Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Kittie McAllister

Kittie (known as Katie by her family) grew up on a beautiful farm in Carnation, Washington, riding horses and exploring the woods with her dog. As part of her Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree at Bellevue College, she excelled in hand-drawn animation classes (and was published in her mentor Tony White’s book, How to Make Animated Films) but decided she wanted to be an oil painter. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Studio Art from Central Washington University in 2016, where she discovered her love of making three-dimensional objects and using her painting skills to give them sophisticated surface qualities. Working as a Visitor Services Officer in the galleries of the Seattle Art Museum keeps her engaged in her greatest interest—art history.

SAM: Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series opened January 21 and is running until April 23. What is your favorite piece in this series?

McAllister: Every painting in The Migration Series is full of earth tones, so Panel 5 struck me for its vibrant colors and total absence of browns. A black locomotive speeding through the deep blue night, with its yellow bell swinging in the force of the wind and light penetrating the darkness ahead, gleams like an emblem of hope for the migrants leaving deplorable living situations behind. The yellow paint of the bell is even brighter than the bold yellow seen throughout the series, perhaps emphasizing it as a symbol of liberty and progress.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?

The huge Mann und Maus sculpture by Katharina Fritsch, for the BIG reactions it always gets! I often hear adults say that waking up to giant vermin on their bed is their worst nightmare, while children perceive the “mousy” as cute and funny; one child thought he got so big from eating too much cheese! I see dark symbolism in the piece and feel a little uneasy when posted in its imposing presence.

Who is your favorite artist?

As I delved deeper into John Lennon’s music, I became curious about the woman he wrote such desperate love songs about, and I discovered the avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. Her sculptures and poems are minimalistic and give simple commands to the viewer—the act of physically, or mentally, carrying out those actions focuses your cognizance in the moment. A brief writing example of Yoko’s:

LIGHTING PIECE

Light a match and watch till it goes out.

1955 autumn

One of my favorite works is a white ladder that, when you climb to the top and look through a magnifying glass hanging by a delicate chain, you can find the tiny word, “Yes” written on the white ceiling. John Lennon fell in love with Yoko when he felt refreshed by her positive message in this interactive art piece.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?

Make a day of it! I always recommend starting back in time on the fourth floor with our most ancient art objects, and working your way back to the present with our more contemporary works on the third floor. SAM celebrates diversity and is a safe space to be yourself and unabashedly explore the eccentric world of art.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?

Recently I had a painting in the Erotica exhibition on Capitol Hill for Second Thursday Art Walk—it was such a hoot! Now that I’m finished with school I have time to get back into my guitar and I love spending lazy days just journaling. My shorthaired black cat, Tobias Funke, always demands my attention, and I’m simply enjoying my time with friends and family now that I’m back in Seattle. I’m always making little plans and schemes for my creative notions—working at Seattle Art Museum keeps my creativity fueled!

Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Migration Stories: Carina A. del Rosario

Becoming American

By Carina A. del Rosario

Presented at Seattle Art Museum’s Migration Stories Program, February 2, 2017 on the occasion of Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. Everyone is invited to come share their personal stories of immigration, migration, displacement, and community and how their perspectives relate to the works on view in The Migration Series during an Open Mic event on March 9 at Seattle Art Museum. And don’t miss the chance to hear from other local legends, such as Carina A. del Rosario, as they share their experiences with us in The Migration Series gallery. 

I aced my citizenship test and interview. The Immigration Officer asked me if I’d like to get sworn in at the next monthly group ceremony, or wait until the big one at Seattle Center on the Fourth of July. I opted for the soonest one. I didn’t need all that hoo-ha. It was 1994 and by that point, I had lived in the US for 19 years. I was already American. This swearing-in thing was just a formality.

On the designated day, I showed up at the Immigration and Naturalization Services building on the edge of the International District alone. I didn’t invite my partner. I didn’t dress up. No red, white, or blue anywhere on me. That just would have been too Fobby.

Like I said, I’d been here nearly two decades already, so I was thoroughly assimilated.

My lessons started soon after I arrived. I was six years old, fresh off the boat, and it was the start of the school year at my new school. Everyone started talking about Halloween and costumes. What was that? I was too shy to ask anyone. As soon as my mom came home from work, I rushed to her in a panic.

