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Muse/News: Royal treasures, royal brides, and the Sikh Captain America

SAM News

Sebastian Smee for The Washington Post with a glittering review of Peacock in the Desert, now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston—and traveling to Seattle Art Museum this fall. Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India illuminates nearly four centuries of Indian courtly life and opens at SAM on October 18.

“A thoughtful, stately and scholarly exhibition, filled with objects of almost unbelievable refinement, most of which have never left Jodhpur, let alone India.”

Local News

The Henry announced last week that Shamim M. Momin will be their new Senior Curator; Momin’s previous experience includes LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) and the Whitney.

Naomi Ishisaka, Ramon Dompor, and Corinne Chin of The Seattle Times tell the story of “accidental cartoonist,” performance artist, and activist Vishavjit Singh—AKA the Sikh Captain America.

Rich Smith of The Stranger speaks with Alexandra Gardner, the Seattle Symphony’s composer-in-residence, who worked with queer homeless youth on a new work that debuted underneath SAM’s tree sculpture Middle Fork last Saturday.

“The piece starts off with a lot of bells. It’s very sparkly. Some of the musicians were like, ‘Oh it’s so beautiful and sparkly, I thought it would be more angry,’ but it’s not at all. There are some ever-so-slightly dark parts. Overall the feeling they wanted to communicate was not about their past experiences, which may have been very dark, but rather a hopeful future. And I think that really speaks to the participants’ resilience and imagination.”

Inter/National News

Past Times by Kerry James Marshall, which once hung in a Chicago convention center, sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s. The price is a new record for the artist—and among living Black American artists, too.

This May marks the 50th anniversary of Paris’ 1968 student riots; Artsy’s Digby Warde-Aldam reflects on the protests’ legacy on the visual culture of protests.

The sacred, the profane, and the Rihanna: we’re still recovering from the recent Met Gala coverage. Here’s Eleanor Heartney of Artnet with a review of the “gorgeous and unsettling” exhibition that explores the Catholic imagination.

“Contemporary art and religion have long been perceived as antagonists. However, this show suggests that the real chasm is between religion and fashion—the one focused on the realm of spirit and values, the other on luxury and conspicuous consumption.”

And Finally

A couple got married last Saturday, and millions of people watched. The cultural meanings of it all were much discussed; don’t miss The New Yorker’s Doreen St. Félix on the “profound presence of Doria Ragland,” the bride’s mother.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Maharaja Abhai Singh on Horseback, c. 1725, Dalchand, Jodhpur, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, Mehrangarh Museum Trust, photo: Neil Greentree.
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Muse/News: Basquiat Unpacked, Public Poetics, and The Magic of The Shirelles

SAM News

The latest episode of Seattle Channel’s ArtZone features their interview with curator Catharina Manchanda about Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled.

Artsy debuts their “Vanguard” series, recognizing influential contemporary artists at various points in their careers. Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize-winner Sondra Perry is included among the “newly established”—artists at “crucial tipping points in their careers.”

Los Angeles-based magazine Riot Material reviews Figuring History, in advance of its closing on May 13.

“Figuring History is as visually stunning as it is historically significant. For Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall and Mickalene Thomas, the show is validation that they succeeded in their passionate quest to make themselves visible. These artists matter and their art will be a beacon for us all, for those who write the histories and create the shows and for those are able to see themselves represented in museums for perhaps the first time.”

Local News

Seattle Times has the first look at the Nordic Museum as it prepares for its grand opening this weekend.

The Stranger staff picks their top 15 art shows in Pioneer Square for the month of May.

City Art’s Margo Vansynghel reviews A LONE, a series of 10 public artworks across the city co-curated by Vignettes and Gramma Poetry.

“Dealing with themes such as gentrification and the mass media’s (biased) coverage of the events in Charlottesville, the works in A LONE blend poetry and visual art and speak to the intricacies of being alone in a big city full of people. ‘You’re alone together,’ Stinson says. ‘That’s kind of a fascinating thing.’”

