers, and animals; which she fit into a frame of bold, abstract shapes.

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And all that’s before you get to the ghosts. Her wallpaper covers the interior of the pavilion and fabric canopies hover overhead, filling your eyes with visions of hidden characters who emerge from and then disappear into the walls and ceiling. Vernon has digitally combined photocopied drawings of ghost characters with a hand-drawn/collaged pattern of disembodied figures so that the ghosts are no longer visible—they’re masked. If it sounds layered, it is.

It’s a heady, expressive environment that Vernon hopes will “allow spectators to live in the world of the work rather than next to the work…”

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When I met Sam, she was just coming from the sculpture park with Loide Marwanga, the graphic designer who worked with her on the installation. They had just spent their first day in Seattle overseeing the installation of Vernon’s wallpapers and canopies.

Even though it was the end of the day, Vernon was full of energy and enthusiasm (maybe her super cool black-and-white Nike sneakers helped her keep her pep). She said she couldn’t wait to see it all come together.

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What’s it been like working on this installation, working with SAM, working with SAM curator Pam McClusky and consultant curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi?

From the project’s conception, I wanted to create an installation to highlight the stunning architecture of the space, stimulate the imaginations of all who enjoy the park and explore the proposition of disguise as a drawing technology. It’s been an honor to work with Pam and Erika—they’re innovative, open, and willing to deeply engage in the critical aspects of my work and practice. Bringing this project to fruition is truly a team effort and I can’t thank them enough for their scholarship, insight, and thoughtfulness.

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What speaks to you about the exhibition of Disguise: Masks and Global African Art as a whole? What are you excited about?

I’m drawn to the way in which Pam and Erika have developed a challenging exhibition by including a diverse group of artists working in different parts of the world. We have varied conceptual ideas and unique subjective approaches addressing the past, present and future of disguise as it relates to the museum’s collection and contemporary media.

It’s exciting to be included in an international dialogue about this complex reality—it offers significant links between us and our perceptions of space and time. In this way the exhibition generates important questions about connectivity instead of converging answers for fluent coherence.

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What do you think about the Olympic Sculpture Park? When you first saw the site, what did you think?

The Olympic Sculpture Park is breathtaking! I was immediately drawn to the views of the water and the works of one of my favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois.

sam-vernon-osp-2Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Follow Sam on Facebook and Instagram to see pictures of her time in Seattle & the art that’s drawn her eye while she’s been here.

Words: Maggie Hess
Photos: Natali Wiseman