“It’s Halloween! I need a costume! Everyone is supposed to dress up!!!”

My mom was raising my brother, my sister, and me on her own while my dad continued to work in the Philippines. He didn’t have a work visa here, so we only got to see him twice a year until I was in sixth grade.

“What’s this? What costume?”

“I don’t know! I just need one! For Friday!”

“Okay, sweetheart. I’ll see what I can do.”

The next day after work, she went grocery shopping and there, in the section right by the registers, were racks lined with tiny plastic costumes. She picked one up that looked like it was for a girl. It was red, white, and blue. It was Raggedy Ann.

Friday came and I boarded the bus to school with my costume ready in my backpack. I got to the edge of the schoolyard and donned the plastic checked dress, snapping the one button on the back of my chubby neck.

I slipped on the white freckled face, rimmed with painted red locks, over my own. The plastic stuck to my face every time I took a breath. It made my cheeks clammy. I peeked through the eyeholes and quickly realized this was all wrong.

My classmates pranced around the schoolyard with these fantastic costumes of superheroes, cartoon characters, princesses. They looked so confident in their cool costumes.

I hid my shame behind that hideous mask, sucking in hot plastic air.

Second grade rolled around. We sat in a circle for read-aloud time. My turn came and I read: “THomas went to the train yard.”

Snickers rippled around the circle.

Ms. Murray said, “It’s ‘Thomas.’”

My cheeks flamed. I looked hard at the letters.

“But it’s ‘t-h.’”

“Yes, but it’s still pronounced ‘Thomas.’”

In my head, I rattled off all the “t-h” words I knew: think, thought, that, this, the, thou.

Ms. Murray cut off my silent argument. “The ‘h’ is silent. That’s just the way it is.”

Well that’s just stupid, I thought. I vowed to master English better than anybody. I read voraciously. I soaked in English from the TV. I spoke only English at home.

During all those grade school years, the only time that I didn’t try to hide my Filipina immigrant self was when my dad was in town. We’d go to the Redondo Beach Pier—far, far away from school. We’d stroll down the boardwalk, toting our rice cooker and condiments. Dad would go to the fishmongers and have them steam up a dozen crab and pounds of succulent shrimp. We spread newspapers all over the concrete picnic tables. We’d pound the crab shells with mortar and pistil, patiently claw all the meat out. I didn’t care about the strangers at the other tables, gawking at us. I pinched rice and crab into my finger tips. I dipped into garlic vinegar and pushed that steaming, tasty goodness into my mouth. I licked every finger clean.

But back at school, I ate gummy Wonder-bread sandwiches. Bologna and mayonnaise, or peanut butter and jelly. It was back to the grind of fitting in. By the time I was in high school, my English was perfect. Not a trace of accent. Grammatically correct—always—but peppered with enough California slang to make sure I didn’t stand out as an outsider. Sometimes I’d even slip in a little Valley Girl. Like many Filipinos, I became a mimic. It’s how we survive.

It wasn’t until college that I started seeing other possibilities. It wasn’t until then—until after 12 years of American education—that I first saw the word Filipino in a school textbook. It was in an Ethnic Studies class, of course. I learned about how Filipinos led strikes in California to establish the United Farm Workers. I read about how other Filipinos worked alongside Mexicans, Blacks, Native Americans, other Asian Americans, marched along with them. I learned how these different groups of people of color helped to build and shape this country, pushing it to live up to its promises of equality and freedom.

I was determined to carry on with the pushing. How much more American could that be?

After college, I drove up I-5 and parked in Seattle in 1992. I worked for the International Examiner as a reporter and editor. I covered all kinds of stories affecting the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, but I really sunk my teeth into covering politics. I reported on President Clinton’s plans to reform welfare and immigration program budgets. He wanted to cut immigrants and refugees off Medicaid, food stamps and supplemental security income. Never mind that we contributed to this country with the taxes we paid into those very programs. Congress approved.

I decided to become a citizen because I wanted the power to vote people into office who weren’t going to screw us over, who weren’t just going to tell me, “We’ve got to cut the budget somehow. That’s just the way it is.”

When the day arrived for my swearing in ceremony, I rolled into the INS building in a loose shirt and shorts—looking like an average American Generation X-er in the 90s. I had the cynical attitude of one too. As the immigration judge addressed the 300 people in the packed waiting area, I had a running commentary going in my head.

