All posts in “Community”

Cat Vallejo: Emerging Arts Leader Look at SAM

Very early on in my role as one of SAM’s Emerging Arts Leader Interns, our mentor, David Rue, asked us to write down three personal or professional goals we wished to achieve during our time here at SAM. To be completely honest, I was all over the place during the first few weeks, as I was struggling to find where I fit into the museum to be a successful intern. Despite feeling this way, the one thing that I was certain and hopeful for was to make SAM a place I happily call home: be a part of SAM and SAM be a part me.

As a student at the University of Washington Bothell, being my whole self and feeling at home is what truly made me happier than I ever imagined. In order to feel that same happiness at SAM, I tried to be fully present by having a positive mind and heart. I reminded myself to be my bubbly and kind self and to be comfortable with the people around me. This was way easier said than done.

On top of feeling like a lost intern, I was already struggling with adjusting to a lifestyle that was the exact opposite of what I was used to. I wanted to be a big fish in a little pond that everyone looked up to for guidance. However, being in a new, urban city where nobody really knew me meant this wasn’t the case anymore. I felt lost between the Cat that grew up in California and the adult Cat that lives in Washington. Where would I go? Who am I supposed to be? With all these new changes and heavy feelings, I thought to myself, “I don’t how I’m going to achieve my goal or if I’m even going to get there. Good luck.”

Priya Frank and Seohee Kim are the two mentors I give all my gratitude to for guiding me through my struggles. Talking to them made me realize that I was still a tiny fish in a huge pond that needed to be willing to grow and learn from others. This was a reminder to be humble and to remember that learning and growing never stops, even when you think you’re at the top. Growing only starts when you are uncomfortable, yet willing to feel and embrace that discomfort with an open mind and heart to learn something new. Their kind words of wisdom touched my heart.

After this realization, I started to feel like I could reach my goal. The big project we had the opportunity to do was the My Favorite Things Tour. For this project, I researched different art pieces, connected them to real-life experiences, centered everything around a specific theme, and proudly presented my work to the public. Wow! I will always remember our first practice of walking around and talking about the different artworks we had in mind for our tours. I knew I was on the right track in connecting the art to my personal journeys, but there was much more research and practice that needed to be completed.

After this practice I was motivated to reach out to the curators to learn more about the different art pieces, which was exactly what I did. It was so inspiring getting to hear from and learn from the curators and see how passionate they are. I also learned more on my own by reading books about the artwork and artist. Most importantly, completing all the work would not even be half of what it was without my fellow colleague and friend Lauren Farris, the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern. Working closely with her gave us the space to learn from each other’s personal and professional experiences, all while sharing this internship together. I remember practicing our tours in the galleries, just talking through them while sitting down, and always changing our art pieces and stories every time we practiced. Being by each other’s side allowed us to be vulnerable and really push through to make these tours happen.

When the day finally came, we were there for each other to see all our hard work come to life. That is just so amazing to me because there were so many people and experiences collaborating to create something great. Swimming with the big fish was not so scary after all. As I said during my tour when I was talking about Childe Hassam’s Spring on West 78th Street, “from this painting and my experience with my SAM family, I learned that home is not a place, but a feeling.” Saying these words with my whole heart, showed me that I was able to reach my one and only goal, despite being so lost in everything else. This internship was more than I hoped for and now that it has come to a close I can truly say that I was a part of SAM and SAM will always be a part of me. SAM is a place I happily call home.

Cat Vallejo, SAM 2019 Emerging Arts Intern

Photos: Natali Wiseman
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SAM Connects Students to Art for Free

A new school year often welcomes crisp air, spiral notebooks, and pumpkin deliciousness. This school year brings one other exciting change: Seattle Art Museum school tours will now be free for all public schools at all SAM locations! Bus subsidies are also available for Title 1 schools. Offering free tours for public schools grew out of SAM’s mission and strategic plan to champion access and equity for all. The museum firmly believes every student deserves access to high-quality arts education and creative learning. 

Even though the arts remain a required school subject by Washington State law, arts education is often one of the first programs to be cut. According to ArtsEd Washington, “In Washington State, 75% of elementary students receive only two hours, or less, of arts education each week.” Not only that, but Create Advantage Seattle notes, “Race, family income, and home language are all predictors of a students’ access to arts education in Seattle Public Schools.” 

