“It’s very fitting, almost willfully symbolic, that people are talking with one another as they stand together outside. She couldn’t have engineered delivery of her message better if she had tried, or maybe she’s been working at that very accomplishment all these years.”
Last week’s glorious Sculptured Dance event at the Olympic Sculpture Park was everywhere; dance writer Sandra Kurtz previewed it for Seattle Weekly:
“With the audience close enough to see the dust that those sneakers kick up and hear the slap of hands as they clasp in a fast turn (not to mention the mountains in the background), we get a fresh sense of a vital art form.”
We talked with Wendy Red Star, the 2016 Betty Bowen Award winner, to discuss her art and ideas of cultural archiving, inclusion, expectations, and engaging communities through a creative process. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Wendy Red Star works cross-generationally, looking in particular at matrilineal relationships within Crow culture and ceremony. She has critically examined historical portraits of Crow leaders by white photographers and taken apart stereotypical representations of Native American women in a variety of popular culture contexts. Her work centers on photography but sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance are also important to her practice.
Learn more about this artist’s compelling work which will be featured in an installation at the Seattle Art Museum beginning November 10. And don’t miss an opportunity to celebrate the winner of the Betty Bowen Award during the ceremony on the 10th, beginning at 5:30 pm, honoring Wendy Red Star as well as Dawn Cerny and Mark Mitchell who both received special recognition this year. The ceremony and reception following the artists’ remarks are free and open to the public.
Seattle Art Museum: You’ve described yourself as a cultural archivist in the past, can you describe how your work fills this role?
Wendy Red Star: My practice is collaborative and research-based. I am in pursuit of an on-going excavation of historical Native American imagery and material culture. I like to bring these “artifacts” to life in a contemporary visual arts context. Through an art practice that is driven largely by process, I want to unpack the fraught relationship and history of Native images, portraits, self-representation, and do so with wit, humor, and subtle satire in order to have levity in my art without sacrificing integrity.
SAM: You’ve literally annotated a series of images of Crow chiefs. Do you consider your larger body of work to be an annotation? How are your cultural annotations in conversation with the erasure or removal aspects your other work?
WRS: 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.
SAM: How do you see your work in conversation with SAM’s collection, if at all?
WRS: My recent work has had at its center an intensive engagement with my own Crow community and I am seeking to expand that focus into the broader contemporary art world to explore how other artists are grappling with narrative and performative aspects of their work, and how to continue exploring ways of creating greater accessibility and a sense of openness. I am inspired by the work of conceptual artist Fred Wilson who SAM has worked with and the ways in which I could further reappropriate and reimagine the photographic possibilities inherent in portraiture, staging and candid images, institutional critique, and curating museum objects in broader historical and contemporary contexts. SAM is an institution that is open to this process and I find that very exciting and necessary.
SAM: Tell us a bit about your process—how does the fabrication aspect of your creative process add dimension to the final product?
WRS: The actual making of my work happens fairly quick. The majority of my time is spent engaging in research and processing ideas while out walking with my dog in the woods. Once I have settled on an idea the execution happens in many different forms but is almost always image driven witha focus on richness of color and cultural content.
SAM: How does clothing design fit into your practice? Are you intrigued by your work being up at the same time as Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style?
WRS: My grandmother, Amy Bright Wings, made sure I participated in Crow cultural traditions. She provided me with a traditional elk tooth dress, a shawl, beaded belt, and moccasins—all objects that I have since integrated into my artwork. I soaked up as much of my grandmother’s knowledge as I could by watching her continually making. Although she never actually showed me directly how to make traditional Crow regalia, I learned through the process of immersion. Traditional Native regalia has signifiers that state the honors and virtues of the owner and maker of each individual garment. Every piece of traditional clothing is made with intention and striking beauty virtues that I use to help guide me in all aspects of my art making. I am a self taught seamstress learning the basics about nine years ago when my daughter was born. I have a deep admiration for the construction of garments, fine tailoring, and the sculptural aspect of making clothing. I am looking forward to viewing Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style and seeing the elegant construction and display of clothing. I suspect it will provide me with many ideas.
ABOUT THE BETTY BOWEN AWARD
Betty Bowen (1918–1977) was a Washington native and enthusiastic supporter of Northwest artists. Her friends established the annual Betty Bowen Award as a celebration of her life and to honor and continue her efforts to provide financial support to the artists of the region. Since 1977, SAM has hosted the yearly grant application process by which the selection committee chooses one artist from the Northwest to receive an unrestricted cash award, eligible to visual artists living and working in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The award comes with an unrestricted cash award of $15,000.
Don’t do this, but. . . If you were to bring a stack of Marvel comics to the Seattle Art Museum, ride the escalator to the third floor, take a left turn, pass the video installation, and look up at the wall to your left, you’d find installed on that wall a custom-built box that fits your comics perfectly. However, it’s sideways, and it’s a museum artwork.
The piece you’d be looking at is sardonically called Crystal Math. It visualizes a collaborative effort between brothers Oscar Tuazon and Eli Hansen. As brothers do, they’ve worked together on projects since their childhoods and this piece represents the particular interests of Tuazon in architecture and Hansen in glass art. Their collaborative art takes on traditional views that separate “high” and “low” art forms into different contexts. Crystal Math thoughtfully, playfully mingles them all.
The humble material of plywood, simply arranged into a box, contrasts the precious blown glass, artfully made. The cerebral architectural theory that informs the glass geodesic domes, which are references to the visionary Buckminster Fuller, contrasts the world referenced by the pipe-like spout on the upper dome, recalling drug paraphernalia. Then there’s the fact that Tuazon and Hansen have incorporated a box fashioned by their father for holding their comic books into an art installation on the wall of a major museum. Thinking about this piece in terms of high or low art forms, fine art or craft, really leads us nowhere; thinking about it as a creative act brings us to all kinds of fun readings.
Tuazon, who won the Betty Bowen Award in 2007, is a local artist with international appeal. He and his brother were born on the Port Madison reservation on the Kitsap Peninsula, just East of Poulsbo and North of Bainbridge Island, and they attended high school in Port Townsend. Tuazon studied at Cooper Union in New York and also completed the Independent Study Program through the Whitney Museum of American Art before moving back to the Northwest and working in Tacoma. He moved to Paris, a biographical detail that reflects his many connections abroad, and has now settled in Los Angeles. Tuazon has exhibited work in Zurich, Brussels, Berlin, Geneva, Rome, Oslo, Paris, and Tokyo, as well as in New York and LA.
Both Tuazon and Hansen participated in the residency program at Pilchuck Glass School, and right now Crystal Math joins works by other Pilchuck students, most notably Dale Chihuly, in SAM’s galleries. It also offers a point of connection to Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb. Not only does Graphic Masters feature the art of a legend in comics, R. Crumb, who I’m sure would be pleased to hear of Tuazon’s and Hansen’s comic book box, but it also juxtaposes work that many would consider traditional with Crumb’s notably anti-traditional illustrations. Plywood and print works, Picasso and pipes—they’re all coming together at SAM!
On September 21, 2015, The Betty Bowen Committee announced that Jack Daws is the winner of the 2015 Betty Bowen Award. The award comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $15,000. A selection of Daws’ work will be on view at the Seattle Art Museum beginning November 19, 2015. The award honors a Northwest visual artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work.
Eirik Johnson was selected to receive the Special Recognition Award in the amount of $2,500, and Lou Watson was awarded the Kayla Skinner Special Recognition Award, also in the amount of $2,500. Six finalists—including Susan Dory, Samantha Scherer and Sadie Wechsler—were chosen from a pool of 537 applicants from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and competed for $20,000 in awards. Daws, Johnson, and Watson will receive their awards on Thursday, November 19 at 6 pm at SAM. The award ceremony and reception are free and the public is invited to join the celebration.
2015 Betty Bowen Award Winner
Jack Daws, Vashon, WA
Jack Daws is a self-taught artist who lives on Vashon Island and is originally from Kentucky. In his practice, Daws cross-examines the blind spots of salient moments in American history, from Chief Seattle to recent social and political events. Frequently, his appropriated objects seem innocuous and everyday but upon close inspection, they reveal a more troubling undercurrent that asks us to reconsider established truths and values. He recently exhibited The House That Jack Built at Mercer Gallery of Walden 3 in 2014, and contributed to the ongoing site-specific exhibition Duwamish Revealed, organized by the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle. His work satirically asks ponderous questions in order to enlighten the public. Through visually common and memorable works, he encourages his audience to reexamine their world.
Special Recognition Award
Eirik Johnson, Seattle, WA
Eirik Johnson earned his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute after graduating from the University of Washington with a BFA in Photography and a BA in History. His current body of work is Mushroom Camps, in which he documents the unique economy and culture surrounding the Matsutake mushroom. By recording the people and places along the mushroom’s journey from Oregon to Japan, Johnson reveals unexpected connections, reflecting current commercial and social issues.
Kayla Skinner Special Recognition Award
Lou Watson, Portland
Lou Watson attended the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake, California and graduated with her BFA in Intermedia from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. Her recent work includes an experimental concert, Suite Sandy Boulevard at the Hollywood Theater (Portland, Oregon); In Celebration of Pig Pens, an installation at the Regional Arts and Culture Council’s Portland Building, and a film entitled commute that showed at the Experiments in Cinema Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Working in a variety of media, Watson discovers a sense of wonder in the mundane. She refashions her regular routine into a concert, a dance, and a work of art, adding splendor and excitement to the experience of daily life.
For more information about the Betty Bowen Award and how the winners are chosen, visit our website.
Today the Betty Bowen Committee announced that Jenny Heishman is the winner of the 2011 Betty Bowen Award. The award comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $15,000. In addition a selection of Heishman’s work will be on view at SAM beginning October 20, 2011. The Betty Bowen Committee, chaired by Gary Glant and administered through SAM, has selected local artists to win cash prizes for 33 years.
The annual Betty Bowen Award is now in its 33rd year and, as the application deadline nears, the Betty Bowen Committee is looking forward to awarding a cash prize to a visual artist living and working in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho. The application is available at callforentry.org and the deadline for submissions is August 1. Over the years, this award has had an impact for artists in our region, and it reflects the commitment Betty Bowen had in supporting the vision of contemporary artists in her time. We wanted to share some insights into the strength of this memorable advocate for the visual arts in our region.