With her current installation at SAM, the 2017 Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize winner, Sondra Perry asks, “What happens if we go to a place that we want to create as a habitable place for full life on earth but we don’t know what life looks like there?” Combining 3D rendering, terraforming, family, and the desire to bring people together inside the gallery, Perry’s work gives a machine its voice while creating a cosmic commingling of minds. See Eclogue for [in]HABITABILITY at SAM before it closes July 8!
At the center of Project 42: Jono Vaughan stands an elaborate dress with a 25-foot-long train hanging down from the ceiling. Created for the 2017 Betty Bowen Award winner installation at SAM, it is one of artist Jono Vaughan’s most ambitious pieces in the series that will eventually include 42 garments memorializing murdered trans individuals.
Seattle-based artist Jono Vaughan made this particular garment in collaboration with Lesley Dill in memory of Lorena Escalera Xtravaganza. Created using a vintage victorian form for a bustle, the train is covered in a reorganized poem by Emily Dickinson. Lesley Dill selected “The Soul Has Bandaged Moments” and stenciled it by hand as she rearranged the text and broke stanzas.
“Lesley was an inspiration to me and to Project 42,” says Jono Vaughan. “As a docent at the the Orlando Museum of Art I toured a dress of Lesley’s and it left a big impact on me. As a printer, it’s my job to replicate the hand of the artist who intentionally hand-stenciled the text, rather than digitally reproducing it.” Look closely and you’ll see the pen strokes of Lesley Dill’s process. What you won’t see when you visit, is the embroidery on the interior of the garment that Jono has created just for Lorena that is meant to convey her inner life and extravagance.
Lesley Dill says that she works with Emily Dickinson’s text often because “Dickinson’s writing is the door I walked through to become an artist.” After reciting a stanza of this specific poem over the phone she continues to explain: “It’s a gothic poem and speaks of a poetic persona whose identity is haunted and exhilarated. A large part of the entire Project 42 is about the vivacity of life and bandages of the soul. I feel that Lorena and the project are deserving of intensity and multiple layers of meaning.”
Formatted on the train of the garment in the gallery the poem is difficult to read so we’re sharing it here for you.
The Soul Has Bandaged Moments
Find your faith renewed in humanity with a visit to Project 42. If you are looking for another reason to come, the garment created for Lorena Escalera Xtravaganza includes an interactive element where visitors are invited to tie fabric flowers to the train. Visit often if you hope to catch one of the unannounced performances that will take place in the galleries.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
 Emily Dickinson, “[The soul has bandaged moments]” from The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition. Copyright © 1998 by Emily Dickinson. Reprinted by permission of The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Images: Installation view of Project 42: Jono Vaughan at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
The Institute is glad to announce that their installation of lessons is on view at Seattle Art Museum. Three Empathics now oversee the production of transformative vapors and invite you to sit with them in Lessons from the Institute of Empathy in the Seattle Art Museum’s African Art galleries, to invigorate your mental clarity.
Better yet, you are also invited to step into their restorative pool and partake of a mosaic shower from above. A 10 minute power point given by a representative from the Institute, Aurelia Wallace, is also available to explain the lessons on view.
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The Empathics are back and better than ever! This mystical race of super-women will have you feeling some type of way. @sayawoolfalk’s installation “Lessons from The Institute of Empathy” is on view now in its new forever home at SAM. Come see! _ #SayaWoolfalk #Empathics #Nowonview #SeattleArtMuseum [📹 Natali Wiseman]
The Institute wants to thank everyone who sticks their necks out to facilitate their work, and suggested a poem full of empathy to honor their efforts.
– Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art
Images: Installation view Lessons from the Institute of Empathy, 2018, Seattle Art Museum, photos: Natali Wiseman
The New York Times’ Glenn Kenny reviews Sara Driver’s new documentary on the young Basquiat. Boom for Real premieres at the Seattle Art Museum on May 18 in partnership with Northwest Film Forum.
