All posts in “collage”

Twice as Nice: SAM Staff Artists Tie FTW

Every year Seattle Art Museum’s Community Gallery is dedicated to artwork by its staff and the eclectic outcome is a thing of true beauty—as colorful and strange as all the art lovers and artists that work here. This year, in a true testament to the volume of excellent work that was on view July 31 to September 1, not one but two talented SAM staff members were voted as faves by their peers. Ashley Mead, Assistant Registrar-Rights and Reproductions, and Natali Wiseman, Design Studio Manager, tied for our hearts this time around. Learn more about these two artists their obsessions with color, and their love for SAM’s Australian Aboriginal collection in this interview!

SAM: How does this work fit into your larger artmaking practice? Have you always worked in this medium?

Ashley Mead: It doesn’t? Or rather, because I’m inconsistent in my practice it totally fits with my larger artmaking practice. I just couldn’t tell you how. I’ve worked with paper for a few years and in collage for one year, and only because I agreed to do a portrait before I remembered that I can’t draw. Other than that, I dabble in just about every medium I can get my hands on—hence the inconsistency.

Natali Wiseman: I have always painted, but this is the first painting I’ve made in a few years. Previously I did a lot of really detailed illustrative painting, which completely broke me, so I took a long break. I wanted to try something a lot looser with less clean edges. Playing with dimensional paint was fun and new. For the last several years I have mostly been doing screen printing and collage, so it was nice to get back into painting.

What inspired the piece in the art show? Is there a story behind the work or is it part of a series?

Mead: It’s based on a photo of me, Ted, and Michael Besozzi taken at the Smith Tower on my birthday two years ago. We looked so good I wanted to know what we’d look like in paper—we’re definitely more colorful and less serious in this work than in the photo.

Wiseman: I have a 1960s craft book from my mom that has detailed instructions on making “chemical gardens”, also known as ammonia gardens (or sometimes you can buy them in kits, called “magic gardens”). The gardens are these melty piles of color, which I felt compelled to paint with overgrown fungal-looking flowers. There is something interesting to me about creating synthetic gardens.

What artists or artworks are inspirations to you in general?

Mead: Oh goodness. I’m a fan of color, that’s probably the biggest thing that draws me to a piece or artist. Specifics though, Van Gogh has always been a favorite. Mickalene Thomas is a more recent love. Oh, and I love our Australian Aboriginal collection. That’s just a short hodgepodge list.

Wiseman: This is hard! Color is a big deal for me. I love Sister Corita Kent’s work. I really like the Light and Space movement and color field painting. I also love Judy Chicago, Lynda Benglis, Richard Tuttle, Kenneth Noland, Jack Whitten, Gehard Richter, Wayne Thiebaud, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney . . . I suppose there could be a theme there. I love surrealism, particularly Rene Magritte, Man Ray, and Leonora Carrington. At SAM, I find the work in the Aboriginal Australian gallery to be very inspiring and meditative.

What other art projects are you working on right now or looking forward to?

Mead: All of them! I have about a half dozen commissions and half-million ideas, so good luck to me on figuring out what to focus on next.

Wiseman: More gardens, and I have some collages in the works. Hoping to do more large-scale screen printing, too. And I really want to get into ceramics! 

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM Content Strategist & Social Media Manager

Photos: Lawrence Cenotto
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Object of the Week: Dug Up from Kitchen Weeds

Ebony G. Patterson wanted to be an artist from a young age. Born in Jamaica to parents raised in rural poverty, Patterson credits her parents for encouraging her to follow her dreams. “Allow her to express herself,” her father said when young Patterson argued with her mother. “Don’t tell her to shut up.” Today the artist is widely recognized for her accomplished work, and last January she was named a recipient of the United States Fellowship Award in the visual arts.

The mixed-media artist explores issues of race, class, and gender. First motivated by the treatment of Tivoli Garden’s working-class community during the 2010 incursion in West Kingston, Jamaica, Patterson is especially concerned with the visibility of social injustices and the value of black and brown bodies.

In Dug Up from Kitchen Weeds,* colorful, patterned paper, and fabric come together with rhinestones and glitter to create a monumental collage garden, measuring seven-by-five feet. Its effect is mesmerizing. In the center of the overgrown flower bed, a figure lies hidden and obscured. Patterson doesn’t offer a face, just a striped t-shirt, animal-print pants, yellow Chuck Taylors, and a red bandana. Remnants of a life. The body itself is present, and yet . . . invisible.

With her highly ornamented works, the artist’s love for fashion and bling is clear. She wants to lure viewers into this beautiful world, then challenge them to look closer. Who is—or was—this person? It is a memorialization to those living on the margins, the viewer’s opportunity to bear witness to this death. When asked about the seemingly dark theme, Patterson responds, “Is it simply dark because we choose not to acknowledge it? . . . Well I’m choosing to turn the light on. . . . Violence happens everywhere. . . .  That’s the truth, and it’s all our problem.”

This is reality, seen through Patterson’s eyes, and she argues for attention and empathy.

– Jenae Williams, Curatorial Associate

*Read the poem that inspired this work: “Brief Lives” by Jamaican poet and short story writer Olive Senior.

Image: Dug Up from Kitchen Weeds, 2014, Ebony G. Patterson, mixed media photo collage on paper, 62 1/2 x 91 1/2 x 2 1/2 in., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2016.6 © Ebony G. Patterson
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Object of the Week: Abstraction

At first glance, this collage appears to be a simple study— a convergence, or construction, of differently colored shapes floating in a seemingly infinite space. A closer look, however, reveals that the work encompasses many of Hungarian-born avant-gardist László Moholy-Nagy’s beliefs about the role of art in the modern era.

Moholy-Nagy established himself as an artist in Berlin in the aftermath of World War I and spent much of the 1920s teaching at Germany’s famous school of art and design, the Bauhaus. Finding inspiration in the newly industrialized city, he saw potential for employing modern production processes for the creation of art.[1] He found that the city dweller was confronted with an array of new visual and aural stimuli—cars, buses, factories and crowds of people—as well as previously unheard of perspectives. One could now look down on the city from a skyscraper and look up a those tall buildings from a speeding car. For someone who had grown up in the quiet countryside these new experiences could be overwhelming. The artist concluded that artwork of the period should confront the urban condition and set out to find new, appropriate modes of artistic production.[2] Along this live of thought, Moholy-Nagy famously ordered paintings from a German sign factory in 1923 and, with the help of a mechanic and architect, produced a kinetic light sculpture in 1930. However, despite his embrace of new technology, painting remained for Moholy-Nagy the ultimate space within which to experiment.[3]

The metallic sheen of the copper and silver forms in Abstraction suggests newly invented industrial paints. The tall rectangles recall the shapes of recently constructed skyscrapers and the perspective suggests an aerial view. What better way for the modern urbanite to relate to the new spatial relationships of the city than to have those relationships abstracted on a small scale? If nothing else, a small French customs stamp on the back of the work reveals that the piece retained significance for Moholy-Nagy, as it followed him from Germany to France and then the United States, where he eventually settled.

– Murphy Crain, Asian Art and Gardner Center Coordinator

[1] László Moholy-Nagy, “Abstract of an Artist,” The New Vision and Abstract of an Artist (New York: George Wittenborn, Inc., 1947), 72.
[2] László Moholy-Nagy, Painting, Photography, Film, (Cambridge, Mass: M.I.T. Press, 1969), 43.
[3] Joyce Tsai makes this argument in “Technology’s Surrogate: On the Late Paintings of László Moholy-Nagy.” László Moholy-Nagy: Retrospective, ed. Max Hollein and Ingrid Pfeiffer (Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2009): 136-167.
Image: Abstraction, 1923-28, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, collage of cardboard, tempera, ink, crayon, 18 3/8 x 22 5/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 56.39 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
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Below the Surface with Martha Rosler

“The montages were works that were not intended as art. I made them as Xeroxes. It used to be at demonstrations somebody would hand you this incredibly text-ridden sheet of mimeographs against war, and I had this idea not to have any text at all, just pictures to be handed out at demonstrations, and that’s where they went.”

–Artist Martha Rosler on the origin of her series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, 1967-’72

Martha Rosler: Below the Surface focuses on two series of photomontages by Martha Rosler—House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967–72) and House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series (2004–2008). Rosler works across a range of media—including photography, video, writing, performance, sculpture, and installation—addressing social and political issues of the public sphere and everyday life, from gender norms and labor issues to consumer culture and urban development.

Back Garden by Martha Rosler, 2004

Back Garden by Martha Rosler, 2004

“This exhibition shows a selection of Rosler’s early work, which addresses political, social, and media issues that have remained at the forefront of her practice to this day. It is a special honor to present this exhibition at this time, as Rosler was singled out by the New Foundation Seattle as the recipient of its inaugural 100K Prize,” said Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. The New Foundation Seattle established the prize as a biennial award to be presented to an influential, US-based woman artist in honor of her exemplary artistic achievements and enduring commitment to her practice.

Martha Rosler: Below the Surface is on view at Seattle Art Museum through July 4, 2016.

Images: Cleaning the Drapes, 1967-72, Martha Rosler, American, b. 1943, photomontage, 17 5/16 x 23 3/4 in., Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY. Back Garden, 2004, Martha Rosler, American, b. 1943, photomontage, 20 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY.
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