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My Five – an intern shares her favorite things

Emma Johnson joined us a an intern in Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art this June. Today, on her last day with us, I asked her to share her “Five,” her top five favorite objects from our collection. I think her choices are pretty great. Do you? What are your favorite SAM objects?

-Sarah Berman, Curatorial Associate for Collections

 

After being at SAM for only three short weeks, I didn’t know how I could possibly choose five pieces of art that were my absolute favorite, as my supervisor Sarah Berman had requested. But after wandering through each gallery, several pieces stood out to me. Objects have always caught my eye more than paintings or other mediums so each piece I have selected is an artifact, not something hung on a wall.

Mirror with scene of the Judgment of Paris, 4th-3rd century B.C., Etruscan, `bronze, 10 3/8 x 7 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 48.36. Currently on view the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Mirror with scene of the Judgment of Paris, 4th-3rd century B.C., Etruscan, `bronze, 10 3/8 x 7 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 48.36. Currently on view the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

As a Classics major, ancient Greek myths are pieces of history that I find fascinating. One of my all-time favorite myths has always been the Judgment of Paris, so when I discovered an ancient mirror with the judgment scene etched into the back of it, the piece immediately claimed a position in my “top five.” As the ancient story goes, Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, three Olympic goddesses, asked Zeus to choose who among them is the ‘fairest of them all.’ Not wanting to create further drama among the goddesses, wise Zeus tells the Trojan mortal, Paris, to make the final decision. Each goddess quickly approaches Paris with a bribe, attempting to win him over in order that he chooses her. Hera offers to make Paris a king. Athena tells Paris she will give him the skills and wisdom every man needs in war. Lastly, Aphrodite promises him the most beautiful woman in all the lands, Helen. Paris excitedly chooses Aphrodite as the winner, as no man could ever turn down beautiful Helen. However, Helen is the wife of the Greek King Menelaus. Angered by this transaction, Menelaus seeks revenge and thus the Trojan War begins.

Ring, Asante, Ghanaian, gold, 1 3/16 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/2 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1684. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Ring, Asante, Ghanaian, gold, 1 3/16 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/2 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1684. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

In the African art collection, there is a beautiful and intricate gold ring which claimed a place among my favorite pieces once I heard the story behind its creation. There are several Asante proverbs behind the design of the tortoise shell on the ring. The first is along the lines of ‘a tortoise is suffering in its shell,’ meaning that no matter how confident and put-together a person might seem, they are always dealing with issues that you cannot see. The second proverb says, ‘if the tortoise eats the Earth, you eat some too.” This saying explains that if you are ever a visitor, either in someone else’s home or an entirely different country or culture, no matter how strange and foreign their customs seem, you must respect them and take part in them. (As a Classics major, I might phrase it, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”) The ring is displayed in a glass case among many other pieces of gold jewelry, and at first I almost overlooked it. However, the story and meaning behind the ring is so powerful to me that it is now in my “top five.”

Kantharos with Satyr and Maenad Heads, ca. 1st century, Roman England, ceramic, 7 1/4 x 6 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.108. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Kantharos with Satyr and Maenad Heads, ca. 1st century, Roman England, ceramic, 7 1/4 x 6 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.108. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Back in the Greek and Roman collection is another of my favorites, a ‘kantharos’ or cup for wine. On either side of the cup is a head; on one side of a maenad and on the other of a satyr. Both are mythological creatures who are followers of Dionysus, the wine god. I love that on an object made for wine there are the two symbolic representations of drinking. I also find this piece interesting because the satyr and maenad look simple and peaceful while usually they are depicted during a Dionysian rite in which they are in an altered state of mind.

Amulet with mummified monkey, Egyptian, Early Dynastic period (ca. 2920 - 2649 B.C.), wood, 3 3/16 x 11/16 x 7/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 55.136. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Amulet with mummified monkey, Egyptian, Early Dynastic period (ca. 2920 – 2649 B.C.), wood, 3 3/16 x 11/16 x 7/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 55.136. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

On the first day of my internship, a guard pointed out the small amulet of a mummified monkey and informed me it was one of the oldest objects in SAM’s collection. The monkey became a favorite because of its age. Made somewhere between 2920-2649 BC, the old age of it fascinates me. While I do not know much about the monkey, it is still one of my favorites here.

Divination Container (Opon Igede Ifa), Areogun (Yoruba, African, 1880-1954), wood, 21 1/2 in. diam., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.621. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Divination Container (Opon Igede Ifa), Areogun (Yoruba, African, 1880-1954), wood, 21 1/2 in. diam., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.621. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Lastly, a wooden divination container caught my eye as I was walking back from the ancient Mediterranean gallery. The container by Nigerian artist Areogun is easily in my top five favorite pieces at SAM. It is used to hold the diviner’s ritual equipment but is so elaborately decorated. As I looked into more information about the object, I learned that the detail of the carvings were a sign of the diviner’s success. I find it incredible that an everyday object can have such significance in one culture, but be completely mundane in another.

From this assignment, I learned that I cannot simply choose a favorite item solely by looking at the art. My favorites became my favorites once I had learned the story behind each piece and heard the details which made it unique. Learning about all of these objects’ stories, is what made my internship at SAM so useful and interesting.

