All posts in “SAM Staff”

Migration Stories: Chiyo Ishikawa

World War II is the reason my parents met. They were both American citizens but wartime fear forced an unwanted migration on my father’s family and thousands of other west coast Japanese and Japanese-Americans. As soon as Executive Order 9066 was issued in February 1942, my dad began efforts to get out of internment camp. This second migration is how he came to meet my German-American mother in Nebraska that same year.

My father’s father, Rintaro Ishikawa, was born in Hiroshima in 1865. In the early 20th century he emigrated to the United States with his wife Mura and their young daughter Fusae. We don’t know why the family chose to emigrate but it may be because they had converted to Christianity and perhaps also so that Fusae could receive a college education, which was unavailable to girls in Japan at that time. Rintaro first worked as a janitor and then for Hyland’s, a homeopathic pharmacy which still exists today. He never learned much English, and he and his wife spoke Japanese at home. The family settled in East Hollywood in a neighborhood of Japanese immigrants and African-Americans. There they had four more children, including my father, Joseph, who was born in 1919.

After his sophomore year at UCLA in 1938, Joe followed his father’s wishes and sailed to Japan to learn Japanese. Rintaro was concerned that his children could not read and write the language and had no communication with family members in Hiroshima. Joe was admitted to Keio University but after two semesters relations had grown so strained between Japan and the United States that the American consulate warned American citizens to leave. He returned to the US in January 1941 on the penultimate ship that sailed before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December that year.

In February 1942 Executive Order 9066 was issued; it called for the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese-Americans on the west coast. The family first reported to the Santa Anita Racetrack before being transferred by train to the Granada War Relocation Center (Amache) in southeast Colorado about six months later. While at Santa Anita, Joe applied to inland universities which welcomed Nisei students and was accepted at the University of Nebraska.

Joe went to the University of Nebraska in fall 1942 to study English literature, but he began working at the University Art Galleries and eventually became a curator there. Through a friend he met my mother, Olivia Brandhorst, the daughter of two German-American parents whose families had emigrated from Germany in the 19th century.

Olivia’s paternal grandfather, Karl Wilhelm Brandhorst, was born in 1869 in a small town near Hamburg in northern Germany. He came to the United States to work as a coal miner in Mt. Olive, Illinois but tried several other jobs before settling in Lahoma, Oklahoma in 1902 with his wife Alvina Backhaus and their children. Olivia’s maternal grandparents, Ernst and Augusta Koeneke, were prosperous farmers in Kansas who had come to the United States from Schleswig-Hollstein, Germany in the mid-19th century.

Carl Theodore Brandhorst (b. 1898) married the youngest Koeneke daughter, Louise, and began a career as a Lutheran school teacher in small Kansas towns. My mother, born in 1927, was the third of their eight children. German was spoken at home when she was small. When Olivia was a teenager the family moved to Seward, Nebraska. She had led a sheltered, conservative life and my father must have seemed exotic to her—nine years older than her, from the west coast, a Japanese-American with experience living abroad.

My parents met in 1944 and married in 1951 after a long and tumultuous courtship. The Brandhorst parents liked my dad but did not approve of the marriage, and no family members from either side were present at the wedding. Going against her parents’ wishes was hard for my mother, who had been raised to “honor thy father and thy mother.” But in the following years they made sure that their five children had relationships with their families and learned the best of the values that had shaped them.

My parents came from two tradition-bound cultures that were known for proud homogeneity. Their own lives provided a counter-narrative to those norms, which had proved so devastatingly destructive during the years of World War II. Part of it was that their generation thought of themselves more as Americans than belonging to their culture of origin, and like many of their peers Olivia and Joe moved away from their hometowns to forge a new identity that they could shape independently.

– Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture

Inspired by Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series, Seattle Art Museum’s Equity Team and staff is sharing personal stories of immigration, migration, displacement, and community. Hear more stories, in person, at the last installment of our Migration Stories events, this Thursday, April 13, with speakers presented in partnership with Tasveer in The Migration Series gallery. We hope this blog series and the upcoming event inspires you to consider how your own perspective and history relates to the works on view in Jacob Lawrence’s artwork.

Photo: Olivia and Joseph Ishikawa wedding photo , June 11, 1951, Courtesy of Chiyo Ishikawa.
Share

Migration Stories: Lindsey Dabek

Long Story Short…

In the beginning
somewhere in time
In the fields
In the mountains
In the jungle
In the vineyard
There they were
The Polish ones, they came through Ellis Island
Looking for a new life
Foreign? Not foreign . . .
Jewish? Not Jewish . . . (Jewish)
Through NY to the mid-west
Saginaw, Traverse City, Ann Arbor
The light ones were here already, somehow
Didn’t remember the roots quite right
Norse or something like it.

Meanwhile in Peru
An intelligent engineer, a dark man
An Indian
A missionary from the Canary Islands
PUERTO RICO!!!
To NY
SAN JUAN!!!
To NY
Corsica, Spain, Italy
To NY
EVERYBODY!!!
Little girl . . . your mom was HOW old?
You had HOW many brothers and sisters?

My mom – NY
1960s to Cali
My dad – MI
1960s to Cali
LOS ANGELES!!!
Music – people – love – not – war
Two smart young people with the dream of making a family
Dream of peaceful trees and quiet home
Dream of music and art
Dream of computers and education
1970s to Seattle
THIS was it
Trees – house – dog – kids – family – yard
Work . . . work . . . work
THIS was it.
My brother
Me
1980s West Seattle
Our block . . . us
Together on the street
Bikes – games – yards – cats – dogs
Constantly moving, yet in one place
Work . . . work . . . PLAY
Mom and Dad
what they never had,
they gave to US.

My home
Seattle
Since the day I was born
My only home.
Still is as long as I can stick it out
Can’t price me out yet
Can’t push me south
THIS is home.
My only home.
Through me,
they all came here, together
I’m still watching for the ancestors on the shores of Lincoln Park,
Waiting to see the rainbow
Waiting for the Sun Dog
as the eagles play in the breeze.

No sir,
I’m not going anywhere.

–Lindsey Dabek, SAM Shop Manager

Inspired by Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series, Seattle Art Museum’s Equity Team and staff is sharing personal stories of immigration, migration, displacement, and community. Enjoy this blog series? Hear more stories in person from local legends and how their perspectives relate to the works on view in Jacob Lawrence’s artwork during Migration Stories events on the first and second Thursdays at Seattle Art Museum through April. 

Photos: Courtesy of Lindsey Dabek
Share

Get to know SAM’s VSOs: Sara Salvador

A Seattle native, Sara Salvador grew up surrounded by the fishing business and a love for the outdoors. Wanting to stay in state for college, she attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, spending the majority of her time in the library or going on outdoor adventures. After earning her BA in History and Political Science, Sara moved back to Seattle, balancing working at SAM and a local law firm.

SAM: Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks From The Paul G. Allen Family Collection opened February 16 and runs until May 23. As our latest special exhibition, Seeing Nature has a lot to offer. What is your favorite piece in the exhibition?

Sara: This is a hard question because the entire exhibition is breathtaking. If I had to choose, it would be Gerhard Richter’s Apple Trees piece. Photo-paintings have always fascinated me because photography is one my side hobbies and I love the idea of combining two different art styles to create something new. Whenever I am in the gallery, I am always in awe of this piece.

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

Definitely Albert Bierstadt’s Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast. I fell in love with it when I first saw it because Bierstadt did a spectacular job capturing the famous PNW scenery. Additionally, it is impressive how the painting was from Bierstadt’s imagination because it looks like you can find this “scene” anywhere in the PNW.

Who is your favorite artist?

I recently discovered Gian Bernini after a friend showed me his famous Ratto di Proserpina. The statue is beyond amazing and there is so much detail involved. The Veil is also stunning and looks so realistic that I cannot believe it is made out of marble. Ancient sculptures are my favorite because of the amount of detail on such a hard surface.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Take your time! SAM has so much to offer when it comes to art and history. Spend time with the art and if you have any questions or insights, don’t be afraid to share it with a VSO. I always appreciate learning something new from a patron about an art object.

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

Now that I am a college grad, I’ve been finding ways to keep myself educated and busy. So usually you can find me in a coffee shop reading or on my laptop researching whatever interests me. Sometimes if the weather is nice, I adventure around the city and discover new places to eat because I love food. Recently, I have been working at my grandparents’ shop, Linc’s Tackle, it’s been around since 1950. If anyone needs fishing equipment, check out my grandparents’ shop!

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman
Share

Envisioning Equity: Migration Stories

SAM’s Equity Team has a vision: an inclusive museum where everyone can connect art to their lives in a welcoming and accessible way. Since early 2016, SAM has participated in the City of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative. A key outcome of this has been our Equity Team, formed in connection with “Turning Commitment into Action”—a multi-day training program for arts administrators examining historic racial disparities in our region and discussing ways to build racial equity.

“I’m excited about SAM’s commitment to prioritize time, resources, and support to build an equitable future here. The team’s contributions are essential to creating better access for our communities and fostering permanent change,” says Priya Frank, Associate Director for Community Programs and chair of the Equity Team.

