All posts in “Events & Programs”

Drop-in during Kusama: Infinite Reflections

All summer long we’re activating your creative side with free drop-in studio hours every Sunday at SAM. Led by local artists and designed for all ages, the art activities taking place between 11 am and 1 pm will touch on themes and ideas behind Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors and how the artwork in the exhibition connects to their own work and process. We’ve asked each of our teaching artists to share what about the Kusama exhibition has inspired them and the art activities that they will be leading.

This Sunday, July 30, features artist Junko Yamamoto.

There are a few things that I can relate to Kusama’s work conceptually and aesthetically.  She is interested in the relationships between people and the world by creating infinite imagery of nature and our society. Kusama’s Phalli’s Field has been one my favorite installations of hers since I was young. Organic, white, phallic-shaped soft sculptures with red polka dots in a reflection mirror room create an infinite reality that gives me a chill. All of her paintings are incredible, but I’m always mesmerized by her older paintings from the 1950s to ’70’s. Repetitions of scale- or cell-like small round shapes continues almost outside of the frames. Both installations and paintings can relate to my repetitive shapes and textures.

In my work, I explore space, memories, the space between atoms, cells, between people, objects, air, stars, water and sky; the cosmic glue which holds us and the universe together. My repetitive imageries are often inspired by cell divisions or clusters of atoms. Everything that exists in this world is part of us, we are all related to one another, just like how small atoms accumulated to forms entire universe. Unity, as a whole, is my foundation.

Celeste Cooning, August 3 & 20

In the spirit of Kusama’s process-based studio practice, we’re going to make collaborative cut paper “Infinity Nets.” As this collective infinity net grows into an immersive installation, elements of form, movement, positive/negative space, light, and shadow will all come into play. 

I feel a kinship to Kusama’s emphatic nature and I strongly identify with the inherent necessity to keep creating throughout one’s life. Since childhood, I’ve always sought solace through the act of art making. Come explore the resonant power of repetition and accumulation using scissors as your drawing tool!  

Regina Schilling, August 27, September 3 & 10

Kusama has artistically given me permission to create my own world and live inside it infinitely. As a painter, I’ve been exploring invisibility using large colorful canvases to create worlds where the invisible is seen. Despite hiding, the women in my paintings are still there. It’s a world where women, daisies, jack-o-lanterns and textile structures can all exist together. Apart from working on this series, I began the publication, Hey Lady, a collection of art honoring one woman per issue. In two years, it has included hundreds of artists internationally, highlighted eight crucial women in various fields, held exhibits around the country, and created a world where women experience a creative outlet that is nurtured, validated, and celebrated. With my workshop at SAM, you’ll be able create your own world exploring your reflection, obsessions and inspiration from the exhibit by making and filling up a handmade zine!

Ellen Ziegler, July 16 & 23

My Vermilion Series is a collection of drawings searching out the interface between the psyche and its influences, between inner and outer worlds. The drawings result from my visceral responses to sensation, emotion, and reaction. The use of the color vermilion began as an investigation of childhood memory and has morphed into a practice of working with only this one color for three years. The drawings are made with acrylic forms painted on paper, which I then draw on with white marker. The circular marks transform the flat forms to three dimensions. I intend to suggest the body with its urges, transformations, and ultimate transcendences.

In a time when we are increasingly distanced from our corporeal selves by technology and stress, this work attempts to bring to the surface powerful and peculiar sensations, emotions, and reactions, so we may act authentically in this shifting world.

The projects we’re doing in the Drop-In Studio begin with the circle or dot, echoing Kusama’s extravagant use of that form. Her focus originated with the hallucinations that caused her to exteriorize her obsessions and fears. Many artists have this phenomenon in common: what would seem to be a departure from sanity or normalcy comes to be the fertile origin of our work. Standing in the center of a black field of tar paper (9’ x 20’), participants draw circles with themselves as the center. Making a mark of chalk on tarpaper is immensely satisfying and is a visceral moment of art made with the body. At the worktables, we’ll use black paper to draw on with opaque markers and circle templates, creating their own take-away artwork.

Images: Manifestation, 2017, Junko Yamamoto, 36 x 36 in., oil on canvas. Still Here, 2016, Regina Schilling, oil on canvas, 4 ft x 4 ft., photo: Regina Schilling.Over the River, 2016, Celeste Cooning, installation, screenprint on hand cut Tyvek, paint, mylar, and light. Untitled (vermilion), Ellen Ziegler, 2017, acrylic and white marker on paper, 15 x 11 in.
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Summer at SAM Celebrates 10 Years of the Olympic Sculpture Park

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Olympic Sculpture Park and Summer at SAM is bringing you entertainment and activities around art at the park, all summer long. Mingle, make, and move until the sun goes down over the Puget Sound. Inspired by SAM’s special exhibitions, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Seattle Art Museum and installations by Christopher Paul Jordan and Spencer Finch at the Olympic Sculpture Park, Summer at SAM explore place-making, cultural confluences, and learning from our local environment.

Like the sculpture park itself, all Summer at SAM programs are free, open to the public, and all-ages. So check us out Thursdays and Saturdays, July 13 through August 31 and get active in your city with concerts, art making, food trucks, and fitness. In their own words, get to know two of Summer at SAM’s partner organizations for events such as the Kickoff next Thursday, July 13 from 6–8 pm produced in partnership with Black & Tan Hall and our Saturday art activity led by artists of the Lion’s Main Art Collective.

