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The Northwest Annual Exhibition & Seattle Art Museum

The SAM Research Libraries have just published a new digital exhibition to our Digital Collections site, providing online access to original archival materials from a significant annual art event that truly defined some of the founding principles of SAM and its founder Dr. Richard E. Fuller.

The Northwest Annual Exhibition (NWA) was a yearly exhibition of work by artists from the Pacific Northwest held first by the Seattle Fine Arts Society, then the Art Institute of Seattle, and finally the Seattle Art Museum. Its first recorded exhibition was in 1914, and it continued for over sixty years at SAM until its final show in 1977. Its intention was to exhibit high quality works in a wide variety of artistic expressions, with a focus on painting and sculpture, and to give recognition to new talent in the Pacific Northwest.

Predating the Seattle Art Museum as it is known today, the NWA spanned decades of change in the art world, particularly in the Northwest. First held in the exhibition rooms of the Washington State Arts Association, it eventually found a permanent home in the Volunteer Park museum in 1933, the same year in which Florence Harrison Nesbit (co-founder of the Northwest Watercolor Society), Peter Camfferman (one of the earliest Modernist painters in the Northwest, along with his wife Margaret Camfferman), and Morris Graves (internationally acclaimed painter) won prizes in the Nineteenth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists. Over the decades the NWA, under the direction of Dr. Fuller, helped recognize the unique work being produced in the region, launching the careers of countless artists.

After the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, SAM took over the United Kingdom Pavilion at Seattle Center and remodelled it to become the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, where the majority of the final exhibitions for the NWA were held. The traditional form of NWA continued until 1975, after which it evolved into Northwest Art(ists) Today, a three-part exhibition series held from 1975-1976. It eventually had its final show as Seattle Art Museum Northwest ‘77.

To create the digital exhibition Northwest Annual Exhibition and Seattle Art Museum, 70 of the original exhibition paper checklists and 85 photographic prints and negatives were digitized and restored to provide quality online access to these rare research materials. With the help of long-time SAM staff member Tore Hoven and regional expert on Northwest art, Cascadia Art Museum head curator David Martin, a fascinating account of the history of the NWA is provided to give context and perspective into the exhibition’s impact on the local art community. These digitized materials are also a unique account of the growth and development of SAM, from its earliest days as a local community of art lovers, to becoming a forward-thinking institution drawing attention from around the world.

We hope that this collection will provide some insight into the many historical events and artistic movements that SAM has been a part of since its inception, and that it may inspire your own research into 20th century Northwest art and artists.

– Brynn Strader, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Images: Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections: “Forty-sixth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, 1960 – Jurors – Photo 2,” “Forty-second Annual Exhibit of Northwest Artists, 1956 – Gallery Installation – Photo 1,” “Northwest Artists Today, Part II, 1975-1976 – Gallery Installation – Photo 7,” “Twenty-ninth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Thirty-first Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Thirty-fourth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Forty-third Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Forty-seventh Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Fifty-eighth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists.”

Muse/News: Dawn Cerny Wins Award, Venus Suggests Life, and RBG’s Love for Operas

SAM News

SAM announced last week that Dawn Cerny is the winner of the 2020 Betty Bowen Award, an annual juried award for Pacific Northwest artists. Cerny will receive $15,000 and a solo exhibition at SAM in 2021. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig shared the news, as did Artdaily.

Beverly Aarons for South Seattle Emerald interviews Barbara Earl Thomas about her upcoming exhibition at SAM, The Geography of Innocence, which features cut-paper portraits of Black children, many from the artist’s life.

“But she didn’t want to just capture them exactly as they were — she wanted to answer in her work the question, ‘What do I wish for them?’ Thomas didn’t want to talk about what she didn’t want — racism, violence, tragic deaths — but she wanted the work to embody the hope for the children’s futures.”

Tamara Gane for The Washington Post on “art alfresco,” recommending the best sculpture parks in the US to commune with art outside—and leading with SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig and Chase Burns previews four “don’t-miss” documentaries at the upcoming Local Sightings Film Festival.

“Washington State Is All Over the National Book Awards Longlist,” reports Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne. Get reading!

Muse/News really can’t take one more story about penguins visiting locked-down museums. Where are the penguins for SAM?? Anyway, here’s Crosscut’s Brangien Davis with her weekly editor’s letter, where she talks life on Venus, penguins in museums (sob!), and art classes for your health.

“I would argue that the Venus discovery is cultural, in the vein of Carl Sagan’s assertion that we’re all ‘made of star stuff.’ The mystifying connections across our vast universe contribute to the culture we humans create, even if subconsciously, or via some microscopic cellular nudge.”

