All posts in “SAM Staff”

David Yamato, SAM VSO

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: David Yamato

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Visitor Services Officer (VSO) at SAM? Well, our VSOs are here to tell you. Learn about these familiar faces in the galleries and find out what artworks they spend the most time looking at. This month, we speak with David Yamato! Originally from Houston, Texas, Yamato earned his bachelor’s degree in Illustration from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. After his graduation, he returned to Houston and worked as an art teacher in the public school system. He decided to start a new career when he moved with his family to Seattle. Inspired by the experience of being surrounded with artwork on the many field trips he took his students on, he jumped at the chance to join the SAM team two years ago.
SAM: Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect opened October 19. What were you drawn to or surprised by in this exhibition?
David Yamato: The first thing that surprised me is the number of works that are in this exhibition. Looking at a painting felt like meditating to me and there sure is a lot to meditate on here. The second surprise was how much thought and emotion Andrew Wyeth put into every single painting. I highly recommend everyone who comes to see the show joins one of our tours.
What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?
Although I’m deeply in love with every painting from our Australian Aboriginal collection, I still have to say my favorite thing at SAM is the museum itself. The 2004 to 2007 downtown expansion credited to architect Brad Cloepfil is my favorite part of all. While the building masterfully focuses on and showcases the museum collection, the architecture itself is also a masterpiece of light and space. I really hope more people will notice and talk about the building.
Who is your favorite artist?
My favorite is Vincent van Gogh because behind all the glory, fame, and perfection, the life of an artist can be a very very difficult path to take. As a practicing artist, the story of his life helps and inspires me to keep doing my work. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried when I have seen his paintings in real life.
What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?
I remember a patron once asked me the meaning behind some minimalist art on view. I’m still asking myself this question about everything in the museum. Although we might very well find a direct answer in books or from a curator, I think it is very rewarding to search for a personal answer to that question. If you ever feel lost surrounded by all the artworks in the museum, it is time to do some detective work! Look for hints, not just from the artwork and its description, but also in terms of the time period it was made in and its relationship with other works in the museum.
Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?
I’m a comic book artist who works under a pen name which I prefer to keep secret (If you’re one of the rare few who know who I am, don’t go ruining the fun for everyone!). The styles I’m working in range from mystery to historical fiction to slices of life. I’m also conducting independent research on art censorship with a focus on comics and sequential art around the world. The world of comics is huge and I’m still discovering news and issues from places and countries that I never expected to have this problem. Drop me a note if you know anything interesting in regards to art censorship!
– Emily Jones, SAM Visitor Services Officer
Photo: Natali Wiseman
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Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Adera Gandy

Meet this month’s Visitor Services Officer (VSO), Adera (uh-dare-uh) Gandy, an actress, performance artist, and muse raised in the small waterfront suburb of Des Moines, Washington. After high school, Adera moved to Washington DC to study acting at Howard University. After two years of higher education, she chose to leave school to explore the city while working a receptionist job and paying for acting classes at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory. She moved back to Seattle in 2014 to be close to her family and the refreshing landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Prior to working as a VSO at SAM, Adera worked in admissions at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), formerly known as the Experience Music Project (EMP).

SAM: What are your thoughts on Troy Gua on view at TASTE Café in SAM?

Adera Gandy: Troy Gua’s work is stunning. At first glance I’m sure my pupils dilated. I love how rich the pigments are and the silky texture. The pieces on display are hard NOT to look at. I especially like Mana 2  for the shades of blue and the gradient effect. Every time I’m in TASTE Café, I walk up to that piece and get as close as I can respectfully. It’s nice to have digital print work in the museum for a change and I hope visitors and staff take the time to check it out.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?

Currently, my favorite piece on display is Holy Family with St John the Baptist and Saint Catherine by Antonio Guardi. It’s breathtaking. This painting glows and I love the jewel tones. The image is so soft and pillowy and gold and silver all at once. It seems to be shrouded in mystery, yet so inviting. I often wonder if a secret is being shared and what the figures sound like. It’s just so beautiful.

Who is your favorite artist?

