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The Northwest Annual Exhibition & Seattle Art Museum

The SAM Research Libraries have just published a new digital exhibition to our Digital Collections site, providing online access to original archival materials from a significant annual art event that truly defined some of the founding principles of SAM and its founder Dr. Richard E. Fuller.

The Northwest Annual Exhibition (NWA) was a yearly exhibition of work by artists from the Pacific Northwest held first by the Seattle Fine Arts Society, then the Art Institute of Seattle, and finally the Seattle Art Museum. Its first recorded exhibition was in 1914, and it continued for over sixty years at SAM until its final show in 1977. Its intention was to exhibit high quality works in a wide variety of artistic expressions, with a focus on painting and sculpture, and to give recognition to new talent in the Pacific Northwest.

Predating the Seattle Art Museum as it is known today, the NWA spanned decades of change in the art world, particularly in the Northwest. First held in the exhibition rooms of the Washington State Arts Association, it eventually found a permanent home in the Volunteer Park museum in 1933, the same year in which Florence Harrison Nesbit (co-founder of the Northwest Watercolor Society), Peter Camfferman (one of the earliest Modernist painters in the Northwest, along with his wife Margaret Camfferman), and Morris Graves (internationally acclaimed painter) won prizes in the Nineteenth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists. Over the decades the NWA, under the direction of Dr. Fuller, helped recognize the unique work being produced in the region, launching the careers of countless artists.

After the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, SAM took over the United Kingdom Pavilion at Seattle Center and remodelled it to become the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, where the majority of the final exhibitions for the NWA were held. The traditional form of NWA continued until 1975, after which it evolved into Northwest Art(ists) Today, a three-part exhibition series held from 1975-1976. It eventually had its final show as Seattle Art Museum Northwest ‘77.

To create the digital exhibition Northwest Annual Exhibition and Seattle Art Museum, 70 of the original exhibition paper checklists and 85 photographic prints and negatives were digitized and restored to provide quality online access to these rare research materials. With the help of long-time SAM staff member Tore Hoven and regional expert on Northwest art, Cascadia Art Museum head curator David Martin, a fascinating account of the history of the NWA is provided to give context and perspective into the exhibition’s impact on the local art community. These digitized materials are also a unique account of the growth and development of SAM, from its earliest days as a local community of art lovers, to becoming a forward-thinking institution drawing attention from around the world.

We hope that this collection will provide some insight into the many historical events and artistic movements that SAM has been a part of since its inception, and that it may inspire your own research into 20th century Northwest art and artists.

– Brynn Strader, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Images: Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections: “Forty-sixth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, 1960 – Jurors – Photo 2,” “Forty-second Annual Exhibit of Northwest Artists, 1956 – Gallery Installation – Photo 1,” “Northwest Artists Today, Part II, 1975-1976 – Gallery Installation – Photo 7,” “Twenty-ninth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Thirty-first Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Thirty-fourth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Forty-third Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Forty-seventh Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Fifty-eighth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists.”

Fuller Travel Slides: Art & Architecture of Mexico

A new digital collection from the SAM Research Libraries has just been launched on our Digital Collections Site, born out of an extraordinarily lucky find.

Many years ago, the Seattle Art Museum’s Libraries held sizeable slide collections (commonly known as slide libraries) until digital images prevailed as the preferred medium for presentations and study. In 2017, when the Asian Art Museum closed for renovations, staff were forced to deal with a number of long-forgotten slide cabinets—and their contents—tucked away in a staff changing room in the building’s lower level. Within these cabinets, several previously-unknown glass slide collections were discovered. One of these groupings was a personal slide collection created by SAM founder and long-time director, Dr. Richard E. Fuller (1897–1976). It includes images of early 20th century views of art and architecture taken during his 1940s geological work on the Parícutin Volcano, a volcano that suddenly appeared in 1943, in the Mexican state of Michoacánin. Exceptionally well preserved, these slides were immediately transferred to the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, where work soon began on their digitization. Now, all 150 images can be viewed in an online exhibit as the Richard E. Fuller Travel Slides: Art and Architecture of Mexico.

In addition to serving as SAM’s director from 1933-1973, Fuller was also a respected professor of geology, a subject he studied in great depth at the University of Washington, where he steadily acquired a second Bachelor’s degree (1924), a Master’s degree (1926), and ultimately a Ph.D. (1930). Between 1944 and 1948, Fuller served as Chairman of the U.S. Committee for the Study of Parícutin Volcano. As this new digital collection makes clear, alongside his academic work with this committee, Fuller made several personal trips to various cities and historic sites in Mexico over these years, on which he took numerous color photographs.

