Hokusai Smartphone Tour: Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans

On the third stop on the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition curator and Curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Dr. Sarah Thompson is joined by Michiko Adachi, Bettina Burr Associate Conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for a conversation on Katsushika Hokusai’s unintentionally collaborative Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans.

This collection of sketches, although believed to be mostly drawn by Hokusai, was passed between many of the artist’s students and peers, with each contributing new drawings. Learn more about this album and its contents by tuning in to the audio recording above. Then, explore all seven stops on the exhibition’s free smartphone tour on our SoundCloud or by visiting the exhibition in-person at the Seattle Art Museum. Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence closes Sunday, January 21, 2024. Reserve your tickets to see it now in the heart of downtown Seattle!

Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans, about 1830s–40s

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: The Asian Conservation Studio at the MFA are the people who clean and repair the art objects so that they appear at their very best in exhibitions, and who make sure that they are always stored and exhibited in the safest possible conditions. Michiko Adachi, who handles works on paper, will tell you more about an especially interesting object that she has treated.

MICHIKO ADACHI: This book with sketches and preparatory drawings is part of the Hokusai school drawing collection. The collection was believed to have been purchased by William S. Bigelow when he was living in Japan in the 1880s, from Hokusen, who had been a pupil of Hokusai.

These books are immensely fun to look through as each page holds something entirely different, from a more finished drawing, to design work, to even just a small sketch of a mouse. They were probably drawn or added throughout the years by multiple students and artists as drawings were often passed along. For this book, it is thought that a large percentage of the drawings were drawn by Hokusai himself.

These drawings are usually drawn on a thin, translucent paper in black ink, cut and pasted onto a thicker paper bound in a book format. Often you can see the artist making an outline in lighter gray ink before the final sketch, or red ink to place a grid or to make corrections. Artists also made corrections in their drawings by pasting another sheet of paper onto the desired area. The original drawing is usually still visible because the paper is translucent and often not completely pasted down, giving you a glimpse into the artistic process. You can see one of these corrections in the rectangular design work in the bottom right of this book. On the right-hand side, there are three animals surrounding two figures. The artist had initially drawn a circular pattern on the body of the animals, but later decided to change this by pasting a piece of paper on top and then drawing the animals again without the pattern on its body. If you look closely the circular pattern is still visible through the pasted paper.

A grant from the Toshiba International Foundation allowed for the conservation and imaging of a select group of Hokusai school drawings, such as this book, enabling us to share this small but special collection. You can flip through this book on the screen located next to the book.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans, about 1830s–40s, Artist unknown, Japanese, ink on paper, mounted in paperbound album, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime

In The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime, Katsushika Hokusai depicts a famous scene from classical Japanese literature with a modern twist. While the narrative of the 12th-century story remains the same—the young samurai Minamoto no Yoshitsune hears Princess Jōruri-hime playing the koto and duets with her on his flute, jumpstarting a passionate love affair—the costumes worn by some of the characters reflect the fashion and style of the 18th century.

While under the tutelage of Kasukawa Shunshō in the 1780s, Hokusai designed many of these works, known as perspective prints, which incorporate exaggerated versions of the Western-style vanishing point perspective within elegant settings. In the second stop on the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition curator Dr. Sarah Thompson discusses where Hokusai likely learned this artistic technique and points out how he achieved this perspective in this work. 

Tune in to this audio recording now on our SoundCloud to learn more about The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime or by scanning the QR code accompanying the artwork in the exhibition’s galleries. Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence is now on view through Sunday, January 21, 2024 at the Seattle Art Museum—get your tickets now!

The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime, late 1780s

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: Let’s take a close look at an early work by Hokusai, a color print with the signature “Shunro” that he used in the 1780s when he was a student of Katsukawa Shunshō.

The scene is a modernized parody version of a famous story from classical Japanese literature, in which a young samurai, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, hears the sound of a lady named Jōruri-hime playing the koto at night. He stands at her garden gate and plays a duet with her on his flute, and this is the beginning of a passionate love affair. In the print, the flute player wears the costume of the 12th century when the story is set, but the lady and her attendants wear modern 18th-century clothes. When Hokusai was in his twenties he designed many works of this type, called perspective prints because they use an exaggerated version of Western-style vanishing point perspective. He probably learned this technique by looking at artists such as Utagawa Toyoharu and Shiba Kōkan, whose work you can see hanging nearby; and he combined it with the things that he had learned from his own teacher, Shunshō: drawing elegant figures in various poses and arranging them in an attractive setting.

In this picture, Hokusai uses two different systems of perspective to give the effect he wants. The building in the left half of the picture is drawn with converging lines that recede toward a distant vanishing point to give the impression of a very large, spacious interior. But in the garden scene to the right, Hokusai uses a traditional Asian perspective, with a high horizon line and distant objects placed higher in the picture, as you can see in, for example, the large painted screens by Shunshō also in this exhibition. For Japanese artists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Western perspective was an attractive and effective drawing technique, but was not necessarily the only option. In the famous landscape prints that Hokusai designed almost 50 years later, in the 1830s, he uses Western perspective most of the time but still feels free to alter it occasionally for a special effect.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jо̄ruri-hime (Genji jū̄nidan no zu), from the series Perspective Pictures (Uki e), 1780s (Tenmei era), Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849, woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: Fine Wind, Clear Weather

You may know Katsushika Hokusai for being the creator of the infamous woodblock print The Great Wave—officially titled The Great Wave off Kanagawa (about 1830–31)—but what other artworks of his do you know? In the introductory stop on the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influencefrom the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition curator Dr. Sarah Thompson offers insight on another of Hokusai’s most recognizable woodblock prints: Fine Wind, Clear Weather (1830).

The audio recording begins with a brief introduction from Dr. Thompson, Curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, about the exhibition and the many artworks on view that derive inspiration directly from The Great Wave. Dr. Thompson then introduces Kendall DeBoer, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who collaborated with Dr. Thompson in curating this exhibition and the contemporary artworks that are featured within it.

Dr. Thompson then turns her attention to Fine Wind, Clear Weather. More commonly referred to as Red Fuji, the print comes from the same series of prints as The Great Wave, called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. As the title makes evident, Red Fuji depicts the sacred Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan admired for its beautiful symmetrical shape. Although not as universally recognized as The Great Wave, Red Fuji has served as inspiration for other artists looking to capture the mountain’s picturesque views. Among the artworks inspired by this print on view elsewhere in the galleries, points out Dr. Thompson, are Yoshitomo Nara’s 1999 parody print White Fujiyama Ski Gelände and Toyota Hokkei’s 19th-century print Mount Fuji

Hear more from Dr. Sarah Thompson, Kendall DeBoer, and other artists and scholars as part of the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence now on our SoundCloud. Or, if you’re in SAM’s galleries, scan the QR code accompanying select artworks to be routed directly to each stop on the audio tour. The exhibition is on view at SAM’s downtown location through Sunday, January 21, 2024—reserve your tickets now to see Red Fuji and so much more!

Fine Wind, Clear Weather, 1830

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: Hello, and welcome to the exhibition “Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence.” I’m Sarah Thompson, the curator in charge of Japanese prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In this show, we’ll be focusing on the most famous and influential of all Japanese artists: the painter, book illustrator, and print designer Katsushika Hokusai. Even if his name is new to you, you probably already know his most famous work, the woodblock print that has been given the nickname the Great Wave and has become one of the best-known visual images in the world. You will see a number of works based on it in this show, which looks at Hokusai in terms of the many other artists that he interacted with, both directly and indirectly. The works in the exhibition include about one-third by Hokusai himself; about one-third by other artists in Japan during his lifetime, from 1760 to 1849; and about one-third by other artists around the world, from the 1850s right up to the present, who learned about Hokusai’s work later on and found inspiration for their own work in it.

For works of contemporary art related to Hokusai, I’m lucky to have the help of my colleague Kendall DeBoer of our Contemporary Art department, and I’ll ask her to introduce herself now.

KENDALL DEBOER: Hi, I’m Kendall DeBoer, and I’m a curatorial assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art here at the MFA Boston. I specialize in contemporary craft and unconventional materials, and I’ve been delighted to work alongside Sarah on this show as a collaborator, bringing in contemporary artworks influenced by Hokusai. You’ll be hearing from me later on in this tour.

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: Now I’d like to look at one of Hokusai’s most famous images after the Great Wave, the woodblock print that has been nicknamed the Red Fuji. It’s from the same series of prints as the Wave—which you will see later in the show—called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and published in the early 1830s, when Hokusai was already in his seventies. These prints were commercial products, mass produced, and sold in stores. Hokusai did the drawings, and other people then carved the wooden printing blocks—one for each color—and did the printing. Hokusai’s Fuji series was a huge, best-selling success, and it made landscape a major subject in Japanese printmaking for the first time.

Sacred Mount Fuji was an ideal choice of subject for this breakthrough print series, because it is the tallest mountain in Japan and it has a beautiful symmetrical shape that has attracted artists for centuries. The real title of this print, written in the upper left corner along with the series title, is actually Fine Wind, Clear Weather. It’s probably early morning, and the mountain—which appears in different colors in different weather conditions—looks reddish in the dawn sunlight.

Hanging near Red Fuji is a print made in 1999 by the well-known contemporary Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, who created a humorous parody showing Mount Fuji as a ski slope by painting over a reproduction of the famous print and then using color xerox to make limited-edition prints of his painting. Also nearby is a 19th- century print by Hokusai’s most successful student, Hokkei, who specialized in designs for privately commissioned prints, known as surimono. This image, from a series of three prints showing lucky things to dream about at new year, looks similar to some of the prints in Hokusai’s Fuji series, but it was probably made a little earlier, in the 1820s. Since Hokusai designed the Fuji prints late in life, many of his students, such as Hokkei, were already successful artists in their own right by that time. So, did Hokkei base his work on an earlier design by his teacher Hokusai? Could Hokusai have been inspired by the work of his own former student? Were both of them looking at depictions of Fuji by earlier artists? Or were they both looking at the mountain itself? There are many possible kinds of relationships between works of art, so keep these ideas in mind as you look at other comparisons throughout the show.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Fine Wind, Clear Weather (Gaifū kaisei), also known as Red Fuji, from the series Thirty six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830–31 (Tenpō 1–2), Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849, woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Nellie Parney Carter Collection—Bequest of Nellie Parney Carter, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Hispanic Heritage Month at SAM: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Alfredo Arreguín

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually between September 15 and October 15 in recognition of the contributions and influence of Hispanic and Latine Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. At SAM, we’re continuing our efforts to expand the representation of Latine American artists in our collection to reflect the diversity of this community in our region.

One recent acquisition we’re especially excited about is Four Self-Portraits (1995) by acclaimed Pacific Northwest Chicano artist Alfredo Arreguín. Purchased in 2022 as part of the reinstallation of our American art galleries, the painting features a tapestry of interlaced tropical flowers, birds, leaves, arabesques, and ancient symbols that camouflage four distinct portraits of Alfredo—two at the top and two more, mirrored, at the bottom—literally merging the artist with the places and cultures of his ancestry.

Before his passing in May 2023 at the age of 88, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Alfredo in his studio to discuss his self-portrait and incredible artistic career as part of our interactive Living Labels series in American Art: The Stories We Carry. Featuring dynamic voices—including artists, scholars, and community leaders—responding to artworks on view, these videos deepen visitor engagement by presenting accessible, personal, and expressive alternatives to standard museum texts. While this experience was previously only available via touch screens in our galleries, we can’t think of a better time to share Alfredo’s Living Label with the greater public.

Today, Alfredo is remembered for his astonishing signature style: exuberant, mosaic-inflected, all-over compositions comprised of motifs derived from the rainforests and Indigenous cultures of Mexico, the compositions of Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, and the nature and topography of the Pacific Northwest. Watch his Living Label above to learn more about Alfredo’s incredible life and career, and be sure to find his portrait in our galleries during your next visit to SAM.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Chloe Collyer. Four Self-Portraits, 1995, Alfredo Arreguin, Oil on canvas, Painting: 49 3/8 x 42 3/8 in. (125.4 x 107.6 cm) Frame: 55 x 43 in. (139.7 x 109.2 cm), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2022.13 (c) Alfredo Arreguin.

SAM Through Kids’ Eyes: Book a School Tour For Your Students this Year!

The 2023–2024 school year is officially in full swing! As students and educators return their classrooms, we’re taking this opportunity to share some information about how to book a guided or self-guided school tour at any of our three locations. Plus, we’ve included a few imaginative artworks created by students on a field trip to the Olympic Sculpture Park to give you an idea of the type of artistic activities your students will take part in while visiting any of SAM’s locations.

All school tours at the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park are image-focused and inquiry-based experiences designed for K–12 students. Guided tours are led by trained guides who encourage students to look closely, share personal perspectives, and build connections to their lives and learning. Following this in-gallery experience, students are invited to get creative through an art workshop supported by SAM educators, teachers, chaperones, and/or volunteers. Meanwhile, self-guided tours allow educators to customize their museum experience by leading their own tours through the galleries.

In the 2022–2023, we’re proud to have served more than 5,500 students across 235 school tours. Of these tours, 154 took place at the Seattle Art Museum, 36 took place at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and 26 took place at the Olympic Sculpture Park. This year, we intend to host more tours and provide even more students across Washington State with an exciting educational and artistic experience.

Ready to book a school tour for your classroom? Click here to check availability and plan your visit to SAM!

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

In Boafo’s Words: Happy Siblings

“I wanted to make my paintings the way I want people to see me, you know, I just wanted to show Blackness in a different way. Why can I not be Black and be happy?”

– Amoako Boafo

After witnessing a rare moment of playfulness between his siblings in 2019, Amoako Boafo decided to commemorate the moment in a portrait. Happy Siblings marks the first of Boafo’s paintings to include members of his immediate family.

Despite the portrait’s use of muted colors, Boafo still finds the painting to be joyful. Brightness, he says, does not equate beauty. Tune in to the eighth stop of the SAM-exclusive smartphone tour of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks on our SoundCloud to learn more about this work and how the artist incorporates his family into his art. Or, if you’re in the galleries, scan the QR code next to this work to access this and nine other recordings related to the exhibition. Soul of Black Folks closes this Sunday, September 10—get your tickets to see it at SAM’s downtown location before it’s too late!

Happy Siblings, 2019

NARRATOR: Boafo painted this portrait of his siblings in 2019.

AMOAKO BOAFO: It’s not often that I see them playful like that. So, when I saw it, I’m like, let me capture this moment and let me just put it down.

NARRATOR: The portrait was a way of including the artist’s family in his practice.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I wanted to find a way to get my family into my painting because they have an idea of what painting is, and they like what I’m doing, but they don’t really know much about it.

I mean, the thing is that they don’t come to the studio, you know, because they have other things to do, and they feel like when they come, they will disturb me, which I don’t think it is true; but instead of waiting for them to come around I want to go to them.

NARRATOR: Interestingly, for this joyful image, Boafo has chosen a muted paint color, buff titanium, for his brother’s shirt.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I don’t think it has to be bright to be beautiful. Because this color palette has a lot of white in the background, which is plain. So it gives it a lot of shine.

NARRATOR: It also makes a strong contrast with his siblings’ skin color.

AMOAKO BOAFO: You know, dark… dark helps with light.

NARRATOR: This image of light and joy is important for Boafo.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I have done a lot of paintings on my struggle. But then I had to change that for myself. I wanted to make my paintings the way I want people to see me, you know, I just wanted to show Blackness in a different way. Why can I not be Black and be happy?

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Happy Siblings, 2019, Amoako Boafo, oil on canvas, 63 x 63 in., Jesse Williams Collection.

In Boafo’s Words: Steven Onoja

This 2018 portrait is of Steven Onoja, a well-known contemporary photographer and close friend to Amoako Boafo. Although Onoja typically finds himself behind the camera, Boafo asked the Nigerian photographer to take a chance in front of his canvas and allow him to paint his portrait. The result is an intimate painting that highlights Boafo’s early foray into sculpting the skin of his subjects through finger painting.

From his choice in clothing and facial expression, it’s clear Onoja is well-respected in his industry. This was a deliberate choice by Boafo. In discussing this painting on the seventh stop of the SAM-exclusive smartphone tour of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, the artist explains how choices such as these inform the spirit and character of his subjects. Although viewers likely do not know Onoja personally, the way Boafo artistically depicts him gives you insight into the man he is.

Learn more about Boafo’s intentional artistic choices by exploring all nine stops of the exhibition’s audio tour on our SoundCloud. If you’re in SAM’s galleries, use your phone to scan the QR code accompanying select works to be routed to the adjoining recording. Soul of Black Folks closes in just a few weeks at SAM—get your tickets to see the exhibition before it closes on Sunday, September 10!

Steven Onoja, 2018

AMOAKO BOAFO: Steven is a photographer that I know. I like the kind of pictures that he takes; the way he poses; and just the way he carries himself; and I wanted to just capture that.

NARRATOR: As so often in Boafo’s work, fashion plays an important role.

AMOAKO BOAFO: Now you don’t know Steven, but in just the way he’s dressed, you can already sense who he is; and for me, fashion… it gives you a bit of the person and their character and their image and their spirit without you… or without them saying anything.

NARRATOR: The painting dates from 2018 and it gives an insight into Boafo’s evolving practice.

AMOAKO BOAFO: You can see clearly like this is an old painting, or early stages of me developing my language with my finger painting and my color palette, and you can tell this is all flat tones with just the face as the busy space.

NARRATOR: The flatness of the painted surface, together with the simplified forms, allow Boafo to incorporate abstraction into his art.

AMOAKO BOAFO: Figuration can also be abstraction in a way. You can see this is clearly a figure. But then you cannot really tell how the jacket is worn. You cannot tell from where the trousers and the arm of the jacket meets. I mean, I like the idea of painting figures and portrait because it tells a certain story that I like and I want to explore in that area, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have or add a bit of abstraction to my work as well.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Steven Onoja, 2018, Amoako Boafo, oil on canvas, 63 x 55 in., Courtesy of Derek Forjour Collection, New York City.

In Boafo’s Words: Red Collar

When first looking at Amoako Boafo’s 2021 portrait, Red Collar, viewers can’t help be drawn to the striking multicolored dress that dominates the center of the painting. It comes as a surprise to many when they eventually realize that the artwork draws its title not from the striped dress, but rather from the dog’s small red collar.

On this sixth stop of the SAM-exclusive audio tour of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, the artist explains how the painting’s striped dress came to be. Although he originally planned to adorn the subject’s dress in an intricate pattern using his paper transfer technique, his decision to use of gesso—a thin, white paint often applied to surfaces such as wood panels or canvas to allow for a smoother surface—to prep the canvas, made a paper transfer impossible. Finger painting a design on the dress was also not an option, the artist explains in the recording, because he reserves this technique for the exposed body. In the end, he decided to use a paintbrush to create the dress’s stripes.

Hear more from Boafo by exploring all nine stops of the free smartphone tour of Soul of Black Folks at SAM on our SoundCloud. Or, if you’re in the galleries, scan the QR code accompanying each work to be routed to the adjoining recording.

Red Collar, 2021

NARRATOR: The two women, with their dog, are friends of the artist in Ghana. But he painted the portrait in California. A striking feature of the painting is the boldly striped dress. In fact, this design was not Boafo’s original intention. In Los Angeles, he was working with a different canvas surface, which he had prepared using gesso.

AMOAKO BOAFO: So gesso is another layer that’s used to prepare canvas, and I like to do that because when I gesso the canvas and it dry, I sandpaper it, and it gives me a smooth surface for me to be able to move my fingers when I’m painting because when it’s rough, my fingertips hurts a little bit.

NARRATOR: Initially, Boafo had planned to create a pattern using the paper transfer technique he describes in Stop 3, The Menu.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I wanted to do a transfer print, but then with the gesso on that canvas, the print could not hold, and so I had to find different ways to resolve, and that’s how I got to the pattern that she was wearing.

NARRATOR: Boafo created the stripes using a brush. As usual, finger painting is reserved for the skin and body of his characters.

AMOAKO BOAFO: The exposed body—like face, arm, and hair—those are the only spaces that I use my finger. Anything outside that, the painting of the dog, the clothes, the background, everything else is done with a brush.

NARRATOR: For Boafo, this distinction creates a particular intimacy with the characters.

AMOAKO BOAFO: Not that when I paint with a brush it’s not good or I don’t like it, but there’s a different kind of joy and happiness in being able to, like, touch a mood and move things around to form something. There’s a different feeling with that.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Red Collar, 2021, Amoako Boafo, oil on canvas, 84 x 108 in., The Hornik Collection.

In Boafo’s Words: Self Portrait – Masked

“I always want people to know that I’m looking. Even when I’m not there, I’m still looking. If you’re looking at my painting, my painting is looking at you, and I’m looking at you.”

– Amoako Boafo

The image of a face mask is now synonymous with the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It comes as no surprise then to learn that Amoako Boako painted Self Portrait – Masked in 2020.

In the fifth stop of the free smartphone tour of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at SAM, the artist discusses the evolution of his artistic process while in lockdown in Ghana. Although the mask covers the majority of his face, the artist still finds beauty in his intricately patterned mask and direct gaze. Taken as a whole, this image demonstrates how communication continues despite lacking most facial features.

Explore all nine stops in the exhibition’s audio tour now on our SoundCloud or scan the QR code accompanying any work to tune in while exploring SAM’s galleries. The exhibition closes in less than one month—reserve your tickets to see it before it closes on Sunday, September 10!

Self Portrait – Masked, 2020

NARRATOR: Self-Portrait – Masked, dates from 2020. Boafo was in Ghana when COVID struck. This shaped his experience of the lockdown: for most people he knew, staying home was just not an option.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I mean, it was a different case there because almost everybody, I mean the larger population, the work they do is hand to mouth, which means if you don’t go to work in the next day or two days, you might not have anything to eat.

So, I did not have the sense of just staying home and just staying in and not doing anything. You know, I was out there trying to support as much as I could.

NARRATOR: Wearing a mask is linked in our minds with the horrors of COVID. But Boafo’s mask is not just about protection from disease: it is covered with his distinctive patterning.

AMOAKO BOAFO: We all know—when COVID happened—we all know what it did and the impact it had. There wasn’t anything beautiful about it. But I needed to make the painting in a way that it still would be beautiful for you to look at.

NARRATOR: Above the mask, Boafo’s eyes meet ours directly.

AMOAKO BOAFO: Well, I always want people to know that I’m looking. Even when I’m not there, I’m still looking. If you’re looking at my painting, my painting is looking at you, and I’m looking at you.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Installation view of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2022, photo: Sean Fleming.

Making History: Meet Tanya Uyeda, SAM’s Inaugural Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator

This spring, Tanya Uyeda joined SAM as the museum’s inaugural Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator. A leader in conservation practice, education, and research, Tanya assumes responsibility for the care of SAM’s East Asian painting collection, focusing on conservation treatments and sourcing the necessary specialized materials and tools. 

Her appointment also marked the start of regular activity in the landmark Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Conservation Center, which opened as part of the renovated and expanded Seattle Asian Art Museum in February 2020. The center is one of only a handful of museum studios nationwide dedicated to the comprehensive treatment of East Asian paintings, and the only studio of this type in the western US.

Tanya comes to SAM with over 28 years of experience in art conservation, including over 20 years as a conservator of Japanese paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Born in Eugene, Oregon, Tanya received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies: Japanese Language and History from Oberlin College and earned a Master’s Degree in Preservation of Cultural Properties from Tokyo University of the Arts. She also trained at an elite painting conservation studio in Tokyo. She is one of only four American conservators of a similar background working in a US institution, as there are no conservation training programs for East Asian paintings outside of Asia.

Just a few months into her tenure at SAM, Marketing Content Creator Lily Hansen spoke with Tanya about her short- and long-term goals, what members can expect in her upcoming Up Close With Conservators talk this fall, how she’s adjusting to Seattle, and more.


LILY HANSEN: Welcome to SAM! After spending more than 20 years in Boston, how are you adjusting to Seattle?

TANYA UYEDA: It seems I arrived in Seattle at the best time of year—I’ve really been enjoying this spectacular summer weather! I’ve settled into a home in the Ballard neighborhood and have been getting it ready in anticipation of my family relocating from Boston later this fall. It’s been so nice to explore the Ballard Farmers Market every Sunday and recently took a weekend jaunt over to Bainbridge Island. I also have extended family in the area, and it has been lovely to be able to reconnect with many of them.

LH: How does it feel to be named SAM’s inaugural Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator?

TU: I feel very honored to be chosen for this important new position. Before arriving at SAM, I worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which houses one of the most important and comprehensive collections of Japanese art in the US. Most of my work on the Japanese painting collection supported large-scale touring exhibitions that were shown primarily in Japan. 

I am looking forward to continuing this work at the Seattle Asian Art Museum and contributing to the preservation of, and scholarship on, the museum’s East Asian painting collection. I can’t wait to share my insights with members and visitors alike, and to support the care and appreciation of these important artworks throughout the entire Western Pacific region.

LH: What are a few of the goals you set for yourself in taking on this position?

TU: Since assuming my role, my immediate focus has been setting up the Tateuchi Conservation Center as a fully functioning conservation studio. The renovation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum included the creation of this beautiful new workspace, necessary infrastructure such as work tables, sinks, light tables, and fume hoods. The tatami mat flooring and low work tables are what you would see in a traditional Japanese scroll mounting studio, and is what I am accustomed to from my training.

In addition to the basic conservation equipment, East Asian paintings require highly specialized (and expensive!) materials and tools, such as handmade paper, woven textiles, decorative fittings, and various types of brushes, adhesives, pigments, and dyestuffs. Many of these necessary items are imported directly from Japan and China, and are becoming increasingly difficult to source due to the aging out of the artisans that produce them and a lack of younger craftsmen to replace them.

For example, there is a type of paper called “misu-gami” that is produced in the Yoshino region of Japan and provides the flexible inner structure of Japanese hanging scrolls. However, there is now only one papermaker producing it. I will be relying on the generous cooperation of conservation colleagues in Japan and the US, as well as suppliers and craftspeople, to support me as I work to outfit the Tateuchi Conservation Center and carry out the treatments we intend to complete.

LH: The Emerging Arts Leader Internship Program is an integral part of SAM’s mission to connect art to life. This summer, you welcomed Alexa Machnik as your first Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation. What has it been like working with Alexa? Do you intend to take on more interns in the future?

TU: I was very fortunate to meet Alexa and convince her to spend the summer with me in Seattle before she begins a fellowship with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this fall. As a Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and a fourth-year student in the university’s MA/MS program in art history and conservation, she also has extensive working experience at institutions such as the Yale University library and Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The primary focus of Alexa’s internship has been to work alongside me in building eight new karibari, or drying boards, for the studio. These boards are an essential component of every East Asian painting conservation and mounting studio. They consist of a wooden lattice undercore and feature up to 11 layers of handmade paper pasted in specific configurations on either side to provide a sturdy and breathable, yet lightweight surface for stretch drying and flattening artworks during treatment. It is a time consuming and physically demanding task, and I am grateful to have Alexa’s assistance! Building the boards is also excellent training in the use of brushes and knives, different thicknesses of paste, and the preparation of various types of handmade paper. She is also helping me process an important series of artworks gifted to SAM at the bequest of longtime benefactor, the late Frank Bayley III, as well as designing  new display apparatus for upcoming gallery rotations at the museum.

My hope is that the Tateuchi Conservation Center will serve as a training resource for future conservators of Asian art, as coursework in East Asian painting conservation is not an area of study offered in North American or European graduate conservation programs. Training in this field is still largely apprenticeship-based, taking place in private studios across Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. As a result of their unusual formats, Asian paintings require dexterity, specialized tools, refined aesthetic sensibilities, and linguistic, cultural, and historical knowledge. In the US, the field tends to attract students with a background or interest in paper conservation. These include so-called pre-program students (those seeking admittance to North American conservation programs) or recent graduates from these same programs. Occasionally, students with academic or practical training from Asia are considered as well. 

LH: This fall, SAM will launch Up Close with Conservators, a members-only lecture series offering an in-depth look at the conservation work taking place at the museum. For the inaugural lecture, you’ll be in conversation with SAM’s Jane Lang Davis Chief Conservator Nick Dorman. What can SAM members expect to hear in your discussion with Nick?

TU: Up Close with Conservators is an exciting opportunity to highlight the individuals who make up SAM’s conservation team and to share the details of our work with the public. We chose to title the series “Up Close” because much of our work begins with a close examination of the objects. We look forward to educating members on the works of art in our care, sharing our discoveries, explaining how we assist the museum’s curators in interpreting the artistic intent of each artwork’s creator, and articulating how best to handle, store, and preserve art for future generations. 

In our lecture, Nick and I will discuss the museum’s long journey to establish the Tateuchi Conservation Center at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and what the role of this new resource will be for the understanding and preservation of the important East Asian collections in the West Coast region. I will also be giving a brief overview of the kind of work that will take place in the studio, and what conservation of East Asian paintings looks like. It will be my first opportunity to speak to SAM’s members and is sure to be a engaging conversation.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

In Boafo’s Words: Umber Brown Belt

“I want my characters to pose with this kind of self-confidence, and in this painting, the character’s pose is exactly what I want to achieve. She’s present in the space.”

– Amoako Boafo

Self-confidence is an essential characteristic in all of Amoako Boafo’s portraits. Not only is this accomplished through his subjects’ poses, but also by the artist’s use of vibrant colors, an unflinching gaze, and distinct fashion. In Umber Brown Belt, the subject exudes self-confidence in her decision to directly face the viewer. This confidence is further emphasized by the artist’s choice to give her bright red lips, an intimate stare, and an intricate floral blouse.

On the fourth stop of the free smartphone tour of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at SAM, the artist explains the reasons behind his creative hallmarks. Listen to the audio recording now on our SoundCloud to learn more about the artistic choices in Umber Brown Belt or scan the QR code accompanying the work to tune in while exploring SAM’s galleries. The exhibition closes Sunday, September 10—reserve your tickets before it’s too late!

Umber Brown Belt, 2020

NARRATOR: Umber Brown Belt is a portrait of a woman from the artist’s neighborhood. The belt of the title cinches her lavishly patterned floral blouse. For Boafo, his use of pattern is connected to the patterned fabrics common in his home city of Accra, the capital of Ghana.

AMOAKO BOAFO: You cannot go a day without seeing anything with a pattern in Accra, anything colorful in Accra. So, I think, whenever I’m painting and I’m making those outfits with the print, I think of the patterns that I see daily, and the colors that I do come across. That’s what I think of and how I interpret them.

NARRATOR: Dress is important for Boafo in presenting his characters.

AMOAKO BOAFO: The way you appear in certain spaces, people think of you the way you are dressed. I want my characters to pose with this kind of self-confidence, and in this painting, the character’s pose is exactly what I want to achieve. She’s present in the space.

NARRATOR: This idea of presence is significant for Boafo.

AMOAKO BOAFO: Everything is connected to my experience in certain spaces and locations where I find myself and how people look at you and how you feel. I think, you know, most of the spaces that I’ve been before have not been that inviting. Sometimes you are there but not really there. And the thing is that I want to change that kind of ideas with my paintings. I want to be present. I want people to feel my presence.

NARRATOR: There’s one final detail you may have noticed: the woman’s hands are left unpainted.

AMOAKO BOAFO: The energy that I want from the painting, if I’m already getting it, it doesn’t make sense to add more because sometimes adding more: it’s not necessarily good.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Umber Brown Belt, 2020, Amoako Boafo, paper transfer and oil on canvas, 82 5/8 x 66 7/8 in., Courtesy the Collection of Marilyn & Larry Fields.

Curating the Soul of Black Folks: Larry Ossei-Mensah on Amoako Boafo’s Powerful Portraits

“We’re not just [that which] we’ve been visually assigned, there’s a lot more layers. And I think this exhibition offers that on a multitude of levels.”

– Larry Ossei-Mensah, Curator of “Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks”

Larry Ossei-Mensah first introduced himself to Amoako Boafo in 2018 via a DM on Instagram. A friend of Ossei-Mensah’s, artist Kehinde Wiley, had sent him Boafo’s profile and thought they might hit it off considering their shared Ghanaian heritage. In 2023, Boafo’s debut solo museum exhibition, Soul of Black Folks, is touring throughout the US, with Ossei-Mensah serving as the exhibition curator.

A few days before the exhibition opened its doors at the Seattle Art Museum in July, we sat down with Ossei-Mensah to discuss what drew him to Boafo’s artwork, the collaborative process they shared in developing Soul of Black Folks, and what he hopes viewers take away from encountering Boafo’s powerful finger painted portraits in SAM’s galleries.

Watch our interview with Ossei-Mensah above, then get your tickets to see the exhibition at SAM before it closes on Sunday, September 10!

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

In Boafo’s Words: Reflection I

Reflection I marks Amoako Boafo’s first self-portrait following his move from Accra, Ghana to Vienna, Austria. With his head resting on his hand, Boafo resembles artist Auguste Rodin’s famed sculpture The Thinker, a work that has come to symbolize both the suffering and salvation found in self-reflection.

In addition to Rodin, many consider this self-portrait to allude to W.E.B. Du Bois and his notion of the double-consciousness as outlined in The Souls of Black Folks (1903), for which Boafo’s exhibition is named. This concept interrogates the idea that Black people constantly have to look at themselves through the eyes of ‘others.’ In looking at himself in the mirror, Boafo challenges the ‘othered’ gaze often applied to the Black body—a theme explored by the artist within many of his works.

Tune in to the free smartphone tour of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks to learn more about Reflection I and eight more of Boafo’s portraits. It can be accessed on your own time via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code accompanying each work in SAM’s galleries. Get your tickets to see the exhibition today!

Reflection I, 2018

NARRATOR: Boafo painted Reflection I in 2018, after leaving Ghana to study in Vienna, Austria. The radiator under the mirror deliberately points out the change to a European setting. The new environment sparked a period of self-evaluation for the artist: it led him—for the first time—to paint himself.

AMOAKO BOAFO: Working with myself helped me understand who I am as an artist and a human being. Making that image also help others look at themselves and think of things differently. It is a way that I wanted to experience my masculinity myself and not what society sees to be normal. I wanted to see how it looks like when you explore more of the flesh.

NARRATOR: As part of this exploration, Boafo has developed a distinctive skin color palette of umber brown and ultramarine blue. He applies the paint directly to the canvas using his fingers.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I wasn’t able to move forward with the brush painting the way I wanted my characters to feel, the way I want to express their feeling, because for me, painting is just more than capturing the perfection of a person. There is character. There is feeling. There is energy. The brush could not give me that kind of feeling. And so I arrived at painting with my finger.

NARRATOR: Here, the artist meets his own gaze in the mirror.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I think sometimes we look away from our experiences, and painting being a tool for me to express myself, I don’t want to shy away from the experiences. I want to look at it. I want people to see me looking at it because for me I feel like that’s the space where I get to be myself.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Reflection I (detail), 2018, Amoako Boafo, oil on paper, 51 1/8 x 43 3/8 in., Image and work courtesy Roberts Projects, Los Angeles and Private Collection, photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

In Boafo’s Words: Jean Jacques Ndjoli

Before entering the galleries of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at SAM, visitors are greeted by a 2020 portrait of contemporary fashion designer and stylist Jean Jacques Ndjoli. Hanging amidst a wall covered in Boafo’s well-known Monstera plant print, the portrait offers an introduction to the artist’s signature style with its vibrant yellow hues and the apparent use of his distinct finger painting technique.