“Our country is greater because of immigrants like you.”

Yeah, and we still get yelled at to go back to where we came from.

“America has a long history of welcoming the tired, the poor, the huddled masses…”

Yeah, and you take all our work, our talent and tax dollars, but if we fall on hard times, you turn your backs on us.

My back-talk was interrupted by a loud sniffle beside me. It came from a Southeast Asian man, probably Vietnamese. Tears were trickling down his face, dripping onto the lapels of his suit. I looked passed him and I saw another woman, perhaps Eastern European, also looking somber in her frilly white dress, a red ribbon in her hair.

I looked around some more. All around me, perched on plastic seats, were people dressed up like they were going to church. There was a lot of red and white, and blue and white, and even all three colors. People of all shades gripped the hands of loved ones beside them, or clutched one of the little American flags volunteers distributed at the door. I saw more people crying silently and others who were beaming earnestly.

Their unfettered emotions silenced the snide comments in my head. Instead, I began to wonder about all the things these new Americans went through to get here: the dictatorships and persecution they fled, the famines and other natural disasters. Maybe some of them were escaping family demons and chasing brighter opportunities. I thought of those who came before us, who faced fire hoses and billy clubs, marched for miles, risked their lives and sometimes lost them, just so we could stand here and claim our right to vote.

When it was time, I stood up with all of them. We raised our right hands and in one loud chorus, solemnly vowed to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign—and domestic.

It’s been 23 years since that day. I’ve cast my ballot every single year. Sometimes, I still get a little cynical. But the cynicism is pushed aside by the images that come across my screen or appear in my memory—pictures of people who have passionately fought for me to be here. To be who I am, love who I love. To be granted due process and equal protection under the law.

It’s my turn to continue The Struggle, to make room for all of us yearning to be free.

THIS is just the way it is.

 

Carina del Rosario was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States as a young girl. She uses photography, digital media and visual art to explore the desire for community. She earned her BA in Communication from Santa Clara University in 1991. She has studied photography with Magnum Photographer Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, Raul Touzon, and Eddie Soloway. As a teaching artist she collaborates with non-profit organizations and educational institutions to help illustrate issues such as poverty, education, health, and civil rights. She is founder of the International District Engaged in Arts (IDEA) Odyssey, a collective that promotes cultural diversity, community development, and economic prosperity in Seattle’s International District/Chinatown neighborhood through visual arts.

Image: The Migration Series, Panel 1: During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans., 1940–41, Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917–2000, casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in., Acquired 1942, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., © 2016 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Expansive Terratopia: Chinese Landscape in Poetry

The Way dissolves into rivers
The Way coagulates into mountains.

–Sun Ch’o, Fourth Century [1]

Shan Shui, or river and mountains, is a Chinese term for landscape.[2] During the Six Dynasties (220 AD–589 AD) Shan Shui became a popular style of landscape painting as well as referring to a specific form of landscape poetry. In Terratopia: The Chinese Landscape in Painting and Film at the Asian Art Museum you will see examples of Shan Shui painting as the exhibition displays centuries of works to examine the role of landscape as an enduring subject of artistic, philosophical, and environmental reflection from the 3rd to the 21st century. In the paintings of the exhibition, you’ll notice calligraphy on pieces such as Wangchuan Villa (17th Century). The inscription refers to a series of Shan Shui poems by Wang Wei whose country retreat at Wang River is depicted in the painting. Wang’s couplets, focused on the natural landscape of his retreat, are collected, with the poems of fellow poet Pei Di, as the Wheel River Sequence. A sample of these poems, meant to convey imagery and tranquility are below.

Deer Park

No one seen. In empty mountains,
hints of drifting voice, no more.

Entering these deep woods, late sun-
light ablaze on green moss, rising.

Magnolia Park

Autumn mountains gathering last light,
one bird follows another in flight away.

Shifting kingfisher-greens flash radiant
scatters. Evening mists: nowhere they are.

Vagary Lake

Flute-song carries beyond furthest shores.
In dusk light, I bid you a sage’s farewell.

Across this lake, in the turn of a head,
mountain greens furl into white clouds.[3]

Perhaps one of the most iconic pieces of writing that begins to unfold a long history of the role of poetry in Chinese landscape painting is written on The Orchid Pavilion Gathering created in 1732 by Chen Fu based on the original work of Wang Xizhi (303-361), the whereabouts of which has been unknown since the Tang Dynasty. This calligraphy is the Lanting Xu (Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion), written as a preface to a collection of poems generated during the famed Orchid Pavilion Gathering of literati. Read the Lanting Xu to begin your own journey into the poetry associated with the works of art you can see at Asian Art Museum before Terratopia closes.

“First Inscription: In the ninth year of the Eternal Harmony era in the beginning of the last month of spring when the calendar was in kuei-ch’ou [353], we met at the Orchid Pavilion in Shan-yin, Kuei-chi to celebrate the Bathing Festival. All the worthy men assembled; the young and the senior gathered together. Here were lofty mountains and towering hills, thick groves and tall bamboo. And, there was a clear, rapid stream reflecting everything around that had been diverted to play the game of floating wine-cups along a winding course. We sat down in order of precedence. Though we had none of the magnificent sounds of strings and flutes, a cup of wine and then a poem was enough to stir our innermost feelings. This was a day when the sky was bright and the air was pure. A gentle breeze warmed us. Upwards we gazed to contemplate the immensity of the universe; downwards we peered to scrutinize the abundance of living things. In this way, we let our eyes roam and our emotions become aroused so that we enjoy to the fullest these sights and sounds. This was happiness, indeed! Men associate with each other but for the brief span of their lives. Some are content to control their innermost feelings as they converse inside a room. Some are prompted to give rein to their ambitions and lead wild, unfettered lives. There is all the difference between controlled and abandoned natures, just as the quiescent and the frenzied are unalike. Yet, both take pleasure from whatever they encounter, possessing it but for a while. Happy and content, they remain unaware that old age is fast approaching. And, when they tire of something, they let their feelings change along with events as they experience a deep melancholy. What they had taken pleasure in has now passed away in an instant, so how could their hearts not give rise to longing? Furthermore, a long or short life depends on the transformation of all things: everything must come to an end. An ancient said, “Life and death are the greatest of matters, indeed!” Isn’t this reason enough to be sad? Whenever I read of the causes of melancholy felt by men of the past, it is like joining together two halves of a tally. I always feel sad when I read them, yet I cannot quite understand why. But I know that it is meaningless to say life and death are the same; and to equate the longevity of P’eng-tsu with that of Shang-tzu is simply wrong. Future readers will look back upon today just as we look back at the past. How sad it all is! Therefore, I have recorded my contemporaries and transcribed what they have written. Over distant generations and changing events, what gives rise to melancholy will be the same. Future readers will also feel moved by these writings.”

This is your final weekend to see the historical paintings and the contemporary film work of Yang Fudong in Terratopia before it closes on Sunday, February 26. As it says in the Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, “. . . life depends on the transformation of all things: everything must come to an end.”

If all this poetry has you yearning for more landscapes, come to Seattle Art Museum to see Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, on view through May 23. And keep in mind, the Asian Art Museum is temporarily closing for renovation beginning Monday but installations featuring SAM’s Asian art collection will continue to be on view at the Seattle Art Museum for all to take retreat within.

–Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter & Content Strategist

Images: Wangchuan Villa, 17th century, Wang Wei, Chinese, ink and color on silk, 36 ft x 11 13/16 in., Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.142, photo: Mark Woods. The Orchid Pavilion Gathering (detail), 1732, color added 1739, Chen Fu, Chinese, active 1730s, ink and color on paper, 13 1/4 X 25 7/8 In., Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 52.138, photo: Elizabeth Mann.
[1] “Yu T’ien-t’ai-shan fu” (Fu-poem of My Wanderings on Mount T’ien-t’ai), Wen-hsü an, 2 vols. (Shanghai), Chapter XI, pp 223–227
[2] Frodsham, J.D. “Landscape Poetry in China and Europe.” Comparative Literature 19, no. 3 (Summer, 1967): pp. 193-215 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1770207
[3] Wang Wei, The Selected Poems of Wang Wei, trans. David Hinton. New York: New Directions, 2006.

Object of the Week: The Wave

For regular readers of our Object of the Week series, the name Anselm Kiefer should ring a bell. It wasn’t so long ago that Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator and this series’ regular contributor, wrote about Kiefer’s monumental and haunting painting Die Orden der Nacht, currently on view in the installation Big Picture: Art after 1945. But today I’m here to talk about Kiefer again, and his work which currently hangs right next to Die Orden der Nacht: the 1990 painting Die Welle (The Wave), or Lilit am Roten Meer (Lilith at the Red Sea).

In many ways Jeff’s earlier discussion of Die Orden der Nacht rings true for Die Welle as well. It is similarly monumental in scale, similarly ambitious in its scope and symbolism. It is similarly laden with its own materiality, its thickly layered surface reaching out from the wall and defying its classification as painting. And, like Die Orden der Nacht, Die Welle is staggeringly heavy—literally (how often do you see lead listed as a medium, and hanging defiantly on a wall?), but even more so metaphorically. Its materials also include wire, ash, and children’s clothes—haunting, aching in their empty presence, a visceral gut-punch aura of destruction and death.

Aside from these obvious material and compositional differences, what distinguishes Die Welle from its neighbor is the mythology suggested in its alternate title: Lilit am Roten Meer, which translates to Lilith at the Red Sea. Lilith is a figure from Hebrew folklore who features in many of Kiefer’s works from the 1980s and ‘90s. According to the mythology, Lilith was meant to be Adam’s first wife, made by God at the same time and from the same earth as the first man. But she refused to be subservient to Adam, and fled the Garden of Eden to live on the edge of the Red Sea. So God made Adam a new wife (grown from Adam’s rib this time—a woman made of man, instead of with him), and Adam and Eve started the work of begetting the human race. Meanwhile, Lilith in her exile became the matriarch of a different kind of progeny: a massive host of demons, and a legacy of destruction and death. If Adam and Eve represent the birth of humankind, so some readings go, then evil is descended from Lilith.

This is a heavy subject (with heavily debated interpretations and readings) to go along with an already somber artwork—but, again like Die Orden der Nacht, Die Welle (or Lilit am Roten Meer) resists easy interpretation. Where is Lilith in this work? Is she one of the hollow figures, or is she lurking in the background, the unseen progenitor of this scene of devestation? More complicated still is the evocation of the Red Sea, which represents the home of Lilith and her demon-children—but also the site of the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt, and the drowning of the Egyptians who pursued them. Is the titular welle (wave) cresting towards us with a promise of deliverance, or destruction?

—Carrie Dedon, Curatorial Assistant, Modern & Contemporary Art

Image: Die Welle (The Wave), 1990, Anselm Kiefer, lead, clothes, steel wire, and ash on canvas, Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.120, © Anselm Kiefer.

Film/Life: Thelma Schoonmaker Presents

In 1989, at Seattle’s Burke Museum, I toured an exhibition of 19th-century Native American artifacts with the legendary British film director Michael Powell (1905-90) and his wife, Thelma Schoonmaker, who has received three Oscars for editing all of Martin Scorsese’s films since 1980. Michael’s eyesight being somewhat dimmed, Thelma read a text panel of Chief Seattle’s words aloud: “Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, great mountains and sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely-hearted living, and often return to visit, guide and comfort them.” Michael considered this for a moment, then looked at me with his intensely blue, far-seeing eyes: “That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?”

 Young Powell was a “dreamy boy” of the English countryside, who grew up attuned to the mystical murmurings of nature and the invisible forces and connections that draw us to certain places and people, and that make us ponder the deep questions of life and death. Powell’s sense of the mythic in everyday reality, his ravishing pictorial vision, wild imagination, and questing heart empowered him to conjure true cinematic magic. King Arthur’s Merlin, Shakespeare’s Prospero, and Aladdin would rightly call him brother.

The Red Shoes (1948)

Almost every film Powell made with his writing partner, Emeric Pressburger, breathes the rarified air of fairytale or fable, even when set in post-World War II London. The Red Shoes, their most famous film, is based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a girl whose wish to dance at a grand ball in red shoes is granted. But the shoes are possessed by dark sorcery, and though the girl is tired at evening’s end and wants to go home, the shoes sweep her on and on, never stopping. The film sweeps us into the world of passionate young people who live to dance. It’s a rainy afternoon, everyone crowds into a threadbare back street theater, and someone turns on a record player. Vicky Paige (Moira Shearer, another of Powell’s red heads) takes the stage and, melded with the music, she twirls and twirls. As her body whirls around to a frontal position, Powell smites us with what The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane calls “the most stunning close-up in the history of cinema, a sudden bright ecstacy that verges on the demonic.”  This transcendent moment and Vicky’s religious devotion to her art pierce the chilly heart of impresario Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), who woos her into joining his celebrated European troupe.

