“I think many people may not know all of the stories behind these objects. They’re not just an image, they’re an object and they’re an object that’s been in use.”
– Jeffrey Gibson
Artist Jeffrey Gibson discusses the sculptural and metaphorical interest of this human-form neck ring used as a piece of dance regalia in Hamat’sa ceremony. Made from cedar and bark, this sculpture is installed hanging as it would be worn around the neck of a dancer. Consider the sound that it would make when activated by movement and the ceremony that it is part of the next time you visit SAM’s Native Art of the Americas galleries.
Artwork: “Bagwikala (Human Being Neck Ring)”, ca. 1910, Mungo Martin (Nakapankam), Kwakwaka’wakw, Kwagu’l, Fort Rupert, British Columbia, ca. 1884–1962, red cedar bark, yellow cedar, paint, human hair, 68 x 12 x 6 in. (172.72 x 30.48 x 15.24 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 83.241. Music: Natali Wiseman.
Following a series of progressive steps taken in recent weeks, SAM
announced last Thursday that it has
temporarily closed through the end of March, to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and
protect the community.
While the museum is closed, we hope you’ll enjoy Gayle Clemans’ lovely review of John Akomfrah: Future History, which notes that
even with the closure, “the artist and his work, nonetheless, is well worth
“For Akomfrah, that
cinematic approach is like philosophy, a way of comprehending the world. ‘As
opposites have conversations, or as they are persuaded to at least potentially
sit at the table in preparation for conversation, something miraculous
happens,’ he says. ‘Life itself happens.’”
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
Image: Alfred Stieglitz, American, 1864–1946, Georgia O’Keeffe (in a chemise), 1918, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in., Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 2006.6.1432, photo: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY
In honor of Women’s History Month, Object of the Week will highlight works by celebrated women artists in SAM’s permanent collection throughout the month of March.
Broad black strokes cut across paper, precise sweeps of motion that hold bold strength. Ink trails downward in sharp ribbons dissolving into mist, which run down into watery pools. The shape is abstract, yet gives a sense of dynamism and flow that fully utilizes the monochromatic black that it’s painted in. This piece, left untitled by abstract artist and calligrapher Toko Shinoda, is not intended to have specific form. Instead it seeks to capture a feeling, although what that feeling may be, we’ll never know for certain. Each piece of art she makes is a piece of herself, and each is made meticulously to reflect the “her” that painted it.
At around 107 years old, Shinoda has had a lot of “her” to paint. The daughter of a calligrapher herself, Shinoda has been using a brush and sumi ink since she was six, and has not stopped using them since. For the first 40 years of her life, she focused on calligraphy; an art form traditional to Japanese women, as well as one of few career paths initially open to them. She was extremely successful and exhibited her works all over Japan. The more Shinoda created, the more abstract her pieces became. This resulted in a shift toward Abstract Expressionist art after an exhibition in New York in 1953. Having spent so much of her career trying to strictly copy the work of master calligraphers, she was impressed by the formal freedom of American artists. Abstract Expressionism, she felt, was what she really wanted to achieve with her ink.
Since then, Shinoda has gained international acclaim for her prolific melding of traditional and modern approaches. However, despite her fame, she denies all awards and recognition. Time magazine might write about her, museums may acquire her work and display them in a place of high regard, but she will not take any titles or cash gifts for her accomplishments. The only honor she has accepted is a set of stamps: hers are the first artworks by a living artist to be featured on official Japanese stamps.
Even now, Shinoda paints every day to keep her art, and herself, alive. It is said that all artists go through a process called 守破離 (shu-ha-ri) in their lifetimes. The “shu” being adherence to art form and tradition, the “ha” being a departure from it. Shinoda embodies the final step, “ri”: transcendence through focus and mastery that allows for creative freedom. Still, even though Shinoda is free in her creation, she refuses to be satisfied by the style she developed, and strives to master delicacy in her work. Discontented with safety in art, she will always paint things that require precise balance, capturing that fleeting moment of experience and self.
– Kennedy Simpson, SAM Blakemore Intern for Japanese and Korean Art
“It’s obviously a
really exciting thing,” said Barbara Brotherton, a curator of Native American
art at the Seattle Art Museum, of the recent exposure. The museum has a long
track record of showing Native American art ranging from historical to
contemporary periods. “We’re just in this modern moment where it’s gaining
cachet from venues like art fairs, contemporary galleries, and biennials.”
announced this week that it
is under new ownership, having been acquired by startup entrepreneur
and Geekwire chairman Jonathan Sposato.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Object of the
Week will highlight works by celebrated women artists in SAM’s permanent collection
throughout the month of March.
From across a gallery, Focus
No. 37 looks like the face of someone seen in passing. The person might
appear vaguely familiar, prompting the viewer to stop and focus. But the face
does not become any clearer after directing attention to the image, or moving
closer. Instead, it is the white threads that wind across the surface of the
portrait to form a neat braid that become more visible. The threads further
obscure an already out-of-focus photograph, making the individual’s age and
gender seem ambiguous.
This work is part of the Focus
series by artist Lin Tianmiao, who created multiple portraits of herself,
family members, and friends modified by her thread-winding technique. Her
artistic practice often involves materials associated with domestic labor and
the Chinese household during the 1960s and 70s. Reflecting on her personal
association with white cotton thread, Lin recalls the childhood chore of
unwinding old uniforms and gloves provided by state-owned “work units,” or danwei, and rewinding them into sweaters,
tablecloths, hats, and curtains for family use or to exchange with relatives
Speaking about the connection between her choice of materials and her own memories, Lin remarks, “When I look back at the materials I chose over the years and think about why I chose thread and other soft materials, I think it has to do with my personal experience. When I was a child, my [mom] sometimes asked me to help her with housework. It was actually like a form of corporal punishment in that it stamped a physical memory on me. When I came back [to China] from America and saw those kinds of materials again, I thought to myself: this is it, these are going to be my materials. It happened very naturally. Also, since I did a lot of housework when I was a child, it helped me acquire endurance and tenacity.” 2
While the thread in Focus
No. 37 does produce the effect of obscuring the photograph beneath, the
central braid humanizes an anonymous face by bringing to mind a familiar haptic
act. Just as Lin Tianmiao describes her memories of housework, the viewer might
think about their experiences braiding someone’s hair, having their own hair
braided, or someone they know with braided hair. In this way, the work raises
the question of how identity is formed. Individuals are not only defined by
their outward appearance, but also by their everyday actions and practices.
“A Place for Meaningful Cultural Conversations” declared the headline
for art critic Lee Lawrence’s thoughtful
review of the reimagined Asian Art Museum,
which appeared in the February 25 print edition of the Wall Street Journal.
bululs, or rice deities, from the Philippines once watched over terraced
paddies, and they’re among the museum’s most modest yet most powerful works.
Given the nature and small size of its Philippine holdings, the Seattle Asian
Art Museum probably would have kept them in storage had it opted for a
traditional installation. But in another benefit of thematic groupings,
they—and other long-warehoused treasures in the museum’s collection—now have a
role, enriching the new installation not just with their stories but with their
Susie J. Lee is making a short video about what makes a museum “interesting and
cool.” The Seattle Times’ Alan Berner captured
photos of the recent shoot at the Asian Art Museum.
“As a trained
anthropologist, Hurston traveled down the East Coast and sat on stoops and
corners, the storytelling stages and communal gathering spaces of Black
communities, where, with academic rigor and a loving gaze, she listened,
studied and collected the stories Black folk tell.”
Holland Cotter of the
New York Times on
MoMA’s Donald Judd survey that opens on Sunday, noting that his work
“can now be seen to offer pleasures, visual and conceptual, that any audience
with open eyes, can relate to.”
“It is not often a
new category of art historical research is proposed as a solution to these
persistent problems, but The
Allure of Matter: Material Art from China makes a compelling case for the
usefulness of a new analytical structure around Chinese art.”
Meschac Gaba takes much inspiration from the streets of Cotonou, Benin,
the city where he was born. The artist, full of clarity and humor about the
nature of his work, understands the power of art in social environments.
After finding millions (Gaba’s estimate) of cut banknotes on the street,
the artist started incorporating money into his work. This was the early 1990s,
when Benin first devalued currency, and Gaba was fascinated.
In Artist with African Inspiration: Salle de Francophonie (2004),
Gaba prints new images on a West African 1000 CFA franc. On the back of the
original bill, a chalkboard appears on the lower right side with the letters
“abc” in cursive. However, Gaba replaces the letters and uses the chalkboard to
frame his own face—smiling. On the left side of the bill appears an image of
one of the artist’s braided hair sculptures as well. It’s a small revision, and
Gaba employs the same intervention with an American dollar bill in Artist
with American Inspiration: 4 World Financial Center, swapping out our
stately eagle for his face (again, smiling). One of Gaba’s sculptures appears
on the left as well. These could be read as ironic: an act of empowerment or a
moment of tongue-in-cheek capitalist self-promotion.
However you might interpret his actions, Gaba
uses everyday objects to continually play with questions of global trade and
economy, and call attention to the modern conditions that drive us to
constantly earn, measure, and compete against one another. Through his artistic
practice, he questions who can be an artist, and how artists can create space.
– Jenae Williams, Exhibitions and Publications Associate
Your next chance to experience the Olympic Sculpture Park through the Indigenous lens of SAM’s winter resident is tonight, February 27 from 7 to 9 pm! Architectural designer and artist Kimberly Deriana (Mandan/Hidatsa) has spent the last two months working in the park researching, offering workshops, and constructing a temporary installation. Deriana has used her residency as a space for sharing Indigenous knowledge surrounding the many uses of cattail materials. The temporary cattail and cedar structure she has created is a space where everyone is invited to gather and experience cultural celebration. The event will include performances by Aiyanna Jade Stitt and Hailey Tayathy, and storytelling and song by Kayla Guyett and Paige Pettibon.
Kimberly Deriana specializes in sustainable, environmental Indigenous architecture, housing, and planning. Deriana’s methodologies focus on incorporating Indigenous lifestyle practices in relation to past, present, and future, designing for the 7 generations. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her experience as SAM’s artist in residence and to learn more about her creative process.
SAM: What goals do you have for your residency at the Olympic Sculpture Park?
KIMBERLY DERIANA: I want to activate the park through an Indigenous lens. As an architect designer and somebody who loves urban design, I’ve been drawn to this park since I first moved here. Part of creating visibility is bringing other people along in the process and giving them opportunities, too. I really try to include people and families who have been doing this work for years while giving new urban Native people outlets in every project on which I work.
This residency is a learning opportunity for me; the way I enjoy learning is to involve others. It’s about the way we learn as a community, the way we make as a community, and the way we approach being in the world and sustainability. When you’re gathering cattails, there’s an appropriate time to gather and there are appropriate places to gather. Learning all of that protocol has been really eye-opening. Because I grew up as an urban Native and wasn’t always shown those protocols, I try to make a conscious effort to create space and time for the protocol knowledge as an adult.
Tell us about the workshops and youth that you
worked with to include Indigenous communities.
I’ve always done art and design but being in
the art scene is a new space for me; I wanted to explore the co-creation
process. Sharing resources is an important component of the process, I believe.
This space has a very educational, institutional vibe and it lends itself to
the scope needed for community workshops. The scale of the work required to
enliven the space needs many hands. The piece itself is practice and healing work.
The collaborators and I were here most
weekends in January and February. Since we are on Suquamish and Duwamish
traditional lands, one weekend we had Indigenous teachers from Suquamish. These
amazing women who are educators for and from their community—Tina, Jackson, and
Kippy Joe— and the amount of information and knowledge that they share in four hours is just indescribable. You
can’t get that on YouTube or from a professor. You have to experience their
oral teachings to begin to understand the richness and depth of the knowledge.
We had three Indigenous youth that day, and then we had a couple visitors just stop by who were interested in what we were doing. We had time to teach them and they got to learn. Every weekend I’ve had at least one Indigenous teen come in and help work with us through a partnership with yəhaw̓.
What are some of the historical uses of cattail mats?
In this region, mats were traditionally used as sheathing for summer structures. Mats are used all over the world, globally and indigenously for different surfaces. In the Plateau, Plains, Woodlands, and Southeast regions, mats are used for protection and warmth on their architectural structures.
Cattails have a multitude of uses. They protect us. When they’re just in the ground they clean the water and remove toxins. They can be food; they can be shelter; they can be water. When gathering cattails in the right spots, their uses extend beyond those listed so that one can understand the sustainability that the plant provides. Plant knowledge leads to understanding sustainability; sustainability leads to healing; healing leads to understanding their sacredness. I want everyone to know this.
I’m trying to make paper with cattails because
I think that’s a more respectful use of them since they were gathered in the
late fall season. I am super excited to do more scientific research on the
sustainability of cattails, learning more traditional knowledge about them, and
weaving. I realize you can approach a project and commit to working with a
material, but then all these other sacred teachings come up, such as how to work with other materials and plants.
It’s not homogenous when we’re learning about our plant relatives.
Why have some of the cattails been cut and
others left long and uneven?
As I started the process of creating this temporary installation with cattails some teachers said it was okay to gather now. When we made some mats, I knew they were not ideal materials and then, in the middle of the month, I learned that you should gather cattails at the end of summer for making mats. For this reason, some of the mats are trimmed and others are raggedy, in order to reveal the imperfection of the process. I like to break things apart until they become abstract, so that even though I’m using really traditional materials, the way I use them means you can’t necessarily tell what it is. For example, maybe your eye reads it as hair or as a bone or antlers. The raggedy mats—having them be more than one thing–helped convey that abstract concept. I think that process was kind of successful.
My architectural background makes me interested in exploring this building and wall system and I started to research and dissect like I normally do for a project. In architecture, you’re always researching and then drawing your theory. In art, you’re fabricating your theory. That’s when all this new information appeared to me. When you start to source your material and put it together, like, “This is why you have to harvest at a certain time and why you have to know where to gather and to get the reeds that are a certain height.” There are just all these little steps that make the process more efficient and that our ancestors knew and had good engineering minds for. I’m still doing it by trial and error and trying to find mentors.
The description of the temporary installation
mentions that the structure is a portal for healing. How is this present in the
work that is in the PACCAR Pavilion?
The sculpture forms a circular arbor and basket-like space. It incorporates some of the knowledge of the medicine wheel into the directions of the space and the layout. The teachings of the medicine wheel helps to orient our bodies with the land, plants and animals, nature and natural forces. In Plains tribes, you enter from the East like the sunrise. Here, in the West, a lot of structures face the water. All of the weavings that we made with Tina and Kippy are on that side and create filtered views to the water as much as possible since the water is so special. The North can reference the future, moving on, and death in some ways, too. The northern, open view gives people the opportunity to see that beautiful view of the park. The cattail threshold symbolizes a doorway into the future. A sustainable future holds the promise of healing.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM’s Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
Virginia “Jinny” Wright, a pillar of the SAM family, passed away last week at the age of 91. The Seattle Times obituary of the collector and philanthropist noted that she “lived for art—and dedicated herself to sharing it with others.” KUOW and ARTnews also shared remembrances of her legacy. She will be greatly missed.
KEXP’s Hans Anderson interviewed SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu about the reimagined Seattle Asian Art Museum for their Sound & Vision show; head to their archive for Saturday, February 15 for the story, which started at 7:49 am.
“So the piece, like
Parker’s music, is full of extremes, pushing the voice’s boundaries,” [tenor
Joshua] Stewart says. “When you have a piece this difficult, you have to bring
to it everything you have to offer. You have to go on the full journey.”
“This is coming at
a time when museums and other cultural institutions are really trying to make a
case for their existence,” says the OMCA’s associate director of evaluation and
visitor insight, Johanna Jones, who led the project. “We know we make a
difference in people’s lives, now we need to really demonstrate it through