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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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Andy Warhol and Jane Lang at Seattle Pavilion during Museum Week, 1976

The Life of the Party: Jane Lang Davis (1920–2017)

SAM is more than a museum—it’s a community. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds come together for exhibitions and educational programs, live performances and gala events, all with one common bond: a love of visual art.

Earlier this month, SAM lost one of its most passionate and dedicated community members, Jane Lang Davis. Jane passed away on September 1. For more than 40 years, Jane had been an active part of the SAM family, including serving 32 years as a Trustee. She was well known as a gregarious and committed advocate for the arts, constantly striving to get people engaged, and supporting.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Jane was part of a small group known as the Contemporary Art Council (CAC). Charged by SAM’s founder and then director, Dr. Richard Fuller, the CAC organized and presented many of the Museum’s early contemporary art exhibitions—often featuring artists from the thriving New York art scene of the time. In the years that followed, Jane also served on nearly every event committee established. Lovingly known as the “Queen of the place card” Jane knew how to set the stage for lively conversations and great fun. She was very much the life of SAM’s best parties. And if she wasn’t planning an exhibition opening or a fundraising event for the museum, Jane was welcoming people to her own home, allowing visitors the rare opportunity to enjoy one of the greatest private collections of abstract expressionist and post-war art ever gathered

Those in our community who weren’t fortunate enough to meet Jane in person are still likely to remember her smiling face. In celebration of the 1976 Andy Warhol Portraits exhibition—again organized by the CAC, Warhol painted a double portrait of Jane, with head tilted back showing the sitter’s joy and glamour, a bright smile that engages every viewer. It is the perfect portrait of a woman who brought all these same attributes to the SAM community.

Many other paintings from the Richard and Jane Lang (Davis) collection have been shown at SAM over the years. From Mark Rothko and Philip Guston, to Francis Bacon and Clyfford Still, and many more. Through her incredible generosity, steadfast leadership, and constant willingness to share works from her collection for the benefit of our region, SAM blossomed into the museum it is today. We are forever grateful.

We will miss her dearly.

Image: Jane Lang Davis and Andy Warhol at Andy Warhol: Portraits opening reception, 1976, From the Seattle Art Museum Photo Archives.
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Object of the Week: Children Drinking Milk

This small porcelain sculpture, which measures less than seven inches tall, is one of a thousand remarkable objects found in SAM’s Wyckoff Porcelain Room. It’s a reminder that every object here has a story. Through this work, Children Drinking Milk, we learn the story of European porcelain collecting in Seattle among a group of women with a strong desire for learning, who had the wherewithal to work with knowledgeable dealers, grow spectacular collections, and then share their objects with SAM and all of its visitors.

Children Drinking Milk, made at the Sèvres Manufactory between 1766 and 1773, is an example of unglazed biscuit porcelain.[1] This technique allowed for the modeler, Etienne-Maurice Falconet (French, 1716-1791), to create detailed designs which wouldn’t be diminished by glazing. For Children Drinking Milk, the unglazed technique allowed Falconet to create details such as the older boy, enjoying the bowl of milk, looking cunningly out of the corner of his eye at a younger boy, who is anxiously waiting for his turn. [2] Falconet, a court sculptor and chief modeler in the Sèvres Manufactory, is one of the most well regarded modelers of biscuit porcelain. He was adept at translating the drawings and designs of artists, like François Boucher (French, 1703-1770), into detailed three-dimensional objects like this one. [3] Children Drinking Milk was considered one of the “Falconet children” representing characters familiar on the streets of eighteenth-century Paris.[4]

So how did Children Drinking Milk get here?

Eighteenth-century European porcelain collecting in Seattle really developed out of the interest of one woman, Blanche M. Harnan (American, ca.1888-1968). Harnan’s interest originated as a result of a study group in which she was involved that focused on world geography and culture. Through her daughter’s interest in teapots, she discovered that the study of ceramics provided a rewarding history of styles and taste in eighteenth-century Europe. Harnan acquired an extensive research library and began collecting European porcelain for study purposes. Her enthusiasm attracted other Seattle women and, under her leadership, the Seattle Ceramic Society was founded in the 1940s.[5]