Though it is unknown how large this collection once was, or whether Fuller even took these photographs for a specific purpose, it is nevertheless clear that some effort was expended on their description and organization. The transfer of these images to glass slides, and their meticulous hand-labeling, helped to ensure that they not only survived to the present day, but did so with a surprising degree of contextual data intact. A similar effort was therefore made to guarantee that the digitized collection could stand as a reasonable facsimile of its physical counterpart, capturing not only Fuller’s images, but also the exact wording of his labels. We hope this collection will be of use to those studying Mexican art and architecture in the  early 20th century, as well as those interested in the Parícutin Volcano area.

The SAM Research Libraries invite you now to explore in its entirety this remarkable collection, which will enable you to peer back through time at a range of striking and historic objects and locations, as documented by SAM’s own founder.

– Jessica Robbins, Volunteer, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

We are humbled by the generosity of our donors during this unique time. Your financial support powers SAM Blog and also sustains us until we can come together as a community and enjoy art in the galleries again. Thanks to a generous group of SAM trustees, all membership and gifts to SAM Fund will be matched up to $500,000 through June 30!

Images: Fuller, Richard E. (Richard Eugene), 1897-1976, Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections: “Tula, Pyramid or Temple of the Moon, front view,” “Mexico City, façade of Sagrario,” “Oaxaca, Church of Santo Domingo interior ceiling polychrome genealogical tree of the Virgin with figures,” “Cholula, view of the Catholic church built on top of the ancient pyramid,” “Guadalajara, Hospice orphanage, entrance into another patio,” “Huejotzingo, fresco, black and white on cloister wall,” “Xochicalco, wall of temple on top of the pyramid showing detail of the decoration,” “Huejotzingo, arched gateway to the atrium of Franciscan monastery,” “Xochicalco, detailed view of the base of the pyramid showing human figure, hieroglyph, and part of serpent,” “Morelia, street scene showing portales or arcaded sidewalks with shops from colonial times.”

Museum Bhavan: A Book-Object by Dayanita Singh

During SAM’s current exhibition, Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India featuring the rich artistic traditions of India, SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library is showcasing one its own treasures of Indian artistic practice: Dayanita Singh’s artist’s book, Museum Bhavan (2017).

Museum Bhavan

This limited edition artist’s book is an extension of another compelling work created by the artist. Singh initially created a large, structural, non-book version of Museum Bhavan in 2015 as a series of large, wooden portable “museums” that incorporates hundreds of photographs from her many decades of work in an easily alterable display. It is from this original Museum Bhavan that the artist’s book, Museum Bhavan, originated.

Museum Bhavan

Here is the original Museum Bhavan on display at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi in 2013. See a walkthrough of the installation here. (Source: Google Arts & Culture.)

Museum Bhavan

In 2017, Singh published the “book-object,” Museum Bhavan, as an easily transportable “pocket museum,” working with long-time collaborator and publisher Gerhard Stiedl. This Museum Bhavan includes a series of nine accordion-fold books—which she refers to as “museums”—that contain Singh’s black-and-white photography and fold out into long strips. This aspect mimics the series of wooden accordion panels used in the original Museum Bhavan. Additionally, the 2017 version includes a booklet of conversations entitled Conversation Chambers that also reflects an aspect of the original: the structures of the original Museum Bhavan can be opened to act as a wall or they can be pulled inward to form intimate spaces. Accompanying wooden benches and tables help create “chambers” that encourage reflection or conversation. The conversations documented in the artist’s book include one with her publisher, Gerhard Steidl, and another with curator and writer, Aveek Sen. Unlike the original Museum Bhavan, the “book-object” version is enclosed in a handmade clamshell box created in India, covered by fabric designed by the artist.

Museum Bhavan

Through this book form, Singh has pushed the original Museum Bhavan’s concept of the evolving presentation further. This Museum Bhavan is an artist’s book, a photo book, and something that can be displayed as a tabletop exhibition while simultaneously being the catalog of that exhibition. By offering an exhibition in a box, Singh encourages viewers to install and curate the work as they like and where they like. Singh desires “the mass-produced quality of publishing and the uniqueness of the art gallery…,” but she wants to make it accessible. She believes that this kind of work is the museum of the future.

Similar to the original version, the title of each “museum” or book is ambiguous and interchangeable: Museum of Men, Godrej Museum, Little Ladies Museum, Museum of Furniture, Museum of Vitrines, etc. Her photos appear without titles or captions. The ambiguity, she says, is intentional.

