All posts in “Events & Programs”

Get Worldly with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Catch The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project playing a free concert outdoors as the first musical act in our World Music Series. Throughout the summer months SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents four free concerts in the Volunteer Park Amphitheater that bring music from all over the world to Seattle. Find out more about the female-focused music group and mark your calendars for their performance, July 13!

The sounds of steel pan music enliven a summer evening outdoors! Originally from Trinidad, the steel pan is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the descendants of slaves brought to the Caribbean from Africa who created this instrument from oil drums and other discarded metal containers. Steel pan can now be found all over the world and captivates the hearts of all those lucky enough to get a chance to play it.

Michael Shantz and I formed The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project (SWSPP) in 2013 as a collaboration. The project started as a weekly beginner steel pan class and within the first year students performed at the Women Who Rock UnConference in Seattle’s Washington Hall. Since then, over 100 women have taken classes and, of that, at least 20 have played in the performance group.

The performance group consists of women with an array of musical backgrounds. Some pan players such as Ceda Clemmons and Miho Takekawa have been playing steel pan for over 20 years, while many others had never played with a musical ensemble before joining SWSPP. The beauty of steel pan is that it’s a highly accessible instrument, you can come into class having had no prior experience playing an instrument and leave being able to play a song as an ensemble 4-6 weeks later, which is the typical duration of the beginner class series. The mission of SWSPP is to give women and girls the opportunity to experience the energy and joy that playing music gives us. The music scene tends to be heavily dominated by male musicians—a boys club of sorts. This project gives women an opportunity to enter the arena of musical performance in a fun and accessible way.

Tashie LeMaitre says of her experience as a group member, “Being a part of this project has been like joining another family. I’ve learned so much since I started playing with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project and have seen so many new places that I might never have gotten the chance to see. I’ve always loved pan, but have since fallen in love with it even more. I look forward to what the future holds for us.”

SWSPP frequently collaborates with other seasoned musicians in Seattle, both female and male, for larger shows and productions. Ann Reynolds, Marina Albero, Obe Quarless, Makala Romero, Otieno Terry, Adriana Giordano, Teo Shantz  and Kate Olson are just a few of the local musicians with whom the group has partnered. You can catch the group performing on stages all throughout King County!

– Oriana Estrada, Administrative Director, Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Photo: Courtesy of The Women’s steel Pan Project.
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What do you want to do when you grow up? SAM can help with the answer!

Remember when you were in school and everyone nagged you about what you wanted to do when you grew up? You may have known, you may not have known, you may have thought you knew and ended up changing your mind. SAM’s High School Career Day programs differ from others by rejecting the notion that 15 and 16 year-olds need to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Instead we explore the vast career options within a museum whilst creating a space for students to feel okay with the unknown.

SAM’s Equity Team’s Career Days center the interests of aspiring youth while involving staff from across departments and shedding light on the real people who navigate the creative, interesting, and sometimes odd, world of nonprofits, art, and museums. Students have heard from folks in SAM’s Education, Curatorial, Security, and Development departments, as well as from teaching artists, and more!

Our last Career Day on April 25, 2018 was with Mount Rainier High School and 85% of students said this experience helped them better understand their future career interests and plans for after high school. Nearly 70% of students said this experience helped them think about school in a new way, or motivated them to do better in school. Some of the students shared their thoughts with us after their visit!

“I thought about how it would be an interesting job but it made me realize I need to do better in school to become what I want.”

“Learning about the history of some of the art made me understand and find a deeper appreciation for history in school I don’t enjoy.”

“We saw a figures in history exhibit where old paintings had been re-imagined to represent a larger modern community. I’d like to work harder to later represent youth and help educate about identity expression at school.”

Our next Career Day is in November and we will continue to offer this program in the future. If you would like to bring your group to the museum for a Career Day experience, please email us!

– Rayna Mathis, School and Educator Programs Coordinator

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Gardner Center: Making Shawl Talk

This spring SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas is out and about, hosting happenings in Bellevue and Columbia City! Please join us on March 29 for a SAM members’ reception and public program at the Bellevue Arts Museum. Featuring Rosemary Crill on Kashmir Shawls and the West, she will speak in conversation with historian Prof. Anand Yang, University of Washington

Kashmir shawls launched an amazing global fashion phenomenon. When introduced to Europe from India in the late 18th century, the soft goats’ wool (“cashmere”) was a new sensation, as were their paisley patterns. Even the word, “shawl’,” was introduced to English from the Persian term also used in India.

British and French textile producers rushed to invent ways to make cheaper imitations—and lo and behold, it’s the Industrial Revolution and colonial enterprise in action. Once the British shawls not only replaced imports from Kashmir but were exported in huge quantities to India, Kashmir’s highly-skilled and specialized weavers were doomed.

This colonial dynamic paralleled the much larger-scale damage to India’s cotton weavers. Protest in India and a social movement to boycott foreign goods led in time to the independence movement—think of Gandhi and his spinning wheel. As Crill points out in The Fabric of India exhibition catalogue (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2015), “the effect of this reversal in the direction of trade . . . was to affect the subsequent history of South Asia and the world as a whole.”

Rosemary Crill, former Senior Curator for South Asia at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is a legend in the textile world. As part of the discussion, an unidentified old textile piece from India from a Washington museum collection will be shown to Crill for her assessment. Be there to find out more!

Shawls

Can you tell which of these are from Kashmir and which are the British versions?

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Images: Early Kashmir Shawl, early 19th century, Indian, cashmere, 128 x 49 in., Gift of Mrs. Reginald H. Parsons, Seattle Art Museum 36.52. Shawl, 1856, Scottish, wool, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.327. image in the public domain. Shawl, 1865–75, Scottish, wool and silk; Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Catherine Courtney, 1933; 2009.300.3010 image in the public domain. Shawl, mid-19th century, Attributed to India, Kashmir; Wool, silk; double interlocking twill tapestry weave, embroidered, pieced; Gift of H. de B. Parsons, 1923; Metropolitan Museum of Art 23.126.1. image in the public domain. Kashmir shawl, ca.1830, Kashmir, for the Western market, woven pashmina wool, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, IS 96-1948. Muslin dress and Kashmir shawl. Dress, Indian muslin made up in England, ca.1805-10. Shawl, Kashmir for the western market, ca.1750-60. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Circ. 30-1958 (dress); IM 17-1915 (shawl).Victoria and Albert Museum. Preliminary sketch design for paisley shawl, Scotland. Plate XI in Matthew Blair, The Paisley Shawl and the Men Who Produced It, Alexander Gardner: 1904. Detail, top image. Early Kashmir Shawl, early 19th century, Indian, Kashmir, 128 x 49 in., Gift of Mrs. Reginald H. Parsons, Seattle Art Museum 36.52. Kashmir shawl, after 1865, Indian, wool with embroidery, 82 x 81 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, Seattle Art Museum 40.87
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SAM Film: Alfred Hitchcock’s Britain

In the 1930s before he came to America, young London-born Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) was already a world-acknowledged master of cinema, a sublime orchestrator of images and emotions. Often with story contributions from his wife Alma Reville, Hitchcock thrilled viewers with engrossing mystery, gripping suspense, intimate romance, psychological insight, witty British humor, and droll cameo appearances. Even after settling in America, he continued to portray his homeland with deep affection. Get your tickets to this series before they sell out!

March 22: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). Hitchcock’s youthful mastery of suspense, humor and a compelling story move this thriller at an enthralling pace. A vacationing couple (Leslie Banks, Edna Best) are told of a plot to assassinate an international diplomat; their daughter (Nova Pilbeam) is kidnapped to keep them quiet; and the evil shooter (Peter Lorre) is in position at a Royal Albert Hall concert, waiting for his cymbal-crash cue. With atmospheric production design by Alfred Junge, who worked on Michael Powell classics like The Red Shoes. Digital restoration, 84 min.

March 29: Sabotage (1936). Based on Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent, with script contributions by Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville, Sabotage centers on a woman (Sylvia Sidney) who doesn’t know that her husband (Oscar Homolka) is the saboteur wreaking havoc in London. Scotland Yard and Sidney’s little brother (Desmond Tester) get involved, but Sidney is the one with righteous agency. Features one of Hitchcock’s most intense suspense sequences. In 35mm, 76 min.

April 5: The 39 Steps (1936). Adapted from John Buchan’s novel, with script work by Alma Reville, this is one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. Vacationing in London, an innocent man (Robert Donat) finds a murdered woman in his bed, and flees for Scotland when the police assume he’s the killer. Spies are chasing him too, and on a quest to track down the master villain, he’s handcuffed to a feisty beauty (Madeleine Carroll), and must rely on the help of many flavorful characters. Hitchcock liked to say, “Other directors’ films are slices of life; my films are slices of cake.” Bon appetite! In 35mm, 81 min.

April 12: Young and Innocent (1937). A woman’s body washes ashore, and an innocent young chap (Derrick De Marney) is accused of murder. A tense situation, but charm abounds as he enlists the reluctant help of a policeman’s teenage daughter (Nova Pilbeam) to help him flee and sleuth out the real killer. The couple is humorously waylaid by a children’s party, and Hitchcock propels us towards the real culprit with a stupendous, unbroken shot that traverses a hotel lobby and ballroom, right up to a most guilty face. Screenplay co-written by alma Reville. In 35mm, 80 min.

April 19: The Lady Vanishes (1938). A favorite film of everyone from Orson Welles to author James Thurber, The Lady Vanishes is a perfect blending of thrills and laughs. On a Balkan train trip a dear old lady (Dame May Whitty) is suddenly not there anymore. Young Margaret Lockwood had befriended Whitty, and reports her disappearance. But no one believes her, because the woman is right there—but it’s some other woman, eerily wearing Whitty’s clothes. Won’t someone—maybe that whimsical musician Michael Redgrave—help Lockwood solve one of the cinema’s most entertaining mysteries? In 35mm, 97 min.

April 26: Rebecca (1940). This haunting romantic mystery finds the shy, unworldly Joan Fontaine marrying the dashing Laurence Olivier and moving to Manderly, his house on the Cornish coast. Fontaine must live in the shadow of Rebecca, Olivier’s dead first wife, to whom her sinister housekeeper Judith Anderson was more than professionally devoted. And by the way, how did Rebecca die? From Daphne Du Maurier’s novel. In 35mm, 130 min.

May 3: Suspicion (1941). Joan Fontaine won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a woman who defies her stuffy parents and marries notorious playboy Cary Grant. He’s irresponsible, charming and lovable, but Fontaine starts putting together bits of evidence that spell lethal danger. With Nigel Bruce, and script work by Alma Reville. In 35mm, 99 min.

May 10: Stage Fright (1950). Stage star Marlene Dietrich gets her boyfriend Richard Todd to help cover up her self-defense killing of her abusive husband, and Todd becomes murder suspect number one. Drama student Jane Wyman, who’s crazy about Todd, gets her father (the delightful Alastair Sim) to help him, and Wyman does her own sleuthing while pretending to be Dietrich’s maid. Hitchcock’s wife adapted the screenplay, and his daughter Patricia plays Wyman’s chum. In 35mm, 110 min.

May 17: Dial M For Murder (1954). Suave Ray Milland is nervous. He’s married to gorgeous, wealthy Grace Kelly, but she like writer Robert Cummings. Milland needs to do something drastic now, before Kelly makes Cummings her insurance beneficiary. Stunningly, Kelly kills her attacker, but is accused of murder. Can Cummings and Scotland Yard’s John Williams figure out how to trap the true guilty party? In 35mm, 88 min.

– Greg Olson, Manager of Film Programs

Images: Alfred Hitchock Presents (CBS) TV Series (1955–1962), CBS/Photofest © CBS. Rebecca (1940), United Artists/Photofest © United Artists

 

 

 

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Encountered in Orbit: Artists in Residence at Olympic Sculpture Park

“We look to a blue dot on our phones to locate ourselves,” Tia Kramer points out. “Orbiting Together offers a new way engage with unseen objects that make that technology possible. Through text messages we instruct participants to poetically enact gestures that respond to the function of the satellites orbiting overhead.” Orbing Together is the participatory experience of the current Olympic Sculpture Park artists in residence, Tia Kramer, Eric Olson, and Tamin Totzke. When you opt in to Orbiting Together you get texted instructions, or scores, on how to orient yourself to the space around you once or twice a day, wherever you are, at the same time as anyone else signed up, according to satellite movement over the park. The residency culminates in a final Art Encounter, a participatory experience and performance, at the Olympic Sculpture Park, Friday, February 23.