Inter/National News

Yinka Elujoba for the New York Times on Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, which “succeeds in making visible, and even visceral, America’s history with the struggle for racial and political equality.” The exhibition is now on view at The Met and heads to SAM early next year.

The Brooklyn Museum made headlines last week when it announced it would sell twelve works from its collection at auction, to support the “management and care” of its full collection. They are the first major museum to take advantage of loosened regulations—due to the difficulties brought on by the coronavirus—around deaccessioning of works.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away at the age of 87, leaving an immense legacy as a scholar, jurist, human—and opera lover. This tribute offers insights into the legal scholar’s intense advocacy for the arts.

“…those kinds of cases she made her career of are the stuff of opera. The underdog, the ill-served character: Manon Lescaut, Violetta, women who have to struggle their way to the top for survival. They connected to her sense of right and wrong and what is a humane way of living.”

And Finally

“A good time for thinking about Francisco Goya is while the world stumbles.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: The farm that was there and then not, 2020, wood, handblown glass, plaster tape, wire, paint, clay, 27 x 22 x 14 in., Courtesy of the artist, © Dawn Cerny

Muse/News: Fall into Art, Madrigal’s Music, and Painting A Democracy

SAM News

The Seattle Times’ Fall Arts Guide landed this Sunday; here, Megan Burbank looks at the upcoming season of visual arts. Burbank also visited SAM on its first day being open again to the public; she reported on the “subtle, early-bird cheer” of the galleries.

“And for the most part, things were surprisingly normal. Traffic in the museum flowed easily. Between a pair of spectators chatting casually on a bench and the lack of windows, time passed easily, and aside from the masks and the crowd level, it didn’t seem all that different from visiting a museum pre-COVID.”

Last week, the Seattle Times’ Alan Berner dropped by for a visit to Alexander Calder’s The Eagle at the Olympic Sculpture Park, which has been tented all summer for a major repainting. Keep an eye out for its unveiling in all its Calder-red glory.

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Paige Cornwell recently profiled Edy Hideyoshi Horikawa, a decorated veteran who served with the celebrated 442nd Regiment while his family lived in an incarceration camp and who became an artist and teacher upon his return. He celebrated his 100th birthday in August and was fêted with a drive-by parade.

Rena Priest shares her essay with Seattle Met from a forthcoming collection that explores Seattle’s storytelling heritages and what its UNESCO City of Literature designation means.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores interviews Seattle conductor Paula Nava Madrigal about how she’s “disrupting the traditionally white, male discipline of conducting.” Madrigal will once again conduct a Mexican Independence Day concert, which this year is going virtual.

“‘There’s an energy that comes from the orchestra that I’m communicating to the public,’ she explains. ‘It’s like a time machine where I am bringing the past into the present and creating the future.’”

Inter/National News

The New York Times reports on two important New York art-world news items: The Met’s hiring of Dr. Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha) as its first full-time Native American curator, and the Studio Museum’s continued innovation of its artist-in-residence program, with four artists named to remote residencies this season, including Jacolby Satterwhite as a mid-career artist.

Artnet is out with its annual Intelligence Report on the art market, which this year launches an “Innovators List”: “a group of 51 entrepreneurs, artists, dealers, and others who are lighting the way toward the future with vision, chutzpah, and grit.”

Hyperallergic’s Valentina Di Liscia reports on Vote.org’s nonpartisan initiative that “seeks to channel the power of art to encourage voter participation,” working with artists such as Sanford Biggers, Jenny Holzer, and Julie Mehretu.

“Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey believes that art may hold the key to educating and mobilizing citizens across the nation to exercise their right to vote… ‘If we lower the barriers to political engagement and turn more people out to vote, together, we can paint a more representative democracy.’”

And Finally

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Award finalists are out. Tag yourself; I’m Faceplant Baby Elephant.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L Fried

The International Exhibition of Northwest Printmakers

A collection of checklists and other ephemera related to The International Exhibition of Northwest Printmakers is now available as a digital collection on the SAM Libraries Digital Collections site.

The physical print collection, housed at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, contains checklists, images, and other ephemera connected to these annual exhibitions that spanned 42 years, from 1929 to 1971. The recent digital transformation of the collection will bring accessibility to the public at large, allowing printmakers and other artists, historians, researchers, or simply the curious student to view its contents and read about the history of the annual exhibition, held primarily at the Seattle Art Museum throughout its tenure.

The International Exhibition of Northwest Printmakers began in 1929. However, planning for the exhibition started in 1928 by a society made up of Seattle artists hoping to highlight printmaking in the Northwest.[1]  Interestingly, information regarding the history of the annual exhibition is relatively scant. The University of Washington Special Collections houses the Northwest Printmakers Records, a small (two boxes) collection that includes correspondence, notices, flyers, and other documents of the Northwest Printmakers Society—the group of artists that started and maintained the international exhibition. Aside from the collection housed at the UW Libraries, there is very little historical documentation regarding the annual exhibition.

This new digital collection collates and provides access to the historical background of the annual exhibition alongside images, exhibition checklists, and other documents. Interestingly, some of the checklists include handwritten notes from various attendees that highlight the number of women artists present that year, prints of interest, or point out artists with local significance, among other interesting insights. All of those notes were maintained in the digital collection. The collection also includes a handful of entry forms, flyers, and notes.

More than 250 prints in the Seattle Art Museum’s collection came to the museum by way of the Northwest Printmakers Society—either as purchases, prizes from the annual exhibitions, or as gifts from the society. Learn more about those prints here.

Explore the interesting history of printmaking in the Pacific Northwest by clicking through the Seattle Art Museum Libraries’ digital collection, The International Exhibition of Northwest Printmakers, 1929-1971.

– Brynn Zalmanek, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Images: Checklist for the Thirtieth Annual Exhibition of the Northwest Printmakers, held at the Seattle Art Museum from February 11 – March 1, 1959. The exhibit featured a diverse array of international artists due to the Printmakers Society’s proactivity in seeking international artists that year. Checklist for the Fifteenth Annual Exhibition of the Northwest Printmakers, held at the Seattle Art Museum from April 7 – March 9, 1943 (Note: The Seattle Art Museum Annual Report 1943 lists the dates as April 7 – May 2, 1943.). Jury members (left to right) Ian M. White, Ed Merrill, and Gordon Gilkey examining prints for the 40th International Northwest Printmakers Exhibition, held in 1969. Courtesy of the Seattle Art Museum Photo Archives. Flyer advertising print submission for the Eighth Annual Northwest Printmakers Annual Exhibition held at the Checklist for the Eighth Annual Exhibition of the Northwest Printmakers, held at the Seattle Art Museum from March 11 – April 4, 1936 | Note: The 1936 Seattle Art Museum Annual Report Lists the Exhibition dates as March 11 – April 5, 1936.
[1] Notice of exhibition flyer, June 1928, Northwest Printmakers Records, 1929-1970 (Box 1, Folder 3), University of Washington Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries.

Muse/News: SAM Reopens, ID Favorites, and Lawrence Revisited

SAM News

Museums in Seattle can now reopen! With new safety protocols in place, the Seattle Art Museum will reopen to the general public on September 11. Catch up on all the details covered in The Seattle Times, The Stranger, Capitol Hill Seattle, ARTnews, and Artdaily.

Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, was Marcie Sillman’s guest on KUOW The Record’s Wednesday show, sharing details on what SAM has been working on and how much we’ve missed you.

Also last week, SAM’s Priya Frank appeared on KING5’s New Day NW, talking with guest host Angela Poe Russell about equity at SAM and artists & organizations she loves.

Local News

“All creative people love a good challenge”: Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal speaks with Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald about their upcoming, all-digital season.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig covers the covers of Vogue and Vanity Fair, both of which feature Black artists (Kerry James Marshall, Jordan Casteel, Amy Sherald) creating new paintings of Black women (someone imagined, Aurora James, Breonna Taylor).

JiaYing Grygiel shares restaurant recommendations in the International District from Seattle notables, including SAM’s recently retired Deputy Director of Art, Chiyo Ishikawa. The article is a part of a series, Chinatown USA, which is meant as both a celebration and a call to action amid economic devastation and anti-Asian racism.

“The history of the Asian communities in Seattle isn’t all just barbecue pork buns and egg tarts. The ugly side of Seattle’s past includes anti-Chinese riots, discriminatory laws, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Now here we are, in the middle of a pandemic that has been tinged, including by the president, with anti-Asian overtones, and restaurants in the ID are hurting badly. Yet they’re remaining open.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic’s Valentina Di Liscia reports on the newly unveiled monument in Central Park to Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth.

Artnet’s Naomi Rea reports on the recent controversy at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in which they came under fire for acquiring works of activist art from discounted benefits and fundraisers.

In advance of the opening of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at the Met (which heads to SAM next year), the New York Times revisits a 1996 interview with Jacob Lawrence. The artist spoke with their then chief art critic Michael Kimmelman during visits to the Met and MoMA, discussing art and technique as they went along.

