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Women in Film: Reel Girl tours and Riot Grrrl scores

Tonight SAM downtown is centering its lens on women in film with tours by local leaders in the film world and a special screening of Lynn Hershmann Leeson’s recent documentary !Women Art Revolution (2010, 83 mins) starting at 7:30 pm in Plestcheeff Auditorium.

!Women Art Revolution traces the impetus and organization of the Feminist Art Movement during the 1960’s through its rise from a subculture of women artists during the anti-war and civil rights era to its difficult acceptance into our cultural narrative.  The film, for which Leeson collected footage and interviews for 40 years to create, discloses the Feminist Art Movement through interviews with artists such as Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann, Eleanor Antin, Judy Chicago, Rachel Rosenthal, and the Guerrilla Girls among others. The candid interviews describe how women artists took a cue from groups such as The Black Panthers to organize and speak out against cultural institutions for engaging in gender discrimination.

The film features an original soundtrack by Carrie Brownstein, guitarist of Washington Riot-Grrrl rockers Sleater-Kinney, whose roaring guitar riffs provide a very pertinent sonic landscape to the film. Sleater-Kinney, named after I5 off-ramp No. 108 in Lacey, Washington, declared an indefinite hiatus in 2006. You can check out Brownstein’s current group Wild Flag performing “Romance” live from Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop during KEXP’s broadcast at South by Southwest in 2011 here. The soundtrack also features songs by Janis Joplin, Laurie Anderson, The Gossip (Olympia natives), Erase Errata, and Tribe 8.

In addition to the screening of !Women Art Revolution SAM is hosting two My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Public Tours by local women working in the film world; Beth Barrett and Robin Held. As Programming Manager of the Seattle International Film Festival Beth Barrett will share her favorite works and, hopefully, have a couple of highly opinionated comments of her own to offer. Robin Held, Executive Director of Reel Grrls a local organization that empowers young women through creating film and digital media, will co-lead a tour of Elles with local dancer-choreographer Catherine Cabeen.

– Ryan Peterson, Program Assistant

!Women Art Revolution movie poster

SAM Art: A human-scale Torso

Toshiko Takaezu was one of America’s most successful artists using ceramics for sculptural ends. In her career, spanning the late-1940s until the 2010s, she moved beyond the functional pots and bowls traditionally thrown by ceramicists to explore forms, surfaces, and colors on purely aesthetic terms.

SAM’s collection includes thirteen works spanning Takaezu’s long career, including this large, standing sculpture. Strangely familiar to a viewer’s eye, Torso more closely reflects the proportions and scale of the human form than a jar, and is a significant example of Takaezu’s later achievements in clay.

 

Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris closes this Sunday, 13 January. However, Elles: SAM – Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists remains on view until 17 February. SAMart will continue to explore the work of women artists in SAM’s collection until Elles: SAM closes next month.

Torso, 2000, Toshiko Takaezu (American, 1922–2011), ceramic, 57 1/2 x 19 x 19 in., Gift of the artist, 2009.13, © Toshiko Takaezu. Not currently on view.

Taking a tour for the team: Athletes take the reins of Elles

With this week’s My Favorite Things:  Highly Opinionated Public Tours at SAM Downtown two local athletes will be giving  tours in conjunction with Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Katie Hultin, goal keeper for the Seattle Sounders, and Parisa Asgharzadeh, of the local Seattle Breakers Women Rugby Team, will each be taking the reins of tour guide beginning at 6:30 and 6:45 PM respectively. As athletes take over the galleries, the way physical activity is shared by athletes and artists alike came to mind.

 

In 1992, the Seattle Arts Commission installed what is arguably the city’s most iconic piece of public sculpture. Jonathan Borofsky’s Hamming Man is known by practically everyone who is familiar with SAM. Tourists passing by on Ride the Ducks tours take snapshots of the sculpture as they pass by on First Avenue, and fellow workers downtown can feel a silent bond with the steady swings of the hammer. Of his sculpture, Borofsky stated, “The Hammering Man is a worker. The Hammering Man celebrates the worker. He or she is the village craftsman.” The Hammering Man reminds us that whether we are laborers, artists, or athletes our physical efforts become rewarded when we work together toward, as Borofsky upholds, “a happier and more enlightened humanity.”

 

This week’s My Favorite Things tours made me think of the Hammering Man not only for the relationship of physical activity that artists and athletes both share, but because of an anecdote I remember as an undergraduate student in Art History at the University of Washington. In one of my early survey of Western Art classes, we were given a writing assignment on a piece of public sculpture. Borofsky’s Hammering Man was one of the works we could choose to write about, and the TA for this class, who was very knowledgeable with Seattle’s offering of public sculpture, had her own highly opinionated critique of the monumental laborer on SAM’s First Avenue doorstep. It was her view that the gender of the sculpture was a woman rather than a man, and that this is an observable, if not subtle, fact that could be seen in a curve just below the stationary arm of the sculpture. Although I didn’t quite agree, the point she made is significant for alluding to the tendency to see the Hammering Man as a man, rather than a woman, or a figure that is inclusive of more than one gender representing a diverse population.  The oversight is unfortunate yes, but my TA’s slightly tongue-in-cheek claim reminded us of the activity and achievements of women artists, athletes, and laborers.

Our tour guides this week will undoubtedly have some interesting points about their own experiences with the art on view in the Elles exhibitions, and I’m excited to hear how they feel about some of the works on display.  I feel that artists and athletes alike are working toward similar outcomes in their craft. After the countless hours of training one’s body to perform at the highest level of physical activity the ability to carry out the actions and designs of the game exist for the sublime moment when we finally capture a win. Shutouts and upsets are going to happen, but whether it’s the art of the game, or art for itself, it is the physical elation of that eventual success that we work so hard to create.

 

– Ryan Peterson, Program Assistant

SAM Art: One last traditional basketmaker

Considered a wealth item, and often given as a gift to friends or relatives, finely woven baskets like this are rarely associated with a known weaver. This basket, however, comes from the hand of Susan Wawatkin Bedal, the last traditional basket maker of the Sauk-Suiattle tribe from the Darrington, Washington area.

Susan Bedal possessed an intimate knowledge of the gathering and preparation of natural materials from the prairie and forests of the North Cascades, which she crafted into masterful works. Visual balance is achieved through the attention given to the placement and disposition of the designs on the field of the baskets. The accent designs have descriptive names that refer to the natural features of the artist’s world, such as butterfly (inverted triangles), clouds (staggered rows of alternating colors), and snake or trail (ladder step design). Such designs are owned by individuals and families and passed down through the generations.

Due to the holidays, SAMart will be on vacation for the next two weeks. Happy holidays, and a wonderful new year, to all of SAMart’s readers.

Yius (coiled basket), 1900-1940, Susan Wawatkin Bedal (Sauk, 1865-1947), cedar bark, cedar root, alder bark, beargrass, huckleberry, 14 x 14 x 10 in., Gift of Jean Bedal Fish and Edith Bedal, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.106, © Susan Wawatkin Bedal, Photo: Paul Macapia. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

History in her own words: Eleanor Antin’s Conversations with Stalin

Without much exaggeration Eleanor Antin could be called the King of conceptual and performance art. Working mainly in film, video, and performance Antin is often cited as one of the first artists to reintroduce autobiography, confession and performance to the art world during the 60’s and 70’s. In 1972 Antin created her male alter-ego with the photographic and video series “The King of Solana Beach,” in which an apprehensive king is shown reconstructing his own past by collecting pieces of his broken kingdom. Her video “The King” (1972) stands as a journal entry of the King’s evolving identity as well as showing Antin’s striking transformation from her male persona to own herself, and is on view in the exhibition Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

For Antin art is not necessarily an object or something that can be historically defined, but something close to her own individuality, or a memoir of history retold in her own words.

Early on in her career Antin made her name as a conceptual artist by creating works that successfully diverted traditional means of art making and artist representation. For instance her work 100 Boots (1971) used the US Postal Service to distribute photographs of 100 boots Antin had placed in various Southern California locations. The scenes were printed onto postcards and sent to artists, writers, dancers, art institutions and libraries at 3 to 5 week time intervals to create a puzzling visual narrative. The boots became travelers and characters in a two and a half year journey that finally culminated in a solo exhibition at the Modern Museum of Art in New York in May of 1973.

Her recent photographic series attempts to re-enact and modernize historical narratives by placing them under the context of contemporary American life.Helen’s Odyssey (2007), inspired by the Greek legend Helen of Troy, recasts Helen as two individual roles to exemplify polar sides of her personality. Antin shows both Helens in various scenes reacting differently to scenarios based on the Greek myths of Homer, who the beautiful and vengeful Helen eventually murders. History is here recast to portray the two Helen’s as contemporary versions of their ancient characters carrying large totes and wearing thick rimmed sunglasses.

watch?v=Wfn0I5p1dHE

Her recent memoir, titled Conversations with Stalin: Confessions of a Red Diaper Baby (2010), is a black comedy detailing Antin’s life growing up in New York in a family of first generation Jewish, communist immigrants in the age of Stalin. Join Antin for a performative reading of her new book this Saturday at Seattle Art Museum.

Seattle Art Museum

“Conversations with Stalin” by Eleanor Antin

December 1, 2012

2-3 pm

Nordstrom Lecture Hall

Ryan Peterson, Program Assistant

Eleanor Antin, “The King,” 1972. Video (black and white, silent), TRT: 52 min. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

 

SAM Art: Maasai Women Artists

A wedding is the moment for defining feminine beauty in many cultures. Among Maasai women, a bride is given all the ornaments she needs to begin her new life. The art in this case was created by Maasai women from the Merrueshi community of the Kaputiei section of Kenya. Their intent was to demonstrate how a bride’s costume is a personalized collection of beadwork, stories and wishes for the future. Each is composed of cowhide, glass beads, wire and plastic dividers.

One aspect of Maasai aesthetics is immediately evident. Colors-and their order of placement-are carefully controlled, both due to their meaning and to the need for balance in the interaction of opposites. Certain colors are designated as strong or weak and must not be placed side by side. Nothing is meant to be continuous or unbroken, because mixture is a fact of life and needs to be recognized in the patterns.

Over necklace (Ololuaa), Naramat ene Mure (Maasai, Merrueshi community, Kaputiei section, Kenya), leather, glass beads, aluminum dangles, 16 x 6 3/4 x 1/8 in., General Acquisition Fund, 2000.12.11. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art 50+: The World’s Fair + SAM, final installment

One week from now, women take over SAM, as the city of Seattle celebrates women artists. The exhibitions Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris and Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists debut to the public on 11 October, but this is only the most recent expression of the museum’s—and city’s—commitment to women artists.

 

In 1962, in the Fine Arts Pavilion of the World’s Fair, women were nearly invisible. In Masterpieces of Art, Art Since 1950: American and Art Since 1950: International, of the 199 European and American artists represented, only seven were women. The story was entirely different in Northwest Art Today – Adventures in Art. In this show of regional artists, ten out of 86 artists were women. One of these women was Kathleen Gemberling Adkison (Kathleen Gemberling in 1962).

A Spokane artist with wide-ranging interests, Gemberling Adkison was emblematic of the Northwest arts scene in the early 1960s. Known for her dreamy snippets of landscape, as if seen through our famous mist of rain, she was originally a student of Mark Tobey’s. Living in an area more accepting of women artists was a boon for Gemberling Adkison’s career. She, and her female peers, did not have to struggle in obscurity like many women artists in New York and other cities—in Seattle, women were fully accepted participants in the arts scene.

Her painting included in Northwest Art Today was a departure from her early work, and this increase in attention prompted her to an equal increase in ambition. Like Seattle itself, Kathleen Gemberling Adkison used the World’s Fair to process new styles, artists and philosophies.

Gemberling Adkison visited the Fair regularly, relishing her first in-person exposure to work by Hans Hofmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Sam Francis, and others. Her work from 1962 onward was visibly informed by the aesthetics, process and visual language of abstract expressionism— the exposure provided by the World’s Fair laid a path to a new style for this artist, who was liberated from her earlier, literal interpretations of nature. Her mature, abstract canvases (such as Verdant Winter) provide layers of reference, from moss and granite, to Hofmann and Frankenthaler.

The World’s Fair left the city of Seattle, its artists and its arts institutions forever changed. It heralded a new era in the arts and culture of this city. The Seattle Art Museum is proud to have taken part in the Fair, and is pleased to have used SAMart this past month to present a look back (and forward).

Verdant Winter, 1969, Kathleen Gemberling Adkison (American, 1920 – 2010), oil on canvas, 46 1/16 x 40 3/16 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 69.74, © Kathleen Adkison. Currently viewable online: www.seattleartmuseum.org/emuseum.

SAM Art: Members lecture Wednesday

The daughter of a prominent Chinese figure painter, Lu Wujiu instead chose to work in the United States, and to focus her practice on abstraction-based visual language. Lu has been praised for her ability, “to see the analogies between traditional Chinese attitudes and the vigour of contemporary western abstract expressionism” (Professor Reverend Harrie Vanderstappen, University of Chicago).

This series is inspired by a 26-verse poem written in the mid-17th century, wherein the poet reflects on life’s meaning during the dynastic change from Ming to Qing. The poem begins with the beauty of Lake Yuan (in modern day Zhejiang province in southeastern China), in spring, as the poet passed by a mansion where he stayed with a friend ten years before. This mansion now belonged to someone else, just as the Manchus now had control over China, allowing the poet to lament the sufferings in this world which were beyond one’s control.

Echoing 17th-century woodblock illustrations of epic novels, these 26 images are by turns semi-representational, emotional, and referential. As such, the paintings focus on providing a pictorial homage to the deep sentiments of the poem, rather than treating it as an historical narrative.

 

Members Art History Lecture Series: Josh Yiu
June 20, 2012
7–9 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown

Josh Yiu, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, speaks on SAM’s Chinese art collection, including this recent acquisition.

The Song of Lake Yuan (detail), 1993-2005, Lu Wujiu (Chinese, lives and works in U.S.), ink on paper, 23 1/4 x 25 3/16 in., Gift of Wu-Chiu Lu and Shih-Du Sun, 2012.7.2.9, © Lu Wujiu. Not currently on view.