The functions and properties of the satellites triggering the text messages inform the scores you receive. Some of the messages are sent along with images and information on the satellite that sends them. When writing the scores, the artists are considering binaries. Both the binaries of computers that direct satellites across the skies above us as well as, “how to hold divergent concepts in your mind and body at the same time,” Kramer says.

The three artists in residence bring unique backgrounds to the project. Tamin Totzke, with an MFA in choreography, offers movement practices that inform the scores. Tia Kramer is a site-specific performance artist, educator, and social choreographer interested in gestures and actions of human connection in the everyday. Eric Olson uses his programming and technical skills to create participatory art practice and social engagement. They all consider the Art Encounter portion of their residency as making the irony of the project clear.

“We’re asking people to consider the somatics of our relationship to technology, while using technology to create connection,” Olson points out. Somatics is the making of meaning through intentional movement that allows you to perceive yourself and the world around you. While the project points out how we isolate ourselves from each other and our environments by referring to satellites thousands of miles away to tell us the name of the street we are on, it also uses cell phones and social media to prompt group actions.

Because it requires your phone to take part, the balance between documenting and experiencing is also an inherent tension to the project. Orbing Together is at once a chance to re-orient in space outside of your phone, while using your phone to facilitate that orientation. “We’re playing with parody. We’re using an ad agency technology to facilitate personal agency.” Eric Olson says.

By creating a database of all the satellites that move over Seattle daily (most pass over multiple times a day), tracking which zip codes they travel through, and using advertising technology that sends text messages, Orbiting Together is bridging space through simultaneity.

With people opted in across the world, the Olympic Sculpture Park becomes a location that people the world wide are orienting themselves by, while paying closer attention to their immediate surroundings. For the final Art Encounter at the Olympic Sculpture Park there will be a blend of visitor participation and performers in attendance. It will not be immediately apparent who is a performer and who is an audience member. The performers will create a complete presentation of the gestures that have been texted throughout the project. There’s still time to take part, text “TOGETHER” to “206 IN 01 SKY.” Also coming up this weekend is a send off celebration and artist tour of the Olympic Sculpture Park, Sunday February 25, 10:30 am–noon. Meet in PACCAR Pavilion to join the artists in residence for a tour of the park with inspired exercises.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist and Social Media Manager

Images: Jen Au, Nina Dubinsky, Jen Au
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Boundaries of Belonging with the Gardner Center

Debating critical issues over immigration and refugee issues, and the security of national borders in the US can escalate quickly or quickly become tiresome. But, through inquiry, SAM’s Gardner Center offers an alternative way of engaging with, and thinking about, global events that impact us all. The Saturday University Lecture Series beginning this week, is a chance to reflect and discuss how some of these issues manifest around the world. Six outstanding speakers will consider various ways that national borders and other boundaries are created, maintained, and crossed in different parts of Asia in the winter lecture series, Boundaries of Belonging.

Two major events of the mid-20th century that resulted in new national borders—between India and Pakistan, and the formation of North and South Korea—still have resonance in international tensions. Our first speaker, David Gilmartin, looks at the Partition of India and Pakistan in terms of dividing the Indus River Basin, which was then the site of the world’s largest integrated river irrigation system. Next up is the DMZ that separated the members of so many families between North and South Korea. Suk-Young Kim considers that heavily militarized border as a site of intense emotion over the conflicting bonds of family and nation, and discusses various forms of border crossing.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, President Duterte has declared war on marginalized communities within their own nation. While most Filipinos are removed from the violence, Vicente Rafael discusses the work of photojournalists who aim to bring national and international attention to the victims of this “drug war.”

 In a comparison of the treatment of Koreans living in Japan and Japanese Americans in the US during World War II, Tak Fujitani uncovers how both governments recruited among these communities for military service as their duty to the nation, while at the same time denying them full rights.

How to imagine a refugee camp of over 650,000 Rohingya people in Bangladesh? Azeem Ibrahim shares his research conducted over several visits to Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Our final speaker, Lucinda Ramberg, considers issues of religion, caste and gender among a Buddhist community in South India.

Join us and consider the many questions raised during the Saturday University Lecture Series. Tickets are still available to the series and individual lecture tickets are sold at the door, day-of.

