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

Muse/News: Eagle’s makeover, open gazes, and dancing wire

SAM News

Brangien Davis of Crosscut notices that Alexander Calder’s The Eagle, the monumental sculpture that perches in the Olympic Sculpture Park, has its own protective covering these days. She spoke with SAM Chief Conservator Nick Dorman about the conservation and repainting of the steel sculpture, thanks to a grant from Bank of America. Look for “the big reveal” sometime around Labor Day. 

The sculpture park is where it’s at these days: John Prentice of KOMO’s Seattle Refined interviewed SAM curator Carrie Dedon about how important accessible public art is—now more than ever.

“‘Anything that can broaden your horizons or challenge your worldview, or spark your emotions, these are the things that make us human and connect us to our humanity,’ Dedon said.”

Local News

Longtime cultural critic Misha Berson writes an opinion piece for Crosscut, outlining her thoughts on how “the arts need a New Deal to survive the pandemic.”

Tom Keogh for the Seattle Times has recommendations for some streamable films (a TV series) about presidential campaigns that “give us a peek into the peculiar business of running for the White House.”

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig takes her “Currently Hanging” series outside of Seattle; here, she visits Jordan Casteel’s Within Reach, viewable via the New Museum

“Her subject, Devan, stares openly at the viewer, seemingly aware of our gaze on his body, our intrusion on his space, our sussing out of his mental state…Devan projects an openness, a sort of straightforward vulnerability that makes this painting compelling.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone on several upcoming art projects in Tusla, Oklahoma to memorialize the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, during which white mobs destroyed homes and “Black Wall Street,” killing at least 300 Black residents. 

The American Alliance of Museums is out with another survey on the impacts of COVID-19; Valentina Di Liscia of Hyperallergic outlines the major findings, including that 12,000 institutions may close permanently.

Thessaly La Force for the New York Times’ T Magazine on artist Ruth Asawa, who spent her teenage years in two concentration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II and whose important sculptural work has long been overlooked.

“I have stood in a gallery hung with Asawa’s wire sculptures, where the movement of my own body has caused them to sway, the shadows of the woven wire dancing against the floor. For a moment, I was quietly transported elsewhere — to the deep sea, to a forest or maybe to someplace altogether unearthly.”

And Finally

The making of washi paper

Photo: Sarah Michael

Muse/News: Art parks, virtual festivals, and good trouble

SAM News

For Smithsonian Magazine, Elissaveta M. Brandon explores “the magic of open-air, art-studded parks.” SAM director and CEO Amada Cruz is quoted on the importance of the Olympic Sculpture Park to “the daily life of the city.”

SAM Shop is included in this HuffPost round-up of “The Best Museum Stores For Online Shopping.” Head to the site to explore SAM exclusives and other art-centric finds.

Local News

Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger reports on the quiet reopening of Seattle galleries. A group of galleries had asked to be included in Phase 2 and were granted permission; with precautions in place, “going to the gallery doesn’t look that much different from before.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis makes a quick run to their offices at Seattle Center—and finds herself pondering public art and spaces and the stories they’ve told and tell. She also shouts out In the Spirit, a new online show of work by contemporary Native artists from the Washington State History Museum.

The Seattle Times’ Yasmeen Wafai reports on Seattle’s Bon Odori festival, which will be going virtual for the first time in its 88 years of annual celebration. 

“Although the festival won’t be the same this year, Moriguchi noted that part of Buddhism is about change and adapting, so they still plan to make the most of it. He said he will try to do a Google Hangout or Zoom with friends while they watch. Mostly, he hopes people will still dance along at home.”

Inter/National News

Lesley L. L. Blume for the New York Times on museums’ intense efforts to locate and preserve artifacts and ephemera of this three-pronged historic moment.

Writer Saidiya Hartman for Artforum on Black radical traditions of refusal and imagination, and how they persist throughout history up to the present day.

Washington Post contributor Michele Norris with a powerful tribute to civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis, who has passed away at the age of 80. In 2017, SAM was honored to host Congressman Lewis for a talk on his graphic novel, MARCH.

“He took the billy club they beat him with at Selma and turned it into a baton, a relay man running toward that promise in our founding documents that says all men are created equal when the word “all” really meant some and not others.”

And Finally

Suggested viewing: Good Trouble, the documentary directed by Dawn Porter.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Muse/News: Accumulations, Evolutions, and Dogs of The Sea

SAM News

For the new edition of ARCADE, Erin Langner reviews SAM’s John Akomfrah: Future History, which she was able to see just before the museum closed. She focuses on both the content and the technique of the artist’s immersive video essays.

