SAMblog: A father’s story

This canvas depicts a vision of two giant snakes whose muscular bodies circle around a site known as Pukarra. The snakes are a father and son who are facing an epic struggle. To this day, people approach the rockhole at Pukarra with great care to make sure these two powerful snakes are settled. Fires and smoke, along with respectful observances, are required before accessing the water held there.

The artists, seventeen senior men from the Spinifex community of Western Australia, collaborated on this commissioned painting. Together they depicted rockholes, soaks, natural dams, sandhills, and the dense stories that connect them.

Wati Kutjara (Two Men Story), 2003, Spinifex Men’s Collaborative (Ned Grant, born 1942; Kali Davis, dates unknown; Ian Rictor, born ca. 1962; Lawrence Pennington, dates unknown; Frank Davis, dates unknown; Fred Grant, born 1941; Gerome Anderson, 1940–2011; Wilbur Brooks, dates unknown; Simon Hogan, born 1930; Mark Anderson, born 1933; Roy Underwood, born 1937; Walter Hansen, dates unknown; Loren Pennington, dates unknown; Cyril Brown, dates unknown; Alan Jamieson, dates unknown; Lennard Walker, born 1949; Byron Brooks, born 1955), Australian Aboriginal, Pitjantjatjara people, Tjuntjuntjara, Southwestern Deserts, Western Australia, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 82 11/16 x 74 13/16 in., Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum. Currently on view in Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection, special exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.