Object of the Week: Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma

There is something peculiar about the way we attribute the clarity of some photographs to the world itself. I try to reinforce that paradox by making photographs that convince the viewer that those revelations, that order, that potential for meaning, are coming from the world and not the photograph.

– Frank Gohlke, 1979

Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma is a photograph by American photographer Frank Gohlke, taken in 1981. One of 10 artists included in the groundbreaking 1975 exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, Gohlke emerged as an important voice challenging then-prevailing trends in modern photography.[1] Working against romanticized depictions of nature, Gohlke and others in the exhibition produced photographs described by the curator, William Jenkins, as “eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion.”[2]

Though Jenkins felt otherwise, one could certainly argue that Gohlke’s Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma is in fact a beautiful and emotive image. Sure, it is far from the Platonic ideal of nature, but the photograph’s composition—with its nested and overlapping arcs, dramatic shadows, and abstract patterning—contains within it a certain beauty. It might not be Ansel Adams’s Half Dome, but it is a photograph that elevates otherwise banal and unattractive subject matter, poetically calling attention to man’s impact on the natural world.

Importantly, Gohlke and his New Topographics cohort reinforced the notion of landscape as a manmade concept. It is a word and idea predicated on a human subject who turns the land into an object and, artistically, into an image. The very definition of the word hinges on an aestheticized understanding of nature. In Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gohlke deftly mobilizes photography to highlight the extent to which the landscape is indeed a manmade image, as well as an object—or resource—to be taken and transformed.

The “new” American topography on offer in 1975’s New Topographics was no longer unspoiled or pristine wilderness, but a country comprised of suburban sprawl, connecting interstates, and parking lots. Whether or not we find that beautiful is up to us to decide. Luckily, this work and others from SAM’s permanent collection are on view in the upcoming New Topographics exhibition on view in the third floor Modern and Contemporary Galleries.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Aerial View, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1981, Frank Gohlke, gelatin silver photograph, 6 1/8 x 16 in., Pacific Northwest Bell, the Photography Council, the Polaroid Foundation, Mark Abrahamson, and the National Endowment for the Arts, 83.69.5 © Frank Gohlke
[1] The other artists featured in the exhibition were Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, Henry Wessel, Jr., and Bernd and Hilla Becher.
[2] William Jenkins, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape (Rochester, New York: International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, 1975), n.p.
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Get Worldly with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Catch The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project playing a free concert outdoors as the first musical act in our World Music Series. Throughout the summer months SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents four free concerts in the Volunteer Park Amphitheater that bring music from all over the world to Seattle. Find out more about the female-focused music group and mark your calendars for their performance, July 13!

The sounds of steel pan music enliven a summer evening outdoors! Originally from Trinidad, the steel pan is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the descendants of slaves brought to the Caribbean from Africa who created this instrument from oil drums and other discarded metal containers. Steel pan can now be found all over the world and captivates the hearts of all those lucky enough to get a chance to play it.

Michael Shantz and I formed The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project (SWSPP) in 2013 as a collaboration. The project started as a weekly beginner steel pan class and within the first year students performed at the Women Who Rock UnConference in Seattle’s Washington Hall. Since then, over 100 women have taken classes and, of that, at least 20 have played in the performance group.

The performance group consists of women with an array of musical backgrounds. Some pan players such as Ceda Clemmons and Miho Takekawa have been playing steel pan for over 20 years, while many others had never played with a musical ensemble before joining SWSPP. The beauty of steel pan is that it’s a highly accessible instrument, you can come into class having had no prior experience playing an instrument and leave being able to play a song as an ensemble 4-6 weeks later, which is the typical duration of the beginner class series. The mission of SWSPP is to give women and girls the opportunity to experience the energy and joy that playing music gives us. The music scene tends to be heavily dominated by male musicians—a boys club of sorts. This project gives women an opportunity to enter the arena of musical performance in a fun and accessible way.

Tashie LeMaitre says of her experience as a group member, “Being a part of this project has been like joining another family. I’ve learned so much since I started playing with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project and have seen so many new places that I might never have gotten the chance to see. I’ve always loved pan, but have since fallen in love with it even more. I look forward to what the future holds for us.”

SWSPP frequently collaborates with other seasoned musicians in Seattle, both female and male, for larger shows and productions. Ann Reynolds, Marina Albero, Obe Quarless, Makala Romero, Otieno Terry, Adriana Giordano, Teo Shantz  and Kate Olson are just a few of the local musicians with whom the group has partnered. You can catch the group performing on stages all throughout King County!

– Oriana Estrada, Administrative Director, Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Photo: Courtesy of The Women’s steel Pan Project.
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Muse/News: A prescription for art, life-changing DJs, and an epic visit to the Louvre

SAM News

The Seattle Times explores “why art is becoming part of doctors’ education at Virginia Mason in Seattle” with a recent front page feature. The Art & Medicine program at SAM uses art education techniques to teach medical residents skills like visual literacy, empathy, and self-care.

The Stranger’s Charles Mudede visits the Lessons from the Institute of Empathy installation, finding connections to the blockbuster film Black Panther and to Afrofuturism.

“These African masks, African jewelry, African clothes—made to be worn by fictional figures who run a fictional institute that deals with things like Empathy Deficit Disorder, and made to exist in real and virtual spaces—now have, for young and old Americans, a mainstream point of reference.”

Priya Frank, SAM’s Associate Director for Community Programs and co-chair of the museum’s Equity Team, shares her reflections for the NAEA’s Museum Education blog on the work of centering racial equity and creating an institutional culture shift. Priya was also a recent guest on the No Blueprint podcast and profiled in profiled in UW’s alumni magazine Columns.

Local News

Don’t miss this incredible story in the Seattle Times—a collaboration among writer Jerry Large, photographer Bettina Hansen, and videographer Corinne Chin—about a Seattle attorney’s collection of “some ugly, some inspiring” historical artifacts.

To know Riz is to love him: The Stranger’s Charles Mudede with a beautiful and convincing piece for their Queer Issue on “how DJ Riz Rollins changed Seattle.”

I can’t believe it’s almost July. Seattle Magazine has great picks for cultural happenings next month, including an upcoming show at the Henry featuring Figuring History artist Mickalene Thomas as photographer, designer, and curator.

Inter/National News

The New York Times’ Roberta Smith reviews the Met’s exhibition History Refused to Die (great name!); it features work from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, whose focus is self-taught Black artists of the American South.

Hyperallergic’s John Yau takes a look at The Morgan Library & Museum’s show of Wayne Thiebaud’s works on paper.

“I may need to lie down.” Yes, the art world and everyone else recently went—well, you know—when Beyoncé and Jay-Z released a new joint album and a video shot at the Louvre. Artnet has a good round-up on the mania.

And Finally

The art historical and cultural resonances of APES**T will live forever—but this is the reaction I laugh about DAILY.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Lessons from the Institute of Empathy, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: Needlework Sampler

“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.

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SAM Gallery Artists on Seattle: Jennifer Zwick

What would your self portrait look like? How would you pose a friend or family member for a portrait? What props would you include? The artwork in Splitting Image, on view in SAM Gallery through July 9, will have you thinking again about the age-old tradition of portraiture. Hear from one of the artists in this show on how the art world of Seattle impacts their photography, on view now to rent or buy from SAM Gallery.
One thing I appreciate most about making art in Seattle is the supportive and collaborative art community. From Matthew Offenbacher’s The Gift, where he used his Neddy Award to buy art by talented, underrepresented artists (which he then donated to SAM); to inventive curators like Sierra Stinson and Greg Lundgren, who are every bit as creative as the artists they celebrate; to brilliant community shapers like Elisheba Johnson who are putting power in the hands of the people with programs like Public Art Boot Camp—Seattle’s art scene is doing a pretty great job of living up to the text-based mural of another inspirational local artist and art professional, Kristin Ramirez: A City Makes Herself.
On a personal level this is born out within my constructed narrative photograph The Moment (currently on display at SAM Gallery). It depicts a mother and daughter accidentally sharing a fleeting connection. A young girl has stacked books to try and reach the ceiling, while one floor above, her mother bends to pick up a piece of laundry. In this moment their hands line up, as though touching. To make this image I constructed a life-sized 2-story set, which I was able to build inside the now-empty Imperial Lanes on Beacon Hill. When you see this photo in person (and I hope you will) you can find books by local authors and artists hidden throughout the picture (Jessixa Bagley; Annie Marie Mussleman; Jenny Riffle; Sarah Galvin). The mother in the photo, Selina, and I have known each other since summer camp, and we went through the UW Photo program together. Now we both have children of the same age, and it was profoundly touching to make this with her and her daughter. How strange, and wonderful, to be in a cross-sectional two-story set, in an abandoned bowling alley, with my friend from Pacific Rim Camp! Maybe this is happening right now, all across Seattle—people gathering in unusual spaces, working together to make something completely new.
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Inside the Asian Art Museum: Demolition Today, Reinforcement Tomorrow

We are thrilled to see significant progress on our construction at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Our construction partners BNBuilders have completed the interior demolition in preparation for rebuilding reinforced walls. Many structural upgrades are also underway, in addition to preparing for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing improvements. The foundations for the East Addition have been completed and preparations for installing the North Addition foundations have begun.

