“I just like the idea of the fact that light can be the subject.”
– Barbara Earl Thomas
Hear from Seattle-based powerhouse Barbara Earl Thomas as she shares the experience of seeing Saint Sebastion Tended by Saint Irene at SAM. More than seeing, Thomas encourages you to listen to the painting, to notice the quiet of the moment being painted. We love sharing Thomas’ perspective and can’t wait to share an installation of her artwork with you in The Geography of Innocence, opening at SAM July 11.
Georges de La Tour is often mentioned as one of the many followers of Caravaggio (ca. 1571–1610), the Italian artist who pioneered the use of strong contrasts of light and dark to heighten the drama and religious feeling in his paintings. Though De La Tour probably never saw a work by Caravaggio, the innovative style spread across Europe, and the French artist first introduced his own version of “tenebrism” in this depiction of a nocturnal scene of deliverance. It was such a popular image that no fewer than a dozen other versions exist. The original painting is probably lost; this example is one of the best of the other versions, and some scholars believe it came directly from his studio and may have had his direct participation.
SAM is temporarily
through the end of March, to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the
community. To keep connecting you to art, we have launched Stay Home with SAM, with regular
emails sharing videos, interviews, and art news from SAM Blog. Join us!
“’This is 9/11
meets The Great Recession meets the snowstorm,’ Randy Engstrom, director of the
city’s Office of Arts and Culture (OAC), said during an online public meeting
Tuesday afternoon. ‘We know we’re going to get through this together — and this
is our time.’”
How Can We Think of
Art at a Time Like This? asks a just-launched online exhibition from writer-curators Barbara Pollack and Anne
Verhallen, recruiting artists and building a website over 48 hours.
“‘It’s always been
an intriguing contradiction between how important art is and how trivial it can
be at the same time,’ said Pollack. ‘When crises come up, I think it’s a
question we all ask ourselves…There is always something going on in the world
that seems to overshadow creative effort, and yet it’s so important for
creative effort to continue.’”
Before closing for renovation, we asked visitors to the Seattle Asian Art Museum to tell us why they love Asian art and what excited them about our plans for the museum’s future. The Asian Art Museum reopened on February 8, but is currently closed for the wellbeing of our staff, volunteers, and visitors in light of the directives issued by the Governor’s office to limit the spread of coronavirus. Meanwhile, we are sharing these thoughts to help us all consider why we love the Asian Art Museum.
Today’s Asian Art Museum is inspired. The newly renovated and expanded Asian Art Museum breaks boundaries to offer a thematic, rather than geographic or chronological, exploration of art from the world’s largest continent. The restoration of the historic Art Deco building, improvements to critical systems, expanded gallery and education spaces, and a new park lobby that connects the museum to the surrounding Volunteer Park are just some of the ways the Asian Art Museum has been transformed and preserved as a cultural and community resource for future generations. Learn more about today’s Asian Art Museum.
Following a series of progressive steps taken in recent weeks, SAM
announced last Thursday that it has
temporarily closed through the end of March, to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and
protect the community.
While the museum is closed, we hope you’ll enjoy Gayle Clemans’ lovely review of John Akomfrah: Future History, which notes that
even with the closure, “the artist and his work, nonetheless, is well worth
“For Akomfrah, that
cinematic approach is like philosophy, a way of comprehending the world. ‘As
opposites have conversations, or as they are persuaded to at least potentially
sit at the table in preparation for conversation, something miraculous
happens,’ he says. ‘Life itself happens.’”
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
Image: Alfred Stieglitz, American, 1864–1946, Georgia O’Keeffe (in a chemise), 1918, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in., Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 2006.6.1432, photo: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY
Your next chance to experience the Olympic Sculpture Park through the Indigenous lens of SAM’s winter resident is tonight, February 27 from 7 to 9 pm! Architectural designer and artist Kimberly Deriana (Mandan/Hidatsa) has spent the last two months working in the park researching, offering workshops, and constructing a temporary installation. Deriana has used her residency as a space for sharing Indigenous knowledge surrounding the many uses of cattail materials. The temporary cattail and cedar structure she has created is a space where everyone is invited to gather and experience cultural celebration. The event will include performances by Aiyanna Jade Stitt and Hailey Tayathy, and storytelling and song by Kayla Guyett and Paige Pettibon.
Kimberly Deriana specializes in sustainable, environmental Indigenous architecture, housing, and planning. Deriana’s methodologies focus on incorporating Indigenous lifestyle practices in relation to past, present, and future, designing for the 7 generations. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her experience as SAM’s artist in residence and to learn more about her creative process.
SAM: What goals do you have for your residency at the Olympic Sculpture Park?
KIMBERLY DERIANA: I want to activate the park through an Indigenous lens. As an architect designer and somebody who loves urban design, I’ve been drawn to this park since I first moved here. Part of creating visibility is bringing other people along in the process and giving them opportunities, too. I really try to include people and families who have been doing this work for years while giving new urban Native people outlets in every project on which I work.
This residency is a learning opportunity for me; the way I enjoy learning is to involve others. It’s about the way we learn as a community, the way we make as a community, and the way we approach being in the world and sustainability. When you’re gathering cattails, there’s an appropriate time to gather and there are appropriate places to gather. Learning all of that protocol has been really eye-opening. Because I grew up as an urban Native and wasn’t always shown those protocols, I try to make a conscious effort to create space and time for the protocol knowledge as an adult.
Tell us about the workshops and youth that you
worked with to include Indigenous communities.
I’ve always done art and design but being in
the art scene is a new space for me; I wanted to explore the co-creation
process. Sharing resources is an important component of the process, I believe.
This space has a very educational, institutional vibe and it lends itself to
the scope needed for community workshops. The scale of the work required to
enliven the space needs many hands. The piece itself is practice and healing work.
The collaborators and I were here most
weekends in January and February. Since we are on Suquamish and Duwamish
traditional lands, one weekend we had Indigenous teachers from Suquamish. These
amazing women who are educators for and from their community—Tina, Jackson, and
Kippy Joe— and the amount of information and knowledge that they share in four hours is just indescribable. You
can’t get that on YouTube or from a professor. You have to experience their
oral teachings to begin to understand the richness and depth of the knowledge.
We had three Indigenous youth that day, and then we had a couple visitors just stop by who were interested in what we were doing. We had time to teach them and they got to learn. Every weekend I’ve had at least one Indigenous teen come in and help work with us through a partnership with yəhaw̓.
What are some of the historical uses of cattail mats?
In this region, mats were traditionally used as sheathing for summer structures. Mats are used all over the world, globally and indigenously for different surfaces. In the Plateau, Plains, Woodlands, and Southeast regions, mats are used for protection and warmth on their architectural structures.
Cattails have a multitude of uses. They protect us. When they’re just in the ground they clean the water and remove toxins. They can be food; they can be shelter; they can be water. When gathering cattails in the right spots, their uses extend beyond those listed so that one can understand the sustainability that the plant provides. Plant knowledge leads to understanding sustainability; sustainability leads to healing; healing leads to understanding their sacredness. I want everyone to know this.
I’m trying to make paper with cattails because
I think that’s a more respectful use of them since they were gathered in the
late fall season. I am super excited to do more scientific research on the
sustainability of cattails, learning more traditional knowledge about them, and
weaving. I realize you can approach a project and commit to working with a
material, but then all these other sacred teachings come up, such as how to work with other materials and plants.
It’s not homogenous when we’re learning about our plant relatives.
Why have some of the cattails been cut and
others left long and uneven?
As I started the process of creating this temporary installation with cattails some teachers said it was okay to gather now. When we made some mats, I knew they were not ideal materials and then, in the middle of the month, I learned that you should gather cattails at the end of summer for making mats. For this reason, some of the mats are trimmed and others are raggedy, in order to reveal the imperfection of the process. I like to break things apart until they become abstract, so that even though I’m using really traditional materials, the way I use them means you can’t necessarily tell what it is. For example, maybe your eye reads it as hair or as a bone or antlers. The raggedy mats—having them be more than one thing–helped convey that abstract concept. I think that process was kind of successful.
My architectural background makes me interested in exploring this building and wall system and I started to research and dissect like I normally do for a project. In architecture, you’re always researching and then drawing your theory. In art, you’re fabricating your theory. That’s when all this new information appeared to me. When you start to source your material and put it together, like, “This is why you have to harvest at a certain time and why you have to know where to gather and to get the reeds that are a certain height.” There are just all these little steps that make the process more efficient and that our ancestors knew and had good engineering minds for. I’m still doing it by trial and error and trying to find mentors.
The description of the temporary installation
mentions that the structure is a portal for healing. How is this present in the
work that is in the PACCAR Pavilion?
The sculpture forms a circular arbor and basket-like space. It incorporates some of the knowledge of the medicine wheel into the directions of the space and the layout. The teachings of the medicine wheel helps to orient our bodies with the land, plants and animals, nature and natural forces. In Plains tribes, you enter from the East like the sunrise. Here, in the West, a lot of structures face the water. All of the weavings that we made with Tina and Kippy are on that side and create filtered views to the water as much as possible since the water is so special. The North can reference the future, moving on, and death in some ways, too. The northern, open view gives people the opportunity to see that beautiful view of the park. The cattail threshold symbolizes a doorway into the future. A sustainable future holds the promise of healing.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM’s Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
Virginia “Jinny” Wright, a pillar of the SAM family, passed away last week at the age of 91. The Seattle Times obituary of the collector and philanthropist noted that she “lived for art—and dedicated herself to sharing it with others.” KUOW and ARTnews also shared remembrances of her legacy. She will be greatly missed.
KEXP’s Hans Anderson interviewed SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu about the reimagined Seattle Asian Art Museum for their Sound & Vision show; head to their archive for Saturday, February 15 for the story, which started at 7:49 am.
“So the piece, like
Parker’s music, is full of extremes, pushing the voice’s boundaries,” [tenor
Joshua] Stewart says. “When you have a piece this difficult, you have to bring
to it everything you have to offer. You have to go on the full journey.”
“This is coming at
a time when museums and other cultural institutions are really trying to make a
case for their existence,” says the OMCA’s associate director of evaluation and
visitor insight, Johanna Jones, who led the project. “We know we make a
difference in people’s lives, now we need to really demonstrate it through
With a heavy heart, we share the news of the passing of Virginia Wright, a pillar of the SAM family. Virginia and her late husband Bagley played pivotal roles in the development, vibrancy, and accomplishments of the Seattle Art Museum for more than half a century. Beyond being generous contributors, the Wrights’ greatest impact on SAM is seen in the art of the collection and in the art shown. Virginia was among a very small group of people who, in the 1960s, pushed SAM to create its first modern and contemporary art program. Virginia and Bagley also contributed to the purchase of many important acquisitions over the years. Above all else, the Wrights amassed one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in the world (over 200 works), all purchased with SAM in mind as the collection’s eventual home. When the bulk of it came to SAM in 2014, forming the backbone of its modern and contemporary collection, SAM was transformed from a great institution into a truly remarkable one.
Earlier this month,
Virginia said, “When I think about the future of the Wright Collection at SAM, I
put my trust in the artists. I trust that future generations will value their
work, that SAM will continue to provide meaningful access to it, and that the
conversations that their work has inspired will continue.” We are honored by
her faith in Seattle’s museum and, because of her support over the last 60
years, we are confident that we can live up to the legacy she established.
Born in Seattle and raised
in British Columbia, Virginia went East for college and majored in art history.
Out of college, she worked for Sidney Janis Gallery in Manhattan and began
collecting art. Mark Rothko’s abstract painting Number 10 (1952) was one
of her early, daring purchases and it is now part of SAM’s collection.
Virginia has been a SAM
member since 1951. She began docent training in 1957 and led her first public
tour in 1959. In 1959, the Wrights made their first-ever gift to SAM’s
collection: Room with White Table (1953) by William Ward Corley. That
year they also provided funding for SAM to acquire Winter’s Leaves of the
Winter of 1944 (at the time titled Leaves Before Autumn Wind) by
In 1964, she and a group of friends persuaded then-director Richard Fuller to let her start the Contemporary Art Council (CAC), a group of collectors at the museum. For the next decade, it functioned as the museum’s first modern art department. The CAC sponsored lectures and supported the first exhibitions of Op art and conceptual art in Seattle. It also brought the popular Andy Warhol Portraits exhibition to Seattle in 1976, among many other important exhibitions. Her role in bringing great art to the Seattle Art Museum also involved the curation of two solo exhibitions for Morris Louis (in 1967) and William Ivey (in 1975).