Research reveals that consistent arts education improves high school graduation rates, empathy, motivation to stay in school, critical thinking, voter turnout, and even raises math scores. Arts Impact says, “Arts-infused learning in reading and math eliminates the achievement gap between children of color and poverty and their white upper/middle-class peers.” Also, SAM’s Kayla Skinner Deputy Director for Education and Public Engagement, Regan Pro, strongly believes in furthering arts education. “Everyone talks about how they value things like creativity and innovation. If we are saying that but aren’t supporting arts in schools, then how do we expect those muscles to grow?”

Typically, school tours at SAM start with a warm welcome from a trained docent or tour guide and a teaching artist. The docent or tour guide leads the group into SAM’s galleries where students and teachers might stare into the eyes of a giant mouse sculpture, learn the history behind Kwakwaka’wakw house posts, or discover a treasure chest lock in the Porcelain Room. With three locations and art from all over the world, tours can complement and enhance any curriculum.

After the tour, SAM’s teaching artists facilitate an art-making experience based on the works that students just saw in the galleries. Students walk away holding their own work of art, such as a three-dimensional sculpture, a two-point perspective painting, or a self-designed family crest. Plus, teaching artists provide students with an opportunity to view potential career paths in the arts.

“Being in the art museum was a new experience for many of my students. They were intrigued and, to my surprise, were able to connect with some artists. I feared they would find the museum too “high-brow,” but the variety of art allowed most to connect in some way.”

– Educator

In addition to free school tours, SAM has continued to develop school partnerships. One of those partnerships, called “Drawing from Nature,” is now in its fourth year. Through this partnership, SAM offers all second graders in Highline School District a chance to explore the Olympic Sculpture Park. Building off these field trips, SAM provides lesson plans and professional development sessions to teachers. Furthermore, SAM is partnering with Seattle Public Schools on a new program at the Seattle Asian Art Museum when it reopens in early 2020. This partnership supports third through fifth-grade teachers as they build connections between art and social studies.

“This was an amazing experience and many of the themes were continued to talk about and apply in other subject areas.”

– Educator

SAM’s Senior Manager of School & Educator Programs, Anna Allegro, says school partnerships provide students with a sense of ownership of SAM. “We’ll work with a school for five years, the kids will come every year, and they just have this sense of ownership and comfort. It’s so different from when they first walked in where SAM might have felt like an intimidating kind of space. Our goal is that students know they can be seen and heard here.”

With SAM’s partnerships and free school tours, the museum is honored to support arts education and creative learning for all young people whilst continuing the goal to promote equity and access for all. As much as art museums play a role in advancing arts education, this mission extends beyond our four walls to everyone in the community.

“Everyone can be an advocate for arts education. If you’re a parent, talk to your principal. Talk to your PSA. Ask them how they are supporting the arts. How is that a part of their classroom? If you’re a grandparent or if you live in a neighborhood, understand what the public school is in your neighborhood and how you can help support it.”

– Regan Pro

Learn more and book a free school tour at SAM before they fill up!

– Lauren Farris, SAM’s 2019 Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photos: Robert Wade
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Muse/News: Hot arts fall, recycled art, and the long climb of Betye

SAM News

Every week, Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger looks closely at one artwork that’s “Currently Hanging.” Last week, she focused on Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) by Lucian Freud, now on view at SAM as part of an iterative single-painting show honoring Paul Allen, A Cultural Legacy.

“There’s a stiltedness to the scene, a sense of uneasiness between the figures, that betrays a certain uncomfortable and strange family dynamic.” 

Out goes hot girl summer, in comes hot arts fall. Seattle Magazine’s fall arts preview recommends Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum, the “throbbingly dramatic” major exhibition opening October 17.

Local News

Gallery watch! Jasmyne Keimig shares the good news on Slog: the J. Rinehart Gallery officially has “a physical space, baby.”

Real Change’s Lisa Edge talks with Osa Elaiho, whose work is included in a group show at Columbia City Gallery. Music and family are what inspire the artist’s mixed-media paintings.

What a dump: Crosscut’s Brangien Davis visits the Recology CleanScapes recycling facility and meets its two current artists-in-residence.

“Just as WALL-E surfs the garbage heaps for treasures to take home — a bobblehead dog toy, a golden trophy, a hinged ring box — artists in residence roam the space with an eye out for intriguing items — a toy gun, a set of new knives, the detritus from an entire bachelorette party.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe profiles Ivory Coast-based artist Laetitia Ky, who “makes unbelievably inventive sculptures with her hair.”

