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COVID-19 UPDATE: ALL SAM LOCATIONS CURRENTLY CLOSED. LEARN MORE »

Rising Up with Daedalus

Listen in as DJ Riz Rollins discusses Daedalus/Upliftment by Fahamu Pecou. During SAM’s special exhibition, Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, the in-gallery audio tour featured Seattle area community members discussing works of art in SAM’s collections by Black artists.

In 2019 Rachel Kim, SAM’s Curatorial Intern unpacked this painting as part of our Object of the Week series. Kim writes: Daedalus/Upliftment alludes to the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus built wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape their prison. Despite Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax on the wings, falling and drowning in the ocean. Pecou reinterprets this classic tragedy and questions the actions of Daedalus as Icarus’ father. Daedalus/Uplifting provokes a meditation on paternalism and masculinity, in the artist’s own words, through “the breakdown of intergenerational communication and the emotional complexities within the Black male experience that trouble the desire and ability to take flight.”

We highly recommend following Pecou on Instagram to see more of this artist’s paintings and to hear directly from him on his work and current events.

Image: Daedalus/Upliftment, 2016, Fahamu Pecou, acrylic, gold leaf and spray paint on canvas, 84 × 48 in., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2016.20 © Artist or Artist’s Estate

SAM Talks: John Grade in Conversation with Alison Milliman

Watch to learn more about the artist behind Middle Fork. Currently hanging in SAM’s Brotman Forum, Middle Fork is the life-size sculpture echoing the contours of a 140-year-old western hemlock tree located in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. John Grade joined us from his studio to talk with Alison Milliman, founder of MadArt, and Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art.

MadArt was the original incubator for Middle Fork and since debuting there in January 2015, the sculpture has traveled around the world and more than doubled in length. Grade’s work is exhibited internationally in museums, galleries, and outdoors in urban spaces and nature. His projects are designed to change over time and often involve collaboration with large groups of people. He lives and works in Seattle.

This salon was originally presented as part of SAM’s Contributors Circles Members Salon Series. A benefit to our generous Contributor Circles Members, we are pleased to share this intimate salon with all of you while you stay home home SAM.

Earthworks: Land Reclamation, Revisited

While SAM is closed for the safety of our staff and community we have moved Conversations with Curators, our member-only lecture series, online! We are recording each talk in case our members miss one and making a selection of these popular talks available for everyone.

Here is Carrie Dedon, SAM ‘s Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, discussing Earthworks: Land Reclamation, Revisited. In 1979, the King County Arts Commission sponsored a project with a unique proposition: inviting contemporary artists to design earthworks—site-specific artworks that use the land itself as their medium—to rehabilitate environmentally damaged landscapes. Titled Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture, the project resulted in one realized earthwork by Robert Morris, and seven unrealized proposals. These are the starting points to explore the history, legacy, and implications of art as a tool for environmental action.

Enjoy this taste of SAM’s member perks and consider joining as member for access to more upcoming live events in this series online, and in person once we can reopen.

SAM Talks: Barbara Earl Thomas on The Geography of Innocence

In anticipation of Barbara Earl Thomas’s exhibition opening in November, Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence, this talented artist describes the development of a new body of work amidst the turmoil and crises of the past year and within the context of broader American history. The conversation follows Thomas’s exploration of grace, storytelling, perception, and process in her art making. Watch this interview with SAM’s Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, Catharina Manchanda and get excited to experience these artworks in person this fall.

Defining herself as a storyteller, Thomas notes, “It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in midst of the chaos.” In this exhibition, the artist will create an immersive environment of light and shadow—inhabited by large-scale narrative works in cut paper and glass—that addresses our preconceived ideas of innocence and guilt, sin and redemption, and the ways in which these notions are assigned and distorted along cultural and racial lines.

Kimisha Turner: It Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

If you’ve been in downtown Seattle recently perhaps you noticed the mural on the plywood covering SAM’s entrance. This bright, bold, and inspiring artwork was commissioned from artist Kimisha Turner. You may have seen her work recently in another mural—she is the artist behind the “B” in the Black Lives Matter mural on Capitol Hill.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBfaxY4F9yO

Washington native and Cornish College Alum, Kimisha Turner creates work that invites self-reflection, empowerment, and social awareness. From photography to mosaic, wood carving to paint, performance art to printmaking, this multi-disciplinary artist has been busy utilizing her many skills to help people thinking differently about social justice and how we can all take part in anti-racist work. Turner gave a talk to the Seattle Art Museum Supporters group and you can watch it below to learn more about how art saved her life, how her son has pushed her to be a more proactive artist, and how we all have power to create change.

SAM Shop: Creative Pottery with Deb Schwartzkopf

Earlier this month we had to cancel a book signing event featuring highly regarded Seattle potter, Deb Schwartzkopf. We were so sad to miss this chance to learn about her innovative techniques and see her newest collection of work in person, but the good news is, you can find her new book online at SAM Shop! Learn more about this artist and her book below.

Explore and gain new skills in pottery with local artist Deb Schwartzkopf in her recently published book, Creative Pottery: Innovative Techniques & Experimental Designs in Thrown & Handbuilt Ceramics. This book provides tutorials in the basic tools and techniques for beginners, while also refreshing foundational skills with new techniques and inspiration for experienced potters. The introductory chapter includes essential information, such as: setting goals, building a basic tool kit, setting up a wheel, and making and using templates. Later chapters add complexity through ideas such as decorative edges, bisque molds, and throwing closed forms.

Deb Schwartzkopf introduces these foundational and new techniques to potters through step-by-step photos, templates that can be used by readers, and beautiful photos of her work and the work of other active American potters. In each chapter, she profiles one or two potters, showing images of their work and asking them questions about their techniques, inspiration, and artistic process. These profiles provide readers with context about current work in the field and illustrations of how the techniques and ideas taught in the book can be employed. Through this book, potters can learn how to create many forms, including: cake stands, bud vases, goblets, teapots, pitchers, dessert boats, and juicers, all illustrated with photos and clear instructions.

Schwartzkopf is a studio potter, instructor, and active artist in Seattle. Her studio, Rat City Studios, has evolved into a communal clay establishment, where she teaches classes, creates her pottery, and mentors assistants. Schwartzkopf was born in Seattle, earned her MFA from Penn State University, and taught at schools including: University of Washington, Ohio University, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She was named Ceramics Monthly and Ceramic Arts Daily’s 2019 Artist of the Year. With her pottery, she works to make tableware that infuses life with purposeful beauty. Learn new techniques or inspire an artist you know with this new book, on sale now at the SAM Shop.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Images: Quarry Publishing, matisse lb photography

SAM Talks: Aaron Fowler on Into Existence

Hear from Aaron Fowler, the recipient of the Seattle Art Museum’s Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize. Part of the award includes a solo show at the museum. Fowler created a site-specific installation called Into Existence that fills one of SAM’s galleries with larger-than-life works that are at once paintings, sculptures, and installations. They are made from everyday discarded items and materials sourced from the artist’s local surroundings in Los Angeles and St. Louis, among other places. The works in Into Existence are illustrations of dreams and ideas that Fowler is working to bring into being. The title of the exhibition is a nod to words of encouragement—almost a mantra—that the artist’s grandmother has uttered his entire life: “You need to speak it into existence.”

Each work illustrates a poignant subject, event, or action Aaron Fowler wishes to manifest—from portraits of incarcerated loved ones being freed to fantastical scenarios incorporating historical figures alongside friends, role models, contemporary public icons, and often his own likeness. Funding for the prize and exhibition is provided by the Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence and Jacob Lawrence Endowment and generous support from the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation. See it when SAM can reopen, Aaron Fowler: Into Existence will be on view through January 2021 .

SAM Book Club: Empathy Lives On in Parable of the Sower

We’ve finished reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler for SAM Book Club and our final reflection takes us inside an immersive installation by Saya Woolfalk at SAM to consider how change and empathy are intertwined. Our colleagues at the Northwest African American Museum are also reading Parable of the Sower for their June Book Club and and we will be joining NAAM’s live discussion on June 26. Join us by registering here! Please read along and share your thoughts with us while you stay home with SAM!

Empathy is a word that can buzz through the air, or be embedded in one’s mind and body. Octavia Butler and Saya Woolfalk make this word come alive in characters who try to keep humanity on track. 