-Emma Johnson, intern, 2014

Women in Film: Reel Girl tours and Riot Grrrl scores

Tonight SAM downtown is centering its lens on women in film with tours by local leaders in the film world and a special screening of Lynn Hershmann Leeson’s recent documentary !Women Art Revolution (2010, 83 mins) starting at 7:30 pm in Plestcheeff Auditorium.

!Women Art Revolution traces the impetus and organization of the Feminist Art Movement during the 1960’s through its rise from a subculture of women artists during the anti-war and civil rights era to its difficult acceptance into our cultural narrative.  The film, for which Leeson collected footage and interviews for 40 years to create, discloses the Feminist Art Movement through interviews with artists such as Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann, Eleanor Antin, Judy Chicago, Rachel Rosenthal, and the Guerrilla Girls among others. The candid interviews describe how women artists took a cue from groups such as The Black Panthers to organize and speak out against cultural institutions for engaging in gender discrimination.

The film features an original soundtrack by Carrie Brownstein, guitarist of Washington Riot-Grrrl rockers Sleater-Kinney, whose roaring guitar riffs provide a very pertinent sonic landscape to the film. Sleater-Kinney, named after I5 off-ramp No. 108 in Lacey, Washington, declared an indefinite hiatus in 2006. You can check out Brownstein’s current group Wild Flag performing “Romance” live from Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop during KEXP’s broadcast at South by Southwest in 2011 here. The soundtrack also features songs by Janis Joplin, Laurie Anderson, The Gossip (Olympia natives), Erase Errata, and Tribe 8.

In addition to the screening of !Women Art Revolution SAM is hosting two My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Public Tours by local women working in the film world; Beth Barrett and Robin Held. As Programming Manager of the Seattle International Film Festival Beth Barrett will share her favorite works and, hopefully, have a couple of highly opinionated comments of her own to offer. Robin Held, Executive Director of Reel Grrls a local organization that empowers young women through creating film and digital media, will co-lead a tour of Elles with local dancer-choreographer Catherine Cabeen.

– Ryan Peterson, Program Assistant

!Women Art Revolution movie poster

Taking a tour for the team: Athletes take the reins of Elles

With this week’s My Favorite Things:  Highly Opinionated Public Tours at SAM Downtown two local athletes will be giving  tours in conjunction with Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Katie Hultin, goal keeper for the Seattle Sounders, and Parisa Asgharzadeh, of the local Seattle Breakers Women Rugby Team, will each be taking the reins of tour guide beginning at 6:30 and 6:45 PM respectively. As athletes take over the galleries, the way physical activity is shared by athletes and artists alike came to mind.

 

In 1992, the Seattle Arts Commission installed what is arguably the city’s most iconic piece of public sculpture. Jonathan Borofsky’s Hamming Man is known by practically everyone who is familiar with SAM. Tourists passing by on Ride the Ducks tours take snapshots of the sculpture as they pass by on First Avenue, and fellow workers downtown can feel a silent bond with the steady swings of the hammer. Of his sculpture, Borofsky stated, “The Hammering Man is a worker. The Hammering Man celebrates the worker. He or she is the village craftsman.” The Hammering Man reminds us that whether we are laborers, artists, or athletes our physical efforts become rewarded when we work together toward, as Borofsky upholds, “a happier and more enlightened humanity.”

 

This week’s My Favorite Things tours made me think of the Hammering Man not only for the relationship of physical activity that artists and athletes both share, but because of an anecdote I remember as an undergraduate student in Art History at the University of Washington. In one of my early survey of Western Art classes, we were given a writing assignment on a piece of public sculpture. Borofsky’s Hammering Man was one of the works we could choose to write about, and the TA for this class, who was very knowledgeable with Seattle’s offering of public sculpture, had her own highly opinionated critique of the monumental laborer on SAM’s First Avenue doorstep. It was her view that the gender of the sculpture was a woman rather than a man, and that this is an observable, if not subtle, fact that could be seen in a curve just below the stationary arm of the sculpture. Although I didn’t quite agree, the point she made is significant for alluding to the tendency to see the Hammering Man as a man, rather than a woman, or a figure that is inclusive of more than one gender representing a diverse population.  The oversight is unfortunate yes, but my TA’s slightly tongue-in-cheek claim reminded us of the activity and achievements of women artists, athletes, and laborers.

Our tour guides this week will undoubtedly have some interesting points about their own experiences with the art on view in the Elles exhibitions, and I’m excited to hear how they feel about some of the works on display.  I feel that artists and athletes alike are working toward similar outcomes in their craft. After the countless hours of training one’s body to perform at the highest level of physical activity the ability to carry out the actions and designs of the game exist for the sublime moment when we finally capture a win. Shutouts and upsets are going to happen, but whether it’s the art of the game, or art for itself, it is the physical elation of that eventual success that we work so hard to create.

 

– Ryan Peterson, Program Assistant

My Favorite Things Tours: Where Picasso Meets Lil’Wayne

So it’s a Friday night and you made it to SAM, waited in line (admiring Cai Guo-Qiang’s twinkling cars suspended above your head, of course), purchased your ticket to Picasso, followed the orange line up 2 floors, fidgeted with the audio guide while you wait in line again, entered the Picasso exhibition and you’re ready to earn your way onto Team Picasso. Normally what takes place from this point on is around an hour of doing the “museum shuffle” with your fellow audio guide aficionados. Here’s where we like to shake things up a bit.

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