Museum Bhavan

“I don’t want to spoon-feed you with photographs, and I don’t need to because photography is such a magical medium…. If you allow it, it will present all sorts of meanings.”

—Dayanita Singh

To get a closer look at these works, another artist’s book by Singh (Sent a Letter, 2008), or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments can typically be scheduled Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

In consideration of Singh’s intent, the display of Museum Bhavan will change in the case throughout the run of Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Translation, Identity, and Native Language in Book Arts

Recently, the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library acquired two works by book artist, designer, and member of the Oneida Nation Erin Mickelson. Mickelson’s work is often about language, particularly translation. Sometimes her work is as straightforward as a translation from one language to another, but often she attempts to translate an idea between seemingly disparate forms—language, image, code, and movement. You can see Mickelson’s works in person in the reception area just outside of the Bullitt Library on SAM’s 5th floor until Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicholson, Tracey Rector, Will Wilson closes on September 9, 2018.

Mutterfarbe

Mutterfarbe, published in 2017 by Broken Cloud Press (Santa Fe, NM), the imprint of Mickelson, is a limited-edition artist-book collaboration between poet, translator, and visual artist Brandi Katherine Herrera and Mickelson. The work, which uses Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s seminal work Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors, 1810) as its primary source, features experimental text, visual translations, and poems.

The work includes three sections, plus front matter and back matter. In the first section, Natürlicher, sixteen color swatches sourced from photographs of Herrera’s environment are accompanied by poems whose words are drawn from translations of Goethe’s text. The second section, Ursprünglicher, includes erasure poems by Herrera with “visual translations” of Goethe’s illustrations by Mickelson. The third section, Farbe Gespräch, is an imagined text conversation between Herrera and Goethe regarding the surrealist film, The Holy Mountain (directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) using contemporary language, texting, and the Google Translate app. Mickelson sources the illustrations in this section directly from screenshots of the film, rendering them in the sixteen colors used throughout the work. This particular section utilizes a leporello structure, creating an accordion-like fold, and can extend to thirteen feet wide. The front matter includes a unique lenticular print, a technology that creates a three-dimensional effect. The three pamphlet-stitched books (Anhang I–III) that make up the back matter feature a translator’s note, color source photographs, scans of the original text erasures, and the translation of Zur Farbenlehre.

 

Mickelson and Herrera worked with Zachary Schomburg to create this informative video which helps us understand the many parts of this fascinating work.

He Wears a Feather

He Wears a Feather (2015) demonstrates a move for Mickelson toward more socially and politically informed work. It is also a work inspired by a deep and personal topic: controversial blood quantum laws dictate that the artist’s son be excluded from the Oneida Nation’s tribal rolls—the first generation of Mickelson’s family.

He Wears a Feather is very much about a disappearing cultural identity. I’ve had a lot of conversations about this idea with my mother, who, as an Oneida artist, has dedicated her career to telling the stories and history of the Oneida people through her paintings. She’s talked at length about the changing attitude toward identifying as Native. Her grandmother (my great-grandmother) was at the Carlisle Indian boarding school, where students were forced to assimilate to Euro/American culture. It created a huge rift between those students and their families who remained on the reservation. Subsequent generations have dealt with racism and colonialism as well as the effects of the previous generation’s forced assimilation, and connections to history, language, and identity have become frayed. Particularly for those living off the reservation. I am mixed-race and the last generation of my family to be a tribal member (due to blood quantum laws). It feels imperative to me to do what I can to stay connected to my family history. I can do this by trying to learn and preserve the language, history, and stories of the Oneida people.”

—Erin Mickelson, book artist

The work takes the form of a drop-spine box and includes an electronic sound module that, when the soapstone turtle is removed and the module is exposed to light, allows the reader to hear the book’s text being read aloud. Mickelson utilized text and an audio recording from the Oneida Language Revitalization Program, originally a Works Progress Administration project started in 1939, whose goal is to preserve and continue the Oneida language.

Learn more about this initiative by visiting: The Oneida Language Revitalization Program’s Website and The Oneida Language Revitalization Program: A History Website.