For detailed information and continued project updates, visit the BNBuilders project website.

In the image above, the translucent panel ceiling of the Fuller Garden Court has been removed to access the concrete walls above that require seismic retrofitting. With the ceiling taken down, the beautiful laminated glass skylights (original to the 1930’s design but replaced in the 1990s) have been temporarily revealed.

South exhibit hall looking south

In addition, the demolition of interior gallery walls has been completed. The hollow clay tile walls at the perimeter of the galleries will remain, but have been opened up for seismic upgrades. Structural improvements are continuing inside the existing spaces. As is common with historic buildings, asbestos was found and safely removed.

Auditorium looking south

The seats have been removed from the auditorium, along with the sound booth that previously stood in the middle of the back row.

Alvord Board Room looking southeast

The interior wall of the Alvord Board Room has been removed. Once the expansion is complete, this area will be transformed into our new education space.

Want to know more about what’s happening at the Asian Art Museum? See renderings and get more news on the website about the project.

Photos: Courtesy of BNBuilders
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Donor Spotlight: Yucca and Gary Support Seattle Asian Art Museum

The renovation and expansion of our Asian Art Museum is about more than the preservation of art. We’re also furthering our mission to connect our Asian art collection to the life of our community for generations to come. Our donors are sharing how important art is to them in making connections to both the past and the future and the importance of SAM in creating those connections. Learn more about the project and show your support!

We are very pleased to support the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the mission of greater understanding between the US and Asia. We lived several years in Japan and over ten years in China, and feel that art and culture play a major role in more deeply appreciating the history, achievements, and challenges of the Asia-Pacific region.

Seattle is uniquely positioned as a true gateway to the Asia-Pacific, with a number of the industries and technologies that are at the core of the next decades of development. Integrating art and culture into the mix in a more direct way through SAM is something we are very excited to support.

– Yucca & Gary Rieschel

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Muse/News: New visions, final bows, and happy little Zzzz’s

SAM News

Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson is now on view! Last week, Kim Holcomb of KING5’s Evening Magazine got a sneak peek of the exhibition, interviewing Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art, and featured artist Tracy Rector.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut looks at both our show and the Deconstructing Curtis show at the Suquamish Museum.

“These added perspectives emphasize that Native Americans are contemporary Americans. They continue to adapt while preserving a long legacy of strength and struggle.”

Fred Wong of The International Examiner interviewed curators Xiaojin Wu and Ping Foong about their transformative vision for the future Asian Art Museum. If you’re a SAM member, hopefully you’ve reserved your spot to hear more at their sold-out Conversations with Curators lecture this Wednesday.

“It promises to be a mixture of old and new treasures: the magnificent Art Deco building, the vast Asian Art collections, and the bold re-imaging of the objects’ stories by Drs. Xiaojin Wu and Ping Foong, the two new treasures at [Seattle Asian Art Museum].”

Local News

After 16 years with the company, dancer Karel Cruz took his final bows with Pacific Northwest Ballet. The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald offers this farewell to this “master of partnering.”

Aileen Imperial and Stephen Hegg of Crosscut take us into the growing Ball and House culture of Seattle with this video story.

Here’s City Arts’ Brett Hamil on Chad Goller-Sojourner’s live multimedia memoir, Marching in Gucci: Memoirs of a Well-Dressed AIDS Activist, coming to Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute June 21–23.

“More than a remembrance of those he lost, it’s an expression of his determination to make art out of those frantic years, in which he fought to save others while doing harm to himself. It’s an account of improbable survival.”

Inter/National News

Happy little Zzzz’s: Laura M. Holson of the New York Times on the voice—which can only ever be described as “dulcet”—that’s now lulling users of the Calm app to sleep.

I miss having Kerry James Marshall’s work on view at SAM, so I enjoyed this Vancouver Sun review of his new solo exhibition at the Rennie. Also, his Vignette (The Kiss), which debuted in Figuring History, sold this week at Art Basel.

Speaking of the Swiss fair “best known for presenting the bluest of blue-chip European art,” Julia Halperin of Artnet notes the eager interest of buyers for works by African American artists.

“It’s great people are interested,” the dealer Jack Shainman says. “But the big question is why did it take so long, and why was it so hard to get here?”

And Finally

Contemporary art space SITE Santa Fe announced the lineup for their SITElines.2018 Biennial in a most melodic way. Could this be the future for press releases?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman
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Object of the Week: Untitled, Divinity

This image by Catherine Opie contains within it a number of seemingly oppositional elements: freedom and constriction, embellishment and erasure, intensity and ease, pain and restraint. The subject of the portrait, Divinity Fudge (born Darryl Carlton), stands with confidence, gracefully—if not stoically—lifting the opulent purple fabric that drapes his body, chandelier crystals embedded in his skin.

Over the course of her thirty-year career, Opie has photographed a number of American individuals and communities—most notably her lesbian and S&M leather community—and Untitled, Divinity is one of a larger series of photographic works by the artist, created in 2000 for the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS. Conceived in 1991 by the Alliance for the Arts in New York, Estate Project was established as an advocacy effort aimed at addressing “the protection of America’s cultural heritage during the AIDS crisis.”[1] Opie was among a number of artists commissioned by the organization to create artwork for the cause, and the result was her Polaroids series. The 13-Polaroid series, dedicated to her friend and artist Ron Athey, benefited the Estate Project organization, and half of the proceeds went to an artist living with AIDS. For Opie, “The whole project was a tribute to Ron and his S/M performance work.”[2]

In his performance practice, Athey employs S&M techniques and body modification to explore pain, trauma, transformation, and “allegorize the experience of survival, anger, and loss during the first decades of the AIDS crisis.”[3] Divinity, who is featured in two other photographs in the Polaroids series, appeared frequently in Athey’s work, such as the 1994 performance at the Walker Art Center—Four Scenes in a Harsh Life—which gained much national attention and notoriety. In a scene titled “Human Printing Press,” Athey cut 1 1/2 inch patterns into Divinity’s back. Impressions of Divinity’s wound were poetically transformed into prints on paper towels, which were then placed on a clothesline pulley and extended over the audience.[4]

In the Opie’s own words, “The 13 images in the series work as a journey through the ideas, actions and personas in [Ron Athey’s] performances, little vignettes from larger parts of Ron’s work. . . . The whole cast is not there, but the relationship with Divinity Fudge, who has performed with Ron for the past decade, is represented. There are images that I make in the series that have nothing to do with the performances, but act as pauses, offstage for a moment.”[5] Untitled, Divinity is one such offstage beat.

A master at capturing subjects as diverse as high school football players, lesbian families, surfers, freeways, and mini-malls, Opie has redefined American photography. Dedicated to expanding notions of queer identity—especially its subcultures that are too often misunderstood and overlooked—Opie’s project aims to highlight the beauty of this community as well as the importance of our individual differences.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Images: Untitled, Divinity, 2000, Catherine Opie, photograph, 103 x 43 in., Gift of the Collectors’ Forum, 2000.114 © Artist or Artist’s EstateRon Athey blots blood from the back of Divinity Fudge during Four Scenes in a Harsh Life, 1994.
[1] “Biographical/Historical Information,” Estate Project for Artists with AIDS records, The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts, accessed June 13, 2018, http://archives.nypl.org/mss/4798#overview.
[2] Maura Reilly, “The Drive to Describe: An Interview with Catherine Opie,” Art Journal, vol. 60, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 82-96.
[3] David J. Getsy, Review of Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey, edited by Dominic Johnson, Contemporary Theatre Review, vol. 24, issue 3 (2014): 299-400.
[4] Erroneous reports quickly circulated that blood dripped from the prints, exposing audience members to HIV-positive blood (Athey is HIV-positive, Divinity is HIV-negative). Hardly a factual account or an intended outcome of the performance, this hysterical response would later be misappropriated by conservative politicians to decrease federal funding of the arts.
[5] Catherine Opie, “Flash: On Photographing Ron Athey,” in Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey, ed. Dominic Johnson (London: Intellect and Live Art Development Agency, 2013), 143.
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