Object of the Week: Rebekah at the Well

Rebekah is one of the most prominent women in the Hebrew Bible—a woman, whose act of kindness, decidedly shapes her future:

Rebekah went one evening to fill her water-jar at the well. As she was returning, a stranger in charge of a string of laden camels stopped the comely young girl and asked for a drink. She gave it to him and offered to draw water for his camels as well. He bestowed upon her a gold earring and two gold bracelets. The man was [Eliezer,] Abraham’s trusted servant, sent to find a wife for his master’s son Isaac from among his kinfolk. Having earlier enlisted the help of an angel, he knew that this was the girl he sought.[1]

In this image, photographer Eveleen Tennant Myers (British, 1856-1937) pays homage to an important female figure, but also establishes herself as an artist of merit—one that employs skillful darkroom techniques, staging, and an austere composition to create a truly modern photograph.

Myers was born in 1856 to English society matron Gertrude Collier Tennant (1819-1918). Her mother’s connections and patronage of artists, and her own social position, allowed her to pursue her interests as a freelance artist, rather than a commercial one who depended on a steady income to make a living. Through her mother, Myers was acquainted with the cultural elite of her time: the writers Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo and painters Edward Burne-Jones, Frederic Leighton, and Edward John Poynter. As a girl, she was a sitter for Julia Margaret Cameron and this encounter had a profound impact on her pursuit of photography.[2] As a young woman, she sat for some of England’s most prominent painters, including John Everett Millais and George Frederick Watts, and became familiar with the act of being a model.

Myers married poet and psychical researcher Frederic William Henry Myers (1843-1901) in 1879. He had seen her portrait by Millais, and exclaimed to his friend, the writer George Eliot, “I have fallen in love with the girl in that picture.”[3] Around 1888, in the early years of motherhood, Myers began her work as a photographer using her own children as models.

Working under the well-known Cambridge photographer, Albert George Dew-Smith (1848-1903), Myers developed a firm grasp of the technical and expressive subtleties of the medium. Her experience as a model allowed her to develop an easy rapport with her subjects—the politicians, scientists, scholars, writers, and artists of her day—and assisted her in becoming a successful portraitist. Wanting to develop her artistic practice she worked to perfect her “pictorialist” compositions and darkroom techniques—she experimented with poses, settings, and costuming, and, like Cameron, often emulated poses and compositions of great master paintings.[4]

Rebekah at the Well, created in 1891, is one of her best known “aesthetic” photographs. It establishes Myers as an important women photographer in late Victorian England. In depicting the Biblical matriarch, Myers implores the staging and costumes she might have seen in amateur theater productions, but it’s the austerity of the figure that makes the photograph modern.[5] A critic of the day noted that Myers masterly handles the drapery of Rebekah’s robe, “reminding one of the folds of a Greek chitôn in some marble of the Attic age.” Her expertise in the darkroom is demonstrated in the tonal values achieved in the model’s dark hair and folds of her gown. “The structure of the living person is felt beneath the dress, which clothes but does not conceal the limbs.” [6]

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I chose this work as its creation involved a number of women: the women who played a role in creating an artist, Myers’s mother and Cameron; Rebekah, the woman who inspired the image; the model; and Myers, the photographer who constructed Rebekah at the Well.

– Traci Timmons, SAM Senior Librarian


[1] This succinct telling comes from Joan Comay, Who’s Who in the Old Testament, together with the Apocrypha (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971): p. 320; see also Chiara de Capoa, Old Testament Figures in Art (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003): p. 102-107.
[2] Judy Oberhausen and Nic Peeters, “Eveleen Myers (1856-1937): Portraying Beauty: The rediscovery of a late-Victorian aesthetic photographer,” The British Art Journal v. 17, no. 1 (Spring 2016), pp. 94-102.
[3] Judy Oberhausen and Nic Peeters, “Excavating the Work of Eveleen Myers: The Rediscovery of a Late Victorian Photographer,” Understanding British Portraits, https://www.britishportraits.org.uk/blog/excavating-the-work-of-eveleen-myers-the-rediscovery-of-a-late-victorian-photographer/ (accessed 2/25/2021) and Oberhausen, “Eveleen Myers,” p. 94.
[4] Oberhausen, “Eveleen Myers,” p. 94-96.
[5] Ibid., p. 99.
[6] John Addington Symonds, “Mrs. F.W.H. Myers,” Sun Artists, no. 7 (April 1891): pp. 53-54.
Image: Rebekah at the Well, 1891, Eveleen Myers, photogravure, 7 x 4 7/16 in., Mary Arrington Small Estate Acquisition Fund, 85.241.7.2

Object of the Week: Leaves

Gloria Petyarre’s thirteen-foot-long canvas, Leaves, is a work that stops you in your tracks. It invokes the senses: hearing, seeing, and even feeling. The intricate, seemingly endless, white strokes evoke the movement and gentle patterns of leaves on, or fallen from, trees, the delicate movement of waist-high grass in a wind-swept field, or the long, waving fur of an animal on the move.

This feathery, leafy style that has become a common theme in Petyarre’s work was developed over decades. In the late 1970s, Petyarre came to prominence as a batik painter, before taking up painting on canvas in the late 1980s. Her use of sophisticated batik-making techniques, combined with the referencing of body markings associated with women’s ceremonies, shaped the unique forms of painting done in the Utopia area of Australia’s Northern Territory in the 1980s.[1]

In the 1990s, her work progressively increased in size and painterly precision. She began supplanting her dots and lines with elongated drop-forms in feathery layers “that move over the surfaces of her work with the velocity of wind in foliage or the fluidity of water currents.”[2]

This more painterly leaf design seems a natural progression.

“Petyarre grew up learning traditional techniques of reading the landscape to identify foods, medicinal plants, and everything else that was needed to thrive. Sitting under mulga bushes, helping the elder women prepare their seeds for small cakes, she would see the leaves swirl overhead. At the same time, she could listen to elders discussing the days when grasses and wildlife were more abundant.”[3]

Gloria Petyarre is part of an extraordinary family of women artists. Her six sisters—Kathleen, Nancy, Ada, Myrtle, Violet, and Jean—are all internationally acclaimed artists. Gloria’s niece Elizabeth Kunoth Kngwarray, and great-niece Genevieve Kemarr Loy, are well-known artists, as is her niece, Abie Loy Kamerre, whose work, Awelye “Women’s Ceremony,” is also in SAM’s collection. Petyarre’s and her artistic family’s work draws on the surroundings and rituals of their community in Utopia, in Australia’s Central Desert, Northern Territory. Gloria and her sisters had a classical education in an aboriginal world view that has survived tens of thousands of years in an arid spinifex country. Growing up, they walked across their vast estate, moved according to the principles of rotational land navigation, and honored the other species they learned from.

These Utopian women began painting to enlighten outsiders and rebel against the white cattle ranchers who took over their land. As these outsiders began moving in, they polluted water holes and demonstrated a disinterest in the features of the landscape. An inspiration to create came from recognizing that outsiders were ignorant of the depth of knowledge they had about their environment. These artists turned to painting to demonstrate how they had managed to maintain and honor their country, with all its species, foodstuffs, and medicines. They relied on a seed economy, and noticed that leaves had strong medicines to offer, with particular potency when they were falling off the trees. Petyarre’s work offers an urgent reminder of Indigenous knowledge of the landscape—what may seem like scruffy sandhills can be a utopian ideal, filled with vibrant resources that we need to learn to recognize better.[4] She created this work as a study of leaves swirling through space. With her knowledge of the medicinal properties of certain plants, “she takes it upon herself to focus attention on the moment that the leaves fly.”[5]

The next time you visit SAM, make sure to spend a few minutes with this work, you’ll see it right when you enter the museum. What senses does Leaves invoke in you?

– Traci Timmons, SAM Senior Librarian

[1] Art Gallery of New South Wales, Gloria Tamerre Petyarre Artist Profile, https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/artists/petyarre-gloria-tamerre/, accessed December 2, 2020.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Pamela McClusky, Wally Caruana, Lisa G. Corrin, and Stephen Gilchrist, Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art: Kaplan & Levi Collection ([Seattle]: Seattle Art Museum, 2012): 114.
[4] Interview with Pamela McClusky, December 7, 2020.
[5] Pamela McClusky, “Completing the Map,” in Chiyo Ishikawa et al., A Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2008): 76, 81.
Image: Leaves, 2002, Gloria Tamerr Petyarre, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
70 7/8 x 157 1/2 in., Gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, in honor of Virginia and Bagley Wright, and in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2012.21 ©Gloria Petyarre

Object of the Week: Oiling

Faig Ahmed is a textile artist and sculptor based in Baku, Azerbaijan, who uses both traditional and modern carpet-making techniques to create something unexpected. His work, Oiling (2012), begins as a traditional wool-knotted Azerbaijani carpet, but then transforms and spills into a fluid, modern form as the pattern and weaving technique are altered.

Carpets have always occupied a place of interest for Ahmed. As a child, he entertained himself by rearranging motifs he found in the carpet on the floor of his grandmother’s home. Unable to keep his ideas contained solely to his imagination, he cut out symbols from the carpet and moved them into new positions. His interest in the potential of traditional carpets to carry and transmit new stories stayed with him into his professional artistic practice.[1]

For Ahmed, the carpet is a “cultural code, or DNA, incorporating a language of universal signs that has been carried across generations and cultures through the immemorial migration and intermingling of peoples, in this case along the Silk Road trade routes.”[2] Traditionally, in Azerbaijan, women were expected to weave a carpet before their marriage as part of their dowry. Today, those traditions and craft knowledge are no longer common, but there are still local weavers who continue to weave by hand. Ahmed works in collaboration with these women, based in the village of Bulbule not far from his studio in Baku. These weavers use the same hand-weaving techniques to create cut pile wool carpets that have been used in the area for hundreds of years. Ahmed explained in an interview that working with these women to realize his designs means he is constantly learning. “They teach me the meaning of symbols, but they are always trying to bring me back to tradition!”[3]

The title of the work in SAM’s collection, Oiling, might have a dual meaning referring both to the oozing shape in which the carpet’s design descends, and to the artist’s country’s relationship with oil. Azerbaijan has been connected to oil for hundreds of years. Medieval travelers to the region remarked on its abundant oil supply. In 1846, Azerbaijan drilled its first oil well in Bibi-Heybat—more than a decade before oil was discovered in the United States. By the 19th century, Azerbaijan produced more than half of the world’s oil supply.[4]

In the words of the artist:

“The value of the Carpet for art is the fact that this object included layers of millennial stories that could be instantly translated into modern language. Through my work I am asking, where are the boundaries of craft and art? And carpet itself creates questions on cultural boundaries. As an artist, I was looking for a modern language of art to talk about the future, but I found an ancient one and started talking about the present. And in the present, there is no value more important than life itself.”[5]

– Faig Ahmed

Traci Timmons, SAM Senior Librarian

[1] Jessica Hemmings, “Faig Ahmed,” Surface Design Journal, Spring 2015: 38-43.
[2] Cathryn Drake, “Faig Ahmed at Yarat,” [exhibition review] Artforum (February 2017), https://www.artforum.com/inprint/issue=201702&id=66123, accessed September 2, 2020.
[3] Hemmings, Ibid.
[4] Mir Yusif Mir-Babayev, “Azerbaijan’s Oil History: A Chronology Leading up to the Soviet Era,” Azerbaijan International 10.2 (Summer 2002): 34-40, https://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/ai102_folder/102_articles/102_oil_chronology.html, accessed September 2, 2020.
[5] Interview with Maria Rosaria Roseo: “The Carpet as a Cultural Metaphor: Interview with Faig Ahmed,” Artemorbida Textile Arts, https://www.artemorbida.com/il-tappeto-come-metafora-culturale-intervista-con-faig-ahmed/?lang=en, accessed September 7, 2020.
Image: Oiling, 2012, Faig Ahmed, hand-knotted wool, 59 × 39 1/2 in., Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund, 2013.13 © Faig Ahmed

Museum Bhavan: A Book-Object by Dayanita Singh

During SAM’s current exhibition, Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India featuring the rich artistic traditions of India, SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library is showcasing one its own treasures of Indian artistic practice: Dayanita Singh’s artist’s book, Museum Bhavan (2017).

