All posts in “Seattle”

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The Masks We Wear / The Ghosts We Share

Artist Sam Vernon’s stunning black-and-white graphics just took over the PACCAR Pavilion of the Olympic Sculpture Park. The installation, How Ghosts Sleep: Seattle, is a prelude to Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which opens June 18 at the Seattle Art Museum.

Her project for the sculpture park’s pavilion began with a visit to see the Seattle Art Museum’s collection of African masks and the Art Deco architecture of the Asian Art Museum. Afterwards, she mixed in designs from textiles and inspiration from formal studies of leaves, trees, flowers, and animals; which she fit into a frame of bold, abstract shapes.

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And all that’s before you get to the ghosts. Her wallpaper covers the interior of the pavilion and fabric canopies hover overhead, filling your eyes with visions of hidden characters who emerge from and then disappear into the walls and ceiling. Vernon has digitally combined photocopied drawings of ghost characters with a hand-drawn/collaged pattern of disembodied figures so that the ghosts are no longer visible—they’re masked. If it sounds layered, it is.

It’s a heady, expressive environment that Vernon hopes will “allow spectators to live in the world of the work rather than next to the work…”

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When I met Sam, she was just coming from the sculpture park with Loide Marwanga, the graphic designer who worked with her on the installation. They had just spent their first day in Seattle overseeing the installation of Vernon’s wallpapers and canopies.

Even though it was the end of the day, Vernon was full of energy and enthusiasm (maybe her super cool black-and-white Nike sneakers helped her keep her pep). She said she couldn’t wait to see it all come together.

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What’s it been like working on this installation, working with SAM, working with SAM curator Pam McClusky and consultant curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi?

From the project’s conception, I wanted to create an installation to highlight the stunning architecture of the space, stimulate the imaginations of all who enjoy the park and explore the proposition of disguise as a drawing technology. It’s been an honor to work with Pam and Erika—they’re innovative, open, and willing to deeply engage in the critical aspects of my work and practice. Bringing this project to fruition is truly a team effort and I can’t thank them enough for their scholarship, insight, and thoughtfulness.

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What speaks to you about the exhibition of Disguise: Masks and Global African Art as a whole? What are you excited about?

I’m drawn to the way in which Pam and Erika have developed a challenging exhibition by including a diverse group of artists working in different parts of the world. We have varied conceptual ideas and unique subjective approaches addressing the past, present and future of disguise as it relates to the museum’s collection and contemporary media.

It’s exciting to be included in an international dialogue about this complex reality—it offers significant links between us and our perceptions of space and time. In this way the exhibition generates important questions about connectivity instead of converging answers for fluent coherence.

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What do you think about the Olympic Sculpture Park? When you first saw the site, what did you think?

The Olympic Sculpture Park is breathtaking! I was immediately drawn to the views of the water and the works of one of my favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois.

sam-vernon-osp-2Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Follow Sam on Facebook and Instagram to see pictures of her time in Seattle & the art that’s drawn her eye while she’s been here.

Words: Maggie Hess
Photos: Natali Wiseman

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#SAMSpeakUp: RACE, SOCIAL JUSTICE & MUSEUMS

When it comes to conversations surrounding race and social justice, museums aren’t readily thought of as spaces that would play much a role. However, I believe that museums can in fact be powerful and unique in facilitating these discussions.

The next time you come to SAM, you may notice that our Think Tank walls have questions that await your response: “How do you define race and social justice?” “How can art mobilize social change?” “How can museums be spaces of social justice?”

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(The Think Tank is located between the Mezzanine Level and the second floor, towards the back of the building! Just walk up the Grand Staircase until you hit the room with the chalkboard walls.)

As our MLK Spotlight Tours last week highlighted, we don’t have to look too far to see that there are works and artists in our collection who are already having these conversations with you—what are ways we can delve deeper?

I see that museums can play a unique role in these conversations for these reasons:

  • Museums serve as portals and connectors—connecting us to cultures and ideas, connecting us to others and our community, and connecting us with ourselves.
  • Museums are engrained within communities—it is the community who interacts with the museum and thus these spaces exist not only to share stories about art but also to serve the community (local and beyond).

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When race and social justice issues arise on a local, national, or even an international level, how can museums leverage their unique positions in order to help? And how can museums strive to become more inclusive spaces and to better reflect the communities they serve?

One recent issue that has been on my mind and on many others’ is the non-indictment rulings in the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and countless other similar situations. I feel conversations surrounding race relations—and the injustices and inequities that communities of color face—have reached a new height. These situations have been fostered by historical legacies and systems in the United States. This means historical institutions like museums can be a critical part of this conversation, particularly in bridging gaps in racial and cultural understanding.

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In December, a few museum bloggers and colleagues also saw the need for museums to step in and thus issued a joint statement asking the question, “What should be our roles?” This sparked conversations across the country, and museums shared how they’ve responded—from hosting community conversations to collecting Ferguson-related media artifacts.

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It was partly this traction that inspired our latest iteration of the Think Tank. Rather than specifically tackling #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson, my colleagues and I want the Think Tank to be a space for a larger conversation about race, social justice, and museums. These conversations are best sustained and brought to the forefront when they are incorporated into our regular practice.

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And while I do believe museums can serve as catalysts, I don’t think they have all the answers, which is where our community comes in.

My hope for the Think Tank is that it can function as a free and open community dialogue space for all who interact with SAM. I want it to be a space for you to reflect on current topics and issues in social justice, examine your own experiences, share your stories, express your voice, and connect with others—and my hope is also that you will give us feedback for us to use as an institution to better serve you. I truly believe dialogue can spark change.

It is also my hope that we can continue to have these conversations together as an institution and community, and continue to strive to make the museum a more inclusive and accessible space to honor all stories, perspectives, and voices.

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We invite you to join the conversation.

Marcus Ramirez
Coordinator for Education & Public Programs

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Mr.’s Caterpillar (or: The Importance of Living On)

When we arrive at the Asian Art Museum, the Tateuchi Galleries are filled with cardboard boxes. Each room has a low tower built up in the middle, away from the walls. You can see flashes of a panda sticker on many of them, the logo of a moving company. Some of Mr.’s paintings are already hung, and a few are leaning against the walls. In a couple of places, an 8.5×11 piece of paper with a picture of a painting is taped to the wall with masking tape, giving us a clue of what will be going there.

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The paintings are huge—much larger than we would have guessed—the size of entire gallery walls. We watch as four art preparators carefully lift and place one panel of three, sliding it along a rail toward the other two until you can just barely discern the seam.

Mr. is sitting at a folding table, working on a laptop. He’s surrounded by printouts of his paintings, plans that show how to build the installation in front of him, and photographs he’s taken. He wears a striped hoodie and glasses and jeans, and he seems perfectly happy to take a break and talk about what he’s working on. He doesn’t speak much English, and I speak no Japanese, so we chat with the aid of SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, Xiaojin Wu, and Mr.’s assistant, Kozue, who’s also based here in Seattle. The necessary triplicate of the interview means we move through the galleries slowly, standing amidst the cardboard boxes and the sounds of drills nearby. Everyone is so patient it’s hard to tell how much time is passing.

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The installation he’s stationed in front of is the centerpiece of the exhibition, a tribute to the March 11, 2011 Tōhoku tsunami and ensuing earthquake. Most recently, it was shown at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York. When it’s finished, it’s about the size of a train car, made up of what Mr. calls “stuff.”

Right now, it’s just a skeleton made from pipes and plywood. It looks something like an erector set, and Mr. refers to it affectionately as the “caterpillar.” The art preparators working in this gallery say that it’s like putting together a puzzle. They have sketches to follow, but they’re not exact, and they’re figuring it out with Mr. as they go. It will be a massive structure, made up of hundreds of everyday objects of Japanese life that Mr. spent three months collecting. Some crates were shipped from New York City, where they were stored after the Lehmann Maupin show. Some crates were shipped from Japan. Mr.’s translator points out a box of curry, emphasizing that all of these are real things used every day in Japan. I ask if the installation changes every time he constructs it, and he says it’s hard to keep it the same, so by nature it varies. Mr. is creating new paintings with which to surround the installation. And this is the first time that Mr.’s photographs of the aftermath of the tsunami will be on display.

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During the tsunami, Mr. was living in Saitama, Japan, just outside of Tokyo. One hundred days after the tsunami hit, Mr. went to the site and took hundreds of photographs. He pulls his laptop off the table to show me some of the pictures and brings it with us as we look at the wall where they’ll be plastered in a collage from bottom to top.

“I went,” Mr. says, which sound a bit like a pronouncement because in the midst of all the Japanese, he says it in English. Which—this one is. He went there. He saw it in person. He witnessed.

A hundred days after the tsunami, he explains, means it was almost summer. There was a factory nearby that had been making canned fish, and it smelled terrible. While Mr. looks through his photos to find what he wants to show me, I ask Xiaojin why she thinks it’s important that Seattle see the artwork.

“I think at the beginning we were attracted to Mr.’s work because of the tsunami installation. The tsunami was such a huge event that impacted so many Japanese people’s lives that you can look around and almost all the Japanese contemporary artists, in some way, have responded to it. But Mr.’s response is quite unique. He uses the daily items he collected. But he also went to the place and documented the aftermath, so I think it’s very meaningful for us to show that. And somehow, even though his main body of works is made up of paintings, some of the works he made even earlier tie into that idea of disaster and how we respond to it. We think it will be very interesting for the Seattle audience to see a different perspective of Japanese Pop art. Even though the paintings look like anime/manga, they are not just about this—even they have more to them, a little bit deeper meanings. You can get a bit deeper, see beyond the surface…beyond those big eyes, those smiles.” Xiaojin laughs suddenly as she references the happy-go-lucky anime faces, like there’s something bubbly just in talking about it.

Mr. draws my attention to his laptop and shows me the photos of collapsed buildings, tipped cars, downed power lines. Everything looks askew, and gray, covered in silt and dust. In some photos, Mr. is wearing a mask.

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“When you first went to the tsunami site, did you experience it more as an artist, looking to make artwork, or were you just there to see and experience it as a citizen, as a civilian who’d been part of this disaster?” I ask.

Both Xiaojin as she listens to my question in English, and then Mr. as she translates it into Japanese, nod solemnly. Mr. talks for a long time.

“He was saying the tsunami just impacted everybody in Japan, everyone in the entirety of Japan,” Xiaojin starts. “So he never thought, I’ll go in there as an artist. He just wanted to go and see and experience, but after this experience, his thoughts have just changed so much, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster was also, after…it’s still going on.”

Mr. starts speaking again as Xiaojin slow down. She murmurs in agreement as he talks, a thoughtful sound.

“He says there are two types of people that the tsunami had an impact on. One is directly those people who lived there, lost their home, and really, they probably had the worst damage. But the second kind is just like him, who didn’t really directly experience the tsunami but they lost power, or water, or the supermarket didn’t have enough supplies, so they experienced it indirectly. But just on different levels, everybody was involved.”

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The next week, when I go back to the Asian Art Museum, the installation is nearly complete. Above the screen that blocks gallery access, I can see a mattress, folded into a u shape over the top of the structure. The installation crams so many pieces of life together that it seems impossible it will hold, in the way an over packed suitcase may burst open at any moment. It’s about trauma, but also about the possibilities of what will come next.

The title of the installation? Give Me Your Wings – think different. No wonder Mr. has nicknamed the skeletal structure the caterpillar.

Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop is now on view at the Asian Art Museum.

Words: Maggie Hess, Copywriter
Photos: Natali Wiseman & Stephanie Fink

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Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out: Five Exciting Things to See & Do at the Olympic Sculpture Park This Summer

After many overcast months, I want nothing more than to spend as much time as possible outdoors and to enjoy the fleeting Seattle sun. Unfortunately, as a broke college student, I have little money to spend on summer activities. My solution? The Olympic Sculpture Park’s free summer programs. So, here are my top five favorite things to see and experience at this summer at the sculpture park.

1. YOU ARE HEAR
Music, and more broadly sound, plays a huge role in my focus and aesthetic appreciation of the world. YOU ARE HEAR, created by respected artist and sound engineer Trimpin, recognizes the complexity of sound. This exhibit is a hands on, interactive approach to the concept of sound and how we as listeners and viewers experience it.

2. Echo
This is a 46-foot-tall sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and inspired by the Greek mountain nymph who was cursed by goddess Hera by restricting Echo’s speech to be only the words of another. I’m fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology, so this statue struck an academic chord in me.

3. Seven Cubes with Color Ink Washes Superimposed
This piece is absolutely beautiful. On display in the PACCAR Pavilion, this contribution by Sol LeWitt brightens up the sculpture park, and is a joy to see from now until March 8, 2015. I haven’t seen it in person yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing it in reality.

4. Food, art, and music
When local music, delicious food, and interesting art are in one place, I’m there. Every Thursday, starting July 10, SAM entices the community with art activities, live music performances, food trucks, and art tours. Because the event runs from 6-9 pm, attendees will get a beautiful view of the waterfront during sunset.

5. Yoga and Zumba
If you’re excited about yoga and Zumba, or have never done either before, I highly encourage you to stop by every Saturday (beginning July 12) for free yoga lessons at 10:30 am, and then for Zumba at 2 pm. This is a great opportunity to get the weekend started on a relaxing note.

I’m so excited for everything the Olympic Sculpture Park has to offer this summer. There’s something for everyone almost every day of the season. Check out a full schedule of what’s happening at visitsam.org/summer.

I hope to see you there!

Erin Dwyer, Seattle Art Museum communication’s intern

Echo

Meet Echo

Echo, Seattle Art Museum’s massive new addition to the Olympic Sculpture Park, is starting to take shape.

A spectacular and iconic addition to the park, the 46-foot-tall sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, will greet visitors as they wander the shoreline.

Echo has been given to the Seattle Art Museum from the collection of Barney A. Ebsworth. It was originally commissioned by the Madison Park Association in New York and installed at Madison Square Park in 2011 to great acclaim. It is made from resin, steel, and marble dust, and altogether weighs 13,118 pounds.

Echo was modeled on the nine-year-old daughter of the owner of restaurant near the artist’s studio in Barcelona. With computer modeling, Plensa elongated and abstracted the girl’s features. The sculpture’s title references the mountain nymph of Greek mythology of the same name.

As told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Echo offended the goddess Hera by keeping her engaged in conversation, and preventing her from spying on one of Zeus’s amours. To punish Echo, Hera deprived the nymph of speech, except for the ability to repeat the last words of another.

Plensa offers us Echo with her eyes closed, seemingly listening or in a state of meditation. Envisioning Echo looking out over Puget Sound in the direction of Mount Olympus (a further reference to Greek mythology that is already embedded in the landscape), Plensa also intends for the sculpture to serve as a gathering point for introspection and contemplation. In our increasingly networked culture where information is endlessly copied and repeated, it is a work that invites viewers to pause.

Drop by the park and check out the progress when you have a moment. It’s easy to spot Echo. Join her near the water and spend a few quiet moments next to her thoughtful presence at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

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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.
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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.