Every year, SAM’s Community Gallery features the winning photographs from the Washington State High School Photography Competition (WSHSPC). This year 33 photos were selected from nearly 4,000 entries by judges Mel Curtis, Claire Garoutte, and Bruce Hudson. One of our many amazing community partners, WSHSPC has been providing a prestigious public platform for student photography since 1995 and we are excited to share the lens of today’s talented youth with everyone. Stop by the Community Gallery on the ground floor for free the next time you swing by SAM—these winning photos will be on view through December 30.
Last Friday, SAM presented another edition Remix, its creative late-night out featuring music, tours, and art-making. And as per usual, the beautiful people of Seattle showed up and showed out: Check out these colorful photo slideshows from Seattle Refined and Queerspace Magazine. See you at the next edition of Remix in March!
Andrew Hamlin for Northwest Asian Weekly on the Wing Luke’s new show, Worlds Beyond Here: The Expanding Universe of Science Fiction; Tamiko Thiel, whose augmented reality experience appeared at the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016, is included in this group show.
The Seattle Times launches Art Outings, in which their critics find places where art and snack & drinks are brought together. First up: The Frye Museum’s just-launched Third Thursday Happy Hours.
Real Change’s cover story this week: Lisa Edge’s review of Tacoma’s Washington State Historical Museum show featuring rarely shown works on paper by Jacob Lawrence about Tumwater founder George Bush.
“Lawrence depicting Bush’s migration is a convergence of two important pioneers. Bush, in the literal sense as he moved out west a century before The Great Migration, and Lawrence because of the barriers he broke within the art world. The series is an opportunity to learn more about two people who thrived in spite of entrenched barriers.”
Artnet’s Sheila Regan reviews Art for a New Understanding, the new survey at the Crystal Bridges Museum, calling it “a serious attempt to redefine what contemporary Indigenous art means today.”
Brigit Katz for Hyperallergic on Color Problems, a “widely overlooked, yet staggering” book on color theory by Emily Noyes Vanderpoel first published in 1901—it’s now getting a careful reprinting.
Carl Zimmer of the New York Times reports on the extraordinary discovery in Borneo of what scientists are calling “the oldest figurative art in the world”—it’s 40,000 years old!
“The early images and figures might have illustrated stories contained vital information for how to survive in hard times, Dr. Conard said. Or perhaps the drawings helped joined people as a group, encouraging them to cooperate—‘a kind of glue to hold these social units together,’ he said.”
Photo: Jen Au
Though this 1957 photograph is by Imogen Cunningham, its subject is Bay Area artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013). For decades Asawa has been little known beyond the West Coast, and is all too belatedly finding herself rewritten into the history of American art. Rather than concentrate on photographer Cunningham, this post focuses on Asawa, her diaphanous wire sculptures, and her complex identity as a Japanese-American woman artist.
Cunningham’s photograph is a quiet yet evocative image: Asawa sits with her face occluded by the semi-transparent curvature of one of her hanging wire sculptures. She’s surrounded by her four children, ranging from toddler to six years old. Each, including Asawa, is engaged in and absorbed by his or her own activity: reading, playing, observing, drinking, and making. The iconic photograph has often been read in gendered terms, focusing on Asawa’s demonstrated domesticity, femininity, and passivity. Like too many women artists, Asawa has been positioned primarily as a wife and mother—identities that override her identity as an artist, which can and should include these other identities. As curator Helen Molesworth discusses in her recent paper delivered last month at the Smithsonian, “Ruth Asawa: ‘San Francisco Housewife and Mother’,” this image has additional import, positioning art making as a social activity, and Asawa, therefore, as a citizen above all else.
As a child, Asawa would draw and make art while in a World War II internment camp with her Japanese parents. She was not an outside or self-taught artist though, for she attended Black Mountain College and studied for three years and two summers (1946–49) with Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller, among others. For Asawa, “Black Mountain gave you the right to do anything you wanted to do. And then you put a label on it afterwards. I think that’s the nice thing about what Black Mountain did for its students. It was like they gave you permission to do anything you wanted to do. And then if it didn’t fit they’d make a category for you. But I think Black Mountain helped make something with weaving and with printmaking, and it gave people the freedom to make something of each category.”¹
Black Mountain was a transformative place and time for Asawa, creatively as well as socially: incorporated into Black Mountain’s utopian environment was an attitude that expanded what art can do for society. Therefore, to be an artist is to be a citizen—engaging actively in the world and making choices alongside others.² Though Cunningham’s photograph captures Asawa in her home, surrounded by her four (of six) children, central to the visual narrative is her artwork, which is inextricable from her role as an artist, wife, mother, and citizen.
– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator
Image: Ruth Asawa Family and Sculpture, 1957, Imogen Cunningham, Gelatin silver print, 10 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (26.4 x 26.4 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.43
¹Ruth Asawa, “Oral history interview with Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier, 2002 June 21-July 5,” interview by Mark Johnson and Paul Karlstrom, Archives of American Art, https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-ruth-asawa-and-albert-lanier-12222#transcript.
²Helen Molesworth, “Ruth Asawa: ‘San Francisco Housewife and Mother’,” filmed September 12, 2018 at Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., video, 1:07:05, https://americanart.si.edu/videos/clarice-smith-distinguished-lecture-series-scholar-helen-molesworth-154476.
It’s nice to know that our community also thinks the future of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is going to be cool! More than the critical infrastructure updates to the Art Deco building that won’t be very apparent to visitors, there’s the long history of Asian culture in the Seattle area made visible at the museum. To Shawn Brinsfield, the modest expansion on the back of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is a physical commitment to expanding the understanding and appreciation of Asia. Read why the Asian Art Museum matters to this donor, learn more about the project, and stay up to date on the progress of the renovation and expansion of the Asian Art Museum.
The new Seattle Asian Art Museum is going to be very cool with more space for SAM’s growing collection, better flow and open ‘look-throughs’ to the outside. I take art lessons and sometimes they take us to Volunteer Park to draw; so I look forward to sitting on my chair outside near the trees and drawing the new large glass-walled rear addition of the museum. Ok, full disclosure—I am still just learning to draw; but it will be fun viewing Asian Art Museum visitors fishbowl-like.
The average museum-goer may not appreciate the museum’s new sophisticated climate control environment, which gives the art ‘eternal life.’ Sometimes I think about the centuries of artists who made the works inside the museum. What kind of challenges and human pressures did they have? I wonder how they would react, knowing that their year-after-year sweat and toil and evolution as artists would be preserved by loving and meticulous conservationists today. It’s my understanding that the Asian Art Museum will be an important national center of conserving Asian art. And conserving art is actually a fascinating process. Really!
My mom and her family are of Japanese descent. They were living a full life here in Seattle back in the ‘good old days.’ Grandma Benko Itoi wrote tanka poetry, the family attended art events at the Nippon Kan Theater, they danced in traditional ways at the Bon Odori. Then when World War II broke out they were compelled to destroy most things related to their Japanese culture. So, 75 years later, it’s important to me to support the expansion of Japanese and Asian culture in the Seattle area.
All the art at the Asian Art Museum tells stories of history, ideas, and ways of life. In addition to enjoying the exhibitions on wooden block prints, folding screens, and Chinese scrolls, I have loved going to the Gardner Center’s Saturday University Lecture Series and listening to experts from all over the world. I value this, especially since I help recruit speakers for an Asian art and history group in Florida.
As for the future of the Asian Art Museum, I expect that the Asian Art Museum’s growth will mirror that of Asia’s increasing presence on the world stage. I hope that it continues expanding its collection of South Asian art and continues reaching out to the growing South Asian community here in the Northwest; as well as reaching out to the non-Asian community. My spending time in India on several trips has had a significant impact on my mind and behavior. I include, in my daily life, some practices and rituals which are indigenous to India and South Asia. I have a warm and friendly feeling towards the people and culture of South Asia.
– Shawn Brinsfield
Sharing your deepest feelings in front of a group of people takes a lot of courage. It can be very transformative and therapeutic. This is what the Art with Heart Chill and Spill curriculum empowers students to do—it is a great tool that allows youth to navigate their emotions. Art with Heart is a nonprofit organization that uses art to help kids heal through their creative expression resources.
The day that Antonio confessed that even though his mother, who struggles with alcohol dependency, abandoned him, he still loved and cared for her. This young man took a huge step towards maturity and forgiveness, opening his heart while reading aloud his powerful last word letter, setting him free from his feelings.
Many of our program participants grow up in households without paternal or maternal figures or formal education. Many have had to escape and survive situations that most people cannot even imagine. Their resilience never ceases to surprise me. My hope and motivation is to teach them how to cope with their emotions through creative expression. Often times, when I observe their art and listen to their stories, I become the student and they become my teachers.
In every weekly class, the young men are able to express their varying emotions in a supportive, respectful, and safe environment. Our ground rules are very basic, as we all are looking for the same things: love, acceptance, and respect! I make sure that everyone understands that this is a special class, it is not about how cool their art projects might look, but about the process and what they learn about themselves.
