Summering at SAM

This summer, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of talented interns in the Curatorial division. Today, I share reflections from Sophia Green, whose project focused on background research for a future exhibition project.  -Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate

As an art history major at Middlebury College interested in the museum world, my decision to apply to SAM’s internship program was a no-brainer. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my summer than working in a museum with such a longstanding commitment to fine art in the Seattle community. Growing up in Seattle, I have many fond memories at SAM. Spanning over a decade, they began in elementary school when my first grade class lined up by the Hammering Man, waiting impatiently for the museum doors to open. Over the years, my family and I brought many out-of-town guests and family to the museum. As I grew into my own and truly adopted a passion for art, I visited the museum alone and explored the collections for hours. Upon receiving the internship, I was thrilled to add another experience to my SAM memory book.

During my time spent in the curatorial department of SAM, I worked primarily on a specific research assignment. I am certain that the research assignment strengthened my critical thinking and problem solving skills. I received a unique insight into the museum’s inner workings by performing odd jobs, such as making wall labels, cataloging books, and archiving images. In the curatorial wing, I was surrounded by SAM’s curators and staff who incredibly helpful and friendly. While incredibly busy, they always had time to say hello, answer any question I might have had, or offer me some delicious chocolate or exotic tea. During my time, I also attended a luncheon at the Asian Art Museum for all the interns and received a private tour of the permanent collections.

I greatly enjoyed my internship at the SAM and would readily recommend it. My internship was interesting, intellectually stimulating, and greatly informational. It was invaluable being surrounding by such bright, passionate people who are committed to the museum. It was also a treat to be located in downtown Seattle where I got to explore the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and cafes in Pike Place Market during my lunch breaks. The summer has flown by too quickly and I hope to stay involved with SAM for years to come.

Ruby Lhianna Smith: The Hidden Shadows of Cancer

Seattle Art Museum is proud to present the photographs of Ruby Lhianna Smith, who passed away in May of this spring.  After first gracing the walls at Gallery4Culture earlier this summer, we are honored to bring her inspiring work to the SAM. Today, twenty-eight of Smith’s black and white archival inkjet prints will be installed in our South Hall gallery and will remain there through September 9th. Said Ruby of her photography and her work, The Hidden Shadows of Cancer, “Cancer is a hidden disease. I have it right now even though you cannot see it—but it causes pain and makes me nauseous. It appears only as the shadows on an X-ray. Photography for me is a search for the shadows. An image that has no shadows is not very interesting; it’s the shadows that make photographs beautiful. I started this project as a way to show my classmates what it’s like to have cancer—but as the project has grown more people have become interested and now I am using photography to show the world the story of my experience.”

The show is free and donations made in Ruby’s name to The Seattle Children’s Hospital Fund go directly to The Therapeutic Play Fund, which supports art and music therapy at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

SAM Libraries Book Sale is August 25

Get ready for another exciting Seattle Art Museum Libraries Book Sale, August 25 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. We’ll have a pre-sale for SAM members and Wyckoff Teacher Resource Center Borrowers from 9–10 am, then the sale opens to the public at 10 am, ending at 3 pm (or whenever we run out of books).

To give you a taste of what we’ll be selling, SAM’s three librarians have selected these highlights:

New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century by Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1982).

This three-volume set has nearly 600 pages of fine, functional and decorative objects from early New England settlers. Objects are annotated descriptively, and include origin, dimensions, marks and provenance. A must-have for anyone interested in early Colonial history.

You can find used copies online beginning at $100 for a single volume, and upwards of $500 for the whole set. We are selling this set in very good condition for $50.

Michelangelo by Howard Hibbard (Harper & Row, 1985).

This great biography is left over from when the Museum hosted Michelangelo Public and Private: Drawings for the Sistine Chapel and other Treasures from the Casa Buonarroti back in 2009. It’s been a little loved and it has our library marks on it, but it’s in great condition and is still very readable.

Amazon.com is currently selling a brand new copy of this book for $42. You can get it at our sale for $1. That’s a 97% discount.

The Japanese Courtyard Garden: Landscapes for Small Spaces by Kanto Shigemori (Weatherhill, 1981).

A Japanese courtyard garden is small private garden and intends to reflect the personality and sensitivities of the people who enjoy it every day. This book provides 75 full-color plates revealing Japanese courtyard gardens’ special features as well as their architectural plans and commentaries for both the gardens and the buildings that surround them.

This book is in great condition, almost like brand new. At Amazon, it is priced for $198.18 for new copy, and used copies are starting at $69.95. We are selling for $10!

The Coast Salish Peoples by Frank W. Porter III (Chelsea House, 1989).

A great overview of the tribes of the Coast Salish, this book was one of several copies in one of the TRC’s Outreach Suitcases that is being updated for the 2013 school year. Even though it’s been out in the classroom, this library binding edition is in great condition—no TRC library markings and only one “I Belong to SAM” sticker on the back cover.

New copies of this out of print book run for $42 on Amazon.com – we’re selling ours for $2!

