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Curators Dialogue: City of Tomorrow

Learn more about the new exhibition, City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art that Shaped a New Seattle in this talk between SAM curators past and present who worked closely with Jinny Wright over the years in building the museum’s collection of modern and contemporary art.

SAM’s current Curator of Modern of Contemporary Art, Catharina Manchanda, talks with Patterson Sims and Lisa Graziose Corrin. Amidst their ongoing, distinguished careers both Sims and Corrin served as curators of modern of contemporary art at SAM in years past, and offer unique and personal perspectives on Wright’s legacy and the building of support for contemporary art in Seattle. City of Tomorrow features 64 works created between 1943–2003 that define bold and experimental art movements across the United States and Europe. The artworks on view are a fraction of the many works that Jinny and her husband Bagley gifted to SAM over the years, many of which have not previously been displayed at SAM. The exhibition will also include archival photographs, ephemera, and other materials that trace the transformation of SAM, the city, and Washington state. Get timed tickets online to visit this new exhibitions, it closes January 18.

About the Presenters

Lisa Graziose Corrin is the Ellen Philips Katz Director of The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Her previous positions include Director, Williams College Museum of Art, Deputy Director of Art/Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum, where she was the artistic lead for its new waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park, Chief Curator at the Serpentine Gallery in London and Assistant Director/Curator of The Contemporary in Baltimore. She has published widely on contemporary art, public art, and critical museology. Her book Mining the Museum: An Installation by Fred Wilson was given the George Wittenborn Award by the North America Libraries Association in 1994. She has written extensively on Mark Dion’s work including contributing to Phaidon’s monograph on the artist. Most recently she was co-curator of A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s.

Catharina Manchanda is the Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum. Prior to joining SAM, she was the Senior Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. During her career, she has also worked in curatorial positions at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has won a number of prestigious international awards including an Andy Warhol Foundation grant, Getty Library Research Grant, and a German Academic Exchange Scholarship (DAAD), among others.

Patterson Sims serves as President of the Leon Polk Smith Foundation, Managing Director of The Saul Steinberg Foundation, and Secretary of CALL (City as Living Lab), set up by Mary Miss. He is also a member of the boards of the Woodman Family Foundation, the Fanny Sanin Trust, and the Jennifer Wynne Reeves Trust. He previously worked as the Assistant Director of O.K. Harris Works of Art and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Seattle Art Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Montclair Art Museum. He is co-chair of the board of Independent Curators International and works as freelance art curator, writer, and consultant.

Image: Installation view of City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wrights and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, photo: Natali Wiseman

In Honor of 25 Years of Dia de los Muertos at SAM

In 1995 Carlos Contreras, an artist and staff member at the Seattle Art Museum invited Fulgencio Lazo to create a tapete to accompany his traditional altar for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. What began 25 years ago as an effort to share a Oaxacan-style installation made from sand and pigments (a tapete) in Seattle turned out to be a much-revered tradition at the Seattle Art Museum, spreading throughout the city and beyond.

Unfortunately due to COVID-19, we are not able to have a tapete nor gather in person at SAM for the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration to pay homage to those whom we have lost, in a way that feels so very personal to all of us in 2020.  There is no replacing this in-person experience, but we want to mark this 25th anniversary to reflect and honor our partnership through a series of photos tracing back to 1995. We also want to recognize, with deep gratitude, the many, many hands that have prepared the tapete each year with so much care and love. To work with artist Fulgencio Lazo and Erin Fanning has been a lesson in what true and authentic community building looks like, and we are overwhelmed by their generosity of heart and talent.

Lazo and Fanning express that remembering those who have passed away “. . . gives us strength in 2020, a year of monumental loss for so many around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands within the United States alone, disproportionately affecting Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. This pandemic, coupled with the continuing humanitarian crisis at our southern border and the ongoing police violence directed at our African American siblings, has resulted in so many unnecessary deaths. The toll of all this loss is overwhelming and can cause numbness. In the face of this, we look to Day of the Dead for solace, to remember those who have passed away. It is our hope that we can remember our dead, celebrate their lives and gather our collective strength.”        

This beautiful installation launched a partnership with Lazo and his wife, Erin Fanning, that has continued for the past 24 years, inviting thousands of visitors to experience these remarkable pieces and what they represent.

2011 at the Olympic Sculpture Park

Dia de los Muertos is a time to remember and honor those who have passed away. It is believed that the spirits of the dead return to visit with their living family. Through Day of the Dead, we express a myriad of conflicting emotions: fear, love, mourning, joy, beauty, and anger, among others. These powerful personal emotions are brought to a very public space in the Seattle Art Museum’s annual installations. And with great skill, experience, and an extraordinary sense of artistic vision, Lazo seemingly effortlessly, creates art that engages.

Dia de los Muertos 2018. Photo: Robert Wade

Each October during the last few years, artist Fulgencio Lazo and his team of collaborators have crisscrossed Washington State, making scores of sand paintings—some years using as much as two tons of sand!

Lazo has been a full-time, professional artist for 30 years, working predominantly in acrylic on canvas and printmaking in his studios in Seattle and in his hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico. He often incorporates wooden sculptures within the tapetes.

This installation from 2015, depicting a boat full of women textile workers and weavers, was dedicated to the thousands of men, women and children who have died while attempting to immigrate. Throughout the years, Lazo has worked closely with (from right to left) Jesús Mena, José Orantes, Víctor y Mirtha González and Amaranta Ibarra (not pictured above).

Additionally, hundreds of young people have participated in the making of the tapetes. Community volunteers, as young as three and four years old, have molded the sand and applied pigments. Over the years, thousands have helped to make this celebration their own. The communal spirit of the tapete and the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration is truly palpable.

In his own practice as an artist, Lazo aims to create warm, vibrant, whimsical images that celebrate family and community. His artwork depicts elements characteristic of his Oaxacan and Mexican heritage, like masks and human figures in an exploration of themes of identity.  Color and graceful lines evoking free movement are ever-present in his pieces, bringing joy to the viewer.

Lazo explains “I paint musical instruments, unicycles, birds, children’s toys, flowers, buttons and other elements of everyday life to create a sense of community and playfulness. Whether at a wedding, at an outdoor market, or on the street corner where neighbors gather, these shared experiences strengthen and define a culture. I take these experiences in and with my brush I try to synthesize them, thus rendering them universal. Using iconographic motifs and symbolic representations, I strive to recreate and celebrate the life cycle of my Zapotec indigenous heritage. In a tangible way I express the resilience of my own identity. With joy, through color and synthesis, I show the possibilities for any who care to embark on this path.”

– Priya Frank, SAM Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion & Erin Fanning, Community Collaborator

Photo: Mia McNeal. Photo: Robert Wade. Photos courtesy Erin Fanning.

Saturday University: The Colors of Space & Time

Although the Asian Art Museum is closed until further notice, the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas is still offering their popular Saturday University Lecture Series. This season, like all SAM programs, Saturday University is being offered virtually. Another unusual thing about this season is that it’s free! Tune in on Facebook live or Zoom every Saturday through November 21 for talks on Color in Asian Art: Material and Meaning such as The Color of Space and Time presented by Marco Leona, the David H. Koch Scientist in Charge of the Department of Scientific Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Marco Leona speaks on recent findings on the materials and techniques of Edo and Meiji Period paintings and prints in the recording of this lecture from October 10. Japanese painters and printmakers of the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) period achieved a rich visual language within a narrow range of pigments. Yet artists such as Jakuchu, Korin, and Hokusai produced evocative possibilities in ways far more complex than generally thought, especially in experiments with new synthetic color.

Leona shows how technological developments were not only readily embraced, and often prompted by artists and their audiences, but also that they in turn created new forms of expression.

The Saturday University Lecture Series is presented with the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies and the Elliott Bay Book Company.

SAM Connects You to City of Tomorrow for Free

City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle opens October 23! See works from one of the best collections of modern and contemporary art in the country—all thanks to one visionary Seattleite, on view through January 18. Art by major American artists includes Helen Frankenthaler, Philip Guston, David Hammons, Jasper Johns, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol in this extraordinary exhibition. You can’t tell the story of Seattle’s art world without telling the story of Jinny Wright. Learn more about Wright’s legacy when you visit, and check out all the ways to see City of Tomorrow for free:

  • Free community passes are available to any requesting individual, family, or group as passes are available, especially those for whom the cost of a ticket is prohibitive, and groups who have been historically excluded from the museum space due to systematic oppression, including communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, low income communities, queer communities, and the disability community.
  • First Thursdays mean discounts to City of Tomorrow!
    Adult: $9.99
    Seniors 65+, Military (w/ID): $7.99
    Students (w/ID): $4.99
    Ages 19 & younger: Free
  • First Friday: Admission to City of Tomorrow is $7.99 for anyone 65 years and older.
  • UW Art Students, fill out our customer service form to request free tickets.
  • Members of City of Seattle’s Gold and FLASH card program can get free tickets for caregivers by filling out our customer service form.

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.

Asia Talks: Artist Hung Liu with Laila Kazmi

Learn about the art and experiences of Chinese contemporary artist Hung Liu in this virtual artist talk. Hung Liu immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult to attend art school. Her life and artwork offer incredible perspectives on identity and migration, especially in the way she brings together China’s past with American experiences. While the Asian Art Museum remains closed, the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas continues to offer thought-provoking virtual events featuring prominent contemporary artists speaking on some of today’s most pressing topics. Our hope for this series is that the work and words of the artists can help to sustain us through this difficult time.

Hung Liu is a primarily a painter who works with photography as part of her practice. Recently she has also worked with shaped canvases for painting that are assembled to create 3-dimensional work. She is also Professor Emerita at Mills College, where she began teaching in 1990. The National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC organized a large-scale retrospective exhibition of her work that was planned for this summer, but had to be postponed because of the virus closures. Instead it will be on view there next year, from May 2021 thru Jan 2022, titled Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands, 1968-2020.

Laila Kazmi worked with SAM’s Gardner Center to organize and host this talk. She is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker, a producer, and co-founder of Kazbar Media.

Coming up, the Gardner Center’s popular Saturday University Lecture Series begins October 3. Color in Asian Art: Material and Meaning features eight free talks that dip into dimensions of color and pigment. From legend and ritual, to trade and cultural exchange, to technical innovation and changing artistic practices—the use of bold colors has been considered alternatively excessive, precious, or brilliant throughout history. What rare pigments and closely guarded techniques produced some artworks, and what artistic innovations and social changes produced others? Join us to enjoy a spectrum of talks on colors produced from the earth, sea, fire, plants, and insects.

Asia Talks: Helen Zughaib with Laila Kazmi

“As an Arab American, I hope through my work, to encourage dialogue and bring understanding and acceptance between the people of the Arab world and the United States. Especially since 9/11, our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the more recent revolutions and crises in the Arab world, resulting from the ‘Arab Spring’ that began in late 2010, have led to the civil war in Syria and the massive displacement of people seeking refuge in Europe, the Middle East and America.”

Helen Zughaib

Watch as Helen Zughaib discusses her family’s experiences in Syria and Lebanon, and her current work including “The Syrian Migration Project,” a painting series inspired by “The Migration Series” by artist Jacob Lawrence. In conversation with Laila Kazmi, Kazbar Media, this talk is part of a series of virtual events hosted by SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas focusing on artists who have immigrated to the US from Asia and the Middle East, on their art, heritage, and coping with the present moment.

Helen Zughaib was born in Beirut, Lebanon, living mostly in the Middle East and Europe before coming to the United States to study art at Syracuse University. She currently lives and works as an artist in Washington, DC. Primarily, she paints in gouache and ink on board and canvas. More recently, she has worked with wood, shoes, and cloth in mixed media installations.

Her work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, and Lebanon. Her paintings are included in many private and public collections, including the White House, World Bank, Library of Congress, American Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Helen has served as Cultural Envoy to Palestine, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

Haida Meets Manga with Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

We are sharing selections from SAM’s Conversations with Curators member-only series online with everyone! This talk took place live between the artist behind “Carpe Fin,” SAM’s most recent and largest, commission, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, and SAM’s Curator of Native American Art, Barbara Brotherton.

Due to some technical difficulties, SAM members got a little tour of the artist’s quarantine studio at the beginning of the talk. We hope you enjoy this happy outcome of the challenges of moving our programs online!

Far away, past the point of no return, sits Lord’s Rock, an indistinct protuberance in an archipelago of windswept islands. It is from this auspicious place of hardship and wonder that Yahgulanaas’ large-scale Haida manga refreshes an ancient Haida tale. Several artistic and cultural influences form this innovative, hybrid style. Using Pop Art, Japanese manga, and Northwest Coast Indigenous formline art, the artist calls for action to save our one small planet. Hear about Yahgulanaas’ journey from politician and environmental activist to a leader in contemporary Haida art.

Find out more about the Conversations with Curators series and join SAM as a member today for upcoming events!

SAM Performs: Trapsprung Dances

In Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Trapsprung, a dancer reaches to the tip of their outstretched leg while balancing perfectly on the toes of their other leg. In Interview Magazine, the artist describes being drawn to “the very kind of visceral physical power and grace of dancers, and their occasional closeness to losing control.”

A split second before or after the moment in this painting, and the dancer’s balance will shift into another movement. Here, though, the dancer’s strength and poise are captured in an instant, while Yiadom-Boakye’s brushwork evokes the energy of the movement. Painted from memory and imagination, Yiadom-Boakye features portraits of Black people exclusively, creating images that explore “the wider possibility of anything and everything.” In the current socio-political climate, David Rue, Public Engagement Associate at SAM, initiated a project that celebrates and elevates incredible Black artists living and working in the city of Seattle through connecting them with this work by a prominent Black artist in SAM’s collection. Local artists Amanda Morgan, Michele Dooley, and Nia-Amina Minor, responded to Trapsprung in brief, personal dance works, and offered reflections on the artwork and their lived experiences.

It’s easy to assume that each and every work made by Black artists living right now will only be about police brutality, slavery, or protest. Plot twist! While these are important conversations to be had, it’s also critical to remember that we’re a very dynamic group of people capable of exploring a multitude of artistic experiences. 

What I believe is on the other side of this socio-political monstrosity is the beauty, power, and grace that exists within Black artists. These are qualities that I see within Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s work as well as within the dancers commissioned to respond to Trapsprung. Now is the time to celebrate and elevate their artistic excellence. 

David Rue

On my first visit to the Seattle Art Museum I immediately took notice of Trapsprung.  A Black ballerina dancing in a piece of art is not a common subject that you find in much of the art that is created, so I instantly saw myself in the work, being a Black ballerina myself. The aspect about the piece that I probably enjoy the most though is the perspective and action taking place within it. We are placed behind her and given her perspective as she moves; she moves with intent and direction as opposed to being static and placed in the space only to be seen. I think this demonstrates what women, and particularly Black women are capable of. We are not there to just be viewed or seen, we are a statement in just our being and use this as our power to go forth in all we do rather than let this inhibit us. I like to think the woman in that portrait would take on the world as such. 

Amanda Morgan

Amanda Morgan is originally from Tacoma, WA and is currently a corps member at Pacific Northwest Ballet. She joined the company in 2016 as an apprentice and was promoted to corps in 2017. In addition to dancing, Morgan is a choreographer and founder of her own project titled “The Seattle Project”, which aims to collaborate with multiple artists in Seattle and create new work that is accessible to the community. She has choreographed for PNB’s Next Step at McCaw Hall (2018, 2019), Seattle International Dance Festival (2019), and curated her own show at Northwest Film Forum this past February of 2020. She is currently continuing to still create and connect with artists during this time, and has a dance film coming out in collaboration with Nia-Amina Minor for Seattle Dance Collective this July.

Unstoppable.

Power and dynamic combined with softness and beauty.

Remembering all it is and what it feels like to be a Black woman.

Always acknowledging how much strength and resilience it requires to become the Black dancer in this artwork and the Black artist that painted it.

Michele Dooley 

Michele Dooley is a native of Philadelphia and began her dance training at The Institute of the Arts under the direction of Cheryl Gaines Jenkins. She graduated from the High School for Creative and Performing Arts under the direction of LaDeva Davis and earned a BFA in dance at The University of the Arts, under the direction of Donna Faye Burchfield. While earning her degree, she spent three seasons with Eleone Dance Theatre. Michele trained at Bates Summer Intensive, BalletX summer program, and DCNS Summer Dance Intensive, worked with choreographers such as Gary Jeter, Tommie Waheed-Evans, Dara Meredith, Milton Myers, Nora Gibson, and Ronen Koresh, among others. 

I see her and she’s flying.

Purposefully turned away from a world that is often drawn to her image partly because she makes it look so easy. But I see the effort, the commitment, and I can stand to learn something from the subtlety.  I remember reading that a bird’s wings have evolved to provide lift and reduce drag.  They use their strongest muscles to lift while their wing anatomy minimizes turbulence, friction, and all that would drag them down to the ground. 

I see her and she’s flying.

Nia-Amina Minor

Nia-Amina Minor is a movement based artist and dance educator from South Central Los Angeles. She holds a MFA from the University of California, Irvine and a BA from Stanford University. Nia-Amina is a co-founder of Los Angeles based collective, No)one Art House, as well as a Company Dancer and Community Engagement Artist Liaison with Spectrum Dance Theater.

SAM Talks: John Grade in Conversation with Alison Milliman

Watch to learn more about the artist behind Middle Fork. Currently hanging in SAM’s Brotman Forum, Middle Fork is the life-size sculpture echoing the contours of a 140-year-old western hemlock tree located in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. John Grade joined us from his studio to talk with Alison Milliman, founder of MadArt, and Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art.

MadArt was the original incubator for Middle Fork and since debuting there in January 2015, the sculpture has traveled around the world and more than doubled in length. Grade’s work is exhibited internationally in museums, galleries, and outdoors in urban spaces and nature. His projects are designed to change over time and often involve collaboration with large groups of people. He lives and works in Seattle.

This salon was originally presented as part of SAM’s Contributors Circles Members Salon Series. A benefit to our generous Contributor Circles Members, we are pleased to share this intimate salon with all of you while you stay home home SAM.