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COVID-19 UPDATE: ALL SAM LOCATIONS CURRENTLY CLOSED. LEARN MORE »

Object of the Week: Seattle Cloud Cover

For over a month, Seattle’s public spaces, like those in cities around the world, have experienced a marked transformation. Bustling downtowns are eerily empty, with freeways, bike lanes, and sidewalks much quieter. Our parks, however, have remained (when open) as vital as ever to the collective life of the city and the publics they serve.

For landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1902), who with his brother designed Volunteer Park, home to the Asian Art Museum, parks should be socially valuable—“gregarious” (inclusive) rather than “neighbourly” (exclusive) spaces that bring people together, no matter where they live or who they are.[1] This may seem like a given today, but in the 19th century it was a radical notion. Another beloved public park with a SAM connection is, of course, the Olympic Sculpture Park. In keeping with Olmsted’s vision for inclusive, truly public spaces, the park’s nine acres have multiple entrances, an abundance of native plants, zigzagging pathways, over 20 artworks, and is free and open to the public. Like Volunteer Park, it is a place meant for physical, mental, and spiritual relaxation.

Throughout this pandemic, I have found myself reflecting on the role that such public spaces hold and the value they bring, especially when the very nature of “a public” has been recast. I keep returning to one artwork in particular at the Olympic Sculpture Park: Seattle Cloud Cover by Teresita Fernández. 

A glass bridge above a working railroad, Seattle Cloud Cover features images of a changing sky whose cloud formations are high-keyed and highly saturated. Appearing at consistent intervals throughout the image are small apertures, or holes, through which visitors can catch glimpses of downtown Seattle and their environs. Demonstrating Fernández’s interest in light and vision—specifically the relationship between seeing and not seeing—this visual layering of the built and natural environment encourages us to more deeply consider our surroundings, and our place within them. For Fernández, a landscape is not only that which is seen, but inhabited. 

Celebrated for such installations that interrogate notions of landscape and place, Fernández has demonstrated, in her words, a “20-year interest in landscape, perception, and the viewer as someone who is constantly moving, walking, and shifting in real time.”[2] For Fernández, the activation of her work with a viewer—a public—is essential. Seattle Cloud Cover mediates our surroundings, allowing us to both move through the work and see beyond it, all the while drenched in its colorful shadows. The passageway augments our relationship to the world around us, and hopefully prompts us to reflect on the value of public spaces—mutable and fluid as they currently are—and our place within them.

Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collections & Provenance Associate

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: Seattle Cloud Cover, design approved 2004; fabrication completed 2006, Teresita Fernández, laminated glass with photographic design interlayer, approx. 9 ft. 6 in. x 200 ft. x 6 ft. 3 in., Olympic Sculpture Park Art Acquisition Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2006.140, © Teresita Fernández.
1 Richard Sennett, Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 45.
2 Teresita Fernández, “Artist’s Statement,” in Fata Morgana (New York: Madison Square Art, 2015), 16.

Virtual Art Talks: All About Walkabout

As we continue to reflect on the ways that living in quarantine impacts our daily rhythms, Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, is here to share artwork propelled by walking. Walking becomes one of our rhythms that adjusts to each landscape we cross. Translating that rhythm into paint became a goal for Dorothy Napangardi who walked hundreds of miles across her homeland. She spoke of the unconditional happiness and freedom she felt when she traversed her family’s country and slept beside them with stars as a canopy.

With fewer cars on the roads and the rare airplane in the sky, more of us are walking as a way of getting outside. Often, we are walking without destination, but rather, just to walk. How have you become aware of your surroundings differently on your daily walks? Let the artwork of Dorothy Napangardi, on view in Walkabout at SAM, inspire you to put on your mask and take a stroll through your neighborhood, giving plenty of space to the other pedestrians around you. Maybe your path will follow the one suggested by Pam at the end of the video, and lead you to the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Walkabout: The Art of Dorothy Napangardi at Seattle Art Museum is filled with Napangardi’s paintings from 2000–13 and takes us to the shimmering salt lake, where she absorbed indigenous laws and stories from the land and her family. Visit these large-scale and intricate paintings in person once SAM is able to reopen.

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!

Tour the Olympic Sculpture Park’s Trees

As the weather shifts toward spring many of us are staying indoors but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the hopeful awakening of all the plant life around us. SAM ‘s facilities and landscape manager, Bobby McCullough, is here to give you a tour of a selection of the trees at our Olympic Sculpture Park! The park includes four distinct habitats: The Valley, the Grove, the Meadow, and the Shore. This innovative design achieves a wide range of environmental restoration goals, including brownfield redevelopment, creation of a salmon habitat, extensive use of native plantings, and the capture and use of rainwater on-site. Bobby’s description below share some ways the many plants in the park contribute to making the park an important green space in downtown Seattle.