Following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas, the Pérez Art Museum Miami and partners are collecting urgently needed supplies.

The New York Times’ Holland Cotter on the long, viable career—and sudden spotlight, with two major museum solo shows this fall—of Betye Saar.

“Because it’s about time!” she says. “I’ve had to wait till I’m practically 100.”

And Finally

Here’s a way to donate to those affected by Hurricane Dorian.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau), 1981–1983, Lucian Freud, British, 1922–2011, oil on canvas, 73 x 78 in., Paul G. Allen Family Collection, © The Lucian Freud Archive/Bridgeman Images.
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SAM Gallery Artist Kellie Talbot Travels for Art

SAM Gallery artist Kellie Talbot travels across the country with her husband, cat, and duck, in a truck pulling her mobile studio, an Airstream trailer they named Mr. Salsa. Kellie Talbot’s America on view at SAM Gallery September 4–29, showcases some of her newest works. Talbot has established a national reputation for her oil paintings of the neon signs scattered across America. In the last two years, her family has driven 36,000 miles, through 29 states, in pursuit of source material for her paintings. She plans her route, knowing where certain signs are located, but is always open to possibilities and unexpected opportunities. Some of her favorite signs and memories come from happening upon them. One unexpected ice storm led them to Vaughn, NM (population 446), where Talbot found one neon sign after another.  She was out in the snow, climbing on her Airstream trailer to get photographs for future paintings. When she’s traveling the country, Talbot says “I photograph almost every sign I come across because when I am in collecting mode I don’t want to pass up any potential. Sometimes it’s more obvious. Some of those obvious ones have an iconic shape or beautiful neon that just demands to be painted.”

Once Talbot returns to her studio in Seattle or New Orleans, she relies on reference photos from her trip, to paint photorealist paintings of the signs that represent the landscape of American artifacts, craftsmanship, and history. Talbot describes how “once I am in my studio I spend a lot of time with my reference material planning out a body of work. I like to have a balance of close-ups mixed with landscapes. I like there to be a push and pull of sorts. Some signs are small but I paint them big while others I can enlarge just portions. Almost every sign has the potential to be painted. I just have to find the aspect of that sign I want to paint.”  Talbot is often drawn to a particular letter or shadows from a sign. Focusing on a smaller portion of the sign allows the viewer to enjoy the shapes, shadows, and colors in a new way. Talbot intentionally includes the rust and decay in the neon signs she paints. These details aren’t negatives to the artist, they are signs of time and experience, both an elegy and a hope.

Meet the artist at the opening reception on Thursday, September 5, 6–7:30 pm at SAM Gallery.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Image: Courtesy of the artist.
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Muse/News: SAM award news, the Space Needle is a she, and Dr. Seuss at the museum

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced the finalists for this year’s Betty Bowen Award: Andrea Joyce Heimer, Anthony Hudson, Adair Rutledge, Lynne Siefert, and Anthony White.

The solo exhibition of the 2018 winner, Natalie Ball, was reviewed in Art & Object.

“Subverting tropes about Native American identity and art by repurposing familiar materials, Ball points out the absurdity of our assumptions.”

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is on regal display on the cover of this week’s Real Change; inside, don’t miss Lisa Edge’s review of the installation.

“Let’s have positive images of ourselves that are done with love,” said Muholi. “Let us consume this self-love because our forefathers, our foremothers that came before us never had the opportunity to speak for themselves.”

Local News

“The Space Needle is a she.” Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on a documentary exploring the hidden history of Seattle’s iconic landmark: its shape may have been inspired by a Black dancer named Syvilla Fort.

The City’s Art Beat Blog has a recap of the recent Creative Advantage Arts Partner Summer Institute, held at SAM; this year’s theme was “exploring the local.”

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig goes home to Wa Na Wari, reviewing the center’s newest show featuring work by several artists, including Nastassja Swift’s video of masked dancers.

“Swift’s video, no more than 10 minutes long, grapples with the concept of home, being home, having a home, feeling at home in one’s body and community. In that way, it fits well at Wa Na Wari. Where do we belong?

Inter/National News

Artforum reports that Werner Kramarsky passed away this week at the age of 93; a formidable collector, he donated 25 drawings to SAM over the years.

