Object of the Week: Four Seasons series: Indian Summer

In Indian Summer, a bucolic scene is obviously staged. There is a printed mountain backdrop, a cut-out cardboard deer, fake plants, and Western-themed props strewn across a manicured bed of Astroturf. The Native artist Wendy Red Star sits poised amid the artificial flora and fauna. She wears traditional Apsáalooke (Crow) regalia and stares stoically into the distance.

Indian Summer is from the larger photographic series Four Seasons, which includes Fall, Winter, and Spring. When I first viewed Indian Summer, I was reminded of bright, color-saturated storefronts with eerie mannequins and design sets—frozen behind walls of glass. In Four Seasons, Red Star plays on the commercialism of Native identity and satirically recalls the dioramas of Native people exhibited at natural history museums.

Red Star was raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, and received the Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Award in 2016. Through reclamatory, unsettling, and playfully witty art that is also collaborative and intergenerational, Red Star dismantles the narratives of Natives by white photographers, archives, and media: depictions that remove Native agency and preserve stereotypes of Natives as stoic, passive, and distant.

In an interview with SAM, Red Star reflected on her role as an artist and cultural archivist: “Native voices have historically been silenced, unable to explain or even place our own narrative within the larger society. As a Native person I have witnessed the lack of inclusion for Native artists in particular in the contemporary art world, many of whom struggle for inclusion in important exhibitions.”

“Also troubling is a prevailing but antiquated expectation of what Native art should be, whether from the 19th century or the 21st. This leaves many Native artists feeling segregated into categories of “traditional” work and without a place in the contemporary art world. I consider my practice and the act of annotating, revealing, and erasure a reclamation of my own history and identity. The act is so much more than a rejection of the colonial gaze, it is a deliberate act to take authority and rewrite histories in humanist way.”

This week, fireworks, barbecues, patriotic fanfare, and heavy traffic usher in another 4th of July holiday. Prior to yesterday’s processions at the White House, Trump had tweeted “It will be the show of a lifetime!” ensuring more tanks and military planes. In the wake of continued injustices toward immigrants in this country, it remains precisely that: a show. Ongoing histories of racism, genocide, nativism, and imperialism get to masquerade as nationalism under a venerating sheen of red-white-and-blue. On the cultural archive of Native experience and presence, Wendy Red Star removes and probes these veneers of unaccountable histories—dismantling and rewriting false colonial narratives to engage Native voices past, present, and future.

Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

Images: Four Seasons series: Indian Summer, 2006, printed 2016, Wendy Red Star, Archival pigment print on Sunset Fiber rag, Sheet: 23 × 26 in. (58.4 × 66 cm), Image: 21 x 24 in., Gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2016.13.4. Four Seasons series: Fall, 2006, printed 2016, Wendy Red Star, Archival pigment print on Sunset Fiber rag, Sheet: 23 × 26 in. (58.4 × 66 cm), Image: 21 x 24 in.. Gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2016.13.1. Four Seasons series: Winter, 2006, printed 2016, Wendy Red Star, Archival pigment print on Sunset Fiber rag, Sheet: 23 × 26 in. (58.4 × 66 cm), Image: 21 x 24 in., Gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2016.13.2, ©️ Wendy Red Star. Four Seasons series: Spring, 2006, printed 2016, Wendy Red Star, Archival pigment print on Sunset Fiber rag, Sheet: 23 × 26 in. (58.4 × 66 cm), Image: 21 x 24 in., Gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2016.13.3, ©️ Wendy Red Star.
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The Education Resource Center Turns One!

This June, the Ann P. Wyckoff Education Resource Center celebrated its one year anniversary at SAM! We’re proud to have had a fantastic first year here in our brand new space and to have gotten to know our great downtown community.

Formerly the Teacher Resource Center at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Education Resource Center (ERC) is a free lending library at SAM. Our goal is to spark creative learning by providing inclusive and engaging resources for learners of all ages. Anyone is welcome to visit and check out our art books, picture books, DVDs, graphic novels, curriculum guides, and Family Fun resources for free to take home with them. In the last year teachers, families with young children, students, community leaders, and more have taken advantage of this fun opportunity.

We’ve welcomed educators into the museum during Educator Preview nights, where they can catch a first glimpse of the latest exhibitions, enjoy food and drinks, and see all of the educational resources the museum has to offer. Museum visitors have enjoyed our new family reading area, where they can stretch out and take a break to read, relax, and play. We are really encouraged by the enthusiastic response to our first ever Family Fun Storytime event. This exciting new program is full of songs, dance, and art as we travel to the galleries to read a story together. During our last storytime, we danced along with Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Trapsprung, read some brilliant books, and created our very own drums using tin cans and balloons.