We hope to see you there!
Learn more about the book sale.
Traci Timmons, Librarian
Yueh-Lin Chen, Associate Librarian
Anna Elam, TRC Librarian/Educator

Joseph Hillaire: Carver of the Century 21 Exposition Totem Pole

Joseph Raymond Kwul-kwul’tu Hillaire (1894–1967) was an artist, storyteller, performer, Native activist, and diplomat. When Joe Hillaire was born, lingering distrust permeated Native-White relations. Many of Joe’s totem poles were created as civic monuments and served to bridge cross-cultural understanding, as well as to project the rich Lummi oral traditions.

Hillaire’s monumental carvings are “story poles”—the deeds of ancestral heroes and their encounters with supernatural beings appearing on both sides of the pole. When Hillaire learned carving from his father at sixteen, Coast Salish totem pole carving was a recent practice. While this art form was adopted in shape and size from northern Native groups, it displayed more naturalistic figures (adapted from traditional interior house posts) and arranged them in narrative fashion.

In 1961, Hillaire was commissioned to create two totem poles for the Seattle World’s Fair celebration, one to tour the United States to promote the Fair (and the unique heritage of the Northwest) and one for Seattle’s sister city, Kobe, Japan. The Land in the Sky Pole—which tells the story of the adventures of two brothers who enter the sky worldtraveled to 300 cities and towns before it was returned to Seattle for the April 21, 1962 opening of the Exposition. By the time it was completed the sixty-six year-old Hillaire having carved on it in twenty-five states! The Land in the Sky Pole was never erected at the Seattle Center but stood near Chief Seattle’s grave on the Suquamish reservation from 1963 until 2005, when it was deemed unsafe and taken down, and returned to his ancestral home, the Lummi reservation near Bellingham, WA.

Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems

Lummi artist Joseph Hillaire was commissioned to carve two story poles in connection with the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, we are remembering Hillaire’s contributions to the Century 21 Exposition in a series of weekly posts, starting this week! Please check back each week or subscribe to our RSS to learn more about Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems.

Hillaire and grandson, Ernie Lewis, 1950s. Photograph courtesy of Pauline Hillaire.

SAM Art: Herbert Vogel, in memoriam

Over the course of four decades, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel built a collection of American and international contemporary art, often creating lasting relationships with the artists. They did this on salaries of a librarian (Dorothy) and a postal worker (Herbert, who passed away this Sunday, 22 July, 2012)

Their extraordinary collection was committed to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and in 2008, in partnership with the National Gallery, the Vogels donated a portion of this collection—2500 works—to one museum in each of the fifty states. The Seattle Art Museum was selected by the Vogels to represent Washington state, and is now home to works by such internationally recognized artists as Tony Smith, Robert Mangold, Sol LeWitt, and Richard Tuttle.

Yellow Bird, 1971, Tony Smith (American, 1912-1980), heavy-weight paper, adhesive, paint, 6 1/4 x 9 x 3 3/4in., The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, 2008.29.33, Photo: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, © Tony Smith Estate. Currently on view in the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Bahram Gur, and one of his seven pavilions

In this scene, King Bahram Gur has won the hand of seven beautiful princesses from seven distinct lands. They each entertain the great king on successive days, ensconced in different pavilions, dressed in different colors, all with different lessons for the king. Depicted here, after spending a day with each of his other six consorts, Bahram Gur visits Diroste, the daughter of a Persian king and mistress of the White Pavilion on Friday, the final day of the week. Teaching the king perhaps his most important lessons, Diroste tells of the attraction of passion, and the redemption of virtue.

The 12th-century poet Nizami is famous for setting down in writing the great folk histories of Persia. This scene is drawn from the Haft Paykar (“Seven Beauties”), one of the sections of Nizami’s Khamsa (“Quintet”). The Haft Paykar records the rise to power of the Sasanian king Bahram Gur, while also serving as a fable of love and morality.

Bahram Gur in the White Pavilion (detail), mid-16th century, Persian (modern Iran), Safavid period (1501–1722), opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, 9 3/16 x 5 7/16 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.16, Photo: Marta Pinto-Llorca. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

Summer Introductions at SAM Gallery

 I come at painting from the wrong way around. I do not set out to illustrate anything – not an object, a scene, nor an idea. The painting is a record of events in the studio and of experiments both intuitive and calculated – with color, with the physical properties of paint on a surface, and with random shapes and gestures. Throughout most of the process, the subject of the painting is the painting itself. Marks, colors, and shapes accumulate, are modified, are erased by abrasion or layering, are consolidated and connected to one another. Over time a working surface is built, destroyed, and rebuilt.

During the process, as work continues, glimpses of subject matter beyond the canvas begin to appear. Relationships and connections develop between what happens on the canvas and personal memories of dreams, events, and landscapes. The painting moves from an inchoate assemblage of visual elements to “something resembling something,” however abstract. Relationships are built, strengthened, diminished, redrawn.