“Basquiat’s art — raw, inventive, socially engaged — continues to speak to us even as the artist himself cannot. Near the end of the movie, one of Basquiat’s friends refers to him as ‘a true investigator.’ In Ms. Driver, the artist finds a kindred spirit, a fellow investigator who pays him proper and enthralling tribute.”
Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer opened at the Denver Art Museum on Sunday; Cultured Magazine visits the artist’s studio to discuss his artistic goals and methods. Save the date: the exhibition opens at SAM on February 28, 2019.
“’It’s always been about using my personal narrative to complicate the popular notions of being queer, being gay, being Native American—any of these singular adjectives,’ says Gibson.”
The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald previews this year’s edition of the Seattle International Film Festival—and shares the colorful, analog way the massive schedule is built.
Seattle radio is beautiful this week: KEXP announces OCnotes as their new Sunday night DJ, playing soul, funk, and R&B, and KUOW launches #NewsPoet, which features PNW poets waxing about a news story.
The Station coffee shop on Beacon Hill has new digs, and in their old space across the street will be Estelita’s Library, a “justice-focused community bookstore and library” from UW professor Edwin Lindo.
“’You’ll find books on Latinx identity next to a book about Harriet Tubman, next to Karl Marx, next to a first edition John Steinbeck,’ he says, gesturing toward a packed shelf. Though some of the titles have Dewey Decimal stickers (‘They’re really hard to remove!’ he marvels), the books aren’t arranged in any particular order. Lindo hopes instead that people will make discoveries by proximity, or perhaps by suggestion from someone sitting at the next table.”
Lessons From the Institute of Empathy artist Jacolby Satterwhite has a solo show at NYC’s Gavin Brown’s Enterprise; Blessed Avenue is a “mythical place created by the fantasies of cyborgs — possibly a digital hereafter.”
Artnet on a new grad program created by LACMA and Arizona State University that allows students to pursue studies while working at the museum—its purpose is to increase diversity in museum leadership, especially curation.
“The video is full of madness and reflects what’s going on in America and around the world right now. The kids and the choir are supposed to be the happy part of that, so there are two different worlds at the same time. Multiple parts of the video are meant to catch the viewer off-guard, with people smiling and enjoying themselves before it goes dark.”
Hoping everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day on Sunday: mothers, departed mothers, in-all-but-name mothers, unjustly absent mothers.
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations
Image: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
As National Poetry Month comes to a close, if you’re not sure what to read, visit the library inside of the exhibition Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, closing May 13. While there you’ll notice a book of poetry by Morgan Parker titled There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House, 2017). It’s a recent favorite read of this particular copywriter and the cover of the first edition (now sold out) featured a Mickalene Thomas artwork. More importantly, within the pages of this smart, irreverent, and deeply personal collection of poetry is a piece inspired by Thomas, reprinted below! Morgan Parker simultaneously brings great depth to listening to Drake and immense weight to racial discrimination as she fearlessly invokes generations of social injustices within her powerful and playful prose. Parker stopped by the exhibition while visiting Seattle and shared some thoughts on Figuring History as well!
We Don’t Know When We Were Opened (Or, The Origin of the Universe)
after Mickalene Thomas
By Morgan Parker
A sip of liquor from a creek. Saturday syndicated
Good Times, bare legs, colors draped like
an afterthought. We bright enough to blind you.
Dear anyone, dear high-heel metronome, white
noise, hush us, shhhhh, hush us. We’re artisinal
crafts, rare gems, bed of leafy bush you call
us superfood. Jeweled lips, we’re rich
We’re everyone. We have ideas and vaginas,
history and clothes and a mother. Portrait-ready
American blues. Palm trees and back issues
of JET, pink lotion, gin on ice, zebras, fig lipstick.
One day we learned to migrate. One day we studied
Mamma making her face. Bright new brown, scent of Nana
and cinnamon. Shadows of husbands and vineyards,
records curated to our allure, incense, unconcern.
