Download SAM virtual backgrounds to use for your next Zoom meet up, happy hour, party, or hang out. Choose from beloved spaces like the Porcelain Room or Tea Room downtown, the stunning Art Deco Asian Art Museum building, or use an aerial view of the Olympic Sculpture Park as your backdrop. We miss you and hope that seeing yourself sitting in these SAM spaces will fill you with good art vibes until you are able to come sit in our galleries and visit our museums in person!
Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock is known for his encyclopedic works identifying and labeling the world around him. Blackstock uses pencils, markers, and crayons to create his orderly visual lists. He documents and explores items from the natural world such as birds, animals, and plants, as well as items from the manmade world including clothing, cars, and buildings. Each item is clearly labeled and organized, informed by his research from books and work with local librarians. You can see one of Blackstock’s detailed works in The World Landmark Buildings of Greatest Histories & Heights Recorded Puzzle, for sale online now at the SAM Shop. This 500 piece puzzle includes beloved buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal, and Big Ben.
Gregory Blackstock’s artwork is also being featured online through Greg Kucera Gallery. In his fifth solo show at the Greg Kucera Gallery, Blackstock identifies and labels a variety of subjects including crows, shoes, fireworks, lilies, and spices in his limited-edition prints from original drawings. Check it out online through June 27. These works were printed by Stephen Rock, of Rock’s Studio, who is also an artist from SAM Gallery. Blackstock’s work was also featured at the 2019 Seattle Art Fair.
– Pamela Jaynes SAM Gallery Coordinator
Photos: Natali Wiseman
Whether seemingly big or small, sustaining connection is more critical than ever. Jenae Williams, Exhibitions and Publications Associate, and Seohee Kim, Division Coordinator for Education and Public Engagement, recently started writing letters to stay connected to their community in quarantine. They’ve shared a Q&A of their wonderful project below.
Not only do handwritten letters support the US Postal Service, brighten up someone’s day, and remind others that they are not alone, but right now your letters can support community by showing love to Chinatown-International District! If you’re feeling inspired, please check out Love Letters to Chinatown-International District #CIDLoveLetters. Share your love letters, and the Wing Luke Museum will collect and showcase submissions in a digital exhibition as part of the Wing Luke Museum’s Resilience Campaign. Deadline is May 18! May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month so we hope you will take some encouragement and inspiration from this post and write a letter to Seattle’s International District or support the USPS by sending a letter a friend or loved one!
What first inspired you to write letters to people in quarantine?
Jenae: I genuinely miss seeing my colleagues at SAM every day, and I was first inspired by my managers Chiyo Ishikawa and Tina Lee, who do so well at checking in on many of us at SAM. Later, I read about how the US Postal Service is in danger of going out of business, which upset me deeply. USPS provides 600,000 jobs, delivers essential items (medicine! voting ballots!), and it’s the only mailing service that reaches every household across the nation, no matter how rural. I am also reminded that compared to private mailing services, sending a letter or priority mail with the USPS service is equitable. It costs me the same amount of money to send a letter to a friend locally as it does to send a letter to my grandma in Hawaii.
Seohee: I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while, but I’d always brushed it to the back of my mind because I was unsure of when or how to begin. However, after over a month of being indoors and focusing solely on work, I needed a simple but creative outlet to allow myself to detach from the screen and practice self-care. Then, I was having a brainstorming video call with my dear colleague, friend, and muse, Priya, who showed me the beautiful postcards she’d been designing for her close ones. Insert mind spark here. A few days later, I saw Jenae’s heartwarming Instagram story showing support to USPS with her letters to friends and family, and I felt the need to (finally) take action.
Where can we buy our own Ellsworth Kelly stamps?
Jenae: USPS released these stamps in 2019, so they may be hard to find. But check your local post office. Some locations, like mine, still have leftover sheets in stock. I’m excited for the Ruth Asawa stamps that are scheduled to be released this year!
Tell us about the stationery/paper that you’re using for this project?
Jenae: I’m using whatever paper I have at home right now. My mom gave me a pad of stationary for this project that pays homage to the early days of airmail so I’m using that first. With this paper, I like that after you’re finished writing, you fold its edges up, and it turns into its own envelope. I also have Hello Kitty stationery from my childhood that I’ll use later as well.