Artnet’s Ben Davis takes a look at Dia:Beacon’s new permanent gallery dedicated to Sam Gilliam and his signature “drape” paintings.

The New York Times’ Guy Trebay attends the 16th annual edition of the influential and popular International Folk Art Market, which explodes the art-world schism between fine art and craft.

“It comes out of nowhere, out of nothing,” he added. “There’s not a tradition for it. It’s just some guy saying, ‘I want to make this thing.”

And Finally

Double Dr. Seuss news: Oh, the museums you’ll go!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Snake” at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.

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Donor Spotlight: Anne and Joe Baldwin

We are honored to support the transformation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. As children, we both grew up visiting SAAM and were awed by the massive art deco building and exposure to rich culture within the museum. While raising our children, we visited the museum on school field trips and family outings, so it wasn’t surprising when our son, Michael, chose to take his senior pictures in front of SAAM. When we learned that the historical building was in desperate need of improved infrastructure and climate control as well as expanded exhibition and learning spaces, and we wanted to be involved. SAAM is a Seattle gem with its unique location within Volunteer Park and long, relevant history. This treasured landmark will offer locals and visitors an opportunity learn about the diverse art, culture, values and traditions of Asia for years to come.

–Anne and Joe Baldwin, SAM Donors

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Muse/News: Layerless freedom, #JayDoodles, and Art Boys

SAM News

In honor of Pacific Northwest Black Pride, Crystal Paul, Erika Schultz, and Corinne Chin of The Seattle Times presents a multimedia story exploring identity and freedom with 10 Black, queer Seattleites.

In a related story, they recreated an intimate conversation that Black, queer artists recently had with Zanele Muholi, talking through their reactions to the SAM show, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness.

Here’s Gregory Scruggs for the Stranger, interviewing Brazilian artist Regina Silveira about her Olympic Sculpture Park site-specific installation Octopus Wrap, the goal of art, and the relative concrete jungles of Seattle and São Paulo.

Seattle Met’s September issue has hit newsstands. Their fall arts preview leads with a story on the new directors at SAM, the Symphony, and the Opera—and their visions for the future. SAM’s new director Amada Cruz starts in mid-September!

“The tradition of art museums is that they’re closed off repositories of precious works of art,” [Cruz] says. “How do we open ourselves up so that museums can become part of everybody’s daily life?”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Alan Berner captured some terrific shots (as usual) of an installation happening at the Burke Museum: a huge mural by artist RYAN! Feddersen.

Watch this Crosscut video featuring cool footage of the viaduct “unmaking” and a conversation with architect David Miller about the future of the waterfront.

#JayDoodles: It’s a thing. SAM’s own Chiyo Ishikawa is among the art-world heavies offering their takes on Governor Jay Inslee’s lighthearted artistic practice in this Seattle Times story.

“The figure in the boat could represent his campaign: Rowing against the stream!”

Inter/National News

The MCA Denver has named Nora Burnett Abrams its new director, reports the New York Times. She’s been a curator at the museum for the last 10 years.

Alex Needham, an arts editor at the Guardian, tweeted this week that curators shouldn’t be named in show reviews. Artnet’s Naomi Rea reports on the ensuing Twitter storm.

Artnet’s Caroline Goldstein reports on the ABC casting notice that may bring so-called Art Boys to network television.

“The dashing Art Boy, on the other hand, is more of a rosé and tapas type. Who doesn’t want to watch a show about him?”

And Finally

Happy birthday, Dorothy Parker.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness,” Seattle Art Museum, 2019.



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On Your Marks, Get Set, Bake! The Great Victorian Radicals Bake Off

It’s hard to say which came first: The opening of Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement or SAM staff binge-watching the Great British Bake Off. Either way, we can’t get enough Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Our staff is so into it that we are hosting the Great Victorian Radicals Bake Off. On August 29, 6–9 pm, everyone is invited to see the resulting confections of this public baking challenge, cast a vote for your favorite dessert, and find out who the judges select as winner!

24 local bakers have signed up to create signature desserts inspired by artworks of their choosing in Victorian Radicals.  At the event, bakers will present their work to the judges, explain their approach and inspiration. Judges will select one baker based on criteria of taste, relevance to artwork, and presentation. The winner will be awarded $500. Here are just some of the artworks selected as inspiration!