Black & Tan Hall, is the premier cultural event space that the south end has been waiting for. Its unique business model with over 20 community partners has given birth to a consensus-run establishment that prioritizes healthy, delicious food, fair pay to artists, and quality events. We want to give you a reason to dress up for a night on the town.

Our upcoming partnership with SAM gives Seattle a small taste of what Black & Tan Hall will be producing when our doors open at the end of the summer. Chef Tarik Abdullah will be serving his eclectic North African inspired dishes made with fresh Northwestern ingredients on the lawn, while bands like New Triumph, Peace & Red Velvet, and the Mockingbirds light up the stage with hip-hop afro-caribbean beats, and DJ Toya B keeps the crowd lively throughout the evening.

Black & Tan Hall will be open for breakfast during the week, brunch on the weekends, and dinner with select music, theatre, film, and dance events. We are also available for private rentals, and co-producing opportunities. We are “the people’s” establishment for diversity, community, creativity, and simply a good time!

– Black & Tan Hall

Lion’s Main Art Collective is a Seattle-based community of queer and trans artists that showcases innovative interdisciplinary art. Participating artists are excited to present From the Foundation, an installation created from fabric and wood exploring private and public experiences of home. Combining screen printing, photography, painting, text, and zines, this project is takes a cumulative approach by gathering images and reflections from individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. Trinkets, pictures, recipes, and stories are screen printed on the walls entwining personal experiences into a communal web.

Lion’s Main is excited to partner with SAM and bring together communities through visibility and engagement. Park goers are invited to share their own stories and reflections. What does home feel/look/taste like? What do you keep from past homes? What memories and sensations do you associate with it? Visitors are invited to write their experiences on fabric which will be sewn together to create a “ceiling.”

Participating Lion’s Main artists

Sofya Belinskaya, a Ukrainian-born visual artist, creates works on paper that oscillate between dreams and reality. She is compelled by the void, magical realism, and emotive narratives. She is a teaching artist and organizer based in Seattle.

Jax Braun is a poet/writer, biologist, crafter, and performance artist. Their works are informed through the structure of biological worlds and dwell on interpreting personal histories and experiences.

KEM_C is a Seattle-based printmaker/tapemaker/clubscum, specializing in etchings, screenprints, & VHS tapes. Ask her about a cozier alternative to safe/r spaces.

Sequoia Day is a Seattle-raised queer arts organizer, photographer, painter, and full spectrum doula. They are drawn to the soft places that exist in people and home. Their work often touches on care, debris, and maintenance in the home space, and what spills forth from the places we build and inhabit.

Emma Kates-Shaw is a fiber/found object/tattoo/paint/pen/pencil worker, fascinated by light, time, space, and the beauty of the early early morning.

Markel Uriu is an interdisciplinary artist in Seattle. Her work explores the quiet intimacy of inner worlds, feminine labor, impermanence, and the unseen. Drawing from mythology and rituals, she explores these concepts through ephemeral botanical narratives and two-dimensional work.

Established in 2013, Lion’s Main Art Collective is a non-profit organization curating multidisciplinary events and festivals, including Transience at King Street Station (2016), QTONE Shorts in collaboration with TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival (2016), and Othello Quartz Festival at John C. Little Park (2016). They have received funding from the Office of Arts & Culture and the Pride Foundation. Past partnerships include Henry Art Gallery, Gender Justice League, Gay City, and Three Dollar Bill Cinema.

– Sofya Belinskaya

Photo: Robert Wade. Photo: Tarik Abdullah.
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Support Art for All: Vote Yes for Proposition 1–Access for All

Proposition 1–Access for All is on the August ballot and it could have big implications for SAM. If you’re just becoming familiar with what Access for All is, here’s the proposition in a nut shell: If approved by voters, the measure will provide increased funding for arts, science, and heritage organizations in our communities—expanding access to arts and music in our public schools, and to diverse cultural experiences throughout King County. You can find more in-depth information on the Access for All website.

In line with our mission to connect people with art, Access for All funding for SAM will help support educational programming and museum visits for school children from around the county. It would also allow us to offer free or reduced-cost museum admission for more lower-income families and seniors.

With Access for All funding, SAM could

  • Provide more free admission opportunities for all King County residents
  • Increase the number of free and reduced-cost educational programs
  • Make all museum tours free for King County public schools, students, and educators
  • Greatly expand bus subsidies for King County public schools visiting SAM
  • Advance the museum’s equity initiatives, including expansion of its work with under-resourced communities
  • Amplify SAM’s impact beyond its walls through increased partnerships and collaborations with other King County cultural organizations

The deadline to vote is August 1 and you should get your ballot in the mail on July 12.  Please consider voting yes for Access for All.  But don’t take it from us—our community partners feel strongly about Prop. 1–Access for All passing as well and below you can hear from two of them.

“When we began our partnership with SAM over four years ago, we were responding to the families in our schools who had shared their interest in the arts. Over the years, parent voices and staff and student engagement has helped increase the value of the arts in our school community. Enrichment opportunities, such as the arts, has helped to highlight the artistic strengths and perspectives of our students.”

