Object of the Week: Study for Aleko’s Horse

Marc Chagall was a prolific artist, producing numerous pieces in a variety of media. Renowned for his richly colored, idiosyncratic style of painting that weds abstraction and Cubism, some of his lesser-known masterpieces revolved around the theater. Chagall’s relationship with the stage began in 1911, when he worked on set designs for the Ballets Russes. He continued to contribute to Russian-based stage designs throughout the ‘20s, before moving to Paris in 1923.[1] While this was an artistically productive period for Chagall, the Nazi occupation of France made living in Paris unsafe for the artist, who was Jewish. With the assistance of organizations working to extricate artists and intellectuals from Europe, Chagall and his wife immigrated to New York for the duration of World War II, arriving in the United States in 1941.  

In 1942, Chagall was hired by the Ballet Theater of New York to design the ballet costumes and sets for a new play. Based on the poem “The Gypsies,” by Alexander Pushkin, the ballet Aleko featured music by Tchaikovsky.[2] The ballet follows the story of Aleko, the protagonist who falls in love with a Romani girl named Zemfira. Their love is not everlasting, however, and by the fourth act Aleko kills Zemfira and her new lover in a fit of jealous rage. While Chagall had worked on set designs before, this was the first time he applied his skills to a ballet. He ultimately designed four backdrops—one for each act—and over 70 costumes. While the ballet’s production was to be completed in New York, union rules forbade Chagall from painting his own sets. As a result, production moved to Mexico City, an environment which greatly influenced Chagall’s designs. Heavily inspired by both Russian folklore and Mexican art and architecture, Chagall produced beautifully whimsical hand-painted ballet costumes and backdrops, including numerous design studies.

Chagall’s Study for Aleko’s Horse is one such study, merging images from both the second and fourth acts of the play. The study’s rich, vibrant colors and whimsical subject matter capture the dynamic and psychological aspects of the story. In the second act, which revolves around a lively carnival, Aleko and Zemfira are still in love. By the fourth act, Aleko dreams of strange and nightmarish fantasies, with images that twist and swirl before his eyes. Aleko’s nightmares take him to the brink of insanity—and, jealous and enraged, he kills Zemfira, in love with another man.[3] The juxtaposition of these two scenes represents the dramatic turn of events, synthesized in Chagall’s study as a densely layered, colorful dreamscape.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1] Stephanie Barron, “Marc Chagall and Twentieth-Century Designs for the Stage,” LACMA Unframed, 1 August 2017. https://unframed.lacma.org/2017/08/01/marc-chagall-and-twentieth-century-designs-stage
[2] Liesl Bradner, “Marc Chagall Reveals his Theatrical Side in LACMA’s ‘Fantasies for the Stage,’” LA Times, 23 July 2017. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-chagall-lacma-20170714-story.html
[3] Leland Windreich, “Massine’s ‘Aleko,’” Dance Chronicle 8, no. ¾ (1985): 156-160, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1567580
Image: Study for Aleko’s Horse, 1953-56, Marc Chagall, Oil on canvas, 18 × 24 in. (45.7 × 61 cm), Gift of Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, 2014.26.9 Estate of Marc Chagall/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Object of the Week: Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables, After Juan Sanches Cotan

From very far away, one sees the softly rendered image of a still life, complete with various citrus fruits, root vegetables, and leafy greens. Their shapes are loose and open, lacking definition aside from the sharp color contrasts between the bright yellow of the lemon, orange of the carrot, and deep black of the background. As one moves closer to the work, peering intently at it, the fruits and vegetables in the window sill reassert their construction in a pointillist fashion. Each “brushstroke” turns out to be a dot of distinct color, contributing to the ambiguous outlines and shapes.

However, the work is not a painting with layers of dots of color. Rather, Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz created Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables, After Juan Sanches Cotan by layering cut and hole-punched paper scraps from magazines into a collage. To add yet another dimension to the work, Muniz then photographed the collage, which resulted in the final work: an enlarged chromogenic print. This photo is based on a still life by Juan Sanches Cotan, a notable Spanish Baroque painter, known for his austere yet deeply realistic still lifes.

The optical relationship between part and whole has been something that has interested Muniz for many years:

It’s like the fur in Vermeer’s painting of The Woman Reading a Letter at the Frick. You get up close and you can’t see fur anymore, just a blur of brushstrokes. Then you go back and it’s fur again. . . . I think art without pretenses of being more than a visual exercise can indeed be powerful and complete.1

Throughout his career, he has used elements such as sugar to construct portraits of children working on sugar plantations, peanut butter and jelly to recreate the Mona Lisa, and garbage to depict pickers in one of Brazil’s largest garbage dumps. His works connect past and present and create illusions of famous and recognizable works.

Emma Ming Wahl, SAM Curatorial Intern

1 Vik Muniz, “Bomb Magazine: Vik Muniz by Mark Magill.” Vik Muniz. Accessed September 10, 2019. http://vikmuniz.net/library/vik-muniz-by-mark-magill.

Image: Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables, after Juan Sanches Cotan, 2004, Vik Muniz, Chromogenic print, 72 x 99 1/2 in. (182.9 x 252.7cm) Gift of Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Jane Davis, Barney A. Ebsworth, Henry and Mary Ann James, Janet Ketcham, Sally Neukom, Virginia Wright, and Ann Wyckoff in honor of Chiyo Ishikawa, 2004.93.

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Muse/News: SAM award news, the Space Needle is a she, and Dr. Seuss at the museum

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced the finalists for this year’s Betty Bowen Award: Andrea Joyce Heimer, Anthony Hudson, Adair Rutledge, Lynne Siefert, and Anthony White.

The solo exhibition of the 2018 winner, Natalie Ball, was reviewed in Art & Object.

“Subverting tropes about Native American identity and art by repurposing familiar materials, Ball points out the absurdity of our assumptions.”

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is on regal display on the cover of this week’s Real Change; inside, don’t miss Lisa Edge’s review of the installation.

“Let’s have positive images of ourselves that are done with love,” said Muholi. “Let us consume this self-love because our forefathers, our foremothers that came before us never had the opportunity to speak for themselves.”

Local News

“The Space Needle is a she.” Crosscut’s Brangien Davis on a documentary exploring the hidden history of Seattle’s iconic landmark: its shape may have been inspired by a Black dancer named Syvilla Fort.

The City’s Art Beat Blog has a recap of the recent Creative Advantage Arts Partner Summer Institute, held at SAM; this year’s theme was “exploring the local.”

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig goes home to Wa Na Wari, reviewing the center’s newest show featuring work by several artists, including Nastassja Swift’s video of masked dancers.

“Swift’s video, no more than 10 minutes long, grapples with the concept of home, being home, having a home, feeling at home in one’s body and community. In that way, it fits well at Wa Na Wari. Where do we belong?

Inter/National News

Artforum reports that Werner Kramarsky passed away this week at the age of 93; a formidable collector, he donated 25 drawings to SAM over the years.

Artnet’s Ben Davis takes a look at Dia:Beacon’s new permanent gallery dedicated to Sam Gilliam and his signature “drape” paintings.

The New York Times’ Guy Trebay attends the 16th annual edition of the influential and popular International Folk Art Market, which explodes the art-world schism between fine art and craft.

“It comes out of nowhere, out of nothing,” he added. “There’s not a tradition for it. It’s just some guy saying, ‘I want to make this thing.”

And Finally

Double Dr. Seuss news: Oh, the museums you’ll go!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Snake” at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Layerless freedom, #JayDoodles, and Art Boys

SAM News

In honor of Pacific Northwest Black Pride, Crystal Paul, Erika Schultz, and Corinne Chin of The Seattle Times presents a multimedia story exploring identity and freedom with 10 Black, queer Seattleites.

In a related story, they recreated an intimate conversation that Black, queer artists recently had with Zanele Muholi, talking through their reactions to the SAM show, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness.

Here’s Gregory Scruggs for the Stranger, interviewing Brazilian artist Regina Silveira about her Olympic Sculpture Park site-specific installation Octopus Wrap, the goal of art, and the relative concrete jungles of Seattle and São Paulo.

Seattle Met’s September issue has hit newsstands. Their fall arts preview leads with a story on the new directors at SAM, the Symphony, and the Opera—and their visions for the future. SAM’s new director Amada Cruz starts in mid-September!

“The tradition of art museums is that they’re closed off repositories of precious works of art,” [Cruz] says. “How do we open ourselves up so that museums can become part of everybody’s daily life?”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Alan Berner captured some terrific shots (as usual) of an installation happening at the Burke Museum: a huge mural by artist RYAN! Feddersen.

Watch this Crosscut video featuring cool footage of the viaduct “unmaking” and a conversation with architect David Miller about the future of the waterfront.

#JayDoodles: It’s a thing. SAM’s own Chiyo Ishikawa is among the art-world heavies offering their takes on Governor Jay Inslee’s lighthearted artistic practice in this Seattle Times story.

“The figure in the boat could represent his campaign: Rowing against the stream!”

Inter/National News

The MCA Denver has named Nora Burnett Abrams its new director, reports the New York Times. She’s been a curator at the museum for the last 10 years.

Alex Needham, an arts editor at the Guardian, tweeted this week that curators shouldn’t be named in show reviews. Artnet’s Naomi Rea reports on the ensuing Twitter storm.

Artnet’s Caroline Goldstein reports on the ABC casting notice that may bring so-called Art Boys to network television.

“The dashing Art Boy, on the other hand, is more of a rosé and tapas type. Who doesn’t want to watch a show about him?”

And Finally

Happy birthday, Dorothy Parker.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness,” Seattle Art Museum, 2019.



Muse/News: Beauty at SAM, Juneteenth lessons, and a huge statue from Kehinde Wiley

SAM News

The Victorians Radicals are here! Here are reviews from Gary Faigin for the Seattle Times and Stefan Milne of Seattle Met on the exhibition’s beautiful objects and historical richness.

Fayemi Shakur profiles Zanele Muholi and their work photographing Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex South Africans. Muholi’s stunning self-portraits arrive at SAM on July 10.  

“I want the next generation of young queers and non-queers to know that we are here, that we were here. We owe it to ourselves to make sense of our lives and living.”

Local News

“Almost free is unfree”: LaNesha DeBardelaben, Executive Director of the Northwest African American Museum, shares the story—and lessons—of Juneteenth. (And Real Change’s Lisa Edge wrote up their current exhibition!)

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig on the “disco balls, closed-circuit cameras, and colored lighting” in Give It or Leave It, Cauleen Smith’s solo show at the Frye Art Museum.

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley talks with Greg Lundgren about empty spaces, collective billionaires, and the forthcoming Museum of Museums (MoM).

“I’ll keep saying the same thing I’ve said for years: Any time you have a concentration of talent, wealth, innovation and quality of life, you’ve got all the ingredients for a renaissance, of a revolution, of a movement. But somehow, we just haven’t been mixing them right.”

Inter/National News

NPR reports that poet, writer, and musician Joy Harjo will be the next poet laureate of the United States. Learn more about her with this great conversation from BOMB Magazine between Harjo and fellow poet Sherwin Bitsui.

Artforum reports: “The Association of Art Museum Directors’ board of trustees has passed a resolution that calls on the more than two hundred museums it represents to end unpaid internship programs.”

A new republic, set in stone: The Virginia Museum of Arts announced the acquisition of Kehinde Wiley’s largest sculpture to date, a 30-foot-tall bronze of a Black man on a horse, modeled after Richmond’s Confederate statues.

“Art and violence have for an eternity held a strong narrative grip with each other … To have the Rumors of War sculpture presented in such a context lays bare the scope and scale of the project in its conceit to expose the beautiful and terrible potentiality of art to sculpt the language of domination.”

And Finally

A dilemma of inheritance, a question of citizenship.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Beata Beatrix, begun 1877 (left unfinished in 1882 and completed by Ford Madox Brown), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British, 1828–1882, oil on canvas, 34 1/8 × 26 7/8 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Purchased, 1891P25, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts



Muse/News: Wrapping up, bobbling macarons, and going to camp

SAM News

That’s a wrap on Jeffrey: Gibson: Like a Hammer. As a farewell, here’s Emily Zimmerman interviewing the artist for BOMB Magazine.

“I needed to let go of whether I was an artist or not, and I needed to pursue the things that I want to see existing in the world that don’t exist. What are the things that would leverage this world that didn’t meet my expectations?”

Celebrated Brazilian artist Regina Silveira has debuted a new site-specific installation at the Olympic Sculpture Park’s PACCAR Pavilion called Octopus Wrap. A glimpse of the installation process was captured by the Seattle Times’ Alan Berner. Seattle Met and Crosscut also previewed the installation, which features a series of tire tracks wrapping around the walls, windows, and floor of the building, looking like the arms of an octopus.

“The startling change to the familiar park building embodies elements of play, but also reminds us of the luxury of presuming our surroundings will always stay the same.”

And Smithsonian Magazine featured the sculpture park on their round-up of the “world’s most spectacular sculpture parks.”

Local News

Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture announced that Christopher Paul Jordan has been selected to create the centerpiece artwork for the planned AIDS Memorial Pathway project on Capitol Hill.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores and South Seattle Emerald’s Jessie McKenna both wrote up Alexis Taylor’s Black Among Other Things, an installation at AURA in the Central District about her experiences as a Black woman.

The art of food: Chef Brady Williams won Best Chef in the Northwest at James Beard Awards; the Seattle Times’ Bethany Jean Clement recently picked up a shift at Canlis to learn about their legendary service.

“By the top of the stairs, the macaron begins to bobble; on the penultimate step, it leaps to its death, in its final act somehow managing to shatter on the soft carpeting. A man seated at one of Canlis’ well-spaced, snowy-white-linened tables regards me with a mixture of pity and horror.”

Inter/National News

But is it CAMP? The Met’s latest exhibition—and attendant over-the-top Gala—has everyone reaching for their undergrad copy of Sontag. Here are some thoughts.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) announced this week that Mia Locks will be their new senior curator and head of initiatives; interestingly, they don’t have plans to hire a chief curator to replace Helen Molesworth.

Nadja Sayej for the Guardian on Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, now on view in New York, which traces her work as a “trailblazer of African American arts.”

“She said her legacy is in the work of her students,” notes Ikemoto. “Even when they didn’t have money to buy their own art supplies, she let them use hers. She often said, ‘I know much I was put down and denied, so if I can teach these kids anything, I’m going to teach it to them.’”

And Finally

Can we please do something now?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of “Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap”, 2019, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, photo: Mark Woods.



If Jeffrey Gibson Ruled The World at SAM

“The bags themselves are about struggles and power.”

– Jeffrey Gibson

Did you know that almost all of Jeffrey Gibson’s materials are sourced from a vendor that serves the powwow circuit? Hear from the artist as he talks hip hop, art school, identity politics, and Indigenous economies. All that and more is packed into If I Ruled the World, one in a series of punching bag sculptures by Gibson. We’ve got galleries more where this punching bag came from. See paintings, sculptures, videos, and a new multimedia installation in Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer at SAM through May 12. See it this weekend!

Docents Defined: Erin Bruce

SAM is now recruiting new docents to start training for the reopening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. You don’t need to be an art historian or a teacher to apply! In fact, SAM docents have a variety of interests and experiences. Having a diverse group of docents is how we’re able to offer tours that are engaging to all visitors. Read below and find out more about docents like Erin Bruce who volunteer their time at the museum.

If you still want to learn more about being a docent? Join SAM staff and current docents at our Docent Open House on May 16 from 6–7 pm! Or, apply now to the docent program. Applications are accepted through May 31.

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to become a docent?

Erin Bruce: I have always been inspired by all things visual, whether it is nature, a building, a room and especially art. I studied art in college and made art whenever possible. Now I am a technical stock trader and rely on charts for my work—more visual interpretation! It was a three-year wait for a new docent class to start for me after a friend told me about SAM. The chance to participate with our museum is an honor.

What’s the best part about being a docent?

The best part is all of it: meeting energetic, generous, knowledgeable people; constant learning; leading a tour of young people and engaging them in the art and history of objects. It’s all gratifying. SAM’s collections are a wondrous gift to our city and special exhibitions join and expand experiences as well.

What is your favorite work of art to tour at the Asian Art Museum?

The Deer Scroll. Calligrapher Koetsu and painter Sotatsu collaborated to create this iconic masterpiece. Our 30 feet of the original 72 feet contains 12 poems from the Shin Kokinshu, which took four years to write. The beauty and harmony transports you to another time and place.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

Tours were scheduled the week before Mother’s Day so I made a gallery activity “A Gift for Mom.” Given one exhibition room students got to pick an object that they would give to their Mom if they could. It revealed so many wonderful things such as what objects in our Asian art collection young people were most drawn to, what they found beautiful and why. Crafting future tours improved since I had learned some of their favorite objects. The chance to interact with young people is yet another joy and benefit of leading a school tour.

What advice do you have for people applying for the docent program?

Your interests and life experiences offer wonderful and unique perspectives. You will discover and explore the vast and layered connections of art to our lives. It is so much fun.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

Object of the Week: Mola

Ancient Andean cultures used complex recording devices known as quipu, fashioned from tally cords, which allowed for the communication and recording of information essential to daily life. The quipu were essential tools for many Andean communities: they were a medium that enabled reading, writing, and, importantly, remembering. Such Indigenous practices nearly disappeared due to colonial suppression. Not unlike the quipu, the Cuna mola—or blouse—produced in the San Blas Islands represents the resilience of a community in the face of colonization.

The Cuna Indians are an Indigenous people who live along the Atlantic coast of Panama and Colombia. In the 16th century they were driven by the Spanish from their original home in Colombia, and moved west toward the coast. Mola, as we know them today, evolved from elaborate body painting. In the mid-18th century, when European settlers introduced cloth to the region, women began to wear simple blouses, painting them with natural dyes in the same manner they had previously decorated their bodies.

To make these elaborate blouses, an artist—importantly a woman—begins with multiple pieces of different colored cloth, and bastes one on top of the other. After cutting multiple designs, the maker then hems the edges with fine stitches. From there additional elements are added, such as embroidery, positive appliqué, or incisions that reveal the layers of cloth below. This reverse appliqué technique is an intricate and time-intensive process that has been mastered and handed down from generation to generation.

The history of the mola is inextricable from the history of colonialism in Latin America. It evolved in spite of European contact and continues to be shaped by contact with non-Native people today. For example, traditional Cuna designs—on both the body, originally, and the blouses—include abstracted linear patterns, stylized flora and fauna, and figures from Cuna mythology. When interactions with outsiders increased due to the construction of the Panama Canal, motifs such as trademarks, slogans, and American products appeared. Further, in the first decades of the 20th century, the Panamanian government tried to ban many Cuna customs, including their language and traditional dress. A resistance was mounted, and in 1925 the Dule Revolution resulted in the autonomy of the Cuna people, granting them the right to govern their own territory and culture autonomously. The mola can thus be seen as a vibrant textile tradition that represents the strength and resilience of the Cuna people.

Elisabeth Smith, Collection & Provenance Associate


Images: Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 21 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.10 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 22 1/2 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.6 © Artist or Artist’s Estate.

Donor Spotlight: Peggy Carlisle

I made my first trip to China in 1986. I wanted to see China before it changed, I had no idea it would completely alter my life. It opened a world of wonder, curiosity, and endless adventure for me that continues to this day. By 1990 I had become so obsessed that when an opportunity arose to study Asian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, I jumped at it. Since then, I have traveled extensively to see remote areas of Asia and visited hundreds of museums to quell my curiosity.

One of the reasons for my move to Seattle in 2000 was that there was this jewel box museum dedicated entirely to Asian art. There, in that perfect little building was a stunning collection. Many pieces from SAM’s collection had been referenced during my studies in London. And much to my surprise, each time I visited the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the curators had completely rotated the collection to display yet another aspect or region of the collection. In many museums, the collections never rotate and I go back to visit some objects like old friends. At the Asian Art Museum it was always a new wonder and delight.

For so many reasons, it has been my great pleasure to support the continuation of this remarkable institution. And thanks to everyone at the Seattle Art Museum for their enormous contribution to Seattle.

– Peggy Carlisle, SAM Donor

Muse/News: A piping hot cuppa at SAM, fruity art in Seattle, and lots of milk punch

SAM News

Thank u, next: Seattle press reflected on the year (was it just a year?) that was 2018. Both Seattle Magazine and The Seattle Times gave shout-outs to Double Exposure, SAM’s major summer exhibition that explored the complicated legacy of a celebrated photographer and the dynamic present of Indigenous arts.

SAM’s recently debuted installation Claire Partington: Taking Tea was featured in both Art & Object and Fresh Cup Magazine.

“Through her use of material and symbolism, Partington explores the multi-faceted history of the international tea trade, including issues of appropriation, colonialism, slavery, and the gendered roles associated with tea.”

Also now on view: Body Language, a small but nuanced installation exploring the power of gesture. Seattle Met gave it a recommendation.

And the Seattle Times looks ahead to the “hottest Seattle events for January 2019,” recommending SAM’s film series The Magic Lantern of Ingmar Bergman (if you don’t know Bergman, now’s your chance!) and Tasveer’s first-ever South Asian Literary Festival, for which SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas is a partner.

Local News

Watch this video by Crosscut’s Jen Dev on Franklin High School’s Arts of Resistance & Resilience club, which just completed a 40-foot-long mural honoring the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party.

A response to the carb-laden winter? Two shows about fruit are now on view; Seattle Met’s Gwen Hughes reviewed the FoodArt Collection’s and The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig wrote up the Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

The Seattle Times’ Crystal Paul visits Edgar Arceneaux’s Library of Black Lies, now on view at the Henry, noting that it “invites endless interpretation.”

“As you move through the labyrinth, things become simultaneously clearer and muddier. You encounter real books, fake books and books half-obscured. You have to look closely to tell what’s real, and even then, you’re not always certain.”

Inter/National News

Artsy’s Jackson Arn on “the short, unhappy career” of Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall, an artist and muse of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; we’ll hear more about this group’s exploits in SAM’s summer 2019 major exhibition Victorian Radicals.

In This Imperfect Present Moment artist Toyin Ojih Odutola created one of her signature ballpoint pen portraits of Aretha Franklin for the New York Times Magazine’s annual “The Lives They Lived” issue.

Hyperallergic’s Jasmine Weber on a recently discovered silent film, Something Good, which is believed to be “the earliest cinematic depiction of affection between a Black couple.”

“This artifact helps us think more critically about the relationship between race and performance in early cinema,” Field tells UChicago. “It’s not a corrective to all the racialized misrepresentation, but it shows us that that’s not the only thing that was going on.”

And Finally

He contained multitudes—and lots of milk punch, apparently. How the New York Times traced the final days of Uncle Walt.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Body Language at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman

Muse/News: Party people, Black pioneers, and surrealist snacks

SAM News

Last Friday, SAM presented another edition Remix, its creative late-night out featuring music, tours, and art-making. And as per usual, the beautiful people of Seattle showed up and showed out: Check out these colorful photo slideshows from Seattle Refined and Queerspace Magazine. See you at the next edition of Remix in March!

Local News

Andrew Hamlin for Northwest Asian Weekly on the Wing Luke’s new show, Worlds Beyond Here: The Expanding Universe of Science Fiction; Tamiko Thiel, whose augmented reality experience appeared at the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016, is included in this group show.

The Seattle Times launches Art Outings, in which their critics find places where art and snack & drinks are brought together. First up: The Frye Museum’s just-launched Third Thursday Happy Hours.

Real Change’s cover story this week: Lisa Edge’s review of Tacoma’s Washington State Historical Museum show featuring rarely shown works on paper by Jacob Lawrence about Tumwater founder George Bush.

“Lawrence depicting Bush’s migration is a convergence of two important pioneers. Bush, in the literal sense as he moved out west a century before The Great Migration, and Lawrence because of the barriers he broke within the art world. The series is an opportunity to learn more about two people who thrived in spite of entrenched barriers.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sheila Regan reviews Art for a New Understanding, the new survey at the Crystal Bridges Museum, calling it “a serious attempt to redefine what contemporary Indigenous art means today.”

Brigit Katz for Hyperallergic on Color Problems, a “widely overlooked, yet staggering” book on color theory by Emily Noyes Vanderpoel first published in 1901—it’s now getting a careful reprinting.

Carl Zimmer of the New York Times reports on the extraordinary discovery in Borneo of what scientists are calling “the oldest figurative art in the world”—it’s 40,000 years old!

“The early images and figures might have illustrated stories contained vital information for how to survive in hard times, Dr. Conard said. Or perhaps the drawings helped joined people as a group, encouraging them to cooperate—‘a kind of glue to hold these social units together,’ he said.”

And Finally

Snacks – with a Surrealist manifesto.

Photo: Jen Au

Muse/News: Man-altered landscapes, erasure poems, and a neon-hued restoration fail

SAM News

Don’t miss part two of Michael Upchurch’s write-ups for Crosscut on smaller installations now on view at SAM: this week, he highlights New Topographics, featuring photographs of “man-altered landscapes,” and American Modernism, which includes two incredible paintings from SAM’s collection by Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley.

The fall edition of The Stranger’s Art & Performance Quarterly is out! Lots of SAM shows and events are among their critics’ recommendations, including the exhibitions Peacock in the Desert and Noble Splendor, the annual Diwali Ball, and film events Night Heat: The 41st Film Noir Series and Indian Film Masterpiece: The Apu Trilogy.

Local News

Sarah Anne Lloyd of Curbed Seattle tracks the important news of the Mystery Coke Machine’s sudden public appearances following its recent Capitol Hill dislocation.

Seattle poet Quenton Baker’s Ballast opens at the Frye Art Museum on October 6; Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne interviews Baker about his erasure poems examining the 1841 revolt aboard the Creole slave ship.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut interviews surgical nurse and artist Andrea Gahl about the doctor portraits lining UW’s surgical department hallway—and her new portraits that combat stereotypes about what a surgeon looks like.

“I hope my portraits not only illustrate the diversity of the surgeons I work with,” Gahl says, “But also the myriad ways that that diversity enriches us.”

Inter/National News

TIME Magazine highlights “31 People Who Are Changing the South,” including Bryan Stevenson of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Christy Coleman of the American Civil War Museum.

Artnet’s Caroline Goldstein with a round-up of the best and worst of the art world this week, including the discovery of hidden treasure (best) and an eye-popping restoration fail (worst).

The New York Times’ Holland Cotter reviews Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which opens today at the Brooklyn Museum and explores expanding definitions of “black” art.

“The stakes were high, the debate could be bitter. But the results were win-win. What we see in the show itself is not suppression but florescence.”

And Finally

Finally some genius made the Pizza Patio Set.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of New Topographics at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Stephanie Fink.

7 Places To Experience Native Art and Culture All Year Round

Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson closes at SAM on September 9, but here are 8 places you can visit in Seattle (and beyond) where you can continue to widen your lens on Native culture. Indigenous peoples have been living in the Puget Sound area for well over 4,000 years making for a rich but complex history that has left a lasting mark on the region. Despite the hardships faced by Native communities, Native culture continues to thrive.

1. Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center

After decades of planning and fundraising, the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center opened its doors to tribal members, visitors, and the community in 2009. Located at a historic archeological site along the Duwamish river in West Seattle, the lobby displays archeological materials from the site and has a resource center filled with photographs, interviews, field notes, and other literature about the Duwamish and coastal Salish people. Visit the longhouse’s gallery and exhibit area—it’s free! In addition, the longhouse holds monthly special events as well as ongoing workshops, demonstrations and lectures.

2.  wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House

Located on the University of Washington Seattle campus, the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House, pronounced “wah-sheb-altuh,” aims to provide a welcoming space and a supportive educational environment for all Native students. Though this longhouse-style facility is on a college campus and many events are reserved for UW students, it also hosts a variety of different events like film screenings and concerts that are also open to the public. Check out their Facebook page for details on upcoming events.

3. Makah Cultural & Research Center

If you’re in Neah Bay be sure to stop by the Makah Cultural & Research Center—the center includes the Makah Museum, as well as the Museum store, Makah Language Program, Archives and Library Department, Makah Education Department, and Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Their permanent collection boasts 300-500 year old artifacts recovered from a Makah village in Ozette, Washington. The Makah Museum also offers demonstrations and lectures by Makah Tribal Leaders plus workshops where you can learn to make crafts from Makah tradition.

4. Sacred Circle Gallery at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

Located in Seattle’s Discovery Park, Sacred Circle Gallery is a gallery space inside of Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. Along with a permanent collection of Native American art, they show curated exhibits featuring contemporary and traditional Native American Art by global and local artists.

5. The Elwha Klallam Heritage Center and Carnegie Museum

This Port Angeles heritage center is the home of a permanent exhibit of Kallam Village artifacts along with contemporary works by local tribal members. Across the street from the Heritage Center you’ll find The Carnegie Museum, managed by The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the space displays cultural and historical artifacts of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and other tribes of the Olympic Peninsula.

6. s’gʷi gʷi ʔ altxʷ: “House of Welcome,” Longhouse Education and Cultural Center

Located on the Evergreen State College campus in Olympia, “House of Welcome” Longhouse Education and Cultural Center’s mission is promoting Indigenous arts and cultures through education, cultural preservation, creative expression, and economic development. Come to the longhouse to learn about indigenous arts and cultures through Native art markets, exhibitions, performances, films, and other public events.

7. Hibulb Cultural Center & Natural History Preserve

Learn about the legacy of the Tulalip Tribe and people via interactive displays and stories told in both Lushootseed and English at the Hibulb Cultural Center. In addition to the museum’s permanent collection and rotating special exhibitions, they host public events and workshops from weaving and beading classes to salmon bake fundraisers. And, to top it all off, the Cultural Center also happens to be located on a 50-acre natural history preserve, with a research library and a longhouse!

– Nina Dubinsky, Social Media and Communications Coordinator

Images: Photo courtesy of the Longhouse at Evergreen. Photo courtesy of the Hibulb Cultural Center & Natural History Preserve.

10 Surprising Facts about Artist Kerry James Marshall

If you haven’t yet seen Kerry James Marshall’s glittery, figurative paintings in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, maybe these 10 surprising facts about him will pique your interest!

1. He is married to Stranger than Fiction actress Cheryl Lynn Bruce.

2. A master of many mediums—Marshall has made work in collage, drawing, murals, and even comic books.

3. Marshall created Rythm Mastr in reaction to the absence of black superheroes in comics growing up. His comic book series features black superheroes with powers derived from gods in the Yoruba pantheon.

4. The first time Marshall saw an original artwork was on a field trip to LACMA in the sixth grade.

5. Black social realist painter Charles White was a mentor to Marshall who considered seeing White’s studio for the first time “a life-altering experience.”

6. Marshall considered a career in children’s book illustration.

7. Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible Man inspired Marshall to make his painting Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaUlbICD1qX/?taken-by=kerryjamesmarsh

8. Painted in 1980, two years after Marshall’s college graduation, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self was the first painting he ever made of a Black figure.

9. Marshall received the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” for exceptional merit and creative works.

10. He knew in kindergarten he wanted to be an artist after his teacher Mary Hill showed the class a scrapbook full of greeting cards, pictures, and other imagery.

Don’t miss Marshall’s work in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas. These three artists are shaped by distinctive historic events, unique in style, and united in questioning the narratives of history through Black experience. On view until Sunday May 13!

– Nina Dubinsky, Social Media Coordinator

Image: Installation view Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Object of the Week: Engineering Drawing for Montlake Landfill Proposal

With President Carter’s announcement that the nation must mobilize its vast coal resources to solve the energy crisis, we are entering an era of potentially irreconcilable conflict between the pressures of energy and the pressures of environmental concern.

– John D. Spellman, Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture, 1979

We find ourselves in a critical and precarious moment: our impact on the environment has caused irreparable harm. With this in mind, it is incredible to look back nearly forty years ago, when the King County Arts Commission brought together a roster of internationally recognized artists to re-imagine post-industrial sites in King County, such as gravel pits, surface mines, and abandoned airstrips. The 1979 initiative and its attendant symposium—Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture—was a progressive city-backed project meant to envision earthworks as a tool for environmental recovery.

Among the group of accomplished artists—which included Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Mary Miss, and Herbert Bayer—was Beverly Pepper, who worked with the University of Washington to develop her proposal for Montlake Landfill, part of the University of Washington’s East Campus. [1] Measuring approximately 80 acres, the landfill site proposal contained two main elements: the first, rendered in the lower right-hand corner of the plan, a 100-foot circle of white-capped posts that would, over time, reveal changes in land levels and be a resource for University of Washington students; the second, an intervention into the landscape that would reveal (through a glass wall) decades of waste disposed at the site, as well as a layer of gravel to again indicate the earth’s movement over time.[2]

While it is not the responsibility of artists to respond to political, social, or cultural events, it is often the case that artists are in the unique and privileged position to call attention to contemporary issues, respond to our increasingly complex world, and, most importantly, effect change. Though Pepper’s Montlake Landfill proposal never came to fruition (Robert Morris and Herbert Bayer’s plans were selected by the jury panel), it remains a radical gesture that will hopefully serve to inspire future artists, environmentalists, and civic leaders alike.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Images: Engineering Drawing for MontLake Landfill Proposal, 1979, Beverly Pepper, Collage of graphite on vellum, 30 1/4 x 54 3/4 in., King County Office of Cultural Resources, 98.3.47, Beverly Pepper. Cover of Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture catalogue, 1979.
[1] The Montlake Landfill operated as a burn dump and, eventually, as landfill between the years 1926 and 1966. In 1971, the landfill was closed, and covered with two feet of clean soil. According to a report published by the University of Washington’s Environmental Health & Safety Department, “Municipal solid waste, primarily consisting of residential wastes, was disposed in the landfill. Some limited amounts of industrial waste that could be considered hazardous were also disposed at this location.” As for the location: “Although the exact limits of the Montlake Landfill are not definitively known, available documentation suggests that the landfill is generally bounded by Montlake Boulevard NE to the west; NE 45th Street to the north; Laurel Village and the Douglas Research Conservatory to the east; and Canal Road, the Intramural Activities Building, and Union Bay to the south.” For the entire report, please see: https://www.ehs.washington.edu/system/files/resources/montlake.pdf
[2] For more on the projects included in Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture, please see: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/archives/exhibits/earthworks_brief.aspx.

10 Surprising Facts about Artist Basquiat

In 27 short years artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has left a legacy far from the same-old same-old. Learn more about the artist’s life and career with 10 facts that might surprise you before you come see the one-work exhibition Basquiat—Untitled at the Seattle Art Museum, on view for the first time on the West Coast through August 13.

1. At the start of his meteoric rise to art stardom, Basquiat was a graffiti artist. Strategically spray painting near hot artist hubs, museums, and galleries—Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz graffitied NYC under the pseudonym “Samo©” which stood for same old sh*t.

2. With exhibitions around the globe 30 years after his death, it’s hard to believe that both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art rejected Basquiat’s work. Collectors Lenore and Herbert Schorr offered to donate Basquiats to both institutions in the 1980s but they declined.

3. Aside from painting and drawing, Basquiat was also a musician. He started the industrial sound band, Gray, and produced a hip-hop track called “Beat-Bop” featuring artist Rammellzee and rapper K-Rob. Original vinyl of this track featuring artwork by Basquiat sells for thousands of dollars and it’s named one of the most valuable hip-hop records of all time.

4. Basquiat hung out with a lot of celebrities, including pop artist Andy Warhol. Though some questioned the integrity of the friendship between this seemingly unlikely pair, Warhol and Basquiat were close friends and collaborated on a plethora of works and projects until they had a falling out.

5. Growing up in Brooklyn with a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father Basquiat was trilingual and spoke English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

6. Bought at a whopping $110.5 million dollars by Japanese art collector Yusaku Maezawa, Basquiat’s painting Untitled broke the record for the most expensive American artwork ever auctioned.

7. For a period of time while Basquiat was homeless he was able to support himself by dealing drugs and selling postcards and clothing with his art on it.

8. A man of many talents, Basquiat also starred in the 1980s movie Downtown 81 also known as New York Beat Movie. Due to financial reasons, the film was abandoned in the mid-80s only to be released in 2000 at the Cannes Film Festival.

9. Basquiat dated Madonna in 1982 when she was still an aspiring entertainer. In an interview Madonna said that after they broke up he asked for all the paintings he gifted her back then painted them black.

10.Blondie fans you may have seen a familiar face in the “Rapture” music video. In addition to Basquiat making a cameo in their music video, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein bought his first painting for $200.

—Nina Dubinsky, SAM Social Media Coordinator

Image: installation view Basquiat—Untitled at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman.

10 Surprising Facts About Artist Mickalene Thomas

If you’ve visited Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas you’re probably as enamored as we are with the larger-than-life paintings hanging in our galleries right now. This month, we’re putting the spotlight on Mickalene Thomas! Learn more about the woman behind the bright patterns, bold colors, and rhinestones with 10 surprising facts about the artist.

1. She painted First Lady Michelle Obama’s first individual portrait in 2008; the painting, titled Michelle O, subsequently went on view at the National Portrait Gallery.

2. Thomas’ mother Sandra Bush, was a fashion model and influenced her aesthetic.

3. In 2011, she participated in an artist’s residency at Monet’s home in Giverny, France.

4. Growing up in the 1970s, Thomas drew inspiration from the bright colors and patterns from her childhood in her art.

5. Her first short-film, Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman: A Portrait of My Mother, was about her mother.

6. Fellow artist Kehinde Wiley painted Mickalene Thomas’ portrait for his painting series Trickster.

7. Thomas did a number of odd jobs to support herself in her 20s including fashion modeling.

8. Mickalene Thomas originally pursued a career in law.

9. Thomas ended up getting a BFA in painting at Pratt in Brooklyn and her MFA at Yale.

10. Her commissioned portrait of Solange Knowles was used for the cover of the R&B singer’s 2013 EP True.

If you haven’t visited Figuring History yet, see Thomas’ work through Sunday May 13!

— Nina Dubinsky, SAM Social Media Coordinator

MT Headshot — Topical Cream, 2016, Courtesy of Lyndsy Welgos

10 Surprising Facts about Artist Robert Colescott

What do you know about the three artists in Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas? Take a minute to learn more about the people behind the paintings currently on view at SAM as we share 10 surprising facts about each of them. This month we’re focused on Robert Colescott. Colescott’s work is bold, colorful, often satirical, and packed with meaning.

  1. Colescott’s parents were accomplished musicians who played jazz, blues, and classical music. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Colescott also had musical talent—growing up he played the drums and always kept a drum kit in his studio.
  2. Despite painting and drawing from a young age, Colescott originally wanted to go into international relations. He decided to pursue his passion for art since he was told at the time there wouldn’t be a future for him in the field as an Black person.
  3. Robert Colescott married five times.
  4. Colescott was thrust into international spotlight as the first Black painter to have a solo exhibit at the Venice Biennale in Italy.
  5. Robert Colescott’s older brother Warrington Colescott is an also an artist best known for his etchings.
  6. Oski wow wow! Colescott graduated from the University of California, Berkeley where he received both his bachelors and masters.
  7. A world traveler, Colescott spent an year in Paris at an atelier studying with artist Fernand Léger.
  8. In the early 1950s, Colescott moved to Seattle and taught junior high school in the Seattle Public School District.
  9. Colescott was a veteran—he volunteered to serve in the US Army after graduating High School in 1942 and fought in the 86th Blackhawk Division during World War II.
  10. Colescott has five sons and a grandson. His grandson, Colescott Rubin, is also a jazz musician and played at the opening celebration of Figuring History in front of his grandfather’s painting, Les Demoiselles d’Alabama: Vestidas.

See Colescott’s work in person at the Seattle Art Museum. Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas will be on view until Sunday May 13!

– Nina Dubinsky, Social Media Coordinator

Image: Installation view Figuring History: Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, 2018, at Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Natali Wiseman
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