Family Fun Story Time, June 2019

We also launched a few other new programs with families in mind! For families looking for a fun self-guided activity in the galleries, we created our Gallery Reads, which pair a children’s book with a work in the galleries and offer looking questions to encourage creativity and critical thinking. Our new Family Fun Packs will be released later this year and will take you on a longer art adventure where you can make, read, move, and play while connecting to art.

We plan to continue to provide even more books, resources, and programs for you to use in the classroom or at home. So whether you are searching for ways to integrate art into your classroom, the latest storytime books, a documentary on your favorite artist, or a space to relax with your children when you visit the museum, we look forward to welcoming you to the ERC.

The Education Resource Center is open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 am–2 pm. Everyone is welcome to become a borrower and check out materials from our extensive collection for free. Please email us with questions!

– Jordyn Richey, Wyckoff Education Resource Center Librarian and Educator

Images: Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photos: Robert Wade
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Object of the Week: untitled (cosmos)

As the first official week of summer comes to a close, a palpable shift has taken place. With longer days and later nights, more time is already spent outdoors, whether on a porch, patio, or campground. Personally, summer often equates with more time spent looking at the night sky, along with a whole host of other associations—certain smells, foods, activities, and feelings.

In untitled (cosmos) by William Cordova, a fragmented expanse of black space is peppered with stars and planets, evoking the universe. Closer inspection reveals that among these celestial bodies are also archaeological artifacts and other suspended objects. Functioning then as a fictional astronomical and astrological map, it references the relationship that ancient cultures, such as the Inca, had with the cosmos—determining, or at least heavily informing, human events and actions.

Like the act of observing the night sky, the fragility and fugitive nature of this photographic map—held together by mere electrical and scotch tape—serves to remind us of our own ephemerality, and perhaps even make space for the contemplation of time and space, spirituality and identity.

Born in Lima, Peru, Cordova moved to Miami at an early age. He later lived in Houston, Chicago, and New York, but Peruvian cosmology, Andean architecture, and his personal history continued—and continue—to inform his work. Often working with found and discarded materials, Cordova’s varied and multimedia practice also means to address the economies of certain materials and objects, “challenging the functionality of art as a purely aesthetic pursuit.”[1]

Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection & Provenance Associate

[1] “William Cordova,” Sikkema Jenkins & Co., https://www.sikkemajenkinsco.com/william-cordova.
Image: untitled (cosmos), 2006-09, William Cordova, exposed photo and paper collage, electrical and scotch tape, 61 × 86 in., Gift of Dennis Braddock and Janice Niemi, 2018.15. © Artist or Artist’s Estate
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Muse/News: Beauty at SAM, Juneteenth lessons, and a huge statue from Kehinde Wiley

SAM News

The Victorians Radicals are here! Here are reviews from Gary Faigin for the Seattle Times and Stefan Milne of Seattle Met on the exhibition’s beautiful objects and historical richness.

Fayemi Shakur profiles Zanele Muholi and their work photographing Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex South Africans. Muholi’s stunning self-portraits arrive at SAM on July 10.  

“I want the next generation of young queers and non-queers to know that we are here, that we were here. We owe it to ourselves to make sense of our lives and living.”

Local News

“Almost free is unfree”: LaNesha DeBardelaben, Executive Director of the Northwest African American Museum, shares the story—and lessons—of Juneteenth. (And Real Change’s Lisa Edge wrote up their current exhibition!)

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig on the “disco balls, closed-circuit cameras, and colored lighting” in Give It or Leave It, Cauleen Smith’s solo show at the Frye Art Museum.

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley talks with Greg Lundgren about empty spaces, collective billionaires, and the forthcoming Museum of Museums (MoM).

“I’ll keep saying the same thing I’ve said for years: Any time you have a concentration of talent, wealth, innovation and quality of life, you’ve got all the ingredients for a renaissance, of a revolution, of a movement. But somehow, we just haven’t been mixing them right.”

Inter/National News

NPR reports that poet, writer, and musician Joy Harjo will be the next poet laureate of the United States. Learn more about her with this great conversation from BOMB Magazine between Harjo and fellow poet Sherwin Bitsui.

Artforum reports: “The Association of Art Museum Directors’ board of trustees has passed a resolution that calls on the more than two hundred museums it represents to end unpaid internship programs.”

A new republic, set in stone: The Virginia Museum of Arts announced the acquisition of Kehinde Wiley’s largest sculpture to date, a 30-foot-tall bronze of a Black man on a horse, modeled after Richmond’s Confederate statues.

“Art and violence have for an eternity held a strong narrative grip with each other … To have the Rumors of War sculpture presented in such a context lays bare the scope and scale of the project in its conceit to expose the beautiful and terrible potentiality of art to sculpt the language of domination.”

And Finally

A dilemma of inheritance, a question of citizenship.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Beata Beatrix, begun 1877 (left unfinished in 1882 and completed by Ford Madox Brown), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British, 1828–1882, oil on canvas, 34 1/8 × 26 7/8 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Purchased, 1891P25, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts



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Object of the Week: Tangerine (Mandarine)

Crisp contours and soft, natural lines form a focus: a fruit—a tangerine—hanging on its stem, framed by four leaves and suspended against a backdrop of white. There are no colors, fine details, or surrounding imagery that confirm it is specifically a tangerine. Yet there is an impulse to see from minimal curves a familiar shape, the ubiquitous form of tree-bearing fruit. From this abstract presentation, the tangerine exudes simple elegance and playful whimsy.

This piece by Ellsworth Kelly is one of 28 lithographs from Suite of Plant Lithographs, published in 1966. As a medium, lithography involves etching a smooth stone and using the repelling properties of oil and water to transcribe images onto paper. In addition to tangerines, the series includes lithographs of various flowers, branches, seaweed, leaves, and other fruits.

Since his passing in 2015, Ellsworth Kelly remains an influential force in Minimalism, Hard-Edge painting, Color Field painting, and Postwar European abstraction. From an early age, Kelly was drawn to the bright watercolor studies of birds by James Audubon. During World War II, Kelly was enlisted into the Ghost Army, a regiment of artists tasked with developing camouflage strategies and inflatable tanks to confound enemy troops. From this wartime experience, Kelly deepened his understanding of abstract colors, forms, and shadows. 1

On his artistic process, Kelly reflected, “I’m constantly investigating nature – nature, meaning everything,” and noted, “I think that if you can turn off the mind and look only with the eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract.” 2

Tangerine (Mandarine) is visibly different from Kelly’s more recognizable pieces, including this painting from SAM’s collection, White Curve V (1973). Kelly’s work is often recognized by its geometric patterns and shapes punctuated by bold colors and hard lines.

Despite these labels, Kelly transcends them. In White Curve V, the composition initially appears to be flat, simple, and non-representational. Another reading reveals a striking similarity to a close-up of the moon and sky. The color block curves appear to be moving, as they follow natural processions of receding or expanding horizons and seas.

Kelly once said, “I think what we all want from art is a sense of fixity, a sense of opposing the chaos of daily living, What I’ve tried to capture is the reality of flux, to keep art an open, incomplete situation, to get at the rapture of seeing.” 3 From Kelly’s admiration and curiosity for the natural world, it is through his art we are encouraged to see our realities with eyes of wonder and reverence.

– Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

1 Rachel Gershman, “Ellsworth Kelly: American Painter and Sculptor.” ©2019 The Art Story Foundation, https://www.theartstory.org/artist-kelly-ellsworth.htm

2 Rachel Gershman, “Ellsworth Kelly: American Painter and Sculptor.” ©2019 The Art Story Foundation.

3 Holland Cotter, “Ellsworth Kelly, Who Shaped Geometries on a Bold Scale, Dies at 92.” New York Times, Dec. 27, 2015.

Images: Tangerine (Mandarine), 1964-65, Ellsworth Kelly, lithograph on Rives BFK paper, 35 1/4 in. x 24 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 67.46, © Ellsworth Kelly. White Curve V, 1973, Ellsworth Kelly, oil on canvas
93 1/4 × 91 1/8 in., Gift of Virginia and Bagley Wright (by exchange) with funds from the Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund and with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, 76.10, © Ellsworth Kelly.

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My Favorite Things: Tracy Rector

“It’s a space where it really calls upon you to interpret on your own and to take from it what you need. Or just sit and take it in.”

– Tracy Rector

Hear from independent filmmaker and activist Tracy Rector on her favorite thing at SAM, The Porcelain Room. Brimming with more than one thousand magnificent European and Asian pieces from SAM’s collection, the Porcelain Room has been conceived to blend visual excitement with a historical concept.

Rather than the standard museum installation arranged by nationality, manufactory, and date, our porcelain is grouped by color and theme. Today, when porcelain is everywhere in our daily lives, this room evokes a time when it was a treasured trade commodity—sometimes rivaling the value of gold—that served as a cultural, technological, and artistic interchange between the East and the West.

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A Grand Return: Preparing to Reopen the Seattle Asian Art Museum

With construction nearing completion at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, SAM staff has started preparations for the months-long move back into the historic building. As most people who have changed residences know, moving back in can often be as challenging as moving out. That experience will be amplified on a massive scale as the staff begins the gargantuan task of readying the renovated museum for art and visitors.

The 10,000 collection objects that were carefully packed, tracked, and removed from the Asian Art Museum now need to return to the building—a process expected to require a full year, although the museum will reopen before that process is complete. Lauren Mellon, Director of Museum Services and Chief Registrar, explains “Moving back in will be more complicated because we’re building the storage spaces as the art returns.” However, the collection will be returning to many important improvements. Mellon continues, “We will now have full climate control, and the storage facilities will be vastly upgraded. Overall, the objects will be much happier in their new home.”

Before works of art and museum staff can enter the renovated building, a number of systems across the facility will need to be tested to ensure they are operating correctly, including those pertaining to security, mechanics, air quality, and climate control. “We must maintain what we call a ‘critical environment’ to support the art, as well as provide a safe and healthy environment for employees and museum visitors,” explains Lee Richardson, Director of Facilities.

Once testing is complete, the first works of art that will be brought inside are those to be presented in the museum’s galleries. The preparation crew will begin working gallery by gallery, building platforms, preparing the cases for object displays, and eventually mounting the works of art. One of the most exciting outcomes of this work is visitors will have the chance to experience more of the museum’s collection. “We will no longer have to de-install the permanent collection as the special exhibitions change. All thirteen of the museum’s original galleries will now be dedicated to showing the collection,” says Nathan Peek, Director of Design and Installation. 

The building’s many improvements are inspiring the work of museum staff across departments. As Richardson says, “While the renovation process was important to addressing safety issues, we also now have a better palette to work with for exhibiting art and engaging the public.”

– Erin Langner, freelance writer

Photo: Natali Wiseman
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Donor Spotlight: Seattle Art Museum Supporters

The Seattle Art Museum Supporters—or SAMS—is a dedicated group of nearly two hundred Seattle area women who are committed to fundraising for the Seattle Art Museum. The mission of SAMS is to expand the support of the Seattle Art Museum through fundraising and promotional efforts and to provide education opportunities for its members.

Since its inception in 1985, SAMS has raised nearly $7 million to fund selected Seattle Art Museum projects, including the Seattle Asian Art Museum campaign. Through their amazing efforts, SAMS has raised over $400K for our capital campaign, helping restore our building and create an Asian Art Museum for tomorrow. SAMS has been an integral component of our fundraising efforts and we are grateful for their unwavering support of our mission.

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Muse/News: A new leader for SAM, Lorna’s dark paintings, and Frida’s voice

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced that Amada Cruz has been chosen as the museum’s new Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, succeeding Kimerly Rorschach who is retiring in September. Brendan Kiley of the Seattle Times had the exclusive. Brangien Davis of Crosscut and Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger also both interviewed Amada.

And everyone else shared the news, including ARTNews, Artforum, Artnet, and Seattle Met. Even Representative Pramila Jayapal was eager to welcome Amada to Seattle!

Oh yeah: We also opened our major summer exhibition last week! Seattle Times photojournalist Alan Berner was there with a sneak peek of the beauty that is Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement.

And Seattle Magazine’s June issue features a round-up of “must-see” area museums—including, of course, SAM.

Local News

The future site of Capitol Hill’s AIDS Memorial Pathway will be activated this summer and beyond with temporary artworks and performances—including a series of dance performances curated by SAM’s Public Engagement Associate, David Rue!

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on Discover + Disrupt at the Center for Architecture and Design; the show features work by art collective Electric Coffin that imagines “a more artful public cityscape.”

The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald on the controversy surrounding Penguin’s new edition of John Okada’s novel “No-No Boy.” UW professor Shawn Wong originally fought to have the book published and disputes the new edition.

“The publishing history of ‘No-No Boy’ is as important as the book itself,” he said, remembering how he would sell copies of the original CARP edition out of the trunk of his old Mustang in the 1970s. “To publish the book without acknowledging that publishing history is publishing a very incomplete story.”

Inter/National News

“Dark times, to me, mean dark paintings”: The New York Times’ Siddhartha Mitter speaks with Lorna Simpson about her new show, which sees the artist continuing to work in ever-new mediums, including painting.

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone on the Delaware Art Museum’s plans for a reinstallation of much of its permanent collection and how they’re engaging the community in their prototyping process—including Post-Its!

The Guardian’s Nadja Sayej on a “groundbreaking” exhibition of work by Native women at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The show features a loan from SAM’s collection: Marie Watt’s Blanket Stories.

“90% of Native art is made by women. Native artists know this. It’s just non-Native people who haven’t recognized that.”

And Finally

Is this Frida Kahlo’s voice?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman
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