Muse/News: A princely statue, a punning pie artist, and the eternal queen of soul

SAM News

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley interviews curator Xiaojin Wu about the new installation Noble Splendor: Art of Japanese Aristocrats. Discussed: An exquisite statue of a two-year-old prince, a 300-year-old clam shell matching game, and the mysterious ballot box stationed outside the installation—and what it will tell us.

We miss her art already: Jono Vaughan was featured in this week’s edition of Real Change. Reporter Lisa Edge discusses the just-closed Project 42 at SAM, Vaughan’s recent Seattle Art Fair performance and Neddy Award nomination, and what’s next for the artist.

Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s director and CEO, was interviewed by Eileen Kinsella of Artnet about the new tariff on Chinese art coming into the U.S., which has many in the art world concerned.

“It’s overall not good and not helpful,” said Kimerly Rorschach, director of the Seattle Art Museum, which also oversees the city’s Asian Art Museum. “It makes work more expensive, it constrains the market and thus constrains us in bringing these works to our audiences and educating and promoting the cultural exchange that is the museum’s mission.”

Local News

Mason Bryan of Crosscut reports on the disturbing vandalism of Jasmine Iona Brown’s series of adhesive paintings around Capitol Hill called Black Teen Wearing Hoodie.

Erica C. Barnett for Seattle Magazine with an in-depth update on the efforts to “save” SAM neighbor the Showbox from being torn down for a 44-story apartment tower.

The Seattle Times’ Zoe Sayler speaks with Lauren Ko, whose intricate, geometric pie designs created for her @lokokitchen Instagram have catapulted her to a new career—and she doesn’t even have a sweet tooth!

“It’s the great irony of our life,” Ko says. “For the most part, if they’re sweet, we’re just like, ‘get them out of the house’ … If I had somehow gotten into pizza making, then we would be in trouble.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic’s Claire Voon on the National Portrait Gallery’s new show about silhouette portraits, which “democratized portraiture long before the advent of photography”—although their history also outlines many ugly truths.

Helen Stoilas, editor of the Art Newspaper, joined in the effort spearheaded by the Boston Globe asking newspapers across the country to run editorials decrying assaults on a free press; Helen connected the issue to the arts.

RIP to the Queen of Soul. Here’s the New York Times’ Wesley Morris on the just a little bit of respect still due, Dream Hampton for NPR on how Aretha embodied Detroit, and the New Yorker’s David Remnick on her legacy.

“Prayer, love, desire, joy, despair, rapture, feminism, Black Power—it is hard to think of a performer who provided a deeper, more profound reflection of her times. What’s more, her gift was incomparable.”

And Finally

Be the change you want to see in the world: Robocop is now an art historian.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Noble Splendor: Art of Aristocrats of Japan at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: A Woman with Red Hair

A picture frame is, or should be, more than an adjunct to a work of art. If properly made, it is itself a work of art.

– Bill Barol, “The Carrig-Rohane Frame,” 1989

William McGregor Paxton’s Woman with Red Hair is an exemplar late work by the Boston School artist. Well-known for his attention to detail—especially capturing the effects of light—Paxton’s portraits often depict elegant women in minimally decorated rooms. However, unlike his earlier and larger body of work, the sitter here is removed from an interior setting and set against a rich, nearly impasto teal background. Our focus as viewers is placed solely on the woman, her features, and Paxton’s mastery of light and color.

Yet, there is one more element of the work that is impossible to ignore: its frame. Meticulously carved and gilded, it is a piece of art in its own right. All too often frames are overlooked for what they surround, but this Carrig-Rohane frame, designed and fabricated by Herman Dudley Murphy in 1911, holds its own and complements the Paxton painting.

Prior to his career as a framemaker, Murphy studied at the Boston Museum School and worked as an illustrator. Like many young artists he moved to Paris, and for five years (1891–1896) studied with artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Whistler believed, quite radically for the time, that a frame and a painting should be in harmony, and as a result manufactured his own frames. Murphy’s relationship with Whistler proved formative and, upon his return to the United States in 1897, Murphy taught himself how to carve and gild. Discouraged by the poor quality of American frames, he eventually opened his own business in 1903—Carrig-Rohane—in the basement of his Winchester, Massachusetts home.[1]

As evidenced by Whistler, a new appreciation and consideration of the frame as integral to the display of painting emerged in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, part of a larger artistic and aesthetic shift toward the handmade that defined the Arts and Crafts movement. The importance of the frame during this period is encapsulated in the writing of art critic Percy Fitzgerald, who in 1886 described the gold frame as that which “seems to enrich everything it touches.” He also penned that the frame “suggests the notion of an abstract boundary or zone between the vulgar surrounding world and the sort of spiritual life of Art.”[2] Both the Carrig-Rohane frame and Paxton painting are currently on view in the American Galleries, so I encourage you to see—and judge—for yourself.

Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

[1] “Continuing the Tradition: Grundmann Studios,” in The Boston School Tradition: Truth, Beauty and Timeless Craft (Boston: Vose Galleries, 2015), 53.
[2] Percy Fitzgerald, The Art Journal (London: J.S. Virtue & Co., 1886), 40.

Image: A Woman with Red Hair, 1922, William McGregor Paxton, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in., Gift of the Estate of Bruce Leven, 2018.5.1.

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Community Gallery: The 2018–19 WITS Broadsides Collection

The following introduction was written by a patient at Seattle Children’s Hospital who participated in the Writers in the Schools program. Her work was included in the 2016/17 WITS Broadsides, which features a collection of 20 hand-printed poems by students at Children’s Hospital on broadsides created by talented letterpress artists in a partnership with Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. You can see them all in the current installation of the Community Gallery at Seattle Art Museum through September 2.

I never realized the healing properties writing could have on a person. Being able to express your thoughts onto a page, without needing to worry about what other people might think about it, is freeing. When I let my mind wonder, I find myself writing down whatever is on my mind.

Being in the hospital all the time can really take a toll on a person but having writing as an option can make you feel at ease. I wrote a poem last year that was published in the letterpress broadside project. This poem was about how I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and what I was going through at that time. While writing this poem with [WITS writer] Sierra Nelson, it made me feel lucky that I was able to reflect on that stressful time in my life. Putting down my thoughts into a poem made it feel whole, and not just some insignificant facts about what I went through.

Writing poetry in the hospital showed me that, yes, when things are hard it can be especially difficult to look past it, but having that outlet to write down all my feelings made it therapeutic. When things are going well for me, I always want to write down what that feeling means to me. That’s what I love about creative writing: even if you’re sad or happy, it brings back all these memories to reflect upon.

Excerpts from Fiona’s poem, Memories of My Six-Year-Old Self 

“I remember having my first surgery. It was an emergency surgery. I was just 6 at the time. I remember not remembering what happened. I remember waking up in ICU and not being able to move … I remember almost not leaving ICU. My doctor said I have a 50% chance. But then I got better. I remember all the nurses’ names. I remember them feeling almost like family … I remember going home and greeting my dog Pooka and seeing my room painted with butterflies, pink and purple … I remember feeling lucky and ready to take on whatever comes next.

– Fiona Lynch, age 18

Photo: Alicia Craven
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Muse/News: Still plenty of summer, feeling an opera, and the next generation of curators

SAM News

Our family-friendly Summer at SAM programming at the Olympic Sculpture Park is recommended by ParentMap’s JiaYing Grygiel in this segment on KING’s New Day Northwest.

“But the skull must move on!” Crosscut’s Brangien Davis with a shout-out (ha) for the Basquiat before it leaves SAM. Today’s the last day to see the extraordinary painting.

Some news on the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project: The building “topping out” is complete. Capitol Hill Seattle shares the news.

Local News

Eileen Kinsella of Artnet with a report on the fourth edition of the Seattle Art Fair; interest and sales led one gallerist to note that “patience will pay off—and it has already.”

Stefan Milne of Seattle Met reviews both shows now on view at the Henry, finding explorations of the female gaze in the work of Mickalene Thomas and Martha Friedman.

Gemma Wilson of City Arts speaks with ChrisTiana ObeySumner—Seattle Opera’s social impact consultant—about Porgy and Bess, the six sides to every story, and how not to be scurred.

“I wish for the days when you go to an opera or musical or a symphony or fine arts gallery and go looking for the message. It’s not about watching the movement or seeing the color or hearing the music. But feeling the music, having a connection with the movement.”

Inter/National News

For Vanity Fair, curator Kimberly Drew visited Tina Knowles Lawson’s Hollywood home, which houses her incredible art collection including works by Elizabeth Catlett, Genevieve Gaignard, and Romare Bearden.