In the 1950s and 1960s, the group established a relationship with New York porcelain dealer, William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, one of the premier European porcelain dealers in the US. Because Lautz and the Seattle Ceramic Society were 3,000 miles apart, an interesting way of doing business arose between the two. Lautz would photograph items from his showroom and send them along, with corresponding descriptions and price lists, in binders to the Society. The members would make their selections and notify Lautz. Lautz would carefully pack the items in a crate and send them to Seattle. The crate would be unpacked, and then returned, empty, with a check in the bottom for payment. Lautz would refer to this as his “Seattle scheme.”[6] We know from documentation that Children Drinking Milk came from Lautz. The Bullitt Library holds several of Lautz’s binders sent to the Seattle Ceramic Society and the work appears several times. In a letter sent from Lautz—after the piece was donated to SAM—he reveals his own insights on the piece:

“The French name of the figure, or group rather, that I have called the soup or milk drinkers is ‘Les Gourmands’ or ‘Enfant Buveurs de Lait.’ We might even call them the greedy ones…”[7]

Blanche Harnan continued developing her own collection and leading the Seattle Ceramic Society, which would grow to three units and garner more than sixty members. She would also develop an important affiliation with the Seattle Art Museum. Harnan was appointed Honorary Curator of Porcelain in 1954, “in recognition of her knowledge in a specialized field and in appreciation of her service to the Museum.”[8] At the time, the museum was beginning to build its European porcelain collection and welcomed exhibitions of the Society’s collections, like the 1956 exhibition, 18th Century English Porcelain: A Special Exhibition. The exhibition was arranged and the catalogue written by Harnan and another important Seattle Ceramic Society member, Martha Isaacson (American, 1901-2000).

Since the days of those exhibitions, many of the Seattle Ceramic Society members have generously given objects in their collections to SAM. Many of those are currently on view in the Wyckoff Porcelain Room. Importantly, several significant pieces in SAM’s European porcelain collection were donated to SAM by the Seattle Ceramic Society in honor of Blanche M. Harnan—note “Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, Gift of the Seattle Ceramic Society” on an object’s credit line.

I wonder what we can learn from those other 999 objects?

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Images: Children Drinking Milk, 1766-1773, Sevres Porcelain Manufactory, Model by Etienne-Maurice Falconet (French, 1716-1791). Soft paste porcelain, 6 5/8 x 5 3/8 x 3 7/8 in. (16.8 x 13.7 x 9.9 cm), Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, Gift of the Seattle Ceramic Society, Unit 2, 56.179. Photograph sent in binder to the Seattle Ceramic Society showing Children Drinking Milk in William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, New York, 1950s.
[1] This is the name given to porcelain and other pottery after having undergone the first firing, and before being glazed, painted, or otherwise embellished. For more, see: Gordon Campbell. “Biscuit.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed September 20, 2017, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T2070959.
[2] Emerson, Julie, Jennifer Chen, and Mimi Gardner Gates. Porcelain Stories, From China to Europe. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2000, pg. 216
[3] Savill, Rosalind. “François Boucher and the Porcelains of Vincennes and Sèvres.” Apollo 115, no, 241, pp. 162-170.
[4] “Eighteenth-Century Porcelain in Seattle.” Antiques 85 (January 1964), p. 82.
[5] Emerson, Julie. The Collectors: Early European Ceramics and Silver. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1982, pp. 6-7.
[6] Nelson, Christina H. and Letitia Roberts. A History of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain: The Warda Stevens Stout Collection. Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Easthampton, MA; New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2013, p. 20. Also see Kuhn, Sebastian. “Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain,” in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen et al. The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50. New York, NY: Frick Collection in association with D. Giles London, 2008, p. 107-108.
[7] Letter to SAM Registrar’s Office from William Lautz dated July 9th, 1965.
[8] Seattle Art Museum. Annual Report of the Seattle Art Museum: Forty-Ninth Year, 1954. Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections, accessed September 21, 2017, http://samlibraries.omeka.net/items/show/29.
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The Western Mystery by Spencer Finch

Ephemeral Art, Lasting Effects: Temporary Installations at the Olympic Sculpture Park

Spencer Finch’s The Western Mystery portrays one of our most familiar temporary experiences: a sunset. This new installation of ninety glass panes suspended from the PACCAR Pavilion’s ceiling opened at the Olympic Sculpture Park in April. The glass panes are sixteen shades of yellows, oranges, blues, and pinks based on the hues found in the artist’s photographs of Seattle sunsets. As the glass squares subtly rotate overhead, their surfaces capture fragmented reflections of the park that fade in and out of view.