SAM’s Director and CEO, Kim Rorschach agrees. “The team helps steer the museum towards the important work of inclusivity and considering equity in all our decisions. This progress will help us develop a more diverse audience that is representative of our region and remove barriers to entry.” Informed by feedback from mandatory all-staff racial equity trainings, SAM’s Racial Equity Plan was drafted. The team now acts as stewards of this larger vision to reach equity across all aspects of the museum. This includes examining artistic and educational programming, visitor experiences, recruiting practices, as well as staff development and career growth opportunities.

Although the museum recognizes that permanent change takes time and investment, initial changes are noticeable. Curatorial Coordinator Jenae Williams says, “The most tangible impact so far is the thoughtful consideration I overhear in meetings on installation planning or education programs.” This year the Equity Team organized free gallery tours focused on race and social justice, launched a new internship program for historically underrepresented participants, and created a book club inviting SAM staff to read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, a nonfiction work about the Great Migration in which African Americans fled the Jim Crow South and settled in northern American cities. The book club examined this historical event and increased staff familiarity with Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series, on view downtown through April 23. “We organize internal events for staff to engage in equity-related conversations and emphasize how central equity is to all of our work, regardless of what department a person works in.” says Marcus Ramirez, Coordinator for Education and Public Programs.

The Migration Series exhibition is one example of integrating the Team’s strategic vision into SAM’s programming. Offering our Three-Day Free Day event over the opening weekend of the exhibition is another way we increased access to the entire community. SAM’s efforts as an advocate for Cultural Access Washington (CAWA) are also supported by our equity work. If approved in a future county-wide referendum, CAWA funding will help the museum offer additional free days and more educational programs accessible to all. As Jenny Woods, Manager of Volunteer Programs, says, “There is not one magic thing we can do to change the demographics of SAM, but the efforts of the museum within national conversations on equity will bring change.”

Over the next month SAM staff will be sharing stories from their personal and family history of immigration, migration, displacement, and community in a series called Migration Stories for the SAM Blog. Stay tuned for photos, quotes, creative writing, and interviews that will inspire thought on history and the figure of the migrant throughout time and in our contemporary moment.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter & Content Strategist

Photo: Natali Wiseman
Share

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Kittie McAllister

Kittie (known as Katie by her family) grew up on a beautiful farm in Carnation, Washington, riding horses and exploring the woods with her dog. As part of her Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree at Bellevue College, she excelled in hand-drawn animation classes (and was published in her mentor Tony White’s book, How to Make Animated Films) but decided she wanted to be an oil painter. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Studio Art from Central Washington University in 2016, where she discovered her love of making three-dimensional objects and using her painting skills to give them sophisticated surface qualities. Working as a Visitor Services Officer in the galleries of the Seattle Art Museum keeps her engaged in her greatest interest—art history.

SAM: Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series opened January 21 and is running until April 23. What is your favorite piece in this series?

McAllister: Every painting in The Migration Series is full of earth tones, so Panel 5 struck me for its vibrant colors and total absence of browns. A black locomotive speeding through the deep blue night, with its yellow bell swinging in the force of the wind and light penetrating the darkness ahead, gleams like an emblem of hope for the migrants leaving deplorable living situations behind. The yellow paint of the bell is even brighter than the bold yellow seen throughout the series, perhaps emphasizing it as a symbol of liberty and progress.

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

The huge Mann und Maus sculpture by Katharina Fritsch, for the BIG reactions it always gets! I often hear adults say that waking up to giant vermin on their bed is their worst nightmare, while children perceive the “mousy” as cute and funny; one child thought he got so big from eating too much cheese! I see dark symbolism in the piece and feel a little uneasy when posted in its imposing presence.

Who is your favorite artist?

As I delved deeper into John Lennon’s music, I became curious about the woman he wrote such desperate love songs about, and I discovered the avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. Her sculptures and poems are minimalistic and give simple commands to the viewer—the act of physically, or mentally, carrying out those actions focuses your cognizance in the moment. A brief writing example of Yoko’s:

LIGHTING PIECE

Light a match and watch till it goes out.

1955 autumn

One of my favorite works is a white ladder that, when you climb to the top and look through a magnifying glass hanging by a delicate chain, you can find the tiny word, “Yes” written on the white ceiling. John Lennon fell in love with Yoko when he felt refreshed by her positive message in this interactive art piece.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Make a day of it! I always recommend starting back in time on the fourth floor with our most ancient art objects, and working your way back to the present with our more contemporary works on the third floor. SAM celebrates diversity and is a safe space to be yourself and unabashedly explore the eccentric world of art.