The Olympic Sculpture Park is open to the public so you can go get your fill of art and nature, we just ask that you practice proper social distancing while you do so. This is the last in SAM’s series of Earth Day posts, but it’s not the last of SAM’s celebrations of the Earth. As we celebrate, we’d like to acknowledge that SAM is located on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people.

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

An ancient tree with an amazing story. Fossils of the needles have been found in dinosaur footprints. Thought to be extinct, it was rediscovered in China around 1944. This deciduous conifer drops all its foliage in fall after turning a beautiful golden color. A small handful of these can be seen on the valley floor.

Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

“Big” is the perfect word, as far as maples go. Nothing about this abundant species is anything but big. With leaves often the size of dinner plates, these stately trees can easily grow to 120’. Very common in many Seattle parks. The mature, gigantic canopies act as host to a variety of ecosystems. There are four of these in the sloped wedge overlooking Bay street.

Pacific Crabapple (Malus fusca)

A little known tree, often merely a large shrub, is remarkably slender in form. This specimen is a unique addition, as it was chosen from the nursery of the late Richard Haag, a landscape architect who was best known for designing Gasworks Park, the Bloedel Reserve, and founding the University of Washington’s landscape architecture department. This tree was procured because of its perfect “V” shaped trunks that help make Roy McMakin’s Love and Loss sculpture complete.

Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)

This variety is actually the Cornus “Eddies White Wonder.” A hybrid of the native, it is a heavily flowering deciduous tree with large, white, rounded bracts (flowers) that appear in spring. These showy trees can be found on the west slopes of the Valley and are always a sight to behold when in bloom!

Lupine (Lupinus latifolius)

Just one of many native Lupines, this variety is an attractive semi evergreen with interesting foliage and lovely flowering stalks that we always look forward to seeing in the Meadows at the Olympic Sculpture Park throughout the summer months.

Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)

Also known as Canoe Birch or White Birch, this short lived (pioneer) species is right at home on the waterfront. It is named for its thin white bark that often peels in paper like layers from the trunk. It was once used to make canoes after being hollowed out by the Native peoples.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

Oregon’s state flower, the Oregon grape, is widely used throughout the park for its’ reliable early blooms and hardiness. The long hedge that greets you upon entering the park along the west side of the Pavilion was planted during the park’s second year, successfully acting as a human and canine deterrent. In their natural form, these would easily grow to 8 to 10 feet tall.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Perhaps Salal is our most important and common native shrub. Ranging from Alaska to California, it is abundant in the most widely varied habitats, and is planted in many areas of the park. April into July is the main blooming period. This gives rise to the purplish, blackish sticky berries valued by humans and animals alike often into December.

Bobby McCullough, OSP Facilities and Landscape Manager

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!

Photos: Bobby McCullough

Muse/News: Sculpture park safety, new horizons, and world-building with Jacolby Satterwhite

SAM News

During the temporary closure of SAM locations, we hope you can safely continue to enjoy the Olympic Sculpture Park, carefully following physical distancing guidelines by staying six feet away from other park visitors. SAM will continue to align with any City guidance on parks usage.

Here’s Zach Mortice for Landscape Architecture Magazine on how sculpture parks are “offering one of the few bits of unfettered culture still available.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced that it is awarding $22.2 million in grants to 224 humanities projects across the United States, including SAM Libraries’ project to digitize 3,000 audiovisual recordings.

Stay Home with SAM continues to take your imagination outside. Last week, we investigated “The Case of the Weeping Buddha,” got macro with the photography of Imogen Cunningham, and offered a virtual curator talk of the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition with Theresa Papanikolas. Join us!

KOMO’s Seattle Refined and Seattle’s Child both share resources for online experiences and homebound art activities; Stay Home with SAM is featured.

Local News

Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne on the fight to fund Seattle arts, focusing particularly on nightlife and performance venues who are particularly reliant on people in seats.

Rich Smith of the Stranger reports on the forthcoming launch of Northwest Arts Streaming Hub (NASH), a “Netflix for local performances” created by a coalition of Seattle art world heavies.

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis takes in ever-retreating horizons as Seattle’s art world responds to a situation with unknown ends; finally, former Seattleite Yann Novak’s video piece Stillness: Oceanic offers a more substantial anchor.

“The congregational aspect of the arts scene has been boxed up for later. Stillness abounds. But, just as in Novak’s video, the atmospheric conditions are causing changes. Artists are shifting slightly every day, in ways we might not perceive until we see the composite picture.”

Inter/National News

“Running a Gallery in My Apartment Showed Me a Different Side of the Art World.” Scott Indrisek for Artsy on how his now-closed Brooklyn apartment gallery might have lessons for the art world’s disruption.

For the Wall Street Journal, Cammy Brothers, an associate professor at Northeastern University, shared her experiences navigating online resources to keep kids learning via art history.

As part of “Art on Video, a collaboration with Art21, Artnet jumps into world-building with Jacolby Satterwhite, who once found escape with video games like Final Fantasy.

“For Satterwhite, world-building is a form of self-care. Speaking to Art21 back in February, his words ring true today: ‘Art became a form of escapism for me to reroute my personal traumas. And now I think I’m trying to pursue something more present.'”

And Finally

Sports broadcasters adjust to being stuck inside.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Muse/News: Drawing with O’Keeffe, walks and recipes, and a napping lioness

SAM News

SAM’s temporary closure has been extended until further notice, in our effort to do all we can to safeguard the health and safety of the community.

We hope you are enjoying Stay Home with SAM, which connects you with art through videos, interviews, art-making activities, and art spotlights. Don’t miss the latest post, featuring digital and analog art-making experiences for Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations.

Artnet will be spotlighting exhibitions from all over the world during the closures—they started with Abstract Variations.

Local News

Seattle Times’ Gabriel Campanario is back with another sketch. This time, he takes in the Betty Bowen Viewpoint while on a socially distanced walk, mentioning her connection to SAM.

“Don’t skip the Olympic Sculpture Park art detour,” says Alison Williams of Seattle Met in her prescient “15 Best City Trails in Seattle” feature for Seattle Met’s April edition.

Crosscut shares another video in their Art Seen series, created before the stay-at-home order, with a question that is more relevant than ever.

“What do you create or do in life that brings you happiness? The question we asked locals — just before Washington state’s stay-at-home order — takes on new meaning now that individuals and communities are coping with the coronavirus crisis.”

Inter/National News

Last week, Congress passed a $2 trillion aid package in response to the coronavirus. Cultural organizations had requested $4 billion; Artnet’s Eileen Kinsella reports on how “they got, well, less.”

Hyperallergic says skip Netflix, and explore their list of experimental films and video art to stream, gathered with the help of their contributors as well as artists and filmmakers.

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone got 10 famous artists to dish on their favorite recipes getting them through these tough times.

“A fridge full of seafood, a cabinet full of beans, and regular trips to the coffee shop while we still can. Prepping for the worst, but can’t leave this city! So far, pizza is still delivering, so totally OK.”

And Finally

It makes me feel better to know Nikita the Lioness is taking a nap (again).

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Artwork: Georgia O’Keeffe, American, 1887–1986, Music, Pink and Blue, No. 1, 1918, oil on canvas, 35 x 29 in., Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Barney A. Ebsworth, 2000.161, photo: Paul Macapia

SAM Connects with Artist-in-Residence Kimberly Deriana

Your next chance to experience the Olympic Sculpture Park through the Indigenous lens of SAM’s winter resident is tonight, February 27 from 7 to 9 pm! Architectural designer and artist Kimberly Deriana (Mandan/Hidatsa) has spent the last two months working in the park researching, offering workshops, and constructing a temporary installation. Deriana has used her residency as a space for sharing Indigenous knowledge surrounding the many uses of cattail materials. The temporary cattail and cedar structure she has created is a space where everyone is invited to gather and experience cultural celebration. The event will include performances by Aiyanna Jade Stitt and Hailey Tayathy, and storytelling and song by Kayla Guyett and Paige Pettibon.

Kimberly Deriana specializes in sustainable, environmental Indigenous architecture, housing, and planning. Deriana’s methodologies focus on incorporating Indigenous lifestyle practices in relation to past, present, and future, designing for the 7 generations. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her experience as SAM’s artist in residence and to learn more about her creative process.

SAM: What goals do you have for your residency at the Olympic Sculpture Park? 

KIMBERLY DERIANA: I want to activate the park through an Indigenous lens. As an architect designer and somebody who loves urban design, I’ve been drawn to this park since I first moved here. Part of creating visibility is bringing other people along in the process and giving them opportunities, too. I really try to include people and families who have been doing this work for years while giving new urban Native people outlets in every project on which I work.

