Pride Celebrates Pride: Between Rabbit and Fox

In honor of Pride Month, SAM Blog features reflections by SAM voices on collection artworks that explore LGBTQIA+ art and artists. Queer lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate histories of joy, advocacy, and resistance. Stay tuned for more Pride-related content on SAM Blog, including another object spotlight and a list of queer film recommendations curated by SAM’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group.

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972) foregrounds his Indigenous, queer identity in his artwork, often with bold colors and materials that make his personal history and intentions undeniable. As Gibson has noted in many of his interviews, he celebrates a state of “in-between-ness”: between cultures, between aesthetics, and between normative gender expectations.1

Gibson is also in-between in a few places at SAM—Gibson’s 2017 work, Between Rabbit and Fox, is on view on the third floor, in the space between the modern and contemporary galleries and American Art: The Stories We Carry. 

This large abstract painting on canvas depicts a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors, refracted in a vibrant pattern. Although at first the painting seems like a smooth solid surface, its raised lines cut through different shapes and shimmery paints in the center to reveal the texture of the canvas. Looking closely, every diagonal is intentional, forming more and more triangles, and they create the effect of overlapping pieces and colors that change as they are layered.

As a painter, Gibson draws upon the major art historical movements of modernism and abstraction that explored minimalism and color theory, including the work of Josef Albers, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Al Held, and Barnett Newman, all of whose works are in SAM’s collection.

Yet abstraction has long been a part of Native American artistic traditions as well, adorning many types of functional and cultural objects, such as Navajo textiles and Osage ribbonwork.2 Between Rabbit and Fox also references Gibson’s own earlier abstract paintings on hide, where he directly connected abstraction to Indigenous history by painting upon this culturally significant material. In the same room as Between Rabbit and Fox, you can see contemporary Tlingit/Unangax artist Nicholas Galanin’s work on deer hide, Architecture of return, escape (The British Museum) (2022).

Gibson grew up in Germany and South Korea, among other places with his father’s military assignments, but came back to the US to attend the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, for his BFA, and then the Royal College of Art, London for his MA in painting. While growing up abroad, he felt he was treated as an “American,” but back at home in the US, he was seen only as Native American.3

Gibson is of Choctaw and Cherokee lineage, but didn’t grow up on a reservation. Many Americans he encountered had assumptions about a monolithic Native American culture and artistic aesthetic. Facing these reductive stereotypes, Gibson felt limited by this necessity to explain Native American art and concepts to an unaware audience, but also wanted to make work that reflected his identity. He found there was even less acceptance for a queer Indigenous man and artist.4

Instead of trying to avoid representing these identities in his art, Gibson came to a realization that he needed to incorporate them all and create a new path for himself in the art world. Around 2011, Gibson began reaching out to other Native American communities to learn about and collaborate on artworks that involved beadwork and drum making.5 He chose to use these techniques and make works on animal hide rather than on canvas, and he incorporated text and pop culture references to make his messages more visible.

Gibson’s work often addresses US history and the government’s failings toward Native Americans as well as queer communities. His other work in SAM’s collection, IF I RULED THE WORLD (2018), is a repurposed punching bag covered with beading, fringe, and metal jingles, and embedded with the title of a song by the rapper Nas. Here, Gibson also uses abstract geometric decoration with bands of primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) interrupted by black triangles.

The punching bag evokes physical action and even a sense of violent masculinity, which is immediately undercut by the delicate and detailed ornamentation that Gibson applies. He questions gender identity by using techniques like beading that are associated with women makers, as well as integrating quotes from queer club and music scenes and performing in gender-bending costumes he designs. Combining popular culture, canonical art influences, and Indigenous art forms and materials, Gibson has forged a new way forward that combines his identities with activism. The Seattle Art Museum exhibited a survey show of Gibson’s work in 2018, LIKE A HAMMER, and this year, Gibson was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, one of the largest and oldest international art fairs. Gibson’s presentation, the space in which to place me, was the first solo show by a Native American artist at the prestigious event. With this platform, Gibson has brought his queer, Indigenous identity to the forefront, raising issues and history that his communities and all of us have to face in making a more just world.

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

1  “Innovation and Tradition: Jeffrey Gibson Interviewed by Emily Zimmerman,” Bomb Magazine, May 6, 2019, https://bombmagazine.org/articles/innovation-and-tradition-jeffrey-gibson-interviewed.
2 John P. Lukavic, “What Should Have Been, What Is, and What Will Be,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; p. 29.
3 David Pagel, “Jeffrey Gibson: American. Native American. Gay. An artist’s life outside labels,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-jeffrey-gibson-20171007-htmlstory.html.
4 “Material & Identity Merge in Jeffrey Gibson’s ‘Like A Hammer’ at Seattle Art Museum.” YouTube January 31, 2019. https://youtu.be/-RrqDSZKtLQ?si=1NN66Iigx6HO0685.
5 Anne Ellegood. “Jeffrey Gibson: Critical Exuberance,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; pp. 83-84.


Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

Sat Jun 22
Youth Pride Disco
Break out your disco wear for this LGBTQIA+ Pride party, planned for and organized by LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 22! Join us for drag performances, great music, friend-making activities, food and soft drinks, a quiet room, and more.

Through Sun Jun 23
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales: Together Again, Again!
Experience the comedy, music, and saucy stylings of two of the Pacific Northwest’s standout drag entertainers, in this wildly hilarious extravaganza set in an apocalyptic future. Check the event calendar for information about performances for teens, ASL interpretation, captions, and masking.

Fri Jun 28
Trans Pride Seattle 2024
Started in 2013, Trans Pride Seattle is an annual event organized by Gender Justice League. Visit the Volunteer Park Amphitheater from 5 to 10 pm for live music, community speakers, performances, and a resource fair all dedicated to increased visibility, connection, and love of the Seattle-area TwoSpirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse (2STGD) community.

Sat Jun 29
PrideFest Capitol Hill
Spanning six blocks of Broadway and Cal Anderson Park, this all-day market features queer local businesses, beer gardens, family and youth programming, and three stages with an unforgettable lineup of live performances.

Sun Jun 30
Seattle Pride Parade
Spend the final day of June by taking part in the 50th annual Pride Parade led by grand marshals Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. Then, head over to Seattle Center for the can’t-miss performances, hundreds of acts, beer gardens, food vendors, a new family area—and dancing in the iconic International Fountain.

Visit the official Seattle Pride website for even more suggested events.

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Celebrate Women’s History Month With Five Artworks by Women Artists on View at SAM

Every March, the United States recognizes women’s past and present contributions to society with Women’s History Month. On International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, we took to social media to highlight the five ongoing and upcoming solo SAM exhibitions by remarkable contemporary women artists. They include:

Now, our celebration of Women’s History Month continues with this round-up of five artworks by women artists you can currently see on view in SAM’s galleries. The five artworks discussed below represent only a few of the many works by women artists in SAM’s collection, but show the range of different techniques, subject matter, and ideas they bring to their art. Women have always been artists and craftspeople, but they have not always been celebrated or acknowledged for their contributions. Plan your next visit to the Seattle Art Museum to appreciate these artworks in person and learn more about the historical and contemporary artists who made them.


Yunarla, 2010
Yukultji Napangati

The precisely painted dots of Yunarla form patterns and undulations that take on a meditative, entrancing quality. Curving lines radiate out from the central knot, suggestive of a topographic map in some ways, but also referring to the vines of the bush banana. Also called the silky pear vine, the bush banana (marsdenia australis) only grows in Australia and serves as food with edible fruit, roots, leaves, seeds and flowers. The name Yunarla also signifies a particular rockhole and soakage site where ancestral women camped to replenish their energy near these places in the desert where water is stored beneath the surface of the sand. 

Yukultji Napangati (born ca. 1970) lived with her family in the Gibson Desert until 1984, when she and several others from her Pintupi tribe made contact with non-Indigenous Australians for the first time. The “Pintupi Nine” became a media sensation as a “lost tribe,” while they insisted they were not lost, as they were living as their ancestors had for millennia. While adjusting to culture shock, Napangati became aware of the Papunya Tula’s community art center, which established a thriving business for Australian Aboriginal people to create and sell their art in 1972. Women began painting in the mid-1990s, and Napangati quickly adopted the ethos of educating outsiders by conveying extensive knowledge about her community and culture through this restrained mark making. Don’t miss your chance to see this work in Honoring 50 Years of Papunya Tula Painting, which closes after April 14.

The First People, 2008
Susan Point

The First People was commissioned for the Seattle Art Museum and stands twelve feet tall, greeting visitors to the museum’s Native American art galleries. Prominent Northwest Coast artist Susan Point (born 1951) brings traditional Salish forms and techniques to contemporary and often public settings to share the history and culture of First Nation people. Point has been credited with single-handedly reviving a unique Salish style that laid dormant for nearly 100 years; she is among only a handful of Native female artists working in the media of woodcarving.

In this work, the eight faces connecting via flowing tendrils refer to the hereditary roots and extended families of the Salish people. These root-like forms also signify the fjords and meandering pathways that punctuate the traditional homelands of her own people, the Musqueam of the Fraser Delta in present-day Vancouver. These pathways are the lifelines that yield salmon and other foods for Salish people. Looking closely at the carving, we can see the perfectly smooth surface of the faces, in contrast to the visible chisel marks of the roots, both showcasing the natural beauty of the cedar wood itself, a material highly valued by First Peoples.

Dug Up from Kitchen Weeds, 2014
Ebony Patterson

In its barrage of color, pattern, and glittering textures, Dug Up from the Kitchen Weeds, on view in Remember the Rain, hides a more somber image. The black-and-white stripes at the center clothe a figure that is lying face down. Though this form is camouflaged within the pink floral background, rhinestones, and tropical birds and plants, it is also hypervisible. Once you notice the stripes, leopard print pants, and red shirt, you can’t overlook them.

Ebony Patterson (born 1981) cites bling funerals, an increasingly popular occurrence in Kingston, Jamaica, as a source of reference, as “the glitter and bling shines light on things.” These lavish celebrations held for working class people say, “You may not have noticed me when I was alive, but you will damn well see me before I leave.” Patterson is interested in bringing people on the margins into focus in her work—first by catching the eye with striking color and imagery, and then by asking viewers to look more closely and see what they find embedded within and protruding from the surface of her collages. Her aesthetic of ornamentation and ostentation often takes on qualities of both disguise and hypervisibility to engage with issues one might rather ignore, such as wealth disparity, high murder rates, and police-related deaths in Jamaica.

Codigo Desconhecido #5, 2015 
Marilá Dardot

Marilá Dardot (born 1972) often works with text-based materials—including books, printed cards, and magazines—to explore ideas of language, communication, and memory. In Codigo Desconhecido #5 (which translates to “unknown code”), books are cut down to their spines, rendering them illegible. Instead of reading and accessing the books’ knowledge, the viewer is left to see these books as objects or artifacts. Each book is cut or ripped to reveal its unique paper and binding materials rather than its words, making its structure but not its content visible.

This work, on view in SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries, is part of a series that Dardot began during an artist’s residency in Vienna, when she was surrounded by books in a language she could not read. Words are powerful, but here she removes them and in doing so, opens up many avenues for interpretation. Dardot’s work plays with books as our main source and conduit of knowledge—questioning which stories get told or repressed, how translation and language can limit our understanding of others, and possibilities for political resistance on the page and outside of it.

The Sink, 1956
Joan Mitchell

The Sink (1956) is nearly ten feet in length; its size engulfs the viewer in a range of colors, textures, and feelings. Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) was an artist who used her memories, experiences, and environment as inspiration for her abstract works, seeking, in her own words, “to define a feeling.” The Sink, also on view in SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries, is an abstracted landscape of sorts, with its pools of green and blue interrupted by swirls, drips, and jagged lines in yellow and red and interspersed with thick applications of white paint. Rather than capturing a strictly realistic image of nature, this painting seems more like a memory or impression of a place built up with emotive brushstrokes and applications of paint.

Mitchell grew up in Chicago with strong interests in athletics, art, and literature, thanks to her mother, the poet Marion Strobel Mitchell. She studied art at the School of the Art Institute and then in France on a fellowship. She moved to New York in 1949 and joined the artistic scene there, becoming one of the few female Abstract Expressionists celebrated in her own time. About a decade later, she settled in France where she found artistic inspiration in Impressionists like Paul Cézanne and Claude Monet, continuing a long tradition of artists observing nature and finding her own unique visual language.

– Compiled by Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

Photos: Jo Cosme, Chloe Collyer, and Alborz Kamalizad.

Celebrate Black History Month With Five Artworks by Black Artists on View at SAM

Every February, the United States recognizes Black History Month with a specific theme. In 2024, the theme is African Americans and the Arts.

African American art is intricately woven with influences from Africa, the Caribbean, and the lived experiences of Black Americans. In celebration of the rich history of Black Americans in the arts, we’re reflecting on five artworks by historical and contemporary Black artists in the museum’s collection which visitors can currently see in our galleries. Plus, scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about a few ways you can celebrate Black History Month this February and all year long!


Mitchell’s Point Looking Down the Columbia, 1887
Grafton Tyler Brown

Grafton Tyler Brown (1841–1918) was one of only a few Black Americans who made a living as an artist before the 20th century, first as a topographic artist and a lithographer and later as a landscape painter. Brown’s parents were freedmen living in Pennsylvania, but Brown decided to move West for greater freedom and opportunities in the 1850s, as many African Americans did. In the 1880s and 1890s, Brown traveled around the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, painting and selling images of his surroundings. This serene scene of the Columbia River, titled Mitchell’s Point Looking Down the Columbia and on view in American Art: The Stories We Carry, depicts smooth, reflective water framed by rocky cliffs, rolling hills with patches of trees, and distant mountains. The few Native American figures situated in the foreground serve more as indications of the remote-ness of this place, rather than detailed observations of particular Indigenous peoples.

Gwendolyn Knight, 1934–35
Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage (1892–1962) studied sculpture in New York and Paris before opening her own art school in Harlem, New York in 1931. She was devoted to sharing her skills and resources with her students and mentored many young Black artists including Gwendolyn Knight, depicted here, and Knight’s husband Jacob Lawrence, both of whom would later live in Seattle. This portrait depicts Knight in her early twenties with careful attention paid to her facial features and gracefully pulled up hair. Savage gifted this portrait bust to Knight, which she kept until her death in 2005 and bequeathed to the Seattle Art Museum, allowing this rare and fragile plaster work to survive while many of Savage’s other works did not. You can learn more about this bust and Augusta Savage’s artistic career in this 2016 SAM Object of the Week blog post and take an up-close look at  its intricate sculpted details in American Art: The Stories We Carry.

Wounded Eagle No. 10, 1963
James Washington Jr.

James Washington Jr. (1908–2000) saw his animal sculptures as deeply symbolic and resonant with his spiritual beliefs. Born the son of a Baptist minister in Mississippi, he brought these beliefs with him when he moved to the Seattle area in 1941 for a job at the Bremerton Navy Yard. He felt that God was guiding him in his life and as an artist, calling him to create images that would communicate universality and truth about the world. His animal sculptures, such as Wounded Eagle No. 10 on view in Remember the Rain, showcase his close observations of the natural world, as well as his understanding of line, form, and medium. Washington was active in the arts community in the Northwest, taking classes at the University of Washington, exhibiting his work often, forming relationships with artists including Mark Tobey, Kenjiro Nomura, and George Tsutakawa, among many others, and starting a foundation for art scholarships.

In Case of Fire and In Case of Flood, 2014
Barbara Earl Thomas

In a striking and jarring confusion of black and white lines, Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas (born 1948) illustrates two related themes in this pair of linocut prints titled In Case of Fire and In Case of Flood on view in Remember the Rain. These scenes of people dealing with apocalyptic disasters—fire and flood—draw from Biblical sources, but also from folklore, literature, and Thomas’s own family history and experiences. Rather than creating scenes of pure fantasy, Thomas describes her work as chronicling real narratives from the past and our present day, compelled by the economic and racial inequity she witnesses. In a 2019 SAM Object of the Week blog post, Thomas was quoted as saying: “It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in the midst of the chaos.” Thomas was a student of Jacob Lawrence at the University of Washington, who himself was taught by Augusta Savage, exemplifying a legacy of socially engaged and community-oriented artists.

Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7, 1997
Glenn Ligon

Glenn Ligon’s (born 1960) Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7 renders a powerful text by civil rights activist and writer James Baldwin nearly invisible by stenciling the black type on a black background and coating it with coal dust. On view in SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries, the work’s unclear presentation of Baldwin’s words leaves viewers searching and straining to read the message. Baldwin’s essay published in 1955 recounts his visit to a remote Swiss village where he is the first and only Black person that many of the townspeople had ever met. In Ligon’s painting, the sense of hypervisibility that Baldwin describes becomes camouflaged and concealed. Ligon often uses text in his works to question the power of language, modes of engaging with visual art, and the legacy of slavery and racial stereotypes.

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

Celebrate Black History Month in Seattle with these suggested events. 

February 1–29
Call to Conscience
Take a trip to the Columbia City Theater every Tuesday through Sunday this month to explore the Call to Conscience Black History Month Museum. Organized by Rainier Avenue Radio, the converted theater celebrates the achievements of the Pacific Northwest’s Black community with exhibitions about the Seattle Black Panther Party, the Black Heritage Society, the Hartsfield Family and Slave Quilt Collection, and more.

Sundays in February
Black Ice: An American Sitcom Improvised
Unexpected Productions Improv wants you to be a part of their live studio audience every Sunday this month as they perform an improvised television sitcom inspired by Norman Lear’s iconic 1970s sitcoms. And yes, they’ll be asking for crowd suggestions throughout the show.

February 15
Keynote Program with Dr. Doretha Williams
Our friends at the Northwest African American Museum are celebrating Black History Month with a keynote speech from Dr. Doretha Williams, Director of the Robert F. Smith Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History. In her speech, she’ll discuss the importance of Black family history in America and genealogy.

February 16–17
BE Great Celebration
Celebrate Black Excellence at this free two-day event in Occidental Square hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association. This soulful celebration will bring together Black culture, arts, music, and food with live performances by local musicians, a pop-up night market featuring Black artists and creatives, and more.

February 24–March 9
X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X
As Black History Month comes to a close, the Seattle Opera is tackling the story of Malcolm X’s life through a series of biographical vignettes. Scored by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis, the three-hour opera fuses elements of modernism, minimalism, and jazz to produce a riveting interpretation of one of history’s most misunderstood civil rights icons.

Photos: Chloe Collyer & Jo Cosme. Mitchell’s Point Looking down the Columbia, 1887, Grafton Tyler Brown, oil on canvas, 18 x 30 in., Bruce Leven Acquisition Fund, 2020.26.

The Boys in the Boat: See UW Rower Robert Moch’s Vase Collection at SAM

Originally published in 2014, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown recounts the true story of how nine University of Washington rowers beat the odds to win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Following the December 2023 release of the story’s film adaptation, we thought we’d take this opportunity to share about one of the rowers’ special connection to the Seattle Art Museum.

While browsing through SAM’s European art galleries, you may spot the name Robert G. Moch. Known as Bob and Bobby to those who knew him, Moch led the University of Washington rowers to victory as the team’s coxswain. Following his retirement from rowing and an illustrious law career, he and his wife, LaVerne Moch, donated several pieces of 19th century French glass to the museum. 

These 10 vases, donated by the Moch family in 1995, were designed by well-known glass designer Émile Gallé (1846–1904) around the end of the 1800s and utilize the popular technique known as cameo glass. With their stylized floral patterns—like silhouettes layered atop the lighter glass—the artworks demonstrate the Art Nouveau style and the influence it derived from Japanese designs.

The 1936 Olympics in which Moch and his teammates competed were particularly notable as a result of increasing political tensions brought on by Adolf Hitler’s dictatorial rule. Although the city of Berlin had been chosen to host the Games before Hitler’s rise to power, he used the international attention of the Olympics  as a way to propagandize Germany’s superiority and bolster his fascist and racist beliefs. The Nazi Party intended to ban Black and Jewish athletes from competing, but decided against enforcing these restrictions after the US and other nations threatened to boycott the Games.

Some Jewish members of the US Olympic team, including Moch, described feeling tense as they competed in front of Hitler and other Nazi leaders. Moch had learned of his Jewish heritage shortly before making the voyage to Berlin. 

Despite the fraught political and social circumstances of 1936, the story of the “boys in the boat” is inspiring in itself. The rowing team was composed of young men attending a public university to seek a better life and financial stability amid the hardships of the Great Depression (1929–1939). They beat out other Ivy League collegiate teams to qualify for the games and launched a public fundraising campaign to travel to Berlin. During the actual race, the team faced horrible crosswinds, one of their rowers was dealing with a severe bronchial infection, and Moch missed the starting call. Yet, the rowers managed to steadily pull up from last to first place in a nail-biting finish.

In addition to rowing, the US brought home the gold in many other events, including Black athlete Jesse Owens’s historic four gold medals in track and field.

The release of Daniel James Brown’s book brought renewed attention to this epic moment in American history. In 2016, PBS produced the documentary The Boys of ‘36 and in December 2023, a film adaptation of the book directed by George Clooney was released with Luke Slattery portraying Moch.

Ten years after donating his vases to SAM, Moch passed away. While we don’t know much about how he and LaVerne collected these glass vases, the museum is grateful for their donation to SAM and to retain a piece of Moch’s legacy. Many of the vases the Moch family donated are now on view in SAM’s fourth-floor European art galleries through March 2024 and will return later in 2024 when the museum’s European art galleries reopen!

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

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