“The film’s visceral urgency builds through a visual accumulation of histories. His technique calls attention to the ways that history converges with the present, often by unearthing and revisiting images that portray the brutalities many prefer not to see.”

The Olympic Sculpture Park is included in this round-up of staycation ideas from Chris Talbott for the Seattle Times; he notes “sunset would be perfect here,” which is exactly right.

Local News

Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger returns to her “Currently Hanging” series with a snapshot of the art of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), documenting the various murals and objects while they are still in their original context.

Seattle Met shares a powerful series of photographs by Jana Early from the last weeks’ protests.

Our friends down on the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium, have reopened. The Seattle Times’ Chris Talbott talks with visitors and Aquarium leaders, including director of conservation programs and partnerships Erin Meyer, about how it’s going.

“‘Reopening is about reconnecting with our mission inspiring conservation of our marine environment,’ Meyer said. ‘And we can’t do that without being able to interact with guests.’”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone speaks with Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, about the foundation’s reorientation—or “evolution”—of its grantmaking efforts entirely towards social justice issues.

With all the local focus on Seattle public art, let’s take a look at public art in New York City. ARTNews’ Claire Selvin explores everything “from Keith Haring to Dread Scott.”

The New York Times’ David Colman on a prescient augmented reality (AR) public art project by Nancy Baker Cahill that explores six historical sites and monuments across the Eastern seaboard.

“But the greater and more urgent question dangling here is: When is a public artwork an embellishment and when is it an eyesore? Arguments about patriotism and freedom, rights and responsibilities as well as what public art should do, and represent, have been thrown into high relief in 2020.”

And Finally

Swimming with the dogs of the sea.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of “John Akomfrah: Future History” at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Art walks, Juneteenth reflections, and George Floyd’s eyes

SAM News

Jeff Totey of Seattle Refined has “100 Things To Do in Seattle Right Now (or Very Soon),” including an “art walk” in SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, whose grounds are open to the public during this time.

Local News

South Seattle Emerald and Crosscut collaborated on a series of portraits of and reflections from Black Seattleites in honor of Juneteenth.

The Seattle Times’ Lewis Kamb shares all the details on how Capitol Hill’s Black Lives Matter mural came to be. Don’t miss Ken Lambert’s incredible drone image of the mural.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig returned to her post at the paper in time to cover all the happenings at CHOP. But her arts & culture beat still goes on. Here, she reflects on the many eyes of George Floyd.

“When I’m inside CHOP, I feel like I’m being watched—by the nation, by police, by the government, by history, by those we are fighting for. The whittling away of Floyd’s other features, leaving just his eyes, seems to underscore that idea: Floyd is present, here, watching over us.”

Inter/National News

Last Friday, many around the nation commemorated Juneteenth; the holiday is now officially observed at SAM. Here’s a quick listen from 2017 of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson on why she thinks it should be an official national holiday.

Peruse these Artnet editors’ picks for virtual art events to attend this week.

The New York Times presents “Sources of Self-Regard,” self-portraits by Black photographers with an accompanying essay by Deborah Willis.

“As I look at these images, I can envision how the photographers shifted their focus to construct new works or culled their own archives to revisit ideas — seeking answers to their own questions about one’s sense of self and responsibility during this unspeakable time.”

And Finally

Drive-in movie theaters to visit this summer.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Virtual Art Talks: Public Art with Teresita Fernández

Listen in as artist Teresita Fernández joins Amada Cruz, SAM’s llsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, for a virtual salon. This talk took place just days before our country erupted in protest of systemic racism and touches on how Teresita has been addressing America’s long history of power and oppression in her public artworks as well as within her current installation at the Pérez Art Museum. Featuring artworks created between 2005 and 2017, this exhibition includes “Fire (United States of the Americas).” Made shortly after the election of Donald Trump but referencing an 1848 treaty with Mexico that drastically altered the maps and notions of our present day nation states, “Fire” is a timely and haunting vision of how ideas of land and ownership impact concepts of who the public is when we talk about public art. This important conversation asks us to consider our role as viewers in understanding and shifting our own perspectives.

MacArthur fellow, Teresita Fernández is renowned for her immersive installations that seduce the viewer with their beauty but serve as a reminder of how landscapes contain history, violence, and power. Here, in Seattle, she is known for her stunning work commissioned for SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, “Seattle Cloud Cover.” This salon was originally presented as part of SAM’s Contributors Circles Members Salon Series. A benefit to our generous Contributor Circles Members, we are pleased to share this intimate salon with all of you while you stay home home SAM.

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