All posts in “Seattle Art Museum”

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For the Love of Art Member Profile: Brian Nova

BRIAN NOVA
Jazz musician
Friend member since 2004

Brian Nova has been a member of SAM for over a decade. His membership—like all memberships—supports programs at the museum, including tours and workshops for students, talks by visiting artists from across the world, and the preservation of more than 24,000 objects in our collection.

When we sat down to talk on a sunny day at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, Brian had just flown in from Napa Valley. He’s a jazz musician, and travels all over the country playing music. His enthusiasm for the arts was catching, and we all felt lucky when he picked up his guitar and played for a little bit as his picture was being taken.

What role does art play in society?
As a touring jazz artist, for me art plays one of the most important roles in society. It unites people of all races, religions, and cultures by giving us a deeper, more meaningful connection. Art forces all who look, feel, or listen, to look, feel, or listen a little deeper. Art helps us to look within ourselves as well as each other.

Art is the fiber that allows connections between those who dwell there. When we look back upon past cultures, past societies, it is the art of that culture, the art of that society, that is remembered, admired, and built upon.

You’re a jazz musician! What do you play?
I play guitar and sing.

You do this professionally?
I do. I tour all over the world doing this. It’s my job. I tour with a lot of different people. I just moved back to Seattle; I was living in the South for a while. I grew up in Seattle. I spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill and in Volunteer Park.

The Asian Art Museum was always a place I would hang out, write music, and just become one with the place.

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Do you have memories of the Seattle Art Museum?
Oh, absolutely. I remember coming in the ’60s and early ’70s when I was a kid. My parents dragged us through—as kids we didn’t want to come.

Since then I have brought my niece and nephew both to the Seattle Art Museum and the Asian Art Museum—twice this past year. Getting them used to the world of museums and world of history and getting a bit of art and culture in their lives. It’s getting harder and harder to find and I travel all over the world. So when we have a place like SAM here, I say, “You kids are coming with me.”

Why do you think that’s so important for them?
Well, I am an artist. This is my world. So without art…you know, it’s the lack of art in our culture that has given us no back-up. For me, when I travel around the world, what stands out from all the old civilizations is their culture and that’s all it is. No one cares about their commerce; no one cares about anything else. Maybe a little bit of architecture and science, which is still art. That is what holds true in every society. We are looking for: “What is your culture?”

To be able to look back at other cultures and get an eye into what they were thinking and going through—I think that’s invaluable. I think the arts, coming from the music side—they’re essential for growth in kids.

I think that at any age you are never too old to pick up an instrument; you are never too old or young to come into the museum and learn about the world, art, and culture. To me that’s why places like SAM are so important.

How long have you been a member of SAM?
Since the late ’90s. I have belonged to the de Young Museum in San Francisco from about the same time.

Do you remember what prompted you to join?
Yes, actually, it was through jazz. They had just started doing the Art of Jazz program at SAM. I got called to do it. I was blown away at how gorgeous it was.

Also, I lived in a building not too far away and my neighbor worked at SAM. She said if I wanted to go she could get me a pass. I went with a friend and I couldn’t believe Seattle has a place like this. With the Hammering Man and all…

I thought wow, this is really different than I remember. SAM was around when I was young but not as prolific as it is today—and with the park…! It’s pretty cool with all the events they are doing and everything.

SAM has really grown up and I am just so happy to be here.

Join Brian as a SAM member today.

For the Love of Art

For the Love of Art

When we think about what SAM is—What makes us stand out? Why do people want to spend time here?—the first thing that came to mind is you.

Without all the people walking through our doors every day, bringing great energy, insight, and passion to the art, SAM wouldn’t be the same. Without your voices and active eyes and ears, our events wouldn’t be anything at all.

And when we drilled a little deeper, to ask why you come here, we decided that instead of guessing, we should go straight to the source, and ask our members.

Everyone had fascinating things to say. Everyone has a story to tell.

We were overwhelmed with great responses about how people feel about museums, about SAM in general, with memories of people’s creative childhoods, and explanations of what their favorite piece of art is and why.

There was a common thread—when you get right down to it, people come to SAM because they love art. They live creative lives because they love art. They come to events and connect with others because they love art.

Everything we do, too—the exhibitions we bring, the events and programs we organize, the efforts we make to bring Seattle together as a community—it’s all for the love of art.

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We had such an amazing time talking to our members! Your feedback fuels our work, and makes us want to do even more to connect art to life.

Keep an eye out for these member stories over the coming year. We’ll feature the interviews on the blog once a month. (Pssst: Sign up for our enewsletter so you know when the interviews go up!) You’ll also start to see “For the Love of Art” pop up in the museum and in SAM magazine, our print newsletter for members that goes out three times a year.

And—we’re going to want to hear your story, too. Keep an eye out—we’ll be asking you why you love art and what you do to show that love.

Want in on the fun? A great way to start building your art community is to join SAM as a member and get to know all these other amazing people.

Photos: Scott Areman.
#MuseumBowl

SAM SO CONFIDENT IN THE SEAHAWKS THAT THEY CHALLENGE EVERY MUSEUM IN NEW ENGLAND TO A WAGER

Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we are challenging TWO different New England museums to wagers on the Super Bowl!

We challenge the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA

Terms:
The loser funds an all-expenses paid vacation to SAM for one of their major artworks. Oh, sorry, that assumes the Clark Art Institute will lose. Well, that seems about right.

Ok, ok. The winner gets the privilege of displaying a major work of art from the other museum for three months. The wagered masterpieces respectively showcase the beautiful landscapes of the Northwest and the Northeast.

The Artwork:

At stake is SAM’s majestic Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast from 1870 by Albert Bierstadt from SAM’s American Art collection, which is wagered by Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

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Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870, Albert Bierstadt, oil on canvas, Seattle Art Museum, Gift of the Friends of American Art at the Seattle Art Museum, with additional funds from the General Acquisition Fund, 2000.70.

In 1870, Albert  painted one of the most stunning subjects of his career: a vision of a stormy Puget Sound. This spectacular, eight-foot-wide view of Puget Sound was the result of the Eastern Seaboard’s newly awakened interest in this faraway region that the artist had visited only briefly seven years before. It’s more than just a landscape painting—it is also a historical work, a narrative of an ancient maritime people, and a rumination on the ages-old mountains, basaltic rocks, dense woods, glacial rivers, and surf-pounded shores that have given the Northwest its look and also shaped its culture.

Conversely, the New England’s West Point, Prout’s Neck (1900), one of the Clark’s greatest works by Winslow Homer, is wagered by Michael Conforti, Director of the Clark Art Institute.

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Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), West Point, Prout’s Neck, 1900. Oil on canvas, 30 1/16 x 48 1/8 in. (76.4 x 122.2 cm). Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.7.

Rorschach says, “I am sure that this beautiful Homer painting will be coming to Seattle after the Seahawks defeat the Patriots for another win. We are already making plans to host this incredible work of American art in our galleries so that the 12s can enjoy it.”

Can’t wait to see how good it looks on our walls. Think we saw some staff down there measuring where the nail should go earlier.

We challenge the Clark Art Institute AND the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to a TWITTER THROW DOWN

Follow hashtag #museumbowl this Friday, January 30, at 10:30 am (PST) to join in and support our team! On Monday morning, following the game, the losing team’s museum will post a collage honoring five major works from SAM’s the champion’s collection.

Don’t miss the action as we take on basically everyone two museums in this epic Art Bowl XLIX!

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Rare Peruvian Book on View: Antigüedades Peruanas, 1851

In addition to the many amazing objects in SAM’s current exhibition, Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, in SAM’s special exhibition galleries, there is another important Peruvian object on view just one floor up. The two volume set Antigüedades Peruanas, or Peruvian Antiquities, is currently being displayed just outside the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library on the fifth floor in the South Building.

Antigüedades Peruanas was published in 1851 in Vienna and consists of a large folio edition of rich lithographic plates and a smaller quarto size volume of explanatory text. It was authored and illustrated by curator Mariano Eduardo de Rivero y Ustáriz (Peruvian, 1798–1857) and naturalist Johann Jakob von Tschudi (Swiss, 1818–1889). This work is a rare first edition, with less than sixty complete sets available in libraries throughout the world, notably including: the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the British Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

The chromolithography work, created by D. Leopold Müller (Austrian, 19th century), is significant. It includes an impressive title page, depicting portraits of Incas carved on a massive “puerta” with a view of the Peruvian landscape. Other large-scale images throughout the folio volume include those of mummies, ornaments, tapestries, monuments, weapons and objects similar to those on view in the Peru exhibition.*

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Lamína V. Photograph by Phil Stoiber. From a private collection.

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Lamína XXVI. Photograph by Phil Stoiber. From a private collection.

 

Come see why this work has been called “One of the most important and comprehensive works on Peruvian archaeology, virtually the earliest by a Peruvian, and the first of its kind.”

This work is on view during library hours, Wednesday through Friday 10am – 4pm. To learn more about the Bullitt Library, and the other libraries at SAM, please visit this link.

*PLEASE NOTE: Each week we will turn to a new page. Please return often to see another illustration from this exceptional work. Reproductions of the complete set of lithographs are also available for viewing.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Top image: Frontispiece to Antigüedades Peruanas (1851). Photograph by Phil Stoiber. From a private collection.
Hillaire carving the pole for Kobe, Japan, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 1961. Photograph by Harvey Davis. Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry.

Joseph Hillaire: Carver of the Kobe-Seattle Sister City Friendship Pole

Hillaire carving the pole for Kobe, Japan, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 1961. Photograph by Harvey Davis. Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry.

Joe Hillaire Kwul-kwul-tu, (meaning “spirit of the war club”) was a man of indomitable spirit, grace, intelligence, and talent. For his Lummi people, he perpetuated song and dance traditions through the Setting Sun Dance group, was instrumental in reviving the Lummi Stommish water festival (and Chief Seattle Days at Suquamish), taught totem carving and canoe-making, and was a voice for social and political causes. Of parallel importance were his actions as a liaison between Native and non-Native people. He imparted knowledge of Lummi heritage to anthropologists Bernhard J. Stern and Erna Gunther (curator of the Northwest Coast Native exhibit at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair) and ethnomusicologist Willard Rhodes, as well as to the Boy Scouts of America and various school groups in the Seattle region. Hillaire also provided guidance to business and civic leaders, and traveled throughout the U.S. and to Japan with the objective of fostering inter-cultural friendships and bringing attention to Native culture.

Totem pole carved by Joe Hillaire, Kobe, Japan, 1961. Photograph by Lawrence Denny Lindsley, 1967. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division.

The 35-foot-tall pole depicted in the image to the right was carved by Hillaire in 1961 as a part of a two-pole project to call attention to the upcoming 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Kobe is Seattle’s sister city and the story pole was a goodwill gift meant to point out commonalties between the two cities, ease the memories of WWII, and promote trade between the U.S. and Japan. Hillaire’s approach is richly symbolic: two sisters grow closer as they acknowledge the things they share, like the salmon, mountains and sea, and the rising sun (Japan) and setting sun (Seattle). The monster blowing a dark cloud symbolizes the darkness of war, while the sun alludes to the hope of peace.

Images from Joseph Hillaire’s Trip to Kobe, Japan (1961)

 

 

 

Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems

Lummi artist Joseph Hillaire was commissioned to carve two story poles in connection with the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, we are remembering Hillaire’s contributions to the Century 21 Exposition in a series of weekly posts. Please check back each week or subscribe to our RSS to learn more about Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems. 

Top Photo: Hillaire carving the pole for Kobe, Japan, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 1961. Photograph by Harvey Davis. Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry.
Hillaire and grandson, Ernie Lewis, 1950s. Photograph courtesy of Pauline Hillaire.

Joseph Hillaire: Carver of the Century 21 Exposition Totem Pole

Joseph Raymond Kwul-kwul’tu Hillaire (1894–1967) was an artist, storyteller, performer, Native activist, and diplomat. When Joe Hillaire was born, lingering distrust permeated Native-White relations. Many of Joe’s totem poles were created as civic monuments and served to bridge cross-cultural understanding, as well as to project the rich Lummi oral traditions.

Hillaire’s monumental carvings are “story poles”—the deeds of ancestral heroes and their encounters with supernatural beings appearing on both sides of the pole. When Hillaire learned carving from his father at sixteen, Coast Salish totem pole carving was a recent practice. While this art form was adopted in shape and size from northern Native groups, it displayed more naturalistic figures (adapted from traditional interior house posts) and arranged them in narrative fashion.

In 1961, Hillaire was commissioned to create two totem poles for the Seattle World’s Fair celebration, one to tour the United States to promote the Fair (and the unique heritage of the Northwest) and one for Seattle’s sister city, Kobe, Japan. The Land in the Sky Pole—which tells the story of the adventures of two brothers who enter the sky worldtraveled to 300 cities and towns before it was returned to Seattle for the April 21, 1962 opening of the Exposition. By the time it was completed the sixty-six year-old Hillaire having carved on it in twenty-five states! The Land in the Sky Pole was never erected at the Seattle Center but stood near Chief Seattle’s grave on the Suquamish reservation from 1963 until 2005, when it was deemed unsafe and taken down, and returned to his ancestral home, the Lummi reservation near Bellingham, WA.

Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems

Lummi artist Joseph Hillaire was commissioned to carve two story poles in connection with the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, we are remembering Hillaire’s contributions to the Century 21 Exposition in a series of weekly posts, starting this week! Please check back each week or subscribe to our RSS to learn more about Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems.

Hillaire and grandson, Ernie Lewis, 1950s. Photograph courtesy of Pauline Hillaire.
Styrofoam Model of a Yam Mask

Mounting and Yam Masks at the Oceanic Gallery

On April 30, I begin exploring the inspiring installation on view at the Oceanic gallery.  This gallery not only contains the unusual art of the Oceanic islands but also an unusual approach to viewing the work.  The inclusion of commission installation pieces created by local Seattle artist Allyce Wood provides, as curator Pam McClusky explains, clues to the objects origins beyond the accompanying textual plaques.  These objects, which were removed from their originally context to a museum context, are reunited with the visual elements of their initial environment.  Part One, The Unique Installations in the Oceanic Gallery, examined the ways in which the installation connects the works to their native environment and functional cultural contexts.  Part two continues the discussion with a behind-the-scenes perspective on the gallery exploring the mounting of these objects.

 

You may not initially realize that the Yam Masks are displayed on replica yams.  Despite the huge size of those in the case compared what you’d expect from a grocery store, these yams are actually much smaller than the champion yams of Papua New Guinea’s Abelam people.  Their yams reach heights of nine or even twelve feet!  If you don’t believe me, the case text, or have trouble imaging a yam so large an accompanying photograph provides a visual of the yams: taller than their proud owner and nearly as tall as his house!  The yams’ size demonstrates the conflict between the museum environment, the objects’ natural environment, and providing proper context.  A museum environment dictates that objects should be approachable and so are displayed at an appropriate height.  The natural environment for these masks would be mounted on tall yams, a biodegradable natural product where the mask is above our heads.  This poses problems in a museum since the natural material would degrade and having the masks at a similar height would inhibit viewing.  Their current context in the Oceanic gallery compromises these two methods by shrinking the size of the yams so they can display the mask within a similar context but at an approachable level, much like a manikin.  Perhaps we should refer to these yams as, yam-ikins for the masks.

These yam-ikins, while mimicking the shape, color, and at least width of the yams, might look like a simple installation created by Allyce, but they double as an intricate and supportive mount for the masks.  For one mask with a simple curved back the creation of the yam-ikin was fairly straightforward.  The mount for the other mask is far more complicated.  The process highlights the skill of the mount makers who need to capture the feel of the object in its environment without compromising its vitality.  They must both present the object to the viewer, while restricting its motion and preserving the object for future generations.

The Yam Mask’s “Pillow” Mount

The mask in question for this mount is beautifully woven.  Its reds and yellows contrast against a rich dark black and a few of its original arching feathers remain.  In order to accommodate the mask’s dome-shaped interior, mount maker Gordon Lambert created a “pillow” with flaps.  The pillows fill the form of the mask, supporting the fibers without straining or stretching them.  They are flexible and are attached to a frame with a hinge, so they can move and respond to the mask as needed.  This support rests on aluminum tubes that provide vertical stability.  Parts of the pillows that might be seen were painted black and to disguise an awkward connection between the base of the mask and the yam, Allyce created a grass necklace in the proper style.   Allyce also created the yams, which wrap around the plain base to provide the masks their appropriate context on a yam.

Gordon noted how fun the yam-ikins were to create make due to its inventiveness and the challenges it created.  Rebecca Raven, another mount maker, commented on the overall inventive nature of the mounts.  For instance, the Asmat War Shields maintain their old steel L-mounts and were originally displayed facing forward in a line.  Now the shields twist and turn.  In order to turn the mounts for the new display, the mount makers required a specialized wrench to reach a bolt within a shallow space.  As no wrench of this kind exists, they built a special one-of-kind wrench just for this project and the mounts for these war shields.

Other elements of mounting and installation deal with issues of conservation.  While the Marquesan bone ornament, on displayed with the tattooed man and War club, would originally be hung around the man’s neck or head, conservation differences between the ornament and the club required their separation.  Therefore the reproduced tattooed Marquesan could not both hold the club and be adorned with the ornament.  The current separation between the man and the ornament allows the ornament to interact with the figure while not becoming lost in a crowd of objects.

Each part of the mount is ready for final assembly!

Issues such as these demonstrate the complex problem solving for Rebecca and Gordon in regards to mounting the work.  The added collaboration with the Allyce and her installations along with their collaboration with gallery designers and curators provided a new dimension to the mounts they often create.  New problems had to be solved for these unique Oceanic objects so they could both be protected and appreciated.  Their work with the Oceanic gallery prepped the team for the mounts they needed to create for the current exhibition Gauguin & Polynesia whose Polynesian materials are quite similar to those in SAM’s Oceanic gallery.  However, as Pam notes, the permanent Oceanic gallery provides longevity for the museum and the Oceanic collection as opposed to the fleeting views the special exhibition offers.

 

From the unique installation elements that provides visual context to the arts so far removed from their original, non-museum context to the mounting of these pieces we learned so much about the process of creating such a unique and beautiful display for SAM’s Oceanic collection.  The considerations, effort, and preparation that all occurred behind-the-scenes for this seamless viewing, is incredible.  Each element of the gallery—the installations, the Oceanic art, the mounts, the information panels—come together creating an inviting environment that transports the viewer away from Seattle and onto the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

 

Be sure to check out the final product!  The Oceanic Gallery is located on SAM’s third floor.

 

– Sarah Lippai, Public Relations Intern

Top photo: Styrofoam Model of a Yam Mask
Wild Plum, Iskra Johnson, transfer print on paper, 33x25 in.

Iskra Johnson Shows New Work “Contemplating Nature” at SAM Gallery

Iskra Johnson, like most of us, navigates the territory between the natural and the modern world. She has a successful business providing custom letterform solutions and logotypes for packaging materials for companies looking to personalize their branding aesthetic. That Gardenburger logo? She created it. The Seattle Times brandmark? It’s in her portfolio. She utilizes many channels of modern technology (as one must be to survive in the current communications arena) working with design software, digital cameras and a smart phone as well as her website, blog and Facebook pages, all duly updated to maintain relevance with today’s desire for immediacy and attainability.

While maintaining her life as a savvy business owner, Johnson works with equal diligence in her fine art career.  And perhaps by proximity to (her studio is in the middle of a garden) the seasonal changing of flora and fauna, she is greatly inspired by her natural surroundings.

Images of flowers, leaves, water and wildlife are featured in her work and layered with atmospheric shadows and textures. Each composition is carefully crafted, integrating digital photographic elements with older analog prints, powdered pigment and paint. Employing a unique transfer process, each print is handmade and sensitive to timing, humidity and pressure.  It takes a great deal of repetition and attention to detail to produce one successful print. To some this could be considered time consuming and exhaustive, but to Johnson it is a process that allows for pause, contemplation and absorption.

“For me contemplation of nature is a blessed, necessary antidote to the political life. It’s reflective and absorbing. There is no ‘issue,’ nothing to prove, and nothing to be right about. But it’s not a passive state. Embedded in contemplation is the search for transformative metaphor. One of my favorite plants in the garden is the hydrangea…as it changes through the seasons; it is beautiful at every stage. It makes me regard the cycles of my own life from a bigger impersonal perspective and it helps me find harmony with the processes of change. There are times when I think the state of peace that comes from nature is denial, but more often I think it is the basis of everything good-it’s what holds up the world and makes it possible to live.”

Come see new work by Iskra Johnson as well as artists Tyler Boley, Nichole DeMent, Eva Isaksen, Christopher Perry, Aithan Shapira, Nina Tichava and Allyce Wood in the upcoming exhibition, Contemplating Nature, open May 10 – June 9.

Meet the artists May 10, 5 – 7 pm, for the opening reception at SAM Gallery, 1220 3rd Avenue (at University), downtown Seattle.

-Alyssa Rhodes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Wild Plum, Iskra Johnson, transfer print on paper, 33×25 in.

The Unique Installations in the Oceanic Gallery

When walking into the Oceanic gallery on the third floor you may be struck by a mix of the familiar and the unusual.  This occurs with both the art and the display.  The pieces that comprise the collection include shields, masks, clubs, and figures.  There is nothing too unusual about them until you take a closer look and discover the unfamiliar carved designs or shapes whose culture you can’t quite place, that are if you didn’t catch Gauguin & Polynesia.  While the works are within a familiar museum setting—some behind glass or on a pedestal—you probably noticed, almost immediately, that they are given an environment.  As you walk into the gallery Asmat War shields confront you.  They burst out of the forest.  Lush New Guinea flora in various shades of green backdrop the shields, rejuvenating them.

Oceanic arts curator Pam McClusky decided that in creating this gallery the artwork’s origins required elaboration in order to offer clues about their original function and cultural tradition not only through text, a traditional museum approach, but also through installation.  When considering the works from SAM’s Oceanic collection, Pam realized just how unusual these objects were in terms of their origin and context.  As most of us approach art from a Western perspective and a Western tradition, the works from Oceania are a bit of a puzzle.  For us, art falls into definable categories where the ancient arts of painting and sculpture are favored and in which most art adorns the walls of our houses for decoration or honored in the rooms of our museums for contemplation.  While not all Western arts are removed from functional contexts, our history favors these more traditional arts.  In the region of Oceania the arts are steeped in culture and context.  Their strange context derives from their function and the cultural traditions of the people who made them.

The Asmat War shields, Jamasji, for example are not static parts of their environment.  They are beacons painted in red and white that contrast from the greens of the forests.  They protect the warriors handling them.  They twist and turn as they fend off opponents in the fields.  Pam decided that installations designed to reunite the objects with their original visual context would facilitate our approach; bridging the gap between Western artistic traditions and the abandoned visual environment and foreign culture of the islands of the Oceania.  This approach allows for the animation of the Asmat shields along with the other objects of the gallery.

While contemplating the art and its context and relation to the human scale, Pam walked past the windows of SAM Gallery which were displaying the work of Allyce Wood.  Allyce’s two dimensional layered environments were just what Pam was looking for.  Starting with sketches and images from Pam along with her own research Allyce reproduced the visual elements required to reunite the work with its artistic environment and cultural context. The installation elements allow the glass to disappear and for the objects to return to their original setting.  This is one of the most striking aspects about the gallery space.  It is amazing how the objects and the installation negotiate the museum space and environmental context.  Some objects are intricately paired with Allyce’s installations while the installations for other objects are subtle additions.  Each object and its installation are unique, as the installations reflect the origins of the art.  A painstakingly reproduced Asmat man stands next to one of the shields, providing human scale and emphasizing the object’s use for warfare.

Take the time to explore the gallery.  You will discover the interplay between the museum and the origins, the art and the installation.  Perhaps you’ll be drawn to the Marquesan man or the male figure from Rapa Nui.  The Marquesan man, a reproduced figure created by Allyce sits with a War Club or u’u.  The design for this installation derives from an engraving of a Marquesan warrior by Emile Lassalle in 1843.  The man stands out for his tattoos, tattoos that identify his power and prestige, and for the u’u that he holds.  Compare this u’u to those on display upstairs at Gauguin & Polynesia.  They are all very similar with craved heads and a deep, rich color, although the club in the Oceanic gallery lays across the lap of the plywood tattooed figure, mimicking the weapon’s handling by a warrior and merging the object as one of both function and of art.  This dynamic counter-play between installation and art demonstrates the seamless method of display created by Pam and Allyce.

More subtle installations occur on the walls opposite the entrance with the Rapa Nui male figures, Moai Kavakava, and Melanesia canoe figurehead, nguzu nguzu.  Wall paintings contextualize the pieces.  A painting of a massive stone statue behind the Maai Kavakava links the figures with their iconic counterparts that encircle the Chilean Island of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island.  A similar method is used for the canoe figurehead, behind which extends a prow of a canoe.  Originally Pam and Allyce planed for a three-dimensional canoe model to extend from the wall, with the nguzu nguzu nestled in the right location.  The painted model demonstrates not only a subtle reminder of the work’s functional relevance but also an example of the installation’s developed.  Besides the difficulties of mounting and the conservation requirements, Pam and Allyce decided that a three-dimensional model would overshadow the art, taking the installation aspect too far.  Furthermore, the painted model allowed for new opportunities; Allyce researched Melanesian figureheads and this model includes a figurehead in a different style from piece on display.

When recalling the process Allyce notes the challenges of the work and the differences between her own creations and those for the installation.  For the installation pieces, Allyce researched the works and their environment to create the most accurate reproductions possible.  As she notes, “I did the research.  I embodied the research,” and it shows.  The painstaking reproductions of male warriors, both the sitting Marquesan and standing Asmat, demonstrate how her lively approach contributes to the Oceanic gallery.  Reproducing the environment, etchings of indigenous population, or other intricate works of art are only one aspect of the installation.  Another important aspect of the installation involved collaboration with the mount makers who were tasked with determining how to seamlessly merge the art with the installation in way that protected and conserved the works while allowing them to interact with their less museum-like environment.

 

Part Two, Mounting and Yam Masks at the Oceanic Gallery, continues the discussion on the Oceanic Installation.  In this part, which will follow in a few days, we will look behind the scenes at the mounts of the gallery and the collaboration between the mount makers and installation artist, Allyce Wood.

 

– Sarah Lippai, Public Relations Intern