The Western Mystery by Spencer Finch

Much like a sunset itself, The Western Mystery is an ephemeral experience. Over the past 10 years, the Seattle Art Museum has hosted 15 temporary installations by local, national, and international contemporary artists. SAM celebrates the sculpture park’s 10th anniversary this summer with Spencer Finch’s installation, as well as a new sculpture by Tacoma artist, Christopher Paul Jordan. Titled Latent Home Zero, Jordan’s “interactive silent film” is experienced through a binocular telescope that integrates collaged imagery related to the migration of African American people across the US with distorted, real-time views of the sculpture park.

SAM first began installing temporary art with Dennis Oppenheim’s five, massive Safety Cones, in the summer of 2008. But, the first temporary work appeared unexpectedly in 2007, shortly after the sculpture park opened. Mimi Gardner Gates, SAM’s Director from 1994–2009, recalled, “Early on, the artist group PDL created Eaglets under Alexander Calder’s The Eagle—a nest with three little Eagles. I loved that because it was Seattle’s artists responding to the sculptures in the park. To me, that really brought the park alive.”

Blue Sun by Victoria Haven

That lively spirit returns to the park every year through the temporary projects SAM commissions. For some artists, the short-term nature of their installations can lead to experimentation they wouldn’t always attempt in a permanently sited piece. In April of 2016, Seattle artist Victoria Haven created Blue Sun, a large-scale wall drawing that was based on the path and reflections of the sun as she experienced them from her studio window in South Lake Union. “I think the process involved a sense of immediacy that gave Blue Sun an energy and an aliveness,” Haven said. “It was like a breath on the wall; it was there and then it was gone. And, there’s something beautiful about the rigor and commitment involved in creating a monumental project that exists for a relatively short amount of time.”

YOU ARE HERE by Trimpin

The sense of immediacy also played a role in Seattle artist Trimpin’s 2014 temporary sound sculpture, YOU ARE HEAR. The installation’s three listening stations were comprised of repurposed tractor seats and oversized sets of “headphones.” Visitors who interacted with the piece experienced sounds created within their immediate environment, both from mechanisms the artist constructed and the sounds that naturally occur around the park. The artist himself became immersed in the sculpture park environment as he installed YOU ARE HEAR over a period of three days.  He explained, “I noticed there were lots of regulars coming through every day and that they were noticing how something unusual was going on. It was great to have a conversation with them . . . . It was an exciting chance to engage with the public as they were walking their dogs or jogging through the park.”

The Olympic Sculpture Park offers a unique experience for both seeing and creating works of art. Just as the spinning reflections of The Western Mystery create a new perspective on the Olympic Sculpture Park, all of the temporary projects have given visitors reasons to rethink their surroundings over the last 10 years, both within the park and out in the world.

—Erin Langner, Freelance Arts Writer and Former SAM Adult Public Programs Manager

This post is the fifth installment in a series of stories exploring the history of the Olympic Sculpture Park in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Over the course of this year, we will continue reflecting on the Park’s evolution over the past decade.

Images: Installation view of The Western Mystery (detail), 2017, Spencer Finch, American, b. 1962, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, Photo: Mark Woods.  Installation view of The Western Mystery, 2017, Spencer Finch, American, b. 1962, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, Photo: Mark Woods. Installation view of Safety Cones, 2008, Dennis Oppenheim, American, b. 1938, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, Photo: Paul Macapia.  Installation view of Blue Sun, 2016, Victoria Haven, American, b. 1964, acrylic, 57 x 14 ft., Seattle Art Museum Commission 2016, Photo: Natali Wiseman. YOU ARE HEAR, 2014, Trimpin, German, b. 1951, three part sound installation at SAM Olympic Sculpture Park, commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum. © Trimpin, Photo: Nathaniel Willson.
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What Do You Disclose? An Interview with Denzil Hurley

Seattle-based artist and University of Washington professor Denzil Hurley’s glyph paintings are aptly titled. A glyph is a symbol. One that typically conveys an agreed upon or shared meaning. These can be the unique marks of the written word, a graphic element, or an inscription. More broadly, a glyph can be a shape or color that we understand to have an agreed upon purpose separate from language, such as a circle with a slash through it for “no,” or red for “stop.” In Hurley’s work, shape and color are paramount.  Well known for his monochrome paintings and impact on the world of abstract painting, a selection of these glyph paintings currently hang at SAM in Denzil Hurley: Disclosures, on view through November 5.