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe on the Australian TV show called Everyone’s a Critic; it “invites everyday people to act as art critics,” generating responses ranging from dismissive to funny to profound.

Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times with a feature on how museums are “addressing diversity with new urgency,” highlighting institutions that are cultivating curators of color.

“’When you have people in an institution who have a range of perspectives, you have a much richer program,’ said Eugenie Tsai, citing ‘openness to consider exhibition proposals, to consider programming, to consider hires, to consider things another group might want to dismiss as not what’s important.’”

And Finally

Four excellent words: Will Smith, art critic.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Robert Wade
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Object of the Week: Whale Effigy Charm

There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath . . . for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 111: The Pacific

This past week there have been a few heart-wrenching whale stories circulating the news, the most difficult of which centers on Tahlequah, a grieving mother orca who has carried her dead calf for over ten days in the waters near Victoria, British Columbia. The widespread sadness surrounding Tahlequah’s loss points to our human impulse to anthropomorphize and, more importantly, to empathize. And while this tendency to project our human emotions onto animals is often discouraged by scientists, orcas are among the most cognitively, socially, and emotionally sophisticated mammals on the planet and, for good reason, have been venerated by different cultures for millennia.

Perceived by many as the sovereigns of the world’s oceans, whales are magnificent creatures. This whale effigy charm is a testament to the whale’s status in Chumash culture, even in 1200-1600. Measuring three inches in length, this effigy of a whale—believed to be an orca—is rendered with an undeniable smile. Even its inlaid eyes exude a certain kindness. Indeed, according to anthropologist Robert L. Hoover, “the killer whale [orca] was regarded by the Chumash as a benevolent creature which drove schools of porpoises and whales ashore where they could be utilized by man.”[1] Carved from soapstone (steatite) likely obtained from Catalina Island, this effigy also possesses a bone tube which, coupled with the functional blowhole, is suggestive of a pipe mouthpiece.

According to Chumash historians and legend, such carved stone effigies were used as charms to ensure luck in fishing or hunting along the Southern California coast (from present-day Malibu to Morro Bay). The magical qualities of these effigies were believed to be obtained from the guidance of a spirit helper, and useless to anyone except its owner.[2] The question of whale hunting has been debated for decades, but the Chumash did not actively hunt orca whales; they were eaten only when they were washed on shore. Swordfish were significant marine animals for this reason, fabled to drive whales onto the beach and provide food during the winter months.

It is very hard not to anthropomorphize this charming whale effigy (for me, at least . . .), especially when the object itself bears human traits and evidences just one of our many emotional, cultural, and spiritual connections to these amazing creatures—these sovereigns of the sea.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

[1] Robert L. Hoover, “Some Observations on Chumash Prehistoric Stone Effigies,” The Journal of California Anthropology 1, no. 1 (1974): 34.

[2] “Chumash Indian Fish Effigy,” California Department of Parks and Recreation, accessed August 8, 2018, http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=23549.

Image: Whale effigy charm: “Cloud Blower”, 1200-1600, Chumash, steatite, 3 x 1 1/2 in., L.: 3 3/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 59.55

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Muse/News: Planets align at art fair, community rules in Tacoma, and photographs shape-shift at SAM

SAM News

The fourth edition of the Seattle Art Fair took place this weekend. SAM hosted Pluto (yes, the planet—or celestial snowball, whatever). Sarah Anne Lloyd of Curbed Seattle has details on Chris Burdens’ scale model of the solar system that originated at Gagosian’s booth and traversed Pioneer Square and downtown.

And hopefully you didn’t miss 1 ROOM. Here’s City Arts’ Margo Vansynghel on the group show curated by studio e’s Dawna Holloway that featured work by 50-plus Northwest artists in a former storage room near the fair (a golf cart took folks back and forth).

Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s curator of Native American Art, appeared on KKNW-AM’s ARTbeat Northwest to talk about Double Exposure during drive time.

And a visit to SAM’s “awesome” exhibitions is included on Thrillist’s round-up of “actually cool things to do when someone visits Seattle.”

Local News

Gayle Clemans of the Seattle Times reviews Summer Dreams, a group show now on view at Winston Wächter; in it, she sees “enticing, delightful, wistful glimpses of what is both possible and impossible.”