Beyoncé, definitely.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Lose the judgement and open your mind. It’s so easy, as the viewer, to look at a piece of art as if it has to prove something to you. We actually do this with people too. This is something I try to practice while viewing myself: Let the piece be what it is. The artist behind whatever work you’re looking at is human, just like you. Their own thoughts, feelings, memories, experiences, traumas, doubts, dreams, passions, prejudices, fantasies, fears, and wishes went into their creation. Relieve yourself of the burden of “understanding” artworks and simply allow them to live. Resist the temptation to judge what a complete stranger has made as “good” or “bad.” And if you find yourself slipping, challenge your own thoughts and feelings; be honest with yourself about what part of your life’s story has led to feeling angered, aroused, or at peace while viewing a particular painting or sculpture. You might discover something within yourself and develop a more meaningful relationship with the work and the artist behind it.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?

When I’m not working at SAM, I’m traveling, journaling, reading, auditioning, plotting my next Instagram performance art piece, and working on collaborations with other Seattle artists. I am looking to get into art modeling as well. Right now, I’m developing a website and blog with a friend of mine who lives in LA called Sacred Souls, which is intended to promote practices meant to spread love, cultivate compassion, and heal the collective mind and spirit. I’m really excited for it! I’m also nurturing honeydo, the theatre/movement performance duo I’ve formed with one of my best friends and collaborators, Lindsay Zae Summers. We are debuting at Kitchen Sessions at the Bellevue Art Museum the evening of Friday, November 10.

– Emily Jones, SAM Visitor Services Officer

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Art Champ: Lawrence Cenotto

Lawrence Cenotto, SAM’s multi-talented Events and Group Sales Manager, was selected the crowd favorite in the SAM Staff Art Show that hung in the South Hall Community Gallery, August 30 to September 24. A SAM employee since 2012, Cenotto has been making art for much longer than that. He often feels as if he was born in the wrong era and wishes he could have been a court painter for some king or queen hundreds of years ago (and he would like to point out that if any royalty or rich benefactors are reading this that he is available).

A Washington native, Cenotto grew up in Lakewood (which he reminds us is where COPS was filmed) and went to Gonzaga in Spokane (the other place in the state where COPS was filmed, Cenotto points out). His two passions have long been art and sports, though eventually the art became his focus. He recently combined the two when he got to be on a private, after-hours tour of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors with Russell Wilson and Ciara and take a picture of them in the Obliteration Room, a highlight of his five-and-a-half years here at SAM. This gets us to today, where we’ll be talking with Cenotto about his creative drive and his winning painting, Santa Maria della Salute.

SAM: When did you start painting? 

Lawrence Cenotto: My first memory of making art is drawing animals I found in books at my grandparent’s house or drawing football players on Monday Night Football while watching with my grandpa when I was about five or six years old. I’m sure there was some tempera or finger painting in there somewhere, but I didn’t really start painting until high school when I started making watercolors of The Beatles and landscapes from photos I found in the stacks of National Geographic magazines we had in the art lab.

Did you study art at Gonzaga?

I started as an art major there, yes, but an early morning class my first semester staring at slides of pre-historic art made me feel like I was sitting in Ben Stein’s class in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so I switched to a business major while keeping art as a minor so I could still take the studio classes.

I see a lot of paintings of Venice on your website, did something about that specific location inspire you? Did the Seeing Nature exhibition strike a chord with you?

Venice is my favorite city, along with Paris. I‘ve always been a big fan of architecture. The uniqueness of the city, mixed with my northern Italian bloodline, made me fall in love with the city. I’ve always liked building things and my brain  is wired very much like an engineer, but my heart draws me to the art side of things. Had I gone to a different school I probably would have gone into architecture but Gonzaga did not have an architecture program. I respect the art form from a design perspective and all the planning that goes into it (I am very meticulous) and maybe painting buildings is my way of getting that out of my system like I’m George Costanza pretending to be an architect. Seeing Nature was definitely one of my favorite exhibitions that SAM has had (probably right behind Intimate Impressionism) because it incorporated a lot of paintings of Venice with my favorite art movement, Impressionism.

Can you tell me more about the two versions of you painting, Santa Maria della Salute and the 10 years between them? You mentioned that you hope that you’ll think back on this painting in 10 years like you think back on the original, what do you mean by this?  