– Rebekah Kim, Elementary Principal

“Our staff, many of whom had never been to the Seattle Art Museum, witnessed the empowerment and beauty of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic in 2016 and, perhaps for the first time, experienced the importance of sharing this opportunity of art viewing with our students. SAM made it possible for our students to attend the Kehinde Wiley exhibition and the students stood in silence—in awe—at identifying with Wiley’s visions of hope. In 2017 this connection was deepened even further with Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. Every student in our school experienced the exhibition at Seattle Art Museum. The art of Jacob Lawrence gave many of our students a deep connection to their own stories, their own migrations, and their own way to create the next panel in the Great Migration story. As a long time educator, I am privy to what some call the opportunity gap but I prefer the term of privilege gap. In our wonderful city of creative dreamers, thinkers, and doers, arts education has long been used as a golden carrot rewarded to those with access. Students receiving education in what is referred to as lower performing schools have experienced a severe lack of opportunities to even the basic right of an imagination. Without fostering possibilities through imagination, how can we even begin to address equity issues? Seattle should be leading the way for all our students to see themselves as the next generation of creative dreamers, thinkers, and doers. Creating opportunities for hope is core to my mission as an arts educator. This is an impossible task without the help and support of our community partners and all our students deserve equal access to dreaming of creating their own realities.”

– Julie Trout, Teacher, Seattle Schools

And if hearing from the teachers and principals who value SAM as a crucial resource for arts education isn’t enough to make you want to vote yes, here’s Bill Nye The Science Guy for Prop. 1–Access for All!

Tell us what SAM means to you and your community and how Prop. 1–Access for All could positively impact the future of access to arts in the comments!

Photo: Jen Au
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A Touch of Class: More Films of Cary Grant

Once again our summer series celebrates Cary Grant, witty, handsome, elegant gentleman, and superb actor. Comedy, romance, action, suspense—Grant handles it all with incomparable grace and a wry grin.

July 13: Mr. Lucky (H.C. Potter, 1943)
Archie Leach of Bristol, England, rose from his humble, impoverished origins to become Cary Grant of Hollywood, “the man from dream city.” In Mr. Lucky, Joe Aden’s (Grant) life follows a similar arc, rising from lower-class British obscurity to stellar American success—but on the shady side of the law. World War II is raging, but Joe has more immediate concerns: he needs more money to run his floating gambling casino, so he steals another man’s identity to avoid the draft and launches a fail-proof scheme. He’ll charm War Relief society ladies, including delectable Laraine Day and her crew of elders, into letting him run a gambling operation at their charity ball. But Joe’s more than met his match as the women put him to work knitting with needles and yarn in a downtown window, where men walking by on the street can see him. With Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper, Paul Stewart. In 35mm, 100 min.

The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer

The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer (1947)

July 20: The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer (Irving Reis, 1947)
This is the first film to make Grant’s capacity for bedazzlement its subject. When visiting artist Dick (Grant) lectures her high school class, student Susan (seventeen-year-old Shirley Temple) envisions him as a knight in shining armor. Dick wants no part of her dream, but after he’s found in a compromising position by a judge, Susan’s older sister Margaret (Myrna Loy), he’s sentenced to squire Susan about until her crush subsides. Grant is marvelously silly as he dresses cool, talks jive, and competes in a three-legged race at a teen picnic. Is Susan still feverish? Of course, and now solemn sister Margaret is getting weak kneed. With Rudy Vallee. In 35mm, 95 min.

I was a Male War Bride (1949)

July 27: I Was a Male War Bride (Howard Hawks, 1949)
In his roles Grant could suffer frustrations and humiliations hilariously, and a spirited, independent-minded Howard Hawks woman like Air Corps officer Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan) can dish them out. During World War II in occupied Germany, Catherine and French officer Henri Rochard (Grant) find each other obnoxious, presumptuous, even dangerous—so of course they fall in love and marry. But the much-desired consummation of their marriage, and their entry into the United States, must wait for Grant to put on a dress and a wig and convince the world that he’s a woman. With Marion Marshall, Randy Stewart. Digital restoration, 105 min.

August 3: People Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1951)
Powered by Mankiewicz’s wise, witty, literate script and one of Grant’s best performances, People Will Talk celebrates non-conforming, quirky individuals who put their provocative ideas into practice. Plus, it’s a romantic comedy! Grant is a non-traditional medical professor who believes that emotions effect physical health, whose best friends are a convicted murderer (Findlay Currie) and an atomic physicist (Walter Slezak) who plays with toy trains. And he thinks maybe he should marry one of his students, a suicidal pregnant woman (Jeanne Crain) who has no partner. All this is just too much for a sour, spiteful academic (Hume Cronyn) who launches an investigation of easygoing Professor Grant. With Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch). In 35mm, 109 min.

August 10: Monkey Business (Howard Hawks, 1952)
In this comic masterpiece, director Hawks and screenwriters Ben Hecht, I.A.L. Diamond, and Charles Lederer take America’s obsession with remaining youthful to delightfully absurd extremes. The marriage of chemist Cary Grant to physicist Ginger Rogers is a dismal, rocky affair of boredom and smoldering resentments. When Grant, with the help of a laboratory chimpanzee, develops a rejuvenation drug and samples it, he suddenly gets a crew cut and a sports car and flirts with his secretary (Marilyn Monroe). Rogers gets her own turn at being an adolescent again, with the dangerously unruly anarchy of childhood soon to follow. In the wacky way of screwball comedy, maybe indulging your inner savage is a sign of true love. With Charles Coburn and George Winslow, famous in the 1950s for his “foghorn voice.” In 35mm, 97 min.

To Catch a Thief (1959)

To Catch a Thief (1955)

August 17: To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
This Hitchcock jewel sparkles with the glamor of Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and the French Riviera, and the allure of ill-gotten gains. Grant, a retired high society jewel thief called “The Cat,” is suspected when priceless trinkets start disappearing all around Cannes. The gendarmes want to catch him in the act, while Grant wants to prove his innocence by nabbing the real culprit. Prime targets for plucking are a wealthy American heiress (Jesse Royce Landis) and her daughter (Grace Kelly), so Grant stays close to them, hoping the thief will make a move. Kelly appears to be a remote ice princess, but inside she gets an erotic thrill from the idea that Grant might want to steal from her. Kelly and Grant’s coy approach to seduction is a delight, as when Kelly unpacks a chicken lunch and says, “Would you like a leg or a breast?,”  striking Grant speechless. With Brigitte Auber and John Williams. In 35mm, 97 min.

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Creating the Unseen Land of the Olympic Sculpture Park

The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s latest book installation, to coincide with the exhibition, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, introduces a work that recently came into the library’s artists’ books collection. This illustrated book, with original pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors, was created by Seattle author, illustrator, zine creator, and book artist Jessixa Bagley. Bagley is best known for her award-winning children’s picture books: Boats for Papa (2015) and Before I Leave (2016). Her latest book, Laundry Day, was just published by Roaring Book Press in February 2017.

The work is the first in our collection to be born out of a Seattle Art Museum program. The Land of Unseen is a culminating storybook inspired by a collaborative process with visitors to SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The “Summer at SAM” program was entitled “Build a World with Jessixa Bagley” and took place over several weekends in August 2016. Jessixa invited participants to help her “create the unseen imaginative world of the Olympic Sculpture Park and give voice to all the creatures and animals that live within it.” Each week, visitors participated in interactive, open studio sessions that explored a different aspect of Bagley’s creative process. These sessions included plot development on vintage typewriters supplied by Carriage Return, character advancement through collage, and landscape mapping with watercolor and mixed media.

To construct this unseen land, the first group of park visitors were given prompts and encouraged to use typewriters to create stories about characters that live in the Olympic Sculpture Park. Next, Bagley had a different group of visitors develop those characters by creating collages based on the writings of the first group or from free-form ideas. One participant imagined an otter wearing a hat participating in plein-air painting, creating a colorful landscape. Another imagined a crow strumming a banjo surrounded by hats reminiscent of National Park Service ranger hats, in a background of rich organic textures of yellow, green, and blue. The final group of visitors was asked to create Mad Libs–style stories based on the collages, and ultimately a map of this hidden world began to take shape. From there, the book was born.

Bagley’s normal practice is to create her work alone indoors, but for this experience she really enjoyed creating work on-site at the Olympic Sculpture Park, being outdoors and working with so many visitors. This was the first time she did this type of collaboration with a group of strangers, and she found that the experience offered a very different type of inspiration.

The Seattle Art Museum is celebrating the Olympic Sculpture Park’s 10th anniversary this year. In addition to considering how the park has changed since its opening, it’s also rewarding to reflect on the many thoughtful, creative projects like this that have been inspired by it.

–Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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Community Gallery: Early Masters

As the founder of Early Masters, a Seattle-based art school, I’m always searching for ways to connect children to art history and get them truly excited about artists, artwork, and the museums in which artworks reside. Since 2011, a highlight of our programming has been our community partnership with SAM and our student exhibitions in Seattle Art Museum’s Community Corridor Art Gallery.

For several months, our young artists (ages 7–15) prepare for their opening at SAM through visual presentations, music, conversation, and of course painting. They become familiar with artists through studying their technique and style, what inspired them, and what their world was like.

Our seventh student show, currently hanging, is inspired by SAM’s exhibition, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection. Our budding artists never seem to tire of Monet and his magical home at Giverny or Cézanne and his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire, and they created over 200 paintings inspired by the art in the exhibition. Students loved interpreting works of artists such as Manet and Seurat and often found some techniques more mysterious than others. Comments such as, “I’m getting cross-eyed, how did Seurat do it?” or “I could do dots all day!” were often heard (along with a lot of laughter) around the studio. I’m always amazed at the fearlessness of our young students, and how a blank canvas never seems daunting. In fact, it’s always a welcome challenge.

Our students were thrilled at the chance to examine the paintings in Seeing Nature after having studied them for months. They were surprised by the actual size of the works, the colors, or the thickness of the paint on the original works of art. One thing is for sure, they all feel a sense of ownership and connection to the paintings they studied. They will never forget Klimt’s Birch Trees, or Monet’s Waterlilies, and they certainly won’t forget having their own artwork on display at SAM.

Being part of the Community Corridor Art Gallery is an incredible experience—not just for our young artists, but for the families and friends who come see the artwork and experience the pride of having the work celebrated at SAM.

– Shelley Thomas, Founder, Early Masters

 The Early Masters Student Exhibition is on view through March 26, 2017 in the Community Corridor Art Gallery. Stop by to see work by these young artists for free through Sunday!

Photos: Courtesy of Early Masters
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Film/Life: Family Circle

Family Circle: The Films of Yasujiro Ozu

The British Film Institute calls Yasujiro Ozu “one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, in any medium or any country.” Critic David Thomson says that “the Western moviegoer won’t be able to resist Ozu, for he is a treasury of humane intelligence and feeling.”

He was also an unruly rascal. Born in Tokyo (1903) to a stern merchant father and a pampering mother, at age 10 he was sent to school at his ancestral hometown. Instead of attending classes, he earned a reputation for drinking and worshipping Hollywood actresses. Ozu developed a lifelong attitude of not submitting to authority unless it would help him do what he wanted to do. Returning to Tokyo, Ozu, against his father’s wishes, became a filmmaker as a young man. In nine years he made 34 silent films, mostly mischievous “nonsense” comedies, before discovering his grand themes and expressing them in transcendent beauty.

Ozu lived in a conformist society, but he embodied the Zen spirit of harmonizing with nature and human nature, knowing that no dogmatic rules can explain the exquisite mystery of life. Being patient and restrained were of value, but so were impulsive, intuitive gestures. Ozu’s impeccable framing reflects the Zen aesthetic of seemingly “empty” spaces being vibrant with feeling and eternal presence. One of Ozu’s artistic signatures is the unique rhythm with which his images flow on the screen. In the editing process he would stand behind his editor and tap him on the shoulder when it “felt right” to cut to the next shot.

Mar 23: The Only Son (1936)
Among his many talents, Ozu creates characters who are unique human beings. His first talking film focuses on an impoverished provincial mother raising her son alone. She works hard and is able to send him to college in Tokyo. Hearing nothing from him for a long time, she uses up her savings to visit him. She’s surprised to find him married, with a child. He tries to appear prosperous, borrowing money to entertain his mother, but secretly he’s very poor and disillusioned with himself and life. Perhaps in silences and things unsaid, his mother can still teach him a valuable lesson. 87 min.

Mar 30: Late Spring (1949)
One of the films that Ozu himself most cherished, Late Spring shows the director further developing his unique ability to portray ordinary events in very moving ways. Ozu’s favorite actors, Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, play a widowed Kamakura father and his grown-up daughter, who’s past the usual marrying age. She’s happy following the childhood pattern of living with her father, but when she hears that he’s thinking of taking a new wife, she begins to ponder her future. The father feels that it’s wise to flow with the natural course of time, not fight against it, but he has a surprising way of showing it. Ozu’s artistry makes us sense something momentous in mundane reality, and he begins each film with a short sequence of poetically simple “placing shots” that introduce the story: A railway station, the sound of a railway bell; a closer view, the steps, the daisies; a temple room; inside, the tea ceremony, the story begins. 108 min.

Apr 6: Early Summer (1951)
Ozu probably drank more than any major film director, since he saw alcohol as a source of artistic inspiration. Beginning with Late Spring, he wrote every film with his lifelong friend Kogo Noda. They would hole up in a country inn, Ozu would cook hamburgers and they would drink a lot of sake. “If the number of cups you drink be small, there can be no masterpiece.” Of Early Summer, Ozu said, “I wanted to show a life cycle, to depict mutability and to leave the audience with a poignant aftertaste.” Six members of three generations live in a Kamakura household, and five of them want Noriko (Setsuko Hara) to get married. They keep parading eligible suitors past her, but she’s not interested. In postwar Japan young people are welcoming a Western influence of self-determination, and Noriko sees marriage as emotional and social serfdom. The nature of happiness is elusive in this family. A man says, “We have it better than most; we shouldn’t want too much or there’s no end to it.” But his wife objects, “We were really happy.” With the eloquence of a seasoned Ozu character, the man responds, “Mmmm.” 135 min.

Tokyo Story (1953)

April 13: Tokyo Story (1953)
Ozu’s tender and perceptive feeling for human shortcomings and generosity is fully realized in this internationally celebrated masterpiece. The director’s focus is the decentralization of a family. The elderly mother and father (Chieko Higashiyama and Chishu Ryu), who live in a southern province, come to Tokyo to visit their two married children, a doctor and a beautician. Too engrossed in their own lives to entertain their parents, they ship them off to a noisy resort for young people. Weary of this, the old couple returns to Tokyo, where the widow (Setsuko Hara) of their soldier son is the one who shows them warmth and kindness. 134 min.

April 20: Early Spring (1956)
This film further shows Ozu’s sensitivity to Japan’s changing postwar society. Young adults are defining life for themselves, rather than through blood ties to family and traditional codes of behavior. Full of high hopes, a Tokyo man lands a coveted white-collar office job, works hard, and marries a sweet woman. But the dreary routines of life become boring, and he starts spending more time with friends and the office flirt, while his wife sits at home fanning herself. Is the big city a corrupting influence? Would accepting a job in the country allow the couple to rediscover the good in each other? 108 min.

April 27: Equinox Flower (1958)
Ozu’s first color film is one of his most beautiful and affectionate. Two rebellious teenage girls make a solidarity pact to protect themselves from the well-intentioned marriage schemes of their traditional parents. One father (Shin Saburi) advises other people’s children to find their own way in life, but then he learns that his own daughter (Ineko Arima) has chosen a man without consulting him. It is said that Ozu, like Jane Austen, perceives the cosmic in the domestic, and his cinematic cut from a satisfied mother sitting in her favorite chair to a brightly fluttering washing line has been called “a moment of truly exquisite transcendence.” 118 min.

May 4: Good Morning (1959)
In his life and art Ozu has been a wise, charming rebel, and here he identifies with two stubborn boys. They pester their father (Chishu Ryu) to buy them a TV set, and when he tells them to shut up they vow to never say another word to him, not even “Good morning.” As if to illustrate chaos theory, the boys’ silence has an often funny, sometimes serious, effect on their entire suburban community. 97 min.