Seohee: I have been a hoarder of all things stationery since middle school, so I’ve been making use of my ridiculous collection. Among the bunch, my go-to have been these Daiso coloring books that have various images of flowers on the front and postcard layouts on the back of each page. In my free time and whenever I’m feeling stressed, I tear out a page to color while bopping to some good ol’ 90s K-pop. It’s been surprisingly healing for me, and possibly the only routine I’ve maintained over the past four weeks.
What was the response to your letter-writing project after you posted about it on Instagram?
Jenae: A lot of people responded with their address, but some just responded to say that they loved the stamps. I’m so glad. Maybe they’ll go out and buy their own. I especially love that I received notes from friends who I haven’t talked to in a long time.
Seohee: Excitement and support! I received quite a few responses from friends around the country with their addresses! To be honest, I wasn’t expecting them to be as open to sharing such personal information, but that might just stem from the trust issues I’ve developed after watching nothing but serial killer documentaries on Netflix for the past two months.
Have you found writing letters to be much different than writing emails? Any early letter-writing tips?
Jenae: I send work emails every day, but letters are definitely a different form of writing. I’m still learning to embrace the time and thoughtfulness it takes. If your thoughts start to run amok (this happens to me frequently) as you’re writing, just go with it. I have to remind myself that it’s OK to show my inner life sometimes.
Seohee: Yes! I’ve found that they’re much more personal because I’m not writing with a specific intent in mind as I would for, say, a work email. It allows me to pause and really think about each person and what individual messages I want to send that might bring even a tiny bit of joy to their day. Not exactly a tip, but I’ve been having fun picking out individual postcards based on the image of the flower and their meaning. It adds just another hint of personalization to the entire experience. Also, I’ve been laminating my postcards with packing tape before mailing them out so that people have the option to wipe them down with a sanitizing cloth upon receiving them—just another COVID-19 precaution from a germaphobe.
Finally, what are you hoping to get from all of this?
Jenae: I hope one of my letters will be a bright spot to someone in quarantine and help them feel connected to me/humanity in a small way.
Seohee: I hope something as small as this could be a reason for someone to smile amidst the chaos that has become our new normal. If we can keep the web of connection and small joys going/growing, even better!
Images: Lauren Farris, Seohee Kim, Jenae Williams.
At SAM, we have long held an unofficial motto: We are all in this together. Perhaps you’ve seen these words as you’ve entered our downtown building? This work by artist Mark Mumford is a reminder that in good times and bad, we all stand together. We hope this video from Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO is nice reminder of this motto and that you will stand with SAM—your art museum—while our three locations are currently closed.
If you make a gift to the SAM Fund today or during GiveBIG, May 5 and 6, you will not only have a wonderful opportunity to directly support SAM, but your donation will be doubled! Thanks to a group of generous trustees, all memberships and donations to the SAM Fund will be matched up to $500,000, now through the end of June.
During this difficult time, we have been heartened by the generous support that we have already received from our patrons, members, and community. For this, we cannot thank you enough. We hope you too will also consider making a gift to the SAM Fund to help us overcome the dramatic and sudden loss of ticket, event, and shop revenue during our closure. Gifts towards the SAM Fund, will not only help navigate our temporary closure but also directly impact our ability to retain our dedicated and talented staff, preserve our world-class collection, develop new exhibitions and programming, and provide innovative virtual art experiences.
Please help us to connect art to your life. SAM has been your art museum and a vibrant part of the Seattle cultural community for more than 85 years and with your help we’ll surely be here for another 85 . . . and beyond.
“More collage than straightforward narrative, more meditation than explanation.” Crosscut’s weekly “things to do” always has great suggestions; right now they’re recommending SAM’s two new shows, the immersive video works in John Akomfrah: Future History and the small-but-mighty Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations.
As part of their ongoing series on arts and culture, Canvas, the PBS NewsHour takes us to the Peabody Essex Museum to see their exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series, which heads to SAM next year.
Artnet’s Eileen Kinsella wrote about the art world’s increased attention on contemporary Native and First Nation artists; she spoke with SAM curator Barbara Brotherton about what it means.
“It’s obviously a really exciting thing,” said Barbara Brotherton, a curator of Native American art at the Seattle Art Museum, of the recent exposure. The museum has a long track record of showing Native American art ranging from historical to contemporary periods. “We’re just in this modern moment where it’s gaining cachet from venues like art fairs, contemporary galleries, and biennials.”
Seattle Magazine announced this week that it is under new ownership, having been acquired by startup entrepreneur and Geekwire chairman Jonathan Sposato.
Per Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel: “The 114-year old Georgetown Steam Plant . . . will become a state-of-the-art education, science and arts center, to open in three to five years.”