This residency is a learning opportunity for me; the way I enjoy learning is to involve others. It’s about the way we learn as a community, the way we make as a community, and the way we approach being in the world and sustainability. When you’re gathering cattails, there’s an appropriate time to gather and there are appropriate places to gather. Learning all of that protocol has been really eye-opening. Because I grew up as an urban Native and wasn’t always shown those protocols, I try to make a conscious effort to create space and time for the protocol knowledge as an adult.

Tell us about the workshops and youth that you worked with to include Indigenous communities.

I’ve always done art and design but being in the art scene is a new space for me; I wanted to explore the co-creation process. Sharing resources is an important component of the process, I believe. This space has a very educational, institutional vibe and it lends itself to the scope needed for community workshops. The scale of the work required to enliven the space needs many hands. The piece itself is practice and healing work.

The collaborators and I were here most weekends in January and February. Since we are on Suquamish and Duwamish traditional lands, one weekend we had Indigenous teachers from Suquamish. These amazing women who are educators for and from their community—Tina, Jackson, and Kippy Joe— and the amount of information and knowledge that they share  in four hours is just indescribable. You can’t get that on YouTube or from a professor. You have to experience their oral teachings to begin to understand the richness and depth of the knowledge.

We had three Indigenous youth that day, and then we had a couple visitors just stop by who were interested in what we were doing. We had time to teach them and they got to learn. Every weekend I’ve had at least one Indigenous teen come in and help work with us through a partnership with yəhaw̓.

What are some of the historical uses of cattail mats?

In this region, mats were traditionally used as sheathing for summer structures. Mats are used all over the world, globally and indigenously for different surfaces. In the Plateau, Plains, Woodlands, and Southeast regions, mats are used for protection and warmth on their architectural structures.

Cattails have a multitude of uses. They protect us. When they’re just in the ground they clean the water and remove toxins. They can be food; they can be shelter; they can be water. When gathering cattails in the right spots, their uses extend beyond those listed so that one can understand the sustainability that the plant provides. Plant knowledge leads to understanding sustainability; sustainability leads to healing; healing leads to understanding their sacredness. I want everyone to know this.

I’m trying to make paper with cattails because I think that’s a more respectful use of them since they were gathered in the late fall season. I am super excited to do more scientific research on the sustainability of cattails, learning more traditional knowledge about them, and weaving. I realize you can approach a project and commit to working with a material, but then all these other sacred teachings come up, such as  how to work with other materials and plants. It’s not homogenous when we’re learning about our plant relatives.

Why have some of the cattails been cut and others left long and uneven?

As I started the process of creating this temporary installation with cattails some teachers said it was okay to gather now. When we made some mats, I knew they were not ideal materials and then, in the middle of the month, I learned that you should gather cattails at the end of summer for making mats. For this reason, some of the mats are trimmed and others are raggedy, in order to reveal the imperfection of the process. I like to break things apart until they become abstract, so that even though I’m using really traditional materials, the way I use them means you can’t necessarily tell what it is. For example, maybe your eye reads it as hair or as a bone or antlers. The raggedy mats—having them be more than one thing–helped convey that abstract concept. I think that process was kind of successful.

My architectural background makes me interested in exploring this building and wall system and I started to research and dissect like I normally do for a project. In architecture, you’re always researching and then drawing your theory. In art, you’re fabricating your theory. That’s when all this new information appeared to me. When you start to source your material and put it together, like, “This is why you have to harvest at a certain time and why you have to know where to gather and to get the reeds that are a certain height.” There are just all these little steps that make the process more efficient and that our ancestors knew and had good engineering minds for. I’m still doing it by trial and error and trying to find mentors.

The description of the temporary installation mentions that the structure is a portal for healing. How is this present in the work that is in the PACCAR Pavilion?

The sculpture forms a circular arbor and basket-like space. It incorporates some of the knowledge of the medicine wheel into the directions of the space and the layout. The teachings of the medicine wheel helps to orient our bodies with the land, plants and animals, nature and natural forces. In Plains tribes, you enter from the East like the sunrise. Here, in the West, a lot of structures face the water. All of the weavings that we made with Tina and Kippy are on that side and create filtered views to the water as much as possible since the water is so special. The North can reference the future, moving on, and death in some ways, too. The northern, open view gives people the opportunity to see that beautiful view of the park. The cattail threshold symbolizes a doorway into the future. A sustainable future holds the promise of healing.

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

Photos: Jen Au

Muse/News: We heart Asian art, keepers of the dream, and Parasite’s art

SAM News

The Seattle Asian Art Museum is officially reopen! Thank you to the thousands of people who streamed through the reimagined galleries at the free housewarming event last weekend. The museum starts regular hours on Wednesday, February 12.