JoEllyn Loehr, Tumbling Dice, oil on panel

 Within this seemingly random process, there are themes and patterns that recur. The image is oriented to the edges of the canvas. The surface constitutes a shallow field of space established by variations in transparency and intensity. The color black is important to the overall visual structure. There is a balance between finished and raw, dull and bright, areas of gestural activity and areas of calm, between grace and awkwardness.

 

JoEllyn Loerh, Sauseebe 2, oil on panel

Over time I have realized that the paintings echo similarities in structure that can be perceived over vast differences in scale: from microscopic views of insect wings, to geological processes in land formations, and even to hypotheses about the ordering of matter in the cosmos. These structures then are ultimately the subject matter, arrived at more viscerally than intellectually, through the process of painting itself.

 -JoEllyn Loehr

Come see artwork by artists JoEllyn Loehr, Katie Anderson, Leif Anderson, Patti Bowman, Betty Jo Costanzo, David Owen Hastings, Rafael Soldi, Bradley Taylor, and June Sekiguchi in our Summer Introductions exhibition opening Thursday, July 19, 2012.

Join us for the Opening Reception
Thursday, July 19,  from 5 – 7pm

Exhibiton through August 18, 2012

SAM Gallery
1220 3rd Ave
Seattle WA
98101

 206 343 1101

Top photo: JoEllyn Loehr, Steens, oil on panel

SAM Art: A Box, some sounds, and a lecture

A member of New York’s avant-garde in the early 1960s, Robert Morris famously experimented with the perceptual and intellectual issues that fueled Minimalism and Conceptual art.  He rebelled against the notion of the artwork as a precious, handcrafted original object, arguing that art could also be the embodiment of the idea from which it was conceived.  Box with the Sound of Its Own Making was a landmark work: A small cube assembled from walnut boards, containing a recording that allows viewers to hear the piece being constructed.  The viewer looks at a completed product and hears the process of its making. 

 

Jonathan Monk has been active on the international contemporary art scene since the early 1990s. His recent practice has primarily focused on reinterpreting the avant-garde of the 1960s. Often taking iconic works of Conceptual, Minimal, and Pop art as his starting points, his work makes playful commentary on the ideas that defined a previous generation while simultaneously attempting to pin down the values of our own. The Sound of Music makes a direct connection with one of the most celebrated works within the Seattle Art Museum’s collection, Robert Morris’ seminal Box with the Sound of its Own Making.

One innocent-looking box and how it changed the course of art—Robert Morris: Box with the Sound of Its Own Makingwith Catharina Manchanda
Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
7–9 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown

The Sound of Music ( A record with the sound of its own making*), 2007, Jonathan Monk (English, born 1969), record, silkscreen print on paper, and black and white photograph, each element: 12 x 12 in., Gift of Virginia and Bagley Wright, 2008.8. © Jonathan Monk. Not currently on view.

SAM Art: An American image

There are innumerable ways to be “American,” and artist Abe Blashko explored many of those routes in his Social Realist drawings.

The Great Depression, fascism in Europe, America’s entry into world war—the dark forces that changed the western world forever in the decade from 1930 to 1940—upended America’s art establishment as artists channeled moral outrage into a new sense of social purpose. Social Realism is a term traditionally applied to the work of these artist activists who chose to express themselves in a style that forcefully conveyed human suffering and moral character. But realism is an inadequate description, for these artists filtered reality through the imagination and even modeled their satirical statements on the most expressive art of the past. Their subjects might be the common man and woman, but their portrayals are sophisticated and startling exaggerations, personifications of the forces of good and evil within all of us as individuals and as a society.

Street Corner, 1939, Abe Blashko (American, 1920–2011), lithographic crayon on cream-colored heavy weight wove paper, 19 7/8 x 13 1/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 40.63, © Abe Blashko. Currently on view in the American Art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Egyptian Art Friday

SAM is honored to welcome Dr. Sarah L. Ketchley, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington. Dr. Ketchley is also currently undertaking research on SAM’s collection of Egyptian art. This is the first of several blog posts she will be writing.

Memorial Day Weekend heralded the much-anticipated return to Seattle of selected treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun in an exhibition running through January 2013. SAM hosted the exhibit when it visited Seattle in 1962 and again in 1978; this year Tutankhamun: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs will be on display at the Pacific Science Center in time to celebrate Seattle Center’s 50th anniversary.  Although the famous golden funerary mask no longer leaves Egypt, this year’s touring exhibit features a number of iconic artifacts from Tut’s tomb, as well as a wide range of artwork from all periods of Egypt’s ancient history.  What many exhibit visitors may not realize is that SAM downtown has a collection of Egyptian artwork permanently on display. In keeping with the “Tutmania” sweeping the city, over the next few months SAMart will showcase a selection of ancient Egyptian art.