Gavin Borchert for the Seattle Times on the “pathbreaking” Black composer Florence Price, and the tale of how her Violin Concerto No. 2 came to be performed by the Seattle Symphony.
“An errant tornado, or even a carelessly tossed cigarette butt, in the wrong place and the Seattle Symphony would be playing a very different program.”
Here’s a good overview of how national cultural institutions are responding to the coronavirus, from Julia Jacobs and others at the New York Times.
Ariella Azoulay for Hyperallergic on the “Free Renty” case, in which Tamara Lanier, a descendant of Renty Taylor, is suing Harvard University for restitution of a daguerreotype of Taylor.
“Why Watch Video in a Museum?” asks Jason Farago of the New York Times; his answer is in his review of filmmaker Steve McQueen’s new exhibition at the Tate Modern.
“Video art, once dumbly condemned by traditionalists as a mass-media takeover of the fine art gallery, now offers more of an escape from the hellscape of our digital feeds than other artistic media.”
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
Image: Film still from Tropikos, 2016, John Akomfrah, single channel colour video, 5.1 sound, 36 minutes, 41 seconds, (AKOM160001), © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery.
Last week, we announced that Chiyo Ishikawa, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, will retire this summer after 30 years with the museum. The Seattle Times, KUOW, Artforum, Artnet, ARTnews, Artdaily, and Hyperallergic all shared the news. In Crosscut’s Arts & Culture newsletter, Brangien Davis spoke for everyone when she wrote, “Beloved in the Seattle arts community for her insight, approachability and très chic personal style, Ishikawa will be missed.”
“A Place for Meaningful Cultural Conversations” declared the headline for art critic Lee Lawrence’s thoughtful review of the reimagined Asian Art Museum, which appeared in the February 25 print edition of the Wall Street Journal.
“These 19th-century bululs, or rice deities, from the Philippines once watched over terraced paddies, and they’re among the museum’s most modest yet most powerful works. Given the nature and small size of its Philippine holdings, the Seattle Asian Art Museum probably would have kept them in storage had it opted for a traditional installation. But in another benefit of thematic groupings, they—and other long-warehoused treasures in the museum’s collection—now have a role, enriching the new installation not just with their stories but with their spirit.”
Seattle-based artist Susie J. Lee is making a short video about what makes a museum “interesting and cool.” The Seattle Times’ Alan Berner captured photos of the recent shoot at the Asian Art Museum.
Crosscut’s new video series, Art Seen, explores “the hidden art of the everyday”; they recently showed us how Mee Sum Pastry makes all those hom bows, day in and day out.
The Seattle Times’ Crystal Paul reviews the new collection of stories by Zora Neale Hurston, Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick.
“As a trained anthropologist, Hurston traveled down the East Coast and sat on stoops and corners, the storytelling stages and communal gathering spaces of Black communities, where, with academic rigor and a loving gaze, she listened, studied and collected the stories Black folk tell.”
Tara Bahrampour for the Washington Post on the Phillips Collection’s Creative Aging program, which helps seniors connect and make art.
Holland Cotter of the New York Times on MoMA’s Donald Judd survey that opens on Sunday, noting that his work “can now be seen to offer pleasures, visual and conceptual, that any audience with open eyes, can relate to.”
Hyperallergic’s Kealey Boyd reviews the exhibition of Chinese contemporary art, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China; its national tour has now brought it to the Smart Museum of Art and Wrightwood 659 in Chicago, before it heads to SAM this summer.
“It is not often a new category of art historical research is proposed as a solution to these persistent problems, but The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China makes a compelling case for the usefulness of a new analytical structure around Chinese art.”
Earth can have a mini moon (as a treat).
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
Photo: Scott Areman
Your next chance to experience the Olympic Sculpture Park through the Indigenous lens of SAM’s winter resident is tonight, February 27 from 7 to 9 pm! Architectural designer and artist Kimberly Deriana (Mandan/Hidatsa) has spent the last two months working in the park researching, offering workshops, and constructing a temporary installation. Deriana has used her residency as a space for sharing Indigenous knowledge surrounding the many uses of cattail materials. The temporary cattail and cedar structure she has created is a space where everyone is invited to gather and experience cultural celebration. The event will include performances by Aiyanna Jade Stitt and Hailey Tayathy, and storytelling and song by Kayla Guyett and Paige Pettibon.
