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Object of the Week: Country Ball 1989–2012

Summer 2020 is here. The list of what hasn’t, can’t, or won’t, happen is long. No solstice gatherings, no gay pride parades, no powwows, or large family reunions. Instead, we are a stay-at-home culture with hypochondriac tendencies, trying to make it through a pandemic that demands change and suffering, and thrives on confusion. We watch the world largely through our screens, shaking our heads at the horrifying news of an escalating death count due to the virus and to brutality. We fill up on visions of those who are losing loved ones, or Zoom together to process the despair of losing our own. In the face of such turmoil, what art makes sense? I’d like to offer my vote for an artist who offers constant revelations.

Jacolby Satterwhite was introduced to me by Erika Dalya Massaquoi when we teamed up in a search for artists to feature in an exhibition called Disguise: Masks and Global African Art. I was hooked the instant I saw his video work, which relies on an aesthetic of immersion in a multimedia cavalcade of images that take hold of your imagination in a very different way than a canvas on the wall or a sculpture on a pedestal. His screens swallow you up and turn you upside down in a chaos of people dancing and transforming while strange structures jiggle and shapeshift. This was an immediate trigger, reminding me of being in the middle of a masquerade or a carnival procession, where all your navigational skills are put to the test and you get to share moments of complete disorientation with others. I’ve always been convinced that such art is woefully underrepresented in museums, as paintings and sculptures prevail. Mr. Satterwhite is a champion of screens that challenge your mind to suspend belief in what is real, and encourage you to reconsider what about life is important to understand.

So an expedition to get to know what he is doing began. You can do it too. Thankfully, I’m not alone in my fascination with his talent and intellect. He’s got more online interviews than many artists several times his age. Partly, this is because there isn’t a dull minute when he’s on camera. A list of a few interviews to watch follows, and if you want to start with art first, there’s Country Ball––a 12 minute tour of a family gathering in North Carolina that becomes completely reinvented for reasons that the artist can best explain. In this summer of 2020, when we’re recalibrating what matters, Jacolby Satterwhite is a visionary for our time.    

ART21 Videos

March 16, 2012, Jacolby Satterwhite interviewed by Charlie Rose, 4:33.

November 7, 2017, Jacolby Satterwhite excerpt reel, 19:55.

November 6, 2019, Visions of Utopia: Performance in Progress 2017, 6:22.

And most recently:

Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art

Image: Country Ball 1989–2012, 2012, Jacolby Satterwhite, HD digital video with color 3D animation, sound, 12 min., 39 sec., Modern Art Acquisition Fund, 2013.2

Muse/News: Unplugged Studios, a home for Black art, and Subway Dogs

SAM News

SAM’s upcoming major exhibition, Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement, makes Seattle Met’s list of “10 Seattle Events to Catch This June.”

Colossal features the human + animals ceramic vessels of Claire Partington, whose work also has set up shop in SAM’s beloved Porcelain Room.

Watch this Art21 short video featuring Zanele Muholi and their “unplugged” studio practice of self-portraits and portraiture; Muholi’s work comes to SAM on July 10.

Local News

Stefan Milne of Seattle Met on poet Jane Wong, whose James W. Ray Distinguished Artist-exhibition at the Frye—exploring food, silence, and ghosts–opens tomorrow.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig goes up, up, up, to the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center to see The Factory’s latest show, work by 17 queer artists including Anthony White, Clyde Petersen, Markel Uriu, and more.

Lisa Edge of Real Change visits the Central District’s new Black arts space, Wa Na Wari, created by Jill Freidberg, Elisheba Johnson, Rachel Kessler, and Inye Wokoma. Also: the collective is curating the Summer at SAM kickoff.

“They always say ‘this is so great’ or ‘this is so wonderful,’” Johnson shared. “The first couple times it happened I said ‘you haven’t seen anything yet.’ They say ‘no, this is here.’ It’s just something about being able to walk into a space and know that it’s a cultural center for Black people that feels embodied as soon as you go through the entryway.”

Inter/National News

A Seattle man examined photographs he’d purchased 50 years ago at a Philadelphia secondhand store—only to discover they were by Weegee, the legendary crime photographer. Here’s other weird places art has been found.

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe continues to follow up on the recent incident at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in which a group of students of color were harassed by staff and other visitors.

The New York Times’ Holland Cotter looks at several shows in the city held this Pride Month in honor of the half-century Stonewall anniversary.

“For many reasons, protest is a logical direction for art right now. There is still no federal law prohibiting discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q.+ people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (although some states and cities have enacted laws prohibiting it). Trans women continue to be victims of violence. The rate of new H.I.V./AIDS transmission among gay black men remains high. And the impulse within the gay mainstream to accommodate and assimilate is by now deeply ingrained. The time has come to hear Sylvia Rivera calling us out again.”

And Finally

As a person who has taken IKEA desks and Christmas trees on Seattle buses, I am here for this.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Saint George Slaying the Dragon, 1872; designed ca. 1862, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British, 1828–1882, stained, painted, and leaded glass, 37 3/8 × 28 7/8 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Purchased, 1972M79, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts