“The bags themselves are about struggles and power.” – Jeffrey Gibson Did you know that almost all of Jeffrey Gibson’s materials are sourced from a vendor that serves the powwow circuit? Hear from the artist as he talks hip hop, art school, identity politics, and Indigenous economies. All that and more is packed into If I Ruled the World, one in a series of punching bag sculptures by Gibson. We’ve got galleries more where this punching bag came from. See paintings, sculptures, videos, and a new multimedia installation in Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer at SAM through May 12. See it this weekend!
“Approach the art, do not cross the line, look, turn to your friend and say, ‘my kid could do that,’ and then walk away!” – Carla Rossi
Follow Carla Rossi, an immortal trickster and your unofficial tour guide through Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Gibson’s contemporary art combines powwow, pop culture, and punching bags to explore what modernity means within Indigenous cultures. Carla Rossi combines drag, clowning, and entitlement to address complacency, and the confusion of “mixed” identities. See through Carla’s eyes when you visit Like a Hammer.
This video is one of a series presenting Northwest Native American artists responding to Gibson’s work. The character of Carla was created by Anthony Hudson, a multidisciplinary artist, writer, performer, and filmmaker. Hudson, a member of the Grand Ronde tribe, started performing as Carla as an art project in 2010 and has since turned Carla into a full-fledged persona, body of work, and occupation. Hudson prefers the term “drag clown” over “drag queen” because he’s not trying to emulate women. Carla is a tool for critique. When he performs as Carla, Hudson wear whiteface in direct allusion to whiteness, clowning, and as a critical inversion of blackface.
Jeffrey Gibson believes, “everyone is at the intersection of multiple cultures times, histories. . . . that there’s a lot more to be gained at the space in between mapped points then there is at the mapped points. . . . I’m always looking for these in-between spaces of things.” Similarly, Anthony Hudson (Grand Ronde), is interested in “in the edge – that line between satire and sincerity, between critique and reification—as a site where transgression and transformation occur.”
Jeffrey Gibson is of Cherokee heritage and a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. He grew up in urban settings in Germany, South Korea, the United States, and England, and his work draws on his experiences in different cultural environments. In his artwork, materials used in Indigenous powwow regalia, such as glass beads, drums, trade blankets, and metal jingles, are twined together with aspects of queer club culture as well as the legacies of abstract painting. Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is a major museum exhibition presenting a significant selection of this contemporary artist’s exuberant artwork created since 2011. The presentation in Seattle closes on May 12.
Listen as poet Sasha LaPointe shares a piece of her writing in response to Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. An Indigenous writer incorporating themes of survival and mixed heritage, LaPointe is the artist in residence at ARTS at King Street Station and recipient of a 2018 Artist Trust GAP Grant.
Jeffrey Gibson, the artist behind Like a Hammer is of Cherokee heritage and a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and grew up in urban settings in Germany, South Korea, the United States, and England. His sculptures, abstract paintings, and multimedia installation draw on his experiences in different cultural environments. Similarly, Sasha LaPointe’s work is influenced by a wide range of things: from the work her great grandmother did for the Coast Salish language revitalization, to loud basement punk shows and what it means to grow up mixed heritage.
See the exhibition that LaPointe’s piece, below, connects to before it’s too late—Gibson’s complex and colorful contemporary art is on view in Like a Hammer now through May 12!
I emerge from our small, yellow linoleum bathroom, blue. The bathroom is at one end of our single wide trailer, and I have the length of narrow hallway to consider before reaching the living room, blue.
“Blue!?” And I know my mother is furious.
“You look ridiculous.” It’s all she says. And I do look ridiculous.
I had torn out the pages from a magazine. Lined my bedroom floor with them, and studied. Those punk rock, spiked hair, white teeth, high fashion, popped collar, leather studded glossy photo squares were strewn across my small space like a spread of tarot cards telling me a future I would never get to. Not out here. Not in the white trailer rusting amber, thick of trees, stretch of reservation, of highway that stood between me and whatever else was out there. Record stores. The mall. Parking lots where kids were skateboarding and smoking pot, probably. Kids with boomboxes and bottles of beer. Out there, were beaches with bands playing on them. And these faces, these shining faces, with pink, green, purple and BLUE hair. Blue. I could get that, at least. I could mix seventeen packets of blue raspberry Koolaid with a small amount of water, and get that. It was alchemy, it was potion making. But no one told me about the bleach, about my dark hair needing to lift, to lighten, in order to get that blue. No one told me that the mess of Koolaid would only run down my scalp, my face, my neck and would stain me blue.
Blue, is what you taste like, he says still holding me on the twin bed, in the early glow of dawn and my teenaged curiosity has pushed me to ask what does my body taste like, to you? His fingers travel from neck to navel, breath on my thigh and here in our sacred space he answers simply. Blue. You taste blue. And I wonder if what he means is sad. You taste sad.
Taqseblu. The name is given to me when I am three. To understand it my child brain has to break it apart. Taqsweblu. TALK. As in talking. As in to tell. As in story. SHA. As in the second syllable of my English name. As in half of me. BLUE. As in the taste of me. Blue as in Sad. Blue. My grandmother was Taqsweblu before me. And now I am Taqseblu too.
“I think that Gibson’s work holds a lot of humor, and this piece specifically does, which I find to be such an accessible entry point to much more nuanced conversations around Indigenous issues.” – Christine Babic
Watch as visual and performance artist Christine Babic unpacks Jeffrey Gibson’s use of Indigenous materials in his abstract painting on rawhide, Someone Great Is Gone on view in Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer, on view at SAM through May 12. Gibson is of Cherokee heritage and a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. He grew up in urban settings in Germany, South Korea, the United States, and England, and his work draws on his experiences in different cultural environments. In his artwork, materials used in Indigenous powwow regalia, such as glass beads, drums, trade blankets, and metal jingles, are twined together with aspects of queer club culture as well as the legacies of abstract painting.
Christine Babic’s artwork explores geographical heritage, colonial discourse & her Chugach Alutiiq identity. She was SAM’s annual artist in residence at the Olympic Sculpture Park in winter of 2019. You can learn more about her and her artwork in an interview she did with SAM.
How old was artist Jeffrey Gibson when he started going to the club? How do Peter, Paul, and Mary influence Gibson’s work? What did Nietzsche have to say about hammers? Find out in this video of info nuggets about Gibson’s sculpture, Like A Hammer, on view at SAM in the special exhibition of the same name!
Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammeris a major museum exhibition presenting a significant selection of this contemporary artist’s exuberant artwork created since 2011. Gibson’s complex work reflects varied influences, including fashion and design, abstract painting, queer identity, popular music, and the materials and aesthetics of Native American cultures. The more than 65 works on view include beaded punching bags, figures and wall hangings, abstract geometric paintings on rawhide and canvas, performance video, and a new multimedia installation.
See more of Gibson’s club kids on view through May 12!
“This is one of the best places I’ve seen masks installed because normally they would hang it on the wall. But doing it this way, with the costumes and everything, also gives it character because these masks were not really meant to be hanging on the wall like that.” – Emeka Ogboh
Remember when Disguise: Masks and Global African Art was on view in 2015? We’re bringing you a flashback to Nigerian sound artist Emeka Ogboh discussing masks by Chukwu Okoro in SAM’s collection, why he chose them as one of his favorite things in the museum, and their significance in regards to the soundscapes he created for Disguise. Currently, these masks can be viewed in our African art galleries as part of Lessons from the Institute of Empathywhere three Empathics have surrounded themselves with works from our African art collection as a way to help visitors awaken their own empathy. The Empathics display their trademarked process for transformation and ask you to consider the other artwork around you. Come see what we mean.
Image: Installation view Chukwu Okoro Masks at Seattle Art Museum, 2016, photo: Natali Wiseman.
“This painting is in fact very good when you think about the fact that the painter only had a sketch from the logbook and some description. He had never seen it.”
– Marc Onetto
Take it from a sailor who has been to Lituya Bay—Louis-Philippe Crépin accurately captured the setting of this expedition disaster in his painting, Shipwreck off the Coast of Alaska. Born in Paris, Crépin became a specialist in marine painting and made his debut at the Salon of 1796 with a painting of the port of Brest. His primary patron throughout his long career would be the Naval Ministry of the government. Many of his works are in the National Maritime Museum in Paris, while others are in provincial museums throughout France. This work is likely the first painting by Crépin in an American museum.
Marc Onetto sails to Alaska annually. After finding a publication of explorer Count Jean-François de La Pérouse’s logbook in California, Onetto was inspired to visit Lituya Bay, among other uncharted Alaskan territories where La Pérouse’s expedition traveled in 1786. Thankfully Onetto has not encountered the early morning ebbing current in the pass of the bay that led to the tragic death of 21 sailors in a matter of minutes. Experience the drama of this painting in person when you see it hanging in Extreme Nature: Two Landscape Paintings from the Age of Enlightenment on view through December 9, 2018.
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Artwork: Shipwreck Off the Coast of Alaska, 1806, Louis-Philippe Crepin, French, 1772-1851, oil on canvas, 40 15/16 × 58 11/16 in., Seattle Art Museum, European Art Acquisition Fund; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund; by exchange Gift of Mrs. Lew V. Day in memory of her husband; Gift of Arthur F. Ederer; H. Neil Meitzler, Issaquah, Washington; Col. Philip L. Thurber Memorial; Gift of Mrs. Donald E. Frederick; The late Mr. Arrigo M. Young and Mrs. Young in memory of their son, Lieut. (j.g.) Lawrence H. Young; Phillips Morrison Memorial; Gift of Mrs. Oswald Brown, in memory of her parents Simeon and Fannie B. Leland; Gift of Miss Grace G. Denny in memory of her sister Miss Coral M. Denny; Gift of friends in memory of Frank Molitor; Purchased from funds contributed in memory of Henry H. Judson; Purchased from the bequest of Charles M. Clark; Gift of Mrs. John C. Atwood, Jr.; Norman and Amelia Davis Collection; Norman Davis Collection; Mrs. Cebert Baillargeon, in memory of her husband, 2017.15.
“I think the value of Sonny Assu’s piece, Breakfast Series in SAM’s permanent collection, has a lot to do with righting the wrongs of history.” – C. Davida Ingram
Consider the value of contemporary Native art through the perspective of Seattle-based artist, curator, educator, and writer, C. Davida Ingram. Visit SAM’s Native Arts of the Americas galleries and the Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast installation to contextualize Sonny Assu’s Native formline design elements in his representation of Tony the Tiger or the “12 essential lies and deceptions” in his box of Lucky Beads. How does your perspective on food and access to land change as you consider the serious history behind this seemingly lighthearted artwork?
“What does it actually truly mean to be educated? And what would it mean to decolonize the idea of being educated?” – Chris Jordan
Every artwork has a story. For our Object of the Week Tacoma-based artist Chris Jordan shares Charlotte Turner’s story and asks us to question what education looks like in the face of the violent history of the slave trade. Consider this and more when you visit SAM’s collection and see Needlework Sampler in person. Want to hear more from local artists and creative community members? Check out our My Favorite Things playlist on YouTube for more perspectives on SAM’s collections.