Inter/National News

The fun we’re not having at Frieze: Roberta Smith of the New York Times goes on the hunt for “artistic gems” at the annual art fair. (There’s a shout-out to Everyday Poetics artist Sonia Gomes!)

The American Antiquarian Society has digitized 225 photographs of Native people; taken decades before Edward S. Curtis began his project, these photos “represent the chapter one of the photographic history of Native people.”

The Baltimore Museum of Art has an “absolutely transformative” plan for their collection: deaccessioning works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Franz Kline, and Robert Rauschenberg in order to acquire works by contemporary artists who are women and artists of color.

“’The decision to do this rests very strongly on my commitment to rewrite the postwar canon,’ Bedford told artnet News. And while institutions sell art to fund new acquisitions every so often, the BMA’s latest deaccession stands out. ‘To state it explicitly and act on it with discipline—there is no question that is an unusual and radical act to take,’ Bedford says.”

And Finally

I will still love them tomorrow—and forever. The New Yorker’s Elon Green interviews Beverly Lee of The Shirelles about a “magical ten seconds” of the legendary group.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Installation view of Basquiat—Untitled at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

In honor of World Book Day, Culture Type recommends reading an exhibition catalogue; among the picks is the catalogue for Figuring History (only two weeks left to see it!).

“Few have the opportunity to travel around the country to view all of the important and compelling museum exhibitions featuring work by African American artists. While there is no substitute for seeing art in person, exhibition catalogs are the next best thing.”

The solo exhibition of the 2017 Betty Bowen Award winner is now on view! Margo Vansynghel of City Arts interviewed the artist for this feature story.

“I don’t want to only talk about myself,” Vaughan says when we meet to talk about the Betty Bowen Award and the associated show. “The project is about raising awareness about what’s happening: Last year was the most dangerous year on record for trans people, and specifically for womxn of color. Over 92 percent of trans people killed are trans people of color. That intersectionality is important.”

In her recurring series Art of Our City, Marcie Sillman of KUOW features dancer, Renaissance man, and SAM public programs coordinator David Rue (I really hope you didn’t miss him perform last week in Dani Tirrell’s Black Bois).

My older brother was in a production of “Into the Woods.” He was in 6th grade or something like that, but it was the first time I saw the curtain rise to expose this world of the imagination and I was like, “Oh my god! This is what I should be doing! This is it!’

Local News

Seattle Times food writer Bethany Jean Clement reviews Oh, You STILL Work There?, The Factory’s recent show about artists working in the service industry.

Carla Bell for Crosscut interviews ChrisTiana ObeySumner, Seattle Opera’s first social impact consultant; they will work to “encourage more access to communities of color.”

City Art’s Margo Vansynghel on Photographic Center Northwest’s current show on the deep visual legacy of the Black Panther Party, curated by Michelle Dunn Marsh and Negarra Kudumu.

“The Black Panthers were very aware of the power of imagery and of the effects of repetition,” Kudumu says. “The key markers and unifying aesthetic were always present, as a constant reminder of who they were and what they stood for.”

Inter/National News

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice—“the first public museum and memorial to the victims of racial terror in the US”—opened last week in Montgomery, Alabama. The New York Times’ Campbell Robertson has an unmissable look at this extraordinary new institution.

The Institute for Contemporary Art has opened in Richmond, Virginia. Hyperallergic’s Amanda Dalla Villa Adams visits their inaugural exhibition, Declaration, featuring artists such as Deb Sokolow, Titus Kaphar, and Paul Rucker.

Artsy’s Tess Thackara on the “must-see” exhibition of sculpture by the late Jack Whitten, now on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

“They were talismans and memorials; expressions of reverence to his ancestors; objects intended to create hope and to keep his family safe. They bring African and European cultural pasts together, rejecting the binaries of West and non-West. Indeed, they represent something like a loose roadmap for the future of humanity, offering some clues for how we might face the twin threats of technological and ecological crisis.”