Vicky embraces the gritty, punishing work necessary to make her body defy gravity with perfect grace, and she bonds with the colorful characters in Lermontov’s company. She’s especially fond of young composer Julian Kraster (Marius Goring), and she becomes an overnight star performing his The Red Shoes Ballet. Director Powell’s wizardry transports us from the dance-theater stage to an aesthetic-emotional realm of music, dance, Technicolor expressionism, and surreal design that embodies Christian Andersen’s fairy tale and the growing tension between Lermontov, Vicky, and Julian, for Vicky and Julian have fallen in love. Can “the comforts of human love” be enough for a woman who can soar like a goddess? Is being wedded to one’s art a matter of life and death? Over the years The Red Shoes has inspired countless people to become dancers, from classical to modern and avant garde.

As a New York youth, Martin Scorsese felt that The Red Shoes was the most powerful movie he had ever seen. Aside from the sheer joy of watching Powell and Pressburger’s films, Scorsese learned from them as he ventured into filmmaking. Powell always began a project with a sharp personal vision, got that vision onto the screen, and fought any meddling bean counters to keep it there. Years after Powell’s daring and disturbing film Peeping Tom ended his British career, Scorsese welcomed him (“my inspiration”) to his New York film family and was instrumental in bringing Powell’s work the critical and audience appreciation it deserved. Powell gave Scorsese good advice (“Raging Bull should be in black and white”), and fell in love with Scorsese’s new editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, who won her first Oscar for Raging Bull.

The King of Comedy (1983)

Actor Robert de Niro, who stunned the world with his searing performances in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, brought Scorsese his next project, The King of Comedy. While Powell and Schoonmaker’s love blossomed, Scorsese was in a “Poor Me” mood: his marriage to Isabella Rossellini was crumbling and he felt lonely and dejected. The King of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) doesn’t have the capacity for low spirits. He’s frantically, exuberantly ambitious in a one-track direction, to perform a ten-minute stand-up comedy spot on the TV show of his idol Jerry Langford (a wonderfully subdued Jerry Lewis). Rupert’s convinced that he’s bubbling over with talent, though, down in his basement, the cardboard figures of celebrities like Liza Minnelli don’t applaud when he delivers his act.

One day Rupert worms his way into Langford’s limousine and raves about his own dynamite talent. Langford invites him to a follow-up meeting, but it’s just a way of brushing him off. Scorsese has said that “the amount of rejection in the film is horrifying; there are scenes I almost can’t watch.” Horrifying, true, but also hilarious. Cutting rebuffs that would embarrass and shame a less obsessive person just spur Rupert on: he keeps bouncing back and reframing harsh setbacks as the challenging stepping stones of his creative mission. When all else fails, Rupert and his fellow Langford-worshipper Masha (the fierce comic Sandra Bernhard) kidnap Langford, with hopes of getting Rupert his TV gig. The extreme social chaos that Rupert and Masha perpetrate is nicely balanced by Langford’s quiet nobility as he copes with these two wild, absurd grown-up kids. Researchers say that we laugh with recognition when we experience familiar, perhaps endearing human foibles and shortcomings. But we also laugh nervously, when behavior is unexpectedly intense, and there’s danger in the air. Marlon Brando laughed so much at The King of Comedy that he hosted Scorsese and De Niro at his private Tahitian island.

Born in the British Isles, Michael Powell loved islands and waterways and, as a man in his eighties, saw that his life was a river flowing ever onward until “there will be nothing left for me but the open sea.” His spirit lives on in his wondrous, thoughtful, thrilling art, and in the hearts of Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese. Twenty-eight years after Michael and Thelma’s 1989 visit, Thelma will join us at the Seattle Art Museum to present Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes on Monday, March 6 and Scorsese’s The King of Comedy on March 7. She’ll introduce the films, answer audience questions and speak of her life in movies.

—Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Eagle-Lion/Photofest, © Eagle-Lion Films. 20th Century Fox. Eagle-Lion Films, Inc./Photofest, Photographer: George Cannon, 20th Century Fox/Photofest, © 20th Century Fox.

