Muse/News: Enticing Art at SAM, Identity at Wing Luke, and the Huntington Gets Hip

SAM News

For USA Today, Harriet Baskas shares “some of the most enticing exhibits across the US,” including Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at SAM. The exhibition closes May 23.

And for Fodor’s, Chantel Delulio highlights 10 sculpture gardens in the US “where you can stretch your legs and take in some stunning pieces of art.” First on the list: SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, which remains open 365 days a year. 

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Jenn Smith on “Tales of Quarantine,” a national art and writing contest for teens sponsored by Seattle-based nonprofit Mission InspirEd, which asked the question: “How has COVID-19 impacted you and your community?” 

Brangien Davis of Crosscut with her weekly ArtSEA: in this edition, she spotlights pop-up gallery From Typhoon, a local artist’s work for the Academy Awards graphics, and more. 

For her South Seattle Emerald column, Jasmine J. Mahmoud engages in conversations with artists & culture makers and also shares recommendations. For a recent edition, she speaks with poet and artist Shin Yu Pai about her work in Paths Intertwined, a group show now on view at the Wing Luke Museum. 

“…For people who don’t know much about Chinese American artists or artists of the diaspora and/or how they relate to or connect to their culture or cultural traditions, this show is an opportunity for people from outside those communities to come in and look at the many ways in which Chinese American artists are innovating the ways in which they reflect upon and interrogate their identities and their cultures.”

Inter/National News

“Fragile Art for the Anxious Mind”: Nia Bowers for Art & Object on kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending pottery with gold lacquer

As you’re catching up with all the Oscar-nominated films, don’t miss out on the nominees for international feature, including one inspired by an actual artwork.

The Made in L.A. biennial returns, this time with a new venue in the mix: The Huntington Art Museum. The New York Times’ Robin Pogrebin on how the museum you thought you knew is suddenly “a hub for cutting-edge contemporary art.”

“‘It’s a shot across the bow,’ said Christina Nielsen, who became the director of the Huntington Art Museum in 2018. She considers the exhibition ‘an opportunity to engage with the broader contemporary art community here in L.A. It’s really opening the doors.’”

And Finally

What is, “one step closer to the best host” for $1000?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at Seattle Art Museum, 2021, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Jacob’s Story, New Models, and a Will to Equity

SAM News

The Seattle Art Museum is open, with limited capacity and timed tickets released online every Thursday. Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger reviews Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, now on view at SAM.

“America’s persistence as a country and a project was not foretold. Rather, it was violently taken and sketched out, marked by slavery, genocide, war, and immense struggle experienced by those seeking their own freedom and those looking to impose their will on others. It’s a point hammered out in the rest of the series.”

KING’s Evening Magazine toured the exhibition, interviewing SAM curator Theresa Papanikolas. Thrillist recommends the show, and Artdaily also shares the news

The University of Washington’s Daily on the “revolution and inclusion” on view in the exhibition; they also shared details of a Lawrence seminar this spring. And they reported on the museum’s recent gift of Lang Collection artworks.

And with this nice weather, don’t forget to visit the Olympic Sculpture Park; The Expedition includes it on this list of “best sculpture gardens for families.”

Local News

First Hill’s Museum of Museums will finally open, reports Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. 

And the Wing Luke Museum reopened recently; Sean Harding for South Seattle Emerald checked in on how things are going. 

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel dives deep with a survey of local arts and culture organizations and how they’re faring, one year into the pandemic; she finds dramatic losses and tentative hope for new models. 

“The arts and culture industry has relied on old models and underpaid, overworked people for decades. Those models weren’t cutting it even pre-pandemic, says LANGSTON’s [Tim] Lennon. ‘The old ways were not that great for a lot of small organizations, artists and culture workers, especially those from BIPOC communities,’ he wrote.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic’s Sarah Rose Sharp shares the news that United States Artists (USA) president and CEO Deana Haggag will be stepping down for a position at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

PBS NewHour interviews Peabody Essex Museum curator Lydia Gordon about the two recovered panels of the Struggle series, both of which are now on view at SAM.

Tessa Soloman of ARTnews on how executive roles in equity and belonging are on the rise at museums; she interviews Rosa Rodriguez-Williams at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Craig Bigelow at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and others. The article references SAM’s appointment of Priya Frank to Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in August 2020. 

“Not all of this work requires funding—it’s about changes in procedure and process,” [Bigelow] said. “Too often there’s a default to slowing the work or stopping the work because there’s a perceived lack of funding. But this isn’t entirely about funding—it’s about will.”

And Finally

Oscar nominations have been announced; get going on your watch list!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at Seattle Art Museum, 2021, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: SAM Prepares to Reopen, Local Jazz Struggles, and New Museum’s New Show

SAM News

The downtown Seattle Art Museum reopens to the general public on March 5, just in time for the opening of the special exhibition, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. The Seattle Medium shares the news

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel previews five shows to see now that museums are reopening, including Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence, the beloved artist’s first solo exhibition at SAM. And in her ArtSea weekly newsletter, Brangien Davis spotlights The American Struggle and Lawrence’s “fiery, vigorous and engrossing paintings.”

More SAM stories: Alison Sutcliffe of Red Tricycle shares “13 Places to Learn About Black History in Seattle,” including SAM; Interior Design Magazine posts about Barbara Earl Thomas’s show at SAM; and Gemma Alexander of the Seattle Times highlights “kid-friendly venues” reopening, including SAM (and the always-open outdoor spaces of the Olympic Sculpture Park). 

Remember the snow days? (All two of ‘em?) The Stranger’s Charles Mudede had the wonderful idea to spend it with John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History, which is streaming on the Criterson Channel as part of its Afrofuturism collection.

ICYMI: On February 11, SAM hosted a virtual event with artist Saya Woolfalk and SAM Curator of African and Oceanic Art Pam McClusky on the SAM installation Lessons from the Institute of Empathy. Victor Simoes of UW’s The Daily shares a recap of the conversation.

Local News

The executive director of the nonprofit writers organization Hugo House has resigned, reports the Seattle Times, amid calls for change and racial equity. 

“Tariqa Waters and Anthony White Win the 2020 Neddy Awards,” reports Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger. You’ll be able to see their work, along with the runners-up, in a Neddy exhibition opening in March at the University of Washington’s Jacob Lawrence Gallery.

Glenn Nelson with an opinion piece for the South Seattle Emerald on “why local jazz must survive.”

“The pandemic has laid bare and amplified the issues that have eaten away at jazz far before the novel coronavirus’ first sour note. Those challenges include a daunting and shifting economic model, widespread lack of understanding among Americans about one of their few truly indigenous art forms, and underlying causes steeped, unsurprisingly, in race.”

Inter/National News

The New York Times reports that the president of Newfields, home to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, has resigned, after the organization posted a job posting for a new director that would  attract a more diverse audience while maintaining its “traditional, core, white art audience.”

Artsy interviews Bryan Stevenson about the Equal Justice Initiative and its National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery.

Artnet’s Brian Boucher on the New Museum’s new exhibition, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, one of the final projects of curator Okwui Enwezor. A high-profile group of artists, curators, and scholars came together to achieve his vision.

“‘Okwui’s framing of the project takes the idea of a political crime and transfers it to the register of psychological impact,’ said curator Naomi Beckwith, who worked on the show, in a Zoom conversation with Artnet News. ‘The show’s title alludes not to a historic event, but rather to a state of being.’”

And Finally

“With Tears in my Eyes, I’m Asking You to Act.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: . . . is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? —Patrick Henry, 1775, Panel 1, 1955, Jacob Lawrence, from Struggle: From the History of the American People, 1954–56, Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross, ©️ 2019 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Muse/News: Two-Way Mirrors, Poetic Catharsis, and a New Cultural Deal

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice, but we’re working behind the scenes for when we can reopen the downtown museum (again!). For now, revisit this interview between SAM curator Catharina Manchanda and artist Barbara Earl Thomas about SAM show The Geography of Innocence, which Thomas calls her “two-way mirror” onto the world.

Local News

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig brings her “How to Look At” series to the recent Vogue cover of the Vice President, which received critiques about how it captured the historical occasion.

The Seattle Times’ book beat is working hard, with two great recent features: an in-depth look at the community-centered Estelita’s Library, and the opening of Oh Hello Again, a new bookstore organized by emotions.

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis reflects on the culture-shifting moment of the inaugural poem performance by Amanda Gorman and what can happen when the arts take center stage in our civic life.

“In six minutes, at a formal federal ceremony, the young woman demonstrated how art can crystallize the heft and hope of a historic moment with a few brilliant strokes.”

Inter/National News

Artnet bundles up all the best art world takes on the meme that overtook the world last week.

Hyperallergic invites you to explore the first photograph taken at a US presidential inauguration.

Jason Farago of the New York Times opens up a crucial conversation about the importance of arts and culture to American society, offering ambitious ideas for how the government can support the arts and all of its workers.

“But a soul-sick nation is not likely to recover if it loses fundamental parts of its humanity. Without actors and dancers and musicians and artists, a society will indeed have lost something necessary — for these citizens, these workers, are the technicians of a social catharsis that cannot come soon enough.”

And Finally

Here’s even more about Amanda Gorman.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, © Seattle Art Museum, photo: Spike Mafford

Muse/News: Amada Reflects, Black Santa, and the Deaf Experience

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice, but in the meantime, reflect on the state of the arts in Seattle with the Stranger’s new online series. It kicked off with an interview between Jasmyne Keimig and Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, in which she shared some of the challenges and endeavors going on at the museum.

“The focus is on maneuvering this big institution through the toughest financial challenge it has ever had. For many museums across the country, this is an existential crisis. 30% of the art museums across the country could close, right? SAM is not in that position, but we’re certainly not immune to the challenges.”

Local News

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel celebrates the “cultural innovators” in the city who creatively responded to the challenges of the pandemic.

Mentioned in the article: New Archives, the local arts journal that launched this year. Catch up with a recent review by Kym Littlefield of Algorithm: Archetype, Christopher Shaw’s show at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM).

Also at NAAM: Black Santa returns! Seattle Times photographer Bettina Hansen was there to capture the annual tradition, which went virtual this year. She spoke with the museum’s executive director, LaNesha DeBardelaben.

“We have to hold on to our children and protect our joy,” DeBardelaben said. “We are not derailed by the challenges we have faced this year. This is just a glimmer of hope and light in what has been a very difficult year for our community and our nation.”

Inter/National News

Art & Object is just in time with a list of “7 Films About Art to Beat the Winter Blahs.”

Join critic and historian Hal Foster as he contemplates art and lockdown for Artforum’s December print edition.

Artnet’s Kate Brown speaks with Christine Sun Kim about Trauma, LOL, the artist’s exhibition of drawings at François Ghebaly in Los Angeles.

“Kim is fascinated with phrases that can have multiple definitions, that can be translated and mistranslated by different audiences. Her new works illustrate the complicated nature of trauma within Deaf experience—something she says is ‘layered’ due to a lifetime of living in a ‘hearing world.’”

And Finally

Meet Noor and Aziz.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman

Object of the Week: Leaves

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

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

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

This more painterly leaf design seems a natural progression.

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

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

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

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

– Traci Timmons, SAM Senior Librarian

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

Muse/News: Aboard the Ark, a Reporter’s Next Move, and a Desert Mystery

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice. But you can still prepare to board the Ark once SAM reopens; UW Daily’s Katie Newman explores the video installation by Lynne Siefert that we can’t wait to push “play” on once again. 

“On a cruise ship, an eerie voice announces the postapocalyptic realities of our capitalist society. In a snowfield, a man walks alone, children play on a beach, and life goes on — all under the shadows of gargantuan, smoke-belching coal power plants. Welcome to Lynne Siefert’s world of film.”

SAM Shop remains open, with safety protocols in place, and its awesomely diverse offerings are popping up in holiday gift guides. Seattle Met says yes to the SAM-exclusive “NO” tote by Tariqa Waters, 425 Magazine recommends a museum membership, and ARTFIXdaily toasts the glass wine bulbs by Oliver Doriss. Or: Shop SAM Shop online. Easy!

2020 may not have been the best, but SAM still is. Thank you to the readers of Seattle Magazine, for naming Seattle Art Museum the best museum!

Local News

Isamu Noguchi’s Floor Frame (1962) was recently installed on the east terrace of the White House’s Rose Garden—the first work by an Asian-American artist to enter its collection. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig walks us through this unusual art moment

Randy Engstrom, the director of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, will be stepping down after eight years. Here’s the office’s full announcement

And another bittersweet change: Marcie Sillman retires from KUOW after 35 years reporting on the arts. But you won’t be missing her thoughtful stories for long; she’s planning to launch an arts podcast with Vivian Phillips.

“I think mostly what I want to say is that this isn’t a frill,” Sillman said of the arts. “It’s something that is just central to our lives. During this pandemic, where have we all turned for comfort? I’m sure people are really happy that sports teams are playing again, but you’re still listening to your favorite song or watching great movies, streaming online or reading good books or just contemplating beautiful nature in Instagram posts. So, it’s something that we need for our souls.”

Inter/National News

Pumla Dineo Gqola for the New York Times on the Zanele Muholi career retrospective that has finally opened at the Tate Modern, after some delay due to COVID closures. The exhibition includes works from several of Muholi’s series, including Somnyama Ngonyama, which came to SAM in 2019.

“More than a little tumultuous”: The editors of ARTnews reflect on 2020.

A 12-foot-tall polished steel monolith appeared in the Utah desert. Then it disappeared. Then it was pondered. Then there were copycats? We can’t keep up. What does it all mean?

“We are currently in an environment of epidemic over-explanation, a surplus of commercially incentivized information production. That is literally sending people into the desert looking, not for answers, but for questions.”

And Finally

Muse/News Recommends: Poem-a-day in your inbox. 

Installation view of Lynne Siefert: Ark at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Seattle-Centric SAM, Spooky Art, and “I voted” Stickers

SAM News

“Seattle, Go See Some Art This November.” Well said, Seattle Met! In this round-up of shows to see this fall, Stefan Milne recommends SAM’s two “Seattle-centric” shows. City of Tomorrow celebrates the legacy of collector Jinny Wright and is now on view, and The Geography of Innocence, Barbara Earl Thomas’s solo exhibition, opens in November. 

Speaking of Barbara Earl Thomas: the artist was featured in the New York Times’ special arts section about her new work created for the SAM show; the article also discusses a major show for Bisa Butler, who along with Thomas is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in New York. 