“The three of us looked at whatever interested him, from Dogon sculptures to Dubuffet. Lawrence was a bearish, humble man, courtly, endearing. ‘I guess there’s nothing wrong with a negative statement,’ he reassured himself out loud at one moment, before screwing up his courage to dis Jackson Pollock.”

And Finally

“The Shooting of John T. Williams, 10 Years Later.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Virtual Tour with Susan Kegel

SAM Docent, Susan Kegel is taking us downtown to the Seattle Art Museum to do some close looking at an abstract painting by Auguste Herbin on this virtual tour. Kegel has been a school tour docent at SAM since 2007. She loves touring with students because they have fresh and amazing insights about the art, and are not afraid to share them. 

Auguste Herbin’s painting  Fleur (Fruit) (translated to Flower and Fruit) is abstract. Rather than painting flowers and fruit exactly how they look, Herbin chose to think about the essence of them, focusing on color and shape. Mathematicians make things abstract, too. For example, the number three is an abstraction. We can’t see three! We can see three trees, three cats, or three triangles, but three-ness is a mathematical abstraction. Abstraction can sometimes  be confusing and unapproachable, but  we can explore abstraction by borrowing a simple approach from Dan Finkel and Katherine Cooke of Math for Love. Take a look at the artwork above and ask three questions: What repeats? How many? What if?

You can try this at home. What repeats?

I see lots of shapes that repeat: triangles, semi-circles, circles, and rectangles. Some stand out because Herbin used strongly contrasting colors—warm colors layered on top of cool and vice versa. Other shapes are more subtle. For example, did you see the orange rectangle in the lower left side?

Let’s look closely at the triangles. Triangles are shapes with three sides, but the lengths of the sides can vary. Some triangles appear to have two sides of the same length—these are isosceles triangles. Equilateral triangles have all three sides of the same length. Can you find any triangles with no matching sides? There are three: one is orange, one is blue, and one is yellow. These are scalene triangles. 

How many triangles are there? This is tricky because there are also implied triangles, where the artist has not quite finished the edges but your eye fills in the missing parts. Shall we count? I see 14.  

Besides shapes, what else repeats? What about the colors? Are there any colors that don’t repeat? Why do you suppose the artist chose to have only one sky blue shape?

Now, let’s imagine what if: what if the painting were hung upside down?  

When right-side up, the shapes seem to be balanced on top of each other or on top of imaginary horizontal lines. When upside down, the shapes are tumbling down towards the floor.  It feels quite different to me. What differences do you notice when imagine the painting upside-down?

We typically learn mathematics starting with physical things, such as counting apples or blocks. Only later do we learn how to manipulate the abstract numbers. Artists often progress in the same way, first learning how to draw realistically before experimenting with more abstract styles. Herbin’s early works were much more realistic.

– Susan Kegel, SAM Docent

Image: Fleur (Fruit), 1945, Auguste Herbin, oil on canvas, 38 × 28 3/4in., Gift of Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, 2014.26.14 © Estate of Auguste Herbin/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Muse/News: Change at SAM, BLM meets AR, and a virtual tour of Harlem

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced that Priya Frank, leader of SAM’s Equity Team since 2016, has been promoted as the museum’s first-ever Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig interviewed Priya about her “new, rare” position.

“‘Real change is going to take time,’ she said. ‘We’re not going to undo structural racism in a day or a year or within a strategic plan. It’s an ongoing lifelong commitment. But it’s amazing to see things we envisioned and dreamt of happening.’”

Local News

Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger also spent some time this week taking in public art with a pocket beer in hand; consider following her “quick and dirty guide” to some of the best public art in Seattle, including Richard Serra’s Wake at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Kamna Shastri for Real Change on Student Art Spaces, a youth-led initiative whose mission is to “amplify student voices in art through gallery exhibitions and events,” especially in terms of equity and accessibility.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on Amp’Up Seattle, an augmented reality art show created by designers at architecture and design firm GGLO for the Seattle Design Festival.

“‘The main aim was to have these locations have a new meaning to them,’ [Gargi] Kadoo says. She hopes people will use the app and artworks as an opportunity to ‘revisit the focus of the BLM movement,’ she adds. ‘Keep that heat and conversation going.’”

Inter/National News

Remember going places? Consider taking this virtual tour of Harlem, “New York’s most storied neighborhood,” led by the celebrated architect David Adjaye.

Sometimes a quick look at “the best and worst of the art world this week” is what you need to get caught up on all the news. Thanks, Artnet.