Kimberly Deriana specializes in sustainable, environmental Indigenous architecture, housing, and planning. Deriana’s methodologies focus on incorporating Indigenous lifestyle practices in relation to past, present, and future, designing for the 7 generations. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her experience as SAM’s artist in residence and to learn more about her creative process.
SAM: What goals do you have for your residency at the Olympic Sculpture Park?
KIMBERLY DERIANA: I want to activate the park through an Indigenous lens. As an architect designer and somebody who loves urban design, I’ve been drawn to this park since I first moved here. Part of creating visibility is bringing other people along in the process and giving them opportunities, too. I really try to include people and families who have been doing this work for years while giving new urban Native people outlets in every project on which I work.
This residency is a learning opportunity for me; the way I enjoy learning is to involve others. It’s about the way we learn as a community, the way we make as a community, and the way we approach being in the world and sustainability. When you’re gathering cattails, there’s an appropriate time to gather and there are appropriate places to gather. Learning all of that protocol has been really eye-opening. Because I grew up as an urban Native and wasn’t always shown those protocols, I try to make a conscious effort to create space and time for the protocol knowledge as an adult.
Tell us about the workshops and youth that you worked with to include Indigenous communities.
I’ve always done art and design but being in the art scene is a new space for me; I wanted to explore the co-creation process. Sharing resources is an important component of the process, I believe. This space has a very educational, institutional vibe and it lends itself to the scope needed for community workshops. The scale of the work required to enliven the space needs many hands. The piece itself is practice and healing work.
The collaborators and I were here most weekends in January and February. Since we are on Suquamish and Duwamish traditional lands, one weekend we had Indigenous teachers from Suquamish. These amazing women who are educators for and from their community—Tina, Jackson, and Kippy Joe— and the amount of information and knowledge that they share in four hours is just indescribable. You can’t get that on YouTube or from a professor. You have to experience their oral teachings to begin to understand the richness and depth of the knowledge.
We had three Indigenous youth that day, and then we had a couple visitors just stop by who were interested in what we were doing. We had time to teach them and they got to learn. Every weekend I’ve had at least one Indigenous teen come in and help work with us through a partnership with yəhaw̓.
What are some of the historical uses of cattail mats?
In this region, mats were traditionally used as sheathing for summer structures. Mats are used all over the world, globally and indigenously for different surfaces. In the Plateau, Plains, Woodlands, and Southeast regions, mats are used for protection and warmth on their architectural structures.
Cattails have a multitude of uses. They protect us. When they’re just in the ground they clean the water and remove toxins. They can be food; they can be shelter; they can be water. When gathering cattails in the right spots, their uses extend beyond those listed so that one can understand the sustainability that the plant provides. Plant knowledge leads to understanding sustainability; sustainability leads to healing; healing leads to understanding their sacredness. I want everyone to know this.
I’m trying to make paper with cattails because I think that’s a more respectful use of them since they were gathered in the late fall season. I am super excited to do more scientific research on the sustainability of cattails, learning more traditional knowledge about them, and weaving. I realize you can approach a project and commit to working with a material, but then all these other sacred teachings come up, such as how to work with other materials and plants. It’s not homogenous when we’re learning about our plant relatives.
Why have some of the cattails been cut and others left long and uneven?
As I started the process of creating this temporary installation with cattails some teachers said it was okay to gather now. When we made some mats, I knew they were not ideal materials and then, in the middle of the month, I learned that you should gather cattails at the end of summer for making mats. For this reason, some of the mats are trimmed and others are raggedy, in order to reveal the imperfection of the process. I like to break things apart until they become abstract, so that even though I’m using really traditional materials, the way I use them means you can’t necessarily tell what it is. For example, maybe your eye reads it as hair or as a bone or antlers. The raggedy mats—having them be more than one thing–helped convey that abstract concept. I think that process was kind of successful.
My architectural background makes me interested in exploring this building and wall system and I started to research and dissect like I normally do for a project. In architecture, you’re always researching and then drawing your theory. In art, you’re fabricating your theory. That’s when all this new information appeared to me. When you start to source your material and put it together, like, “This is why you have to harvest at a certain time and why you have to know where to gather and to get the reeds that are a certain height.” There are just all these little steps that make the process more efficient and that our ancestors knew and had good engineering minds for. I’m still doing it by trial and error and trying to find mentors.
The description of the temporary installation mentions that the structure is a portal for healing. How is this present in the work that is in the PACCAR Pavilion?