Champagne is how the Xanax goes down, royal blue
reigning. We’re begging anyone not to forget
we’re turned on with control. We better homes and gardens.
We real grown. We garden of soiled panties.
We low hum of satisfaction. We is is is is is is is is
touch, touch, shine, a little taste. You’re gonna
give us the love we need.
SAM: Reading We Don’t Know When We Were Opened there’s a lot of assonance that creates repetition and fragmentation that feels to me like a sonic equivalent to Mickalene’s visual fragmentation. What in Thomas’ work inspired you and this poem, formally or thematically?
Morgan Parker: I’ve always loved Mickalene’s work, for the glitter and the color and the attention and the audaciousness. Her work is a celebration, and it’s also a politically intentional decolonization of the art history canon. She builds new worlds and revels in those worlds. I wanted my poem to reflect her work and add to it, translate it in my own words.
How do you think the persona poem and the way that Mickalene Thomas casts her models as art historical figures and tropes relate? Mickalene’s figures are looking right at you and this alters their role—makes them dimensional, such as in a painting like Tamika sur une chaise longue avec Monet. Where do you think that same dimension lives persona poems?
God I love this painting. I like to think of all my first-person poems as playing with dimensionality. I’m interested in using the singular figure, or voice, to call up cultural figureheads and historical tropes. Persona poems are an extension of that—they have two first-person speakers.
What stuck with you from your visit to the exhibition? Any lingering or new thoughts?
Kerry James Marshall’s Souvenir I always makes me cry. It was also fantastic to see Robert Colescott’s work in person, as I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I love the way it engages stereotypes and recasts history so playfully and comically. In a different way than Mickalene, there’s trickery in acknowledging the audience’s gaze—that’s something I’ll be thinking over for a while.
Morgan Parker is the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé and Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night. In 2019, a third collection of poems, Magical Negro, will be published by Tin House, and a young adult novel will be published with Delacorte Press. Her debut book of nonfiction will be released in 2020 by OneWorld. Parker is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, winner of a Pushcart Prize, and a Cave Canem graduate fellow. She is the creator and host of Reparations, Live! at the Ace Hotel. With Tommy Pico, she co-curates the Poets with Attitude (PWA) reading series, and with Angel Nafis, she is The Other Black Girl Collective. She lives in Los Angeles.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
Images: Photo courtesy of Morgan Parker. Photo by Nina Dubinsky. Video: Tamika sur une chaise longue avec Monet, 2012, Mickalene Thomas, Sydney & Walda Besthoff, Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, © Mickalene Thomas. Photo courtesy of Morgan Parker.
If you haven’t yet seen Kerry James Marshall’s glittery, figurative paintings in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, maybe these 10 surprising facts about him will pique your interest!
1. He is married to Stranger than Fiction actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce.
2. A master of many mediums—Marshall has made work in collage, drawing, murals, and even comic books.
3. Marshall created Rythm Mastr in reaction to the absence of black superheroes in comics growing up. His comic book series features black superheroes with powers derived from gods in the Yoruba pantheon.
4. The first time Marshall saw an original artwork was on a field trip to LACMA in the sixth grade.
5. Black social realist painter Charles White was a mentor to Marshall who considered seeing White’s studio for the first time “a life-altering experience.”
6. Marshall considered a career in children’s book illustration.
7. Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible Man inspired Marshall to make his painting Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self.
8. Painted in 1980, two years after Marshall’s college graduation, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self was the first painting he ever made of a Black figure.
9. Marshall received the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” for exceptional merit and creative works.
10. He knew in kindergarten he wanted to be an artist after his teacher Mary Hill showed the class a scrapbook full of greeting cards, pictures, and other imagery.
Don’t miss Marshall’s work in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas. These three artists are shaped by distinctive historic events, unique in style, and united in questioning the narratives of history through Black experience. On view until Sunday May 13!