All aboard! Brangien Davis of Crosscut travels the newly completed SODO Track mural installation; with 50 murals from 62 artists, it’s now the longest in the world.

This month’s City Arts takes a deep dive into the creative life of Tacoma, with the cover story by Margo Vansynghel and reflections from local artists such as from Renee Sims, Asia Tail, and Christopher Paul Jordan.

“These days, the word ‘community’ is brandished so frequently that its meaning is eroding. Not so in Tacoma. Conversations with more than a dozen artists crystallize the sense that in Tacoma, together is better. Collaboration trumps competition. People show up for each other.”

Inter/National News

Jori Finkel of the New York Times reports on the hiring of MoMA PS1’s Klaus Biesenbach as the new director of the Museum of Contemporary Art—which is being greeted with both cheers and jeers.

HuffPost’s Yashar Ali broke the news that Beyoncé has unprecedented control over Vogue’s September cover; she’s selected Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer to shoot Vogue’s cover in its 126-year history.

Genevieve Gaignard—whose work is now on view at SAM—also has a show in New York right now; it includes the artist’s shape-shifting photographs and three “mise-en-abîme” environments.

“Gaignard’s photographs. . . . feature women who immediately seem poised and self-confident, secure in their identity regardless of whether or not the viewer is able to pinpoint their racial background. That is intentional. ‘I just want to portray females in these empowered ways,’ said the artist. ‘There’s enough damsels in distress.’”

And Finally

Practice the art of good citizenship: Here’s how to return your ballot for tomorrow’s primary election.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: CHRIS BURDEN, Scale Model of The Solar System, 1983 (detail), plastic, steel ball bearings, plexiglas, dimensions variable © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Nathaniel Willson © Courtesy Gagosian.
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Object of the Week: Boys Blowing Bubbles

For centuries, Boys Blowing Bubbles was attributed to Jacob van Oost, a baroque Flemish artist who saw great success during his lifetime. A visiting scholar to SAM in the 1980s even noted that Boys Blowing Bubbles was “one of his best” works. Unfortunately for van Oost, this painting was not his at all—the painting is by an artist named Michaelina Woutiers. Centuries of inaccurate and sexist art historical treatment placed her in relative obscurity, but thanks to the scholarship of the University of Leuven’s Katlijne Van der Stighelen, Woutiers has been reclaimed as the rightful creator of this work. As a result, the Seattle Art Museum officially changed the attribution of Boys Blowing Bubbles to Michaelina Woutiers (ca. 1620–after 1682) in 2007. Now, just a little over a decade later, Boys Blowing Bubbles is on loan to the Museum aan de Stroom (in association with the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, Belgium) in the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Woutiers, exhibiting almost every single painting that has been attributed to the artist to date.

Woutiers was unique as a woman artist at a time when women’s lives were extremely constricted in European society. She was also unique among her peers—who were mostly men—due to the unusually wide variety of subject matter she addressed, and her ability to paint beautifully lifelike portraits.¹ Unlike most other women of the time, Woutiers did not marry. Instead, she lived with her brother Charles, also an artist, which allowed her to continue painting throughout her life. Also unlike many women artists, Woutiers had a market for her paintings, rather than her passion and talent being considered a mere hobby.² Because of this, Woutiers’s oeuvre contains a wide range of subjects, from still lifes and didactic genre paintings (like SAM’s Boys Blowing Bubbles) to history paintings and portraits.

Boys Blowing Bubbles is an example of Woutiers’s lifelike style of portrait-painting, which captures minute details and facial expressions. In this painting, she also addresses a theme that was extremely popular at the time: the transience of youth and prosperity. The floating bubbles in this painting remind us that everything is fleeting—from the youth of the two children depicted here, to the bubbles themselves which will pop at any moment. The candle in the background, too, emphasizes the passage of time, reminding the then-prospering Flanders region that their wealth would not last forever.

Woutiers also painted monumental works, which were then considered to be the strict domain of male artists. She was even connected to the court of Archduke Leopold-Willem in Brussels, who owned one of her masterpieces, Triumph of Bacchus, along with three other works by Woutiers—a testament to her skill. Triumph of Bacchus itself is unique in that it portrays a precise knowledge of human anatomy at a time when women did not typically have access to nude models in their artistic education, as viewing the nude body was seen as inappropriate for women.³ The work is even more unusual due to the fact that the sole female figure is thought to be a self-portrait of Woutiers herself, depicted partially nude among the crowd. As the only figure fixing their gaze confidently outward, her portrayal is truly shocking for a depiction of a seventeenth-century woman in a time when female self-portraits were exceedingly uncommon.4 Clearly, Woutiers was a bold woman for the time in which she lived.