Life is full of challenges and opportunities. Creating art means taking risks. Creative expression means exploring, recognizing, labeling, and understanding feelings. Sometimes it means confronting big emotions. Often it means accepting, surrendering, and forgiving the people who have hurt us, so that we find space to be free and to grow stronger, exactly as Antonio decided to do!
Images: Making My Way, linoleum block, printmaking ink. Made by a Friends of Youth resident during Art with Heart’s Chill & Spill Program, Age: 17. Courtesy of Art with Heart. Photo by Alan Abramowitz, artwork by Art with Heart program participant at Brettler Family Place. Photo by Sera Rogers. artwork by an Art with Heart participant at Friends of Youth.
The following introduction was written by a patient at Seattle Children’s Hospital who participated in the Writers in the Schools program. Her work was included in the 2016/17 WITS Broadsides, which features a collection of 20 hand-printed poems by students at Children’s Hospital on broadsides created by talented letterpress artists in a partnership with Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. You can see them all in the current installation of the Community Gallery at Seattle Art Museum through September 2.
I never realized the healing properties writing could have on a person. Being able to express your thoughts onto a page, without needing to worry about what other people might think about it, is freeing. When I let my mind wonder, I find myself writing down whatever is on my mind.
Being in the hospital all the time can really take a toll on a person but having writing as an option can make you feel at ease. I wrote a poem last year that was published in the letterpress broadside project. This poem was about how I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and what I was going through at that time. While writing this poem with [WITS writer] Sierra Nelson, it made me feel lucky that I was able to reflect on that stressful time in my life. Putting down my thoughts into a poem made it feel whole, and not just some insignificant facts about what I went through.
Writing poetry in the hospital showed me that, yes, when things are hard it can be especially difficult to look past it, but having that outlet to write down all my feelings made it therapeutic. When things are going well for me, I always want to write down what that feeling means to me. That’s what I love about creative writing: even if you’re sad or happy, it brings back all these memories to reflect upon.
Excerpts from Fiona’s poem, Memories of My Six-Year-Old Self
“I remember having my first surgery. It was an emergency surgery. I was just 6 at the time. I remember not remembering what happened. I remember waking up in ICU and not being able to move … I remember almost not leaving ICU. My doctor said I have a 50% chance. But then I got better. I remember all the nurses’ names. I remember them feeling almost like family … I remember going home and greeting my dog Pooka and seeing my room painted with butterflies, pink and purple … I remember feeling lucky and ready to take on whatever comes next.
– Fiona Lynch, age 18
Photo: Alicia Craven
It feels like we came to Seattle at a very exciting time. The Seattle Asian Art Museum is re-imagining an historic building, adding a world class conservation studio, and—very dear to our hearts—creating a beautiful space for education and meaningful hands-on experiences.
Education is very important in our family. Tim was a teacher in the Peace Corps and I have been working and teaching in the arts my entire life. The new education center will make this collection, and the museum in general, more accessible to all. Our family has lived in many different places and Seattle, even more that other cities, seems to be intrinsically connected to the arts. SAM has helped us meet other people that share our passion. But at a recent event we were asked, “Where are all of the other 40 year olds?” We’re not sure but we’d like to invite them all to come and join us. The Builder’s Club is the perfect way to make a mark on Seattle. Literally. Our names will be on the building and we look forward to bringing our family and friends for years to come.
Like so many families, the holidays are a special time for us. Our favorite family event is SAM Lights at the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s a lot of fun for our three year old twins, our teenage boys, and even the grandparents. The crisp air and beautiful lights make the sculpture park a special experience for the holidays.
–Laura Marie and Tim Rivera
A pioneering Pop artist, David Hockney has throughout his career pivoted effortlessly from medium to medium, continuously exploring his visual style. Though perhaps best known for his iconic paintings of Southern California swimming pools, Hockney has produced a much larger body of work, ranging from abstract paintings to photo collages to iPhone drawings. However, arguably lesser known is his work in stage and costume design: he has been involved in productions of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress and Mozart’s Magic Flute, both at the Glyndebourne Opera in England, and Parade at the New York Metropolitan Opera, for which this drawing was created.
Grouped under the title Parade, the Met Opera’s 1981 triple bill brought together three pieces: Parade, a ballet written by Jean Cocteau with music by Erik Satie; Les Mamelles de Tiresias, an opera with libretto by Guillaume Apollinaire and music by Francis Poulenc; and L’Enfant et Les Sortileges, an opera with libretto by Colette and music by Maurice Ravel. Hockney designed the sets and costumes for all three performances.
Satie’s Parade, first presented at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on May 18, 1917—during the height of World War I—takes place in a world of circus acts and street fairs. Though written in 1903, Les Mamelles de Tiresias similarly premiered during the war, in June 1917. The surrealist play was described by one critic as “high-spirited topsy-turveydom” whose deeper themes are about the need to repopulate a France ravaged by war.¹ Lastly, L’Enfant et Les Sortileges, commissioned in 1915, is a “fairy ballet” exploring the inner emotional world of a child, where toys and animals come to life.
There is a long history of artists collaborating on theater and dance productions. Merce Cunningham frequently collaborated with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, for example, and both the scenery and costumes for Satie’s original Parade were designed by none other than Pablo Picasso. For New York Times theater critic John Russell, Hockney’s designs for the 1981 presentation Parade are “not [Picasso’s] Parade redone from scratch. It is the Parade of 1917 revisited as if in a dream, with Picasso very much in mind, both as the original designer and as the poet of Les Saltimbanques—the tumblers and harlequins who turn up over and over again in the work of Picasso’s Rose period.”²
Hockney produced many drawings for Parade, but the one in SAM’s collection is for the second opera in particular: Les Mamelles de Tiresias, set in Zanzibar, an imaginary town in France. Taking into account the circumstances surrounding the opera’s 1917 premiere, when the war was at its worst, Hockney incorporated details such as gas masks, helmets, searchlights, and barbed wire, the latter of which is included in this drawing.³ Though the unfinished blue sky suggests a certain incompleteness, it is important to keep in mind that this is, after all, a preparatory drawing. And despite the war-time setting, Hockney still manages to bring his bold, graphic, and colorful style to the mise en scène. In the image above, which more fully depicts Hockney’s playful cubist-inspired world, we get a sense of how such drawings were crucial for his development of these operatic worlds.
–Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator
Images: Largescale painted environment with separate elements based on Hockney’s design for Les Mamelles de Tiresias, from the 1983-84 Walker Art Center exhibition Hockney Paints the Stage. Ideas for Zanzibar with Dancer from Parade Triple Bill, 1980, David Hockney, Crayon on paper, Framed: 28 x 33″, Paper size: 19 x 24″, Gift of Robert and Honey Dootson Collection, 2010.37.26, © David Hockney.
¹Jeremy Sams, “Poulenc, Francis,” in The Penguin Opera Guide, ed. Amanda Holden (London: Penguin Books, 1997), 282.
²John Russell, “David Hockney’s Designs for Met Opera’s ‘Parade’,” in The New York Times, February 20, 1981, 1.
³ Russell, 1.
There is something peculiar about the way we attribute the clarity of some photographs to the world itself. I try to reinforce that paradox by making photographs that convince the viewer that those revelations, that order, that potential for meaning, are coming from the world and not the photograph.
– Frank Gohlke, 1979
Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma is a photograph by American photographer Frank Gohlke, taken in 1981. One of 10 artists included in the groundbreaking 1975 exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, Gohlke emerged as an important voice challenging then-prevailing trends in modern photography. Working against romanticized depictions of nature, Gohlke and others in the exhibition produced photographs described by the curator, William Jenkins, as “eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion.”
Though Jenkins felt otherwise, one could certainly argue that Gohlke’s Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma is in fact a beautiful and emotive image. Sure, it is far from the Platonic ideal of nature, but the photograph’s composition—with its nested and overlapping arcs, dramatic shadows, and abstract patterning—contains within it a certain beauty. It might not be Ansel Adams’s Half Dome, but it is a photograph that elevates otherwise banal and unattractive subject matter, poetically calling attention to man’s impact on the natural world.
Importantly, Gohlke and his New Topographics cohort reinforced the notion of landscape as a manmade concept. It is a word and idea predicated on a human subject who turns the land into an object and, artistically, into an image. The very definition of the word hinges on an aestheticized understanding of nature. In Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gohlke deftly mobilizes photography to highlight the extent to which the landscape is indeed a manmade image, as well as an object—or resource—to be taken and transformed.
The “new” American topography on offer in 1975’s New Topographics was no longer unspoiled or pristine wilderness, but a country comprised of suburban sprawl, connecting interstates, and parking lots. Whether or not we find that beautiful is up to us to decide. Luckily, this work and others from SAM’s permanent collection are on view in the upcoming New Topographics exhibition on view in the third floor Modern and Contemporary Galleries.
– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator