All posts in “Seattle Art Museum”

Saya Woolfalk

Seattle Art Museum receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Great news! SAM’s upcoming summer blockbuster exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art recently received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

On view June 18, 2015 through September 6, 2015 Disguise provides an updated look at 21st-century evolutions of the mask and explores contemporary forms of disguise.

For this exhibition, SAM’s Curator of African and Oceanic Art Pamela McClusky, and Consultant Curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi sought out contemporary artists from Africa and of African descent to create new installations, visions, and sounds for the exhibition. These artists fill the galleries with inventive avatars and provocative new myths, taking us on mysterious journeys through city streets and futuristic landscapes.

Through its grant-making to thousands of nonprofits each year, the NEA promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from Seattle Art Museum represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

Image: Chimera, from the Empathic Series, 2013, Saya Woolfalk, United States, b. 1979, single-channel video, 4:12 minutes, filmmaker: Rachel Lears. © Saya Woolfalk, Photo: Natali Wiseman.
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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