This first piece comes originally from the tomb of Montuemhet (TT34), which is situated on the West Bank of the Nile opposite ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) in an area known as the Asasif.   Montuemhet was the most influential administrator in this region during the period ca. 680 – 648 BC (straddling the reign of Taharqa at the end of the Kushite Twenty-fifth Dynasty, the sack of Thebes by the Assyrians and the reign of Psammetichus I of the Saite Twenty-sixth Dynasty). While a number of statues portraying him are preserved, his tomb is without doubt his most impressive legacy.  The practice of constructing large individual tombs with complex schemes of decoration underwent a remarkable revival at Thebes during this period, some four hundred years after its virtual abandonment. Montuemhet’s tomb is one of the largest built during this time; its mud brick pylons remain a distinctive landmark on the Asasif plateau even today. The extensive substructure includes two sunken courts, one with a series of ten chapels leading off of it, and a large number of underground rock-cut rooms, almost all of which have carved decoration and texts.

The SAM Montuemhet relief is a fine example of sunk carving on a limestone block.  The tomb owner sits with one of his three wives, Shepenmut (also seen as “Shepetenmut”), the remains of three columns of hieroglyphs above their heads. There are traces of original paint and vertical chisel marks on the piece (the latter was common in tomb decoration from this period in Thebes). The tomb owner’s shoulder-length wig has long curls hanging in vertical rows, and he wears a plain collar and a sash with a knotted fastener on his left shoulder. Traces of paint on his chest in the form of small rosettes indicate that he originally wore the priestly leopard skin. His near arm would have been held over his lap, his far arm held outwards towards an offering table (now lost). The wife wears a dress with knotted straps leaving her breast exposed, a small plain collar and a long striated wig.

Stylistically, this fragment recalls relief work from the Old Kingdom, some two thousand years earlier.  The deliberate harking back to a period in the distant past perceived of as ‘classical’ is one of the characteristic and distinctive features of tomb art from the Saite Period; and can perhaps be explained by a desire to reinforce Egyptian patriotic sentiment after a period of foreign occupation.  That the Saite artist added a few new stylistic twists of his own makes this artwork quite unique and compelling.

Relief of Montuemhet and his wife Shepenmut, ca. 665 B.C., Egyptian, Luxor, tomb 34, pigment on limestone, 13 9/16 x 10 7/16 in., Bequest of Archibald Stewart and Emma Collins Downey, 53.80. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAMblog: A father’s story

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

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

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

SAM Art: A new exhibition, a new way of seeing the world

An exuberant visual language has sprung out of Aboriginal artists across the continent of Australia. While this language occasionally looks extremely modern, it depicts unexpected subjects. Epics that involve shape shifting ancestors and short stories devoted to the flora and fauna of their country are given visual form. A sudden abundance of art production since the 1970s has been described as a renaissance of the world’s oldest living culture.

Six women sat together to paint this vision of their country, shaped by Luurnpa (the Kingfisher) who created features of the landscape.  Luurnpa is regarded as the keeper of the law and his influence spreads far from these women’s homes in Balgo. In this painting, Luurnpa creates with significant creeks, which meander around the edges. He puts his beak into the ground to create waterholes (seen as circles). People (U-shapes) walk to gather food (footprints) and are especially pleased when they find a rich vein of potatoes (elongated brown ovals).

Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection opens on Thursday, 31 May (with a preview for SAM members on Wednesday, 30 May, 11:00am-6:00pm).

Wirrimanu (Balgo), 1999, Balgo Women (Tjemma Freda Napanangka, ca. 1930–2004; Margaret Anjulle, born 1946; Patricia Lee Napangarti, born 1960; Mati Mudgidell, ca. 1935–2002; Lucy Yukenbarri, 1934–2003; Eubena Nampitjin, born ca. 1920), Australian Aboriginal, Kukatja, Wangkajunga, and Warlpiri peoples, Balgo (Wirrimanu), Kimberley/Western Desert, Western Australia, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 47 5/8 x 116 1/8 in., Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan. On view in Ancestral Modern, special exhibition galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown, starting Thursday, 31 May.

Nichole DeMent at SAM Gallery

By incorporating various mediums such as photographs, beeswax, resin, paint, found objects, and Japanese rice papers, Nichole DeMent’s art has a unique depth to it. Carefully integrating each element into a composition, layer by layer, is vital to the process of its creation. The artist slowly narrates a story for each piece by taking time to deliberate over the under painting and textural elements that give them character and individuality.

“Layers are an important part of my work, both aesthetically and conceptually.  I think of the layers as a history to the artwork — the details under the surface add character to an individual artwork even when they are buried or barely visible in the end.” 

For “Bird Moon” DeMent used the following images, each adding a distictive quality to the piece, which contributes to the end result in its own special way.

 

Come see “Bird Moon” and more work by Nichole DeMent as well as artists Tyler Boley, Iskra Johnson, Aithan Shapira, Nina Tichava, Eva Isaksen and Allyce Wood in Contemplating Nature at SAM Gallery through June 9.

-Alyssa Rhodes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

1220 3rd Ave (at University)

samgallery@seattleartmuseum.org

For more info call: 206.343.1101

 

SAM Art: An angry – or singing – healer

This Tlingit figure has the protruding diamond-shaped mouth associated with an angry or a singing spirit. The mask-like head held by the figure—carved from a separate piece of wood—takes the form of an animal. The knees, hands, lips, nostrils, and a line around the ankles and neck have been painted red, and the eyes, eyebrows, and feet have been painted black.

Small carved figures such as this one which represent shamans or shamans’ spirit helpers, and were part of the work of healing people. The animal head clasped before the figure’s chest may represent the shaman’s personal spirit power. Despite their diminutive size, figures such as this helped destroy the evil spirits which caused illness.

Shaman figure, ca. 1880, Tlingit, yellow cedar and paint, 12 1/4 x 3 x 3 1/4 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 83.235. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: New news on an Old Master

Struck by Cupid’s arrow, Venus conceived a defenseless passion for the handsome god Adonis. The lovers’ brief period of happiness will soon end tragically when Adonis is killed by a wild boar while hunting. The myrtle tree refers to eternal love, associated with Venus, and to Adonis’ miraculous birth after his mother was transformed into a myrtle tree. The broken tree trunk ominously symbolizes Adonis’ imminent death.

Veronese was renowned during his lifetime for his beautiful hues—like the orange and lavender on this canvas—and for the serene grandeur he brought to mythological and biblical stories. In the eighteenth century his popularity soared again, influencing artists in the SAM collection such as Tiepolo and Guardi.

Since October 2010, this painting has been undergoing conservation study and treatment. Please join us on 16 May as Nicholas Dorman, Chief Conservator, speaks on A Fresh View of the Old Masters: Conservation & Technical Studies in SAM’s European Galleries. This lecture is sold-out, but a simulcast is available free to members.

A Fresh View of the Old Masters: Conservation & Technical Studies in SAM’s European Galleries with Nicholas Dorman
Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives
May 16, 2012
7:00–9:00 pm
Simulcast (free to members): Nordstrom Lecture Hall, first floor, SAM downtown

Venus and Adonis (pictured prior to treatment), before 1580, workshop of Paolo di Gabriele di Piero Caliaro (known as Veronese), Italian, 1528-1588, oil on canvas, 88 3/8 x 66 1/4 in., Samuel H. Kress Collection, 61.174. Not currently on view.

SAM Art: Crocodile Woman

“From a water-woven land come creatures of convoluted imagination. They know where the power lies-in essences of female and reptile.”  -collector Katherine White, 1979

Water flows through the Cross River area, which is the second largest delta system on earth. A crocodile guarding these waters can become a “familiar” for a woman, adding to her abilities and insights. Persons with unusual inclinations were often likely to attribute their actions to the persuasive force of an animal or reptile who sought them out. Women who cultivated this alliance with a familiar could use it to be helpful, or let it become destructive.

Crocodile headdress, Ejagham, Cross River Region, Nigerian / Cameroonian, wood, skin, basketry, 29 x 38 1/2 x 8 3/4 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.507. Currently on view in the African art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

“GREEN” Eggs and SAM

In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard a lot of talk in the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) offices about an infamous group called The SAM Goes Green Team. The more email notices the Green Team sent out about daily “green” tips or “green” contests between staff members, the more I became curious about who takes part in this coalition, and what it takes to initiate “green” practices at SAM.

 

To investigate further, I decided to interview the head of the Green Team, Liz Stone. Liz holds the title of Operations Assistant/ Digital Media Support Specialist at SAM.  Liz is a spirited, young woman who brings a lot of light to the busy offices here at SAM. When I asked to interview her, she was very excited for the opportunity to represent SAM’s “green” roots and sustainability concerns.

I asked Liz, “When did the Green Team start at SAM?”  She provided the following information:

 

The Green Team was started in 2006, shortly before the Olympic Sculpture Park opened in January 2007. It began with a handful of staff representing different departments who were interested in making a difference. The excitement around Olympic Sculpture Park gave the museum the momentum it needed to develop an environmental face for SAM. Examples of how SAM conducts green operations in many different capacities include:

  • Reduced the museum’s carbon footprint, including cuts in energy use, paper conservation, and waste reduction
  • Switched to 100% recycled copy paper
  • Earned Salmon-Safe certification of land management practices at the Olympic Sculpture Park.
  • Supported SAM’s museum educators in designing art activities that use repurposed, recycled and non-toxic supplies
  • Created a culture of sustainability within SAM, including meeting with departments to identify barriers to “going green”

 

“There have been a few different Green Team leaders at SAM, but I was approached in 2011 and asked if I would take the reins of the Green Team to keep it moving forward,” Liz says.

 

In overseeing the Green Team, Liz presents green tips and activities in media posts and helps maintain sustainability around the offices. Each division at SAM—from IT to Exhibition Design to Engineering—has a representative on the Green Team.

 

SAM is also a Presenting Partner with Seattle Center Foundation and Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas in presenting the performance, red, black, GREEN: a blues. This performance is coming to Seattle Center’s Intiman Theater May 30–June 2 for the Next 50 Festival and brings artists Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Theaster Gates back to Seattle once again! Both artists, as educators and social activists, strive through their work to ignite our collective responsibility towards social and environmental sustainability for every community. This performance shares SAM’s values in combining community engagement with art to work towards a greener, more sustainable community. The Green Team and Liz Stone are working hard to activate everyone’s involvement in “going green”.

 

You can also find more details about SAM’s environmental commitment and the SAM Goes Green initiative, as well as a list of partners joined in this initiative when you visit the SAM website. Some commitments involve joining the City of Seattle’s Seattle Climate Partnership and Seattle Climate Action Now to reduce SAM’s carbon footprint. You can also read more about the SAM Goes Green Team history on previous SAMblog posts, including SAM’s recent participation in the worldwide Earth Hour event.

 

SAM Art: Evolving City Wall Mural

Mexican sculptor Pedro Reyes is known for his interactive forms, installed in public spaces around the world. For the opening of SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park in 2007, Reyes produced his signature interactive Capulas, as well as the Evolving City Wall Mural, all of which were acquired by the museum.

Equally at home in a park and in a downtown building, the mural has greeted visitors to SAM downtown for the past four years. In the mural, human beings interact with geometry and respond to changing visual systems. The mural incorporates graphic design, technical drawing and perspective diagrams to imagine a world of varied spaces, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional.

The mural will remain on view until mid-May.

Evolving City Wall Mural, 2006, Pedro Reyes (Mexican, born 1972), ink on paper, approx. 14.9 x 54.7 ft., Olympic Sculpture Park Art Acquisition Fund and the Modern Art Acquisition Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.5. Photo: Susan Cole. © Pedro Reyes. Currently on view in the museum foyer, corner of First Ave and Union St, SAM downtown.

Two Sculptural Pair & A Next 50 Affair

There is a display in SAM Downtown’s Wright & Runstad Gallery for African Art holding two pairs of sculptures that provide a transcendent view of “togetherness” and what it means for the spiritual to be connected with the earth. The first is a pair of “Male and Female figures” made by the Baule of central Cote d’Ivoire. The painted wood sculptures represent spirit spouses that inhabit another world parallel to this one, and are prescribed by diviners to promote a healthy living situation between spouses. Imbued with power by the diviner each sculpture is given individual attention by its client in order for the power to be activated. Beside this pair resides a set of Congolese harps carved with faces at the end of their long curving necks to keep their players company and watch their every move. Atop flexed, carved legs their bellies would be filled with sound as the harp couple was played by two musicians travelling as a pair. During their travels the performers recited history as their livelihood and sang legendary epics.

Taken together these objects bring to mind the exhibit Theaster Gates: The Listening Room where objects form a collective history and repurposed materials find new meaning as art. The collection of records taken from Chicago’s now defunct Dr. Wax record store reminds me of the spirit spouses who are deserving of more attention. Giving attention to the records in SAM’s twice monthly DJ sets in the Listening Room (come listen next week May 3 & 6!) has allowed people in our community to come together at SAM through music. Although the spirit spouses must be decommissioned of their power by the diviner before they enter the museum the enduring coolness in their expressions continues to give meaning to their remedial function. Similarly the decommissioned fire hoses lining the walls of the Listening Room evoke memories of the civil rights movement in the 1960s where protestors were sprayed with these high pressure hoses during race riots. Our collective memory is jarred by Theaster Gates who saw value in an art object where others saw scrap material.

 

 

 

Considering this communal environment brings up another project Theaster Gates is involved with – the upcoming performance of “red, black & GREEN: a blues” coming to the Intiman Theater for Seattle Center’s Next 50 festival 30 May – 2 June.  The performance is collaborative and interactive, written for the stage by performer, activist, and educator Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Bamuthi is working with a host of talented artists including set design by Gates. Click here to learn more about Marc Bamuthi Joseph and the Living Word Project and watch videos on the performance “red, black & GREEN: a blues.”

 

 

The central question addressed by Bamuthi is, “what sustains life in your city?” This is something he asked many people through the Life is Living festivals he has curated since 2008 in various U.S. cities and forms the inspiration that went into writing “red, black & GREEN: a blues.” By incorporating “the voices of people often left out of discussions about living green,” this conversation on the environment succeeds where others have fallen short, and actively seeks a reimagining of where we place value in our community.[i] This forms a collective experience that, through the stories Bamuthi has engaged and the recycled materials of Theaster’s set inspired by row houses, express our social ecology with power, grace, and rhythm.  The success of this performance comes from the belief that “ultimately we are interdependent and stronger through collaboration,” which, like the Congolese harps and Ivorian spirit spouses, helps us maintain good relations and feel connected with the earth.

-Ryan R. Peterson, Curatorial + Community Engagement Intern


[i] Source: Mapp international productions website. Artist proframs, artists and projets, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, red, black & GREEN: a blues. Last accessed 24, April, 2012. http://mappinternational.org/programs/view/214

Top photo: “Male and Female Figures,” wood, paint, Ivorian, Baule & “Pair of Harps,” wood, skin, fabric, Congolese, Ngbaka. Photograph by the Author. Taken 4/24/12. JPEG file.

 

 

 

SAM Art: A Man on a Prow

This may be your final week to see Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise (it closes on Sunday), but don’t despair. SAM’s collection of Oceanic art remains on view.

A heroic guardian, this figure was strategically placed precisely at the water line of a decorated canoe’s prow. Dipping into the water as the large canoe navigated the seas, it kept watch for hidden reefs and enemies. As a lieutenant in 1897 recorded, its purpose was: “to keep off the kesoko or water fiends which might otherwise cause the winds and waves to upset the canoe, so that they might fall on and devour its crew.”

Shell inlay swirls over the face in a pattern like those found on the painted faces of warriors. Beneath the chin of this figure is a head that is being clutched–although whether the warrior is protecting it or presenting it as a fallen enemy is unknown.

Canoe prow figure (Nguzu Nguzu), 19th century, Solomon Islands, Melanesian, wood, nautilus shell, 10 5/8 x 7 7/8 x 5 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1443. Currently on view in the Oceanic art gallery, third floor, SAM downtown.

Happy Earth Day!

If you liked Earth Hour then you’ll love Earth Day (it’s like 24 times better than Earth Hour). While Earth Hour challenged people to make lasting change, Earth Day is a celebration of all that we have achieved and a look forward to differences we can still make.

SAM has already made a number of changes in an effort to be more sustainable. They include:

  • Reduced the museum’s carbon footprint, including cuts in energy use, paper conservation, and waste reduction
  • Switched to 100% recycled copy paper
  • Earned Salmon-Safe certification of land management practices at the Olympic Sculpture Park. (Watch this video of Gardner Bobby McCullough employing one of those practices)
  • Supported SAM’s museum educators in designing art activities that use repurposed, recycled and non-toxic supplies
  • Created a culture of sustainability within SAM, including meeting with departments to identify barriers to “going green”

And now that it’s Earth Day, the SAM Goes Green team isn’t letting this opportunity go by without challenging our coworkers to continue moving forward and establishing more green habits. This week we are asking SAM staff to pledge to make a difference. We’re going to track the changes they make at home and at work and offer incentives for the most actions taken. A little positive reinforcement will hopefully encourage big change!

-Liz Stone, Operations Assistant/Digital Media Support Specialist

Specter, 2011, Gretchen Bennett, American, b. 1960, blown glass, hemp rope, Photo: Robert Wade

SAM Art: A Message (and a Lecture) from the Deep

Inspired by the artifacts excavated from Junk shipwrecks that brought “china” from Asia to Europe, Koi Junk alludes to the migration of culture through trade, and specifically the culture of tea. It also references the forms, techniques, and ornamentation that dominated the aesthetics in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century age of colonization. Thus, Koi Junk speaks in a contemporary voice to a long history of objects which bridge cultures and time.

Message from the Deep: Koi Junk, a Sculptural Teapot by Michelle Erickson with Julie Emerson
Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
7—9 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown
Open to SAM members and their guests only please.

Koi Junk Teapot, 2009, Michelle Erickson (American, born 1960), porcelain, colored earthenware agate, indigenous clays, 12 ½ x 11 in. overall, Howard Kottler Endowment for Ceramic Art, 2011.23. © Michelle Erickson. Currently on view in Here and Now, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: A Different Kind of Storytelling

Next week, the museum’s gallery dedicated to Australian Aboriginal painting will be closed, and the current paintings taken off view. Why? They will be re-studied, re-thought, and re-installed in the museum’s summer exhibition Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection.

The paintings currently on view are a first glimpse at the coming exhibition. Deceptively abstract in appearance, these works recount stories of land, of history, of experience, and of Dreaming. This painting tells part of the legend of two brothers who traveled across the Tanami and Great Sandy Desert to teach people about food, fire and hunting, while they were creating many of the land forms.  When they arrived at the vast salt lake, Lake MacKay, they made camp for a night’s rest. The central horizontal line shows the windbreak the constructed, while the parallel lines designate water. Strong white vertical lines represent sandhills.

Can you see the story in this image?

Wati Kutjarra is only on view in the permanent collection galleries through Sunday. It can be seen next in the summer exhibition Ancestral Modern, opening 31 May.

Wati Kutjarra (Two Brothers Dreaming), 2004, Tjumpo Tjapanangka, Australian Aborigine, Kukatja people, Balgo (Wirrimanu), Kimberley/Western Desert, Western Australia, 1929-2007, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 70 7/8 x 59 1/16 in., Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Susan Cole. © Tjumpo Tjapanangka.

SAM Art: Seasons

As Seattle oscillates between winter and spring, take a moment to consider four clearly defined seasons—as seen on this Chinese bowl, now on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Poetic inscriptions caption the four seasons depicted from frame to frame around the bowl. Each season has its own defining text, and its own imagery:

“Green trees abound in village after village,” in summer;

“Withering branches sit silent in the depth of night,” in autumn;

“Bending low, the snow-covered bamboo still glints a cool emerald-jade green,” in winter;

and spring sees “Sprouting willows appear in the scattering mist.”

Guyuexuan type bowl, early 18th century, Chinese, Qing period, Yongzheng reign, porcelain with decoration in overglaze-enamels, 3 x 6 ¼ in. overall, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 33.55, photo: Paul Macapia. Currently on view in the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park.

 

SAM Art: A focus on ceramics

Through much of Greek art history—from the abstract grave or cult carvings of the Cyclades to the generalized portraits of the Hellenistic period—the Greeks often depicted women as ideals of beauty and grace. For both men and women, in fact, Greek beliefs held that external appearance was the manifestation of internal character. As a result, the artistry lavished on appearance and personal adornment rivals that given to public monuments.

This small ceramic figure was created in a world where Greek culture was dominant, and on the move. Following the path of Alexander the Great’s conquests across Europe and West Asia, Greek art and culture spread across the Mediterranean world. Ceramic sculptures already had a long history in these areas, but arguably reached an apex in the Greek region of Boeotia during this period. Produced in multiples in workshops, their compact size and relative inexpense allowed them to be exported to major Hellenistic markets. Tanagra figurines—these finely modeled figures of seated, standing and dancing women—exemplified the Greek ideals of femininity, celebrating the perfection inherent to beauty.

Seated tanagra figurine, 4th–3rd century B.C., Greek, Boeotia, Hellenistic period (ca. 323-31 B.C.), terracotta, pigment, 6 1/2 x 3 5/8 x 4 1/2 in., Norman and Amelia Davis Classical Collection, 66.101. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art gallery, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

 

SAM Art: A model, a saga, a lecture

The small-scale totem pole is an indigenous genre that pre-dates contact: Captain James Cook personally collected one at Nootka Sound in 1778. Some model poles are diminutive, specific versions of the forty- to sixty-foot poles erected to honor the lineages of deceased chiefs and nobles. Small-scale examples of Native longhouses with totem poles erected in front were commissioned by anthropologists for World’s Fair and museum displays. By the mid-19th century, these easily portable and compelling sculptures were in steady demand by outside buyers, as they are today.

A master carver of ceremonial arts, nearly all of Hemasilakw’s life was shadowed by the potlatch ban. He pushed the traditional origins of his art style toward distinctively modern refinements, evidenced in the bold sculptural forms and exuberant painting of his full-size poles. Even his model poles powerfully convey the personalities of each mythic figure.

Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems with Barbara Brotherton
Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives
March 21, 2012
7:00–9:00 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, SAM downtown

Model Totem Pole, early 20th century, Arthur Shaughnessy (Hemasilakw) (Kwakwaka’wakw, Dzawada’enuxw, Kingcome Inlet, 1884–1945), wood and pigment, 36 ¾ x 10 ¼ x 5 ¾ in., Gift of June Bedford in honor of Steve Brown, 2000.51. Currently on view in the Native American Art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

 

Discounted Tickets for “Gauguin & Polynesia” and Extended Hours on First Thursday

Ticket prices to Gauguin & Polynesia on March 1 will be $12 for adults, $9 for seniors (62+) and military (w/ID), and $8 for students (w/ID) and teens. SAM members and children 12 & under are free. Please note that if a timeslot is sold out online we hold back a limited number of tickets for day-of sales. Get tickets now>>

SAM Downtown will be open until midnight (last ticket sold at 11 pm).

Take advantage of the Gauguin & Polynesia parking special at the 3rd & Stewart garage. You can also take a bus, ride your bike, or walk to the museum.

Go to the Plan Your Visit section on SAM’s website for more information on how to best enjoy your visit!

-Madeline Moy, Digital Media Manager

Photo credit: Dan Bennett

Last Call for Color

Time is running out to bring your collection of lids in to the Olympic Sculpture Park!

In Trenton Doyle Hancock’s wildly fictitious narrative, color is the source of salvation to a race of creatures who are seeking spiritual nourishment. For his installation, A Better Promise, Hancock playfully encourages you to pour color into his work by bringing plastic tops in all colors. The plastic caps add a whole spectrum of light into the installation and, for Hancock they “are in a way the surrogates for the color salvation.” As the artist has said, this installation “has to do with hope, color, connecting with people, connecting with community.” And you all have shown that he’s definitely connected with this community. Read More

SAM Art: A Red Rothko

“What do you see?”

This question creates the framework for John Logan’s play Red (currently running at the Seattle Rep), centered on painter Mark Rothko; it also provides a point of departure for an investigation of Rothko’s painting.

Rothko had worked in a traditional, figural mode early in his career, and dabbled in surrealism for a time, before finally arriving at his signature composition of pulsing blocks of color. For different viewers, the forms which emerge are stubbornly objective, ranging from biota to landscapes, humans to storm clouds. However, the strong verticality of works such as this resolutely assert their abstraction, mesmerizing viewers with a maintained focus on color and light.

#10, 1952, Mark Rothko (American, born Russia, 1903-1970), oil on canvas, 81 3/4 x 42 1/2 x 2 1/4 in., Partial and promised gift of Bagley and Virginia Wright, 91.98. © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.Currently on view in the Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.
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