Late Autumn (1960)

May 11: Late Autumn (1960)
An independent-minded marriage-age young woman (Yoko Tsukasa) enjoys living with her gracious widowed mother (Setsuko Hara) and socializing with her lively young friends. Tsukasa has had opportunities to marry, but she’s just not interested. Hara wants her daughter to move forward into adult life so she enlists the matchmaking help of her late husband’s businessmen friends (Shin Saburi, Ryuji Kita, Nobuo Nakamura). Are these three well-intentioned, befuddled drinking buddies up to the task? Setsuko Hara, known as “the Japanese Garbo,” was Ozu’s favorite actress. Ozu, who knows that feelings can’t be fully expressed in words, shows us that nothing is more eloquent than Hara’s half-smile. 115 min.

May 18: An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
Ozu made six films with actress Setsuko Hara and twenty-two with Chishu Ryu, his favorite actor. The two men worked and aged together over three decades. Their first film was 1928’s The Dreams of Youth, their last (and Ozu’s final film) was this wry, gentle chronicle of the autumn of life. An aging, widowed company auditor (Ryu) likes to drink with his similarly aged male friends. One of them talks about how they’re in the stage of their life when most fathers give up their beloved daughters in marriage, and Ryu starts to get ideas. For all his wisdom about intergenerational family relationships, Ozu never married and had children. His own dear mother died during the making of this film, and Ozu died a year later. Ozu has been called a Zen master of cinema, calmly watching the seasons, the storms of life and death come and go, noticing and awakening to the brightness of the day. He shows us the world of Buddhism’s 10,000 things, the trees, the people, the traffic jams. He knows that these seemingly separate things are individual manifestations of an underlying oneness, a wholeness that encompasses all. In a Zen paradox, this everything is also the void.  Ozu’s tombstone bears a single mark: the Japanese character for “nothingness.”

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

All films will be shown in Japanese with English subtitles in 35 mm. Get your series pass to Family Circle: The Films of Yasujiro Ozu, on sale now.

Photos: © New Yorker Films/Photofest.
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Migration Stories: Carina A. del Rosario

Becoming American

By Carina A. del Rosario

Presented at Seattle Art Museum’s Migration Stories Program, February 2, 2017 on the occasion of Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. Everyone is invited to come share their personal stories of immigration, migration, displacement, and community and how their perspectives relate to the works on view in The Migration Series during an Open Mic event on March 9 at Seattle Art Museum. And don’t miss the chance to hear from other local legends, such as Carina A. del Rosario, as they share their experiences with us in The Migration Series gallery. 

I aced my citizenship test and interview. The Immigration Officer asked me if I’d like to get sworn in at the next monthly group ceremony, or wait until the big one at Seattle Center on the Fourth of July. I opted for the soonest one. I didn’t need all that hoo-ha. It was 1994 and by that point, I had lived in the US for 19 years. I was already American. This swearing-in thing was just a formality.

On the designated day, I showed up at the Immigration and Naturalization Services building on the edge of the International District alone. I didn’t invite my partner. I didn’t dress up. No red, white, or blue anywhere on me. That just would have been too Fobby.

Like I said, I’d been here nearly two decades already, so I was thoroughly assimilated.

My lessons started soon after I arrived. I was six years old, fresh off the boat, and it was the start of the school year at my new school. Everyone started talking about Halloween and costumes. What was that? I was too shy to ask anyone. As soon as my mom came home from work, I rushed to her in a panic.

“It’s Halloween! I need a costume! Everyone is supposed to dress up!!!”

My mom was raising my brother, my sister, and me on her own while my dad continued to work in the Philippines. He didn’t have a work visa here, so we only got to see him twice a year until I was in sixth grade.

“What’s this? What costume?”

“I don’t know! I just need one! For Friday!”

“Okay, sweetheart. I’ll see what I can do.”

The next day after work, she went grocery shopping and there, in the section right by the registers, were racks lined with tiny plastic costumes. She picked one up that looked like it was for a girl. It was red, white, and blue. It was Raggedy Ann.

Friday came and I boarded the bus to school with my costume ready in my backpack. I got to the edge of the schoolyard and donned the plastic checked dress, snapping the one button on the back of my chubby neck.

I slipped on the white freckled face, rimmed with painted red locks, over my own. The plastic stuck to my face every time I took a breath. It made my cheeks clammy. I peeked through the eyeholes and quickly realized this was all wrong.

My classmates pranced around the schoolyard with these fantastic costumes of superheroes, cartoon characters, princesses. They looked so confident in their cool costumes.

I hid my shame behind that hideous mask, sucking in hot plastic air.

Second grade rolled around. We sat in a circle for read-aloud time. My turn came and I read: “THomas went to the train yard.”

Snickers rippled around the circle.

Ms. Murray said, “It’s ‘Thomas.’”

My cheeks flamed. I looked hard at the letters.

“But it’s ‘t-h.’”

“Yes, but it’s still pronounced ‘Thomas.’”

In my head, I rattled off all the “t-h” words I knew: think, thought, that, this, the, thou.

Ms. Murray cut off my silent argument. “The ‘h’ is silent. That’s just the way it is.”

Well that’s just stupid, I thought. I vowed to master English better than anybody. I read voraciously. I soaked in English from the TV. I spoke only English at home.