Artnet shares an opinion essay about the threat of climate change from Nick Merriman, chief executive of the Horniman Museum & Gardens in London.

“Museums must use their position as long-term memory institutions to look beyond short-term political and funding cycles and speak out about issues that are existential threats to all of us. This involves changes in two main areas: in museums and galleries’ operating models, and in their relationship with the public.”

And Finally

Hearken back to the days of innocently enjoying public transit with this breakdown of transit chimes by chord interval.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Stephanie Fink

Muse/News: Equity leaders, poetic phone calls, and gallery smizing

Last week, SAM announced that Priya Frank, leader of SAM’s Equity Team since 2016, has been promoted as the museum’s first-ever Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Seattle Medium, Northwest Asian Weekly, ARTnews, Artdaily, and Hyperallergic all shared the news.

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald on the Seattle Public Library’s new “Lit Line,” in which you can dial in and “select to hear a poem or short story (in English or Spanish), or a historic Seattle news item, read by an SPL staffer.” Perfect!

Calling ʼ90s kids: The Stranger arts & culture writer Jasmyne Keimig binges Moesha, Brandy’s beloved sitcom about the life of a Black teen, and reflects on the character’s personal style and inspirational box braids.

Margo Vansynghel of Crosscut talks with photojournalist David Ryder (who has had a busy few months!) about his new series, Crowd Control, in which he takes photos of crowd control weapons against a stark white background.

“In Ryder’s photos, this loud, violent object suddenly becomes still. Historically and today, still lifes have been on the lowest rung of the painterly and photojournalistic ladder. There are no people, no action to capture. But as artists and photojournalists like Ryder have found, sometimes a collection of fragments can tell a fuller story.”

Inter/National News

Artnet reports on the USPS Art Project, “a mail-art initiative launched in April by Brooklyn-based artist Christina Massey.” It’s sort of an Exquisite Corpse via post; artists create an artwork, then mails it to the next to complete the work.

“She Explains ‘Mansplaining’ With Help From 17th-Century Art”: Alisha Haridasani Gupta for the New York Times on Nicole Tersigni’s new book based on her viral tweets.

ARTnews shares the sad news of the passing of artist Luchita Hurtado at the age of 99. Their obituary traces her fascinating life and includes links to several interviews Hurtado did over the years.

“Though Hurtado’s work was not as well-known as it should have been—even as her vivacious character brought her into contact with many of the mid-20th century’s most important artists—she persisted in building up a vast oeuvre over time. ‘What drove me to paint?’ Hurtado asked in a recent video interview with the Serpentine Galleries in London. ‘It was like breathing—you know, it’s hard not to.’”

And Finally

“Raising eyebrows and smizing in solidarity”: Crosscut’s Brangien Davis returns to Seattle galleries.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Zabiullah Fazly

Muse/News: Online learning, quarantine portraits, and Wendy Red Star’s school

SAM News

Seattle’s Child has a round-up of online learning activities from area museums, zoos, and more—including a mention of Stay Home with SAM art-making activities.

Local News

Chris Talbott for the Seattle Times reports on KEXP’s recent shifts in leadership and programming, as the beloved radio station works to become an anti-racist organization.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel joins Seattle dancers as they pivot to performances outdoors in local parks.

Stefan Milne explores why Steven Miller’s quarantine portraits of friends have struck such a deep chord.

“American culture often talks of queerness in terms of visibility, ‘in the closet’ or ‘out.’ In these photos, Miller looks in on a more literal enclosure. He told me his way of dealing with this imposed invisibility is having people ‘come as they want to be seen.’”

Inter/National News

Rebecca Ann Proctor reports for the Art Newspaper on the devastation in Beirut after an explosion in the port left more than 70 people dead and over 4,000 injured. Many museums and galleries were severely impacted in the blast.

Artnet’s Kate Brown reports on the turmoil within the Paris-based International Council of Museums (ICOM), as an effort that began last year to redefine “museum” has now resulted in a series of resignations.

Hyperallergic’s Karen Chernick speaks with Wendy Red Star—winner of SAM’s 2016 Betty Bowen Award—about her new solo exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA)’s Kidspace, which acts as a corrective to the lack and misrepresentation of Native history in public school curriculums.

“For me, it’s very important that the ancestors that are presented in the exhibition are really thought of as people. And relatable people…And really humanizing them, because Native people have been dehumanized so much or made into this mythical part of the West that doesn’t exist. My hope is that there’s a human connection that the kids can make and relate to.”

And Finally

Setsuko Thurlow bears witness.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations