All posts in “Seattle Art Museum”

Airstream Turkey

Object of the Week: Airstream Turkey

Our global culture is pretty good at making visual associations. As kids, many of us grew up pointing to the sky, calling out animals and faces suggested by the eccentric outlines of the clouds. Now, we play the meme game: How funny is Ryan Gosling if we cut him out of a movie role and paste him into all these different come-on scenarios? How well does a scrunched-up, pouty kid face express all your life’s frustrations? So funny! So well! And for me, it’s hilarious how quickly and creatively we make these connections. If a movie star or a top athlete makes a crazy face one night, there’s a trending meme of her or him the next morning.

In art, too, visual associations go a long way. They can be poignant, suggesting parallels across time and across cultures, causing us to re-think our views about the world. They can be as silly as a Ryan Gosling meme, putting a sign or symbol or person into a new context and pointing out just how important context is for how we understand these things.

Patti Warashina’s Airstream Turkey was born out of a similar, this-looks-like-that approach to digesting the huge diversity of images we experience every day, bringing together the forms of a trailer, a turkey, a bread loaf, and a chafing dish lid. Warashina applied low-fire glaze and low-fire luster to the ceramic piece, giving it the shiny metallic quality of a vintage trailer. Wings and feathers morph into streamlined horizontal details; reductive legs jut into the air like maneuverable levers. Airstream Turkey pranks us visually and playfully, thoughtfully keeping the eye engaged.

With her idea of a turkey vehicle, Warashina seems to have been onto something. Just such an avian Airstream makes a notable appearance in Tom Robbins’ 1990 postmodern novel Skinny Legs and All, in which the First Veil opens:

“It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross-country in a large roast turkey.

The Turkey lay upon its back, as roast turkeys will; submissive, agreeable, volunteering its breast to the carving blade, its roly-poly legs cocked in a stiff but jaunty position, as if it might summon the gumption to spring forward onto its feet, but, of course, it had no feet, which made the suggestion seem both empty and ridiculous, and only added to the turkey’s aura of goofy vulnerability.

Despite its feetlessness, however, its pathetic podalic privation, this roast turkey—or jumbo facsimile thereof—was moving down the highway at sixty-five miles an hour…”

Today, let’s do some associations around the word “Thanksgiving”: gratefulness—smiles—family—love—warm food—mashed potatoes and gravy.

Happy (postmodern) Thanksgiving from SAM!

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

IMAGE: Airstream Turkey, ca. 1969, Patti Warashina, American, 1940- , earthenware with low-fire glaze and low-fire luster, 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Anne and Sidney Gerber, 94.86, © Patti Warashina.
Auguste Renoir, Madame Monet and Her Son, French, 1841 - 1919, 1874, oil on canvas, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

Your handy guide to opening night of Intimate Impressionism

It’s almost here! Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art opens tomorrow in the Seattle Art Museum special exhibition galleries, and we’ve got an array of opening day activities in store for you. Because we’ve got a robust day of art planned, read on for the complete breakdown of ticket prices, events, hours, and more.

As tomorrow is First Thursday art walk, the museum will be open late until 9 pm to accommodate your art-loving schedule.

As this exhibition will be popular, tickets for Intimate Impressionism are timed, so when purchasing online or in person, select a specific day/time in which you’ll plan to visit the exhibition.



SENIORS (62+):  $11
TEENS (13 – 19): FREE


Ticket prices for Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art are listed below. ​This ticket includes access to all collections and installations.

ADULTS: $24.95
SENIORS (62+): $22.95
TEENS (13 – 19): $14.95​


Save up to $5 per ticket when you purchase your tickets in advance online! This is a limited time offer. Visitors purchasing tickets onsite will not be eligible for the discount. This online discount not valid on the First Thursday of the month, or for seniors on First Friday.


7–8:30 PM

Experience an overview of the new exhibition Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art with Chiyo Ishikawa, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, followed by a live performance from Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra’s String Quartet featuring works by Impressionist composers.

The SMCO String Quartet is composed of members of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, an innovative ensemble that brings unique musical experiences to the ears of young and diverse listeners.

6:30–7 PM

My Favorite Things tours bring some of the most opinionated and fascinating artists, cultural producers, and community figures into the galleries to discuss their favorite works of art. This tour will be led by Mary Anne Carter, a Seattle-based visual artist and curator of the Fashion Hot Dog 225 art space.

Humor, wildness, and structure define both Carter’s character and body of work, which includes printmaking, fashion design, textile design, and performance. Tour starts at 6:30 pm sharp. Don’t miss it!

Non-flash photography will be allowed in the galleries, so feel free to take a selfie next to your favorite painting, with your best friend, or with your Impressionist doppleganger while experiencing Intimate Impressionism! Be sure to tag your photos with #SAMImpressionism.

We’ll see you tomorrow for an extraordinary night of art with Monet, Renoir, Manet, Cézanne, Degas, Van Gogh, among other Masters!

Madame Monet and Her Son (detail), 1874, Auguste Renoir, French, 1841–1919, oil on canvas, 19 13/16 x 26 3/4 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa M​ellon Bruce Collection, 1970.17.60.
African Masquerade Installation at Seattle Art Museum

How Picasso Brought Masks to Europe and Left the Masquerade Behind

Throughout the 20th century, vast collections of African masks made their way into foreign lands and are now on display as the heads of missing bodies. Masks are constantly seen in museums and galleries, on eBay, and at sidewalk sales. In this dislocated state, African masks have sometimes found themselves cast in roles that are shockingly counter to their original intent.

One example is Pablo Picasso’s work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907; Museum of Modern Art, New York), a painting lauded as one of the catalysts in 20th-century art. Pablo Picasso’s decision to take the features of African masks and place them on two naked women was revolutionary, the first step in the radical transformation of space and volume that would become Cubism.

One wonders what would have happened if Picasso hadn’t separated the masks from the masquerade. What if, instead, a full masquerade had come to Paris? For the sake of speculation, let’s imagine the visit of a Dan masquerader from the Ivory Coast, known as a Ge, whose masks were common in French collections. Drummers and singers would escort the Ge masquerader as he moved quickly through the streets to Picasso’s studio. He would have donned a massive costume of raffia grasses, feathers, and fur accents to underscore that he was not from any normal human realm but from the sacred forests. Bells and drums, shouts and songs would contribute to the blur of fast-moving activity that halted in front of the artist’s door.

Pounding to be let in, the Ge would speak in a grave and distorted voice, while a translator would shout a demand to open the door. Picasso would be pushed aside as the Ge entered the room, and pandemonium would break out as African eyes beheld masks like their own were depicted atop the naked bodies of two women with pale skin.

With outrage and confusion spreading, everyone would turn to gauge the reaction of the Ge, the supreme authority. He would stop and stare, then order everyone except Picasso and the translator to leave the studio. The Ge would then sit on the group and gesture for Picasso to sit nearby as he explained a few things.

First: no mask was ever to be worn by a woman, and most definitely not a naked woman in the middle of a room with other naked women. Defying all proper behavior, this breach of etiquette required immediate correction, so songs and offerings for women would be prescribed.

The Ge would ask Picasso why he put masks on such women and who they were. Picasso might bring up difficulties with the women in his life, and how he’d been looking at pictures of masks in books and at a museum, then had collected a postcard of naked women from a place called Dahomey, marveling at their sleek bodies but also worrying about the diseases circulating in the bordellos of Paris.

In response, the Ge might offer practical advice about how to manage relationships and to seek alliances with spirits that would inspire joy instead of dark fears. He could also explain that masks were not to be bought and sold; instead, they were intended to initiate visitations from beings who would emerge from the forests to contribute their wisdom in times of confusion.
Days and weeks might pass as the Ge transferred aspects from the system of thought from the Côte d’Ivoire. It was his role to teach younger men ways to operate in the world, and he would have found Picasso’s troubled mind in need of adjustment. To alleviate some of the artist’s perplexity about life, the Ge would recommend that he consider attending a school convened in the forest, where he would learn about his responsibilities as a young man, how to survive in difficult circumstances, what it takes to manage a family, when and how to show respect for women, the practical skills of life, and all about the art of performance as a means to express visions of human aspiration. Picasso would be offered a chance to immerse himself in a masquerade that was a school, a system, and an overriding ideal.

Instead of this full-bodied experience, Picasso invented his own approach to African masks and sculptures. Masks became heads without any voice or body. They became voiceless ambassadors, who were often cast as characters in other’s artistic fantasies.

Admittedly, exporting an entire masquerade is difficult and can be inappropriate at times. Masquerades are intensely local, requiring special staging developed within communities that invest massive time and effort in them, often in deepest secrecy. They rely on collaborations among a multitude of talented artists who devote their creativity to performers whose identities are concealed, and transporting this cast and crew is not easy.

Artists today in the United States and across the globe are working with new interpretations of disguises that play out in creative ways. They are using digital mediums to bring masquerades into places where they have never been before, and creating new meanings as they empower new actors—such as women—to participate. They adapt iconography from multiple cultures and influences, weaving together inspiration from their family’s varied histories, the far-flung cities and rural areas in which they’ve lived, and artistic traditions from across the globe.

It’s a heady mixture of inspiring havoc. It’s a moving, whirling parade that invites us to respond—to take up or take off our own daily disguises and participate.

This is an edited excerpt of the essay, “Meet Me Where the Masks Are Alive and the Spirits Roam Free,” written by Pamela McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art for the Seattle Art Museum. The essay is included in the exhibition guide, Disguise: Masks & Global African Art.

Disguise: Masks & Global African Art is on view at the Seattle Art Museum. See this dynamic unfixed exhibition before it departs for the Fowler Museum at UCLA in Los Angeles on September 7.

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.

For the Love of Art Member Profile: 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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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!


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.*


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


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.