“I felt freed, well, just to look”: Stefan Milne examines Boundless at the Asian Art Museum and The American War at ARTS at King Street Station, which both “explore how we see Asia.”

Seattle Refined shot a recent episode from the museum, including a fantastic segment with SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu (starts at :40).

And ParentMap’s JiaYing Grygiel has this charming look at the museum through the eyes of kids and families.

Local News

I Google this every Oscars season. Here’s a breakdown from the Seattle Times on those harder-to-understand categories.

The Stranger’s Charles Mudede on the work of Marisa Williamson, who has two shows on view in Seattle at SOIL Gallery and Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on the new local documentary, Keepers of the Dream: Seattle Women Black Panthers, which premiered last Friday at Northwest Film Forum and will screen again on February 20.

“Women were critical to the survival of the organization,” [Robyn] Spencer says. “They were the movers, the shakers, the theorists, the thinkers, the organizers — they were keeping the party going.”

Inter/National News

Artist Beverly Pepper died this week at 97. Two of her works grace the Olympic Sculpture Park. Here’s Artnet’s obituary for the legendary sculptor.

Here’s Artnet on director Bong Joon-ho’s use of suseok, or “scholar’s rocks” in his Oscar-winning film Parasite.

The New York Times’ Roberta Smith on the late, Seattle-born painter Noah Davis, whose work is again on view in a “big, beautiful exhibition” at David Zwirner.

“Your eyes and mind enter them easily and roam through the different layers of brushwork and narrative suggestion. There’s an unexpected optimism to all this. The paintings also dwell in silence, slow us down and hypnotize.”

And Finally

Did you know that the Asian Art Museum will screen this film on February 26? Well, we will!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Jueqian Fang

Muse/News: Café con leche, Kenny G, and ancient art discovered in Sulawesi

SAM News

Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, was interviewed by Puget Sound Business Journal. She shared her vision for museums, her morning routine of café con leche and public radio, and other fun facts.

“We should think of museums as civic spaces where all kinds of people can meet, convene, have a shared experience and celebrate our shared humanities. That’s more important now than ever.”

“She speaks five languages — ‘three of them badly.’”

How’s your holiday shopping going? The Seattle Times recently shared their Holiday Gift Guide; among their recommendations for gifts for men is a SAM Shop-exclusive, a Seattle edition of the chic reusable water bottle, Phil the Bottle.

Local News

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores interviewed Kenny G. Enough said.

“The Terminal 86 Grain Facility Is Hideous. It Must Be Painted” declares Gregory Scruggs in the Stranger. He argues that the facility near the Olympic Sculpture Park is the only “loose end” in the plan for the downtown waterfront.

The Seattle Times’ Scott Greenstone on Collaboration on Canvas, a new show at CORE Gallery, an exhibition of collaborative paintings by homeless people, social workers, and volunteers.

“It was community, and a bunch of women sharing space and time, and doing something together,” Giller said. “It was different every time, but it was always a good feeling.”

Inter/National News

From Artforum’s December print edition, here are 34 artists reflecting on their favorite exhibitions and events of 2019—including Natalie Ball on Guadalupe Maravilla and Judy Chicago on John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea.

Artnet’s Katie White on Homage to the Great Latin-American Masters at Houston’s Art of the World Gallery; the exhibition explores the complexity of classifying borderless Latin American art.

An archaeological study of dozens of caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has turned up visionary examples of art—perhaps the oldest known figurative art made by modern humans.

“Scrambling up a fig tree vine, he found his way into a small grotto. Its far wall bore a panel, painted with a red ocher pigment. When Aubert saw it, he was astounded. ‘I thought, wow, it’s like a whole scene,’ he says. ‘You’ve got humans, or maybe half-human half-animals, hunting or capturing these animals … it was just amazing.’”

And Finally

The Cloud Appreciation Society.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman

My Favorite Things: Regina Silveira on “Wake”

“They recreate a surrealistic landscape with the long shadows and I love them, they are all the time changing.”

– Regina Silveira

Brazilian artist Regina Silveira takes us through Richard Serra’s Wake at the Olympic Sculpture Park to share her love and appreciation for how it connects to her installation Octopus Wrap at the PACCAR Pavilion. Listen in as she recalls Richard Serra’s statement on his childhood memory of visiting a shipyard and how it influenced his work throughout his life. Visit the sculpture park in any season to experience the shifting shadows of this monumental sculpture, it is always free. You can see Silveira’s immersive installation at the park through March 2020.