Unfortunately the older version can’t be seen anymore unless you put it through an x-ray (because I painted the new one on top of the old one) but I do have pictures to show the difference. When I look at the newer version I think it is much better than the older version, so 10 years from now I hope to be able to continue to develop my painting techniques. In the meantime I can indulge myself in delusions of grandeur in envisioning future art historians putting my paintings through rigorous x-ray testing like I’m Leonardo da Vinci or something.

Do you often revisit paintings and paint them again? 

Not very often. This might be the second painting I have re-done, though I am currently working on one that I originally completed around the same time period. One of my biggest problems in painting is that I get too excited to start the painting itself so I rush through the drawing process and often find things I wish I had changed, which is hard to fix once the paint is wet. I think I’m saving myself time but it ends up taking longer than if I had just focused on finalizing the drawing. It’s like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football . . . he knows that Lucy is going to pull it at the last second but he can’t help himself.

What inspires you? 

I don’t claim that my art has any deep meaning or significance. I just try to capture moments and places that I find beauty in. Since I don’t have a knack for photography, painting is the way I best express that. Other artists definitely inspire me—I want to be able to see the world as they do and I want to challenge myself to see if I can compare to their skill. I am definitely more of a realist, although I would like to have more of a “painterly” style like Edouard Manet (my favorite artist). I have a hard time not trying to make my paintings look as real as possible. My other favorite artists are Diego Velasquez and Canaletto (who I am probably the most similar to in terms of style and subject matter and last name).

Lastly, how long have you been playing fantasy football? Because I have lost every game! 

I started the SAM league three years ago but I’ve played with my friends for about 15 years and it’s one of the most frustrating things I have ever subjected myself too. The stars aligned once and I won back in college but other than that it’s a never-ending cycle of disappointment and thinking I jinxed someone when they get injured which is why I never draft any Seahawks. To go back to the Charlie Brown example, I know I’m going to be mad at the end of the year and that the fantasy football gods are going to pull the football away from me at the last moment as soon as I get a glimmer of hope, but I can’t help myself from trying to kick it anyways.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter/ Content Strategist

Photo: Natali Wiseman
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Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Karamatas

Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Karamatas

Because SAM relies on it’s nearly 500 volunteers to make the museum run, we’re taking the time to share a bit about them with you, the adoring art lovers that interact with our volunteers every time you enter our doors, whether you realize it or not. Volunteers at SAM lead tours, check coats, staff the information desk, and more. This month we spotlight Chris Karamatas, a SAM volunteer since 2015.

SAM: What is your current role?

Karamatas: I am excited to be the incoming Chair for the Seattle Art Museum Volunteer Association (SAMVA) Executive Committee. We try to address the needs, and improve effectiveness of each of the dozen volunteer groups, in support SAM’s mission—and ultimately improve our patrons’ experience and appreciation of SAM and art. I am also part of the SAMbassador program, so on Saturdays you might find me in the galleries interacting with visitors.

What are your current favorite pieces?

I’m a bit reluctant to say because it seems every time I really like a piece, that is the harbinger for it being swapped out with one of the other 25,000 pieces in the SAM’s catalogue. My favorites change almost weekly. My current Top 10 pieces of the permanent collection that I am really liking are (in no particular order):

10) Canoe Breaker by Robert Davidson

SAM had a beautiful exhibit of Robert Davidson a few years back, so I am grateful to Barbara, and all the curators who have introduced me to so many artists who I would not otherwise have ever known. I appreciate the form lines of Native American art, and the associated stories. In this piece Davidson merges modern art with traditional native techniques (of form lines and the ovoid and u-shape, ); add those great colors: wow!

9) The Triumph of Valor Over Time by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

I especially like the freer preparatory sketch we have on display, but then going in to the Porcelain Room and looking up at the ceiling at the finished fresco is stunning. I like the depiction of Valor prevailing over Time (who watches helplessly from the shadows below, his scythe overturned), and over Ignorance (in the lower corner).

8) Aphrodite Torso

Within the stiffness of rock one is able to capture, movement and flow. I am always in awe that over 2,000 years ago as a species we humans were able to create such beauty, and aspire towards certain high ideals. I sometimes wonder what beauty we will leave behind that our descendants will similarly admire 2,000 years from now.

7) Takpekpe by El Anatsui

Based on traditional Kente cloth from Ghana, El Anatsui creates these beautiful glimmering regal textiles from discarded metallic materials like old can pieces, bottle caps, and parts from liquor bottles. I appreciate the reference to his African culture: the significance of cloth which traditionally commemorates significant events, as well as the reference of libations to honor ancestors. But also perhaps a commentary on refuse, abuse, and consumerism.

6) The Orders of the Night by Ansleim Keifer

I am drawn to its scale and textures. In this work the sunflowers represent the stars, and the connection between heaven and earth. There is a companion piece where Keifer is laying on the ground with a star filled sky above.

5) How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds In My Life by Arshile Gorky

Gorky created a series of these abstracts helping usher in abstract impressionism here in America. It was a brief moment of relative happiness in an otherwise tragic life, as he recalls memories of his past.

4) Dark Figures with Green by Lester Johnson

Primal, intense, minimal, powerful . . . I can almost picture the artist carving into his canvas in a subtractive manor, perhaps partly influenced by action art of the abstract impressionists, or a reaction to their color fields. And living though the dark times of the Vietnam War, assassinations, etc.

3) Tumbleweed by James Rosenquist

The different materials, overloaded with symbolism. But the cold metal barbed wire, wooden hedgehog barrier, and the light shining within (perhaps spelling something) is like a visual poem to me.

2) Libation by Andre Masson

It’s fresh, it’s colorful, whimsical, and fun. The abstract shapes convey a feeling of perhaps overindulging. I like how Masson experimented with altered states of consciousness and certain fundamental human impulses.

1) Gathering Storm by Lin Onus

The unique perspective (water, land, sky), and how the artist captures dusk—I would love to see the other 11 paintings he did of this same location, but at different times. The combination of different themes, western and Aboriginal in this case, makes this piece special.

(Of course, now that I’ve listed these, another 10 come to mind:

Fishing Boats at Etretat – Claude Monet

Middle Fork – John Grade (not part of the collection, but currently on view)

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast – Albert Bierstadt

Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene – Georges de la Tour

The Baptism of Christ – Giovanni Foggini

Boys Blowing Bubbles – Michaelina Woutiers

Saint Augustine in Ecstasy – Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Wheat Field – Paul Camille Guigou

Thermometer – Jasper Johns

Two Figures – Emilio Amero

Beyond visual arts, what else inspires you?

When I first moved to Washington I was introduced to local poet Sam Hamill and his collection Destination Zero is still one of my favorites. Films like Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire also move me. The cinematography is beautiful, and his examination of what makes us human and the divine is poetic. I also play guitar and love music. Musician Nick Cave appeals to me (he also appears in the above film). I like a lot of the late 70’s British scene, bands like The Jam. Also like the Icelandic band Sigur Ros.

What is a simple hack, trick, or advice that you’ve used over time to help you better fulfil your role?

I try to always listen, I have learned so much from visitors. I try to be aware of my body language (from not crossing hands, to smiling). Treat people with care and act as if they are guests visiting my house.

Anything else you wish to share?

I just want to express my gratitude to all the outstanding people that make the Seattle Art Museum such a great place; all the volunteers, my SAMbassador colleagues, the SAMVA board, Visitor Services Officers, SAM staff (especially Jenny and Danie), the curators, and of course our director Kimerly. I am always impressed with their generosity, kindness and dedication.

– Jenny Woods, Manager of Volunteer Programs

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SAM Staff Reads: Kusama’s Sleepless Midnight

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is quickly coming to a close (September 10!) but we have one more reflection on the prolific artist’s poetry from SAM staff. Read closely and let the words of Yayoi Kusama linger long after the exhibition leaves our galleries. The three poems we’ve shared here on SAM Blog were all published in Violet Obsession, a collection released in 1998 by Wandering Mind Books. Kusama’s poetry makes explicit much of the subtle and dark underpinnings of her playful visual art. In her writing, we can delve into the sentiments that propel the creation of her soft sculptures, her paintings, her yearning towards an experience of the infinite within a finite world—and these sentiments are perhaps unexpected when held in contrast to the Pop aesthetic that is strongly associated with Kusama.