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Megan Burbank reviews Wa Na Wari’s new exhibition, Story Porch, which features installations by Virginia-based artist and historical strategist Free Egunfemi Bangura.

For her weekly editor’s letter, Crosscut’s Brangien Davis leans into Halloween, highlighting some spooky art to experience.

“Start peeking into your elderly neighbors’ living rooms—who knows what you might find.” The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reflects on the recent exciting discovery of a missing Jacob Lawrence panel. Part of the artist’s Struggle series, the panel will be on view next spring at SAM

“I particularly love the mess of hands and feet on both sides of the work; the rebel farmers’ messy hair and their big, blocky hands; the bright red blood against the scene’s muted tones. Like with a lot of Lawrence’s work, you benefit from a long, good look.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic on why New York Magazine commissioned 48 artists to design “I voted” stickers, including Amy Sherald, David Hammons, Barbara Kruger, Hank Willis Thomas, and more.

The New York Times has recommendations for staycations in six American cities; a walk in SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park is included in the tips for Seattle.

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone reports on the ongoing controversy around the Baltimore Museum of Arts’ planned sale of artworks from its collection; last week, the museum pulled the works from auction just hours prior to the sale and after the Association of Art Museum Directors offered clarification on their guidelines.

“‘I recognize that many of our institutions have long-term needs—or ambitious goals—that could be supported, in part, by taking advantage of these resolutions to sell art,’ [AAMD board of trustees president Brent Benjamin] wrote. ‘But however serious those long-term needs or meritorious those goals, the current position of AAMD is that the funds for those must not come from the sale of deaccessioned art.’”

And Finally

The most sacred right

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle at the Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Donor Spotlight: Washington Greater China-Hong Kong Business Association

Entrepreneurs and professionals from Hong Kong founded the Washington Greater China-Hong Kong Business Association (WGHKBA) in 1994. WGHKBA’s core mission involves facilitating business and social interactions to enrich people’s lives who hold similar interests, while also increasing awareness of Greater China and Hong Kong’s contemporary issues. WGHKBA’s vision is to bolster successful transpacific partnerships and economic development between Greater China, Hong Kong, and Washington State.

This year, WGHKBA has graciously chosen the Seattle Asian Art Museum as the beneficiary of their 2020 Chinese New Year Gala. This year’s gala will also honor SAM’s Director Emerita, Mimi Gardner Gates, for her passion for the arts and for her creation of the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas. Each year, WGHKBA’s lunar new year celebration gathers over 900 guests, and this year’s gala includes a Luly Yang runway fashion show, traditional Lion Dance performance, and many other once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The gala will be held at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, February 8, 2020.

WGHKBA’s Chairman, Benjamin Lee, commits countless hours each year to put on this gala. He shares, “The Seattle Asian Art Museum is an organization I admire and respect, so I’m very excited to help support the museum. I always like giving back to Asian-related causes, so we provide a good platform to help our community reach out and support.”            

If you would like to be a part of WGHKBA’s Chinese New Year Gala, please visit the WGHKBA website for ticket and sponsorship information.

Object of the Week: Couplet

Oracle-bone script (jiaguwen) is a form of Chinese writing that emerged during the Shang Dynasty—dating from the 14th–11th century BCE—and is considered the earliest known form of systematic Chinese script.

Some of the oldest oracle-bone inscriptions were short texts inscribed on the flat shoulder blade bones of oxen and shells of tortoises. Such bones were used for divination, a process which involved the inscription of a question with a bronze pin—lending the script its characteristic angularity—and then heating the bone to reveal cracks, which would be divined for answers.

The symbols used eventually became words, which were later developed into a Chinese script that is recognized today as part of China’s long tradition of calligraphic arts. This work by Rao Zongyi, titled Couplet, utilizes the ancient script, brought to life for a contemporary audience.

Rao—a poet, calligrapher, painter, and scholar of the humanities—produced the couplet in 1971 while a visiting professor at Yale University. Composed by Rao, the poem describes in red ink a kun-style operatic performance by Chang Ch’ung. Together the two scrolls read: The wind makes the snow dance amidst the sunlight, the music hangs like clouds on her garments.

Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection and Provenance Associate

Couplet, 1971, Rao Zongyi, red ink on paper, 74 5/16 x 14 3/16 in., Gift of Chang Ch’ung-ho and Hans Frankel from their collection, 2010.9.6.1-.2 © Artist or Artist’s Estate

Object of the Week: Study for Aleko’s Horse

Marc Chagall was a prolific artist, producing numerous pieces in a variety of media. Renowned for his richly colored, idiosyncratic style of painting that weds abstraction and Cubism, some of his lesser-known masterpieces revolved around the theater. Chagall’s relationship with the stage began in 1911, when he worked on set designs for the Ballets Russes. He continued to contribute to Russian-based stage designs throughout the ‘20s, before moving to Paris in 1923.[1] While this was an artistically productive period for Chagall, the Nazi occupation of France made living in Paris unsafe for the artist, who was Jewish. With the assistance of organizations working to extricate artists and intellectuals from Europe, Chagall and his wife immigrated to New York for the duration of World War II, arriving in the United States in 1941.  

In 1942, Chagall was hired by the Ballet Theater of New York to design the ballet costumes and sets for a new play. Based on the poem “The Gypsies,” by Alexander Pushkin, the ballet Aleko featured music by Tchaikovsky.[2] The ballet follows the story of Aleko, the protagonist who falls in love with a Romani girl named Zemfira. Their love is not everlasting, however, and by the fourth act Aleko kills Zemfira and her new lover in a fit of jealous rage. While Chagall had worked on set designs before, this was the first time he applied his skills to a ballet. He ultimately designed four backdrops—one for each act—and over 70 costumes. While the ballet’s production was to be completed in New York, union rules forbade Chagall from painting his own sets. As a result, production moved to Mexico City, an environment which greatly influenced Chagall’s designs. Heavily inspired by both Russian folklore and Mexican art and architecture, Chagall produced beautifully whimsical hand-painted ballet costumes and backdrops, including numerous design studies.

Chagall’s Study for Aleko’s Horse is one such study, merging images from both the second and fourth acts of the play. The study’s rich, vibrant colors and whimsical subject matter capture the dynamic and psychological aspects of the story. In the second act, which revolves around a lively carnival, Aleko and Zemfira are still in love. By the fourth act, Aleko dreams of strange and nightmarish fantasies, with images that twist and swirl before his eyes. Aleko’s nightmares take him to the brink of insanity—and, jealous and enraged, he kills Zemfira, in love with another man.[3] The juxtaposition of these two scenes represents the dramatic turn of events, synthesized in Chagall’s study as a densely layered, colorful dreamscape.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1] Stephanie Barron, “Marc Chagall and Twentieth-Century Designs for the Stage,” LACMA Unframed, 1 August 2017. https://unframed.lacma.org/2017/08/01/marc-chagall-and-twentieth-century-designs-stage
[2] Liesl Bradner, “Marc Chagall Reveals his Theatrical Side in LACMA’s ‘Fantasies for the Stage,’” LA Times, 23 July 2017. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-chagall-lacma-20170714-story.html
[3] Leland Windreich, “Massine’s ‘Aleko,’” Dance Chronicle 8, no. ¾ (1985): 156-160, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1567580
Image: Study for Aleko’s Horse, 1953-56, Marc Chagall, Oil on canvas, 18 × 24 in. (45.7 × 61 cm), Gift of Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, 2014.26.9 Estate of Marc Chagall/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Muse/News: SAM gets “radiantly weird,” street stickers, and active landscapes

SAM News

“The show feels like it’s tilted toward some uncanny vision of classical art. In doing so it serves as fine reminder of how much our memories and connotations of periods can get distilled down to a few images.” –Stefan Milne, Seattle Met

“For all their intense realism, the works also show some seriously freaky scenes, both mythological and biblical.” —Brangien Davis, Crosscut

“. . . the unwieldy greens of El Greco, the soft, cloudlike skin of a Titian figure, and all around badassery of Artemisia Gentileschi.” —Jasmyne Keimig, The Stranger

“A stroke of paint seems to connect the viewer across time to the artist, dead now for hundreds of years.” —Sierra Stella, UW’s The Daily

The Seattle press corps seems adequately disturbed/enchanted by SAM’s major fall show, Flesh and Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum, which opened last week. Come see the “radiantly weird” show for yourself.

Local News

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig adds another beat to her watch: stickers. This time, she finds the Dalí-inspired, the public-transportation-celebrating, and more.

The 2019 Washington State Book Award winners were announced last Saturday, including Joy McCullough for “Blood Water Paint,” her YA novel in verse about Artemisia Gentileschi.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores visits Where Beauty Lies at the Wing Luke, which questions, explores, and celebrates ideas of Asian American beauty.

“Visitors are encouraged to be reflective, and not just by looking in mirrors. People can write down an insecurity on a triangular strip of paper and throw it into a faux fire pit that has a dim orange light at the center. The papers don’t burn, but together resemble flames.”

Inter/National News

The New York Times’ Jillian Steinhauer reviews the modest Betye Saar show at the new MoMA—“dismayingly, the first show the institution has ever devoted to Ms. Saar.”

Artnet’s Javier Pes on Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, London’s National Portrait Gallery’s revisionist show that puts the sisterhood of the British art movement in the foreground.

Cultured Magazine talks with Teresita Fernández, whose mid-career survey—co-curated by SAM’s own Amada Cruz!—opens at the Pérez Art Museum Miami today.

“Her idea of landscape is, in fact, ‘not passive at all. It’s very deliberate and strategized. Even our ideas about what places are—place names, borders and what’s visible—they’re such powerful tools to control how we think of ourselves in relation to land and to place.’”

And Finally

Remembering Elijah Cummings through his most powerful speeches.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum at the Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Object of the Week: Aphrodite Torso

Ancient Greek art is often associated with beautiful marble statuary depicting heroic subjects, and beautiful male and female bodies. However, until the Hellenistic period of Greek history, the female nude was not portrayed in large sculptural works, passed over instead for heroic male nudes. This all changed when Praxiteles, one of the most renowned Attic sculptors of the 4th century BCE, designed the first life-sized female nude statue. Purchased by the Temple of Aphrodite at Knidos, his revolutionary nude portrayal of the goddess Aphrodite became famous, and was a well-known tourist attraction in its day. As was the tradition, the Aphrodite statue would have been brightly and realistically painted. According to historians, this produced a statue so lifelike that men would fall in love with her instantly. Praxiteles’ creation led to a new era of Greek sculptural work that now included the life-sized female nude in the artistic repertoire, inspiring thousands of copies and derivations.

Designed during the 2nd century BCE, this statuette in SAM’s collection depicts the nude torso of Aphrodite, carved by an unknown artist. While this statuette is not life-sized, the pervasive popularity of Praxiteles’ work (lasting well into the Roman Empire) would have influenced both the subject and style of this statuette. Although her legs and arms are missing—most likely broken in antiquity—it appears from the curve of her shoulders that Aphrodite would have been adjusting her hair. While she was often depicted emerging from the sea, this statuette might have portrayed the goddess wringing seawater out of her hair. Discovered in Egypt, this statuette was a byproduct of the constant trade between Hellenistic Greece and their colonized counterparts throughout the Mediterranean. Although Egypt was a Greek state by the 2nd century BCE, the Ptolemaic rulers continued to favor Egyptian art and iconography over Greek works. The presence of this statue in Egypt could mean that it belonged to a Greek government official living in Egypt at the time.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

Image: Aphrodite Torso (after Praxiteles), 2nd century B.C., Egyptian, marble, 13 1/16 x 5 1/4 x 4 3/8 in., Norman and Amelia Davis Classical Collection, 61.74

Art Zodiac: The Balanced Ballerina of Libra

For Libra season I’ve chosen to discuss Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. A British artist whose work focuses on people of color, Yiadom-Boakye’s painting, Trapsprung is currently on view on SAM’s third floor. The subject of the painting is a ballerina with her back to you one leg effortlessly lifted into the air in a battement to the side. More than a painting of grace, Yiadom-Boakye is calling attention to the lack of women of color in ballet, in depictions of ballerinas, and to the racism that accompanies a dark-skinned woman in that métier. Listen to choreographer, Donald Byrd on Trapsprung to hear more about the painting.

Yiadom-Boakye was born in 1977. And guess what? Pluto was in Libra from 1971 to 1983 (excluding a part of 1972 when it retrograded into Virgo for a hot minute)! As I mentioned in last month’s article, in evolutionary astrology, Pluto represents the structure of our soul. It is our actions and thoughts, strengths and weaknesses, all accumulated from our previous incarnations. Because Yiadom-Boakye’s soul is represented by Libra, her paintings can be seen as realizing the need to seek justice for the underrepresented and undervalued black body. Yiadom-Boakye wants to bring balance through social justice. This is what the ultimate Libra archetype strives towards. 

Libra is the 7th sign of the zodiac, and the sun transits the Libra constellation from September 23 to October 22. Libras like to get everyone’s input before they make a decision because they are the sign of “we” as opposed to Aries, the sign of “me.” Libras want fairness most of all. They ask all involved their opinions and needs, and then think through the impact on the group. Once things are balanced in their minds, they make a decision that best fits everyone. Libras use their verbal dexterity and charm to cajole others into agreement so a calm resolution is achieved. If you aren’t being treated fairly, then Libra is the friend to call because they will use their diplomacy and tact to help you out. Libra wants equality so that peace can reign. 

Yiadom-Boakye’s soul-need isn’t to prove herself or be seen for her own power, rather she strives to support equity and social justice through her work.

– Amy Domres, SAM’s Director of Admissions 
Amy is also a Psychospiritual Evolutionary Astrologer and Healer at Emerald City Astrology

Image: Trapsprung, 2013, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, oil on canvas78 3/4 × 70 7/8 in., General Acquisition Fund, 2014.11 © Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Corvi-Mora, London

Muse/News: SAM opens up, the Burke goes “inside out,” and art history’s blind spots

SAM News

Recently, SAM announced that the Asian Art Museum will reopen to the public on February 8, 2020. Curbed Seattle and NW Asian Weekly both wrote about the building project, which “gives the historic building both a home of its own and a stronger connection to the park around it.”

Local News

Last week, city council candidates appeared at Town Hall to talk arts policy. The Stranger’s Rich Smith—and candidate Alex Pedersen’s “art tie”—were there.

Dinosaurs, but make it fashion: Seattle Met presents their fall fashion editorial set amongst the new digs (get it?) of the Burke Museum.

And the Seattle Times has wrap-around coverage on the new Burke, including a story from Brendan Kiley, photos, video, and graphics to get you ready to explore.

“This Burke, director Julie K. Stein says, isn’t just a new museum. It’s a new breed of museum, imagined and designed with the incantation ‘inside-out.’”

Inter/National News

Fred Armisen is an art aficionado. No, really! Hyperallergic explores his segments on Late Night with Seth Meyers in which he shares his knowledge of literally “every painting that has ever been painted.”

Here’s the New York Times’ Roberta Smith on the new Roy DeCarava retrospective at David Zwirner; his photographs, she says, “constantly flip between visual fact and a metaphor for difference of all kinds.”

In Artforum’s October issue, Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen reflects on the recent exhibitions Posing Modernity and Black Models, together “one of the most consequential events to take place in the field of nineteenth-century art in Euro-America in recent decades.”

“Murrell achieved something more profound, and more challenging, than archival ‘discovery.’ Her exhibition placed the past blindnesses of art history on very public view, making devastatingly clear the remedial nature of the lesson in seeing required by this discipline—a lesson that could be encapsulated in a question as elementary as: Tell me, class, how many figures are in this picture?”

And Finally

I keep thinking about this squirrel.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: © Tim Griffith

Object of the Week: Kylix

A kylix is a type of ancient Greek drinking vessel, designed to hold wine for members of a symposium, or an after-dinner drinking party. Seated on cushion-covered couches along the walls of the host’s dining room, these party-goers would recline on their left elbow while drinking with their right hand. Because of their recumbent positions, kylikes were the perfect vessel to drink from. Relatively shallow, and with a handle on either side of the cup, men, and sometimes their consorts could drink without spilling while reclining with ease.

The outside of this particular kylix is decorated with a symposium scene, depicting various red figures. Each man holds a skyphos – another type of wine-drinking vessel – while dancing with an upraised hand. The inside, or tondo, of the kylix introduces yet another scene, and would have been revealed as the attendee finished his wine. The scene depicts two youths reclining on a couch while flinging the contents of a kylix with their right hand. While this may appear like a rowdy moment brought on by an excess of wine, the two men are instead playing kottabos. A fairly challenging drinking game, kottabos was a common feature of the after-dinner festivities, and the kylix was the equipment of choice. Partiers would loop their right index finger through the handle, aim, and fling the dregs of their wine at the target, which was usually a bowl balanced on a stand or floating in water. Playing required agility and good aim, and missing could result in dosing your fellow guests with wine! Perhaps the reward of cakes or sweetmeats made the mess worthwhile.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

Images: Red-figure Kylix (cup) with Symposion Scene, active ca. BC 700 – 480
Painter of the Paris Gigantomachia, ceramic, 5 1/8 x 16 1/8 in., Gift of the Norman and Amelia Davis Classical Collection, 59.30

SAM Connects Free Days to Flesh & Blood

Experience the fierce beauty of High Renaissance and Baroque art at the free Community Opening for Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum on October 17. From 5–9 pm, watch these artworks come alive as Palace Theatre & Art Bar takes the stage for a series of eclectic performances reflecting the darkness, drama, and human emotion of Flesh and Blood. Make a masterpiece of your own as you draw from live models during an art activity led by artist Barry Johnson. Seattle Opera singer will be in the galleries expressing love, devotion, and tragic suffering with pop-up performances. Living representations of the artworks will be embodied by dancers Mikhail Calliste and Michele Dooley. Flesh and Blood presents, as they say in Italy, il meglio del meglio—the best of the best.

Make sure to RSVP, but if you can’t make it to the opening, don’t worry! There are many other ways for you to visit SAM for free or at a discount during Flesh and Blood!

  • Free community passes may be available for community organizations or colleges and universities.
  • Many of our programs include free admission to our special exhibitions on the day of the event. Keep an eye on exhibition-related events.
  • First Thursdays mean discounts to Flesh and Blood!
    Adult: $9.99
    Seniors 65+, Military (w/ID): $7.99
    Students (w/ID): $4.99
    Ages 19 & younger: Free
  • First Friday: Admission to Flesh and Blood is $7.99 for anyone 65 years and older.
  • As part of Museums for All, SAM offers free admission to low-income families and individuals receiving SNAP benefits when you show your EBT card.
  • King County and Seattle Public Libraries offer free passes to special exhibitions.
  • City of Seattle’s Gold and FLASH card program. If you have a Gold or FLASH card, your caretaker gets free admission.
  • Teen Tix pass program makes it possible for teens to visit for just $5!
  • Bank of America’s Museums on Us: On the first full weekend of every month, Bank of America cardholders receive free admission at SAM.
  • Blue Star Museums: free admission to military personnel and their families. Just show your military ID. The military ID holder plus up to five immediate family members (spouse or child of ID holder) are allowed in for free per visit (special exhibition surcharge may apply).
  • UW Art Students get free admission with the sticker on their student ID

SAM is for everyone and we’re here to make sure anyone can see the art they love! Don’t forget, entry to SAM’s permanent collections is always suggested admission! You can experience our global collection year-round and pay what you want.

Images: The Ecstasy of Saint Cecilia, 1645, Bernardo Cavallino, Italian, 1616–1656, oil on canvas, 24 × 18 7/8 in., Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte. The Virgin of the Souls with Saints Clare and Francis, 1622–23, Battistello Caracciolo, Italian, 1578–1635, oil on canvas, 114 3/16 × 80 11/16 in., Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte.

Donor Spotlight: Anne and Joe Baldwin

We are honored to support the transformation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. As children, we both grew up visiting SAAM and were awed by the massive art deco building and exposure to rich culture within the museum. While raising our children, we visited the museum on school field trips and family outings, so it wasn’t surprising when our son, Michael, chose to take his senior pictures in front of SAAM. When we learned that the historical building was in desperate need of improved infrastructure and climate control as well as expanded exhibition and learning spaces, and we wanted to be involved. SAAM is a Seattle gem with its unique location within Volunteer Park and long, relevant history. This treasured landmark will offer locals and visitors an opportunity learn about the diverse art, culture, values and traditions of Asia for years to come.

–Anne and Joe Baldwin, SAM Donors

Object of the Week: Daedalus/Upliftment

In Daedalus/Upliftment, a young Black man struggles to take flight. His gaze is fixed on the ground instead of the sky, with eyes downcast and obscured by gold sunglasses. One hand is outstretched to conceal himself. The other grasps a plume of pheasant feathers, with a rope tied around his wrist. A wreath of ostrich feathers adorns his neck, draping his chest and blending into bright white pants. The feathers symbolize the deities Yoruba Orisas Obatala of wisdom, and Osun of love.

This full-body portrait portrays someone steady, yet vulnerable, someone who embodies the emotional juxtapositions of freedom and captivity, hope and doubt. The dazzling high-tops—inlaid with gold leaf and spray paint detail, dripping to the edges of the canvas—paired with grayscale triangle-patterned socks are captivating. Although a symbol of value, the gold sneakers carry much weight: a strain against the aspirations and ability to rise.

Daedalus/Upliftment is from Dr. Fahamu Pecou’s 2015 series, I Know Why The Caged Bird Blings, the series title inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” A visual/performing artist and scholar, Pecou concentrates on Black masculinity in his work. Pecou probes today’s media representations, expectations, and images of Black men removed from Black agency—including stereotypes of violence—and their emotional toll on readings and performances of Black masculinity. In 2017, Pecou was the subject of a retrospective exhibition “Miroirs de l’Homme” (Mirrors of the Man) in Paris, France and a recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation “Painters and Sculptors” Award.[1]

Pecou continues to lead speaking engagements across the nation, and gave a TED Talk in Atlanta, Georgia, “An artist’s counterpoint to black masculinity and identity stereotypes,” sharing his own testimonies as a Black man in America.

Daedalus/Upliftment alludes to the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus built wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape their prison. Despite Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax on the wings, falling and drowning in the ocean. Pecou reinterprets this classic tragedy and questions the actions of Daedalus as Icarus’ father. Daedalus/Uplifting provokes a meditation on paternalism and masculinity, with “the breakdown of intergenerational communication and the emotional complexities within the Black male experience that trouble the desire and ability to take flight.”[2]

In the far-right corner of the stark white background, Pecou leaves us a surrealist poem:

Uplift meant

Uplift men

up… lift men

UP! lift men…

Up.

– Rachel Kim, SAM Curatorial Intern

Image: Daedalus/Upliftment, 2016, Fahamu Pecou, acrylic, gold leaf and spray paint on canvas, 84 × 48 in., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2016.20 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
[1] “The Official Website of Visual/Performing Artist and Scholar Dr. Fahamu Pecou.” https://www.fahamupecouart.com/
[2] Fahamu Pecou: https://www.instagram.com/p/BItROlBDUIg/?hl=en

Donor Spotlight: Seattle Art Museum Supporters

The Seattle Art Museum Supporters—or SAMS—is a dedicated group of nearly two hundred Seattle area women who are committed to fundraising for the Seattle Art Museum. The mission of SAMS is to expand the support of the Seattle Art Museum through fundraising and promotional efforts and to provide education opportunities for its members.

Since its inception in 1985, SAMS has raised nearly $7 million to fund selected Seattle Art Museum projects, including the Seattle Asian Art Museum campaign. Through their amazing efforts, SAMS has raised over $400K for our capital campaign, helping restore our building and create an Asian Art Museum for tomorrow. SAMS has been an integral component of our fundraising efforts and we are grateful for their unwavering support of our mission.

Picnic at Olympic Sculpture Park with Landscapes Café

Despite Seattle’s typically June-uary weather, SAM is ready for summer and you know what that means—empanadas! Landscapes Café in our PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park has extended their hours and their menu to make sure that visitors to SAM’s waterfront sculpture park have all the snacks and beverages they could possibly need.

Now open Friday through Monday from 10 am to 2 pm, Landscapes offers a rotating selection of roasters and their seasonal drink, The Vermonter (latte with maple syrup, brown sugar, and cinnamon). For all you non-coffee drinkers, Smith artisan teas, Spindrift sodas, kombucha, and juice boxes are available so everyone can stay well hydrated.

Sweet & savory pastries from Comadre Panaderia & Macrina Bakery and grab-and-go sandwiches and salads from Molly’s make it so that all you have to bring for the picture perfect picnic is the blanket.

Landscapes Café originated as a teardrop trailer mobile coffee shop owned by barista Rickie Hecht and is part of SAM’s continuing partnership with Seattle nonprofit Ventures, which helps bring emerging entrepreneurs to the sculpture park’s PACCAR Pavilion. Stop by next time you take a walk in the park!

Muse/News: Wrapping up, bobbling macarons, and going to camp

SAM News

That’s a wrap on Jeffrey: Gibson: Like a Hammer. As a farewell, here’s Emily Zimmerman interviewing the artist for BOMB Magazine.

“I needed to let go of whether I was an artist or not, and I needed to pursue the things that I want to see existing in the world that don’t exist. What are the things that would leverage this world that didn’t meet my expectations?”

Celebrated Brazilian artist Regina Silveira has debuted a new site-specific installation at the Olympic Sculpture Park’s PACCAR Pavilion called Octopus Wrap. A glimpse of the installation process was captured by the Seattle Times’ Alan Berner. Seattle Met and Crosscut also previewed the installation, which features a series of tire tracks wrapping around the walls, windows, and floor of the building, looking like the arms of an octopus.

“The startling change to the familiar park building embodies elements of play, but also reminds us of the luxury of presuming our surroundings will always stay the same.”

And Smithsonian Magazine featured the sculpture park on their round-up of the “world’s most spectacular sculpture parks.”

Local News

Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture announced that Christopher Paul Jordan has been selected to create the centerpiece artwork for the planned AIDS Memorial Pathway project on Capitol Hill.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores and South Seattle Emerald’s Jessie McKenna both wrote up Alexis Taylor’s Black Among Other Things, an installation at AURA in the Central District about her experiences as a Black woman.

The art of food: Chef Brady Williams won Best Chef in the Northwest at James Beard Awards; the Seattle Times’ Bethany Jean Clement recently picked up a shift at Canlis to learn about their legendary service.

“By the top of the stairs, the macaron begins to bobble; on the penultimate step, it leaps to its death, in its final act somehow managing to shatter on the soft carpeting. A man seated at one of Canlis’ well-spaced, snowy-white-linened tables regards me with a mixture of pity and horror.”

Inter/National News

But is it CAMP? The Met’s latest exhibition—and attendant over-the-top Gala—has everyone reaching for their undergrad copy of Sontag. Here are some thoughts.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) announced this week that Mia Locks will be their new senior curator and head of initiatives; interestingly, they don’t have plans to hire a chief curator to replace Helen Molesworth.

Nadja Sayej for the Guardian on Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, now on view in New York, which traces her work as a “trailblazer of African American arts.”

“She said her legacy is in the work of her students,” notes Ikemoto. “Even when they didn’t have money to buy their own art supplies, she let them use hers. She often said, ‘I know much I was put down and denied, so if I can teach these kids anything, I’m going to teach it to them.’”

And Finally

Can we please do something now?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of “Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap”, 2019, Seattle Art Museum site-specific installation, photo: Mark Woods.



Object of the Week: Mola

Ancient Andean cultures used complex recording devices known as quipu, fashioned from tally cords, which allowed for the communication and recording of information essential to daily life. The quipu were essential tools for many Andean communities: they were a medium that enabled reading, writing, and, importantly, remembering. Such Indigenous practices nearly disappeared due to colonial suppression. Not unlike the quipu, the Cuna mola—or blouse—produced in the San Blas Islands represents the resilience of a community in the face of colonization.

The Cuna Indians are an Indigenous people who live along the Atlantic coast of Panama and Colombia. In the 16th century they were driven by the Spanish from their original home in Colombia, and moved west toward the coast. Mola, as we know them today, evolved from elaborate body painting. In the mid-18th century, when European settlers introduced cloth to the region, women began to wear simple blouses, painting them with natural dyes in the same manner they had previously decorated their bodies.

To make these elaborate blouses, an artist—importantly a woman—begins with multiple pieces of different colored cloth, and bastes one on top of the other. After cutting multiple designs, the maker then hems the edges with fine stitches. From there additional elements are added, such as embroidery, positive appliqué, or incisions that reveal the layers of cloth below. This reverse appliqué technique is an intricate and time-intensive process that has been mastered and handed down from generation to generation.

The history of the mola is inextricable from the history of colonialism in Latin America. It evolved in spite of European contact and continues to be shaped by contact with non-Native people today. For example, traditional Cuna designs—on both the body, originally, and the blouses—include abstracted linear patterns, stylized flora and fauna, and figures from Cuna mythology. When interactions with outsiders increased due to the construction of the Panama Canal, motifs such as trademarks, slogans, and American products appeared. Further, in the first decades of the 20th century, the Panamanian government tried to ban many Cuna customs, including their language and traditional dress. A resistance was mounted, and in 1925 the Dule Revolution resulted in the autonomy of the Cuna people, granting them the right to govern their own territory and culture autonomously. The mola can thus be seen as a vibrant textile tradition that represents the strength and resilience of the Cuna people.

Elisabeth Smith, Collection & Provenance Associate


Images: Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 21 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.10 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Mola, 1950s-60s, Cuna, Panamanian, cotton cloth and cotton thread, 22 1/2 × 25 in., Gift of an anonymous donor, 2018.26.6 © Artist or Artist’s Estate.

Muse/News: Riots of color, purple rain in Seattle, and controversy at the Whitney

SAM News

Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is one of Seattle Magazine’s “22 Best Things To Do in Seattle in April 2019.”

“…a riot of color and texture that playfully draws the viewer into a world—the experience of another human being.”

And SAM installation YOU ARE ON INDIGENOUS LAND: places/displaces is one of the “Top Things to Do in Seattle” for the month, according to Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne.

Read Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel’s conversation with Azura Tyabji, Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate, about the places in the city that inspire her, including the he(art)-warming revelation that she’s been a regular at the museum “since ‘falling in love’ with visual art during the Kehinde Wiley exhibit in spring 2016.”

March 29 saw another edition of the SAM’s recurring Remix event. In case you missed it: The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig previewed her “My Favorite Things” tour. You won’t want to miss the next edition, held on August 23 at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

Seattle artists resist call to work in new youth jail: Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores reports on how 4 Culture staff and some local artists are conflicted about the requirement that 1% of funds for the construction of the new jail go to public art projects. 

Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka: KING5 News covers Prince from Minneapolis, now on view at MoPOP.

The Everett Daily Herald features an exhibition of paintings by former SAM docent, Phyllis Thornton, now on view at the Mountlake Terrace Library.

“Don’t all artists take liberty with colors?” Thornton said. “That’s why you’re an artist. You want to do what you want, and do it the way you want to do it.”

Inter/National News

The Do Huh Suh exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, featuring Instagram-friendly Hub installations of “colorful, life-sized recreations of the artist’s past homes in delicate fabric,” tops the Art Newspaper’s “Art’s Most Popular Survey” for 2018, with over 1 million visitors.

The Art Newspaper reports on cause of Rio de Janeiro’s tragic National Museum fire.

“The stakes of the demand to remove Kanders are high and extend far beyond the art world,” the letter reads, in part. “Alongside universities, cultural institutions like the Whitney are among the few spaces in public life today that claim to be devoted to ideals of education, creativity, and dissent beyond the dictates of the market.”

And Finally

Muse/News has missed you! Apologies for missing the last two Mondays, but we were busy on vacation in France.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view, Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman

Donor Spotlight: Peggy Carlisle

I made my first trip to China in 1986. I wanted to see China before it changed, I had no idea it would completely alter my life. It opened a world of wonder, curiosity, and endless adventure for me that continues to this day. By 1990 I had become so obsessed that when an opportunity arose to study Asian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, I jumped at it. Since then, I have traveled extensively to see remote areas of Asia and visited hundreds of museums to quell my curiosity.

One of the reasons for my move to Seattle in 2000 was that there was this jewel box museum dedicated entirely to Asian art. There, in that perfect little building was a stunning collection. Many pieces from SAM’s collection had been referenced during my studies in London. And much to my surprise, each time I visited the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the curators had completely rotated the collection to display yet another aspect or region of the collection. In many museums, the collections never rotate and I go back to visit some objects like old friends. At the Asian Art Museum it was always a new wonder and delight.

For so many reasons, it has been my great pleasure to support the continuation of this remarkable institution. And thanks to everyone at the Seattle Art Museum for their enormous contribution to Seattle.

– Peggy Carlisle, SAM Donor

Object of the Week: Jacob

Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence were married for 59 years, in a harmonious partnership of two prolific and engaged creators that was both romantic and artistic. Though it was Jacob whose star would rise over the years, becoming celebrated around the world for his dynamic pictorial style of historical narratives, Gwendolyn continued her studies—in painting, drawing, design, and dance—and served vital roles in the cultural community of their adopted city of Seattle.

With this intimate portrait of her husband (Jacob, 1986), Gwendolyn explores her own artistic project, distinct from her husband’s grand themes of history and social justice. Instead, she pursues an expressive and personal idiom, reflecting the emotional truths of the immediate world around her.

Gwendolyn—or Gwen, as she was affectionately known—began the portrait in 1960, when the couple was still living in New York City. But she kept returning to it, with final retouches in 1986, when they would firmly be ensconced in their lives in Seattle. She found it challenging to create a portrait of the person she saw every day, in all of the moods and changes that an individual necessarily undergoes over the years. Instead of a frozen moment in time, we instead see the process of a person becoming.

Jacob’s face fills nearly the entire frame, even going out of the bounds of the canvas in one corner. His skin is rendered in broad and unusual strokes of brown, green, and yellow, reflecting against the hint of a red shirt at the neck and glimpses of orange in the background. He wears a calm smile and a somewhat inquisitive brow, exuding kindness.

In the catalogue for Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight, a 2003 solo show held at the Tacoma Art Museum, curator Sheryl Conkleton noted, “As her work developed, Knight became more committed to the interpretation and communication of visual delight in the world around her. It superseded the need to tell a story or to explore the larger meaning of what it meant to be a modern painter.”

When artist Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence died on February 18, 2005—almost exactly 14 years ago—she’d lived in Seattle for 34 years. The city was lucky to have her.

Rachel Eggers, Manager of Public Relations

Image: Jacob, 1986, Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, oil on canvas, 14 1/4 x 10 1/4 in., Gift of the Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2009.52.59 © Estate of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Community Gallery: Winning Photographs by High School Students

Every year, SAM’s Community Gallery features the winning photographs from the Washington State High School Photography Competition (WSHSPC). This year 33 photos were selected from nearly 4,000 entries by judges Mel Curtis, Claire Garoutte, and Bruce Hudson. One of our many amazing community partners, WSHSPC has been providing a prestigious public platform for student photography since 1995 and we are excited to share the lens of today’s talented youth with everyone. Stop by the Community Gallery on the ground floor for free the next time you swing by SAM—these winning photos will be on view through December 30.

Muse/News: Party people, Black pioneers, and surrealist snacks

SAM News

Last Friday, SAM presented another edition Remix, its creative late-night out featuring music, tours, and art-making. And as per usual, the beautiful people of Seattle showed up and showed out: Check out these colorful photo slideshows from Seattle Refined and Queerspace Magazine. See you at the next edition of Remix in March!

Local News

Andrew Hamlin for Northwest Asian Weekly on the Wing Luke’s new show, Worlds Beyond Here: The Expanding Universe of Science Fiction; Tamiko Thiel, whose augmented reality experience appeared at the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016, is included in this group show.

The Seattle Times launches Art Outings, in which their critics find places where art and snack & drinks are brought together. First up: The Frye Museum’s just-launched Third Thursday Happy Hours.

Real Change’s cover story this week: Lisa Edge’s review of Tacoma’s Washington State Historical Museum show featuring rarely shown works on paper by Jacob Lawrence about Tumwater founder George Bush.

“Lawrence depicting Bush’s migration is a convergence of two important pioneers. Bush, in the literal sense as he moved out west a century before The Great Migration, and Lawrence because of the barriers he broke within the art world. The series is an opportunity to learn more about two people who thrived in spite of entrenched barriers.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sheila Regan reviews Art for a New Understanding, the new survey at the Crystal Bridges Museum, calling it “a serious attempt to redefine what contemporary Indigenous art means today.”

Brigit Katz for Hyperallergic on Color Problems, a “widely overlooked, yet staggering” book on color theory by Emily Noyes Vanderpoel first published in 1901—it’s now getting a careful reprinting.

Carl Zimmer of the New York Times reports on the extraordinary discovery in Borneo of what scientists are calling “the oldest figurative art in the world”—it’s 40,000 years old!

“The early images and figures might have illustrated stories contained vital information for how to survive in hard times, Dr. Conard said. Or perhaps the drawings helped joined people as a group, encouraging them to cooperate—‘a kind of glue to hold these social units together,’ he said.”

And Finally

Snacks – with a Surrealist manifesto.

Photo: Jen Au

Object of the Week: Ruth Asawa Family and Sculpture

Though this 1957 photograph is by Imogen Cunningham, its subject is Bay Area artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013). For decades Asawa has been little known beyond the West Coast, and is all too belatedly finding herself rewritten into the history of American art. Rather than concentrate on photographer Cunningham, this post focuses on Asawa, her diaphanous wire sculptures, and her complex identity as a Japanese-American woman artist.

Cunningham’s photograph is a quiet yet evocative image: Asawa sits with her face occluded by the semi-transparent curvature of one of her hanging wire sculptures. She’s surrounded by her four children, ranging from toddler to six years old. Each, including Asawa, is engaged in and absorbed by his or her own activity: reading, playing, observing, drinking, and making. The iconic photograph has often been read in gendered terms, focusing on Asawa’s demonstrated domesticity, femininity, and passivity. Like too many women artists, Asawa has been positioned primarily as a wife and mother—identities that override her identity as an artist, which can and should include these other identities. As curator Helen Molesworth discusses in her recent paper delivered last month at the Smithsonian, “Ruth Asawa: ‘San Francisco Housewife and Mother’,” this image has additional import, positioning art making as a social activity, and Asawa, therefore, as a citizen above all else.

As a child, Asawa would draw and make art while in a World War II internment camp with her Japanese parents. She was not an outside or self-taught artist though, for she attended Black Mountain College and studied for three years and two summers (1946–49) with Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller, among others. For Asawa, “Black Mountain gave you the right to do anything you wanted to do. And then you put a label on it afterwards. I think that’s the nice thing about what Black Mountain did for its students. It was like they gave you permission to do anything you wanted to do. And then if it didn’t fit they’d make a category for you. But I think Black Mountain helped make something with weaving and with printmaking, and it gave people the freedom to make something of each category.”¹

Black Mountain was a transformative place and time for Asawa, creatively as well as socially: incorporated into Black Mountain’s utopian environment was an attitude that expanded what art can do for society. Therefore, to be an artist is to be a citizen—engaging actively in the world and making choices alongside others.² Though Cunningham’s photograph captures Asawa in her home, surrounded by her four (of six) children, central to the visual narrative is her artwork, which is inextricable from her role as an artist, wife, mother, and citizen.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Ruth Asawa Family and Sculpture, 1957, Imogen Cunningham, Gelatin silver print, 10 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (26.4 x 26.4 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.43
¹Ruth Asawa, “Oral history interview with Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier, 2002 June 21-July 5,” interview by Mark Johnson and Paul Karlstrom, Archives of American Art, https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-ruth-asawa-and-albert-lanier-12222#transcript.
²Helen Molesworth, “Ruth Asawa: ‘San Francisco Housewife and Mother’,” filmed September 12, 2018 at Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., video, 1:07:05, https://americanart.si.edu/videos/clarice-smith-distinguished-lecture-series-scholar-helen-molesworth-154476.

Donor Spotlight: Shawn Brinsfield Supports the Asian Art Museum

It’s nice to know that our community also thinks the future of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is going to be cool! More than the critical infrastructure updates to the Art Deco building that won’t be very apparent to visitors, there’s the long history of Asian culture in the Seattle area made visible at the museum. To Shawn Brinsfield, the modest expansion on the back of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is a physical commitment to expanding the understanding and appreciation of Asia. Read why the Asian Art Museum matters to this donor, learn more about the project, and stay up to date on the progress of the renovation and expansion of the Asian Art Museum.

The new Seattle Asian Art Museum is going to be very cool with more space for SAM’s growing collection, better flow and open ‘look-throughs’ to the outside. I take art lessons and sometimes they take us to Volunteer Park to draw; so I look forward to sitting on my chair outside near the trees and drawing the new large glass-walled rear addition of the museum. Ok, full disclosure—I am still just learning to draw; but it will be fun viewing Asian Art Museum visitors fishbowl-like.

The average museum-goer may not appreciate the museum’s new sophisticated climate control environment, which gives the art ‘eternal life.’ Sometimes I think about the centuries of artists who made the works inside the museum. What kind of challenges and human pressures did they have? I wonder how they would react, knowing that their year-after-year sweat and toil and evolution as artists would be preserved by loving and meticulous conservationists today. It’s my understanding that the Asian Art Museum will be an important national center of conserving Asian art. And conserving art is actually a fascinating process. Really!

My mom and her family are of Japanese descent. They were living a full life here in Seattle back in the ‘good old days.’ Grandma Benko Itoi wrote tanka poetry, the family attended art events at the Nippon Kan Theater, they danced in traditional ways at the Bon Odori. Then when World War II broke out they were compelled to destroy most things related to their Japanese culture. So, 75 years later, it’s important to me to support the expansion of Japanese and Asian culture in the Seattle area.

All the art at the Asian Art Museum tells stories of history, ideas, and ways of life. In addition to enjoying the exhibitions on wooden block prints, folding screens, and Chinese scrolls, I have loved going to the Gardner Center’s Saturday University Lecture Series and listening to experts from all over the world. I value this, especially since I help recruit speakers for an Asian art and history group in Florida.

As for the future of the Asian Art Museum, I expect that the Asian Art Museum’s growth will mirror that of Asia’s increasing presence on the world stage. I hope that it continues expanding its collection of South Asian art and continues reaching out to the growing South Asian community here in the Northwest; as well as reaching out to the non-Asian community. My spending time in India on several trips has had a significant impact on my mind and behavior. I include, in my daily life, some practices and rituals which are indigenous to India and South Asia. I have a warm and friendly feeling towards the people and culture of South Asia.

– Shawn Brinsfield

SAMBlog