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments can typically be scheduled Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Before SAM: Publications from the Seattle Fine Arts Society and the Art Institute of Seattle

The SAM Research Libraries’ latest digital collection is a set of publications from two arts societies that preceded the Seattle Art Museum. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library holds a collection of bulletins, calendars, announcements, and annual reports that were published by the Seattle Fine Arts Society between 1920 and 1929, and annual reports from the Art Institute of Seattle from 1929-1932 (1932 is the year the Art Institute transitioned to the Seattle Art Museum). Now, this collection of publications has been digitized and is accessible via the Libraries’ Omeka.net site. Though incomplete, this is the first time this collection of publications will be accessible outside of the physical library at SAM.

From 1920–1929, the Seattle Fine Arts Society was the premier group of art enthusiasts in Seattle. From their publications, we learn about the exhibitions, social events, classes, and “field trips” organized by this small-but-growing group of individuals who wanted nothing more than to foster a dedicated arts presence in the city. Without permanent headquarters, and a reliance on society membership, the Fine Arts Society was informal, inexperienced, but passionate and driven by a love of art and a belief in the power of art to transform a city and its residents. The calendars list events full of Northwest artists and collaboration with art students at the University of Washington, and educational events with the goal of sharing a love of art with citizens who, if only educated properly, might care more about art in the city. The Society wished to be an accessible part of the community, and worked tirelessly to bring art and art-centered events to the public for free or at low cost.

By the end of the decade, the Fine Arts Society announced a name change to the Art Institute of Seattle, but a mere three years later would bring a much more drastic change: that of the transformation from Art Institute to established museum and civic institution. The annual reports during the end of the 1920s and early 1930s reveal the kind of funding, planning, and labor that went into making the museum a reality.

With this collection, you are invited to trace the prehistory of SAM, and see the seeds of the very same values that drive SAM today take root. The members of Seattle Fine Arts Society and the subsequent Art Institute of Seattle sought to nurture and spread their passion for art with one another and with the public, even as Seattle Art Museum today brings art to life.

– Kate Hanske, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are considered works of art themselves.

Rough Edges, Hard Life
Photographer Daisuke Yokota shares his distinctive interpretation of people and places in two photobooks which were donated by Chris Harris to the McCaw Foundation Library. Urban life can be a hard place with sharp edges, yet people navigating them can retain some softness. Yokota shows us his haunting perspective of this paradox in his photobooks Immerse (Akina, 2015) and Linger (Akina, 2014).

Texture and Composition
In Immerse, Yokota explores the interplay of unexpected textures and startling vulnerability.

Cover of Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Cover of Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Images like these take on an abstract quality, creating the evocative tone of Yakota’s work. Color and composition enhance a coincidence of defenselessness with a suggestive boldness.

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Form without Fabrication
Daisuke Yokota’s hand-bound photobook, Linger, contains images as unpretentious and stark as the cover itself.

Cover of Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Cover of Linger by Daisuke Yokota

In Linger, Yokata continues to explore the interplay of texture and form. Images of intimate poses and private spaces convey a sense of softness within a hardened world. Grainy and startling, these images hint at a complicated way of life, asking more questions than they answer. Simple and fascinatingly disturbing, the photographs in Linger are a rich, sometimes perplexing, observation of humanity’s adaptation to life in modern settings.

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Dissonance
Continuing our exploration of the Harris collection of photobooks in the McCaw Foundation Library’s holdings, two photobooks in the collection bear witness to the lasting effects of human technological constructs on forest and farmland in rural Japan.

Ruin and Regeneration
Places can change in an instant, and for all time.

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma (Blind Gallery, 2014), present a serene yet evocative pictorial commentary on life in Fukushima prefecture after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster.

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Foraging for wild mushrooms in the forests of Fukushima was once a common pastime for many people in the region. Many species grow robustly throughout the microclimates within the forests. Due to dangerous levels of radiation, foraging and ingestion of these plentiful fungi has been banned indefinitely. Still, the mushrooms themselves appear to flourish, even in the face of invisible, widespread, pervasive, sometimes invisible devastation.

Preservation vs. Progress
In the early 1960s, the Haneda Airport, or Tokyo International Airport, was struggling to support an ever-increasing volume of jet traffic. The growing number of flights—and the noise that accompanied the new jet engines that powered them—caused the Japanese transport ministry to seek an alternative location for a new high-capacity international airport.

A large farming area near the village of Sanrizuka, in Chiba Prefecture, was selected for the development plan. Construction of the Narita International Airport began in the late 1960s. This endeavor forever altered the abundant pastoral quality of life that had thrived there for generations.

<em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai (Waizu Shuppan, 2000), is a beautiful photobook that honors Sanrizuka’s traditional rich rural lifestyle, the bountiful agricultural landscape, and documents the protest to save it.