Our three judges may not be tossing out catchphrases but they are certainly bringing some serious skill to this lovely affair. Meet our three tastemakers below.

Rachael Coyle
Rachael is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and is the owner of Coyle’s Bakeshop. Previously, Rachael was Executive Pastry Chef at Le Pichet and Cafe Presse.

For me, baking is as much about texture as it is about flavor, so I’ll be looking for pieces that show balance and skill in both areas. I love seeing well-executed classics—but I especially love when a piece can play with something familiar just enough to make it new and interesting. Last, and very much not least, good technique is essential to good baking, so I’ll be checking that all the individual components (pastry doughs especially!) demonstrate good technical skill. But most of all: I can’t wait to see what the bakers create!

– Rachael Coyle

Chiyo Ishikawa
Chiyo is Seattle Art Museum’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and curator of Victorian Radicals.

Chiyo Ishikawa headshot

I am hoping that contestants will be inspired by some of the objects in the exhibition—there are great images using flowers, vivid colors, and lots of detail. I am particularly hoping someone might want to take on some of the three-dimensional decorative arts objects that pile on Romanesque, Byzantine, and Gothic styles and use jewels, enamel work, and sculpted forms. More is more!

– Chiyo Ishikawa

Sara Naftaly
Sara is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and is owner of Amandine Bakeshop. For 30 years prior, Sara was co-owner of Le Gourmand.

For me, presentation cakes are a little like beautiful people.  If there is no integrity on the inside, no depth of flavor,  no individual character, then the resulting impression is eminently forgettable.  

– Sara Naftaly

Although the audience can’t sample the desserts, we will have a bar and dessert options provided by TASTE during the event. Definite bonus, a limited number of free community passes will be made available for visitors to view Victorian Radicals which is open until 9 pm.

Images: Proserpine, 1881–82, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British, 1828–1882, oil on canvas, 31 × 15 3/8 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Presented by the Trustees of the Public Picture Gallery Fund, 1927P7, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts. Peacock Vase, ca. 1885, William Frend De Morgan, British, 1839–1917, earthenware, painted in underglaze colors over white slip, 13 3/4 × 11 1/2 × 11 1/2 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Presented by Miss Bridget D’Oyly Carte, 1949M79, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts. Medea, 1866–68, Frederick Sandys, British, 1829–1904, oil on composite wood with gold leaf, 24 1/2 × 18 1/4 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Presented by the Trustees of the Public Picture Gallery Fund, 1925P105, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts. Tea set (water kettle on stand with integral paraffin burner, teapot, cream jug, sugar bowl, and tray), ca. 1895, William Arthur Smith Benson, British, 1854–1924, copper and brass, 11/16 × 15 3/8 × 9 3/16 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Purchased with grant aid from the V&A/MGC Purchase Grant Fund, 1991M34.1-6, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts. “Honeysuckle”, 1874 (design registered 1876), William Morris, British, 1834 – 1896, block-printed linen, 27 1/8 × 38 1/8in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Presented by the Friends of Birmingham Museums Trust, 1941M402, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts. “Garden of the Hesperides” chest, 1887–88, Edward Burne-Jones, British, 1833–1898, wood with paint and gold leaf over gesso, 40 3/4 × 74 1/4 × 27 1/2 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Bequeathed by Helen Mary Gaskell, 1940, 2005.0121, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts. Photo: Courtesy Rachael Coyle. Photo: Scott Areman. Photo: Courtesy Sara Naftly.
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Radical Responses with Allison Kudla

Beckoning visitors at the end of a long hallway inside Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement is an interactive art activity inviting visitors to experiment with ideas connected to the exhibition. Created by artist Allison Kudla, visitors build designs using small pieces of discarded plastic pulled from ocean beaches through community clean up events, organized by the non-profit group Ocean Blue Project. As you build your design a camera captures the work, and the image, translated through a computer program, is projected into a kaleidoscopic pattern on the wall, mimicking the William Morris wallpaper surrounding it. You have until September 8 to see the exhibition, featuring a range of works by Morris and his peers, and to interact with Kudla’s art activity in the galleries.

Awarded a PhD in 2011 from the University of Washington’s Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), Kudla originally titled the work Radical Anthropocene, to focus on human activity as the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Prior to her PhD work, Kudla earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2002, with an emphasis on art and technology studies. We sat down with the artist to discuss this engaging art interactive, hear from her below!