The sculpture forms a circular arbor and basket-like space. It incorporates some of the knowledge of the medicine wheel into the directions of the space and the layout. The teachings of the medicine wheel helps to orient our bodies with the land, plants and animals, nature and natural forces. In Plains tribes, you enter from the East like the sunrise. Here, in the West, a lot of structures face the water. All of the weavings that we made with Tina and Kippy are on that side and create filtered views to the water as much as possible since the water is so special. The North can reference the future, moving on, and death in some ways, too. The northern, open view gives people the opportunity to see that beautiful view of the park. The cattail threshold symbolizes a doorway into the future. A sustainable future holds the promise of healing.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM’s Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
Photos: Jen Au
Virginia “Jinny” Wright, a pillar of the SAM family, passed away last week at the age of 91. The Seattle Times obituary of the collector and philanthropist noted that she “lived for art—and dedicated herself to sharing it with others.” KUOW and ARTnews also shared remembrances of her legacy. She will be greatly missed.
KEXP’s Hans Anderson interviewed SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu about the reimagined Seattle Asian Art Museum for their Sound & Vision show; head to their archive for Saturday, February 15 for the story, which started at 7:49 am.
You have until this Saturday to check out the Jacob Lawrence works on view at Greg Kucera. The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley wrote about the artist’s “big, beautiful panels for real-life superheroes.”
The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig keeps an eye out for what’s “Currently Hanging”; right now, it’s Agnieszka Polska’s Love Bite at the Frye Art Museum.
Tom Keogh for Crosscut on Seattle Opera’s “promising, dynamic production” of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, which explores the life of the jazz legend.
“So the piece, like Parker’s music, is full of extremes, pushing the voice’s boundaries,” [tenor Joshua] Stewart says. “When you have a piece this difficult, you have to bring to it everything you have to offer. You have to go on the full journey.”
OK, this is definitely a thing: Museum Walk gives you back pain. Hyperallergic has tips to alleviate it from posture expert Mark Josefsberg.
Payal Uttam for Artsy on the most recent edition of the India Art Fair (IAF) in New Delhi, and what it said about the market for South Asian art.
Artnet’s Taylor Defoe reports on the Oakland Museum of California’s recent pivot to measuring their success by their “social impact,” rather than by usual metrics.
“This is coming at a time when museums and other cultural institutions are really trying to make a case for their existence,” says the OMCA’s associate director of evaluation and visitor insight, Johanna Jones, who led the project. “We know we make a difference in people’s lives, now we need to really demonstrate it through measurable metrics.”
More movies for your list, post-Parasite.
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
Image: Virginia Wright in her Pioneer Square gallery, Current Editions, August 1967. Photo: © Mary Randlett. All rights reserved.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum is officially reopen! Thank you to the thousands of people who streamed through the reimagined galleries at the free housewarming event last weekend. The museum starts regular hours on Wednesday, February 12.
“I felt freed, well, just to look”: Stefan Milne examines Boundless at the Asian Art Museum and The American War at ARTS at King Street Station, which both “explore how we see Asia.”
Seattle Refined shot a recent episode from the museum, including a fantastic segment with SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu (starts at :40).
And ParentMap’s JiaYing Grygiel has this charming look at the museum through the eyes of kids and families.
I Google this every Oscars season. Here’s a breakdown from the Seattle Times on those harder-to-understand categories.
The Stranger’s Charles Mudede on the work of Marisa Williamson, who has two shows on view in Seattle at SOIL Gallery and Jacob Lawrence Gallery.
Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on the new local documentary, Keepers of the Dream: Seattle Women Black Panthers, which premiered last Friday at Northwest Film Forum and will screen again on February 20.
“Women were critical to the survival of the organization,” [Robyn] Spencer says. “They were the movers, the shakers, the theorists, the thinkers, the organizers — they were keeping the party going.”
Artist Beverly Pepper died this week at 97. Two of her works grace the Olympic Sculpture Park. Here’s Artnet’s obituary for the legendary sculptor.
Here’s Artnet on director Bong Joon-ho’s use of suseok, or “scholar’s rocks” in his Oscar-winning film Parasite.
The New York Times’ Roberta Smith on the late, Seattle-born painter Noah Davis, whose work is again on view in a “big, beautiful exhibition” at David Zwirner.
“Your eyes and mind enter them easily and roam through the different layers of brushwork and narrative suggestion. There’s an unexpected optimism to all this. The paintings also dwell in silence, slow us down and hypnotize.”
Did you know that the Asian Art Museum will screen this film on February 26? Well, we will!
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations