SAM Art: Dance Wand for Sango

Shango is a Yoruba deity who harnesses bolts of lightning and thunder and uses them to reward worshippers and punish deceit. Oral praise poems say he is the one “who destroys the wicked with his truth, leaves in confusion the contentious man, and dances in the courtyard of the impertinent.”

Double axes adorn this woman’s head to show her alliance with Sango’s moral fire. She kneels before his authority to present an offering. Such generosity is considered a noble gesture of morality and ensures that Sango will consider blessing her with children and wealth.

“Dance wand for Sango,” date unknown, Yoruba, Nigerian, wood, 19 7/8 x 7 9/16 x 4 5/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 67.91, Photo: Susan A. Cole. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Tiger Lily

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 cultures represented in the Ancient Mediterranean art gallery, altars and shrines find their contemporary reflection in Tiger Lily. At the height of the Feminist Movement in the 1970s, artist Patti Warashina created altars such as this, offerings of feminine archetypes and stereotypes for consideration.

Tiger Lily is part of a new installation of contemporary ceramics in the Ancient Mediterranean art gallery starting on Wednesday, June 1.

 Tiger Lily, 1976, Patti Warashina, American, born 1940, low-fire ceramic with acrylic, 24 x 15 7/8 x 13 1/4 in., Gift of the artist, 89.78, © Patti Warashina. On view in the Ancient Mediterranean art gallery, fourth floor, SAM downtown, starting Wednesday, June 1.

 

SAM Art: Chinese Landscape

After traveling to China in 1913, Hirai Baisen began to incorporate traditional Chinese subject matter into his modern Japanese painting practice. The white-walled buildings and the boats of the left-hand screen identify this as a Chinese landscape setting. Baisen, more widely known for his rich use of color, explored the expressive possibilities of ink on paper in this dramatic pair of six-panel screens.

This painting was recently installed in the Asian Art gallery at SAM downtown.

Chinese Landscape (detail), ca. 1925, Hirai Baisen, Japanese, 1889-1969, ink on paper, 67 1/4 x 148 1/2 in., Gift of Griffith and Patricia Way, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2010.41.52.1-2, Photo: Eduardo Calderon. Currently on view in the Asian Art gallery, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: The Last Days of Prince Khurram

Before he was the most powerful ruler in the world, Prince Khurram was a young man molding his image and his priorities. Son of the Emperor Jahangir, he was both protégé and upstart, a source of pride and later serious rivalry for his father. For years it was believed that this portrait depicted Jahangir himself, but recent research identifies him as Jahangir’s son and successor, an early image of the supreme Mughal leader, the man who would become Shah Jahan.

This Mughal portrait is on view through Sunday, May 30.

Portrait of Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan), first quarter 17th century, Indian, Mughal period (1526-1858), opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 17 1/2 x 12 1/8 in., Thomas D. Stimson Memorial Collection, gift of Mrs. Charles Mosely Clark, 44.650. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Adrian Paci’s “Home to Go”

Adrian Paci was forced to flee his homeland of Albania in 1997 because of the political and social unrest, emigrating to Italy with his wife and children to secure their safety and personal freedoms. This unsettled history informs his larger body of work to date, including paintings, films, installations, and sculptures such as Home to Go. Here, the figure is a cast of the artist’s own body, hunched over by the weight of a tiled roof segment he carries on his back. The viewer is drawn in to the emotional, physical, and psychological burden of his exodus from his country, and the memory of it that Paci has never left behind.

Members Art History Lecture Series: Curator’s Choice
Marisa C. Sánchez: Adrian Paci’s “Home to Go”
May 18, 2011
7–8:30 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium

Home to Go, 2001, Adrian Paci, Albanian, born 1969, plaster, marble dust, wood, tiles and rope, 65 x 35 3/8 x 47 1/4 in., Gift of the Contemporary Collectors Forum, 2008.12, Image courtesy Peter Blum Gallery, New York, © Adrian Paci. Currently on view in the Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

 

SAM Art: Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt

As Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes, The Buffalo Hunt and other paintings from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art return to their home in Arkansas, SAM’s American Art Gallery turns to look at American artists actively expanding their practice beyond paintings in oil.

Read More

SAM Art Comes to SOAP!

Each week for the past two years we have shared one work out of the nearly 25,000 in our collection on Facebook, in a feature called “SAMart.” Starting this week, SAMart comes to SOAP! Check back each week or subscribe to our RSS to learn more about new acquisitions and old favorites in the SAM collection.

Opening on April 30, Modern Elegance: The Art of Meiji Japan features paintings and decorative objects exemplifying the essence of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japanese art.
Read More

SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: September and October

September marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month (it runs through mid-October). In addition to Hispanic artists you may already be familiar with – Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, etc. – this celebration gives us an opportunity to look at other areas of our collections dealing with Hispanic art and artists that are perhaps less well-known. All books in this list are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at SAM Downtown:

Read More

SAM’s American Art Library: A Collection of Collectors: Professor David Tatham

An art museum is often fittingly described as “a collection of collectors,” for each is founded on the gifts of magnanimous individuals who loved art and built personal collections that became an invaluable public resource.

The same can be said about library book collections, too—they represent the personal interests of individual readers. This is especially the case with the American art book collection found within the other collections of the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at SAM downtown. The museum’s founding director, Dr. Richard Fuller, took a special interest in building a reference library to enhance public knowledge of the city’s art collection, and his tenure was marked by yearly growth of the book collection in all areas, through purchases, gifts, and exchanges with other libraries. Over the years, the library grew in relationship to the growth of individual curatorial departments, with American art thus little represented, since American art was not actively collected or exhibited at SAM.

Read More

SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: May and June

I didn’t get an entry in for May, so you’re getting a double-whammy of book highlights this month!

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. Many artists acknowledge, raise awareness of or define their own sexuality through their artistic practice. We have a number of books in our libraries that address the art, intersections, relationships and crossroads of the LGBT community.

Read More

K-12 Student Responses to Calder

Nothing is more rewarding to a museum educator than seeing the positive impact of your programs on students. During the six month run of Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act more than 9,300 students visited the SAM’s galleries and experienced Calder’s work in person. Students learned about how he used geometry and math to create beautify balanced sculptures and created their own works of art out of wire and recycled materials in the museum’s art studio spaces. Here are some of our favorite thank you notes and quotes from students who visited the exhibition.

Read More

SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: April

April is the month when we celebrate Earth Day.

Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in held on April 22, 1970. Interestingly, Nelson announced his intent to have a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment – which led to the first “earth day” – in the spring of 1970 at a conference in Seattle in September 1969. (Source:  EarthLink.)

Earth Day gives us a great excuse to look at books and videos in our library collections that focus on environmentalism and land-focused art.

Read More

SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: March

When I first heard about the blog, I was excited to have another avenue to connect our libraries with the public. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard visitors say, “Wow, I have been to the museum so many times, but never knew there was a library downstairs. It’s amazing! Look at all these books!” when they visit the McCaw Foundation Library at the Seattle Asian Art Museum for the first time. The library has been here as long as they museum has – more than seventy-seven years. I am excited to have this opportunity to showcase some of the marvelous books we have in this library.

Read More

Hidden Gems

In a collection of nearly 25,000 objects, it’s easy to overlook a hidden gem. While reading an art blog , I came across a link to a photographic portrait of George Washington, carved in snow  (I’m not joking).  Amazing, but something you might not look twice at in a gallery, or even in a database. Sometimes it takes a spotlight to recognize the brilliance, humor, history, subtlety, or whimsy in this collection. I asked some of my colleagues to share their favorite overlooked, underappreciated object—these are the objects that they wish you, the visitor, knew all about.

Read More

SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: February

Black History Month
This month’s Book(s) of the Month Club entry highlights some of the more recent library acquisitions related to African American art production and African Americans as the subject in art. February is Black History Month and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to highlight some our great resources in these areas.

Read More

SAM’s Shrinking Carbon Footprint

As the Environmental Coordinator who has stepped into place here at SAM after our Environmental Steward recently, Jackie White moved on, I am pleased to report that SAM has reduced its carbon emissions by 30% between 2008 and 2009. This is an amazing achievement! I’d have to say the credit goes not only to the SAM Goes Green Program but all of the staff at the museum as well as the volunteers, members, and visitors.

Read More

The History in Art History, Part II: How This Painting Came to Seattle!

Recently I blogged about the scant history of the museum’s magnificent painting by Frederic Church, entitled A Country Home, which was a gift to the museum in 1965 from one Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael.  For five years I’ve been wanting to learn more about Mrs. Carmichael and how she came to Seattle and how she came to bring with her her great grandfather’s impressive picture by Church. I’ve been surprisingly lucky in research so many times that I’m now convinced that some strange forces guide our hands as we delve into the past—forces that make sure that lives are never forgotten. The forces directed me to Mrs. Carmichael just last week.

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

Read More

SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club

When I was first asked to write something for this blog, I immediately thought about our incredible library collections and my desire to highlight at least some of the interesting resources we have.

The “book of the month” idea also came to mind. Dependent upon your age and where you grew up, you might have been a subscriber to the Book of the Month Club ©, a book-by-mail service begun in 1926. My mother, an elementary school teacher, signed me up for the Children’s Book of the Month Club ™ as soon as I could read. I’d like to take a page from the BOMC’s playbook and feature a book or books from our library collections each month on this blog. We don’t have mail-order services, but our libraries are all open to the public for reference use. Our hours and other information are available here.

Read More

Michelangelo Wednesdays

A couple of weeks ago I gave a tour in the “Michelangelo Wednesdays” series. (Quick overview: SAM curators—including myself, the curatorial lead for Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art—give a short tour of the Michelangelo exhibition every Wednesday afternoon.) I am not a Renaissance scholar, though I do have a soft spot for Florentine art. Would I fake my way through the show, using the knowledge and vocabulary gleaned from the amazing Professor Evelyn Lincoln in my Renaissance art classes in college? Would I simply do an overview of the show, basically taken straight from the catalogue and Chiyo Ishikawa’s overviews? Maybe I would just take people around and point them toward my favorite stops in Gary Radke’s charismatic audio tour? What, oh what, was I going to do?

Read More

What it takes

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to put a work of art on view.  To our visitors, it should seem oh-so-easy: You see painting A (something you love) one day, and on your next visit it’s replaced with painting B (something you love even more). But behind the scenes, it’s anything but. As you relax and take in the holidays, here’s a little piece of our frenetic world to consider. (And as a little holiday bonus from me to you, all images are from 1983—enjoy!)

Read More

New Old & New New

I have a meeting today at the Seattle Asian Art Museum to discuss the Getty Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative. While I am there I plan to check out the New Old and the New New. A pair of installations featuring new acquisitions, it opened last Sunday, Dec. 12.

The New Old: Recent Acquisitions of Chinese Painting features 15 works of art produced between 1629-2009, many of which were recently donated to the museum in honor of director emerita Mimi Gates.  This installation also features key works by 17th century painter Bada Shanren (1626–1705) as explained in this video excerpt from last week’s members art history lecture by SAM’s Chinese Art Curator, Josh Yiu.

 The focus of New New: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Asian Art is to introduce visitors to the work of 17 artists that have come into the SAM collection since 2002. They represent China, Japan, Korea, Canada and the United States.

Christina DePaolo
New Media Manager

Why a plate?

Michelangelo Public and Private invites us into the artistic process behind some of the most astonishing works of art ever created – the Sistine Chapel frescoes. Through preparatory drawings – quick figure sketches to capture a pose, analytical studies of outstretched limbs, a highly finished portrait that will be incorporated into a populous narrative – we watch Michelangelo making decisions that lead to the finished work.

It is easy to understand why these preparatory drawings – the artist’s first ideas – are at the centerpiece of the Michelangelo exhibition. But what about some of the other objects? Read More

You, me, coffee, tea

Artist John Marshall on his creative process, screen shot from the SAM video

Artist John Marshall, screen shot from the SAM video

Recently, Decorative Arts curator Julie Emerson was able to commission a coffee and tea service from silversmith John Marshall for our collection. It’s a very cool process (both commissioning and making), something the Dec Arts department had never been able to do before—that collection had always focused on historic American and European material.

Read More

The History in Art History: How did this painting get to Seattle?

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

For me, a work of art lives on in part by its association with people, places, and times past and present.  When we see objects in museums, in isolation, how do we understand them as expressions of a maker’s personal vision and circumstances and of viewers’ expectations in the artist’s own time and over the course of generations?  Each object of historical American art that I work with has endured because someone—a collector, a critic, an artist’s descendant, maybe—has been its champion, often when few others were.  Historical American art has for so much of our past been overshadowed by the taste in this country for European art, which signaled for so many the ideal of artistic achievement and good taste. 

Read More

SAMBlog