And Finally

RIP to Bob Dorough, who has passed away at 94. I will always be grateful for your undeniably funky earworms that made learning magical.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman
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Object of the Week: Engineering Drawing for Montlake Landfill Proposal

With President Carter’s announcement that the nation must mobilize its vast coal resources to solve the energy crisis, we are entering an era of potentially irreconcilable conflict between the pressures of energy and the pressures of environmental concern.

– John D. Spellman, Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture, 1979

We find ourselves in a critical and precarious moment: our impact on the environment has caused irreparable harm. With this in mind, it is incredible to look back nearly forty years ago, when the King County Arts Commission brought together a roster of internationally recognized artists to re-imagine post-industrial sites in King County, such as gravel pits, surface mines, and abandoned airstrips. The 1979 initiative and its attendant symposium—Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture—was a progressive city-backed project meant to envision earthworks as a tool for environmental recovery.

Among the group of accomplished artists—which included Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Mary Miss, and Herbert Bayer—was Beverly Pepper, who worked with the University of Washington to develop her proposal for Montlake Landfill, part of the University of Washington’s East Campus. [1] Measuring approximately 80 acres, the landfill site proposal contained two main elements: the first, rendered in the lower right-hand corner of the plan, a 100-foot circle of white-capped posts that would, over time, reveal changes in land levels and be a resource for University of Washington students; the second, an intervention into the landscape that would reveal (through a glass wall) decades of waste disposed at the site, as well as a layer of gravel to again indicate the earth’s movement over time.[2]

While it is not the responsibility of artists to respond to political, social, or cultural events, it is often the case that artists are in the unique and privileged position to call attention to contemporary issues, respond to our increasingly complex world, and, most importantly, effect change. Though Pepper’s Montlake Landfill proposal never came to fruition (Robert Morris and Herbert Bayer’s plans were selected by the jury panel), it remains a radical gesture that will hopefully serve to inspire future artists, environmentalists, and civic leaders alike.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Images: Engineering Drawing for MontLake Landfill Proposal, 1979, Beverly Pepper, Collage of graphite on vellum, 30 1/4 x 54 3/4 in., King County Office of Cultural Resources, 98.3.47, Beverly Pepper. Cover of Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture catalogue, 1979.
[1] The Montlake Landfill operated as a burn dump and, eventually, as landfill between the years 1926 and 1966. In 1971, the landfill was closed, and covered with two feet of clean soil. According to a report published by the University of Washington’s Environmental Health & Safety Department, “Municipal solid waste, primarily consisting of residential wastes, was disposed in the landfill. Some limited amounts of industrial waste that could be considered hazardous were also disposed at this location.” As for the location: “Although the exact limits of the Montlake Landfill are not definitively known, available documentation suggests that the landfill is generally bounded by Montlake Boulevard NE to the west; NE 45th Street to the north; Laurel Village and the Douglas Research Conservatory to the east; and Canal Road, the Intramural Activities Building, and Union Bay to the south.” For the entire report, please see: https://www.ehs.washington.edu/system/files/resources/montlake.pdf
[2] For more on the projects included in Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture, please see: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/archives/exhibits/earthworks_brief.aspx.
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Woman's Kimono

Object of the Week: Woman’s Kimono

This time of the year (on the West Coast, at least) always reminds me of my favorite line from the poem Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay: “Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”1 With cherry blossoms blooming, flowers cropping up overnight, and the impending spring equinox, it’s hard not to feel deep excitement about the changing season.

The pictured kimono, or furisode, perfectly captures the frenzied energy with which spring arrives. Turbulent waves rushing forward, overlapping with flowers, trees, and fans, together evoke the lush abundance of March, April, and May. Set against a black background, the colorful composition feels especially saturated—almost unreal. Luckily for us, just a quick glimpse outside offers a very real reminder that spring indeed brings with it unbelievable hues of pink, purple, orange, and green.

Made of silk, this furisode is one of a few examples in the SAM collection exhibiting yuzen: a freehand paste-resist dyeing method. Developed in late 17th-century Kyoto—where the production of kimono textiles reached its peak—yuzen allowed artists to create designs painted by hand with a rice-paste coating. This process ultimately liberated designers from the repetitive patterns associated with other dyeing techniques, such as shibori. Resulting in large pictorial images such as this spring landscape, yuzen brought a wholly new aesthetic to kimono decoration.

The furisode is a kimono distinguished by its long, billowing sleeves that, when worn, sway gracefully as the wearer moves; its elegance is echoed throughout its form and sumptuous design. If you’re in the galleries and need a vernal pick-me-up, this beautiful kimono can be found in Talents and Beauties: Art of Women in Japan on the third floor.

Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Woman’s kimono (furisode), 20th century, Japanese, silk crepe with embroidery and paste-resist dyeing (yuzen-zome), 64 5/8 x 49 1/4 in., Gift of Jean B. Rolfe, 81.14, photo: Natali Wiseman
1 For the full poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44728/spring-56d223f01f86e.
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Nancy Alvord

A Tireless Advocate: Nancy Alvord (1922–2017)

The Seattle Art Museum has a long-held motto: We are all in this together! Presenting great art and inspiring programs takes a dedicated team, tireless volunteers, and passionate supporters. Each time I hear these words, I think about my dear friend, Nancy Delaney Alvord, who passed away in December.

Nancy thought about the people behind the scenes. Shortly after moving to Seattle in the early 1960s with her husband Ellsworth C. “Buster” Alvord, Nancy began her SAM service as a volunteer. After becoming a Trustee a decade later, she created a Volunteer Committee—giving those who contribute their time a voice at the table. She also played a major role in establishing and funding SAM’s annual Volunteer Soiree and staff holiday party; a chance to thank the people who work so hard to make SAM’s programs possible.

Always thinking of the bigger picture, it was Nancy who first convinced the SAM Board to adopt an aggressive membership recruitment program, knowing that great museums need the support of their communities to thrive. This paved the way for SAM’s move downtown in 1991 and a membership base which now includes over 50,000 local households. And it was at Nancy’s home in 1985, where a group of women first gathered to create the Seattle Art Museum Supporters (SAMS)—an organization that has raised nearly $7M to support exhibitions and educational programs.

Together with Buster, Nancy was an instrumental supporter of every major SAM initiative, from the first remodel of the Seattle Asian Art Museum in 1974 (where the boardroom is named in their honor); to the move downtown and its later expansion. In appreciation for her decades of commitment, Nancy was both awarded the Dorothy C. Malone Volunteer Award, and ultimately named an Honorary Trustee, a lifetime designation.

Outside of SAM, countless organizations were the beneficiaries of Nancy’s time and incredible generosity. She broke barriers becoming the first woman elected President of the Seattle Repertory Theater board; she was a Founding Director of the University of Washington Foundation; fueled by her interest in psychology, she founded the local chapter of the C.G. Jung Society; and she was a strong supporter of the ACLU.

At SAM, and throughout our community, we will all miss our friend—our champion—Nancy Alvord.

– Elizabeth Hedreen, SAM Honorary Trustee

Photo: Nancy Alvord, photo courtesy of the Alvord family.
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SAM Gallery Artists on Seattle: Leslie Stoner, Liz Tran, Sheryl Westergreen, Stephen Rock

Seattle is one of those rare places where it isn’t considered droll to talk about the weather. The SAM Gallery artists in Color Excursion, on view December 8 through January 7, offer an escape from grey days into exuberant artwork. Below, three of the artists in this show share the ways that living in Seattle and the surrounding area impact the way they see the world. For such a moody and dramatic locale, you may be surprised by their vibrant, lively work. If you’re looking to recharge your senses, come to SAM Gallery for the Color Excursion Opening Reception on Thursday December 7, talk to the artists about their work, and find out how you can rent or buy artwork from SAM Gallery.

Leslie Stoner

This year I moved from Green Lake to Whidbey Island. Previously my work originated from a contemplative state of creation. I found inspiration through travel and memory and emotions but now living on Whidbey, I’m in it. On the island your surroundings are constantly in flux. The winds whip in and carry things away, the storms batter the shoreline leaving treasures on the beach. The nights are deep and dark and full of creatures. Everything feels alive and in a state of change. The beauty and the drama of my surroundings constantly barrage my eyes and fill my brain with endless creative ideas and the solitude of the island allows these ideas to come to fruition in my studio.

When invited to make a body of work for Color Excursion, I was elated. I’m addicted to color. I mix my own colors using wax and powdered pigments and when working with this medium it becomes something else, something more tactile. It’s hard to explain, it’s like I’m making a soup but I’m loading it with saturated color until it’s thick, and I want to eat it. That’s what initially drew me to encaustic painting and I think it’s what draws people to want to touch an encaustic painting.

Liz Tran

The use of color in my work is an unapologetic form of escapism from the long stretches of grey weather that continually blankets my Pacific Northwest home. Each year my palette of luminous, unnatural hues provides a defiant objection to winter’s approach. Pulsing fluorescent paints massage the naked eye with ultraviolet light, creating an energized glow impervious to dull environments. Maroon does not belong to me. Tubes of brown remain unopened. There is safety in muteness. My paintings speak to extroversion, experimentation, and play. Through color, I aim to activate.

Sheryl Westergreen

Color Excursion immediately brought to mind the idea of travel, taking an excursion lavish with color. My work in this show was inspired by a trip to South America one year ago. Although the paintings for this show do not reflect Seattle, much of my work is inspired by my daily routines and surroundings. For example, the Across the Lake, Cloud Dreams, Inside a Cloud, and Inside a Leaf series are all the result of my daily walks in my Seattle neighborhood.

I let my experiences germinate and then abstract them on the canvas, translating a memory of a place or an experience. I work in layers of color and compose the image while working. My paintings are oil on canvas or board. Working with oil means that each layer needs to have a bit of time to dry before the next layer can be applied. I find that when I return to the piece it changes and evolves in surprising ways.

Stephen Rock

This new work at SAM Gallery is from a series of unique digital mixed media prints called the Gardeners Journal. The nature of the Northwest has always been a part of my life having grown up in eastern Washington. With this body of work, it becomes a touchstone away from the tech-focused culture of our evolving city. My digital print studio keeps me in front of a computer monitor much of the time. As a retreat from the stream of  social media I find refuge out my window, a slight turn of the head away from the monitor. I have found the organic shapes and colors of my garden to be a creative counterpoint to the drone of data. By exploring abstracted shapes and forms found in nature, this new work provides endless metaphors and narratives and visually blend the creative tools of traditional art making with new digital possibilities to find a balanced voice in the moods and aesthetics of the region.

Images: Detail of Leslie Stoner’s studio, photo: Alison Blomgren. Afterglow Two, Liz Tran, 30 x 24 in., mixed media on panel. Easter Island, Chile, Sheryl Westergreen, 36 x 36 in., oil on canvas. Like a garden splashed across the landscape, Stephen Rock, 36 x 36 in., pigmented print, watercolor, gouache.
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In the studio: Creating a K-12 art lesson on Wyeth

Going through Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect you will see a white house over and over again. The house belongs to the Keurner’s, some of Wyeth’s neighbors. Wyeth was fascinated with Karl Keurner and his wife Anna and his paintings reveal that.

For students visiting the museum we wanted to create a lesson that captured the narrative point of view in Wyeth’s paintings in order to share how the artist’s perspective reveals much more than a hillside with a white house on it. We also wanted to bring in some of his process as an artist. Wyeth’s work is so technically beautiful that we were afraid students would be intimidated, so we decided to create a model in the studio. We bought a simple doll house, painted it white and grey, and paired it down to open rooms and windows with doors swinging partially open. Stories abound just looking at the house.

Students were first asked to look at Wyeth’s work and to find the large shapes in it. Wyeth often worked by breaking a scene down into large shapes, and sketching them out on paper. Students then translate it into their own looking experience. We created eight points of view based on the paintings in the show, ranging from bird’s-eye view in Northern Point to looking-up view, in Mother Archie’s Church, to the windswept view in Airborne. Students can choose their point of view, or if they can’t decide, they can roll some dice for a random pick.

After all this, students begin drawing through observation. They are invited to move around the house to find a good spot, older students can take a photo with their phone if they want. All the while they should be thinking about the larger narrative. What information will help them tell their story? We are using water color pencils on watercolor paper and, once they have their sketch, they can activate the dry colors by using water, brushes, and blending to create fields of color. As students finish up their artwork they can create a visual story together with their class or table groups.

For more info on School Tours and Art Workshop Programs at SAM, please email or go visit our website. Try a variation of this lesson plan with your school group if you come for a self-guided tour!

– Lynda Harwood-Swenson, Program Associate for School and Educator Programs

Photos: Natali Wiseman, Elizabeth Humphrey, and Lynda Harwood-Swenson
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Volunteer Spotlight: Charlotte Beasley

Volunteer Spotlight: Charlotte Beasley

We can’t imagine what SAM would be without our hundreds of volunteers. Besides making the museum run, our volunteers are a talented bunch! Charlotte Beasley, for instance, is a robotics wiz at school and a coat check volunteer at SAM. One of our youngest volunteers, we asked Charlotte to answer a few questions about what it means to her to volunteer at SAM. Read below and share your reaction to the art at SAM with her the next time you pick up your umbrella at the end of your visit!

SAM: What is your current role?

Charlotte Beasley: I am a coat check volunteer at the downtown location.

How long have you been volunteering at SAM?

Since December 2016 (almost a year!)

If you could give only one reason, what do you most like about volunteering at SAM?

My favorite thing about volunteering at SAM is getting happy reactions of guests first hand. At the coat check, I am the first and last person people see, and I can chat with them on how much they loved the exhibits. I love that art makes people happy, and we do a good job of making people happy at the SAM.

Is there a favorite short story relating to volunteering at SAM you would like to share?

There are so many good stories, even though it’s been less than a year. I am on my high school’s robotics team, Reign Robotics. I was working coat check when a group of kids from Top Gun Robotics came in, wearing their team t-shirts. We got chatting about this year’s season, and we ran into each other again at a competition. They remembered me, even when I was out of team uniform when we first met! Small world, huh?

What is your favorite piece of art in SAM’s collection, and why?

I can’t just choose one piece of art, there are too many good ones! I was a huge fan of  Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style  last year. I visited with my AP French class shortly before I actually started volunteering at the SAM and the different outfits were so colorful and interesting! My family and I are also huge fans of going through European Renaissance art and giving each piece funny alternate titles based on the poses (we love when paintings and statues look like they’re taking selfies).

When not at SAM, what do you do for fun?

I make my own art in my free time (when I’m not playing video games). If you come to SAM on a slow day, you might see me sketching on my Surface. I do a lot of cute, digital art inspired by games, books, movies, etc., and have recently created my own website. Go check it out!

What is something that most people might not immediately know about you?

I am a tiny pacifist, but I also know Kung Fu (only for self-defense purposes, don’t worry!)

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

I am just shy of five feet tall, which can make getting large bags out of cubbies or the overhead bins difficult, but not impossible. My strategy is to grab what I can and use gravity and the edge of the cubby to make the bag fall into my arms. This can scare people, since I’m so tiny, but if I do it right, I can carry a lot of bags to the counter. People always apologize for the weight of their bags, but it’s honestly fine; my school books are heavier anyways, so I have lots of practice lifting heavy things!

What are the some steps you take to ensure that you are most effective during your shift?

Charlotte’s Coat Check Plan:

Step One: Look outside to see if it’s raining. If so, expect umbrellas (and lots of them).
Step Two: Sign in.
Step Three: Say “hi” to your fellow volunteers!
Step Four: Analyze the number of bags in the cubbies and ask yourself if you will have to get creative with bag placement or not.
Step Five: Get to work!

– Jenny Woods, Manager of Volunteer Programs

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