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

 

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

The decision to build the airport on top of the agricultural land was opposed for years by a group of residents and ideological activists. However, construction went forward and what was once farmland eventually became an airport. This photobook poignantly honors the struggle of the people of Sanrizuka and the beauty of the agricultural lifestyle and land they hoped to preserve.

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Harmony
Part of the Aomori Prefecture, Tsugaru is found at the far north of Japan’s main island of Honshu. The Sea of Japan meets its western shore, while the Pacific Ocean is to the east. Surrounded by water, this mountainous area is beautiful, remote, and endurably peaceful.

Map showing the Tsugaru Strait (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Japan, access 8/9/17)

Two of the photobooks from the Harris collection give us glimpses of captivating people and places in Tsugaru.

Rugged, Deep, Delicate
Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka and Kojima Ichiro (Izu Photo Museum, 2014) opens a window that allows us to view everyday life in Tsugaru. The images that reach out from these pages convey the at-home attitude and the quiet sense of belonging expressed by the people who live in this vast, remote landscape.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

These stunning images capture the sense of eternal clarity that suffuses the landscape and the people of Tsugaru. This masterful work depicts people living in harmony within the natural world, using images that are artistically compelling and evocative.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Integrity and Integration
Masako Tomiya’s Tsugaru (self-published, 2013) is a study of individualists adapting to a beautiful, rugged world. The unique character of the landscape and people of Tsugaru is captured beautifully in this collection of black and white photographs.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

It celebrates the majesty of the rugged rural terrain, whipped by fierce wind and snow in the winter, then bathed in summer’s balmy breezes. The people who live there are portrayed as the resourceful individuals they are, living life in tune with the call of the natural world.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Focus on an Artist’s Book: La Cité des Animaux by Lynn Skordal

Real Places That Don’t Exist: La Cité des Animaux

In Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, we see how Wyeth masterfully conveys a sense of place, constructing a certain reality or vision of landscapes, domestic spaces, and people of rural Pennsylvania and the coastal villages of Maine. For the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s current book installation, we examine an artist’s book that also conveys a sense of place, one that is carefully constructed yet imagined.

La Cite de Animaux

Washington artist Lynn Skordal considers herself a “paperworker.” After retiring from a career as an attorney nearly ten years ago, she returned to an early love—art. She now focuses on collage, artists’ books, and small works on paper that she creates from her collection of books rescued from local thrift stores, old magazines, used paper scraps picked up off the sidewalk, stamps and images torn from envelopes, cuttings from formidable reference works, and old engravings removed from disintegrating books. Her work has been described as “an exploration of real places that don’t exist.”1 One could certainly apply that idea to her thought-provoking artist’s book, La Cité des Animaux (Mercer Island, WA, 2011).

La Cite de Animaux

This unique, collaged, accordion-style artist’s book depicts “a parade of strange, whimsical animals creeping through a deserted white city under a chocolate sky.”2 Mammals, reptiles, birds, eggs, and stylized and extinct creatures are set against deserted architectural backgrounds, enclosed on both ends by maps. The artist asks, who built the city? What is it for? Is this what will happen after humankind is gone?3

La Cite de Animaux

From Natural History to a New Reality

Skordal’s source material for La Cité des Animaux included several antique works. One was Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio et iconibus artificiosissimis expressio, per universam physices historiam (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of the principal and rarest natural objects . . . ). This elaborately engraved thesaurus of animal specimens was the creation of scientist and collector Albertus Seba (Dutch, 1665–1736). The initial volume of the work was published in 1734, with several volumes issued posthumously through 1765.

La Cite de Animaux

Seba’s work was derived from his own “cabinet of curiosities,” a notion Skordal seems to reclaim by pulling the animals from the format of the scientific natural history book and inserting them into a smaller, precious book form. Whereas Seba’s intent was to record and illustrate the natural world truthfully, Skordal uses Seba’s images to construct a new reality.

I was charmed by the idea of animals taking over spaces built by man, but with man long gone. That thought comforts and amuses me. [My work conveys] both a sense of place and a story. I like to create new little worlds where the usual rules may not apply, and where there is a little bit of magic or mystery at work–an alternate reality. The goal is always to startle, amuse, or provoke.4

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments typically take place Monday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Boxall, Scout. “Cut & Paste: Lynn Skordal.” The Daily Spread (July 5, 2013). https://dailyspreaddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/cut-paste-lynn-skordal/, accessed September 20, 2017.
Email interview with artist, September 29, 2017.
Ibid.
Ibid.