Museum Bhavan

This limited edition artist’s book is an extension of another compelling work created by the artist. Singh initially created a large, structural, non-book version of Museum Bhavan in 2015 as a series of large, wooden portable “museums” that incorporates hundreds of photographs from her many decades of work in an easily alterable display. It is from this original Museum Bhavan that the artist’s book, Museum Bhavan, originated.

Museum Bhavan

Here is the original Museum Bhavan on display at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi in 2013. See a walkthrough of the installation here. (Source: Google Arts & Culture.)

Museum Bhavan

In 2017, Singh published the “book-object,” Museum Bhavan, as an easily transportable “pocket museum,” working with long-time collaborator and publisher Gerhard Stiedl. This Museum Bhavan includes a series of nine accordion-fold books—which she refers to as “museums”—that contain Singh’s black-and-white photography and fold out into long strips. This aspect mimics the series of wooden accordion panels used in the original Museum Bhavan. Additionally, the 2017 version includes a booklet of conversations entitled Conversation Chambers that also reflects an aspect of the original: the structures of the original Museum Bhavan can be opened to act as a wall or they can be pulled inward to form intimate spaces. Accompanying wooden benches and tables help create “chambers” that encourage reflection or conversation. The conversations documented in the artist’s book include one with her publisher, Gerhard Steidl, and another with curator and writer, Aveek Sen. Unlike the original Museum Bhavan, the “book-object” version is enclosed in a handmade clamshell box created in India, covered by fabric designed by the artist.

Museum Bhavan

Through this book form, Singh has pushed the original Museum Bhavan’s concept of the evolving presentation further. This Museum Bhavan is an artist’s book, a photo book, and something that can be displayed as a tabletop exhibition while simultaneously being the catalog of that exhibition. By offering an exhibition in a box, Singh encourages viewers to install and curate the work as they like and where they like. Singh desires “the mass-produced quality of publishing and the uniqueness of the art gallery…,” but she wants to make it accessible. She believes that this kind of work is the museum of the future.

Similar to the original version, the title of each “museum” or book is ambiguous and interchangeable: Museum of Men, Godrej Museum, Little Ladies Museum, Museum of Furniture, Museum of Vitrines, etc. Her photos appear without titles or captions. The ambiguity, she says, is intentional.

Museum Bhavan

“I don’t want to spoon-feed you with photographs, and I don’t need to because photography is such a magical medium…. If you allow it, it will present all sorts of meanings.”

—Dayanita Singh

To get a closer look at these works, another artist’s book by Singh (Sent a Letter, 2008), or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments can typically be scheduled Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

In consideration of Singh’s intent, the display of Museum Bhavan will change in the case throughout the run of Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Translation, Identity, and Native Language in Book Arts

Recently, the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library acquired two works by book artist, designer, and member of the Oneida Nation Erin Mickelson. Mickelson’s work is often about language, particularly translation. Sometimes her work is as straightforward as a translation from one language to another, but often she attempts to translate an idea between seemingly disparate forms—language, image, code, and movement. You can see Mickelson’s works in person in the reception area just outside of the Bullitt Library on SAM’s 5th floor until Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicholson, Tracey Rector, Will Wilson closes on September 9, 2018.

Mutterfarbe

Mutterfarbe, published in 2017 by Broken Cloud Press (Santa Fe, NM), the imprint of Mickelson, is a limited-edition artist-book collaboration between poet, translator, and visual artist Brandi Katherine Herrera and Mickelson. The work, which uses Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s seminal work Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors, 1810) as its primary source, features experimental text, visual translations, and poems.

The work includes three sections, plus front matter and back matter. In the first section, Natürlicher, sixteen color swatches sourced from photographs of Herrera’s environment are accompanied by poems whose words are drawn from translations of Goethe’s text. The second section, Ursprünglicher, includes erasure poems by Herrera with “visual translations” of Goethe’s illustrations by Mickelson. The third section, Farbe Gespräch, is an imagined text conversation between Herrera and Goethe regarding the surrealist film, The Holy Mountain (directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) using contemporary language, texting, and the Google Translate app. Mickelson sources the illustrations in this section directly from screenshots of the film, rendering them in the sixteen colors used throughout the work. This particular section utilizes a leporello structure, creating an accordion-like fold, and can extend to thirteen feet wide. The front matter includes a unique lenticular print, a technology that creates a three-dimensional effect. The three pamphlet-stitched books (Anhang I–III) that make up the back matter feature a translator’s note, color source photographs, scans of the original text erasures, and the translation of Zur Farbenlehre.

 

Mickelson and Herrera worked with Zachary Schomburg to create this informative video which helps us understand the many parts of this fascinating work.

He Wears a Feather

He Wears a Feather (2015) demonstrates a move for Mickelson toward more socially and politically informed work. It is also a work inspired by a deep and personal topic: controversial blood quantum laws dictate that the artist’s son be excluded from the Oneida Nation’s tribal rolls—the first generation of Mickelson’s family.

He Wears a Feather is very much about a disappearing cultural identity. I’ve had a lot of conversations about this idea with my mother, who, as an Oneida artist, has dedicated her career to telling the stories and history of the Oneida people through her paintings. She’s talked at length about the changing attitude toward identifying as Native. Her grandmother (my great-grandmother) was at the Carlisle Indian boarding school, where students were forced to assimilate to Euro/American culture. It created a huge rift between those students and their families who remained on the reservation. Subsequent generations have dealt with racism and colonialism as well as the effects of the previous generation’s forced assimilation, and connections to history, language, and identity have become frayed. Particularly for those living off the reservation. I am mixed-race and the last generation of my family to be a tribal member (due to blood quantum laws). It feels imperative to me to do what I can to stay connected to my family history. I can do this by trying to learn and preserve the language, history, and stories of the Oneida people.”

—Erin Mickelson, book artist

The work takes the form of a drop-spine box and includes an electronic sound module that, when the soapstone turtle is removed and the module is exposed to light, allows the reader to hear the book’s text being read aloud. Mickelson utilized text and an audio recording from the Oneida Language Revitalization Program, originally a Works Progress Administration project started in 1939, whose goal is to preserve and continue the Oneida language.

Learn more about this initiative by visiting: The Oneida Language Revitalization Program’s Website and The Oneida Language Revitalization Program: A History Website.

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments can typically be scheduled Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Object of the Week: Shredded Wheat Factory with Ford

Photographer Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883–1976) is best known for her portraits, nudes, and photographic examinations of plants. So how does this photograph of a cereal factory fit in?

Born in Oregon in 1883, Cunningham moved with her parents to a communal farm in Port Angeles, Washington as a very young girl. In 1889, the family moved to Seattle creating their homestead in a forest atop Queen Anne Hill. She studied at the University of Washington, receiving a degree in chemistry. Her thesis was titled, “The Scientific Development of Photography,” and she had spent the latter half of her senior year studying the work and methods of Edward S. Curtis. Upon graduation, she was determined to make platinum prints (a photographic printing process using the metal, platinum) and secured a position working in Edward Curtis’s studio from 1907-1909. Although working in his studio, she rarely had contact with Curtis who was often away working on his monumental work, The North American Indian.[1] There she learned not only platinum printing, but also how to spot negatives, create studio portraiture, and run a studio.[2]

After a trip to Europe where she studied with Robert Luther, a renowned photochemist at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden, she returned to Seattle, established her own studio, and began to exhibit and become involved in the Seattle and national art scenes. She was involved with the Society of Seattle Artists, the Pictorial Photographers of America, and, importantly, the Seattle Fine Arts Society.[3] During her time with the Seattle Fine Arts Society, she met and married her artist husband, Roi Partridge, in 1915. A few years later the family (they now had three sons) moved to San Francisco, and then, in 1920, Partridge accepted a position at Mills College and the family moved to Oakland.

Before 1920, Cunningham was firmly part of the Pictorialist movement which had “succeeded in placing photography within the realm of art” and whose work was often associated with beauty and soft focus. The photographs of her husband at Mount Rainier are examples of her working in this style. However, by the late 1920s, Cunningham’s artistic photography had diverged completely from her soft-focus Pictorialist work, and was beginning to express a more fully formed Modernist vision, reducing nature and structures to their simplest shapes and forms.[4] It is during this period and into the 1930s that she becomes associated with the Precisionists, a group who were responding to the radical, industrial changes in the country and turning to machine forms and industrial landscapes as visual resources for their work.[5]

In 1928, living in Oakland, she photographed the Shredded Wheat Factory located at 14th and Union Streets. And, although the factory had been built more than a decade before Precisionism declared beauty in industrial forms, the surrounding community was already thinking about its modern, appealing look:

“Practically no complaint has been heard from nearby property-owners over the location of the million-dollar Oakland factory of the Shredded Wheat Co. on land bounded by Twelfth, Fourteenth, Poplar and Union Streets, in a strictly residential district. It is not expected that the proposed artistic buildings, surrounded by beautiful grounds will have a deteriorating effect on the value of residence holdings.”[6]

The beauty of the industrial landscape is captured in the sleek lines of the factory’s geometric towers and the shadows that extend from known and unknown subjects. And, by including an electrical/telephone poll and a Ford automobile, Cunningham reinforces other aspects of modern life. Other photographs of the site exist in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Imogen Cunningham Trust (here, here, and here). However, SAM’s Shredded Wheat Factory with Ford is unique in that it’s the only one in the Shredded Wheat Factory series where Cunningham includes a natural object—a tree—front and center within the composition.

In Celina Lunsford’s opening essay for the catalogue to the Imogen Cunningham exhibition at the Fundación Mapfre (Madrid) and Kulturhuset Stockholm, she recognizes: “Imogen Cunningham was a true artist: throughout her long life she embraced the diverse developments of photography and the liveliness of the changing time in which she lived.”[7] Shredded Wheat Factory with Ford, a work of Precisionism, along with Cunningham’s other photographs of various pictorial styles in SAM’s collection, clearly demonstrates her wide range, a lifetime commitment to developing her work, and importance as a pioneering American woman photographer from the West Coast.

– Traci Timmons, SAM Librarian

[1] Richard Lorenz, “A Life in Photography,” in Amy Rule, ed., Imogen Cunningham: Selected Texts and Bibliography (Oxford, UK: Clio Press Ltd., 1992) 1-3.
[2] Celina Lunsford, “Imogen Cunningham: Modernist and Visionary,” in Celina Lundsford et al., Imogen Cunningham (Madrid: Fundación Mapfre, 2012), 12.
[3] Lorenz, 3-5. The Seattle Fine Arts Society ultimately became the Seattle Art Museum.
[4] Lunsford, 30.
[5] Karen Tsujimoto, Images of America: Precisionist Painting and Modern Photography (San Francisco; Seattle: SFMOMA; University of Washington Press, 1982), 86.
[6] “Factory Invades a Residence Section” in The Oakland Tribune, June 7, 1914.
[7] Lunsford, 11.
Image: Shredded Wheat Factory with Ford, before 1929, Imogen Cunningham, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 88.9 © (before 1929), 2009 Imogen Cunningham Trust

Before SAM: Publications from the Seattle Fine Arts Society and the Art Institute of Seattle

The SAM Research Libraries’ latest digital collection is a set of publications from two arts societies that preceded the Seattle Art Museum. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library holds a collection of bulletins, calendars, announcements, and annual reports that were published by the Seattle Fine Arts Society between 1920 and 1929, and annual reports from the Art Institute of Seattle from 1929-1932 (1932 is the year the Art Institute transitioned to the Seattle Art Museum). Now, this collection of publications has been digitized and is accessible via the Libraries’ Omeka.net site. Though incomplete, this is the first time this collection of publications will be accessible outside of the physical library at SAM.

From 1920–1929, the Seattle Fine Arts Society was the premier group of art enthusiasts in Seattle. From their publications, we learn about the exhibitions, social events, classes, and “field trips” organized by this small-but-growing group of individuals who wanted nothing more than to foster a dedicated arts presence in the city. Without permanent headquarters, and a reliance on society membership, the Fine Arts Society was informal, inexperienced, but passionate and driven by a love of art and a belief in the power of art to transform a city and its residents. The calendars list events full of Northwest artists and collaboration with art students at the University of Washington, and educational events with the goal of sharing a love of art with citizens who, if only educated properly, might care more about art in the city. The Society wished to be an accessible part of the community, and worked tirelessly to bring art and art-centered events to the public for free or at low cost.

By the end of the decade, the Fine Arts Society announced a name change to the Art Institute of Seattle, but a mere three years later would bring a much more drastic change: that of the transformation from Art Institute to established museum and civic institution. The annual reports during the end of the 1920s and early 1930s reveal the kind of funding, planning, and labor that went into making the museum a reality.

With this collection, you are invited to trace the prehistory of SAM, and see the seeds of the very same values that drive SAM today take root. The members of Seattle Fine Arts Society and the subsequent Art Institute of Seattle sought to nurture and spread their passion for art with one another and with the public, even as Seattle Art Museum today brings art to life.

– Kate Hanske, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are considered works of art themselves.

Rough Edges, Hard Life
Photographer Daisuke Yokota shares his distinctive interpretation of people and places in two photobooks which were donated by Chris Harris to the McCaw Foundation Library. Urban life can be a hard place with sharp edges, yet people navigating them can retain some softness. Yokota shows us his haunting perspective of this paradox in his photobooks Immerse (Akina, 2015) and Linger (Akina, 2014).

Texture and Composition
In Immerse, Yokota explores the interplay of unexpected textures and startling vulnerability.

Cover of Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Cover of Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Images like these take on an abstract quality, creating the evocative tone of Yakota’s work. Color and composition enhance a coincidence of defenselessness with a suggestive boldness.

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Form without Fabrication
Daisuke Yokota’s hand-bound photobook, Linger, contains images as unpretentious and stark as the cover itself.

Cover of Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Cover of Linger by Daisuke Yokota

In Linger, Yokata continues to explore the interplay of texture and form. Images of intimate poses and private spaces convey a sense of softness within a hardened world. Grainy and startling, these images hint at a complicated way of life, asking more questions than they answer. Simple and fascinatingly disturbing, the photographs in Linger are a rich, sometimes perplexing, observation of humanity’s adaptation to life in modern settings.

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Dissonance
Continuing our exploration of the Harris collection of photobooks in the McCaw Foundation Library’s holdings, two photobooks in the collection bear witness to the lasting effects of human technological constructs on forest and farmland in rural Japan.

Ruin and Regeneration
Places can change in an instant, and for all time.

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma (Blind Gallery, 2014), present a serene yet evocative pictorial commentary on life in Fukushima prefecture after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster.

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Foraging for wild mushrooms in the forests of Fukushima was once a common pastime for many people in the region. Many species grow robustly throughout the microclimates within the forests. Due to dangerous levels of radiation, foraging and ingestion of these plentiful fungi has been banned indefinitely. Still, the mushrooms themselves appear to flourish, even in the face of invisible, widespread, pervasive, sometimes invisible devastation.

Preservation vs. Progress
In the early 1960s, the Haneda Airport, or Tokyo International Airport, was struggling to support an ever-increasing volume of jet traffic. The growing number of flights—and the noise that accompanied the new jet engines that powered them—caused the Japanese transport ministry to seek an alternative location for a new high-capacity international airport.

A large farming area near the village of Sanrizuka, in Chiba Prefecture, was selected for the development plan. Construction of the Narita International Airport began in the late 1960s. This endeavor forever altered the abundant pastoral quality of life that had thrived there for generations.

<em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai (Waizu Shuppan, 2000), is a beautiful photobook that honors Sanrizuka’s traditional rich rural lifestyle, the bountiful agricultural landscape, and documents the protest to save it.

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

 

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

The decision to build the airport on top of the agricultural land was opposed for years by a group of residents and ideological activists. However, construction went forward and what was once farmland eventually became an airport. This photobook poignantly honors the struggle of the people of Sanrizuka and the beauty of the agricultural lifestyle and land they hoped to preserve.

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Harmony
Part of the Aomori Prefecture, Tsugaru is found at the far north of Japan’s main island of Honshu. The Sea of Japan meets its western shore, while the Pacific Ocean is to the east. Surrounded by water, this mountainous area is beautiful, remote, and endurably peaceful.

Map showing the Tsugaru Strait (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Japan, access 8/9/17)

Two of the photobooks from the Harris collection give us glimpses of captivating people and places in Tsugaru.

Rugged, Deep, Delicate
Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka and Kojima Ichiro (Izu Photo Museum, 2014) opens a window that allows us to view everyday life in Tsugaru. The images that reach out from these pages convey the at-home attitude and the quiet sense of belonging expressed by the people who live in this vast, remote landscape.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

These stunning images capture the sense of eternal clarity that suffuses the landscape and the people of Tsugaru. This masterful work depicts people living in harmony within the natural world, using images that are artistically compelling and evocative.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Integrity and Integration
Masako Tomiya’s Tsugaru (self-published, 2013) is a study of individualists adapting to a beautiful, rugged world. The unique character of the landscape and people of Tsugaru is captured beautifully in this collection of black and white photographs.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

It celebrates the majesty of the rugged rural terrain, whipped by fierce wind and snow in the winter, then bathed in summer’s balmy breezes. The people who live there are portrayed as the resourceful individuals they are, living life in tune with the call of the natural world.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Focus on an Artist’s Book: La Cité des Animaux by Lynn Skordal

Real Places That Don’t Exist: La Cité des Animaux

In Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, we see how Wyeth masterfully conveys a sense of place, constructing a certain reality or vision of landscapes, domestic spaces, and people of rural Pennsylvania and the coastal villages of Maine. For the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s current book installation, we examine an artist’s book that also conveys a sense of place, one that is carefully constructed yet imagined.

La Cite de Animaux

Washington artist Lynn Skordal considers herself a “paperworker.” After retiring from a career as an attorney nearly ten years ago, she returned to an early love—art. She now focuses on collage, artists’ books, and small works on paper that she creates from her collection of books rescued from local thrift stores, old magazines, used paper scraps picked up off the sidewalk, stamps and images torn from envelopes, cuttings from formidable reference works, and old engravings removed from disintegrating books. Her work has been described as “an exploration of real places that don’t exist.”1 One could certainly apply that idea to her thought-provoking artist’s book, La Cité des Animaux (Mercer Island, WA, 2011).

La Cite de Animaux

This unique, collaged, accordion-style artist’s book depicts “a parade of strange, whimsical animals creeping through a deserted white city under a chocolate sky.”2 Mammals, reptiles, birds, eggs, and stylized and extinct creatures are set against deserted architectural backgrounds, enclosed on both ends by maps. The artist asks, who built the city? What is it for? Is this what will happen after humankind is gone?3

La Cite de Animaux

From Natural History to a New Reality

Skordal’s source material for La Cité des Animaux included several antique works. One was Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio et iconibus artificiosissimis expressio, per universam physices historiam (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of the principal and rarest natural objects . . . ). This elaborately engraved thesaurus of animal specimens was the creation of scientist and collector Albertus Seba (Dutch, 1665–1736). The initial volume of the work was published in 1734, with several volumes issued posthumously through 1765.

La Cite de Animaux

Seba’s work was derived from his own “cabinet of curiosities,” a notion Skordal seems to reclaim by pulling the animals from the format of the scientific natural history book and inserting them into a smaller, precious book form. Whereas Seba’s intent was to record and illustrate the natural world truthfully, Skordal uses Seba’s images to construct a new reality.

I was charmed by the idea of animals taking over spaces built by man, but with man long gone. That thought comforts and amuses me. [My work conveys] both a sense of place and a story. I like to create new little worlds where the usual rules may not apply, and where there is a little bit of magic or mystery at work–an alternate reality. The goal is always to startle, amuse, or provoke.4

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments typically take place Monday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Boxall, Scout. “Cut & Paste: Lynn Skordal.” The Daily Spread (July 5, 2013). https://dailyspreaddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/cut-paste-lynn-skordal/, accessed September 20, 2017.
Email interview with artist, September 29, 2017.
Ibid.
Ibid.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art in themselves.

People, Places, and the Passing of Time
A recent donation of photobooks to the McCaw Foundation Library reminds us that all things are transitory. Chris Harris shares images with this generous and poignant gift from his personal collection of photobooks by important Japanese artists. These photobooks speak to us of family ties, of the natural world, and of ephemeral glimpses of urban life and landscapes. Focused mostly in Asian countries, these images are often haunting, sometimes playful, and entirely captivating.

Personal and Provocative
Love, time, and ties that bind.

The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

People are the focus of The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii (Fujii, 2014). This rare, handmade, and self-published photobook tells the story of a family’s transitions and partial dissolution. Fujii shares his achingly personal and bittersweet family history in the form of a family album. The images in the album include the family posed in rural landscapes, cities, casual snapshots, and formal portraits; there are also drawings and handwritten notes in Kanji (transcribed to English) that also carry the voice of intimate moments—moments that are mundane, yet precious. The author reflects:

“. . . legend has it that a man and a woman who have a predestined encounter have had each other’s little fingers tied together by an invisible red string since the time they were born. Unfortunately, the red string tying my parents together either came untied, broke, or perhaps it was never even tied to begin with. But if the two had never met, I would never have been born into this world. If anything, you might say it is between parent and child that there is an unbreakable red string of fate.”
– The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

Progression: Person and Place Over Time
A return to the old home town . . . or is it?

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Tokyo is the place that we visit next with Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji (Zen Foto Gallery, 2011). This is a collection of black and white photos of that city, captured during two significant periods of the artist’s life. The first series is comprised of gritty, sometimes eerie images taken in 1995. The street scenes and askew glances of the people in them share with us a youthful insider’s view of 1990s Tokyo.

Nakafuji returned over a decade later, in 2010, and generated a second series of photos. Even with the continuity provided by using black and white, gritty-grainy images for both time periods, it is evident that both the city and the artist have matured. It is the same city, the same artist . . . yet both are intrinsically, irrevocably transformed.

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, downtown at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Preserving SAM’S Historic Media Collection: Part Two

This blog post is a follow-up to our first post, Preserving SAM’S Historic Media Collection: Part One, where we introduced you to SAM’s Historic Media Collection and discussed the initial work being done to inventory, assess, and ultimately, preserve, and provide access to its contents. As a quick recap, the collection contains valuable SAM-related audio and video content from the 1930s to the present, held on media in various time-based formats, such as: reel film, cassette tape, and DVD. Due to the importance of the content and the fragility of the media, it was determined that this collection had urgent preservation needs. The Historic Media Collection includes rich content associated with the museum, but also includes content on important community members, architecture, and more. Recognizing the community impact and institutional value of the collection, a donation from an anonymous donor and a 4Culture Heritage Collections Care grant have assisted in creating a stewardship project to develop and preserve this notable collection.

Broadcast Tape

One dimension of the project was to reach out to local community experts for advice and recommendations. At least 400 items in the collection are on formats not readily viewable on available equipment at the museum’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, including ¾” U-matic, Betacam (SP and Digital), Hi8, and 1-inch Type C tape. In order to evaluate these items, we reached out to MIPoPS (Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound), another recipient of funding from 4Culture. MIPoPS is a nonprofit corporation formed to help preserve the cultural heritage of Puget Sound by assisting archives, libraries, and other organizations with the conversion of analog video recordings to digital formats according to archival best practices.

Michael & Libby

The team at MIPoPS (Rachel Price and Libby Hopfauf) graciously offered to assist with the evaluation of these materials and to provide budget recommendations for the digitization process. I have been viewing media at MIPoPS bi-weekly, stuffing a large black bag full of videotapes and hauling the media to their location in Seattle City Hall. Along with evaluating media items, Libby has been training me on the digitization process and on the usage of a variety of media players. Due to a lack of documentation formatted to instruct archivists or individuals without a production background on maintenance of equipment and image quality control, Libby has created a manual to aid in the instruction of collaborating institutions. Libby believes that it is essential to share this knowledge with other archives due to the impending magnetic media crisis.

Months of viewing materials have unearthed some fascinating content, including the silent footage of the 1933 opening of the Volunteer Park building (the original location of the museum and current location of the Seattle Asian Art Museum). The film features such Seattle luminaries as Mayor John F. Dore and museum founders Dr. Richard E. Fuller and Margaret MacTavish Fuller. Other found footage is the inspection and construction of the downtown  location prior to its opening in 1991. This footage presents an entirely different downtown environment than we see today, highlighting SAM’s involvement with neighborhood development.

We have digitized several tapes in order to promote the collection and raise awareness of the types of content available. This ongoing and time-consuming process emphasizes the urgent necessity of preserving these materials. The footage has been useful not only in the context of the museum, but also in shedding light on the magnetic media crisis. In February, MIPoPS hosted their second Moving History screening night, Moving History Returns: Saving Our Magnetic Media, at the Northwest Film Forum to highlight material digitized recently by partnering institutions. View the digitized version of that black and white silent film of Volunteer Park and the building and opening of the Seattle Art Museum in 1933 below:

If you have any questions about this project, please post them in the comments section below.

If you have questions about MIPoPS, you can contact Libby Hopfauf at libby@mipops.org.

– Michael Besozzi, former Project Coordinator: Historic Media Collection, Seattle Art Museum and Libby Hopfauf, Program Manager/Audiovisual Archivist, MIPoPS

Photos: Micheal Besozzi

Object of the Week: Children Drinking Milk

This small porcelain sculpture, which measures less than seven inches tall, is one of a thousand remarkable objects found in SAM’s Wyckoff Porcelain Room. It’s a reminder that every object here has a story. Through this work, Children Drinking Milk, we learn the story of European porcelain collecting in Seattle among a group of women with a strong desire for learning, who had the wherewithal to work with knowledgeable dealers, grow spectacular collections, and then share their objects with SAM and all of its visitors.

Children Drinking Milk, made at the Sèvres Manufactory between 1766 and 1773, is an example of unglazed biscuit porcelain.[1] This technique allowed for the modeler, Etienne-Maurice Falconet (French, 1716-1791), to create detailed designs which wouldn’t be diminished by glazing. For Children Drinking Milk, the unglazed technique allowed Falconet to create details such as the older boy, enjoying the bowl of milk, looking cunningly out of the corner of his eye at a younger boy, who is anxiously waiting for his turn. [2] Falconet, a court sculptor and chief modeler in the Sèvres Manufactory, is one of the most well regarded modelers of biscuit porcelain. He was adept at translating the drawings and designs of artists, like François Boucher (French, 1703-1770), into detailed three-dimensional objects like this one. [3] Children Drinking Milk was considered one of the “Falconet children” representing characters familiar on the streets of eighteenth-century Paris.[4]

So how did Children Drinking Milk get here?

Eighteenth-century European porcelain collecting in Seattle really developed out of the interest of one woman, Blanche M. Harnan (American, ca.1888-1968). Harnan’s interest originated as a result of a study group in which she was involved that focused on world geography and culture. Through her daughter’s interest in teapots, she discovered that the study of ceramics provided a rewarding history of styles and taste in eighteenth-century Europe. Harnan acquired an extensive research library and began collecting European porcelain for study purposes. Her enthusiasm attracted other Seattle women and, under her leadership, the Seattle Ceramic Society was founded in the 1940s.[5]

In the 1950s and 1960s, the group established a relationship with New York porcelain dealer, William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, one of the premier European porcelain dealers in the US. Because Lautz and the Seattle Ceramic Society were 3,000 miles apart, an interesting way of doing business arose between the two. Lautz would photograph items from his showroom and send them along, with corresponding descriptions and price lists, in binders to the Society. The members would make their selections and notify Lautz. Lautz would carefully pack the items in a crate and send them to Seattle. The crate would be unpacked, and then returned, empty, with a check in the bottom for payment. Lautz would refer to this as his “Seattle scheme.”[6] We know from documentation that Children Drinking Milk came from Lautz. The Bullitt Library holds several of Lautz’s binders sent to the Seattle Ceramic Society and the work appears several times. In a letter sent from Lautz—after the piece was donated to SAM—he reveals his own insights on the piece:

“The French name of the figure, or group rather, that I have called the soup or milk drinkers is ‘Les Gourmands’ or ‘Enfant Buveurs de Lait.’ We might even call them the greedy ones…”[7]

Blanche Harnan continued developing her own collection and leading the Seattle Ceramic Society, which would grow to three units and garner more than sixty members. She would also develop an important affiliation with the Seattle Art Museum. Harnan was appointed Honorary Curator of Porcelain in 1954, “in recognition of her knowledge in a specialized field and in appreciation of her service to the Museum.”[8] At the time, the museum was beginning to build its European porcelain collection and welcomed exhibitions of the Society’s collections, like the 1956 exhibition, 18th Century English Porcelain: A Special Exhibition. The exhibition was arranged and the catalogue written by Harnan and another important Seattle Ceramic Society member, Martha Isaacson (American, 1901-2000).

Since the days of those exhibitions, many of the Seattle Ceramic Society members have generously given objects in their collections to SAM. Many of those are currently on view in the Wyckoff Porcelain Room. Importantly, several significant pieces in SAM’s European porcelain collection were donated to SAM by the Seattle Ceramic Society in honor of Blanche M. Harnan—note “Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, Gift of the Seattle Ceramic Society” on an object’s credit line.

I wonder what we can learn from those other 999 objects?

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Images: Children Drinking Milk, 1766-1773, Sevres Porcelain Manufactory, Model by Etienne-Maurice Falconet (French, 1716-1791). Soft paste porcelain, 6 5/8 x 5 3/8 x 3 7/8 in. (16.8 x 13.7 x 9.9 cm), Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, Gift of the Seattle Ceramic Society, Unit 2, 56.179. Photograph sent in binder to the Seattle Ceramic Society showing Children Drinking Milk in William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, New York, 1950s.
[1] This is the name given to porcelain and other pottery after having undergone the first firing, and before being glazed, painted, or otherwise embellished. For more, see: Gordon Campbell. “Biscuit.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed September 20, 2017, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T2070959.
[2] Emerson, Julie, Jennifer Chen, and Mimi Gardner Gates. Porcelain Stories, From China to Europe. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2000, pg. 216
[3] Savill, Rosalind. “François Boucher and the Porcelains of Vincennes and Sèvres.” Apollo 115, no, 241, pp. 162-170.
[4] “Eighteenth-Century Porcelain in Seattle.” Antiques 85 (January 1964), p. 82.
[5] Emerson, Julie. The Collectors: Early European Ceramics and Silver. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1982, pp. 6-7.
[6] Nelson, Christina H. and Letitia Roberts. A History of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain: The Warda Stevens Stout Collection. Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Easthampton, MA; New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2013, p. 20. Also see Kuhn, Sebastian. “Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain,” in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen et al. The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50. New York, NY: Frick Collection in association with D. Giles London, 2008, p. 107-108.
[7] Letter to SAM Registrar’s Office from William Lautz dated July 9th, 1965.
[8] Seattle Art Museum. Annual Report of the Seattle Art Museum: Forty-Ninth Year, 1954. Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections, accessed September 21, 2017, http://samlibraries.omeka.net/items/show/29.

Women’s Book Arts in the Bullitt Library

The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum has been quietly developing a book arts collection for the last two years. Materials in this collection include artists’ books, zines, one-of-a-kind books, and other rarities. With a scope focused on works created by artists in SAM’s collection, works related to an exhibition at SAM, or works that reference art or artists generally, the Book Arts Collection has grown to nearly 90 titles.

Currently, we are featuring work by women book artists and zine creators from this collection in the Bullitt Library and you can visit this installation through October 6. The works include a serial zine focused on women, a tunnel book, an accordion book with floating panels, a mini carousel book, and limited edition exhibition catalogue in a box.

Issues of "Hey Lady" by Regina Schilling

Hey Lady

The Hey Lady zine series (2015– ) is produced by Northwest artist, Regina Schilling. She selects a female subject for each issue and invites women artists worldwide to contribute portraits. It began with Yoko Ono and sixteen friends, and quickly expanded to include the work of hundreds of artists internationally, a focus on crucial women in various fields, and exhibits around the country.

“Women are truly invisible in this world. The purpose of Hey Lady, and of all my work, is to lift the cloak of invisibility and say we are here, we have always been here, and we’re here for each other. I want women to experience a creative outlet that is nurtured, validated and celebrated, for Hey Lady to be a place where people can be a part of something good, and to celebrate women who have done such an incredible job at being humans.”
— Regina Schilling

Venice: Piazza San Marco

A view of the Piazza San Marco in Venice is one of Boston book and paper artist, Laura Davidson‘s, “favorite views” that she incorporates in an ongoing series of tunnel books. Other books in the series include Florence and Paris, as well as her hometown baseball stadium, Fenway Park, and a view of Boston’s “Big Dig.” Unlike the summertime tourist-laden Venetian square, Davidson’s Venice: Piazza San Marco (2010) view of the Basilica di San Marco and the Campanile is tranquil and allows us to look upon a peaceful setting through Venetian Gothic windows.

As evidenced in the recent exhibition, Seeing Nature, views of Venice have inspired a number of artists, like Claude Monet, Edward Manet, Thomas Moran, Joseph Mallord William Turner, and others. Davidson’s work reminds us of two paintings in SAM’s collection which feature views of Venice: The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal, Venice (ca. 1710) by Luca Carlevariis and The Riva degli Schavoni, Looking West (ca. 1735) by the Studio of Canaletto. Davidson’s book is yet another inspiring take on a beautiful city.

Possession is Nine-Tenths: Historical Detritus of Syria (Volume I)

Internationally-known book artist, Elsi Vassdal Ellis, has been teaching digital pre-press, offset and letterpress printing, graphic design history, materials and finishing, and book arts for 40 years at Western Washington University. Her work, published under the imprint EVE Press, explores a number of subjects: politics, ethics, family, domesticity, identity, and more. Possession is Nine-Tenths: Historical Detritus of Syria (Volume I) (2015) is an accordion book with floating panels from the 30-volume set, Desert Dreams: Explorations & Excavations of HK. Speaking from the viewpoint of fictional archaeologist, “HK,” Possession is Nine-Tenths addresses the ethical issues of collecting ancient artifacts:

“Who owns what is a major point of discussion between countries liberated of their historical wealth and the public and private collectors, as well as museums, that house (and protect) them. Without such plundering, many artifacts may have been lost or destroyed, as evidenced by the actions of ISIS at Nimrud and years ago, the Taliban at Bamiyan. [The items found in the work are] part of HK’s private collection: restrung ancient beads, a tile from the emperor’s feasting hall representing Justice found in Shahbah, a pottery shard without provenance, a small clay tablet without provenance.”
— Elsi Vassdal Ellis

Centered

Centered (2008) is a mini carousel book created by book artist, Maria G. Pisano under her imprint Memory Press. The work incorporates three pop-ups, and is hand cut to reveal colorful, intricate designs inside. For this work, Pisano—who is Italian—focused on the pottery traditions of Deruta, a town in the province of Perugia in the Umbria region of central Italy. Deruta is known for ceramics—≠especially its maiolica pottery industry.

Pisano’s work is reminiscent of the maiolica in SAM’s collection, much of which can be found in the Italian Room. Enhanced color decoration is a hallmark of maiolica pottery: blues, greens, yellows, oranges, white, black, and brown, as well as tones of luster colors such as ruby red, pink, yellow, and reddish brown were developed as early as the 15th century. Colors similar to these are readily apparent in Pisano’s intricate work.

Imagine Peace: Featuring John & Yoko’s Year of Peace 

Conceptual artist, Yoko Ono, designed this limited edition exhibition catalogue in a box, Imagine Peace: Featuring John & Yoko’s Year of Peace (2007), for an exhibition organized by the Emily Davis Gallery/Mary Schiller Myers School of Art at the University of Akron. Varying greatly from the standard bound exhibition catalogue, this version includes a rubber stamp, button, small flashlight, instruction card, and various postcards stating “War Is Over,” “i ii iii I Love You,” and “Spread Peace” all in a white box with black lettering: “Imagine Peace.” The exhibition focused on the thematic ideals of peace and love, and followed the work of Yoko Ono and John Lennon chronologically as solo artists, as a couple in the 1960s, and also included Ono’s recent solo works.

In 2009, SAM’s exhibition, Target Practice: Painting Under Attack, 1949–78, included two works by Ono: Painting to Be Stepped On (1960/2009) and Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961/2009). She remains an audience favorite.

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments typically take place Monday–Friday 10 am–4 pm.

— Traci Timmons, Librarian

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Object of the Week: Diversion Tunnel Construction

Viewers of this photograph, Diversion Tunnel Construction, Fort Peck Dam, Montana, 1936, by Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904–1971) will likely appreciate the machine-age composition, the eccentric geometric design, and the surprising beauty evoked in a steel liner. For this Labor Day edition of Object of the Week, however, I’d like to look more closely at the worker, crouched down, performing his labor and appreciate Bourke-White’s first associations with social documentary photography.

Bourke-White began her career in the 1920s and quickly became recognized for her images capturing machines, factories, and commodities of the industrial age. She was working on corporate commissions when the great financial collapse of the late 1920s and early 1930s began to alter profoundly the American economic landscape. Subsequently, she began turning her focus from symbols of industry to human subjects directly affected by the Great Depression.¹

Bourke-White became a staff photographer for the new Life magazine in 1936 and photographing the construction of the Fort Peck Dam in northeast Montana was her first assignment. The Fort Peck Dam was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program that responded to the devastating poverty and unemployment of the day.

Life reported: “The dam is intended to give work to Montana’s unemployed and incidentally to promote carriage of commerce on the Missouri [River]… It has paid wages to as many as 10,000 veterans, parched farmers and plain unemployed parents…”² The Army Corps of Engineers, ultimately responsible for the dam’s construction, estimated the number of workers to be even higher.³

Historian, Rafe Sigmundstad, describes the construction of the dam’s diversion tunnels—of which the steel liner shown in Bourke-White’s photograph is a part—giving us a sense of the dangerous work needed to complete the complicated dam structure.

“The Missouri River flows through four diversion tunnels running under the east abutment of the Fort Peck Dam. How they got there is quite a story. Gangs of workers took turns cutting into the shale with coal saws that would pivot about an axis to make a 15-foot cut. Then the material was blasted out of the tunnel, scooped into railcars and removed while more digging commenced. This happened day in and day out. Three shifts totaling 4,000 men worked on the tunnels day and night, removing about 5 million cubic yards of material to make way for the tunnels. Residents grew used to the constant noise of the blasting. Serious landslides occurred during the excavation, due to bentonite fault seams in the bedrock. The bedrock itself, known as bearpaw shale, was extremely high in water volume and some 300 yards thick.”4

In addition to the construction photos, Bourke-White documented the people and the newly constructed Fort Peck City built by the Army engineers to house the workers on the dam. The city was built to house the workers, not their families. For additional housing, rent was charged which left the married worker without enough money to house the family elsewhere. Consequently, workers with families moved farther afield into self-constructed shanty towns.5

When the editors of Life sent Bourke-White on this assignment, what they expected were the construction photos that only Margaret Bourke-White could take, but what they got was a human document of American frontier life.6 On this Labor Day, take a moment to think about the human effort that went into constructing our roads, bridges, dams, office buildings, and homes.

—Traci Timmons, Librarian*

*This author acknowledges the negative impact the Fort Peck Dam had on the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. To learn more, read The History of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, 1800-2000 by David Reed Miller (Helena, Mont: Fort Peck Community College, 2008), p. 319-344.

Image: Wind Tunnel Construction, Fort Peck Dam, Montana, 1936, Margaret Bourke-White, gelatin silver photograph, sheet: 20 x 16 in. Gift of friends in memory of Willis Woods, 88.24, © Time Inc., All Rights Reserved
¹ Corwin, Sharon. “Constructed Documentary: Margaret Bourke-White from the Steel Mill to the South” in Corwin, Sharon, Jessica May, and Terri Weissman. American Modern: Documentary Photography by Abbott, Evans, and Bourke-White. Berkeley, Calif.: Univ. of California Press, 2010, p. 108.
²Life. “Franklin Roosevelt has a Wild West” in Life vol. 1, no. 1 (November 23, 1936), p. 10.
³U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Omaha District. Fort Peck Dam. http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Dam-and-Lake-Projects/Missouri-River-Dams/Fort-Peck/ (accessed 8/16/2017).
4 Sixty-one workers lost their lives. Sigmundstad, Rafe. Fort Peck Dam. http://www.fortpeckdam.com/historypages/?p=10 (accessed 8/16/2017).
5 Life, p. 10.
6 Bourke-White, Margaret, and Theodore M. Brown. Margaret Bourke-White, Photojournalist: March 15 – Apr. 23, 1972; Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art. Ex. Cat. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, 1972, p. 59.

Creating the Unseen Land of the Olympic Sculpture Park

The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s latest book installation, to coincide with the exhibition, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, introduces a work that recently came into the library’s artists’ books collection. This illustrated book, with original pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors, was created by Seattle author, illustrator, zine creator, and book artist Jessixa Bagley. Bagley is best known for her award-winning children’s picture books: Boats for Papa (2015) and Before I Leave (2016). Her latest book, Laundry Day, was just published by Roaring Book Press in February 2017.

The work is the first in our collection to be born out of a Seattle Art Museum program. The Land of Unseen is a culminating storybook inspired by a collaborative process with visitors to SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The “Summer at SAM” program was entitled “Build a World with Jessixa Bagley” and took place over several weekends in August 2016. Jessixa invited participants to help her “create the unseen imaginative world of the Olympic Sculpture Park and give voice to all the creatures and animals that live within it.” Each week, visitors participated in interactive, open studio sessions that explored a different aspect of Bagley’s creative process. These sessions included plot development on vintage typewriters supplied by Carriage Return, character advancement through collage, and landscape mapping with watercolor and mixed media.

To construct this unseen land, the first group of park visitors were given prompts and encouraged to use typewriters to create stories about characters that live in the Olympic Sculpture Park. Next, Bagley had a different group of visitors develop those characters by creating collages based on the writings of the first group or from free-form ideas. One participant imagined an otter wearing a hat participating in plein-air painting, creating a colorful landscape. Another imagined a crow strumming a banjo surrounded by hats reminiscent of National Park Service ranger hats, in a background of rich organic textures of yellow, green, and blue. The final group of visitors was asked to create Mad Libs–style stories based on the collages, and ultimately a map of this hidden world began to take shape. From there, the book was born.

Bagley’s normal practice is to create her work alone indoors, but for this experience she really enjoyed creating work on-site at the Olympic Sculpture Park, being outdoors and working with so many visitors. This was the first time she did this type of collaboration with a group of strangers, and she found that the experience offered a very different type of inspiration.

The Seattle Art Museum is celebrating the Olympic Sculpture Park’s 10th anniversary this year. In addition to considering how the park has changed since its opening, it’s also rewarding to reflect on the many thoughtful, creative projects like this that have been inspired by it.

–Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Building a Digital Collection: The Photographs and Lists of William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains

Do you ever wonder how Seattle Art Museum acquired enough porcelain objects to fill an entire room? Through my Directed Fieldwork (DFW) at the University of Washington I decided to illuminate a piece of the provenance story behind some of SAM’s porcelain objects in the beloved Porcelain Room.

Not much is known about the New York dealer, William H. Lautz’s life outside of the porcelain world, however William Lautz was a key figure in the growth of eighteenth-century porcelain in the United States during the 1940s and 50s. I’ve created a digital collection of porcelain object photographs and associated descriptive lists from the New York dealer, William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, from the physical collection held in SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library.


As a dealer of European porcelain, Lautz helped form the Warda Stevens Stout Collection at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis1, the Martha and Henry Isaacson collection in Seattle, and the Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, also in Seattle; the latter two now located partially at the Seattle Art Museum.


Both Martha Isaacson and Blanche Harnan were founding members of the Seattle Ceramic Society, which stimulated the collection of European porcelain through study groups. Their stated goal was to collect European porcelain worthy of exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. To that end, they connected with important dealers in the field.

In the mid-1950s, Lautz sent barrels of porcelain to the Seattle Ceramic Society, accompanied by photographs and descriptive lists of the pieces. In turn, the Ceramic Society members selected pieces and returned empty barrels to Lautz with checks for their purchases. This method became known as the “Seattle Scheme” and continued while the Seattle Ceramic Society members grew their individual collections.2

Over time, the Seattle Ceramic Society and its members held five exhibitions of their European porcelain collections at the Seattle Art Museum between 1949 and 1964. Many active members of the Ceramic Society donated pieces of their collection to the Seattle Art Museum, including the aforementioned Martha and Henry Isaacson and Blanche M. Harnan, along with Dorothy Condon Falknor, DeEtte McAuslan Stuart, and Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser.

To create this digital collection, I scanned all of Lautz’s photographs into JPEGs and all of his descriptive lists into PDFs. Using Adobe Acrobat’s OCR function, I made the lists keyword searchable. I then created a spreadsheet with the associated metadata for each file to improve online navigation and searching.

The collection was then uploaded to the Libraries’ Omeka site where I created an online exhibition by linking photos of the Lautz pieces that ended up at SAM with their descriptions. By providing online access to William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains photographs and descriptive lists I hope to encourage researchers and others to investigate the porcelain objects in SAM’s collection and to visit the Porcelain Room at SAM to see some of the objects in person.

Learn more about Lautz by visiting the William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, the Seattle Ceramic Society, and the Seattle Art Museum exhibit at Omeka.net

–Nicole Sonett, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Note: We want to thank Julie Emerson, the former Ruth J. Nutt Curator of Decorative Arts at the Seattle Art Museum, for her assistance in identifying porcelain objects from William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains that are now featured in SAM’s Porcelain Room.

1 Nelson, Christina H., and Letitia Roberts. A History of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain: The Warda Stevens Stout Collection. Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Easthampton, MA; New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2013.
2 Sebastian Kuhn in “Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain,” in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen et al. The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50. New York, NY: Frick Collection in association with D. Giles London, 2008.
Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Something Great in Something So Small: The SAM Research Libraries’ Pamphlet File Collection

Library visitors might not expect materials like pamphlets to constitute a substantial place in the Seattle Art Museum Research Libraries’ collections. In fact, reflecting on their own use of pamphlets and the fact that they are generally small in comparison to other published materials, many might even view them as disposable items. Yet, despite their small stature, they contain a powerhouse of information!

Pamphlets are relatively small, ephemeral publications which generally focus on a specific event, artist, or piece of artwork. Many pamphlets contain biographies, lists of exhibits and artwork, as well as artist or curator statements. In addition, they often contain reproductions of artworks illustrating the design preferences and artistic styles of an era. For many artists, particularly lesser known Pacific Northwest artists, pamphlets may be the only form of written material available making them incredibly important for the overall history of art in the Pacific Northwest.

Many pamphlets of different, ages, colors, sizes, and exhibitions!

Pamphlets are generally published by the museum or gallery hosting the exhibition, and may have originally been intended as takeaway items for visitors. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at SAM, in particular, houses pamphlets from institutions large and small, and has been actively building its collection with items from smaller galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest. This collection of materials enables researchers to build a more complete picture of a gallery’s history including locations, curators and directors, name changes, and more. The collection also includes pamphlets from around the world giving users a glimpse at the reach a particular artist might have at a given time. Following the progression of pamphlets through the years provides an interesting look into the changing views and portrayals of cultural issues such as race, indigenous rights, women’s rights, etc. It’s a great visual means of understanding the issues of importance to artists, museums, and the public at large.

Glossy pamphlets!

Over the past few months, we’ve created a more bona fide pamphlet collection, adding incoming pamphlets there, rather than into our general book collection (where we had been putting such things in the past). We’ve also begun the process of relocating pamphlets currently in our book collection to the pamphlet collection. Collocating all of the pamphlets provides better access to the materials overall and allows researchers to get a clearer picture of the type of information they might find. For example, if you were looking for critical theory on Picasso, you may not find the pamphlets particularly helpful given the amount of other materials pertaining to Picasso within our collection. However, if you were looking to put together a timeline of a lesser known artist, you would likely find pamphlets very useful.

We’ve made the pamphlet collection as easy to find as possible. When searching the library catalogue, just look for the term “pamphlet” either at the end of the title or in the call number to determine whether or not the record you are accessing is a pamphlet. To see a full list of the pamphlets we’ve acquired thus far, see the Pamphlet Collection title list.

–Terri Ball, Volunteer, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Terri Ball.

Preserving SAM’s Historic Media Collection: Part One

In 2013, an institutional archival assessment was performed that brought to light the Seattle Art Museum’s Historic Media Collection, held in the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library. The collection contains valuable SAM-related content from the 1930s to the present, held on media in various time-based formats, such as reel film, cassette tape, and DVD. Due to the importance of the content and the fragility of the media, it was determined that this collection had the most urgent needs for preservation. The Historic Media Collection has the ability to raise community awareness of SAM’s activities and involvement in Seattle and the region since 1933. Recognizing the community impact and institutional value of the collection, a donation from an anonymous donor and a grant from 4Culture’s Heritage Collections Care have assisted in creating a stewardship project to develop and preserve this notable collection.

The project consists of three phases: surveying and planning, preservation and digitization, and public access. I am currently involved with the first phase of the project, an institutional discovery phase. For the past two months I have interviewed SAM staff at the Olympic Sculpture Park, Asian Art Museum, and Seattle Art Museum to locate any media relating to SAM and institutional history. Through discussions with various institutional departments and tours of the three museum sites, the scope of the collection has grown and the necessity of the project has been substantiated.

So many boxes!

Shelves and AV equipment

Including the items that were known in the Bullitt Library’s holdings, over 2,000 items have been found thus far. An investigation of the nooks and crannies of SAM’s buildings uncovered four film canisters containing thirty rolls of 35-millimeter film in a closet. The search of a storage facility revealed fourteen boxes containing Beta-format tapes, cassettes, VHS recordings, and CD/DVDs. A number of the tapes and CDs found in these boxes were unfortunately ruined due to lack of climate controls in this warehouse, further emphasizing the critical nature of this project.

Damaged CDs :(

Another aspect of the project is an appraisal of the materials—what’s on the media and what condition is it in. With the assistance of a personal VCR, cassette, and DVD player, a survey is currently underway of media within this part of the collection. The material that has been discovered has already proven to be rewarding. A CD simply labeled “Data” contained an audio recording of SAM founder and president Dr. Richard Fuller giving a lecture at a Rotarian luncheon in the 1960s, as well as a “Museum on the Air” radio recording with former Educational Director Edith Thackwell (Mrs. A.M. Young).

Film Canisters

Film Canister

A number of the videocassettes have contained a treasure trove of news stories and clips relating to the museum. A KIRO News special from 1987 (“Nightsight”) captures a pivotal time in SAM’s history, documenting the transition from the Volunteer Park location to the opening of the current Downtown location. It features interviews with former SAM director Jay Gates and Seattle arts patron and SAM champion Virginia Wright. Other important findings include recordings of interviews and lectures featuring docents of the Seattle Art Museum, who share their stories of SAM. These recordings offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the amount of time and work SAM docents devote for preparation of their tours and presentations. Finally, the recordings capture the contributions of staff and volunteers, many who no longer work at the museum, showcasing a glimpse into the amazing work (from exhibitions to educational programs) that SAM continually provides for communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Cassette tape

DV

Another dimension of the project is outreach to local experts in the community to aid with the next two phases of the preservation process. I interviewed John Vallier, Head of Distributed Media at the University of Washington’s Media Center to ask questions regarding best practices for preservation and to provide recommendations to local community experts that could assist with the project. A meeting followed this session with Rachel Price and Libby Hopfauf at MIPoPS (Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound). At least 400 items in the collection are Beta-format, a format not readily viewable on available equipment at the Bullitt Library. Also a recipient of funding from 4Culture, the team at MiPoPS has graciously offered to assist with the appraisal of these materials and to provide budget recommendations for the digitization process. Finally, an interview was conducted with Grammy Award winner and audio wizard Scott Colburn, who graciously offered his time and advice regarding a number of sound recording tapes and cassettes within the collection. The advice and support of these community experts has been invaluable, and will hopefully lead to further collaborations with latter phases of the project.

Audio and 16mm film

This blog will be the first of several continual updates into the surveying and planning for SAM’s Historic Media Collection. Interviews with departments throughout the institution, the appraisal of media materials, and discussions regarding policies are still underway. Once the first phase of the project is completed in December, the next projected steps of preservation and access will begin, with the goal to preserve these valuable cultural materials in order to sustain SAM’s rich history and provide access to these public resources.

If you have any questions about this project, please post them in the comments section below.

–Michael Besozzi, Project Coordinator: Historic Media Collection

Photos: Michael Besozzi.

Learn More about Indigo through Resources at the McCaw Foundation Library

Textile artists have been using indigo, a type of dye, for thousands of years, mastering methods of creating beautiful patterns with this deep blue color. A visit to the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition, Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World features striking hues and the multitude of ways in which indigo manifests in various materials. If your visit leaves you yearning to learn more about the indigo-dying process, we’ve got what you need!

The McCaw Library at the Seattle Asian Art Museum provides resources to visitors about works in our collection and in special exhibitions. During the run of Mood Indigo, the library features a number of titles about indigo, its processes, and methods of application. Because the McCaw Foundation Library is one of the few libraries in the region to focus specifically on Asian art, many of our resources are not available anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest.

Check out this selection of resources related to indigo and its uses in Asian textiles

Shibori and Chinese Indigo Batik

Arimatsu shibori: a Japanese tradition of Indigo Dyeing by Bonnie F. Abiko
(Rochester, MI: Meadow Brook Art Gallery, Oakland University, 1995).
In the early 17th century, Shokuru Takeda settled in Arimatsu, a small town on the road to the capital city, Kyoto. There he created Arimmatxu shibori, the now-famous stunning indigo designs expressed on fabric using shibori dye-resist techniques. This book, written in English with many color pictures of this special fabric, tells engaging stories of how and where it came into being and influenced the development of Japanese textile design.

Designs of Chinese Indigo Batik by Pu Lu
(New York: Lee Publishers Group; Beijing, China: New World Press, 1981).
Indigo batik has a long history among the common people of China, particularly in the remote southwestern provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan. It has been an integral part of the social customs and folk art of the area. This book, written in English, details the methods, materials, and history of making Chinese indigo batik. It includes many images of designs used in creating these beautiful and socially significant pieces.

Genshi tennen no nuno = 原始・天然の布 by Okamura Kichiemon
(Osaka, Japan: Sansai, 1981).
This elegant two-volume set includes a wide variety of fabric samples, many of them using indigo dye. The captions are written in Japanese. This book will fascinate both artists and scholars.

Kasuri no michi: fujimoto hitoshi korekushon by Hitoshi Fujimoto
(Tokyo : Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1984).
Kasuri is the Japanese term for ikat weaving. Yarn threads are tied before they are dyed. Tying “masks” the part of the thread that is knotted, and so it will resist the dye. The pattern used when tying the knots creates the finished patterns which will be woven into the cloth. Sometimes only the weft yarn is tied; when both the weft and warp yarns are tied, it is called double kasuri–a technique which can yield designs that range from simplistic to marvelously complex and pictorial. This book, written in Japanese, contains descriptions and images detailing the creation of these textiles, and color images of finished pieces.

indigo-books4

Jidai Resshu Kasuri = 時代裂集 絣
Peruse a wide selection of ikat textile samples, most of them using indigo dye. The stunning variety of designs is captivating: some are intricate and representational, while others are simple yet graceful. Japanese captions often are paired with English translations. This is a must-see!

The McCaw Foundation Library is open to the public, Thursdays and Fridays, 2–5 pm and Saturdays, 10 am–2 pm (through September 3). Beginning September 10, our Saturday hours are extended from 10 am–5 pm.

Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Manson F. Backus: Print Collector, Book Collector

Did you know that the Bullitt Library is accessible to the public and often highlights books and resources related to our exhibitions for visitors to view? Visit the latest book installation related to Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb, on view just outside the Bullitt Library on the fifth floor of the Seattle Art Museum during the library’s public hours: Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm. Graphic Masters closes August 28, so hurry up and see it soon!

A Collector’s Collection

Several of the etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) in the exhibition, Graphic Masters, are part of the Seattle Art Museum’s Manson F. Backus Memorial Collection. Manson Franklin Backus (American, 1853–1935) was a well-known, successful Seattle banker and philanthropist that, toward the later part of his life, became a learned collector of art objects. He traveled extensively to Europe and beyond amassing a large collection, over twenty-five years, of fine prints, other types of art, and a substantial library to support his learning.

Self Portrait with Saskia by Rembrandt

His engraving and etching collection was regarded with much esteem in the region. He regularly loaned prints to exhibitions at the Seattle Fine Art Society—an organization that would ultimately become the Seattle Art Museum—and then to the museum itself. In 1935, upon his death, his collection of more than 300 etchings and engravings was bequeathed to the Seattle Art Museum. Selected works from this collection have been exhibited over the years, notably in Manson F. Backus Memorial Exhibition: Etchings and Engravings in 1935; a three-part exhibition—Manson F. Backus Memorial Collection of Etchings by Masters—shown in 1937; and more recently, European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle, the companion exhibition to Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London in 2013.

“. . . a collector of etchings must be something of an artist in appreciation. . . . and judging by the prints on the walls of the entrance hall and the library of Mr. Backus’ Highlands home, his appreciation has been wide and sure.”
—“Second Hobby, Done Well, Is Found In M.F. Backus’ Etching Collection,” Seattle Sunday Times (February 1, 1931)

A Collector’s Library
In 1935, upon Backus’ passing, in addition to the print collection bequeathed, his extensive library on artists, technical aspects, and the collecting of prints was received by the Seattle Art Museum Library. The collection ranges from important titles of the 18th and 19th century, to titles that were likely purchased not long before his death. Each contains his distinctive bookplate that states: “Ex Libris, Confido in Deo [Trust in God], Manson Franklin Backus” and depicts a coat of arms with three doves and a chevron. We are pleased to be able to present a small sampling from the approximately 160 volumes that were willed to the library.

mb3

Among his library are a number of fine editions, but none is more unique and interesting than Etchings: A Collection of 50 Invitation Cards Sent by Eminent Artists and Etchers to Art Patrons, a bound volume of collected invitation cards and etchings. Included within is an etching by William Hogarth (English, 1697–1764) and original sepia drawings by Clarkson Frederick Stanfield, R.A. (English, 1793–1867) after Rembrandt and Meindert Hobbema (Dutch, 1638–1709). Not a lot of information is known about this work. An advertisement tucked into the volume confirms that the firm of George Bayntun in Bath, Somerset, England, bound the work, and that this was done sometime around 1900, but the person who compiled the collection is unknown. Additionally, no other edition of this work is known.

Hogarth print

—Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

The Late Caprichos of Goya: A Gift to the SAM Libraries

During the exhibition, Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb, the SAM Libraries is showcasing an exceptional work in the Lockwood Foundation Living Room near the exhibition entrance.

We are honored to present an important recent gift to the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library: Late Caprichos of Goya: Fragments from a Series (New York: Walker & Co., in association with the Department of Print and Graphic Arts, Harvard College Library, 1971). This limited edition illustrated book, with photomechanical lithograph reproductions and six original etchings, was donated in 2015 by Stuart and Beverly Denenberg.

Why is this work on Francisco José Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828), published in the 1970s, so special? In short: exceptional scholarship in a beautifully-produced volume, containing extremely rare prints. Written and compiled by Eleanor A. Sayre (American, 1916-2001), one of the first female curators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this work has been described as “a book of exceptional quality . . . and importance.” The Late Caprichos of Goya: Fragments from a Series was published in an edition of 150 copies, with the Bullitt Library’s copy being number 79. It is the only known publicly-accessible copy in the Pacific Northwest.

The rare prints that are included in this work were created from three double-sided copper plates Goya made in the 1820s. Thirty years after Goya’s death, the plates were purchased in Spain by an English diplomat, John Savile Lumley (British, 1818-1896), from Goya’s grandson. They eventually made their way to the London firm of P. & D. Colnaghi where they lay in a drawer for over a decade, until they were bought by Harvard librarian and print scholar, Philip Hofer (American, 1898-1984), in the 1930s—notice the PH embossed in each print at lower right.

Witch on a Swing

In the 18th century, according to the Royal Spanish Academy Diccionario de la lengua castellana (Madrid 1791), the word, “capricho” meant “In works of poetry, music, and painting, it is that which is done by the power of invention rather than by adherence to rules of art. It is also called fantasy.”

Goya completed these caprichos in 1825, a quarter century after the original series of 1799. Those earlier prints can be read as political and clerical critiques, and made Goya an important moralist to those contemporaries who truly understood their meaning. Goya published the original series during the reign of Carlos IV, hoping that enlightened men and women would see and heed his criticisms, and that some public good might result from the work. For this later series, which is believed to be only the fragmentary beginning, there are—unlike the original series—no titles or details which may have caused trouble. In her commentary, Sayre wonders: “We shall probably never know how great a risk the old artist intended to take.” He was then 80 years old and died three years later.

Maja, after Goya

goya-installation-3

To see the book and these late caprichos in person, visit the Lockwood Foundation Living Room, just inside the exhibition. While there, take time to peruse some of the great resources selected by the SAM Librarians in the pop-up library.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Building a Digital Collection: Annual Reports at Seattle Art Museum

The following post is from two students who have been interning at SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library while completing their Master of Library and Information Science degrees at the University of Washington’s Information School.

We are Michael Besozzi and Kate Hanske, and we have been working with Librarian Traci Timmons in the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library on an exciting digital initiative for the culminating work of our degree program. At the University of Washington’s iSchool, every student must complete a Capstone project, which should apply classroom theory to address a real-world information problem. For our Capstone work, we decided to tackle an information gap presented by access to SAM’s institutional annual reports.

Dating back to 1932, the reports include information about specific accessions, ongoing museum activities, exhibitions, and other special events in addition to the financial statements for the year. In a survey of nearly 900 American museums and cultural institutions, only 171 host their annual reports online. Out of those 171 institutions, many have unaccountable gaps between years of published reports. In the library, we saw an opportunity for SAM to create a unique digital collection and exhibition that includes every annual report in the museum’s history. We decided to aim for three outcomes for the digital collection: accessibility, transparency, and posterity.

The Bullitt Library is composed of “open” and “closed” stacks. The “open” stacks consist of shelves containing materials that any member of the public, from curators to visitors, can browse and handle without the assistance of a staff member. The “closed” stacks, located in a back room, contain a number of historical special collections materials. Due to the fragility of special collections materials, the closed stacks are only accessible by staff and designated volunteers. Located in those closed stacks are the Seattle Art Museum’s annual reports, dated from 1932 to the present.

SAM Libraries Annual Reports Archives

In order to access a report from a particular year, a visitor must have a staff member physically walk into the collection, pull out the box from the time range, and bring it to the patron, who must browse the materials in the box for the desired information. Requests for annual reports are common, ranging from staff members attempting to research financial records to visitors researching the history of the museum and the museum’s collections.

Annual Reports 1940s

Typically, a patron will perform a search that will require several boxes to be pulled at one time, which can also take up a lot of physical space in the small library. To add to the problem, the physical annual reports are not easily searchable: if a patron wants to locate a specific individual, exhibition, or piece from the collection, the user must usually go through multiple boxes (and other resources) in order to find what they need. This process can be time-consuming and frustrating! Further, the frequent physical handling of the documents, particularly the most aged and fragile, can cause irreversible damage over time.

Annual Reports 1950s & 1960s

Annual Reports 1970s

The completion of this digitization project empowers patrons to conduct research with the reports without being physically present in the library and without requiring the assistance of library staff and volunteers. The reports are more fully accessible to the public, which facilitates institutional transparency, and they are preserved digitally for posterity.

To create this collection, we scanned all 71 annual reports into the PDF file format and ran a program to make sure that the documents themselves are searchable. We then created a spreadsheet to store essential metadata (title, contributors, year, etc.) for the files to make the collection easy to navigate in an online environment. We uploaded these files and the associated metadata to the online repository and platform called Omeka.net

Annual Reports 1980s

Annual Reports 1990s

Once uploaded, we set about building and developing an online exhibition. With Omeka.net, we were able to customize the exhibition display, organizing the reports by decade, and share the narrative history of the museum as told through the reports themselves. This is the first online collection of its kind for SAM and we are incredibly excited to finally make it available!

—Kate Hanske and Michael Besozzi, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library Interns

You can explore the annual reports via the Omeka website here.

And watch a short video overview of the project here.

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans: A Book Installation

During the run of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, whose work addresses ideas about identity and representation, the Bullitt Library is featuring a book installation that considers ways in which people of Africa were depicted in 19th-century book illustrations. The works in this installation, considered “costume books,” depict African subjects with an emphasis on clothing, published with the intent of educating an otherwise unacquainted audience. This tradition, derived from European 16th-century illustrated costume books, was created to satisfy a demand for information on dress and manners of both homeland and foreign lands. The depictions of non-European subjects, though beautiful in their presentation, are problematic in that they project a distinctly Western perspective and a lack of drawing from firsthand observation.

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Le Costume Historique: Cinq Cents Planches, Trois Cents en Couleurs, or et Argent, Deux Cents en Camaïeu…

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Published in Paris by the firm of Firmin-Didot et Frères between 1876 and 1888, Le Costume Historique: Cinq Cents Planches, Trois Cents en Couleurs, or et Argent, Deux Cents en Camaïeu… by Auguste Racinet (French, 1825–1893) was considered the most wide-ranging study of clothing of its time. Here, Racinet depicts “Senegalese tribesmen and women, from the lands by the River Senegal in Western Sudan” who “are a handsome people who take great care of their appearance.” And although Racinet’s work is an exceptional example of chromolithography, images like the ones shown are derived from a long illustrative tradition whereby images of “exotic” peoples were based on written accounts or secondhand drawings.

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Another work published by Firmin-Didot et Frères is Costumes Anciens et Modernes, a 19th-century reproduction of Cesare Vecellio’s (Italian, 1521–1601) Habiti Antichi et Moderni di Tutto il Mondo, an early costume book published in Venice in an expanded edition in 1598. Firmin-Didot’s version is written in Italian and French and covers the same geographic regions covered by Vecellio’s work.

In this example, we see an ordinary African woman: “Africana di Mediocre Conditione/Africaine de Condition Inférieure.” Referring to Vecellio’s original depictions, one scholar has noted that the images of African costumes, in particular,

“…were participating in ‘translations’ of African dress into costumes for European paintings and theatre. During this process, they accumulated new meanings. The dressed figures were copied from art objects with varying degrees of removal from immediate African encounters and combined with texts from published travel narratives to create mythic bricolages of Africans.”

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

The Clothing of the Renaissance World: Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas: Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti Antichi et Moderni

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Costumes Anciens et Modernes

Additionally, when a comparison is made between Vecellio’s original image and Firmin-Didot’s replication of this particular subject, we see the result is a distinctly more Europeanized version.

This book installation is on view just outside the Bullitt Library on the fifth floor of the Seattle Art Museum during the library’s public hours: Wednesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm.

—Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Images: Le Costume Historique: Cinq Cents Planches, Trois Cents en Couleurs, or et Argent, Deux Cents en Camaïeu… 1876-1888, Paris: Firmin-Didot, Auguste Racinet, French, 1825–1893, SPCOL GT 513 R23 v. 2. The Clothing of the Renaissance World: Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas: Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti Antichi et Moderni, 2008 London; New York: Thames and Hudson, Margaret F. Rosenthal, American (birth date unknown), Ann Rosalind Rosenthal, American (birth date unknown), GT 509 V42 C57 2008. Costumes Anciens et Modernes = Habiti antichi et moderni di tutto il mondo, 1859-60, Paris: Firmin-Didot, Cesare Vecellio, Italian, 1521-1601, Ambroise Firmin-Didot, French, 1790-1876, From a private collection. Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Impressionist Self-Portraits in Frontispieces

“A frontispiece must 1: please the eye, 2: do credit to the author and the artist, 3: help to sell the book.”
—Artist, Gérard de Lairesse (Flemish, 1640–1711)

A book’s frontispiece refers to the illustrative material facing the main title page. In Europe, frontispieces began to appear in books not long after the dawn of the printed book in the 15th century. They were often designed with elaborate stylistic architectural elements, or a portrait of the author, or an illustration of the book’s subject. The first known printed frontispiece alluding to an author was in Bernhard von Breydenbach’s (German, 1440–1497) Sanctae Peregrinationes, printed in Mainz in 1486.

As artists started to author their own printed books, self-portraits and depictions of the book’s subject—engraved by the artists themselves—began to appear on the frontispiece. Some early examples of this include works by: Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), Hans Holbein, the younger (German, 1497/1498–1543), Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian, 1598–1680), and Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640).

Claude Monet

On view currently just outside the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library are more modern interpretations of the artist-portrait frontispiece, featuring the likenesses of artists whose works are exhibited in Intimate Impressionism.

These books offer a sample of frontispieces with artist portraits and self-portraits, produced in the early- to mid-20th century. As publishing converted to machine-produced methods and moved away from the hand-engraved images of the past, it is interesting to see that the use of frontispiece portraits has survived. These works, published from the 1930s through the 1960s, demonstrate how this centuries’ old tradition has endured.

Paul Gauguin

Two catalogues on French artists from Wildenstein & Company, Paul Gauguin, 1848–1903: A Retrospective Loan Exhibition… (1936) and Édouard Manet, 1832–1883: A Retrospective Loan Exhibition… (1937), demonstrate a mechanically-produced black and white image of Paul Gauguin’s self-portrait, and then a larger color reproduction of Édouard Manet’s self-portrait, respectively. In Cézanne: Biographical and Critical Studies, published by Skira in 1954, the method of “tipping in” an illustration is used—in this case, the self-portrait of Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906).

Édouard Manet

This book installation is on view just outside the Bullitt Library on the fifth floor of the Seattle Art Museum during the library’s public hours: Wednesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm.

—Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

The Seattle Art Museum in Fiction

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” — Albert Camus

It all started when a museum visitor asked our public relations department about a book title he was trying to track down. His email stated, “I don’t know the book, don’t know the author, but a few pages into it I did know Seattle Art Museum was the setting of a murder mystery themed around art… and it was a wonderful read.” His request was sent to SAM’s Bullitt Library where we quickly realized we had no compiled list of fictional books where the museum was mentioned—but, we probably should! So, we set out to construct a list and discover how fiction expresses SAM’s truth.

After combing through novels featuring the museum, it became apparent that SAM is most often the setting for intrigue and romance. If you consider that our Brotman Forum has a car hurtling through the air, intrigue certainly represents an aspect of SAM’s truth, but I think the romantic side is more subtle. The artist, Pablo Picasso, said “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” Considering Picasso’s idea of art, SAM’s romantic truth may be in every installation. The emotions each exhibition brings forth give the audience the opportunity to allow an exploration of their own feelings, making it a perfect place to find true love.

Seattle Art Museum is often mentioned in passing in novels that take place in the Seattle area. The museum is such an iconic feature of the city that authors often mention it to set the atmosphere of the scene. In fact artist Jonathan Borofsky’s Hammering Man—a work owned by the City of Seattle but situated directly in front of the museum—is often described in scenes of downtown Seattle. Conducting a search of SAM in fiction gives many results. By reading through each one, I was able to establish the context and importance the museum actually had in the plot of the book.

Old Scores by Aaron Elkins

A series that particularly features the Seattle Art Museum is the Chris Norgren Mysteries series by Washington-state author, Aaron Elkins. In this series, a Seattle Art Museum curator often finds himself involved in art’s shady underworld.

Noteworthy novels that feature SAM in order to establish an atmosphere of exciting intrigue or provide a backdrop for dramatic romance include: Long Overdue by Jeff Ayers, which features both SAM and the Seattle Public Library, includes a rambling lunatic who accuses SAM of running a mind-jamming device from the museum, and Dating Can Be Deadly by Wendy Roberts, uses SAM as a popular date night spot for a potential killer.

A Glancing Light by Arron Elkins

Weeding through this list, I was able narrow it down to an introductory top twenty list. If you’re looking to further your experience of SAM’s truth with fiction we have compiled a list of novels that either feature SAM or just briefly mention the museum. This list is by no means exhaustive, but this top twenty list sets out to reflect fiction’s truths about SAM. The list features a short synopsis of SAM’s role in each book and is presented in alphabetical order here. I was unable to read all of the novels listed, so I encourage people to submit their reviews to give more context, and suggest any additional titles to add.

Suggestions may be sent to libraries@seattleartmuseum.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

—Jenatha Bruchon, Library Intern, Seattle Art Museum Libraries

P.S. As for the book our visitor was after, it was Old Scores by Aaron Elkins.

Grant brings new books to the McCaw Foundation Library

The McCaw Foundation Library at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park is open to all museum staff, docents, volunteers, members, and the general public. As one of SAM’s three libraries, the McCaw Foundation Library specializes in research materials supporting the museum’s Asian collection and exhibitions that occur at the Asian Art Museum. Anyone with an interest in the visual arts of Asia will appreciate the outstanding collection.

New Book at McCaw Library

The SAM Libraries’ holdings number nearly 60,000 items, with more than a third of those being available at the McCaw Foundation Library. These materials include: books, exhibition catalogues, auction catalogues, serials, videos, and electronic publications, many of which are in Asian languages. These materials support research on objects in the permanent collection, research for special exhibitions, assist in docent-led tour preparation, and provide general information about the history of art in Asia.

The Museum’s general operating funds are the primary source of financial support for the McCaw Foundation Library. When the need for additional funding arises, the museum staff collaborates in sourcing the necessary funds.

Histories of Modern and Contemporary Japan through Art: Institutions, Discourse, Practice

Associate Librarian for Asian Art, Yueh-Lin Chen, recognized the need for additional resources in the library’s reference collection, specifically in the areas of Japanese and Korean art. With guidance from Xiaojin Wu, Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, and assistance from Librarian Traci Timmons, Ms. Chen applied for a grant from The Metropolitan Center for Eastern Art Studies. Founded under the auspices of the Harry G. C. Packard Collection Charitable Trust, and based at Hosomi Museum in Kyoto, Japan, the Center provides grants for advanced scholarship in the arts of East Asia.

The museum staff’s collaborative effort was successful and the library received a generous grant from the Center, allowing purchase of important resources on Japanese and Korean art. These books will significantly enhance the collection and are available for use in the McCaw Foundation Library. Examples of materials purchased with this grant money are shown below. Visit us to see others and discover the many other exceptional resources the McCaw Foundation Library has to offer.

Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Masks in the Bullitt Library’s Collection

The Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibition, Disguise, examines 21st-century evolutions of the African mask and explores contemporary forms of disguise. For this latest book installation from the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, we drew upon unique works in our Special Collections related to masks. They run the gamut between the restraint of an early 20th-century collection catalogue and the intensity of an early 21st-century work that delights the senses.

Masks Alone

les_arts_sauvages1

Portier, André and François Poncetton. Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique. Paris: Editions Albert Morancé, 1956. SPCOL OSZ NB 1080 P6.

Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique is a large folio edition that focuses its attention on the form of each mask, leaving context to our imagination. It was first published in Paris in 1927, and is authored by the French academics, André Portier (French, 1886–1969) and François Poncetton (French, 1875 or 1877–1950). It includes fifty loose-leaf collotype photographic plates printed in sepia, some overprinted with color. An elaborate, beautifully produced collection catalogue, this work displays the collections of important artists, critics, and writers of the French Surrealist and Dada movements.

Two examples of the overprinted color plates are on currently on view: Masque Pongwé (Gabon), from the collection of Stéphen-Charles Chauvet, (French, 1885-1950), known for his authorship of the first illustrated compendium on Easter Island; and Masque Man (Côte d’Ivoire), from the collection of Paul Éluard, (French, 1895-1952), the French surrealist poet.

Soundsuits in a Box

nick_cave1

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

“The wearers and their masks participate in a consuming spectacle: sounds, smells, the audience and the setting all play essential roles.” —Herman Burssens, African Faces: An Homage to the African Mask

Unlike the quiet, reflective nature of Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique, this artist’s book by Nick Cave (American, 1961–) has movement, makes noise, and shows us masks represented in a totally different way from that of more traditional books.

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

This Boxfolio is a rare, wonderful, instance of an artist leaving a remnant behind after a show. In 2011, artist Nick Cave held a solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum and this work ultimately ended up in the Bullitt Library. Best described as an artist’s book, this work contains a diverse and fascinating assortment: an iron-on patch, lenticular image, magnet, pin, blow-up punching bag, set of playing cards, set of postcards, hanging ornament, booklet, fiber optic wand, and a Viewmaster. Cave’s Soundsuit Shop tells us that “Nick’s 2006 exhibitions were accompanied by this Boxfolio which, like the Soundsuit, is a collection of unexpected items that make sound when shaken.”

Two of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits are on view in the exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which runs through September 7, 2015.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

The book installation, Masks in the Bullitt Library’s Collection, is on view just outside the Bullitt Library on the fifth floor of the Seattle Art Museum, during the library’s public hours: Wednesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm. (Please note the library will be closed July 1-3, 2015.)

Maps of Time and Place at the McCaw Foundation Library

A map is a visual depiction of a particular place, and it is a reflection of the perspectives of the time in which it was made. We can better understand the way people in a particular era saw the world – and their place in it – by looking at the maps they used.

A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

John Senex’s (English, 1678-1740) New Map of Asia, which dates from 1721, is a representation of the technical information available at the time. It also provides insight into the way European explorers viewed the countries in Asia and their relationships to each other. Senex was a geographer to Queen Anne (1665-1714), and one of 18th century England’s best known map makers. His map of Asia contains a lot of information.

Detail from A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

Detail from A New Map of Asia from the Latest Observations: Most Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honbe. George Earl of Warrington, 1721. London: D. Browne. SPCOL G 7400 I710 S4. Donated by Frank Bayley, acquired from the collection of former SAM Curator of Japanese Art, William Jay Rathbun.

It spans a vast geographical area from the tip of North Africa and part of the Mediterranean in the west to Indonesia and Japan in the east; from what is now Mongolia in the north to New Holland (now called Australia) in the south. It notes the currents along the east coast of Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the Indian Ocean. Areas that were most thoroughly explored by the 18th-century English are the ones that include the most detail; those that were not as well-known are more generally depicted, such as the “Land of Less” and “Company’s Land,” which are shown as large, indistinct land masses, as is the “Eastern Ocean” to the north of them. In the upper left corner, a cartouche includes two people in stylized Asian dress, surrounded by representations of some typical animals and plants.

Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

Similarly, cartographer Jeongho Kim’s (Korean, active 1834-1864) Suseon Jeondo (Map of Seoul) shows us what was important in Korea in 1845, during the Joseon Dynasty. This is a map drawn by someone intimately familiar with the area and the people and practices that characterized the time in which it was made and used. The use of Chinese characters is typical of formal documentation of that time.

Detail from Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

Detail from Suseon Jeondo (Whole Map of Seoul), between 1861 and 1887. Seoul, Korea: publisher unknown. SPCOL G 7904 S4. Donated by Kimerly Rorschach.

The wood-block print map of Hanyang (Seoul) thoroughly surveys the entire city: major roads, facilities, and villages are realistically represented more or less to scale. These precisely depicted everyday elements of the city are ringed by symbolic portrayals of larger-than-life mountains, creating a significant contrast. These mountains, traditionally a symbolic connection between the sky and the authority of the king, are intentionally drawn larger than to scale to emphasize their connection to the heavens.

We invite you to see these maps in person at the McCaw Foundation Library at the Asian Art Museum. The library’s public hours for the summer are: Thursdays and Fridays, 2 PM – 5 PM; Saturdays 10 AM – 2 PM. (Please note that the library is closed July 2-5, 2015.)

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Bibliography:
Kim, Jeongho. A map of Seoul in the period of Joseon Dynasty. Seoul: J. Kim, ca. 1845.
Senex, John. A new map of Asia: from the latest observations. London: D. Browne, 1721.

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