All posts in “Seattle”

SAM vs DAM

It’s On! Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and Denver Art Museum (DAM) are betting big on Super Bowl XLVIII

The Super Bowl is a mere six days away (February 2, 3:30 pm PST on FOX). Not only is the 12th man gearing up, but so is the Seattle Art Museum. SAM and the Denver Art Museum (DAM) (everyone likes a rhyming competition, right?) have upped the ante on the outcome of Super Bowl XLVIII by betting temporary loans of major works of art on Sunday’s big game.

The Stakes:
A majestic Native American mask, reminiscent of a mighty “Seahawk” from SAM’s renowned Northwest Coast Native American art collection, is wagered by Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

The Broncho Buster, a bronze icon of the West by Frederic Remington from the renowned western American art collection at the DAM, is wagered by Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director.

The winning city will receive a three-month loan of the prized artwork. All shipping and expenses will be paid by the city that loses the big game. Dates of the loan are still being finalized.

Here at SAM we are looking forward to showcasing the Broncho Buster. Our visitors will be in for a special treat when they gaze upon the beautiful bronze horse symbolizing the spirit and tenacity of the Wild West. Popular from the time of its creation, The Broncho Buster stands today as an icon of the region and is thought of as the first action bronze of a western hero.

Just for the record, SAM’s “Seahawk” is a Forehead Mask from the Nuxalk First Nation ca. 1880. This Nuxalk mask shows the elegant elongation of the bird beak, a sensitive and human-like rendering of the eye/socket/brow area, with painted embellishments on the surface in black, red and blue. The open mouth suggests the ferocity of this bird of prey, possibly a supernatural “man-eater”. Shredded red cedar bark symbolizes the mythical arena in which the dance-dramas would be enacted.

…It’s too bad that visitors to DAM won’t be able to experience it there, but they can always come visit SAM.

GO HAWKS!

Image credits: Forehead Mask, Nuxalk, ca. 1880, Alder, red cedar bark, copper, pins, paint, 4 1/8 x 11 3/8 x 5 1/8 inches, Gift of John H. Hauberg 91.1.71. Frederic Remington, The Broncho Buster, Modeled 1895, cast by 1902, Bronze; 23-1/4 in., Denver Art Museum; The Roath Collection.
Rupert enters "The Western Oracle"

A Dog’s Blog: Rupert visits the Olympic Sculpture Park

Meet Rupert: He loves the park and has agreed to guest blog for us. Here’s what he has to say:

 

Dear humans, or, as I like to call you, hairless dogs with thumbs,

Hello! Nice to meet you. My name is Rupert Putdownthatshoe. I’m five and I recently moved into a new home in downtown Seattle, where I live with my roommate, Kristen. She pays the rent, and I let her scratch my stomach.

Every afternoon, when my human comes home from work, I take her for walks around the city. I like to think of these walks as daily mini-vacations from my otherwise full-time occupation of protecting our home from intruders like helicopters and the mailman. My favorite mini-vacay destination these days is the Olympic Sculpture Park.We went there yesterday, and I had so much fun giving my roommate a tour of all my favorite smells.

Yesterday’s tour’s highlight was the Park’s newest smell box – it’s called The Western Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof off the Mother by Heather Hart. Inside the smell box, we looked out a window at the Puget Sound, which made me think of the fish I like to eat. There’s also a chimney looking up to the sky, which made me think of the ducks I like to chase. I like this smell box.

 

Until next time!

Woof, Rupert.

 

-Carter Stratton, intern for Communications

Rupert enters “The Western Oracle”

It’s Elles REMIX Style

Before moving to Seattle to start my fall internship at the Seattle Art Museum this past August, I had already developed an appetite for Remix. I’d never been to one on my many visits to the Northwest but I had seen the posters—shiny, glossy and wickedly designed, I wanted, needed to know more about SAM’s quarterly event.

Aimed at engaging and building relations with young adults, SAM’s Remix events align ever so nicely with the museum’s special exhibitions to create a dance-party-meets-fine-arts experience that gets under your skin in the best way. This fall’s French import Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris weaves its way seamlessly throughout this month’s Remix at SAM Downtown on November 9 from 7:30 pm–12:30 am; showing that ladies can hang with the boys and party just as hard.

DJ Michele Myers kicks off the night in the Brotman Forum with intoxicating rhythms and beats from pop, local favorites, soul and just about anything else you can dream of to keep you dancing your pants off. Watch as choreographers Linda Austin, Anne Furfey and Amy O perform excerpts from Ten Tiny Dances on a 4×4 foot dance floor throughout the night. Enjoy the musical styling’s of Hollis and The Pytons as they perform sets from ACT Theatre’s These Streets—an homage to the grunge movement in Seattle with a feminine twist. Curated by Gretta Harley and Sarah Rudinoff, these sets are sure to get the blood pumping and bring out your long dormant grunge kid.

Head on over to the Arnold Board Room to rest those tired dogs while testing your mettle and your knowledge of pop culture, sports, film and more at the Women All-Stars Trivia with Geeks Who Drink. Or earn your Artistic License with Erin Shafkind at her Department of Artistic Licensing with the help of Jenny Zwick and Tessa Hulls. It’s like the DMV only fun.

Let your activist self run free in the South Hall and create Take Action Buttons with Janet Fagan. Too much activism and not enough space?  Create a Power Band with Romson Bustillo to showcase your inner superhero! Put your thinking cap on at the Second Floor Think Tank and ask yourself Can Women Really Have It All? Join Vivian Phillips and Priya Frank as they explore questions raised by Elles: Pompidou through interactive activities. Give your brain a break and mosey on up to the Fourth Floor Galleries and listen to Seattle Symphony Orchestra harpist Valerie Muzzolini Gordon while she performs music inspired by Elles: Pompidou’s French roots.

But wait there’s more! (Isn’t there always?) It wouldn’t be Remix at the museum without the My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Tours. Happening periodically throughout the entire night, the tours are led by short folks, tall folks, artistic folks, academic folks and just about everyone else in between to offer up their opinions, whether good or bad, about the art and artists featured in the Elles: Pompidou exhibit.

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.
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
Silk Road Dance Company

Make Your Own Wonderful Wardrobe at the Seattle Asian Art Museum on Free First Saturday

On Saturday, May 5, bring your family to the Seattle Asian Art Museum for Free First Saturday! Explore the exhibition Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats, and design your own wearable art inspired by gorgeous garments from central Asia.
This fun-filled day will feature special performances by Silk Road Dance Company, which has delighted audiences around the country with traditional and fusion dances from the Middle East and Central Asia. Performing Uzbek, Afghani, Tadjik, Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Persian, and Egyptian dance techniques rarely seen in the United States, Silk Road Dance Company offers a unique glimpse of the life, culture, and art of little known regions.

Please note that a large public event in Volunteer Park will be taking place all day May 5. We recommend that you allow extra time for parking and walking to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. You also may want to consider biking or taking a bus instead of driving.

Free First Saturday at the Seattle Asian Art Museum is presented by Russell Investments with support provided by The Peg & Rick Young Foundation.

-Madeline Moy, Digital Media Manager

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

Canoe prow figure (Nguzu Nguzu), 19th century, Solomon Islands, Melanesian, wood, nautilus shell, 10 5/8 x 7 7/8 x 5 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1443. Currently on view in the Oceanic art gallery, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAMart: A Man on a Prow

This may be your final week to see Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise (it closes on Sunday), but don’t despair. SAM’s collection of Oceanic art remains on view.

A heroic guardian, this figure was strategically placed precisely at the water line of a decorated canoe’s prow. Dipping into the water as the large canoe navigated the seas, it kept watch for hidden reefs and enemies. As a lieutenant in 1897 recorded, its purpose was: “to keep off the kesoko or water fiends which might otherwise cause the winds and waves to upset the canoe, so that they might fall on and devour its crew.”

Shell inlay swirls over the face in a pattern like those found on the painted faces of warriors. Beneath the chin of this figure is a head that is being clutched–although whether the warrior is protecting it or presenting it as a fallen enemy is unknown.

Canoe prow figure (Nguzu Nguzu), 19th century, Solomon Islands, Melanesian, wood, nautilus shell, 10 5/8 x 7 7/8 x 5 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1443. Currently on view in the Oceanic art gallery, third floor, SAM downtown.