During all those grade school years, the only time that I didn’t try to hide my Filipina immigrant self was when my dad was in town. We’d go to the Redondo Beach Pier—far, far away from school. We’d stroll down the boardwalk, toting our rice cooker and condiments. Dad would go to the fishmongers and have them steam up a dozen crab and pounds of succulent shrimp. We spread newspapers all over the concrete picnic tables. We’d pound the crab shells with mortar and pistil, patiently claw all the meat out. I didn’t care about the strangers at the other tables, gawking at us. I pinched rice and crab into my finger tips. I dipped into garlic vinegar and pushed that steaming, tasty goodness into my mouth. I licked every finger clean.

But back at school, I ate gummy Wonder-bread sandwiches. Bologna and mayonnaise, or peanut butter and jelly. It was back to the grind of fitting in. By the time I was in high school, my English was perfect. Not a trace of accent. Grammatically correct—always—but peppered with enough California slang to make sure I didn’t stand out as an outsider. Sometimes I’d even slip in a little Valley Girl. Like many Filipinos, I became a mimic. It’s how we survive.

It wasn’t until college that I started seeing other possibilities. It wasn’t until then—until after 12 years of American education—that I first saw the word Filipino in a school textbook. It was in an Ethnic Studies class, of course. I learned about how Filipinos led strikes in California to establish the United Farm Workers. I read about how other Filipinos worked alongside Mexicans, Blacks, Native Americans, other Asian Americans, marched along with them. I learned how these different groups of people of color helped to build and shape this country, pushing it to live up to its promises of equality and freedom.

I was determined to carry on with the pushing. How much more American could that be?

After college, I drove up I-5 and parked in Seattle in 1992. I worked for the International Examiner as a reporter and editor. I covered all kinds of stories affecting the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, but I really sunk my teeth into covering politics. I reported on President Clinton’s plans to reform welfare and immigration program budgets. He wanted to cut immigrants and refugees off Medicaid, food stamps and supplemental security income. Never mind that we contributed to this country with the taxes we paid into those very programs. Congress approved.

I decided to become a citizen because I wanted the power to vote people into office who weren’t going to screw us over, who weren’t just going to tell me, “We’ve got to cut the budget somehow. That’s just the way it is.”

When the day arrived for my swearing in ceremony, I rolled into the INS building in a loose shirt and shorts—looking like an average American Generation X-er in the 90s. I had the cynical attitude of one too. As the immigration judge addressed the 300 people in the packed waiting area, I had a running commentary going in my head.

“Our country is greater because of immigrants like you.”

Yeah, and we still get yelled at to go back to where we came from.

“America has a long history of welcoming the tired, the poor, the huddled masses…”

Yeah, and you take all our work, our talent and tax dollars, but if we fall on hard times, you turn your backs on us.

My back-talk was interrupted by a loud sniffle beside me. It came from a Southeast Asian man, probably Vietnamese. Tears were trickling down his face, dripping onto the lapels of his suit. I looked passed him and I saw another woman, perhaps Eastern European, also looking somber in her frilly white dress, a red ribbon in her hair.

I looked around some more. All around me, perched on plastic seats, were people dressed up like they were going to church. There was a lot of red and white, and blue and white, and even all three colors. People of all shades gripped the hands of loved ones beside them, or clutched one of the little American flags volunteers distributed at the door. I saw more people crying silently and others who were beaming earnestly.

Their unfettered emotions silenced the snide comments in my head. Instead, I began to wonder about all the things these new Americans went through to get here: the dictatorships and persecution they fled, the famines and other natural disasters. Maybe some of them were escaping family demons and chasing brighter opportunities. I thought of those who came before us, who faced fire hoses and billy clubs, marched for miles, risked their lives and sometimes lost them, just so we could stand here and claim our right to vote.

When it was time, I stood up with all of them. We raised our right hands and in one loud chorus, solemnly vowed to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign—and domestic.

It’s been 23 years since that day. I’ve cast my ballot every single year. Sometimes, I still get a little cynical. But the cynicism is pushed aside by the images that come across my screen or appear in my memory—pictures of people who have passionately fought for me to be here. To be who I am, love who I love. To be granted due process and equal protection under the law.

It’s my turn to continue The Struggle, to make room for all of us yearning to be free.

THIS is just the way it is.

 

Carina del Rosario was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States as a young girl. She uses photography, digital media and visual art to explore the desire for community. She earned her BA in Communication from Santa Clara University in 1991. She has studied photography with Magnum Photographer Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, Raul Touzon, and Eddie Soloway. As a teaching artist she collaborates with non-profit organizations and educational institutions to help illustrate issues such as poverty, education, health, and civil rights. She is founder of the International District Engaged in Arts (IDEA) Odyssey, a collective that promotes cultural diversity, community development, and economic prosperity in Seattle’s International District/Chinatown neighborhood through visual arts.

Image: The Migration Series, Panel 1: During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans., 1940–41, Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917–2000, casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in., Acquired 1942, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., © 2016 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
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Film/Life: Thelma Schoonmaker Presents

In 1989, at Seattle’s Burke Museum, I toured an exhibition of 19th-century Native American artifacts with the legendary British film director Michael Powell (1905-90) and his wife, Thelma Schoonmaker, who has received three Oscars for editing all of Martin Scorsese’s films since 1980. Michael’s eyesight being somewhat dimmed, Thelma read a text panel of Chief Seattle’s words aloud: “Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, great mountains and sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely-hearted living, and often return to visit, guide and comfort them.” Michael considered this for a moment, then looked at me with his intensely blue, far-seeing eyes: “That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?”

 Young Powell was a “dreamy boy” of the English countryside, who grew up attuned to the mystical murmurings of nature and the invisible forces and connections that draw us to certain places and people, and that make us ponder the deep questions of life and death. Powell’s sense of the mythic in everyday reality, his ravishing pictorial vision, wild imagination, and questing heart empowered him to conjure true cinematic magic. King Arthur’s Merlin, Shakespeare’s Prospero, and Aladdin would rightly call him brother.

The Red Shoes (1948)

Almost every film Powell made with his writing partner, Emeric Pressburger, breathes the rarified air of fairytale or fable, even when set in post-World War II London. The Red Shoes, their most famous film, is based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a girl whose wish to dance at a grand ball in red shoes is granted. But the shoes are possessed by dark sorcery, and though the girl is tired at evening’s end and wants to go home, the shoes sweep her on and on, never stopping. The film sweeps us into the world of passionate young people who live to dance. It’s a rainy afternoon, everyone crowds into a threadbare back street theater, and someone turns on a record player. Vicky Paige (Moira Shearer, another of Powell’s red heads) takes the stage and, melded with the music, she twirls and twirls. As her body whirls around to a frontal position, Powell smites us with what The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane calls “the most stunning close-up in the history of cinema, a sudden bright ecstacy that verges on the demonic.”  This transcendent moment and Vicky’s religious devotion to her art pierce the chilly heart of impresario Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), who woos her into joining his celebrated European troupe.

Vicky embraces the gritty, punishing work necessary to make her body defy gravity with perfect grace, and she bonds with the colorful characters in Lermontov’s company. She’s especially fond of young composer Julian Kraster (Marius Goring), and she becomes an overnight star performing his The Red Shoes Ballet. Director Powell’s wizardry transports us from the dance-theater stage to an aesthetic-emotional realm of music, dance, Technicolor expressionism, and surreal design that embodies Christian Andersen’s fairy tale and the growing tension between Lermontov, Vicky, and Julian, for Vicky and Julian have fallen in love. Can “the comforts of human love” be enough for a woman who can soar like a goddess? Is being wedded to one’s art a matter of life and death? Over the years The Red Shoes has inspired countless people to become dancers, from classical to modern and avant garde.

As a New York youth, Martin Scorsese felt that The Red Shoes was the most powerful movie he had ever seen. Aside from the sheer joy of watching Powell and Pressburger’s films, Scorsese learned from them as he ventured into filmmaking. Powell always began a project with a sharp personal vision, got that vision onto the screen, and fought any meddling bean counters to keep it there. Years after Powell’s daring and disturbing film Peeping Tom ended his British career, Scorsese welcomed him (“my inspiration”) to his New York film family and was instrumental in bringing Powell’s work the critical and audience appreciation it deserved. Powell gave Scorsese good advice (“Raging Bull should be in black and white”), and fell in love with Scorsese’s new editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, who won her first Oscar for Raging Bull.

The King of Comedy (1983)

Actor Robert de Niro, who stunned the world with his searing performances in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, brought Scorsese his next project, The King of Comedy. While Powell and Schoonmaker’s love blossomed, Scorsese was in a “Poor Me” mood: his marriage to Isabella Rossellini was crumbling and he felt lonely and dejected. The King of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) doesn’t have the capacity for low spirits. He’s frantically, exuberantly ambitious in a one-track direction, to perform a ten-minute stand-up comedy spot on the TV show of his idol Jerry Langford (a wonderfully subdued Jerry Lewis). Rupert’s convinced that he’s bubbling over with talent, though, down in his basement, the cardboard figures of celebrities like Liza Minnelli don’t applaud when he delivers his act.

One day Rupert worms his way into Langford’s limousine and raves about his own dynamite talent. Langford invites him to a follow-up meeting, but it’s just a way of brushing him off. Scorsese has said that “the amount of rejection in the film is horrifying; there are scenes I almost can’t watch.” Horrifying, true, but also hilarious. Cutting rebuffs that would embarrass and shame a less obsessive person just spur Rupert on: he keeps bouncing back and reframing harsh setbacks as the challenging stepping stones of his creative mission. When all else fails, Rupert and his fellow Langford-worshipper Masha (the fierce comic Sandra Bernhard) kidnap Langford, with hopes of getting Rupert his TV gig. The extreme social chaos that Rupert and Masha perpetrate is nicely balanced by Langford’s quiet nobility as he copes with these two wild, absurd grown-up kids. Researchers say that we laugh with recognition when we experience familiar, perhaps endearing human foibles and shortcomings. But we also laugh nervously, when behavior is unexpectedly intense, and there’s danger in the air. Marlon Brando laughed so much at The King of Comedy that he hosted Scorsese and De Niro at his private Tahitian island.

Born in the British Isles, Michael Powell loved islands and waterways and, as a man in his eighties, saw that his life was a river flowing ever onward until “there will be nothing left for me but the open sea.” His spirit lives on in his wondrous, thoughtful, thrilling art, and in the hearts of Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese. Twenty-eight years after Michael and Thelma’s 1989 visit, Thelma will join us at the Seattle Art Museum to present Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes on Monday, March 6 and Scorsese’s The King of Comedy on March 7. She’ll introduce the films, answer audience questions and speak of her life in movies.

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Eagle-Lion/Photofest, © Eagle-Lion Films. 20th Century Fox. Eagle-Lion Films, Inc./Photofest, Photographer: George Cannon, 20th Century Fox/Photofest, © 20th Century Fox.
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