All posts in “painting”

Art Zodiac: The Balanced Ballerina of Libra

For Libra season I’ve chosen to discuss Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. A British artist whose work focuses on people of color, Yiadom-Boakye’s painting, Trapsprung is currently on view on SAM’s third floor. The subject of the painting is a ballerina with her back to you one leg effortlessly lifted into the air in a battement to the side. More than a painting of grace, Yiadom-Boakye is calling attention to the lack of women of color in ballet, in depictions of ballerinas, and to the racism that accompanies a dark-skinned woman in that métier. Listen to choreographer, Donald Byrd on Trapsprung to hear more about the painting.

Yiadom-Boakye was born in 1977. And guess what? Pluto was in Libra from 1971 to 1983 (excluding a part of 1972 when it retrograded into Virgo for a hot minute)! As I mentioned in last month’s article, in evolutionary astrology, Pluto represents the structure of our soul. It is our actions and thoughts, strengths and weaknesses, all accumulated from our previous incarnations. Because Yiadom-Boakye’s soul is represented by Libra, her paintings can be seen as realizing the need to seek justice for the underrepresented and undervalued black body. Yiadom-Boakye wants to bring balance through social justice. This is what the ultimate Libra archetype strives towards. 

Libra is the 7th sign of the zodiac, and the sun transits the Libra constellation from September 23 to October 22. Libras like to get everyone’s input before they make a decision because they are the sign of “we” as opposed to Aries, the sign of “me.” Libras want fairness most of all. They ask all involved their opinions and needs, and then think through the impact on the group. Once things are balanced in their minds, they make a decision that best fits everyone. Libras use their verbal dexterity and charm to cajole others into agreement so a calm resolution is achieved. If you aren’t being treated fairly, then Libra is the friend to call because they will use their diplomacy and tact to help you out. Libra wants equality so that peace can reign. 

Yiadom-Boakye’s soul-need isn’t to prove herself or be seen for her own power, rather she strives to support equity and social justice through her work.

– Amy Domres, SAM’s Director of Admissions 
Amy is also a Psychospiritual Evolutionary Astrologer and Healer at Emerald City Astrology

Image: Trapsprung, 2013, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, oil on canvas78 3/4 × 70 7/8 in., General Acquisition Fund, 2014.11 © Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Corvi-Mora, London
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Twice as Nice: SAM Staff Artists Tie FTW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What artists or artworks are inspirations to you in general?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Lawrence Cenotto
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Object of the Week: Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables, After Juan Sanches Cotan

From very far away, one sees the softly rendered image of a still life, complete with various citrus fruits, root vegetables, and leafy greens. Their shapes are loose and open, lacking definition aside from the sharp color contrasts between the bright yellow of the lemon, orange of the carrot, and deep black of the background. As one moves closer to the work, peering intently at it, the fruits and vegetables in the window sill reassert their construction in a pointillist fashion. Each “brushstroke” turns out to be a dot of distinct color, contributing to the ambiguous outlines and shapes.

However, the work is not a painting with layers of dots of color. Rather, Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz created Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables, After Juan Sanches Cotan by layering cut and hole-punched paper scraps from magazines into a collage. To add yet another dimension to the work, Muniz then photographed the collage, which resulted in the final work: an enlarged chromogenic print. This photo is based on a still life by Juan Sanches Cotan, a notable Spanish Baroque painter, known for his austere yet deeply realistic still lifes.

The optical relationship between part and whole has been something that has interested Muniz for many years:

It’s like the fur in Vermeer’s painting of The Woman Reading a Letter at the Frick. You get up close and you can’t see fur anymore, just a blur of brushstrokes. Then you go back and it’s fur again. . . . I think art without pretenses of being more than a visual exercise can indeed be powerful and complete.1

Throughout his career, he has used elements such as sugar to construct portraits of children working on sugar plantations, peanut butter and jelly to recreate the Mona Lisa, and garbage to depict pickers in one of Brazil’s largest garbage dumps. His works connect past and present and create illusions of famous and recognizable works.

Emma Ming Wahl, SAM Curatorial Intern

1 Vik Muniz, “Bomb Magazine: Vik Muniz by Mark Magill.” Vik Muniz. Accessed September 10, 2019. http://vikmuniz.net/library/vik-muniz-by-mark-magill.

Image: Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables, after Juan Sanches Cotan, 2004, Vik Muniz, Chromogenic print, 72 x 99 1/2 in. (182.9 x 252.7cm) Gift of Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Jane Davis, Barney A. Ebsworth, Henry and Mary Ann James, Janet Ketcham, Sally Neukom, Virginia Wright, and Ann Wyckoff in honor of Chiyo Ishikawa, 2004.93.

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SAM Gallery Artist Kellie Talbot Travels for Art

SAM Gallery artist Kellie Talbot travels across the country with her husband, cat, and duck, in a truck pulling her mobile studio, an Airstream trailer they named Mr. Salsa. Kellie Talbot’s America on view at SAM Gallery September 4–29, showcases some of her newest works. Talbot has established a national reputation for her oil paintings of the neon signs scattered across America. In the last two years, her family has driven 36,000 miles, through 29 states, in pursuit of source material for her paintings. She plans her route, knowing where certain signs are located, but is always open to possibilities and unexpected opportunities. Some of her favorite signs and memories come from happening upon them. One unexpected ice storm led them to Vaughn, NM (population 446), where Talbot found one neon sign after another.  She was out in the snow, climbing on her Airstream trailer to get photographs for future paintings. When she’s traveling the country, Talbot says “I photograph almost every sign I come across because when I am in collecting mode I don’t want to pass up any potential. Sometimes it’s more obvious. Some of those obvious ones have an iconic shape or beautiful neon that just demands to be painted.”

Once Talbot returns to her studio in Seattle or New Orleans, she relies on reference photos from her trip, to paint photorealist paintings of the signs that represent the landscape of American artifacts, craftsmanship, and history. Talbot describes how “once I am in my studio I spend a lot of time with my reference material planning out a body of work. I like to have a balance of close-ups mixed with landscapes. I like there to be a push and pull of sorts. Some signs are small but I paint them big while others I can enlarge just portions. Almost every sign has the potential to be painted. I just have to find the aspect of that sign I want to paint.”  Talbot is often drawn to a particular letter or shadows from a sign. Focusing on a smaller portion of the sign allows the viewer to enjoy the shapes, shadows, and colors in a new way. Talbot intentionally includes the rust and decay in the neon signs she paints. These details aren’t negatives to the artist, they are signs of time and experience, both an elegy and a hope.

Meet the artist at the opening reception on Thursday, September 5, 6–7:30 pm at SAM Gallery.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Image: Courtesy of the artist.
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SAM Gallery Artist Creates a Healing Environment

For her recent commission for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), SAM Gallery artist Niki Keenan created 11 paintings focused on healing environments. SCCA brings together the leading research teams and cancer specialists of Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s, and UW Medicine. The treatment rooms in their newly expanded SCCA outpatient clinic in South Lake Union feature Keenan’s work.

Niki Keenan’s paintings are inspired by the natural world, specifically sunrises and sunsets in Seattle. She uses dynamic, bold colors to paint water scenes with bridges and reflections from the vantage point of a boat. Keenan writes, “Each of the paintings in this series depicts a Pacific Northwest bridge, most of them are in Washington State, one is in British Columbia, Canada. I use these bridges as a way to frame the sky, as a way to show off the sun’s rays dancing around the architecture and as an anchor to a specific place. These brilliant sunsets and sunrises are happening all around us and by showing them happening in places we recognize, it makes the experience a shared one. Also, I believe bridges are symbolic of journeys in that they help us get where we want to go.”

In the new treatment rooms at SCCA, Keenan hopes her paintings will help transport viewers and give them something new to focus on, during their treatments. She believes “being transported during times of stress and uncertainty, is such a gift and so vital for healing. Paintings can literally turn a regular wall into a portal and the place you get to go in my paintings is full of hope, happiness, light.”

Keenan began showing her work at the SAM Gallery in 2018 and was quickly discovered by local collectors. SAM Gallery supports local artists and their careers by increasing their exposure and finding audiences for their work. 

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Photo: Dave Keenan. Images: Niki Keenan.

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Object of the Week: Daedalus/Upliftment

In Daedalus/Upliftment, a young Black man struggles to take flight. His gaze is fixed on the ground instead of the sky, with eyes downcast and obscured by gold sunglasses. One hand is outstretched to conceal himself. The other grasps a plume of pheasant feathers, with a rope tied around his wrist. A wreath of ostrich feathers adorns his neck, draping his chest and blending into bright white pants. The feathers symbolize the deities Yoruba Orisas Obatala of wisdom, and Osun of love.

This full-body portrait portrays someone steady, yet vulnerable, someone who embodies the emotional juxtapositions of freedom and captivity, hope and doubt. The dazzling high-tops—inlaid with gold leaf and spray paint detail, dripping to the edges of the canvas—paired with grayscale triangle-patterned socks are captivating. Although a symbol of value, the gold sneakers carry much weight: a strain against the aspirations and ability to rise.

Daedalus/Upliftment is from Dr. Fahamu Pecou’s 2015 series, I Know Why The Caged Bird Blings, the series title inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” A visual/performing artist and scholar, Pecou concentrates on Black masculinity in his work. Pecou probes today’s media representations, expectations, and images of Black men removed from Black agency—including stereotypes of violence—and their emotional toll on readings and performances of Black masculinity. In 2017, Pecou was the subject of a retrospective exhibition “Miroirs de l’Homme” (Mirrors of the Man) in Paris, France and a recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation “Painters and Sculptors” Award.[1]

Pecou continues to lead speaking engagements across the nation, and gave a TED Talk in Atlanta, Georgia, “An artist’s counterpoint to black masculinity and identity stereotypes,” sharing his own testimonies as a Black man in America.

Daedalus/Upliftment alludes to the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus built wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape their prison. Despite Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax on the wings, falling and drowning in the ocean. Pecou reinterprets this classic tragedy and questions the actions of Daedalus as Icarus’ father. Daedalus/Uplifting provokes a meditation on paternalism and masculinity, with “the breakdown of intergenerational communication and the emotional complexities within the Black male experience that trouble the desire and ability to take flight.”[2]

In the far-right corner of the stark white background, Pecou leaves us a surrealist poem:

Uplift meant

Uplift men

up… lift men

UP! lift men…

Up.

– Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

Image: Daedalus/Upliftment, 2016, Fahamu Pecou, acrylic, gold leaf and spray paint on canvas, 84 × 48 in., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2016.20 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
[1] “The Official Website of Visual/Performing Artist and Scholar Dr. Fahamu Pecou.” https://www.fahamupecouart.com/
[2] Fahamu Pecou: https://www.instagram.com/p/BItROlBDUIg/?hl=en
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Pop-Art Video: Like A Hammer

How old was artist Jeffrey Gibson when he started going to the club? How do Peter, Paul, and Mary influence Gibson’s work? What did Nietzsche have to say about hammers? Find out in this video of info nuggets about Gibson’s sculpture, Like A Hammer, on view at SAM in the special exhibition of the same name!

Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is a major museum exhibition presenting a significant selection of this contemporary artist’s exuberant artwork created since 2011. Gibson’s complex work reflects varied influences, including fashion and design, abstract painting, queer identity, popular music, and the materials and aesthetics of Native American cultures. The more than 65 works on view include beaded punching bags, figures and wall hangings, abstract geometric paintings on rawhide and canvas, performance video, and a new multimedia installation.

See more of Gibson’s club kids on view through May 12!

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Object of the Week: Winter Landscape on the Banks of the Seine

“An artist should express his feeling with the harmony or idea of color which he possesses naturally. He should not copy the walls, or objects on a table, but he should, above all, express a vision of color, the harmony of which corresponds to his feeling.”[1] – Henri Matisse

During the rise of modernism, which occurred between the late 19th century to the early 20th century,[2] artists began to move away from representation towards abstraction, and they changed the types of painting that were traditionally accepted in the Western world. At this time, artists started to return to the basic natures of paintings such as colors, lines, shapes, and textures, rather than words and representations in order to communicate and interact with their audience.

Winter Landscape on the Banks of the Seine, which Matisse began in 1904 and finished in 1905, contains quick vibrant dabs of color pigments against the dreary grey and stark white background of the canvas. Matisse did not literally paint a winter setting along Paris’ River Seine. He painted the emotions that this setting produced within him. By arranging cool and warm tones on a two-dimensional canvas, Matisse was able to successfully convey the feeling of gentleness and serenity within his work. He left behind these emotions for Seattle Art Museum visitors to explore and perceive.

Widely recognized as one of the most important and innovative colorists during the post-impressionism movement, Henri Matisse focused on creating harmonious, unified, and balanced arrangements of colors on two-dimensional canvases to evoke emotions within his audience. Though Henri Matisse’s mother was a painter, he did not have a direct path into the world of art. He began to study law in Paris and even though he considered it to be tedious and uninteresting, he still passed the bar exam in 1888. He reluctantly started to practice law after he graduated because his father arranged a job for him in a law office. His career path was altered, however, when he received art supplies from his mother in 1889. “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life,”[3] Matisse stated.

Happy birthday to Henri Matisse (December 31, 1869–November 3, 1954)! Thank you for your legacy and contribution to the world of art.

– Trang Tran, SAM’s Emerging Arts Leader Intern

[1] Jack D. Flam, Matisse On Art (New York: Phaidon Press Limited, 1973), 51.
[2] “What is Modern Art?” Museum of Modern Art, accessed 20 Dec 2018, https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/what-is-modern-art/
[3] “The Personal Life of Henri Matisse,” Henri Matisse, accessed 23 Oct 2018, http://www.henri-matisse.net/biography.html.
Image: Winter Landscape on the Banks of the Seine, ca. 1904-05, Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 12 3/4 x 15 3/4 in., Gift of Norman Davis, 91.88
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Object of the Week: White Night

Cloud cover in the Pacific Northwest makes stargazing difficult at times, but that didn’t stop Mark Tobey from painting White Night in 1942.

Featuring the artist’s signature “white writing” treatment—a dense and abstract calligraphic mode of painting—White Night manages to evoke a sense of spirituality while also conjuring the night sky. After the artist’s conversion to the Baha’i Faith in 1918 and subsequent study of Zen painting in Kyoto, Japan, Tobey would indeed, throughout his long career, explore the relationship between the spiritual and the abstract in art. In the words of the artist, “I believe that painting should come through the avenues of meditation rather than the canals of action.”

It is a difficult endeavor to paint something felt rather than known. Yet somehow Tobey is able to capture the awesome power and energy of the night sky. Of course, the sky we see today is very different from what Tobey would be giving representation to in 1942. The first satellite was launched into space fifteen years later, ushering in a new era of space exploration and forever altering our relationship with the cosmos. In this context, White Night becomes a rather prescient painting—somehow predicting the invisible activity that would soon populate the night sky, and the images of space such satellites would capture.

The Geminid meteor shower is tonight, and while we might not be able to experience it through the winter clouds, we can still look up and recall this painting’s dynamic and mysterious energy.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: White Night, 1942, Mark Tobey, tempera on paperboard mounted on composition board, 22 1/4 x 14 in., Gift of Mrs. Berthe Poncy Jacobson, 62.78 © Mark Tobey / Seattle Art Museum
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