Rayna Mathis is a writer, swing dancer, and history nerd. She chose to dig into Kusama’s poem, “Sleepless Midnight,” offering her thoughts on the divergence between what we project and how we are perceived as compared to what we feel and how we behave.

SLEEPLESS MIDNIGHT

that I suffer such sorrow and gloom
more wounds than I know what to do with
inflicted by others upon my heart             on sleepless nights like this
I forget I’m covered with cherry petals this spring
I sit dazed by the pain in my heart as time passes me by
the world of men, like the realm of foxes and badgers, bewitched
I go out among people                   and am constantly amazed
they wound one another
behold the wounds and rejoice
ah!         what sort of        world is this?

leaving my body here for now
I stop suddenly                 and gaze at
a nameless wildflower
petals drinking deeply of sunlight
trampled by people, covered with wounds
just keeping silent
my bitter tears know no end

(1987)

– Yayoi Kusama

When I read Yayoi Kusama’s poems, I can’t help but place myself into them. As I turned each page of Violet Obsessions, I became increasingly sad. However, sad is not a wrong feeling to feel. I appreciate things that force me (whether I am aware of it or not) to feel feelings I often deny myself. Anger, sadness, love, jealousy—the feelings society tells me that I am not allowed to feel—the feelings society does not acknowledge because I should have every reason to be happy, always. I become used to the conformity of the business voice, the polite laugh, the casual conversing of hellos and the weather. I become accustomed to crossing my legs while a man spreads his and speeding up when the catcalls latch on to my back.

But, Kusama isn’t here to adjust for anyone. And that is one of the largest reasons I have so much respect and admiration for her. She is so unapologetically herself and better yet, so unapologetically human. To embrace pain, to acknowledge fear, to speak and create despite other people’s comfort—it is chain breaking.

Many of the works in Violet Obsessions are uncomfortable. They are dark, and sad, and gross. Kusama challenges me to understand why I think any of those things.

When I think of the wounds I have inflicted onto others and what has been inflicted onto me, it is always the thoughts that are unspoken. The silence we feel compelled to keep. I wonder who it is that is “just keeping silent”? The petals beneath our feet—the ones we love but hurt through our selfishness? or the people covered in wounds, who have gotten used to their pain?

– Rayna Mathis, School & Educator Programs Coordinator

Source: Kusama, Yayoi. Violet Obsession. Translated by Hisako Ifshin and Ralph F. McCarthy with Leza Lowitz. Edited by Alexandra Munro. Berkeley, CA: Wandering Mind Books, 1998.
Illustration: Natali Wiseman
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VSO Kay Dien Fox

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Kay Dien Fox

Kay Dien Fox was born in China and moved to Seattle with her adoptive parents when she was nine months old. The nickname her parents gave her, Kay Dien, not only fits her personality but also represent her culture and ancestral heritage. It originated from a combination of her legal name Katherine (Kay) and her Chinese name Dien Dien. Since graduating in March of this year, she took a road trip along the West Coast and travelled to Spain. After returning, she realized she should probably get a job and, fortunately, a friend sent her a link to SAM’s career page. She applied to become a Visitor Services Officer (VSO) and could not be happier that she did.

SAM: What are your thoughts on Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors?

Kay Dien: It’s an incredible exhibition and it doesn’t surprise me that it sells out every day. My favorite piece is The Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. The lights inside the infinity room are on a cycle so the visitor doesn’t know what part of the cycle they will get to experience. The room evokes various responses from the visitor, many exclaim how awesome the room is and some use the room to have a meditative experience.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?

John Grade’s Middle Fork. I didn’t initially read the description of this piece, but I got enough questions about it that I figured I should know more (other than that it looks like a big tree trunk). After reading the description of Middle Fork, it instantly became my favorite piece on display. Grade combined two wonderful aspects of life: art and nature, to make this prominent piece that hovers over the forum.

Who is your favorite artist? 

My favorite artist at the moment is the band The Antlers because of their album Hospice. It’s a beautiful album and not quite as depressing as the title would make it seem.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM? 

Take your time—unless we give you the 15 minute warning, then please make your way towards the door.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?

When I’m not at SAM I like to spend time outside and hanging out with people I care about. I also enjoy film photography and traveling. I’m still figuring out what I want to do in the future, but I am planning a 100 day road trip next year.

– Emily Jones, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman.
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SAM Staff Reads: Kusama’s Turbulent Garden

Yayoi Kusama’s visual art output is prolific, but did you know that she was also a writer? Beyond penning her autobiography, Infinity Net, in 2002 she is also the author of Hustler’s Grotto (1992), a collection of three novellas written between 1983 and 1992, and various books of poetry. Stay tuned to this blog series for a focus on Violet Obsession (1998), a collection of Kusama’s poems paired with images of her performative work including her Happenings and her activations of her Infinity Mirror Rooms. We’ve invited SAM staff to spend some time with Kusama’s poems and select a piece that speaks to them. We’ll be sharing selections from Violet Obsession alongside the musings and inspirations of SAM Staff. The exhibition, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is on view at SAM through September 10.

SAM’s Copywriter and Content Strategist, and an author in her own right, Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, gets things started with with her thoughts on one of the more light-hearted poems in the collection.

TURBULENT GARDEN (AT THE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL)

it’s a breeding ground of stray cats here
parent cats have mated with their children to produce children
brothers have mated with sisters to produce children
and now the place is teeming with cats
when beams of the crescent moon fell upon the garden
the cats ate that moon
stars adhered one by one to the garden
the cats played with the stars
it’s a garden of cats
where no one dies and the numbers only multiply

it’s an exceedingly strange
cat way of calculating
all the leaves from the treetops       fell upon the cats
when the lonely winter comes
the shadows of cats just keep on increasing
they’re playing with one another
in the deathless garden
the rotting tails of fish accumulate
left over rice too is put aside
things human beings have contributed

they’re all disfigured cats
some with only half a tail
some with an ear torn off
some lame
not one complete cat in the lot

No one appears to have died
it’s even more turbulent on windy days
“meow, meow”—they run around
busy f***ing
they leap about
I’m glad I’m not a cat
I wasn’t born a cat
because I’m not really fond of all that f***ing

(1983)

– Yayoi Kusama

For me, the first appeal of this poem is the repetition. Kusama’s concerns with reproduction ad infinitum are clearly linked with breeding in this poem in a way that a work like Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field only implies. But in this poem, as in her visual work, what she reproduces is imagery, not just words (though the refrain of “cats” does reverberate throughout). Disfigured cats nibbling on a sliver of moon or batting around stars, never dying and endlessly multiplying are the fish tails and rice (rather than meat and potatoes) of the poem. But, it’s the turn that occurs at the end, when Kusama interjects in the first person, that lifts the poem above a landscape of feral felines into a psychological setting, all too fitting given the subtitle of the poem. We are taken directly into Kusama’s self proclaimed issues with sex at the end of this poem in a straightforward way. In her autobiography she talks at length about her fear of the phallus as the impetus to creating the soft sculptures that have appeared often in her work: in frames on wall, on furniture and boats, and in her Infinity Mirror Room. In contrast to the sheer volume of this motif in her visual work, her quick mention of being glad she’s not a cat allows the poem to be a playful menagerie in some undying garden, only lightly touched by human influence.

I think immediately of Turtle, my childhood cat. For weeks my brother almost had me convinced that she was a robot, until I saw her give birth. My father found her on a construction site in Manhattan on his walk home from work. She must have already been pregnant when he brought her into our tiny apartment. A few weeks later my parents pulled me out of elementary school in the middle of the day to come witness the birth of two kittens. Turtle caused another kind of issue at school: inquiries as to if everything was OK at home in response to the large and numerous scratches on my arms. Turtle didn’t take to domesticity and ran away within the year. We eventually gave her kittens to a neighbor. Turtle might not have liked being a mother, but she taught me how to climb trees.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter & Content Strategist

Source: Kusama, Yayoi. Violet Obsession. Translated by Hisako Ifshin and Ralph F. McCarthy with Leza Lowitz. Edited by Alexandra Munro. Berkeley, CA: Wandering Mind Books, 1998.
Illustration: Natali Wiseman.

 

 

 

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Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Alexandrew Wong

Alexandrew (Alex) Wong is an artist and native Seattleite, raised in the south end of the city. He attended Franklin High School where he first learned to use wood tools to create art. At the University of Washington, Alex thrived and was accepted into the School of Art as a 3D4M major. He gained skill sets using tools to create multimedia sculptures with glass, wood, steel, and ceramics. Alex joined the SAM as a Visitor Services Officer (VSO) after he graduated. He’s been here for about a year and a half and truly enjoys it.

SAM: Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors opened June 30 and runs until September 10. What is your favorite piece in this exhibition?
Alex: My favorite piece in Yayoi Kusama is The Obliteration Room. The idea of creating a room and sticking colored dots on the living room surface is genius. The concept is so playful and colorful. One thing I struggled with in school was using color, I was terrible at it. But the room itself uses people to contribute to the art and has them color the piece themselves. Genius.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?
My favorite piece at SAM is the Native American house posts. The skill in creating those posts is phenomenal. Imagine the carver themselves, just chipping away at a log for hours to create the four things that hold your house up.

Who is your favorite artist?
Kendrick Lamar, his music keeps me going. When it’s time to get hyped, I start bumping his tunes. For those wondering put on “m.A.A.d City,” “Swimming Pools,” “HUMBLE,” “King Kunta,” and “Backseat Freestyle.” Tell me these don’t get you hyped up too.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?
The bathrooms in the forum are to the left at the end of John Grade’s Middle Fork (the south side of the tree).

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?
I work at an art co-op in Capitol Hill, Blue Cone Studios, where I create ceramic sculptures. So to whomever is reading this, come check my work out. I’ll teach you a thing or two about clay. I’ll provide materials and lessons. We do art walk every second Thursday. Come by and let’s talk art.

– Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

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Docents Defined: Celeste Ericsson

Get more intimate with SAM’s collection by becoming a docent! Docents will learn about our global collection of artwork and then share their knowledge and passion for art with a diverse range of visitors. No experience necessary! SAM docents have a wide range of reference points and experiences that they each bring to the art in SAM’s collection and that is what makes our public tours so unique. Making room for new perspectives is how we continue to offer engaging and informational tours throughout the year. Here’s a chance to get to know Celeste Ericsson, just one of our many docents who volunteers their time at the museum. Are you interested in becoming a SAM docent and leading tours of the museum? Apply now! Applications are accepted through July 12 and new docents start training in fall 2017!

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you become a docent?

Celeste Ericsson: I’ve always loved art museums ever since I was a child growing up in New York City. My favorite New York museums were/are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters. I have always been interested in history in general, and in symbolism/iconography. As an illustrator and a graphic designer, a knowledge of art history and art movements both inspires me and helps me to communicate in my artwork.

What’s the best part of being a docent?

I get to share my interests with others, and I love doing it with kids. I’m constantly adding their insights to my tours. I do like talking with adults also. In order to communicate clearly, I have to figure out the most important things I believe about art and art philosophy. And in order to make things relevant I need to figure out the connections and the contexts for the art I’m touring so that the pieces do not become disembodied objects. In other words my docent work clarifies my own understanding of art.

What work of art is your favorite to tour?

The works of art that are my favorite to tour definitely differ from the works I’m personally drawn to. I’m drawn to the Archaic Greek Antefix with Medusa or Akio Takamori’s Blue Princess. For art to tour I liked Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune Stage One, definitely a favorite before it was deinstalled last winter. Aesthetically, I found it horrifying, but it tells the story of art so clearly. I can’t think of even one class that it did not connect to, or who failed to figure out the story of a car flipping and exploding.

I’m finding that kids are really drawn to John Grade’s Middle Fork also. My favorite description from a third grader is that it looks like a Jenga game.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

My favorite touring experience lately was Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series for kindergarten, no less. I hadn’t expected the kids to get it, but the themes of having to leave home and everything familiar, and the theme of fairness really resonated with them. They created the most amazing drawings afterwards. A couple were very personal, and the kids were kind and appreciative of each other’s creations.

What advice do you have for people considering applying to the docent program?

This is a hard one to answer, but I’d say to be in it for how art can be inspiring. Really try to find those paths of wonder and fun for the kids. Discover your own genuine voice. Finally, it’s great to not take oneself too seriously, and to have a sense of humor.

– Kelsey Donahue, Museum Educator, School & Educator Programs

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