– Nina Dubinsky, Social Media Coordinator
Image: Installation view Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
In 27 short years artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has left a legacy far from the same-old same-old. Learn more about the artist’s life and career with 10 facts that might surprise you before you come see the one-work exhibition Basquiat—Untitled at the Seattle Art Museum, on view for the first time on the West Coast through August 13.
1. At the start of his meteoric rise to art stardom, Basquiat was a graffiti artist. Strategically spray painting near hot artist hubs, museums, and galleries—Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz graffitied NYC under the pseudonym “Samo©” which stood for same old sh*t.
2. With exhibitions around the globe 30 years after his death, it’s hard to believe that both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art rejected Basquiat’s work. Collectors Lenore and Herbert Schorr offered to donate Basquiats to both institutions in the 1980s but they declined.
3. Aside from painting and drawing, Basquiat was also a musician. He started the industrial sound band, Gray, and produced a hip-hop track called “Beat-Bop” featuring artist Rammellzee and rapper K-Rob. Original vinyl of this track featuring artwork by Basquiat sells for thousands of dollars and it’s named one of the most valuable hip-hop records of all time.
4. Basquiat hung out with a lot of celebrities, including pop artist Andy Warhol. Though some questioned the integrity of the friendship between this seemingly unlikely pair, Warhol and Basquiat were close friends and collaborated on a plethora of works and projects until they had a falling out.
5. Growing up in Brooklyn with a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father Basquiat was trilingual and spoke English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.
6. Bought at a whopping $110.5 million dollars by Japanese art collector Yusaku Maezawa, Basquiat’s painting Untitled broke the record for the most expensive American artwork ever auctioned.
I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece. When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible. バスキア落札しました。アートを好きになってよかった。このペインティングをはじめて見た時、心からそう思いました。みなさんにも見てもらえる機会を作れたらいいなと思っています。 #jeanmichelbasquiat #basquiat #バスキア #ありがとう @sothebys
7. For a period of time while Basquiat was homeless he was apple to support himself by dealing drugs and selling postcards and clothing with his art on it.
8. A man of many talents, Basquiat also starred in the 1980s movie Downtown 81 also known as New York Beat Movie. Due to financial reasons, the film was abandoned in the mid-80s only to be released in 2000 at the Cannes Film Festival.
9. Basquiat dated Madonna in 1982 when she was still an aspiring entertainer. In an interview Madonna said that after they broke up he asked for all the paintings he gifted her back then painted them black.
10.Blondie fans you may have seen a familiar face in the “Rapture” music video. In addition to Basquiat making a cameo in their music video, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein bought his first painting for $200.
—Nina Dubinsky, SAM Social Media Coordinator
Image: installation view Basquiat—Untitled at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
“So often Black women are made small and the idea of expanding into an exhibition that is so large and so inviting and welcoming is incredible and awe inspiring to see a reflection of myself so large in the world.” – Imani Sims, poet and Central District Forum for Art and Ideas curator
Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas is a chance to reflect on your personal history as well as art history and American history. Take a tip from our Personal Histories video series and spend some time at SAM thinking about how you connect to the work on view because of the history that impacts you. Figuring History brings together three generations of contemporary American artists, whose work challenges a Western painting tradition that underrepresents people of color. The vibrant and monumental paintings by these artists offer bold perspectives on Black culture and representation. Presented together for the first time, the figurative paintings of Colescott, Marshall, and Thomas are shaped by distinctive historic events, unique in style, and united in questioning the narratives of history through Black experience. The exhibition closes May 13, so don’t delay!
Looking for more videos related Figuring History? Check out Youtube to hear from the artists!
“Storytelling is very important in hip-hop and I feel like with [Kerry James Marshall’s] pieces that he has in this room, he’s taking the stories and interpreting it in his way and then also giving the next generation something to look at.” – Stasia Irons, rapper and KEXP DJ
“I immediately recognized what I was seeing as happening in my own neighborhood back home in Mississippi.” – Marcellus Turner, City Librarian of Seattle Public Library
Featured artworks: Tamika sur une chaise longue avec Monet, 2012, Mickalene Thomas, rhinestones, acrylic, oil, and enamel on wood panel, 108 x 144 x 2 in., Sydney & Walda Besthoff, Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, © Mickalene Thomas Memento #5, 2003, Kerry James Marshall, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, © Kerry James Marshall. School of Beauty, School of Culture, 2012, Kerry James Marshall, Birmingham Museum of Art, © Kerry James Marshall
What thoughts has Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas inspired in you? Hear from Seattle artist Benji Anderson, a featured artist in Off the Walls: After Dark at the Seattle Asian Art Museum this past September. We love sharing thoughtful community members’ writing, so please reach out if you would like to send a piece for consideration to be published on the SAM Blog!
In February, as I prepared to enter the Seattle Art Museum for the Community Celebration for Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, what seemed like endless thoughts swirled around in my mind. It was Black History month and opening weekend for the movie Black Panther— the joy and exuberance of Black culture was palpable in the air.
This was in stark contrast to just over a year earlier, when the collective anguish and discontent of Black society was reeling in the wake of the latest barrage of Black bodies murdered in the streets and broadcast in ‘real time’ for all to view. I still recall the gut-wrenching emotion of watching a Black father, murdered in his vehicle, minutes away from where my own father lived. I remember this pain so vividly because it was not the first time I’d felt it. It was not the first time the Black community watched their brothers, fathers, and sons murdered at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. It was not the first time we were dehumanized in the public theater. It was not the first time we were criminalized for being. It was history repeating itself.
The weight and memory of historical trauma accompanied me into the museum, tugging at my coat with each breath of Black excellence I inhaled. As I stood in gratitude for Mickalene Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, and Robert Colescott, I also stood in sorrow of the circumstances that produced such beautiful stories and art. In each historical work I found traces of my own story. In Colescott’s Matthew Henson and the Quest for the North Pole, (pictured at the top of this post) the images of Black bodies being simultaneously brutalized and fetishized depict the story of my great-great-grandmother who was raped by her oppressor, giving birth to my great-grandfather who would later be praised for his “passable” complexion, wavy hair, and light eyes. Marshall’s Souvenir II portrays a cloud of witnesses, prominently featuring Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, hallmarks in the home of my own, and many other Black grandmothers across the country, and emblematic of the complicated socio-political relationship we share with this nation.
In Thomas’ Resist, the Civil Rights era struggle of my parents was laid in front of me through a collage of violent vignettes. As I watched this piece I saw my uncle’s resistance, which left him brutally beaten and jailed for having the audacity to seek a human existence. I also saw my father and his siblings, the first to integrate the school systems in North Carolina. I felt the collective fear and courage he carried with him as the only Black student in his school. And as my chest tightened, breath shortened and fists clinched I remembered where I stood—rooted in the past, squarely in the present, carrying my portion of the mantle of Black excellence. As I gathered myself, I walked out of the museum breathing in the joy and exuberance of Black culture. Each breath gradually healing the wounds of my genetic trauma.
– Benji Anderson, Artist (@benjipnewton)
Benji Anderson is an artist, theologian and philosopher. Three identities that suffered separate existences for much of Benji’s life. Born in the South and raised in the Mid West, his early cultural learnings taught Benji that it was not only prudent, but necessary to compartmentalize his identities. Surprisingly it was through his academic journey that Benji began to fully exist as a being capable of complex, and seemingly contradictory identity. As a Master of Divinity student, Benji embarked on a process of deep self-excavation, which, upon completion of his degree, provided Benji with the license to live authentically.
As theologian and philosopher, Benji is concerned with the quality and depth of life. As artist, Benji concerns himself with the creative expression of his theosophical existence. Using a variety of mediums Benji endeavors to create multi-sensory pieces that thrust the viewer into the experience of the artist – not simply as a voyeur, but as a participant.