Honoring her Salish heritage, Musqueam artist Susan Point carved red and yellow cedar to create a sculpture that expresses her cultural ancestry and a devotional attitude towards nature. Red cedar has always been considered the “tree of life” for First Peoples, which is the title the artist has also given this work. Valued by the Salish peoples, every part of the cedar tree is utilized to create houses, storage bins, clothing, canoes, mats, baskets, masks, paint brushes, and floats for nets, among other uses. Here, Point carves eight faces connected by root-like forms or waterways that reference a family tree and the importance of inherited histories that unite the Salish people.
Because of her high stature and the demand for her work, Susan Point rarely executes large labor-intensive carvings any longer and has turned to work other media. This piece, created specifically for the museum, is a large-scale carved and painted panel that retains the ethos of ancient Coast Salish forms yet, in the hands of this accomplished artist those forms and the content they carry are vibrantly contemporary. Susan has emerged as one of the most successful and sought-after Northwest Coast Native artists and she has been credited with single-handedly reviving the unique Salish style that has lain dormant for nearly 100 years. She is among only a handful of Native female artists working in the media of woodcarving.
The collecting impulse of museum directors, curators, and private collectors—an insatiable desire—are referenced and investigated in Gloria Bornstein’s installation Concupiscence. Created in 2002, for a solo exhibition at SAM, the title of the work expresses strong, sexual desire. In this case, Bornstein used for inspiration the stories and collections of SAM founding director Dr. Richard Fuller, and African art collector Katherine White. Bornstein used various source materials, specifically old taxonomy books from which she gathered images in order to create cast-porcelain objects of sexual organs of various organisms, including earthworms, barnacles, and flatworms. She then placed these anthropomorphic forms in a custom-made case in order to comment on traditional methods of museum display, and in so doing, she tamed and neutralized the physical and sexual presence of the objects.
Gloria Bornstein was born in New York in 1937. She has degrees in art and education, and in psychology. She lives and works in Seattle.
A contemporary Surrealist, Louise Bourgeois’ career stretched from the 1940s until 2010. Her lifelong fascination with myth, ritual, and totemic figures had its roots in French Surrealism, which reached a high point between the World Wars. In these Eye Benches, furniture takes the form of giant, observant eyes. Visitors encounter the disembodied eyes, which seem to follow their every movement around the Olympic Sculpture Park’s lower plaza, discovering that the enigmatic sculptural objects play a functional role: providing comfortable outdoor seating.
Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 in Paris. She entered university in 1932, intending to study mathematics, but turned to art the next year. She studied in art schools as well as apprenticing in artists’ studios in Montparnasse and Montmartre. She emigrated to New York in 1938, where she continued her studies, eventually having her first solo exhibition in 1945. She lived and worked in New York until her death in 2010.
Egyptian artist Ghada Amer is best known for works like Black Series: Couleurs Noires, where embroidered female nudes emerge seductively from zones of applied and dripping paint. Not readily apparent at first glance, her canvases draw inspiration from photography: The female forms in her work are drawn from pornography, traced onto an abstractly painted canvas, and then embroidered. She leaves the embroidery threads uncut, securing them to the canvas with gel; these trailing threads add an additional sense of “painterliness” to the image.
Amer’s work is inherently confrontational—not just in displaying to the viewer perhaps disturbing imagery, but playing with the dichotomies of pornography vs. art, abstraction vs. figure, and photography vs. painting.
The first Members Art History Lecture of 2013 will take place tomorrow (Wednesday), 16 January, at 7:00pm in the Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown.
Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art, will discuss Together Again: Nuxalk Faces of the Skywith her colleague Jennifer Kramer, Curator of Pacific Northwest Art, Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia.
Toshiko Takaezu was one of America’s most successful artists using ceramics for sculptural ends. In her career, spanning the late-1940s until the 2010s, she moved beyond the functional pots and bowls traditionally thrown by ceramicists to explore forms, surfaces, and colors on purely aesthetic terms.
SAM’s collection includes thirteen works spanning Takaezu’s long career, including this large, standing sculpture. Strangely familiar to a viewer’s eye, Torso more closely reflects the proportions and scale of the human form than a jar, and is a significant example of Takaezu’s later achievements in clay.
Considered a wealth item, and often given as a gift to friends or relatives, finely woven baskets like this are rarely associated with a known weaver. This basket, however, comes from the hand of Susan Wawatkin Bedal, the last traditional basket maker of the Sauk-Suiattle tribe from the Darrington, Washington area.
Susan Bedal possessed an intimate knowledge of the gathering and preparation of natural materials from the prairie and forests of the North Cascades, which she crafted into masterful works. Visual balance is achieved through the attention given to the placement and disposition of the designs on the field of the baskets. The accent designs have descriptive names that refer to the natural features of the artist’s world, such as butterfly (inverted triangles), clouds (staggered rows of alternating colors), and snake or trail (ladder step design). Such designs are owned by individuals and families and passed down through the generations.
Due to the holidays, SAMart will be on vacation for the next two weeks. Happy holidays, and a wonderful new year, to all of SAMart’s readers.
Named for a 17th-century Chinese poem, this painting comes from the “Song of Lake Yuan” series. The poem is a lamentation for the good times the author and his peers experienced before the upheaval of regime change. Echoing 17th-century woodblock illustrations of epic novels, painter Lu Wujiu illustrates the poem’s 26 verses with vivid imagery that dramatizes the sentiment portrayed in each verse.
The daughter of a prominent Chinese figure painter, Lu Wujiu was drawn to abstract painting in her own career. She studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1950s, where she began to define her style of synthesis between West and East. Her mentor there praised her ability “to see the analogies between traditional Chinese attitudes and the vigour of contemporary western abstract expressionism.”
Victoria Haven: Portable Monuments Members Art History Lecture Series: Curator’s Choice in conversation with Catharina Manchanda
Wednesday, December 12, 7–8:30 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, SAM downtown
Artist Victoria Haven and Catharina Manchanda, the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, will discuss ideas relating to the works presented in Haven’s installation in the exhibition Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists. Haven utilizes ephemeral objects of personal significance to map her experience and memory to a larger artistic and cultural history that remains grounded in the Pacific Northwest.
My name is Paige Smith. I work in the School & Educator Programs Department at the Seattle Art Museum. I have interned and worked at SAM for a little over a year now, and in all of my different positions I’ve learned so much about the museum’s role as an educational institution. My current position as the School Tour Greeter has given me the most exposure to how important educators are to the museum and the critical role they play in bringing art and people together. I have a great admiration for educators and a strong personal and professional goal to become an educator, thus the opportunity to work with school tour groups and with SAM’s wonderful Docents seemed not only a great experience for me, but also sounded fun! The School Tour Greeter serves as mainly a liaison between school groups who come for a tour and the Docents who lead the tours. In this position I communicate with Docents about any extra information they may need to know about their school tour group. I also make sure the Teaching Artists are in the art studios and prepared for the school groups that join their tour with an art workshop.
Docents play an essential role as educators in the museum. Observing their strengths in educating all types of groups has been very inspiring. Docents are volunteers who apply to become a touring guide for school, public, and private tours. They endure a lot of training and lead many types of themed tours for all the permanent collection and special exhibition galleries at all three SAM sites ( SAM downtown, The Seattle Asian Art Museum, and Olympic Sculpture Park). I get to witness an incredible exchange between students, docents, and teachers as they prepare for their venture into the art galleries.
As the students and teachers enter the museum they move all in one organic mass. Sometimes entering as one herd, shuffling close together, or sometimes entering more fluidly, spreading out as their minds ponder the new open space they’ve filtered into: the museum. Docents greet them eagerly and the relationship between guide and school group begins. Students of different ages present different kinds of energy and the Docents can interpret and immediately bounce off this energy with much enthusiasm, friendliness, encouragement and leadership. I’ve seen Docents lead all ages of students from little kindergarten tots to angsty high schoolers and they handle them all differently. I had a conversation with docents Karin Roth and Ann Hardy about guiding a group of kindergarten students after their tour. Karin was very excited about how engaged her group was. She said it was very different from her experiences guiding high school students because of how eager these young toddlers were to engage themselves in what they were seeing, whereas teenagers are often more reserved or can be preoccupied with other teen worries or social dynamics. They both enjoy any group type but Karin was exhilarated by how differently they interact with her and how she was able to gear her tour towards their responses.
Docents cater their language, questions, and explanations to the age and the types of group dynamics they observe from the start. The distance the group has come, the type of school they attend, and teacher they come with all influence the dynamic of the group. It is exciting to watch how docents can read the dynamic and then accentuate different aspects of the museum and exhibits to encourage the group’s particular interest and intellect as much as they can.
Docents come from a diverse background of different professions and experience with teaching, but I cannot emphasize enough how devoted each Docent is to bringing art and art history into a personal level of connection for each student. As educators of the museum SAM Docents bring a whole world of knowledge and adventure to the experiences of each individual school group, and every tour is a different adventure!
The multiplicity of things which lie in no man’s land just beyond the realm of appearances enchants me.
-Charmion von Wiegand, 1947
Charmion von Wiegand was among a dedicated band of U.S. supporters of the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. Mondrian spent his final four years (1940-1944) in New York City, and von Wiegand became one of his closest friends. Von Wiegand’s career as a painter followed Mondrian’s arrival in New York in 1940, and she exhibited frequently from 1942 onward. Her best works, dating from the mid- to late-1940s, merges the structure of geometry with a ceaseless flow of organic shapes. Von Wiegand regularly exhibited with the American Abstract Artists group, which formed the core of support for U.S. abstract art before the emergence of the abstract expressionists.
A wedding is the moment for defining feminine beauty in many cultures. Among Maasai women, a bride is given all the ornaments she needs to begin her new life. The art in this case was created by Maasai women from the Merrueshi community of the Kaputiei section of Kenya. Their intent was to demonstrate how a bride’s costume is a personalized collection of beadwork, stories and wishes for the future. Each is composed of cowhide, glass beads, wire and plastic dividers.
One aspect of Maasai aesthetics is immediately evident. Colors-and their order of placement-are carefully controlled, both due to their meaning and to the need for balance in the interaction of opposites. Certain colors are designated as strong or weak and must not be placed side by side. Nothing is meant to be continuous or unbroken, because mixture is a fact of life and needs to be recognized in the patterns.
Over necklace (Ololuaa), Naramat ene Mure (Maasai, Merrueshi community, Kaputiei section, Kenya), leather, glass beads, aluminum dangles, 16 x 6 3/4 x 1/8 in., General Acquisition Fund, 2000.12.11. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.
Dichotomies and oppositions course through the work of Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, including her two-channel video installation Tooba. This video, currently on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, is shown on two facing screens. The lyrical imagery on each side unfolds at the pace of poetry, despite the fact that there are no words. The film shows a walled garden, the silent hordes that descend upon it, and a woman within it, swallowed by a tree.
Neshat’s work straddles two worlds, and she acknowledges “constantly negotiating between two cultures that are not just different from one another but in complete conflict.” Born in Iran in 1957, the artist moved to the United States to attend university in the late 1970s. When the Iranian Revolution broke out, she remained in the US. Shirin Neshat is perhaps the world’s best-known contemporary Middle Eastern artist, despite the fact that she has lived and worked in the US for decades. Her lived experience between these two cultures gave rise to her “idea of opposites,” the structure upon which her body of work is built.
A glimpse at Ellen Gallagher’s paintings can be misleading: Grids of small circles on lined paper create the illusion of Minimalism. Step closer to examine those small circles, however, and hundreds of gleaming eyes and occasional rows of mouths are staring at the viewer. Ellen Gallagher, who has African-American and Irish parents, has loaded the calm surface with reminders of the derogatory huge rolling eyes and exaggerated thick lips seen on white actors performing in blackface as part of American minstrel shows a century ago. The artist uses lined pages from children’s composition books, suggesting the fine line between innocent doodling and harmful caricatures.
Imogen Cunningham is an artist who is revered for radically altering the traditional still life. Like fellow artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Margaret Bourke-White, Ella McBride, and Lola Alvarez Bravo, Cunningham conceived of and portrayed objects in ways that defied conventional picture making. These artists brought plants and constructions alike up close, reducing them to abstract shapes and patterns. Having liberated the portrayal of things from the mundane act of description, they asserted the role of the artist in selecting forms for visual impact, in altering the viewer’s perception, and transforming familiar objects into mysterious works of art.