Right now, 2020 is bringing dystopia right to our doorstep every day. If you pick up Parable of the Sower, a 15-year-old girl who has a condition of hyper empathy becomes your guide. Lauren Olamina’s vision of 2024 is not far away, and you join people running from an apocalypse. They follow Olamina, who calls her empathic abilities a disorder. By the end, you realize it is her super power, as she formulates an entirely new vision that ultimately offers hope to all around her. If you haven’t read it, now’s the best time ever. It’s an omen of the future we’ve got to figure out together. 

Unfortunately, Octavia Butler died in Seattle on February 24, 2006.  Four months later, on June 22, a young senator gave a commencement speech at Northwestern University, and said, “I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit. . . . it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential”. Barack Obama’s references to empathy kept coming while he was President. So did discoveries in neuroscience, which identified circuits in our brains that are wired to give us an ability to understand what other people are feeling. However, at the same time, the empathic deficit disorder continued to be seen in a rise of Hyper Individualism based on self-absorption, chronic loneliness, and a lack of curiosity about strangers or others. 

Artist Saya Woolfalk steps into this era and establishes an Institute of Empathy.  She cites Octavia Butler’s writings as a source of constant inspiration, helping her take leaps of imagination. In 2010–11, Woolfalk reaches out to biologists and theorists to consider the possibilities of interspecies hybridization as a factor for human improvement. One scholar, Ed Cohen offered a prophetic observation, “Unbeknownst to us, our futures may depend on the ways we learn to live with the viruses that take place within and among us—though the referent of this “us” would then be up for grabs. Yet this coincidence . . . troubles us both physiologically and conceptually.”[1]

Unafraid of complexity and troubling concepts, Woolfalk creates a species of Empathics that are conceived to assist our evolution. By 2012, they are entering museums and offering evidence and research about how human beings can find ways to increase their empathic abilities. This Institute has presented solutions through guided dreams, role playing in cyber space, hybrid cosmologies in planetariums, performances and projections that have gained attention across the planet. 

Only the Seattle Art Museum has offered The Institute of Empathy a permanent home. Three Empathics reside on the fourth floor and offer their suggestions for enhancing self-transformation. Theirs is not an immediate quick fix installation, as becoming empathic is not a sudden pit stop. It takes time to figure out what these alternative beings are about. They invite you to see their virtual chimeric space where healing gases are being downloaded, and you are welcome to walk into their mosaic shower which sends a flow of imagery down into a sacred pond full of insight. The Empathics also selected art from other cultures in the museum’s collection that can help enhance your ethical disposition and state of mind. Just as Octavia Butler’s novel ends with a glimmer of hope for a new philosophy called Earthseed, so these empathics reinforce a conviction that we can create the change we need. 

– Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art

Images: Photo: Chelsea Werner-Jatzke. Installation view of Lessons from the Institute of Empathy at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, © Seattle Art Museum, photo: Nathaniel Willson.
[1] “The Paradoxical Politics of Viral Containment; or, How Scale Undoes Us One and All”, by Ed Cohen, Professor at Rutgers University, published in Social Text 106, Spring 2011, p.27.

Virtual Art Talks: Monet at Étretat with Chiyo Ishikawa

Learn more about Claude Monet’s mid-career painting series made during a winter spent on the coast of France with SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art & Curator of European Painting & Sculpture, Chiyo Ishikawa. Though Ishikawa is retiring this year, after 30 years with SAM, she will return for the planning of Monet of Étretat, opening May 2021.

Focused around SAM’s colorful Monet painting, Fishing Boats at Étretat, 1885, the exhibition considers the artist’s engagement with Étretat, a seaside village in Normandy known for its stunning chalk cliffs. During a difficult period in his life, Monet traveled there alone and painted over 80 works, immersing himself in the place and committing himself to the process of painting in all kinds of conditions. He went there in the off-season, interested not in the summer tourist scene but in the daily fishing activity and the timeless rock formations. SAM’s focused exhibition will feature 11 works by Monet, plus contemporaneous paintings by other artists who worked at the same site. Watch this talk and look forward to the exhibition while you stay home with SAM.

We are humbled by the generosity of our donors during this unique time. Your financial support powers SAM Blog and also sustains us until we can come together as a community and enjoy art in the galleries again. Thanks to a generous group of SAM trustees, all membership and gifts to SAM Fund will be matched up to $500,000 through June 30!