Migrations & Marches: Congressman John Lewis, Writer Andrew Aydin, & Artist Nate Powell

On February 22 Congressman John Lewis presented his graphic novel trilogy, MARCH, during Migrations & Marches, a SAM event taking place at Benaroya Hall in order to accommodate a larger audience. The event was presented as an educational opportunity for regional youth and a majority of the seats were reserved for students and their families. As a result, public seating was limited and the event sold out almost immediately. To allow more people to take part in this exciting program, we stayed open late to host a free live stream of the talk in Plestcheeff Auditorium. We also kept the Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series exhibition open and free until 9 pm. If you missed it, not to worry! You can tune in from the comfort of your home anytime, right here!

Created with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell, MARCH, recently the winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, recounts the story of the civil rights movement through the eyes of one of its most well-known figures and shares important lessons about nonviolent activism and empowerment. Congressman John Lewis is an American icon whose commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to a seat in Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from being beaten by state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

 

Object of the Week: Spear Thrower

In his bronze sculpture of a Spear Thrower, Paul Manship depicts an athlete in motion. The sculpture has balance and equilibrium as the figure reaches back and prepares to hurl his spear forward. He’s pictured at the moment just before the energy is transferred, with his full weight on the back leg, where the muscles bunch and bulge with exertion. If he’s hurting from the effort, his face doesn’t show it; his look is one of resolve and otherworldly gracefulness. His spear creates a strong horizontal line that is carried across the sculpture by the figure’s fully extended left arm. His features are ripped and generalized; he is an ideal form and not an individual one. With this sculpture Manship celebrated ideas like human strength and achievement, and the beauty of the athlete’s body.

Important links between works of visual art exist everywhere, and part of what SAM and other art museums can do for us is point out this vast web of interconnectedness. Its intricacy and complexity mean that there is always more to discover. For instance, Paul Manship, an American born in Minnesota, was inspired by Indian art, as well as archaic Greek art and the Italian Renaissance that renewed appreciation for classical Greek ideas and developed them further.

In the form of Spear Thrower Manship made a direct reference to this Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Done in what’s called the “severe style” around 460 BCE, it is a true landmark in the history of art, and remains one of the best-known examples of Early Classical Greek sculpture. It was to this school of art-making, and to this particular work, that Manship looked when he cast the Spear Thrower in 1921.

Interesting comparisons, if less apparent ones, exist even in SAM’s own collection. Have a look at our Black-Figure Amphora displayed on the fourth floor, amid other works from the ancient Mediterranean. Revelers stride across the scene in dynamic poses that have them twisting and contorting their bodies in displays of balance and gracefulness. Each figure stands on a single foot, supported by a powerful, muscular leg. Clean, sinuous lines mark the contours of the figures. All these traits surface visibly in Manship’s work of 2,300 years later.

We’d be doing Manship a disservice, though, if we understood him as only looking backwards. In SAM’s Spear Thrower, as in Manship’s famous Prometheus fountain at Rockefeller Center, he innovated a combination of classical, idealized bodies and a distinctly Modern, streamlined aesthetic that secured him a prominent place in the web of art history.

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Image: Spear Thrower, 1921, Paul Manship (American, born St. Paul, Minnesota, 1885; died New York City, 1966), bronze, 20 x 31 1/2 x 7 5/8 in. Seattle Art Museum, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, General Acquisition Fund and the American Art Acquisition Fund, 2008.2. Black-Figure Amphora, (Two Handled Vessel) with Donysiac Revels, ca. 525 – 500 B.C. Greek, Attica, ceramic, 17 1/16 x 10 5/8 in., diam.: 28 cm, Norman and Amelia Davis Classical Collection, 63.119.

Object of the Week: Amulet with mummified monkey

Each of us carries with us a lens, or lenses, through which we view the world, and that lens colors and shapes our perception of, and response to, all the sights, sounds, and smells we encounter. It’s no different when we’re viewing art. Each of us brings to the experience of viewing art our own sets of questions. Art historians produce scholarship that discusses a certain object, maker, or concept—but the questions they ask in the process reveal as much about the perspective of the scholar as they do about the object or artist under discussion. Likewise, it’s fascinating to tour through the galleries and eavesdrop on the unfiltered musings of museumgoers to the variety of art we have on display at SAM. Those comments say something about the art and the speaker.