Cunningham’s style changed throughout her career—her early pictorialist work developed into a mature, modernist aesthetic. Inspired by surrealism, she enjoyed manipulating images both in the camera and the darkroom. The world was a feast for her eyes, and Cunningham captured this vision with curiosity and enduring vitality that continues to resonate today.
Three of SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries are currently dedicated to an installation titled Modern Masters, a look at the work of American heavyweights Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler. All three developed their work in the context and aftermath of Abstract Expressionism. Celebratory and ironic, “modern masters,” a popular label for the male painters of that generation, bestows this much-deserved designation upon these visionary women artists in recognition of their hard-fought accomplishments in what was a thoroughly male-defined domain.
Drawn from SAM’s own collection, as well as local private collections, Modern Masters surveys the bold, abstract, gestural production of Joan Mitchell (pictured above); the collage-inflected mid-career paintings of Lee Krasner; and the luminously stained canvases of Helen Frankenthaler. While not a retrospective, this installation provides visitors to SAM a fresh glimpse at the rigor and range of mid-century abstraction.
Installation view of “Modern Masters,” part of “Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists,” Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown, on view through 17 February 2013.
While Elles has focused our attention on female artists, works by women have been on view in SAM’s galleries all along, sometimes in unexpected places. Tiger Lily is just one example.
According to Patti Warashina, Tiger Lily’s genesis was rooted in memories of her grandmother. “’At the time it was an interest in religious objects used in society. I used the format of the alter to emphasize personal moments which I had been thinking about,” said the artist in 1992.
Shaping humble clay into transcendent forms fit for the divine is a tradition as old as ceramics themselves. Drawing inspiration from the ancient vernacular of forms and techniques, contemporary artists work with clay to create sculpture that, to our eyes, is simultaneously deeply familiar and startlingly fresh. Central to all of the ancient cultures represented in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, altars and shrines find their contemporary reflection in Tiger Lily. At the height of the Feminist Movement in the 1970s, Warashina created altars such as this, offerings of feminine archetypes and stereotypes for consideration.
Seattle-based artist Victoria Haven creates work that furthers the discussion of how the language of abstraction can express personal experience. Recently, she has delved into her memories of the Pacific Northwest and her connection to it. In Northwest Field Recording – WA (12” B side), Haven created a drawing in a format that corresponds to the size and shape of a vinyl record – the pattern of the words suggests the circular grooves on an LP. In addition to a reference to music, Haven described the form of this drawing (one of a pair) as being reminiscent of the rings on a tree indicating a life span.
Although steeped in a minimalist sensibility, found objects of a certain kind—ephemera, like a mixed tape or the black double diamond found on trail maps—are starting points for Haven’s most recent body of work, Victoria Haven: Proposed Land Use Action, which is now installed as part of Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists.
In 1962, in the Fine Arts Pavilion of the World’s Fair, women were nearly invisible. In Masterpieces of Art, Art Since 1950: American and Art Since 1950: International, of the 199 European and American artists represented, only seven were women. The story was entirely different in Northwest Art Today – Adventures in Art. In this show of regional artists, ten out of 86 artists were women. One of these women was Kathleen Gemberling Adkison (Kathleen Gemberling in 1962).
A Spokane artist with wide-ranging interests, Gemberling Adkison was emblematic of the Northwest arts scene in the early 1960s. Known for her dreamy snippets of landscape, as if seen through our famous mist of rain, she was originally a student of Mark Tobey’s. Living in an area more accepting of women artists was a boon for Gemberling Adkison’s career. She, and her female peers, did not have to struggle in obscurity like many women artists in New York and other cities—in Seattle, women were fully accepted participants in the arts scene.
Her painting included in Northwest Art Today was a departure from her early work, and this increase in attention prompted her to an equal increase in ambition. Like Seattle itself, Kathleen Gemberling Adkison used the World’s Fair to process new styles, artists and philosophies.
Gemberling Adkison visited the Fair regularly, relishing her first in-person exposure to work by Hans Hofmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Sam Francis, and others. Her work from 1962 onward was visibly informed by the aesthetics, process and visual language of abstract expressionism— the exposure provided by the World’s Fair laid a path to a new style for this artist, who was liberated from her earlier, literal interpretations of nature. Her mature, abstract canvases (such as Verdant Winter)provide layers of reference, from moss and granite, to Hofmann and Frankenthaler.