SAM: Tell us about your process creating this project.

Allison Kudla: The Radical Anthropocene project was based on a prior work I created for Summer at SAM in 2015. That work, titled Digital Kaleidoscopes of Nature, was an interactive workshop wherein people visiting the Olympic Sculpture Park could select from plant cuttings from the park to create digital kaleidoscopes. SAM approached me to adapt the project to become a wallpaper, rather than a circular kaleidoscope, that would be placed in response to William Morris’ wallpaper.

When considering the material or objects to be used to create the wallpaper, I thought about Morris, his ethics, values, and poetry. I knew I didn’t want to buy mass-produced items, but I did want to talk about industry and where we have come since Morris’ era. His care for our relationship to nature and warning of the future that might occur due to industrialization, were the cohering agents when I determined what the objects to use in creating the digital wallpaper. We are in the middle of a waste crisis on multiple levels. Perhaps the Naturalists of the Anthropocene are those that are working to clean up, invent sustainable materials, and regenerate human culture on the planet.

The Ocean Blue Project, based in Oregon, regularly organizes community beach cleanups to extract the detritus of industrialization from the ocean. The oft-called “marine debris” that was sent to me for selection and placement included plastic forms, shapes, textures and colors—some recognizable objects, others only fragments, and all created through a process of industrialization.

I teamed up with my colleague, Dr. David Gibbs, a senior research scientist at ISB, who created the project’s code in Python. We worked collaboratively through GitHub with SAM’s Cooper Whitlow to complete the project

Do you collaborate with people in other disciplines on a regular basis?

Yes, absolutely. I think working with people in other disciplines is mutually beneficial. Cross- or interdisciplinary pursuits tend to push us out of our comfort zone. If I can work as a colleague with a scientist, and a scientist can work as a colleague with an artist, we are both getting an opportunity to be in the imposter zone. Though this word, imposter, may have negative connotations, the truth is that when we feel this way we are often learning new things, growing, beginning to think from a different perspective, and potentially forming new views of our work. This is inherently positive. Also, it is fun to work with other people, so there are social aspects to that as well.

What brought you to pursue a PhD in the intersection of Art and Science?

I studied fine art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This trailblazing school didn’t require their students to pick one discipline, but rather let the course catalog be exactly that; a catalog. Each semester I would pick my classes thinking about what I was genuinely interested in learning. I didn’t know what kind of artist I wanted to be when I started there, but by the end, after moving through painting and fiber arts into video and finally art and technology, I realized that it was the creation of new art forms and new knowledge where I found the most satisfaction. When I joined the PhD program at UW, DXARTS (Digital Arts and Experimental Media), it was in its first year. Not only was it a pioneering new program, it was founded on exploring cutting-edge, research-based art. I decided to take the X in DXARTS and run with it. Through that, I established a practice intersecting experimental biology, specifically plant biology, with computer-aided design and fabrication processes.

Where else can we see your work?

Due to the living nature of many of my works, they often are only presented when specific facilities and resources are secured, and typically solely for the purpose of creating a cultural experience for an audience. In short, my work, because it is living, is very hard to collect and often tricky or expensive to produce. When it is produced, it has a finite duration and potentially unknown outcomes, thus making it a “risky” choice for many typical arts establishments. Despite those challenges, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France recently acquired one of my most complex works, “The Capacity for (Urban Eden, Human Error).” It was an amazing experience to transfer the knowledge of the piece to the museum and have valuable conversations with the technology team and the collections managers about not only the maintenance of the living work during the two-month lifespan of when it is on display, but also on the conservation of the whole system for decades to come.

What do you plan to do with the images created from the in-gallery experience at SAM?

It is another research project for me! I am fascinated by what people choose to “save” or determine as beautiful in the context of the activity. I am also fascinated by patterns and am interested in creating interactive projects where the audience is engaged in creating the work and feeding back into the system itself. In the future, I hope to use the images as a negative control for a classification system I plan to develop around the history of pattern-making using data science and libraries of ornamental patterns. I have been attempting to garner resources to move this project forward, but as you can imagine, longer-term funding in fringe areas like this can be hard to find.

For now, I created this compilation of several of the hundreds of patterns that were saved.

Images: Courtesy of Allison Kudla
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