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

Recently I had a painting in the Erotica exhibition on Capitol Hill for Second Thursday Art Walk—it was such a hoot! Now that I’m finished with school I have time to get back into my guitar and I love spending lazy days just journaling. My shorthaired black cat, Tobias Funke, always demands my attention, and I’m simply enjoying my time with friends and family now that I’m back in Seattle. I’m always making little plans and schemes for my creative notions—working at Seattle Art Museum keeps my creativity fueled!

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman.
Share

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: David Nevarrez

Originally from Southern California, David has traveled all over the USA and beyond. He studied theatre arts, psychology, film, video, and photography. He moved to New York City and became involved in the theatre as a director, playwright, actor, and stage manager, even winning several awards for poetry. In 2001, he moved to Seattle and found his favorite day job as a barista. For a year in 2006, David moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to teach English. Upon returning to Seattle he joined the SAM family since being around art has always been inspirational to him. He started writing for a small British movie digest in 2015 and traveled to take a marionette carving workshop in Prague, Czech Republic. With his experiences in the arts and travel, David enjoys the inspiration he gathers at SAM and continues to dabble in experimental film and photography, writing a novel, and writing poetry.

SAM: Pure Amusements: Wealth, Leisure, and Culture in Late Imperial China is a new addition to the downtown location’s Asian art display. What is your favorite piece in this section?

Nevarrez: The Scholar Rocks, as I had not known of them. Not only are they fascinating, but I learned something new. 

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

Film is Dead . . . by Jennifer West—draped rolls of large format film stock, which has been painted on (as was done by such experimental filmmakers as Stan Brakhage), or has abstract images (some resembling digitization) hung up as a curtain (like the old “hippie bead” curtains popular in the ’60s), reaching the floor, and rolling up to 3 large screen TVs showing rolling film images of the abstractions. Is film dead? More and more, movies are shot with digital video because it’s easier to manipulate. While film had twice the light reception of analog video, digital has more than film, though for DV to look cinematic it must be manipulated in post-production. This does not mean some filmmakers don’t still use film; I have seen an announcement at the end of several big budget films that they were shot on actual film stock. Even so, with DVallowing filmmaking to be more accessible, has not the idea of “film,” that is cinema, simply become un-reliant on celluloid and more egalitarian? 

Who is your favorite artist?

As a cineaste, I first think of filmmakers when asked such a question. Over the last couple years have immersed myself in three directors of note: Andrzej Zulawski (who sadly died last February), Abbas Kiarostami (who sadly died last June), and Aleksandr Sokurov. All there are very poetic in their respective styles. Zulawski (best known in the States for Possession from 1981 starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill) features intense emotions between characters, especially lovers, in an almost musical style. Kiarostami (best known here for Taste of Cherry from 1997) has more of a cinema verity style, wherein his films seem unscripted and very natural. Sokurov (best known for Russian Ark (2002)) looks at different aspects of power, from the personal to the epic.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Give yourself time to wander about at first, so as to note some area that especially interests you, then return to the area for a more in-depth exploration.

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

After a 9 year hiatus on my novel, I have gotten somewhat back to work on it, partly helped by expanding out to include it within a long saga, concurrently working on other parts. I also work on some films and videos.

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman
Share

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Alyssa Norling

Alyssa Norling

Aly moved from Hillsboro, OR to Seattle in 2011 to pursue her BFA in Theater from Cornish College of the Arts. After spending a summer working for a trapeze studio in exchange for high flying trapeze lessons, she decided she should find a paying job while in school. She took up her position as a VSO at SAM and graduated with her BFA with a concentration in Original Works in 2015. Aly continues working as a VSO to gain inspiration while working as an actress, playwright, director, dancer, and singer.

SAM: Material Difference: European Perspectives is a new addition to the Big Picture: Art after 1945 exhibition featuring artist Anselm Kiefer. What is your favorite piece in this section?

Norling: Anselm Kiefer’s Die Welle (The Wave). You know something is deeply wrong with the world when you see it, and then you learn that Kiefer is using the myth of Lilith at the Red Sea to evoke the destruction, despair, and death of the holocaust. It’s remarkably haunting and effective. It’s inspired me to take a closer look at the myth of Lilith and create art of my own about her because, to me, the myth sounds like it was created to keep women from demanding equality with men.

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

I have to cheat because my favorite was JUST taken down. Untitled by John McCracken,the monolith-type thing with perfectly clear reflective surfaces, became my favorite over time. When patrons took their time and really considered our stainless steel McCracken (in ways other than to fix their hair and take mirror pics) it inspired so much play and creativity. The possibilities for interacting with it were endless. It evoked a wider variety of response from patrons than any other piece in the museum, in my experience. The McCracken was a different work of art every day, every minute, depending on who was in its presence and how they chose to interact with it.

Who is your favorite artist?

My brain goes to playwrights. I’ve been in love with the structure, themes, and feminism that live in the plays of Maria Irene Fornes and Caryl Churchill for a very long time, so probably one of those two. Read one of their plays someday! Seriously.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Spend time with art. More time than you think. More time than you want. I took this job because I was curious about what discoveries I’d make if I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the presence of a work of art. Interesting things happen when you push yourself to give art the time and attention it actually needs from you. This sounds like really basic advice, but spend a day in the life of a VSO and you’ll be dumbfounded by how many patrons experience art at hyper speed through smart phone cameras. Snap. Move on. Snap. Move on. Snap. Move on. So many people don’t experience art through their actual eyes, brains, and hearts. And very few push themselves to really investigate a work of art and discover a relationship with it.

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

Rehearsals, performances, or research really just take up most of my time! Currently, I perform at Café Nordo in Pioneer Square Thursdays–Sundays in a crazy, geeky, hilariously weird Christmas, shadow-puppet play called Christmas is Burning that runs all of December. I’m also rehearsing with a group that will be performing a piece at On The Boards in the spring, which I’m really excited about. But when it’s not one of those current projects, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out what kind of art I want to make in the future. My education is in theatre, but I grew up a dancer and surround myself with visual art, so I feel a need to explore which of these (or which combination of these) will allow me to tell stories most effectively.

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman
Share

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Greg Thompson

A Seattle native, Greg found his way to the Seattle Art Museum after working as a Brick Mason and attaining his Mechanical Engineering degree. His love of art and personable nature make him a popular guard in the galleries. Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi opened on November 11 at the Asian Art Museum. Her works are mostly digital animation, with four pieces made specifically for this exhibition. Those pieces are based off SAM’s permanent collection pieces that are also displayed throughout the exhibition. Many artists take inspiration from the world around them, including Greg. In the galleries, he’s often drawing depictions of the works currently on display or making caricatures of other VSOs.

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

Thompson: The Italian Room on the fourth floor. The crazy thing about that room is that it was shipped from Italy piece by piece. I could take a nap in there.

Who is your favorite artist?
Kehinde Wiley and Gordon Parks.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?
Take your time and enjoy the experience.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?
Well when I’m not at SAM, I like to do stuff in my studio like make mix tapes. I like to watch movies and spend time with friends and family. I’m also studying to be a ventriloquist—I can talk while drinking water now!

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman.
Share

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Austen Mumper

AUSTEN MUMPER
After earning his economics degree at Gonzaga University, Austen worked for Colliers International, a real estate services company. Austen currently attends The Art Institute of Seattle studying animation and pursuing his life-long interest in music and art. Working at SAM surrounded by artwork and conversations with coworkers and museum patrons provides him constant inspiration.

SAM: Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style opened on October 11. What’s your favorite part of the exhibition?

Mumper: Seeing the life of a fashion designer and the process that goes into clothing design is a very new perspective for me. The rooms alone are beautifully arranged, completely unrecognizable from past exhibitions I’ve worked. Still owning hand-me-downs, I don’t think people should be taking my fashion advice, but any person interested in fashion must see this show.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?
Choosing a favorite piece is incredibly difficult. That said, the section I frequent most is the African Art—in particular, Standing Figure (Nkondi), a religious idol made by the Kongo people. Each nail driven into this figure represents an oath between two people. If that oath is broken, the spirit of this vessel will travel out from its base to harm any violators in play. It’s amazing to have something made by a community to help everyone displayed for everyone to see.

Who is your favorite artist?
My favorite artist is Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and manga artist. Miyazaki’s goal was to build a studio where the priority was not success, but making good films. The depth of his characters is amazing, it’s like we know them by the end of the film. His fictional worlds use his personal experience, historical facts, and his opinions to tell you how he sees reality and what he has learned form it. Miyazaki said, “Creating animation means creating a fictional world. That world soothes the spirit of those who are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality.” I keep this in mind each step of the way towards my goals in animation.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?
I encourage anyone to ask questions or simply share with us. We all have unique insights that can benefit both speaker and listener, although taking your time to experience the art is understandable. I appreciate all of the people I’ve learned from, and I enjoy when I can talk about the art with someone who enjoys it as much as myself and the rest of the people working at the SAM.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?
Most of my time is taken up with work and classes, both of which I enjoy. Working at SAM has been its own education—learning about people, places and pieces all telling great stories. I couldn’t have asked for a better position in my attempts to join the art community.

—Katherine Humphreys, SAM VSO

Share
Share