Learn more about this artwork and eight more of Boafo’s portraits by tuning in to our free smartphone tour of the exhibition on our SoundCloud. Or, if you’re in the galleries, scan the QR code accompanying each work to be directed to the relevant stop on the tour. The exhibition closes Sunday, September 10—get your tickets to see it before it’s gone!

Jean Jacques Ndjoli, 2020

AMOAKO BOAFO: This is a painting I did in LA [where] it’s sunny all the time. You know, you are guaranteed to get your fresh pressed orange juice.

NARRATOR: To capture that mood, the artist focuses on one color.

AMOAKO BOAFO: You have three shades of yellow. So, the overall pullover is the cadmium yellow hue, and then the background, I tinted it with white, and then I added a bit of brown to the yellow hue to have that inner pullover.

NARRATOR: Boafo is a figurative painter. In other words, he paints recognizable figures and objects. But this image goes beyond straightforward representation. The flat, simplified forms of the hooded pullover become abstract areas of color.

They also create a strong visual tension with the thickly finger-painted skin of the face.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I think of colors that, you know, just highlight the face and the figure.

NARRATOR: The important thing for Boafo is to elevate and celebrate his characters.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I consciously think about how to elevate the characters and place element or colors that only elevates them or complement them and not compete and take away from them.

I think the thing with celebration is that we don’t do it that often, and I think it would be good that we celebrate others more often: for people to know that we see what they are doing, and they are appreciated and noticed for what they are doing.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Jean Jacques Ndjoli, 2020, Amoako Boafo, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in., Collection of Josef Vascovitz and Lisa Goodman, courtesy of Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

In Boafo’s Words: Introducing Soul of Black Folks

“I like people to be with me through the journey of making [a] painting, even though they’re not in the studio space. I want people to come to the show and feel like they made the paintings with me…”

– Amoako Boafo

Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks is now on view at SAM! As part of the contemporary Ghanaian artist’s Pacific Northwest solo debut, we developed an audio tour of additional artistic insight. Featuring interviews with Boafo and exhibition curator Larry Ossei-Mensah, the tour highlights eight of the artist’s portraits created between 2016 and 2022 and is exclusive to Seattle audiences.

The tour kicks off with a brief introduction to the exhibition and Boafo’s artistic process. This stop includes a discussion of the exhibition’s title—drawing its inspiration from W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal 1903 ethnographic study The Souls of Black Folk—and the artist’s distinct finger painting technique used to sculpt the skin of his subjects. The recording concludes with Boafo explaining what he hopes Seattle visitors will take away from experiencing his artwork.

Explore all nine stops of our smartphone tour in SAM’s galleries by scanning the QR code accompanying each of the featured works on view or listen to it on your own time on our SoundCloud. Get your tickets to see the exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum through Sunday, September 10!

Soul of Black Folks: Introduction

NARRATOR: Welcome to the Seattle Art Museum and to Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks. This is the first solo museum exhibition in the United States for Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo. The show brings together over 30 works created between 2016 and 2022. It has been guest curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by the seminal ethnographic study, The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois, dating from 1903. The book was an assessment of Black life at the turn of the 20th century. Boafo’s work offers a visual equivalent for our times: it can be seen as an exploration of Black life in all its breadth of experience and emotion. The exhibition is a celebration of the humanity of Black people in 2023.

Boafo’s paintings combine skillful brushwork with finger-painting: specifically, he uses his fingers to mold and sculpt the bodies of his subjects—subjects that he refers to as ‘characters.’ We’re delighted that Boafo will be joining us throughout the tour, offering insights into his artistic process and inspiration. 

AMOAKO BOAFO: I like people to be with me through the journey of making the painting, even though they’re not in the studio space. I want people to come to the show and feel like they made the paintings with me because there is all the choices of colors and movement that you see, and you feel like you are part of the painting, or you are there when the painting was made.  I want people to have that feeling when they come.  

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Shawna Bliss Celebrates 24 Years of Service at SAM

Earlier this year, volunteers across all the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, and Olympic Sculpture Park came together to celebrate another incredible year of service at SAM. Hosted by the Seattle Art Museum Volunteers Association Advisory Committee (SAMVA-AC), the 2023 Volunteer Soirée honored the landmark accomplishments of some of SAM’s longest-serving volunteers.

Of the many awards handed out that evening, none were as significant and surprise-filled as the Dorothy C. Malone Award. Established by the SAM Board of Trustees in 1989, the award is given to an exceptional volunteer who exemplifies the highest standard of dedication and service to the museum.

Dorothy “Dottie” C. Malone is a significant part of SAM’s history, having invested 63 years in the museum as a staff member and volunteer. She treated the museum as her family, taking a warm and personal interest in the staff, volunteers, and operations of the museum. She cared deeply and held the museum to a high standard of excellence. Her concern for volunteers, which she called “the backbone of the museum,” combined with her own dedication and commitment, inspired the Board of Trustees to establish this award in her name.

This year’s recipient of the Dorothy C. Malone Lifetime Achievement Volunteer Award is Shawna Bliss. A volunteer for over 24 years, Shawna currently volunteers in our docent program and has consistently contributed to the development of gallery learning across all three SAM locations. Born and raised in West Seattle, Shawna is the oldest of five siblings and discovered a passion for education at a young age. She received her bachelor’s degree in education and psychology from the University of Washington and completed her master’s in education at the University of Utah.

The following years saw Shawna traveling with her husband, Don, throughout the United States and Australia before settling into a long term home in Bremerton to raise their family. For many years, Shawna commuted from Bremerton to Seattle to volunteer at SAM, becoming one of the museum’s most prominent supporters. Family gifts often included museum memberships, invitations to view exhibitions and programs, and one-of-a-kind items from SAM Shop. She encouraged her siblings and children to visit SAM and often brought her parents downtown to explore the museum’s galleries.

Following our celebration of Shawna and her continued contributions to SAM, we asked her about her time at SAM and any advice she’d offer prospective volunteers. Read below to see what she had to say!


SAM: How did you learn about the opportunity of becoming a SAM volunteer? What was the process like for you to join?

Shawna Bliss (SB): I learned about the opportunity of becoming a SAM volunteer at an education job fair held in Seattle before the start of the 1999 school year. A SAM representative was promoting SAM’s education programs and volunteer opportunities. I completed a volunteer application, had an interview with SAM’s Manager of Volunteer Programs, and was hired to assist a SAM educator in the Art Studio.

SAM: What is your favorite memory of being a SAM volunteer?

SB: I have so many favorite memories of being a SAM volunteer! What keeps me at SAM year after year are the opportunities to work with, and learn from, other volunteers, SAM staff, and museum visitors.

SAM: Were you surprised to receive the Dorothy C. Malone Award? What was your reaction?

SB: I was totally surprised! 2019 was the last year SAM held its Volunteer Soirée, so I came to this year’s soirée expecting to celebrate “our” return to SAM. I was not expecting any of us to be personally recognized!

SAM: Why should people consider becoming a SAM volunteer? 

SB: Do you like making new friends? There are many volunteer opportunities at SAM, all of which give volunteers occasions to meet and engage with like-minded people, including other volunteers, SAM staff, and visitors. 

Do you like learning about art, artists, and connecting art to the lives of visitors? If so, there is always much to see, read, and think about at SAM.

Do you like SAM and support its mission, vision, and values? SAM volunteers do! Young or old, just getting started or having volunteered for decades, all of us take pride in representing SAM as we serve in our volunteer roles. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Film As Art: Howard L. GATO Mitchell on Making Movies with Meaning

“I got into filmmaking not only to tell stories and to entertain, but to express myself and bring meaning to moving pictures.”

– Howard L. GATO Mitchell

In his 2018 short film Forgive Us Our Debts, Portland-based artist, director, and writer Howard L. GATO Mitchell depicts moments in life we don’t always see, interweaving the tangible and intangible to reveal “the fire beneath the ice of humanity.” The film tells the fictional story of 13-year-old Trey, who lives with his family in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

While in Seattle in April, we sat down with GATO to talk about artistic filmmaking, the relationship shared between a director and viewer in cinema, and how Trey’s fictional story is a reflection of larger economic and political pressures affecting people across the United States, especially communities of color. Watch our interview with GATO above and experience the artist’s 15-minute film at SAM’s downtown location through August 6.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

Inside SAM’s World of Compelling Cloth: French Coverlet

While many of us source our coverlets—more commonly referred to today as a bedspread—from big-name companies, in 18th century France these objects were typically handwoven and dyed with meticulous precision by local artisans. They often featured intricate embroidery details that took hours to craft. In the sixth stop of our smartphone tour of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at SAM, we take a close look at a French coverlet from the late 18th century and explore its fabric, known as Chiné à la branche. Browse all seven stops of our free smartphone tour from the exhibition’s galleries before it closes on Monday, May 29 or in your own time here.

How was Chiné à la branche used?
European ikat fabrics were incredibly expensive to produce, which is one of the reasons Chiné à la branche is most closely associated with royalty. Marie Antoinette had a particular affinity for the fabric, having her court clothes and palace furnishings made of various Chiné à la branche designs. The more popular designs in court were soft, blurred floral patterns, which were used for everything from dresses to upholstery.

How did industrialization affect ikat?
Industrialization led to the French abandoning the slow and costly production of ikat. Rather than hand-dying individual bundles, they were able to print patterns directly onto the warp threads. The dress shown above is stylized to look like ikat, but technically does not follow the traditional ikat process.

Verbal Description of French Coverlet

This coverlet was made in the late 18th century and measures five feet, six inches tall and four feet, nine inches wide. The ikat top layer of this coverlet is made of silk and linen thread and the back is made of silk. The layers are connected by quilted embroidery. This coverlet—or, bedspread—has both the colorful print-like pattern of the weave and a textured pattern created by the quilting process that joins the ikat fabric with other layers of the piece. The backing of this bedspread is a pink silk fabric. Between the silk backing and the ikat top layer, there’s about half an inch of batting—or, filling—that would make the coverlet a more effective warming layer for a bed.

First, we’ll examine the woven pattern of the ikat, which is precise in its execution, but has an intentional blurry quality around the edges. The pattern is a repeat of vertical stripes: a powder-blue stripe about three inches wide sits next to a cream colored stripe about five inches wide. This set of stripes is repeated six times across the coverlet. Within the cream colored stripe, there’s more detail. Thin lines on both edges of the cream stripe in pale yellow, dusty rose, and black frame an abstract design of flowers.

The stems and leaves of the flowers are a soft, mossy green and run down the center of the cream stripe in alternating curved lines that are reminiscent of vines. Splashes of the same dusty rose color form the blossoms of the flowers. Both the blossoms and the stems have irregular edges that artists in France nickname ‘flambé’—or, flaming—an aesthetic that was desirable at the time. On the sides of the coverlet, there are two strips of the fabric that have been cut off and attached perpendicularly to the rest of the bedspread, making the pattern horizontal on the edges.

Now let’s focus on the quilting that joins the layers together. The quilted stitching is done in a clear thread so that the lines themselves are only visible by the indentation and texture they create on the surface of the bedspread. In the center of the piece, there is a circle surrounded by eight symmetrical petal shapes, forming a simple flower shape like a large daisy. The daisy has three rings encircling it and then diamond shapes fill up most of the coverlet until about a foot from the edges where they are boxed in. Around the diamonds, small hearts and daisies alternate in a border to the quilting.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: French Coverlet, late 18th century. Collection of David and Marita Paly. Silk, warp ikat, linen weft, quilted embroidery. 66 in. x 57 in. Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria by Joseph Ducreux. 1769. Pastel on parchment. © Château de Versailles. Robe à la Française, French, 1760–70, Silk. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Creating Zurashi: An Interview with Rowland and Chinami Ricketts

“You can do it easily, or you can do it well.”

– Ikat Weaver Chinami Ricketts

Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth closes in one month at SAM! Learn more about the show-stopping ikat that welcomes visitors into the exhibition’s galleries in our interview with the artists who made it, Rowland and Chinami Ricketts. Titled Zurashi/Slipped and commissioned specifically for SAM’s galleries by exhibition curator Pam McClusky, this incredible installation includes a total of 1,008 bundles of yarn—each being composed of 48 threads measuring 25 yards—dyed and woven by the artists themselves over the course of three months. Once you’ve watched the video above and learned about the extensive process it took to weave and dye the artwork, watch our timelapse video below to see how we installed it in our galleries. Then, visit the exhibition at SAM’s downtown location through Monday, May 29 to see the artwork for yourself and discover over 100 more beautiful handwoven textiles from around the world.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Shopping for Ikats: A Look at SAM’s Exhibition Shop

The decision to reopen the Seattle Art Museum’s Exhibition Shop on the museum’s fourth floor after a three-year closure wasn’t an easy one to make. Knowing that Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth was heading to SAM, however, SAM Shop Buyer Renata Tatman and SAM Associate Director for Retail Operations Lindsey Dabek agreed that it was time to bring back this specially curated shopping experience and got right to work.

“We knew that the reopening of the Exhibition Shop had to be irresistible,” said Tatman. “We’re not always able to find products that have a direct relationship to an exhibition, but Ikat was different. There’s an abundance of artisans and textile artists from all over the world that we knew we could reach out to and carry their creations in the shop.”

In the shop, visitors will find textile-themed books, notecards, postcards, and magnets, but the space’s emphasis is unsurprisingly on handwoven textiles. With beautiful cloths from Uzbekistan, Japan, Bali, Borneo, Guatemala, Cambodia, Thailand, and India covering nearly every surface of the space, the shop offers museum visitors an opportunity to touch, connect with, and take home a work of art in a way that’s forbidden in the galleries. 

Staying true to the themes explored in the exhibition, the products available in the shop—everything from kitchen towels and scarves to vintage kimonos and jewelry with textile elements—are woven by hand; fabrics factory-printed with ikat patterns are nowhere in sight.

Tatman also worked closely with six local artisans and designers to create special products for the store, including one-of-a-kind jackets made with ikats imported from Uzbekistan by Judith Bird, bucket hats featuring ikats from Bali by Amy Downs, a jewelry collection by Marita Dingus that incorporates small scraps of ikat textiles stitched in layers, and bundles of plant-dyed thread and linen by Kata Golda for anyone feeling inspired to create their own textiles after seeing the exhibition.

“Our customers love color, so I looked for handwoven products with striking color combinations,” said Tatman while reflecting on how she decided what textiles were worth featuring in the Exhibition Shop. “I looked for items with good workmanship, value, and intricate designs. Anyone who visits the shop after exploring the galleries will find something that catches their eye.”

The Exhibition Shop is located on the fourth floor of the Seattle Art Museum adjacent to the galleries. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm and is only accessible with museum admission. Browse SAM’s entire collection of handmade gifts, books, puzzles, housewares, jewelry, textiles, and more online or on the museum’s ground floor that is accessible via First Ave and open to all. Get your tickets to see Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth and explore the Exhibition Shop through Monday, May 29!

– Lily Hansen, Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Chloe Collyer

Inside SAM’s World of Compelling Cloth: Woman’s Robe (Mashru)

Mashru is an Arabic word meaning ‘permitted’ or ‘allowed.’ In many Islamic cultures, a mashru is a garment made of a silk-cotton blend worn my individuals of all social classes. This stop of the smartphone tour of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth explores the history of mashru garments with additional content not found in SAM’s galleries. Learn about these garments below and see an example for yourself by visiting the exhibition at SAM’s downtown location before it closes Monday, May 29. Plus, explore all of the stops in SAM’s free verbal description tour on SoundCloud.

One ikat textile that has traveled across Asia is the satin-woven fabric known in India as mashru. This type of silk-cotton blend is called mashru. Mashru cloths were worn by men and women across the Islamic world. In some Islamic cultures, Muslims are not permitted to wear pure silk garments, so textile makers in India experimented by adding cotton into the silk weave, creating a garment that was soft and lightweight, but also acceptable to wear.

Verbal Desciption of Woman’s Robe (Mashru)

This garment is a mashru. Mashru is spelled M-A-S-H-R-U. The robe was made in Syria in the 19th century and measures five feet, six inches tall by four feet, five inches wide. The garment is made of silk and cotton thread and metallic embroidery. The robe is hung on a ‘T’ frame with the arm sleeves stretched out and the back of the garment facing the viewer. A dense pattern of stripes and arrowhead shapes defines this woman’s robe from Syria. The robe’s hem extends down to the wearer’s knees and the long sleeves reach to the wrists.

Let’s start by talking about the pattern on the outside of the garment. Long, thin vertical stripes alternate in cherry red, black, and light pink. Layering on top of these stripes are horizontal bands of white arrowhead shapes which create a complex illusion of depth. By contrast, the inside of the robe is lined with a soft cream white cotton. The inside of the sleeves are decorated with a cotton ikat cloth with blue and white stripes.

Now, let’s focus on the structure of the robe. The body of the robe is made three vertical panels of fabric—roughly equal in size—that hang down separate from one another so you can imagine how they might sway and twirl as the wearer moved about. To join these panels together and close up the robe, the wearer would fasten a series of balls and loops found along the edge of each panel which is scalloped with reprieving triangle patterns. As we zoom into that edge, notice how metallic thread is embroidered into decorative designs, adding weight and stiffness.

The rest of the robe is thin and lightweight; the surface is silky smooth. This comes from the blend of fibers used here: silk for the warp threads—which run vertically—and cotton for the weft threads which run horizontally. This type of silk-cotton blend is called a mashru, an Arabic word meaning permitted or allowed. Mashru cloths were worn by men and women across the Islamic world. In some Islamic cultures, Muslims are not permitted to wear pure silk garments so textile makers in India experimented by adding cotton into the silk weave, creating a garment that was soft and lightweight, but also acceptable to wear.

– Lily Hansen, Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Mushruu (woman’s Ottoman robe), 19th century, Silk Road (garment made in Ottoman world; ikat cloth possibly Syrian), silk warp ikat and cotton weft, metallic embroidery, 53 x 66 in., Collection of David and Marita Paly. Traditional Mashru Weaving in Gujurat, India.

Inside the World of Ikat: An Interview with SAM Curator Pam McClusky

“This exhibition comes out of my own frustration that textiles are undervalued, as an art form that we use every day, on our bodies, in our homes, everywhere.”

– Pam McClusky, SAM Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb Curator of African and Oceanic Art

We’re more than halfway through the limited run of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at SAM. Get the inside scoop on what objects from SAM’s global collection and local loans from the collection of David and Marita Paly you’ll see on view in this textile-focused exhibition and hear how it all came together from SAM curator Pam McClusky. Watch our interview with Pam now to discover the influence of this time-honored dyeing technique and recognize the power of slow fashion in our world.

Get your tickets to see this incredible exhibition for yourself before it closes for good on Monday, May 29!

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

Inside SAM’s World of Compelling Cloth: Chief’s Poncho

This stop on SAM’s smartphone tour of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth explores an indigo and cream poncho created by the Mapuche people of Chile in the late 19th century. It includes photos and text not found in the exhibition’s galleries as well as a verbal description of the textile intended for visitors with low to no vision, or anyone interested in taking a closer look at the artworks.

Scroll below to learn about Chile’s Mapuche people, the connection between weaving and land rights, the significance of stepped crosses on Mapuche textiles, and a thorough explanation of one particular poncho on view in SAM’s galleries. You can explore all seven stops of the exhibition’s smartphone tour and thirteen available verbal descriptions while visiting SAM or on your own time. And don’t forget: Ikat is on view at SAM’s downtown location through Monday, May 29—don’t miss it, get your tickets today!

Who are the Mapuche?

The Mapuche are the largest group of indigenous people in Chile and make up about 9% of the country’s population. Mapuche culture has existed in Southern Chile and Southwestern Argentina since 500 BC, but the current relationship between the Mapuche and the Chilean State is fraught. The government has stripped away land rights from the indigenous groups, and has met protests with a variety of human rights abuses.

How are land rights and weaving connected?

As the Mapuche people lose their land, they also lose access to the raw materials used in traditional crafts, such as weaving. Indigenous forests are being cut down and replaced with more profitable logging materials, like eucalyptus and pine. Many of the indigenous species being destroyed are used by the Mapuche for dying wool, creating drums, and even in medicines.

What is a Stepped Cross?

A stepped cross, also known as a gemil, or chief’s mantle, is a design featured frequently in Mapuche weaving. It represents the art of handcrafting, science, and knowledge. A poncho with these bold geometric patterns and deep indigo hue would be worn by a distinguished leader in the community. The deep, almost black, indigo color indicates the “celestial vault”. On a man’s garment, this signifies the wearer is accomplished beyond the parameters of humanity.

Verbal Description of Mapuche Poncho

Woven in Chile by the Mapuche people in the late 19th century, made of sheep’s wool and dyed with indigo. It is four feet and ten inches tall by four feet and eleven inches wide. This poncho is made by the Mapuche, which is the largest group of Indigenous people in Chile. It would be worn by a chieftain, a mature man of elevated position in their community. Lying flat, the poncho is a square shape. There is a vertical slit in the middle of the square meant for a person’s head to fit through. When worn, the front and back sides of the poncho hit just below the waist of an average sized man. The poncho appears to be black and white, but upon closer inspection, the colors are the deepest shade of indigo and a warm beige. The indigo hue was achieved from months of dyeing and oxidation, creating a color so rich and intense it seems almost darker than black. The pattern on the poncho is made of geometric designs of stepped crosses and lines in indigo with the surrounding space being a warm cream color. Nine equidistant vertical lines cover the poncho. Sitting on the lines are staggered stepped crosses. The stepped crosses look like pixelated diamonds, with three steps on each side. An indigo fringe sits on two edges of the poncho—what would be the front and back when worn by a person. Symmetry is a very important part of the textile. If you folded the poncho onto itself in any direction, it would create a perfect inversion every time. The poncho is made of woven Spanish merino wool; thick and rough but still pliable. When worn by a chieftain, the fabric wouldn’t simply fall flushed to its wearer, but pucker and lift as the sturdy wool tries to maintain its shape.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Mapuche, late 19th century, Chile, warp ikat sheep’s wool, indigo, 58 x 59 in., Collection of David and Marita Paly. Mapuche protesters wearing traditional clothing © Negro Ramírez. Loom and weaving with “cacique’s mantle” design Nancy Epulef Barra, Mapuche, b. 1971 wood, wool yarn, vegetal dye/dyes © National Museum of the American Indian. Chief’s Mantle (Manta de Cacique) Chile, Mapuche, 20th century wool; ikat © Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Inside SAM’s World of Compelling Cloth: Agbada

Not all of the stops on SAM’s smartphone tour of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth feature artist interviews and other audio content. Some stops, such as this one focused on a traditional Yoruba agbada, offers additional exhibition information via pictures and text accompanied by a verbal description of the artwork on view. Look below to learn about the importance of these traditional men’s tunics and how they’re made. Browse through all seven stops of the exhibition’s free smartphone tour and listen to its thirteen available verbal descriptions now, then purchase your tickets to see the exhibition at SAM’s downtown location before it closes on Monday, May 29.

What is an Abgada?
An agbada is a long, flowing robe with wide sleeves worn by men in some parts of West Africa, often decorated with embroidery. Traditionally, agbada were prestigious garments associated with royalty. These days, agbada are more common with a wide variety of styles to fit the occasion.

What is Aso-Oke?

Agbada are traditionally made from Aso-Oke fabric, which is a hand-loomed cotton cloth of the Yoruba people in Nigeria. The style of Aso-Oke fabric featured on the garment in this gallery is known as ‘Etu,’ which is made to imitate the striped blue and white colors of the Guinea Fowl for which it is named.

Verbal Description of Agbada

This garment is called an agbada—spelled A-G-B-A-D-A—which is the Yoruba word for a men’s tunic. This garment dates from the early 20th century. The garment is exceptionally oversized to create a strong impression, as it measures four and a half feet tall by five feet wide. The agbada is Aso-Oke strip-woven, which is a Yoruba term that specifically describes this type of handwoven cloth, which incorporates cotton, ikat, and cotton hand-embroidery. The base fabric in this garment is a dark blue cotton, resembling denim. Layering over the blue cotton are thinner strips that gradually shift from red to white. The stripes are vertical on the bodice of the garment, but horizontal on the sleeves. At the center of the garment, are two pockets for resting your hands, like the pockets on a hoodie. Along the neckline, adorning the front of the agbada, around the frontal pockets, is intricate white embroidery. If you look closely at the embroidery, you can see where the red stripes have bled onto the white thread, turning them light pink. The neckline’s embroidery appears as point-side down adjacent triangles that give the impression of a lacey necklace. The embroidery on the front consists of eleven rounded medallion-like shapes that form a symmetrical grouping around the pockets. The medallions are about the size of a fist and their shapes resemble chain links. The embroidery around the pockets is similar to the neckline with lacey pointed bands encircling the pocket openings.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Agbada (tunic) and pants, mid-20th century, Africa (Yoruba), cotton, tunic: 47 x 88 in., pants: 36 x 32 in., Collection of David and Marita Paly. Ori of Otun, photograph by William Buller Fagg. Nigeria, 1949-1950. Royal Anthropological Institute London. © RAI. A late C19th image of an aso oke weaver, one of the earliest known photos of aso oke production. Photographer unknown, courtesy Foreign & Commonwealth Office Archive, London.

Inside SAM’s World of Compelling Cloth: Rowland Ricketts on Zurashi

As part of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at SAM, exhibition curator Pam McClusky commissioned textile artist Rowland Ricketts and weaver Chinami Ricketts to create a site-specific installation showcasing the importance of ikat as a living tradition and the repetitive nature of its creation. Their large-scale immersive installation, titled Zurashi/Slipped, welcomes visitors to the exhibition’s galleries with an indigo wave of threads that flow from floor to ceiling.

Listen to the recording above to hear directly from Rowland about the process of creating Zurashi/Slipped and what he hopes visitors get out of their hand-woven work. Then, explore all seven stops of the exhibition’s free audio tour on our SoundCloud and reserve your tickets to see the exhibition before it closes on Monday, May 29.

Rowland Ricketts on Zurashi/Slipped

One thing that I hope [with this installation, is for] people to viscerally experience ikat. This installation is made up of some 6000 odd lines hanging down with patterns on them and it’s very repetitive, as Chinami has said. Even making the work was a very repetitive [process] as we were measuring the same things over and over, binding the same things over and over, and dyeing the same things over and over. But there is a really powerful accumulation in this work and through its process that is really a foundation for all the works in the exhibit, right? All things made with ikat do have this repetitive nature of binding and dying and unbinding and weaving, so I think I I hope that that’s palpable to people.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Inside SAM’s World of Compelling Cloth: How Ikat is Made

By now, you’ve likely seen or heard the word ‘ikat.’ From advertisements on the side of King County Metro buses to the gorgeous graphic gracing SAM’s lightbox in downtown Seattle, the word is everywhere. But what is an ‘ikat’ and how is it made? In this first stop as part of the smartphone tour of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at SAM, Ramzy Lakos, the museum’s educator for digital learning, gives an overview of this time-honored textile and lays out the many intricate steps necessary in creating an authentic ikat.

Listen to the recording above to familiarize yourself with the subject at the focus of this limited-run exhibition at SAM and explore all seven stops of the exhibition’s free audio tour on our SoundCloud.

How to Make an Ikat

RAMZY LAKOS: Let’s talk about how ikat textiles are made. Techniques, materials, and tools vary all over the world, but we’ll cover some of the basic details in this audio stop.

The process that defines ikat textiles is known as resist dyeing, which requires binding threads  with a material that repels liquid dye. Traditionally, materials like palm and banana fiber were used to bind the thread, but plastic is [becoming] increasingly common. After they are tied off, the bundles of thread are submerged in liquid dye. Those areas that are tied off will remain the color of the original thread, and the exposed patches of thread slowly take on the new color. The longer the threads soak in the dye, the deeper and more vibrant the final result. By tying off different sections of thread for each new color, the dyer can create increasingly complex multicolored patterns. 

Dyes are traditionally made using organic materials. A few examples include indigo leaves, ginger root, onion and pomegranate skins, and cochineal insects. However, synthetic dyes have been popular since the late 19th century. 

After the dyeing process is complete, the weaving process begins. To create a textile, a weaver takes the dyed threads and stretches them over a frame called a loom. The threads stretched over the loom are known as the warp. To create a solid cloth, the weaver passes a thread side to side, over and under the taught warp threads—this is known as the weft. At this stage, the weaver takes care to match each thread to the next so the design lines up correctly. 

There are a few kinds of ikat. The most common is known as a single warp ikat, where only the vertical threads are resist-dyed. Less common and more challenging is single weft ikat, where the horizontal threads are resist-dyed. The final and most complex category is double ikat, where both the warp and the weft threads are resist dyed, so two different designs have to be lined up on the loom. 

The visual signature of an ikat is a movement at the edges of a design that result from the slight shifts of individual yarns during the dyeing and weaving process.  All over the world, there are regions where ikat was discovered and cultivated as a unique way to embed images in cloth. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

Lessons of the Past: Kari Karsten on Curating SAM’s American Art Galleries

Artworks of the past never cease to offer new lessons, insights, and interpretations.

In this video created as part of the two-year reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries, SAM Emerging Museum Professional of American Art and member of the Seneca nation Kari Karsten discusses her research into Spokane-born artist Kenneth Callahan’s The Accident, and the enduring questions artworks such as these can raise, even over 75 years after their creation.

Read more about Kari’s contributions to SAM while serving as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern in this reflection she wrote after completing her year-long thesis for the University of Washington Museology masters program and opening Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers last fall.

Visit SAM today to experience all American Art: The Stories We Carry has to offer and see Callahan’s painting for yourself.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

Valentine’s Day 2023: Love at SAM Through the Decades

Happy Valentine’s Day! For the last seven days, we’ve been highlighting expressions of familial, romantic, and platonic love at SAM during our #SAMWeekOfLove on our Instagram. As part of the series, we shared photos and stories from four couples for whom SAM has played a significant role in their relationship. To give you an extra dose of love this holiday, we’ve rounded up all four of the love stories we previously shared on our social media below. Scroll below to learn how SAM played Cupid in all of these relationships!

Diane & David
July 22, 2022
Olympic Sculpture Park

“We were searching for a venue that had both an indoor and outdoor space and was both modern and simple. The sculpture park fit that search perfectly! I am a wedding calligrapher and event designer by trade, so working with the different areas of the venue was so much fun. The spaciousness of the park was also great—from our wedding album it looks like we went to several locations, but they’re all taken from different areas of the park!” – Diane

Tiffany & Aaron
October 3, 2003
Seattle Asian Art Museum

“I had my wedding at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. From childhood to adulthood, the museum and its camels will forever hold a special place in my heart. Pictured are me and my bridesmaids: my two sisters, and my two best friends.” – Tiffany

This photo and story was shared to us by SAM’s very own Director of Membership and Annual Giving Tiffany Tessada. Tiffany has been a part of the SAM family for over 24 years and our membership program wouldn’t be what it is today without her tireless work and dedication. Considering everything she’s done for SAM, we’re honored to have been a part of her love story!

Ciera & John
August 7, 2021
Olympic Sculpture Park

With most of their guests coming from out of state, Ciera and John wanted a venue that celebrates Seattle and the life they’ve built together in the city. With views of their home in West Seattle, the Olympic Mountain Range where they ski and backpack, and the iconic Space Needle, the park served as the perfect location to host their nuptials. Their most cherished wedding memory? Read it in their own words below:

“Our favorite memory was having the opportunity to sneak away to take quiet sunset photos around the park while our guests enjoyed cocktail hour overlooking the Puget Sound.” – Ciera

Tina & Greg
October 14, 1989
Seattle Asian Art Museum

A few weeks before their wedding, Tina and Greg dressed in their most glamorous and practical attire—her, red Converse hightops and him, green bowling shoes and a Puyallup Fair hat—and visited several Seattle locations that had a special meaning to them. With their photographer Shel Izen in tow, they captured fun and scenic moments across the city, including at the Seattle Asian Art Museum (then just called the Seattle Art Museum) where they had spent one of their first dates as a couple.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Sam and Sola Lee. Courtesy Tiffany Tessada. Joe Tobiason. Courtesy Tina Koyama.

SAM Talks: Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems

One of the most exciting parts of hosting contemporary art exhibitions is the opportunity to welcome living and working artists to SAM to reflect on their artwork and careers directly with audiences. Throughout the three month run of Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue at SAM, we had the honor of welcoming both artists to SAM for conversations on their friendship, artistic processes, and collaborative exhibition.

If you weren’t able to get tickets to see their talks in person, you can now watch both conversations on our YouTube. Check out both conversations below for even more supplemental context following your visit to In Dialogue and be sure to catch the exhibition before it closes Sunday, January 22 at SAM!

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

#SAMPhotoClub Family & Community Spotlight: Alborz Kamalizad

SAM Photo Club is almost over! With Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue closing at SAM this Sunday, January 22, we are accepting the final photo submissions to the third defining theme and motif of these legendary photographers’ artistic careers: family & community.

To incentivize you to get your last-minute submissions in and join SAM Photo Club, we’re featuring some of the family & community photos taken by SAM’s two staff photographers: Alborz Kamalizad and Chloe Collyer. Outside of photographing all SAM events, exhibitions, installations, programs, and more, Alborz and Chloe are also working professionals. Browse through a few photos taken by Alborz of their family and community below, then discover which of Carrie Mae Weems’s photographs on view in SAM’s exhibition resonates with him.

Family & Community, 2021–2022

My family emigrated from Iran when I was three years old. This made me young enough to easily assimilate into American culture. But even though the bulk of my cultural connections are American, there is Iranian culture swirling inside me as well — culture that is usually easy to ignore while walking through an American life.

With a project I’m calling Rebuilding Babel I have friends engage with artifacts of my familial culture. These objects, which are mostly meaningless to them, render the images inaccurate to who they are. Instead, these photos of friends portray a relationship between my own American and Iranian selves.

The current humanitarian crisis in Iran, as people fight for freedom and equality, has underscored both my connection to and separation from the culture I was born in.

Untitled (Woman with Daughter and Children), Carrie Mae Weems, 1990

Walking into the space where The Kitchen Table series is displayed at the Seattle Art Museum feels like walking into the middle of someone’s psyche. It’s intimate. It’s a real testament to the need to experience photography in person. Moving your body from image to image while they transport you through time cannot be experienced on a screen.

Alborz Kamalizad (he/him) is a visual artist who moves between photography, animation, documentary filmmaking, and illustration. He was born in Iran, raised in the US, and currently works as a staff photographer for the Seattle Art Museum. As a visual journalist and photographer, his work has been featured by Los Angeles’s NPR affiliate, Mother Jones Magazine, the United Nations, The Nature Conservancy, MasterClass, and the Getty.

Participate in #SAMPhotoClub by sharing your own family & community on Instagram and tagging us through Friday, January 20. Once the window for submissions closes, we’ll share a few of the photographs we’ve been tagged in on our Instagram Stories.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo Credit: Untitled (Woman with Daughter and Children), Carrie Mae Weems, American, born 1953. Untitled (Woman and daughter with children). Kitchen Table Series. Gelatin silver print. 1990. 40 x 40 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

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