–Julia Hower, Curatorial Intern

Images: Boys Blowing Bubbles, 1640s, Michaelina Wautier, oil on canvas, 35 5/8 x 47 3/4 in., Gift of Mr. Floyd Naramore, 58.140. Triumph of Bacchus, ca. 1655, Michaelina Woutiers, oil on canvas, 295 x 378 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
¹ “Michaelina: The Leading Lady of the Baroque,” Museum aan de Stroom, accessed July 12, 2018, https://www.mas.be/nl/michaelina
² “Michaelina: Baroque’s Leading Lady,” Museum aan de Stroom, 2018, https://www.mas.be/sites/mas/files/MAS_Michaelina_gids_EN.pdf
³ Ibid.
4 “Mysterious Michaelina,” Rubensuis, Accessed July 12, 2018, https://www.rubenshuis.be/nl/pagina/mysterieuze-michaelina
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Donor Spotlight: The Rivera Family Support Seattle Asian Art Museum

It feels like we came to Seattle at a very exciting time. The Seattle Asian Art Museum is re-imagining an historic building, adding a world class conservation studio, and—very dear to our hearts—creating a beautiful space for education and meaningful hands-on experiences.

Education is very important in our family. Tim was a teacher in the Peace Corps and I have been working and teaching in the arts my entire life. The new education center will make this collection, and the museum in general, more accessible to all. Our family has lived in many different places and Seattle, even more that other cities, seems to be intrinsically connected to the arts. SAM has helped us meet other people that share our passion. But at a recent event we were asked, “Where are all of the other 40 year olds?” We’re not sure but we’d like to invite them all to come and join us. The Builder’s Club is the perfect way to make a mark on Seattle. Literally. Our names will be on the building and we look forward to bringing our family and friends for years to come.

Like so many families, the holidays are a special time for us. Our favorite family event is SAM Lights at the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s a lot of fun for our three year old twins, our teenage boys, and even the grandparents. The crisp air and beautiful lights make the sculpture park a special experience for the holidays.

–Laura Marie and Tim Rivera

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Muse/News: SAM on The Advocate, what libraries can do, and a farewell to Gold

SAM News

Project 42: Jono Vaughan is featured on The Advocate! Their post includes the SAM-produced video featuring behind-the-scenes footage of Jono Vaughan in her studio and moments from the pop-up performances held throughout the show’s run. Catch the solo exhibition of the 2017 Betty Bowen Award-winner before it closes on Sunday, August 5.

“A vast and at times splendid show.” Margo Vansynghel of City Arts reviews Double Exposure, exploring its themes of flux, ambivalence, and narrative ownership.

And Frank Catalano of Geekwire explores three examples of how museums are incorporating virtual and augmented reality, including “mesmerizing” examples at Double Exposure.

Local News

Michael Upchurch of Crosscut on what Mickalene Thomas’s mother said that will make you cry at the Henry Art Gallery’s current exhibition.

If you enjoyed the schooling provided by #LibraryTwitter last week, don’t miss Ambreen Ali’s story for Seattle Magazine on how the Seattle Public Library has reinvented itself to be “the community’s great equalizer.”

Cultured Magazine interviews director Nato Thompson on what to expect at the Seattle Art Fair’s fourth edition.

“I feel like this fair will demonstrate a unique blend of sardonic humor, dystopic futurism, historical imagination, indigenous radicalism and a homespun dreaminess.”

Inter/National News

Zachary Small of Hyperallergic reports on the controversy surrounding a Vogue Paris fashion editorial by Juergen Teller that uses the signature aesthetic of Mickalene Thomas.

Lou Cornum for Art in America reviews On Whiteness, the Kitchen’s current show created in collaboration with Claudia Rankine’s Racial Imaginary Institute.

RIP to the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold; Janelle Zara of Artnet offers this remembrance that reminds us that Gold’s poetic writing was partly informed by experiences as a performance artist.

“I had fully intended that, in fact, I would kill the chicken in the midst of this performance. But chickens aren’t that stupid.”

And Finally

If Timothée Chalamet had posed for Caravaggio.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

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