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Photo: NASA
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Winter Light: The Films of Ingmar Bergman

Seattle Art Museum and the Nordic Heritage Museum celebrate the centennial of Swedish writer-director Ingmar Bergman (1907–2017), focusing on the mid-20th century decade when the world discovered one of the supreme masters of cinema. Bergman, the secular son of the Swedish Royal Court’s pastor, ponders the essential human questions. What gives life meaning? How do we find intimacy and love? Are we sustained beyond death? Bergman’s mesmerizing storytelling and family of superb actors answer with the eloquence of the human face. Films are in Swedish with English subtitles.

 

Jan 11: Summer With Monika (1952)
Bergman’s films often center on women, Monika (Harriet Andersson) being a well-known example. Monika and her boyfriend become lovers during an idyllic island summer. They’ve left their responsibilities behind, but what will happen when they return to Stockholm? In 35mm, 97 min.

 

Jan 18: Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
With quicksilver wit and tenderness, Bergman invites us to a country house weekend, where the hostess (Eva Dahlbeck) has filled the rooms and lush grounds with former, present, and would-be lovers. Smiles inspired Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. In 35mm, 108 min.

 

Jan 25: The Seventh Seal (1957)
A returning 14th-century knight (the majestic Max von Sydow) finds his homeland plagued by physical and moral corruption. When the figure of Death comes for him, he proposes playing a game of chess for his life, with a secret strategy in mind. In 35mm, 95 min.

 

Feb 1: Wild Strawberries (1957)
A patch of strawberries prompts an elderly professor (pioneering Swedish director-actor Victor Sjostrom)  to movingly re-examine his life with his parents, his current family, and himself. There are painful truths to consider, but the fruit is sweet. In 35mm, 90 min.

 

Feb 8: The Magician (1958)
This dark Gothic comedy wonders if rationality alone can explain the mysteries of life. In the 1840s, a man of logic and science (Gunnar Bjornstrand) gets more than he bargained for when he challenges and provokes a traveling magician (Max von Sydow). In 35mm, 100 min.

 

Feb 22: The Virgin Spring (1960)
Inspired by a 14th-century ballad, this film portrays a world still under the sway of pagan folklore. A girl curses her half-sister, and the cursed one is murdered. When the father (Max von Sydow) discovers the culprits, his desire for vengeance makes him question his new Christian faith. Digital restoration, 88 min.

 

Mar 1: Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
On a remote island a young woman (Harriet Andersson) waits and waits to see God. Her husband (Max von Sydow) and her father are detached observers, but her brother is emotionally present, and will grow from their filial bond. Digital restoration, 91 min.

 

Mar 8: The Silence (1963)
A cool intellectual (Ingrid Thulin), her sensual sister (Gunnel Lindblom), and the sister’s young son arrive in a strange city, where they can’t understand what people are saying. Bergman presents the lack of communication as a modern hell, but the boy wanders as in a wonderland, perceiving traces of grown-up sexuality and death, and learning three words: spirit, anxiety, joy. Digital restoration, 96 min.

Mar 15: Persona (1966)
Bergman’s most tantalizing masterpiece is a meditation on the subjectivity of reality and the personas, the aspects of ourselves that we show the world, the characters that actors create. On a secluded island, a talkative nurse (Bibi Andersson) cares for an actress (Liv Ullmann) who’s retreated into muteness. They’re both blonde and beautiful, and somehow they begin to merge. Persona is a stunning, poetic summation of Bergman’s lifelong obsession with character and story. Digital restoration, 84 min.

Get your series tickets before they sell out!

Images: Summer with Monika, 1953, Hallmark Productions/Photofest. Persona, 1966, Lopert Pictures Corporation/Photofest.
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Get Your Winter Glow On: SAM Lights

If you live in Seattle, now is about the time when you might find yourself feeling lethargic, despondent, and perhaps a bit irritable. SAM’s got the fix for your Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s not vitamin D, it’s SAM Lights! Thursday, December 14, 6–9 pm get outside despite the cold and join us at the Olympic Sculpture Park for a luminous evening amidst iconic sculptures. There’s something for everyone with performances, food trucks, art activities, and Z Path lit by luminaria. Here’s a preview from two of our partners who will be bringing interactive art activities into the park just for you.

Sensebellum, a company specializing in blending interactive art and tech, is proud to present the Arborealis Tree Lighting System! Over 120+ light fixtures placed in 14+ trees around the Olympic Sculpture Park will light up the night as patrons walk around the grounds.

All of the trees are synchronized by custom software and are driven by an interactive kiosk where a map of the park becomes the interface. Press this button here and you hear a sound and see some light dance from branch to branch. What about that one over there? Better grab a friend because a good ol’ jam session just might occur! Whatever your style, it will sure to be a sight to see and we are sure very excited to bring out one of our favorite installations for all to enjoy!

Bop Bags is an interactive inflatable installation by the Seattle Design Nerds. Partly inspired by fungi that sprout in the wet season these inflatables appear to have burst forth in colorful bloom and are a reminder that our rainy season is still a vibrant one. These eight cuddly orbs invite touch and play by shifting color when tapped or “bopped.” Visitors are encouraged to tap on the surface of this series of gigantic cuddly lanterns which respond by changing colors.

Work together to create a symphony of illumination! As visitors descend through the Gates Amphitheater, the inflatables lure passersby from the path with their subtle glow and bubbly personality. Placed in a sympathetic arrangement to Richard Serra’s Wake, the orbs reward both play and patience. The Seattle Design Nerds are an all volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to design in the public realm. We focus on making exciting things for the public that can be experienced in unexpected locations and ways.

Images: Courtesy of Seattle Design Nerds & Sensebellem.
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In The Studio: Jono Vaughan, 2017 Betty Bowen Award Winner

Jono Vaughan, winner of the 2017 Betty Bowen Award, comes from an academic background, however the background noise of a visit to her studio is the sound of a sewing machine. Vaughan is embroidering Four Corners, a poem written by one of her collaborators, Natalie Ann Martinez onto the fabric she will use to make the sleeves for her current garment in the ongoing series, Project 42. Though she didn’t study textile art, Jono Vaughan’s recent work includes the production of colorful and carefully crafted, hand-made garments.

Project 42 is named for the short life expectancy of transgender individuals in the United States. The age 42 is based on Vaughan’s own research since no official study can currently verify the average life expectancy of trans people. The National Transgender Survey was conducted two years ago and will be published soon as the most comprehensive analysis of the transgender community, Vaughan tells us.

For each work in the series, the artist designs a garment that begins with an image of a murder location, which is digitally manipulated to create an abstract textile print. The garment is then activated by a collaborator or by the audience and visitors to the installation, as it will be when installed at SAM for Jono Vaughan: Betty Bowen Award Winner, in April 2018. Jono Vaughan describes this practice as rooted in the belief of labor as memorialization and in the physical object as tribute.

Help us celebrate the 2017 Betty Bowen Award Winner during the Award Ceremony and Reception on November 9 featuring a collaborative performance memorializing Fred Martinez Jr. by Natalie Ann Martinez, Catherine Uehara, and Amanda Pickler, and a talk by this multi-talented artist.

Heavier than it looks, this top includes fabric from every garment Jono Vaughan has made. This is the only piece Jono has made for herself and she intends for it to continue to grow.

SAM: Tell us how Project 42 got started.

Jono Vaughan: Project 42 began as a with a grant from Art Matters Foundation. I proposed a series of painting that were abstract paintings of locations where trans people had been murdered. Many people don’t want to have conversations about violence against trans people. Most people don’t know what abstract painting is about. They don’t know the history and the conceptual violence behind it. I wanted to use abstract painting to speak to that idea of something misunderstood, which ‘transness,’ I think, is very misunderstood.

How did you begin working with textiles?

The paintings were too static. They weren’t memorializing the individual in the way that I wanted them too. For a long time, I’d been talking to a dancer about collaborating, and I reached out to her to ask if I printed this pattern on fabric and made a garment, would she dance in it? That’s where it began. I stepped outside of my boundaries to make something outside of my traditional production and comfort zone.

How did do you decide how to abstract these geographical locations? Is there a specific school of abstraction or artists you’re influenced by as you create the patterns?

It’s responsive. Sometimes the patterns start with colors from photographs like skin tones or colors of clothing. Sometimes the patterns utilize screenshots of Google Earth street views where someone was murdered. They each include some type of symbolic action. In one garment many layers of lines are combined to form the pattern, each with 105 lines, a reference to the room number the individual was murdered in. There is also the design content—creating something that is visually appealing as a way to pull people into a discussion that they don’t recognize they want to have.

What role do your collaborators play in the creation of the garment?