One object that’s commented on less frequently than I’d wish is this diminutive wood Amulet with mummified monkey—a piece that acts, for me, as an ever-present reminder of Dr. Fuller and his collecting principles, so neatly reflected in this ancient, tiny figurative sculpture. Dr. Fuller, who held a Ph.D. in geology and maintained scholarly pursuits in that field throughout his tenure leading SAM (1933–1973), collected many small, old, and odd things. Disinterested in value, he instead sought out rarity. His guiding question was: Does it have a unique character—an “essential factor”? That question drove him to acquire items like this mystifying Amulet, about which little was known when Dr. Fuller purchased it from J. Khawam & Cie, Cairo, for $240 in 1955.

It had few facts to recommend it, but it was a curious piece that provoked questions for Dr. Fuller and would do the same for others. Shortly after acquiring the Amulet, Dr. Fuller received this letter from William K. Simpson, a research associate at the American Research Center in Cairo:

Simpson’s desire to research and publish the Amulet with mummified monkey encouraged Dr. Fuller to seek out expert opinions from fields that were tangentially related to the piece, aiming to solve some of the quandaries it presented. Outside experts brought to the Amulet their own questions. Professor Bror L. Grondal of the College of Forestry at the University of Washington examined the piece in 1956 to determine what kind of wood composes it:

Meanwhile, Robert T. Hatt, a mammalogist at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Michigan, had been researching ancient and contemporary animals of the Near East. In his letter of June 25, 1956, Hatt shared with Dr. Fuller his thoughts and questions regarding what species of monkey (or ape) might be represented in the Amulet:

Each of us brings to the experience of viewing art our own sets of questions—but to make our contribution, we have to actually ask them. Your curiosity could spark mine or someone else’s, and whether or not we ever arrived at fixed answers, the summation of our questions reveals infinitely more than one viewpoint ever could.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Images: Amulet with mummified monkey, ca. 2920-2649 B.C., Egyptian, Early Dynastic period, wood, 3 3/16 x 11/16 x 7/8 in. Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 55.136, Photo: Natali Wiseman.

For the Love of Art: Beimnet Demelas

BEIMNET DEMELAS
Patron staff member since 2012

Why do you love art?

I love art because I feel like it’s one of the many ways to express yourself. I go to an art school and it’s really different from other high schools because the focus is on art. Having so many different art classes gives everyone a way to be comfortable with themselves and what they can do and, again, a chance to express themselves.

Do you think museums are important to society?

Yes, because you’re seeing artists’ work and they dedicated themselves to the painting, or sculpture, or whatever it is. People take an interest in art, so it’s important to have a place where it’s possible for them to appreciate it.

What kind of art do you make?

Music. I’m in choir, dance, and photography so I have a lot of elective classes.

What do you want to be when you “grow up?”

I really like writing. Photojournalism is something I’ve been looking at, and social work because I really want to help people, not with their health, but emotionally with the decisions they make. So I haven’t really decided.

Do you have a favorite piece at SAM?

I like this one painting—I don’t remember what the name is—it’s a calm and peaceful country setting. It has a pinkish shade to it and has so many little hidden pictures in it that I spend a lot of time looking at it. I go look at it all the time. That is my favorite picture. It’s so beautiful and I love the color. There is a little house in the corner and there are people outside of it but you can’t really tell if you are just walking past. You have to really pay attention. There are fish in the water and there are so many things in the picture.

A Country Home by Frederick Edwin Church. That’s one of our American art curator’s favorites, too. It’s in the third floor American Art Galleries. Do you come here with your friends or is this a place where you come alone?

I bring my friends along. I brought my parents, cousins, brother, and sister. A majority of my family has come to the museum because I feel they should come and see it.

Why do you think it’s important for them to come?

Because there are so many beautiful things and it’s really nice to see, especially when it’s so close. I felt the need to bring them in so they could see what I’m around all the time.

Join SAM as a member today and be the first to see Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection at the Member Preview on February 15. A SAM membership means that, like Beimnet, you can visit your favorite artworks as often as you like for free for 12 months. With free guests passes, you can share your love of art with friends and family over the year. Don’t delay, Seeing Nature opens next week!