The World’s Fair left the city of Seattle, its artists and its arts institutions forever changed. It heralded a new era in the arts and culture of this city. The Seattle Art Museum is proud to have taken part in the Fair, and is pleased to have used SAMart this past month to present a look back (and forward).
The “Century 21” World’s Fair introduced a host of innovations to the city of Seattle, not least of which was the avant-garde of artistic practice. Art Since 1950 – American and International, a pair of the exhibitions highlighted in the Fine Arts Pavilion, introduced the newest of the new to Seattle.
Avant-garde, forward-thinking, and—in particular—abstract art had long fought an uphill battle in Seattle. Public reaction to Mark Tobey’s Modal Tide, when it won the purchase prize of the 1940 Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, was immediate and outraged. Much had changed over the ensuing two decades, but Art Since 1950 was still able to shock the general public.
The exhibition included such provocative artists as Alberto Burri, Hans Hofmann, Robert Rauschenberg, as well as the brash face of New York abstraction, Willem de Kooning. Visionary Seattle arts patron Virginia Wright wryly noted in 2006, that the World’s Fair “was the first time Seattle saw a de Kooning.” The surface a stormy sea, with peaks and streaks of color building into the form of a woman, the painting lent by the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City was certainly Seattle’s introduction to the artist’s classic “Woman” series. It was not until 1965 that SAM acquired its first de Kooning, a gift of contemporary collector Anne Gerber; in 1976, the museum received its own “Woman,” a gift of Virginia Wright and her husband Bagley.
Science and technology were the stated focus of the Seattle World’s Fair as a whole, while a subtler, though equally compelling, argument was made for the celebration and understanding of Asian art and culture within the Fine Arts Pavilion. The Art of the Ancient East was one of the Pavilion’s six exhibitions, and it introduced visitors to some of the greatest masterpieces of Asian art. This focused exhibition shone a spotlight on Asian art and artisans, proving this artistic heritage equally as brilliant and varied as Europe’s.
These masterpieces traveled across continents and seas, from one millennium to another. And yet, to arrive at the World’s Fair grounds, they traversed just over one mile: This exhibition was one of two installations at the Fine Arts Pavilion drawn entirely from the Seattle Art Museum’s holdings. The show included representative works from a dozen nations, including (in this photo) Pakistan and India.
What were considered masterpieces 50 years ago remain so today. Last year’s exhibition Luminous: The Art of Asia included nearly every work from Art of the Ancient East. Luminous, however, reflected the changes in the world over the past 50 years. Chief among the differences was the museum’s collaboration with artist Do Ho Suh, who not only guided the interpretation of the SAM Asian collection, but produced a brand-new work of his own in response. This imagining of the “life” of objects is an element that could not—and would not—have been considered 50 years ago.
SAMart continues with the second installment of “50+: The World’s Fair + SAM.”
While the “Masterpieces of Art” exhibition took a wide view of the world’s artistic heritage, World’s Fair art director (and SAM’s Board vice president) Norman Davis insisted that there be a focus on artists of this region as well. A group exhibition of living Northwest artists was included in the Art Pavilion’s offerings, as well as a single exhibition dedicated to one artist: Northwest luminary Mark Tobey.
An artist with international recognition, Tobey’s work provided an immersion into the artistic heritage and influences of the Northwest. His paintings created a visual glossary: The muted browns and greens of the Northwest landscape; the active gestures reminiscent of Asian calligraphy; fugues of hooded figures, populated a city hunched against the fabled Seattle rain.
The show presented in a gallery of the Fine Arts Pavilion was small in scale (comprising only 23 works), but it provided a global platform for this artistic giant of the mid-20th century. Welcoming visitors to the gallery was a wall text, proclaiming Tobey “Seattle’s foremost artist and… one of the most important names in the international art world.” This was late in the artist’s successful career, when he had moved his primary residence to Switzerland. Still, Tobey’s connection to Seattle ran deep, and it was his association with this city that was celebrated at the Fair. The works displayed were, themselves, local: The entire installation was drawn from the Seattle Art Museum’s holdings.
Fifty years later, Tobey’s works remain central within the museum’s collections. The museum’s Tobey holdings span the breadth of his entire, illustrious career. All works are available for browsing and study, on the museum’s website. The next time Tobey paintings or drawings will be on view in SAM’s galleries will be after the Elles exhibitions close, in 2013.
This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Seattle’s World’s Fair. As part of the ongoing commemorations, through the month of September SAM looks back at arts at the Fair, as well as the legacy of those projects.
1,350,000 people visited the Fine Arts Pavilion at the Seattle World’s Fair, where six wide-ranging exhibitions held visitors’ attention for hours. Of these exhibitions, “Masterpieces of Art” was the most ambitious—Time magazine deemed it “well worth an hour off from the geewhizzery of space and the girlie shows of the Gayway.” Selected by the directors of North American museums, this show still betrayed a perspective unique to Seattle. In addition to works by Rembrandt, Copley, Monet, Eakins, and Picasso, several Asian masterpieces were also included. Among the latter was SAM’s submission: An ancient Japanese tomb figure.
The catalogue for “Masterpieces of Art” called this sculpture, “a simplified, almost abstract interpretation of a helmeted and armored warrior,” one who once guarded a tomb in Japan’s Gunma prefecture. This monumentally scaled terra cotta was concrete recognition that a “Masterpiece” could, indeed, hail from a region other than Europe or America. This willingness to acknowledge the artistic achievements of non-European-extracted cultures extended geographically as far as Asia, and philosophically as far as the native cultures of North America.
In 2012, our conception of the world has expanded even further. In addition to all of the geographies represented at the Fine Arts Pavilion of the Fair, this year SAM has shown art from Polynesia, Brazil, Australia, and Central Asia in dedicated exhibitions; as well as permanent collection objects hailing from Africa, the Middle East, and Central America. The world has grown over the past 50 years, and now more than ever before it has come to Seattle.
Haniwa warrior figure (detail), 6th-7th century, Japanese, Kofun period (3rd-7th century C.E.), ceramic with polychrome, 53 ¼ x 16 ½ x 10 ¾ in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 62.44. Currently viewable online.
Pointillism is taken to new levels by Kathleen Petyarr who paints with meticulous care using a satay stick. Her wavy X across the middle of the painting marks the path of the Mountain Devil Lizard. What is recorded here is the lizard’s idiosyncratic habit of meandering, swerving around obstacles, never following a straight path. The dots that appear in dense clusters simultaneously convey the spotted pattern of the lizard’s skin, the seeds or small ants she eats, and the sandstorms she passes through. Like many of the paintings in Ancestral Modern, this work maps multiple levels of existence.
Called “a show that truly does take you into another world,” by the Seattle Times’ Michael Upchurch, Ancestral Modern presents more than 100 works of breathtaking beauty, eye-popping visual complexity, and dizzyingly deep meaning. This exhibition runs through this Sunday, 2 September.
This is a gentleman who tempts fate. He likes to preside at places of transition, where he can push people to recognize the need to change directions. He carries a sword to cut through difficulties and a flywhisk to invoke his authority to make things happen. Esu is prepared to bring the insights of the gods to bear on earthly dilemmas, such as changing jobs and moving on.
After 37 years, Michael McCafferty retired from his work at the Seattle Art Museum on April 20, 2012. He was the lead designer for galleries in the downtown Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and oversaw the installation of several hundred exhibitions. He was offered the following praise salute on his last day:
Master of the delicate dance
Required to give art the chance
To fly through the air and land at our feet
May Esu guide your fate in all that you meet.
Standing Figure of Esu, early 20th century, Nigerian Oyo State, Yoruba, wood, iron, 19 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/4 in., General Acquisition Fund in honor of Michael McCafferty, 2012.11. Currently on view in the African art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.
With just a few instruments—whistles, horns, rattles, clappers, box drums and hand drums—coastal peoples effectively conjured up the sounds of the supernatural realm. Rattles and clappers display the widest array of shapes, yet often depict images of birds—creatures imbued with unique abilities to move between the realms of the earth, water and sky.
Rattles and clappers accompany a host of secular and sacred songs. Rattles are used by ritualists and shamans to call forth supernatural beings whose presence is desired. They are also rhythmically shaken by attendants to subdue the power that has overcome those undergoing initiation into secret societies. The Tlingit word for rattle, sheishoox, imitates the swooshing sound when shaken.
Swan rattle, 19th century, Tlingit or Tsimshian, wood and paint, 5 5/16 x 10 3/4 x 3 3/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 59.104. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.
The countless local farmers markets we host in Seattle are part of a long tradition—and one that is surprisingly well-plumbed by artists.
In this painting (known as a “world landscape”) a bustling market day is set within a vast scene that extends for miles into the distance. The sun breaking through the clouds provides an opportunity for painter Paul Bril to create alternating zones of light and dark that supply an attractive visual rhythm. A permanent settler in Italy from the age of twenty, Bril nevertheless remained a loyal heir to the Antwerp landscape tradition established in the sixteenth century.
Market Scene in Imaginary Landscape, 1600, Paul Bril (Flemish, 1554-1626), oil on canvas, 10 3/4 x 14 3/4 in., Gift of Seattle Art Museum Guild, 54.49. Currently on view in the European Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.
Rafael Soldi’s photography has a certain sentimentality to it. His work is personal, often portraying himself or those closest to him in seemingly private moments. He uses photography as tool for coping, understanding and moving through life. In his series, “Sentiment” on view at SAM Gallery in our Summer Introductions exhibition, Rafael has captured a complicated break up with images that chronicle the pain, fear and healing process he’s navigated over the last two years.
“Embrace” archival inkjet print
Rafael shoots medium format color film which he then scans to make digital archival pigment prints. Using only natural and available light, his portraits make you feel as though you’re witnessing not something that was composed or fussed over, but a beautiful moment that just happened to be captured.
“Bajo Tu Manto” archival pigment print
Originally from Peru, and then New York City, Rafael now works for the Photographic Center Northwest as their Marketing Director. He notes Matisse, Modigliani and Toulouse-Lautrec as painters that he seeks inspiration from and Harry Callahan as his favorite photographer. Rafael openly gathers inspiration from his friends and colleagues and readily admits that his work is directly influenced by those he surrounds himself with.
“A Step Towards Somthing I Have Yet To Figure Out” archival pigment print
Hillaire carving the pole for Kobe, Japan, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 1961. Photograph by Harvey Davis. Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry.
Joe Hillaire Kwul-kwul-tu, (meaning “spirit of the war club”) was a man of indomitable spirit, grace, intelligence, and talent. For his Lummi people, he perpetuated song and dance traditions through the Setting Sun Dance group, was instrumental in reviving the Lummi Stommish water festival (and Chief Seattle Days at Suquamish), taught totem carving and canoe-making, and was a voice for social and political causes. Of parallel importance were his actions as a liaison between Native and non-Native people. He imparted knowledge of Lummi heritage to anthropologists Bernhard J. Stern and Erna Gunther (curator of the Northwest Coast Native exhibit at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair) and ethnomusicologist Willard Rhodes, as well as to the Boy Scouts of America and various school groups in the Seattle region. Hillaire also provided guidance to business and civic leaders, and traveled throughout the U.S. and to Japan with the objective of fostering inter-cultural friendships and bringing attention to Native culture.
Totem pole carved by Joe Hillaire, Kobe, Japan, 1961. Photograph by Lawrence Denny Lindsley, 1967. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division.
The 35-foot-tall pole depicted in the image to the right was carved by Hillaire in 1961 as a part of a two-pole project to call attention to the upcoming 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Kobe is Seattle’s sister city and the story pole was a goodwill gift meant to point out commonalties between the two cities, ease the memories of WWII, and promote trade between the U.S. and Japan. Hillaire’s approach is richly symbolic: two sisters grow closer as they acknowledge the things they share, like the salmon, mountains and sea, and the rising sun (Japan) and setting sun (Seattle). The monster blowing a dark cloud symbolizes the darkness of war, while the sun alludes to the hope of peace.
Images from Joseph Hillaire’s Trip to Kobe, Japan (1961)
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. 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.
Top Photo: Hillaire carving the pole for Kobe, Japan, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 1961. Photograph by Harvey Davis. Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry.
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.
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.