Virginia joined SAM’s board in 1960, making 2020 her 60th anniversary with the Seattle Art Museum. She temporarily stepped away in 1972 when her husband Bagley joined the Board and rejoined in 1982. She served as President of the Board from 1987–90. Virginia was President of SAM’s Board of Trustees from 1986–1992, years that coincided with the construction and opening of the downtown Robert Venturi building in 1991—the museum’s first major transformation since its opening in 1933 and a major shift in Seattle’s cultural life to downtown First Avenue (with the Symphony soon following).
In 1999, SAM mounted an
exhibition of the Wright Collection (The Virginia and Bagley Wright
Collection of Modern Art, March 4–May 9, 1999). The Wrights’ entire art
collection—the largest single collection of modern and contemporary art in the
region—has been gradually donated (and the balance of the collection promised)
to the Seattle Art Museum. A significant portion of the collection came to the
museum in 2014 when the Wrights’ private exhibition space closed.
When the Seattle Art Museum opened the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2007, many works from the Wrights’ collection were installed there, including Mark di Suvero’s Bunyon’s Chess (1965) and Schubert Sonata (1992), as well as works by Ellsworth Kelly, Tony Smith, Anthony Caro, and Roxy Paine.
SAM’s ongoing exhibition Big Picture: Art After 1945draws from the Wrights’ transformative gift of over 100 works and is a reminder of their incredible generosity.
Virginia was an active board member up to the end of her life, regularly attending meetings and advising the museum in many important endeavors. About SAM Virginia said, “It’s always been the main arena. I never wanted to break off and start a museum. I wanted to push the museum we already had into being more responsive to contemporary art.” And SAM would like to acknowledge that she did just that, leaving an undeniable mark on the cultural landscape of the entire Pacific Northwest.
As Amada Cruz, SAM’s
Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, says, “Even having only been in
Seattle for a short time, it’s clear that Virginia Wright’s impact on the city
and on SAM is beyond measure. Her legacy, and that of her late husband Bagley,
is seen in both the very walls and on the walls of the downtown museum, and it
fills the Olympic Sculpture Park’s landscapes. I’m honored to have been able to
know her and of her hopes for SAM’s continued future.”
Seattle Asian Art Museum is officially reopen! Thank you to the thousands
of people who streamed through the reimagined galleries at the free
housewarming event last weekend. The museum starts regular hours on Wednesday,
“I felt freed, well, just to look”: Stefan Milne examines Boundless at the Asian Art Museum and The American War at ARTS at King Street Station, which both “explore how we see Asia.”
Seattle Refined shot a recent episode from the museum, including a fantastic segment
with SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu (starts at :40).
“Your eyes and mind
enter them easily and roam through the different layers of brushwork and narrative
suggestion. There’s an unexpected optimism to all this. The paintings also
dwell in silence, slow us down and hypnotize.”
The Seattle Asian
Art Museum reopens to the public this weekend with a free two-day celebration.
10,000 free tickets for the housewarming event have been claimed, but the
museum reopens with regular hours on Wednesday, February 12.
questions we’re asking for this reopening are, ‘Where is Asia? What is Asia?’”
says Xiaojin Wu, the curator of Japanese and Korean art at the museum. “We’re
showing how the borders are fluid throughout history.” –From The Art Newspaper
“When the Asian Art
Museum opens on Saturday, the architects hope that previous visitors will see
their museum in a new light. Says Amada Cruz, CEO and director of the Seattle
Art Museum, ‘We could not be more excited to open the doors of the museum and
welcome everyone back.’” –Elizabeth Fazzare, Architectural Digest
“With so much to
see and contemplate in the Seattle Asian Art Museum, there needed to be space
to let the mind wander into a void for a bit. The experience would not be
complete without it. The curators and architects all should be commended for
seeing through a new vision that will expand audience’s awareness of Asia, but
also remind them that the human pursuit of beauty and the sublime is, indeed,
timeless and boundless.” –T.s. Flock, Vanguard
“With works that
emphasized the immaterial, or the breakdown of matter, the exhibition begged
the question: how applicable is the term Material Art? It seems that at this
early stage, the label may conjure more questions than answers.”