I think of myself as the director of the project. The collaborators can engage in any type of action that they wish to share but we work closely to make sure that their memorialization is respectful and considered. Sometimes I do performance work too but I try not to be the focus. The last one was the result of a requirement by Anna Conner that couldn’t be facilitated unless the dress was cut off of her. Then I began to recognize the symbolic significance of sewing the dress back together as part of the performance. So that’s what we did.

The activations of these garments have taken place across multiple continents. Are these connected to the murder locations or otherwise location specific?

One of the original goals of the project was to offer stolen opportunities to the spirits of the people who were murdered. And an original conceptual element was the idea of travel. The first garment I made went to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to be performed in by Emily Navara who wore the dress to her favorite park in the city. The second dress was sent to New York City and my friend Mia D’Avanza went to her favorite swing dancing club wearing it after sharing a large meal with her friends.

As a white artist, it would be inappropriate for me to dictate how the majority of these people are memorialized because the majority of these people are people of color. Though one part of my identity represents a shared experience, my experiences are so different than many of these individuals because of the intersectionality of their identities. This is more about the retuning of humanity and the sharing of missed opportunities. Eating at a cafe in Rome in one of these garments is a symbolic gesture, but is a symbolic gesture focused on the humanity of individuals who were treated so inhumanely.

Work in progress for collaboration with Natalie Ann Martinez. Inkjet printed cotton poplin, antique lace, Navajo Churro sheep wool.

Will the installation at SAM in April include performance?

The installation at SAM will include three or four new pieces. They will be more sculptural since they will be on display for such a long period. The center piece will be a collaborative sculpture that visitors can contribute to by tying or manipulating fabric that has been prepared for them that will then be either sewn on to the garment by me or may actually be tied onto the garment by the museum goers themselves.

I’m pretty emotionally overwhelmed by the idea that to create these new pieces since the process requires me to immerse myself in the murders. I select who to memorialize by looking at the photographs of the individuals, and allowing them to step forward and ask, to speak to me. You have to get into a certain space to do that.

How much research do you do about these people’s lives or is it just the incident of their murder?

The amount of available information is dictated by the size of a person’s community. I want to treat everybody the same, so I decided not reach into, or out to, the communities the people were directly from. In some ways that sounds a little wrong, and in some ways, it is. But some of these individuals were prominent and well-known, and others nobody knew. I want to make sure everybody is treated with the same level of compassion, care, and respect no matter who they were.

Fred Martinez Jr., who we’re memorializing at the Betty Bowen Awards Ceremony and Reception, has had a documentary made about him (all research points to Fred’s use of male pronouns). How do I give the same amount of attention and respect to every individual? There’s also the question of me, as a stranger, impacting family and friends by revisiting the murder of their loved ones. This is not an easy project. And at times the critiques I place upon myself of how the project functions almost stops the process, but then another murder occurs, and I question how can I help to stop this violence. Raising awareness is important but so is considering the roles that we may all play in the larger questions of institutionalized violence, particularly against people of color.

Work in progress from a series re-creating every drawing in “The Drawings of Francois Boucher” by Alastair Lang.

What else are you working on?

I just wrapped up Safety in Numbers for Disjecta in Portland. It’s focused on anonymity and its relationship to safety for myself as a trans person. I create anonymity for myself by turning people into clones of me through physical haircuts. I’ve done this twice now and in both cases, the haircut selected was based on a contemporary trend. This time it was the tasseled bob. The bob, in a historical context addresses notions of gender identity and freedom of gender cultural constructs.

In addition to that I’m working on a series of drawings and etchings. I’m re-creating every drawing in The Drawings of Francois Boucher by Alastair Lang and inserting trans bodies as a way to create a visual history for myself, which doesn’t exist. We know that trans people did exist, and in some cases, had very prominent roles in courts. I’m creating this history for myself through these drawings and they also include anamorphic creatures that I’ve been using for a number of years that hint to the disorientation that I had growing up about my identity.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist & Social Media Manager

Images: Courtesy of the artist. Studio photos: Natali Wiseman. Jono Vaughan, Documentation of Project 42 performance by Anna Conner at the Henry Art Gallery, 2016, Commissioned by the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington, Photograph by Jonathan Vanderweit, Courtesy of the artist, © Jono Vaughan.
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