SAM Art: One last traditional basketmaker

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.

Yius (coiled basket), 1900-1940, Susan Wawatkin Bedal (Sauk, 1865-1947), cedar bark, cedar root, alder bark, beargrass, huckleberry, 14 x 14 x 10 in., Gift of Jean Bedal Fish and Edith Bedal, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.106, © Susan Wawatkin Bedal, Photo: Paul Macapia. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: An overlooked Chinese artist

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.”

Lu Wujiu’s work is currently on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum as part of Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists.

 

Elles-related lecture tomorrow:

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.

The Song of Lake Yuan (one page), 1993-2005, Lu Wujiu (Chinese, lives and works in U.S., born 1918), ink on paper, 23 5/8 x 38 9/16 in., Gift of Wu-Chiu Lu and Shih-Du Sun, 2012.7.2.1, © Lu Wujiu. Currently on view in Where Have They Been? Two Overlooked Chinese Female Artists, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park.

A Glimpse of SAM’s School Tours

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!

SAM Art: Abstract and American

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.

Abstraction, 1945, Charmion von Wiegand (American, 1898-1983), tempera on board, 19 3/4 x 15 in., Gift of Zoe Dusanne, 60.54, © Charmion von Wiegand. Currently on view in Elles: SAM – Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Maasai Women Artists

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.

SAM Art: Giving thanks

The Seattle Art Museum gives thanks for the hundreds of women artists whose work we collect and display, including the many talented artists currently included in Elles: Pompidou and Elles: SAM.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The Seattle Art Museum is closed on Thursday, 22 November, in observance of the Thanksgiving Day holiday. We are open on Friday, 23 November, our normal hours (10:00am – 9:00pm).

Circumvolution, ca. 1943, Helmi Juvonen (American, 1903-1985), tempera on canvas, 24 x 36 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 43.32. Not currently on view.

SAM art: Two opposing worlds

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.

Tooba (still), 2002, Shirin Neshat (American, born Iran, 1957), 35mm film on DVD and Betacam tapes, running time 12 minutes, Given in honor of Lisa Corrin by Susan and Jeffrey Brotman, Jane and David Davis, Barney A. Ebsworth, Judy and Jeff Greenstein, Lyn and Jerry Grinstein, Richard and Betty Hedreen, Janet Ketcham, Kerry and Linda Killinger Foundation, James and Christina Lockwood, Michael McCafferty, Christine and Assen Nicolov, Faye and Herman Sarkowsky, Jon and Mary Shirley, Rebecca and Alexander Stewart, Bagley and Virginia Wright, Barbara and Charles Wright, Ann P. Wyckoff, 2005.141, Photo: Larry Barns, © Shirin Neshat. Currently on view in conjunction with Elles: SAM – Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park, until 2 December 2012.

SAM Art: Minimal, or maybe not…

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.

Host, 1996, Ellen Gallagher (American, born 1965), oil and graphite on paper mounted to canvas, 69 1/8 x 49 7/8 in., Gift of Richard and Elizabeth Hedreen and the Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund, 97.6, © Ellen Gallagher. Currently on view in Elles: SAM – Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: A Cunningham way of looking at the world

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.

Mendocino Motif, 1965, Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976), gelatin silver print, 11 1/2 x 9 1/2 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.66, © (1965), 2009 Imogen Cunningham Trust. Currently on view in the Modern American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown, as part of Elles: SAM.

SAM Art: Modern Masters

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.

SAM Art: Tiger Lily

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.

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. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Victoria Haven

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.

Northwest Field Recording – WA (12″/B side), 2010, Victoria Haven (American, born 1964), ink on paper, 18 1/2 x 18 in., Gift of Rebecca and Alexander Stewart and an anonymous donor, 2011.9.1, Photo: Richard Nicol, © Victoria Haven. Not currently on view. Victoria Haven: Proposed Land Use Action, an exhibition of new work by the artist, is on view until February 2013, Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art 50+: The World’s Fair + SAM, final installment

One week from now, women take over SAM, as the city of Seattle celebrates women artists. The exhibitions Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris and Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists debut to the public on 11 October, but this is only the most recent expression of the museum’s—and city’s—commitment to 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).

Verdant Winter, 1969, Kathleen Gemberling Adkison (American, 1920 – 2010), oil on canvas, 46 1/16 x 40 3/16 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 69.74, © Kathleen Adkison. Currently viewable online: www.seattleartmuseum.org/emuseum.

SAM Art 50+: The World’s Fair + SAM, part IV

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. 

SAM Art 50+: The World’s Fair + SAM, part III

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.

The Art of the Ancient East, installation view, Fine Arts Pavilion, Seattle World’s Fair, 1962. Photo: © Seattle Art Museum.

SAM Art 50+: The World’s Fair + SAM, part II

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.

Mark Tobey, installation view, Fine Arts Pavilion, Seattle World’s Fair, 1962. Photo: © Seattle Art Museum.

SAM Art 50+: The World’s Fair + SAM

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.

SAM Art: Time to wave goodbye to the Mountain Devil Lizard

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.

SAM Art: Who presides at places of change? This man.

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.

SAM Art: Voice of the supernatural

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.

SAM Art: Farmers markets

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 at SAM Gallery

 

 

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

“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

“A Step Towards Somthing I Have Yet To Figure Out” archival pigment print

-Alyssa Rhodes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

On view at SAM Gallery through August 18th.

1220 3rd Ave (at University)
Seattle WA 98101
Tues – Sat 10:30 – 5
206.343.1101

samgallery@seattleartmuseum.org

“I’m Here, Youre There” archival inkjet print

Joseph Hillaire: Carver of the Kobe-Seattle Sister City Friendship Pole

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.

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
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