In Disclosures these paintings become sculptural by being mounted on repurposed sticks and poles. As objects, the glyph paintings become reminiscent of signs and harken back to Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 painting, Black Square which was intimately tied to social and political discussions at the cusp of the October Revolution in Russia. Deceptively simple, there’s a density to Hurley’s black canvases in his layering of the paint and in his use of materials. Spend some time in Disclosures the next time you come by SAM and consider what you derive from a redacted painting involving the form of signs and the framing of the wall. What does your understanding say about our socially constructed meanings of these symbols?

SAM: The works at SAM came out of visits to Barbados. Can you tell us about these trips? I’m thinking specifically about how they informed the material concerns of your work.

Denzil Hurley: The idea of repurposing materials arose out of observations I made over many years, and several trips there. The paintings in the exhibition were selected from a larger body of work that began around 2006–07. Each piece was thought of, and developed individually out of my interests in modular forms and structures involving squares and rectangles.

Do you see these paintings as a whole? If I think about the public protests being referenced through the work, and the “power in numbers” philosophy behind taking to the streets, do you feel that viewers can derive a larger meaning by seeing the group than by seeing a single work in the series?

I exhibited related pieces from this larger body of work in the Northwest Biennial at Tacoma Art Museum in 2009, and a Francine Seders Gallery group exhibition in 2012. I welcome the curatorial decision at SAM to select, and present the work in a particular way. It certainly serves to open up the room and bring certain referencing to the fore.

You talk about density in your paintings. In your monochrome paintings how do you use a single color to create layered meaning?

My working process and painting ideas involve color, layering, stacking, erasure and concerns with surfaces that allow individual differences to be developed and realized in each piece.

In a work such as the piece framing the empty wall, does density continue to play a part in the work?

Within the context of one piece relating to another and involving the wall, the floor, and bringing together painting ideas, sculptural form, and installation practice, it allows for conjunctions between differences.

Images: Installation views of “Denzil Hurley: Disclosures” at Seattle Art Museum, 2017, photos: Mark Woods.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Christine Kline

April 23–29, 2017 is National Volunteer Week and we want to recognize the amazing 469 volunteers who generously give their time to SAM. Volunteers assist us in a variety of roles (Coat Check, Docents, Information Desk, and Park Stewards, just to name a few), and you probably encounter at least one volunteer each time you visit SAM. Volunteers make it possible for us to do all that we do!

This week we kick off a new feature on SAM Blog: a monthly volunteer spotlight. Volunteer Christine Kline, our current Docent Chair, agreed to be the first volunteer spotlighted!

SAM: How long have you been a volunteer at SAM? 

Christine: I joined the student tour docent training class in 2010.

Why do you like volunteering at SAM?

I have always loved SAM—I’ve enjoyed being a member for many years. In addition to the remarkable array of art at the three sites, the people who volunteer are just wonderful. Since I entered the docent training, I have found volunteers and staff to be warm, caring, and passionate about art and learning—could there be a better combination?

What is your favorite piece of art at SAM?

I think one that I hold dearest is the beautiful little (about 5x9”) ivory belt mask, Belt Mask of Iyoba Idia from the Nigerian Benin Kingdom, carved in the early 16th century. The delicacy of the carving, with the regal resolve in Queen Idia’s face is so compelling. I could gaze at it forever.

What do you do as Docent Chair of SAM Volunteer Association (SAMVA)? 

A little bit of everything. As part of chairing the Docent Executive Committee (DEC) meetings, I meet and talk with the DEC chairs who work in the areas of docent training, docent program development, special events in the arts, and the care and maintenance of central areas like membership, docent days, evaluations, budget, and records. I meet regularly with education staff members to assist in furthering the work of the docent body. One of the features of being Docent Chair is attending the SAMVA meetings and I have found them to be fascinating and informative.  The meetings give me perspective on all the ways volunteers support SAM—I am really learning!

What do you do for fun?

I love going to museums and galleries, attending interesting lectures at these sites, and just engaging with the art. I also love going to the ballet, chamber music concerts, and jazz concerts. I enjoy cooking and dining out. I recently moved to Seattle from Tacoma and, oh, do I love experiencing the range of eateries in Seattle!

What’s your most memorable moment as a volunteer?

There are so many memorable moments. In working with student groups, the surprise of their observations is a constant delight. One recurring moment that comes to mind, from older students as well as younger, is the query, tentatively but touchingly offered: “Is that painting the real thing? Did she or he [Jacob Lawrence, for example] really paint this with his own hands?” That moment of realization never ceases to move me.

–Jenny Woods, Manager of Volunteer Programs

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