Calder Smartphone Tour: Constellation with Red Knife

With his typical artistic materials in short supply at the height of World War II, Alexander Calder sought out alternatives. His resourcefulness led to the debut of an important series of carved wood and wire forms in 1943.

In 1943, James Johnson Sweeney and Marcel Duchamp, who were in the midst of curating a major retrospective of Calder’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, proposed calling these new sculptural works ‘Constellations.’

“[The Constellations] had a suggestion of some kind of cosmic nuclear gases—which I won’t try to explain,” Calder once noted. “I was interested in the extremely delicate, open composition.”

Gaze upon Calder’s Constellation with Red Knife by visiting Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. Then, tune in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour to learn more about the artist’s universe of constellations—along with his passion for woodcarving—via our SoundCloud.

Constellation with Red Knife, 1943

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Constellation with Red Knife is a singular work in this exhibition that really highlights the assemblage of carved wooden forms.  

NARRATOR: José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: As a youth, Calder was experienced with carving with wood, and it’s a material that actually is found in a lot of his sculptural practice.  

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He was fascinated by not just the look of the wood, but the particular kind of grain of the wood, the way a grain would be straight or wavy and have characteristics.

NARRATOR: Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: The central object, which is the tallest piece of wood in the composition, is kind of the shape of a palette knife like a painter might use to mix paint.

NARRATOR: The work is one of a series called Constellations. The name didn’t come from Calder himself but from the artist Marcel Duchamp, and the curator James Johnson Sweeney. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder referred to them as an open form composition like some kind of nuclear gases, and then he said, “But I won’t try to explain.” 

NARRATOR: The work may reflect Calder’s interest in time and space, but it is important to note that he wasn’t concerned with the observable universe (the sun, moon, earth, etc.). Rather, he was describing a universe. Or rather, the universal—an exploration of the unifying force posited by physicists today as string theory. 

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: When one thinks about constellations, there is an assumption that this is a specific reference to planets and stars and elements in our known universe. However, Calder’s really interested in a universe, his universe. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: They are objects tied together with these wire lines, existing in space in three dimensions.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of “Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection,” Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Pride Celebrates Pride: Between Rabbit and Fox

In honor of Pride Month, SAM Blog features reflections by SAM voices on collection artworks that explore LGBTQIA+ art and artists. Queer lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate histories of joy, advocacy, and resistance. Stay tuned for more Pride-related content on SAM Blog, including another object spotlight and a list of queer film recommendations curated by SAM’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group.

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972) foregrounds his Indigenous, queer identity in his artwork, often with bold colors and materials that make his personal history and intentions undeniable. As Gibson has noted in many of his interviews, he celebrates a state of “in-between-ness”: between cultures, between aesthetics, and between normative gender expectations.1

Gibson is also in-between in a few places at SAM—Gibson’s 2017 work, Between Rabbit and Fox, is on view on the third floor, in the space between the modern and contemporary galleries and American Art: The Stories We Carry. 

This large abstract painting on canvas depicts a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors, refracted in a vibrant pattern. Although at first the painting seems like a smooth solid surface, its raised lines cut through different shapes and shimmery paints in the center to reveal the texture of the canvas. Looking closely, every diagonal is intentional, forming more and more triangles, and they create the effect of overlapping pieces and colors that change as they are layered.

As a painter, Gibson draws upon the major art historical movements of modernism and abstraction that explored minimalism and color theory, including the work of Josef Albers, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Al Held, and Barnett Newman, all of whose works are in SAM’s collection.

Yet abstraction has long been a part of Native American artistic traditions as well, adorning many types of functional and cultural objects, such as Navajo textiles and Osage ribbonwork.2 Between Rabbit and Fox also references Gibson’s own earlier abstract paintings on hide, where he directly connected abstraction to Indigenous history by painting upon this culturally significant material. In the same room as Between Rabbit and Fox, you can see contemporary Tlingit/Unangax artist Nicholas Galanin’s work on deer hide, Architecture of return, escape (The British Museum) (2022).

Gibson grew up in Germany and South Korea, among other places with his father’s military assignments, but came back to the US to attend the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, for his BFA, and then the Royal College of Art, London for his MA in painting. While growing up abroad, he felt he was treated as an “American,” but back at home in the US, he was seen only as Native American.3

Gibson is of Choctaw and Cherokee lineage, but didn’t grow up on a reservation. Many Americans he encountered had assumptions about a monolithic Native American culture and artistic aesthetic. Facing these reductive stereotypes, Gibson felt limited by this necessity to explain Native American art and concepts to an unaware audience, but also wanted to make work that reflected his identity. He found there was even less acceptance for a queer Indigenous man and artist.4

Instead of trying to avoid representing these identities in his art, Gibson came to a realization that he needed to incorporate them all and create a new path for himself in the art world. Around 2011, Gibson began reaching out to other Native American communities to learn about and collaborate on artworks that involved beadwork and drum making.5 He chose to use these techniques and make works on animal hide rather than on canvas, and he incorporated text and pop culture references to make his messages more visible.

Gibson’s work often addresses US history and the government’s failings toward Native Americans as well as queer communities. His other work in SAM’s collection, IF I RULED THE WORLD (2018), is a repurposed punching bag covered with beading, fringe, and metal jingles, and embedded with the title of a song by the rapper Nas. Here, Gibson also uses abstract geometric decoration with bands of primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) interrupted by black triangles.

The punching bag evokes physical action and even a sense of violent masculinity, which is immediately undercut by the delicate and detailed ornamentation that Gibson applies. He questions gender identity by using techniques like beading that are associated with women makers, as well as integrating quotes from queer club and music scenes and performing in gender-bending costumes he designs. Combining popular culture, canonical art influences, and Indigenous art forms and materials, Gibson has forged a new way forward that combines his identities with activism. The Seattle Art Museum exhibited a survey show of Gibson’s work in 2018, LIKE A HAMMER, and this year, Gibson was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, one of the largest and oldest international art fairs. Gibson’s presentation, the space in which to place me, was the first solo show by a Native American artist at the prestigious event. With this platform, Gibson has brought his queer, Indigenous identity to the forefront, raising issues and history that his communities and all of us have to face in making a more just world.

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

1  “Innovation and Tradition: Jeffrey Gibson Interviewed by Emily Zimmerman,” Bomb Magazine, May 6, 2019, https://bombmagazine.org/articles/innovation-and-tradition-jeffrey-gibson-interviewed.
2 John P. Lukavic, “What Should Have Been, What Is, and What Will Be,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; p. 29.
3 David Pagel, “Jeffrey Gibson: American. Native American. Gay. An artist’s life outside labels,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-jeffrey-gibson-20171007-htmlstory.html.
4 “Material & Identity Merge in Jeffrey Gibson’s ‘Like A Hammer’ at Seattle Art Museum.” YouTube January 31, 2019. https://youtu.be/-RrqDSZKtLQ?si=1NN66Iigx6HO0685.
5 Anne Ellegood. “Jeffrey Gibson: Critical Exuberance,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; pp. 83-84.


Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

Sat Jun 22
Youth Pride Disco
Break out your disco wear for this LGBTQIA+ Pride party, planned for and organized by LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 22! Join us for drag performances, great music, friend-making activities, food and soft drinks, a quiet room, and more.

Through Sun Jun 23
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales: Together Again, Again!
Experience the comedy, music, and saucy stylings of two of the Pacific Northwest’s standout drag entertainers, in this wildly hilarious extravaganza set in an apocalyptic future. Check the event calendar for information about performances for teens, ASL interpretation, captions, and masking.

Fri Jun 28
Trans Pride Seattle 2024
Started in 2013, Trans Pride Seattle is an annual event organized by Gender Justice League. Visit the Volunteer Park Amphitheater from 5 to 10 pm for live music, community speakers, performances, and a resource fair all dedicated to increased visibility, connection, and love of the Seattle-area TwoSpirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse (2STGD) community.

Sat Jun 29
PrideFest Capitol Hill
Spanning six blocks of Broadway and Cal Anderson Park, this all-day market features queer local businesses, beer gardens, family and youth programming, and three stages with an unforgettable lineup of live performances.

Sun Jun 30
Seattle Pride Parade
Spend the final day of June by taking part in the 50th annual Pride Parade led by grand marshals Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. Then, head over to Seattle Center for the can’t-miss performances, hundreds of acts, beer gardens, food vendors, a new family area—and dancing in the iconic International Fountain.

Visit the official Seattle Pride website for even more suggested events.

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Impressive SAM, Not Static, and Baltimore Queen

SAM News

“Art-loving families should visit the Seattle Art Museum” this summer, says Mark Sissons for Vancouver’s VITA Magazine, thanks to our “impressive” collection galleries and our summer exhibition Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, which opens this week on Thursday, June 20!

Nick Hilden for The Observer comes to town to discover “Where to See the Best Art in Seattle” and while at SAM finds that “the museum boasts an impressively eclectic range of works.” 

Via Nura Ahmed for South Seattle Emerald: “Tacoma Artist Anida Yoeu Ali Demands to Be Seen.”

Local News

Have you been keeping up with this season of Cascade PBS’s Black Arts Legacies? They’ve rolled out eight incredible profiles; earlier we shared the one of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, but you won’t want to miss the ones of DJ Riz Rollins, painter Moses Sun, glass artist Debra Moore, and more.

Sara Jean Green of The Seattle Times reports on the “long-promised Super Block” coming to the Central District that will feature a public art installation on the neighborhood’s history.

Via Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine: “Tacoma Art Museum’s latest show reconsiders the meaning of Western American art.”

“The four curators are giving space to 17 contemporary artists whose work is often excluded in the context of collections like the Haub. ‘The art of the American West is not static,’ [curator Faith] Brower says. ‘There are many artists creating work that will further our understanding and deepen our connections to this iconic region.’”

Inter/National News

“I can act a fool, I can be delirious, I can give into anger, I can give into joy, into love”: Anthony Hudson AKA Carla Rossi interviews Jeffrey Gibson for BOMB Magazine. While you’re at it, rewatch this video of Carla’s visit to Like a Hammer (it’s our…52nd rewatch? But who’s counting?). 

Arun Kakar for Artsy with “The 10 Best Booths at Art Basel 2024,” including works by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith at Garth Greenan Gallery’s booth.

“How an Artist Became the Queen of Baltimore”: Aruna D’Souza of The New York Times spends the day in Baltimore with Joyce J. Scott on the occasion of her career retrospective, which is co-organized by BAM and SAM and travels to Seattle this fall.

“She sees her life as an artist as modeling for others another way of being and living,” said Catharina Manchanda, a curator at the Seattle Art Museum. “She has an incredibly strong conviction that every artwork has a role in bringing people together and offering people an opportunity to learn together, but she also models a whole new way of being an artist within a community. It’s not as much a career for her as a way of life.”

And Finally

“A Photographer Wins a Top Prize in an A.I. Competition for His Non-A.I. Image.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

SAM Celebrates Pride: The Talented Mr. Delafosse

In honor of Pride Month, SAM Blog features reflections by SAM voices on collection artworks that explore LGBTQIA+ art and artists. Queer lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate histories of joy, advocacy, and resistance. Stay tuned for more Pride-related content on SAM Blog, including another object spotlight and a list of queer film recommendations curated by SAM’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group.

If you Google “Léon Delafosse,” you’ll get more information on John Singer Sargent’s portrait of the French composer and pianist—part of SAM’s collection since 2001—than on Delafosse’s life story: his early years of poverty, rise as a piano virtuoso and composer, and the eventual destruction of his promising career by powerful men.

Before the arrival of recordings, musicians who were not independently wealthy or well-connected needed patrons and made money by performing in the private salons of rich people. Delafosse made two famous gay friends who propelled his career in Paris: Count Robert de Montesquiou (a social snob and poet-poseur) and writer Marcel Proust. Each of these men acted as unofficial “agents” for Delafosse, promoting his talents to their powerful friends. It’s long been assumed Montesquiou, in addition to being Delafosse’s principal patron, was his lover, too, and that their fraught relationship is immortalized in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (with the bisexual violinist Charles Morel as Delafosse and the gay Baron de Charlus as Montesquiou).  

Gay sex was decriminalized in France in 1791, but men who loved other men emotionally and sexually remained (for the most part) quiet about their private lives. Men who were suspected to be homosexual, who had “feminine” voices or mannerisms, wore colorful and outlandish clothing,  engaged in non-traditional (unmanly) careers were described in code words such as “dandy,” “decadent,” “artistic” and “aesthete” (admittedly better than the alternatives of the time:“sodomite,” “invert,” and “pederast”!)

Montesquiou was easily bored and his temper was volcanic. When Delafosse made the inevitable mistake (unknown, but believed to be the fact he was more interested in music than in anything or anyone), their breakup was cataclysmic. Montesquiou and his accomplice, Proust, set out to destroy Delafosse’s reputation and have him barred from important musical salons all over Paris. They succeeded. Delafosse was devastated and hopeless as he became a laughingstock in the capital. 

Enter: John Singer Sargent.

Sargent (whose obsession with the male body is evident in his work) took a liking to the handsome Delafosse and in genuine friendship promoted his talents to influential Americans like arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner. Beginning in 1895, Sargent painted Delafosse (then in his early twenties) and gave him the portrait as a lavish gift. Delafosse kept the painting until the day he died.

Pride Month is a celebration of LGBTQ+ history and a time to ponder the world as it is. Community is fragile, and examining the story of Léon Delafosse presents a warning and a quandary. In Belle Époque France, anyone who did not fit easily into standard society, whose sexual identity or gender expression made them outsiders, had to examine and monitor their appearance, their every move, their every spoken or written word. Such nonstop, intense, and protective self-scrutiny must have been exhausting, infuriating. And seeing “yourself” in another man or woman who was like you must have been frightening and intimidating, and it often led to betrayals, based not just on what was held in common but what was different: money, class, looks, and the power that those things bestow.

When I examine Sargent’s image of Léon Delafosse with contemporary eyes and in the current worldwide political climate, I wonder: is Delafosse emerging from the darkness or receding into it? 

– Kevin Stant, SAM Docent

Kevin Stant has been a docent at SAM since 2002. Kevin’s next assignment will be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum; beginning August 31, he’ll give Saturday tours on the exhibition Meot: Korean Art from the Frank Bayley Collection.


Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

Sat Jun 22
Youth Pride Disco
Break out your disco wear for this LGBTQIA+ Pride party, planned for and organized by LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 22! Join us for drag performances, great music, friend-making activities, food and soft drinks, a quiet room, and more.

Through Sun Jun 23
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales: Together Again, Again!
Experience the comedy, music, and saucy stylings of two of the Pacific Northwest’s standout drag entertainers, in this wildly hilarious extravaganza set in an apocalyptic future. Check the event calendar for information about performances for teens, ASL interpretation, captions, and masking.

Fri Jun 28
Trans Pride Seattle 2024
Started in 2013, Trans Pride Seattle is an annual event organized by Gender Justice League. Visit the Volunteer Park Amphitheater from 5 to 10 pm for live music, community speakers, performances, and a resource fair all dedicated to increased visibility, connection, and love of the Seattle-area TwoSpirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse (2STGD) community.

Sat Jun 29
PrideFest Capitol Hill
Spanning six blocks of Broadway and Cal Anderson Park, this all-day market features queer local businesses, beer gardens, family and youth programming, and three stages with an unforgettable lineup of live performances.

Sun Jun 30
Seattle Pride Parade
Spend the final day of June by taking part in the 50th annual Pride Parade led by grand marshals Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. Then, head over to Seattle Center for the can’t-miss performances, hundreds of acts, beer gardens, food vendors, a new family area—and dancing in the iconic International Fountain.

Visit the official Seattle Pride website for even more suggested events.

Image: Léon Delafosse, ca. 1895–98, John Singer Sargent, Born Florence, Italy, 1856; Died London, England, 1925, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 23 3/8 in. Given in honor of Trevor Fairbrother by Mr. and Mrs. Prentice Bloedel by exchange, and by Robert M. Arnold, Tom and Ann Barwick, Frank Bayley, Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Contemporary Art Council, Council of American Art, Jane and David R. Davis, Decorative Arts and Paintings Council, Robert B. Dootson, Mr. and Mrs. Barney A. Ebsworth, P. Raaze Garrison, Lyn and Gerald Grinstein, Helen and Max Gurvich, Marshall Hatch, John and Ann Hauberg, Richard and Betty Hedreen, Mary Ann and Henry James, Mrs. Janet W. Ketcham, Allan and Mary Kollar, Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, Rufus and Pat Lumry, Byron R. Meyer, Ruth J. Nutt, Scotty Ray, Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Vance Salsbury, Herman and Faye Sarkowsky, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Scheumann, Seattle Art Museum Supporters, Jon and Mary Shirley, Joan and Harry Stonecipher, Dean and Mary Thornton, William and Ruth True, Volunteers Association, Ms. Susan Winokur and Mr. Paul Leach, The Virginia Wright Fund, Charlie and Barbara Wright, Howard Wright and Kate Janeway, Merrill Wright, and Mrs. T. Evans Wyckoff, 2001.17. Photo: Elizabeth Mann.

Step Into the Whirlpool of Yirrkala at SAM

Is paradise lost? Or is there a place on Earth that has been able to avoid climate catastrophes, species loss, homelessness, and menial jobs, and that constantly involves everyone in making art and ceremony? There is. For visions of a culture that has cared for the environment and every living species in it for millennia, and now creates art which invites us to consider alternative ways of navigating life on this planet, let’s turn to Yirrkala.

Yirrkala is a small town on the northeast edge of Australia, which is a central hub for the people who call themselves Yolngu and live on territories from the waters off the Blue Mud Bay in Arnhem Land. Their art gives form to a database of relationships and laws that govern the way humans interact with one another and with natural phenomena. Their signature is seen in intricate designs that arrived with the great culture heroes whose bodies were marked by patterns of water, salt, and foam that dried on their skin. For centuries, Yolngu have painted clan designs on bodies for ceremonies and on sacred objects.

More recently, Yolngu artists have painted on bark, incised metal, and developed media to provide outsiders with hints of how they see their world. Thirty examples of art from Yirrkala were selected from the nearly 100 in the collection formulated during visits to the Top End by Bob Kaplan and Margaret Levi. A cultural keynote of Yolngu culture is the law of sharing and not excluding any people or anything from the group. Kinship extends to all living beings they come in contact with: from birds and insects to snakes and crocodiles. Then there are the ancestral beings who may make their presence known in sparkling water, blazing fire, or the angry eyes of a shark.

Will Stubbs, a Yirrkala resident, has described a difference in what Yolngu art reflects upon. As he has written, “If you think of a time before television, when entertainment was not beamed from remote sources, you would have been grateful for a fully functioning ecosystem… In a fully enriched ecosystem, you cannot separate yourself from the environment: fish will literally fly past your face, snakes slither into your house, and insects crawl into your bed.”1 A visit to this gallery will surround you with messages from Yolngu who offer a long, sustained look at their territory and want us to know how extraordinary it is.

Yirrkala: Art From Australia’s Top End is now on view in SAM’s third floor galleries.

– Pam McClusky, SAM Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb Curator of African and Oceanic Art

This article first appeared in the February through May 2024 edition of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks!

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

1 Will Stubs, Larrakitj: Kerry Stokes Collection (Australia: Fremantle Press, 2011), 40.

Muse/News: Essential Summer, Hooked on Clay, and Pointed Playful

SAM News

The Seattle Times staff recommends “8 essential things to do during summer in Seattle,” including a visit to the Olympic Sculpture Park, especially during Summer at SAM. The annual free series of performances, tours, and activities takes place every Thursday night and Saturday morning between July 11 and August 11.

In South Seattle Emerald’s “Arts in the South End: June 2024 Roundup,” Jas Keimig recommends an upcoming show at SAM. Jacob Lawrence: American Storyteller features 13 works on paper by the celebrated modern artist; it opens June 28.

Local News

Via Catalina Gaitán for The Seattle Times: “Seattle now has two of the largest outdoor murals in North America.”

Artists Anida Yoeu Ali and Kamari Bright were announced as the recipients of the 2024 Arts Innovator Award. Both artists will receive $25,000 to continue their practices. You can see Ali’s work at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence through July 7.

The June issue of University of Washington Magazine has a profile on artist Patti Warashina by writer Hannelore Suderman that reveals the ceramic artist’s original plan for her studies… click to find out just how lucky we are that she discovered clay. You can see examples in Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, which opens at SAM on Friday, June 21. 

“She loved the tactile experience of throwing clay on a wheel and was hooked on creating, pushing the limits of clay and taking inspiration from her classmates.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “A Major Restoration Breathes New Life Into Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Iconic Seasons.”

Holland Cotter of The New York Times recommends several shows to see in NYC galleries this month, including a solo show for Xenobia Bailey at Venus Over Manhattan. You can see the Seattle-born artist’s Afrofuturist fiber crochet work on view in Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, beginning Friday, June 21.

Art in America’s Andy Battaglia interviews Joyce J. Scott on the occasion of her retrospective, Walk a Mile in My Dreams, which debuted at the Baltimore Museum of Art and opens at SAM this fall.

“Time and again, Scott’s colorful creations stare down histories of racism, classism, and sexism with steely eyes and an impish grin. She takes a pointed and playful approach to bracing subject matter, the small-mindedness and absurdity of which she exposes as abhorrent and just plain dumb.”

And Finally

“Oh Happy Day” 30 years later.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Yellow Stalk With Stone

“Since the beginning of my work in abstract art, and even though it was not obvious at that time, I felt that there was no better model for me to work from than the Universe. Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, surrounded by vivid clouds and tides, currents of air, viscosities and fragrances—in their utmost variety and disparity.”

– Alexander Calder

Yellow Stalk with Stone is a prime example of Calder’s experimental approach to sculpture, embracing both the transcendent and the ordinary. During the artist’s lifetime, the artwork was exhibited globally with notable stops at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Brazil, and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Venezuela.

Despite its global adventures, the standing mobile highlights the important role of found objects in Calder’s oeuvre. Its titular stone—found by the artist on a walking meditation around his property in Roxbury, Connecticut—invites a dialogue between found, manipulated, and artificial materials in art.

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection closes Sunday, August 4 at SAM! Don’t miss your chance to see over 45 of the iconic American artist’s renowned works (including Yellow Stalk with Stone) and explore the exhibition’s free smartphone tour from the museum’s galleries. Plus, you can listen to all 16 stops of the tour on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Yellow Stalk with Stone, 1953

NARRATOR: Calder was a truly international artist. During his lifetime, this work was exhibited multiple times, including in Brazil, New York, and Venezuela. But the stone referred to in the title came from close to home; he picked it up near his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. 

The stone creates a dialogue with the man-made elements of the sculpture. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder’s process of creation and composition was very intuitive. It was in the moment. It was in the spirit of the moment. It wasn’t something that was planned. He didn’t make diagrammatic plans for creating his sculptures.

NARRATOR: It’s a way of working that resonates with artist Kennedy Yanko.  

KENNEDY YANKO: He’s clearly thinking in a way where he needs to explore something, where he needs to understand something in his own way, to his own hand. Maybe he was in the studio, and he just had the stone and just went and placed it on there or he had been thinking about it for a while and then placed it on there, and that moment, that decision is what transforms the piece into what you wanted it to be.

NARRATOR: Found objects have an important role in Calder’s work. José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: I really hope that visitors will walk through this exhibition and see Calder through an ecological lens. He was certainly resourceful—you’ll notice that there’s works that incorporate wood, rocks, bits of material, or discarded objects—but also the fact that Calder could make art from the most ordinary materials and make something so complex, yet so beautiful.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

TAG Talks: Disco, Dancing, and Bringing the Magic of Teen Night Out to Life

SAM’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) is an intensive internship program for high school-aged youth who are eager to learn about themselves and the world through art, and are excited to make SAM a fun and engaging space for teens. TAG members meet weekly from October to May to learn about the behind-the-scenes work of an art museum, lead engaging gallery tours, plan Teen Night Out, and so much more. TAG Talks is an ongoing SAM Blog series on SAM Blog that serves as a space for SAM’s teen leaders to express themselves and their love of art. Keep up with all TAG adventures by following @samteens on Instagram and stay tuned for more TAG Talks to come!

It’s a Friday night, and you’re bored out of your mind. The usual hangouts lack the frenzy, and your phone is out of new trends to show you. But wait! You suddenly remembered your friend telling you about the annual Teen Night Out at the Seattle Art Museum.

I joined SAM’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) in October 2023. Walking into my first meeting, it was already known that our adventures at SAM would culminate with Teen Night Out, just like every year. Seeing the excitement and anticipation that consumed last year’s attendees put pressure on us to plan and execute another engaging and fun event for Seattle’s teens. This being my first year in TAG, I wanted Teen Night Out 2024 to be memorable.

When it came to deciding the theme and decorations for the event, it was truly inspiring to hear the ideas of other TAG members. They demonstrated an immense passion for art, and shared their hopes for the museum. Theme ideas ranged from ballgowns, disco, glam rock, and nature. Until, finally, we hit Junkyard Disco. We all had ideas in mind that basically described vintage 70s fashion with a touch of sustainability. With a disco ball too, of course!

Leading up to the day of the event, TAG meetings covered creating decorations for the museum, whilst also leaving time for fun, practicing art with teaching artists. The decorations were my favorite part. Some of the decorations I made ranged from giant cardboard disco balls to a huge “SAM Records” music disk. Oh! And we can’t forget the giant van paper frame that was used as part of the event’s photobooth. During this time of cramming to finish creating decorations and planning, the best part of it all was bonding with other TAG members. Creating new decorations with the help of others while also complimenting and discussing posters made by others was truly the highlight of the process for me.

The minutes leading up to Teen Night Out were full of moving heavy packages of sparkling water and sneaking in some snacks along the way. Every TAG member had amazing, lavish disco outfits that truly matched the theme of the evening. What excited me most, however, was the sheer amount of disco balls, something I could’ve only dreamed of! Mere seconds before the doors opened, I created my own disco ball headband with the support of the tiny disco balls that filled countless buckets along the entrance of the museum. At exactly 7 pm, teens rushed in after the conclusion of the award ceremony of Seattle Public Schools’ Naramore Art Show on the museum’s lower level. I remember teens instantly running to the junkyard area we had in the front of the museum, taking all the tiny and large objects that soon transformed into original breathtaking creations.

Teen Night Out was a blur, but in the best way possible.

I remember creating many headbands and little gadgets that soon found a place on my bedroom bookshelf. In the middle of Teen Night Out, my friends and fellow TAG members Hamda and Samira alerted me to our new TAG audio guide, finally installed in American Art: The Stories We Carry. I remember jumping with joy after seeing our hard work in its full and final form for museum visitors to see and interact with for years to come.

To end off the night, students of the School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts (SANCA) gave an amazing performance, entirely powered by youth! It was refreshing to see an organization that willingly grants youth the power to form their own decisions, something I admire about SAM as well.

Looking back, Teen Night Out felt like a huge hangout for teens with different backgrounds, but all united through art. Art possesses a healing power that has followed me throughout my life, and it’s truly rewarding to see other teens express themselves through various artistic means. To all teens, Teen Night Out is one night a year, but may very well be the best night of your entire year. You are guaranteed to make friends, have fun, make some great art, and find yourself along the way!

– Ivy Liu (she/her), 15, First-Year Teen Arts Group Leader

Photos: Chloe Collyer & Cristina Cano-Calhoun.

Professor Sonal Khullar on a New Approach to Imagining Geographical Borders in South Asian Art

SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents the 2023–24 season of the Saturday University Lecture Series, exploring various topics on Asian art and culture across time. On Saturday, June 8, Sonal Khullar, W. Norman Brown Associate Professor of South Asian Studies in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, will discuss the growing preoccupation with nations, borders, and partitions in contemporary art from South Asia since the 1990s. In advance of her talk, SAM spoke with Khullar about what visitors can expect to learn about in her upcoming talk, her travels to Lahore, Pakistan in 2018, and the role art has played and will continue to play in South Asian politics.


SAM: What can the public expect to learn about in your upcoming Saturday University lecture? What initially drew you to this topic?

Sonal Khullar: My lecture will highlight contemporary art from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka that takes up the problem of nations, borders, and partitions in South Asia. Since the late 1990s, artists have aimed to materialize a region distinct from the one conceived by nation-states and multinational corporations. They have done so through collaborations in the form of artworks, projects, exhibitions, and associations despite immense and growing conflicts within and between nation-states. Although globalization is generally imagined through networks and flows and discussed in terms of mobility and circulation, it can also be understood as their converse: obstacles to, or restrictions on, movement, evident in Pakistani artist Bani Abidi’s series of inkjet prints Security Barriers (2009–2019), the double-channel video installation The News (2001), and the film The Distance from Here (2010), which I will address in my lecture.

In researching my first book Worldly Affiliations (University of California Press, 2015) on modern art in India, I became aware of a contemporary art world that was different from what had come before in its formal and social commitments. Yet, legacies of modernism were everywhere in art institutions and imaginations, and highly significant for contemporary art. I wanted to explore that dynamic further. In the 21st century, artists from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka regularly show their work in India, where galleries, museums, dealers, and critics agglomerate, and large-scale, recurring international art exhibitions are hosted, both in the region and outside of it. These conditions for art have enabled cultural exchanges across borders and generated aesthetics and politics of what I call ‘everyday partitions.’ A sense of loss, edginess, and haunting, with the past looming over the present, is palpable in these works, as exemplified by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta’s work shown in the collateral exhibition My East is Your West at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

SAM: Academic research often involves travel. Is there a travel experience related to your lecture experience that you could share with us?

SK: My visit to Pakistan to speak in the Academic Forum of the inaugural Lahore Biennale in 2018 was unforgettable. It was my first time in Pakistan, though Lahore was familiar. It is the city in which my grandmother, Sudarshan Nayyar, spent her childhood and adolescence, living in 5 Scotch Corner off Mall Road, and attending Sacred Heart Convent School, where Belgian nuns valued discipline and enforced purdah (practices of gendered segregation). Her father, my great-grandfather, Sohan Lal Nayyar, a civil engineer with the Public Works Department, came from Qila Sobha Singh in Sialkot District, now Qila Ahmed Abad in Narowal District in Pakistan. I had long imagined Lahore with its tree-lined boulevards and Mughal monuments to be like Delhi, the city in which I grew up and which no longer exists, in part because the old Lahoris among whom I grew up are no more. I remembered their tehzeeb (manners) and zubaan (language) in encounters with artists and intellectuals in universities, museums, galleries, and art schools.

Lahore is also the city in which Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941), an artist I have written about, lived, worked, and died. It was a thrill to trace her footsteps and that of critics such as Charles Fabri (1899–1968) and Mulk Raj Anand (1904–2004) and poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911–1984) and Saadat Hasan Manto (1912–1955), who made the city their home and built literary and artistic worlds in modern South Asia. Their work continues in the contemporary art I saw during the Lahore Biennale in Mughal buildings, colonial gardens, a modernist art center, the Lahore Museum, and an eighteenth-century haveli (mansion) in the old city that had been converted into an art school and Imambargah, a congregation hall for Shia Muslims, among other venues. This art presented a different vision of Pakistan than the one we most often see in the news where security, terrorism, religious nationalism, and gendered violence dominate headlines. I was interviewed twice about my research while in Lahore. You can access the published articles here and here.

SAM: The Seattle Art Museum is home to nearly 25,000 works of art. What’s one artwork from the museum’s collection that resonates with you? Why?

SK: Pushpamala N.’s Motherland-The Great Sacrifice, from the Mother India Project (2010; print date 2012) speaks to themes of my lecture: the critique of nationalism, political uses of the past, and the role of artists as citizens. Based on a popular image of the Indian revolutionary Bhagat Singh (1907–1931) sacrificing himself to India, personified as a mother goddess, this digital print refers to commercial images known as calendar art and to contemporary and historical practices of studio photography in South Asia with its use of backdrops and props, evident in the bright, flowery curtains that give this scene a theatrical quality. Assuming the role of Mother India, the artist performs for the camera and plays on normative notions of gender and sexuality. She invites us to consider how national myths of motherlands and sons of the soil suffuse everyday life. Mother India imagery is ubiquitous in offset printed calendar art displayed in offices, homes, and shops. In South Asia, politicians present themselves as mothers and fathers of a nation modeled on a family. 

In 2014, I taught a course at the University of Washington in conjunction with the exhibition City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India, curated by Catharina Manchanda. We studied Pushpamala’s work as an example of contemporary artists’ engagement with photography and cinema cultures in India, a major theme of that exhibition, evident in works by Manjunath Kamath, Nandini Valli Muthiah, Dayanita Singh, and Vivek Vilasini. That exhibition featured Pushpamala’s Flirting (After 1990s Kannada Film Still) from the project Native Women of South India: Manners and Customs (2000–2004) in which the artist poses as a schoolgirl-like figure with a stainless-steel tiffin box or lunch carrier with a man who holds out a plastic rose. A bottle of beer and snacks for two in the background suggest that they are in a hotel room. In other words, the coy seduction playing out before our eyes may be more complicated than that. Pushpamala restages a film still from Sowbhagya Devathe [Gods of Good Fortune] (1995), directed by Om Saiprakash, to show how the workings of gender and sexuality in everyday life are inflected by popular culture

SAM: Is there anything we didn’t ask that you want to share with the public in advance of your lecture?

SK: Most of South Asia will be at the polls in 2024. National elections were held in Bangladesh and Pakistan in January and February, elections are underway in India and scheduled in Sri Lanka between September and October. Politics and politicians have been the focus of media attention. What do art and artists tell us about the region? How do they represent it differently from the state and civil society? Visual representation, cultural symbols, and history books matter, as these elections have reminded us. 

Discourses in the global north on the global south tend to emphasize death and disaster, floods and famine, war and genocide. While it is essential to address violence, such discourses tend to overlook forms of beauty and pleasure and acts of creativity and resilience. My scholarship considers those forms and acts as responses to border walls, security fences, road closures, barricades, and checkpoints in the global south and north. Art worlds in south and north are closely linked because of a history of empires, migrations, and diasporas, as I propose in an episode of the EMPIRE LINES podcast on Bani Abidi’s Memorial to Lost Words (2016) released on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the partition of British India in 2022.

SAM: What’s one book you’d recommend to those interested in learning more about your lecture topic?

SK: I can’t resist the opportunity to recommend my edited volume Old Stacks, New Leaves: The Arts of the Book in South Asia (University of Washington Press, 2023) with contributions by scholars and artists, including contemporary art projects and works of creative nonfiction. Tracing a history of illustrated books in South Asia since 1100 CE, this volume relates Indic and Islamic book cultures and manuscript and print forms, which are usually treated as discrete categories in scholarship. It discusses the role of institutions, including temples, warehouses, libraries, and museums, and highlights use, exchange, and the social lives of books. These topics seem newly important, indeed urgent, given attacks on authors, books, presses, archives globally. 

Contemporary artists across South Asia have turned to the book form to reflect on their societies and histories, and consider the impact of wars, empires, nations, and partitions. The cover image of Old Stacks, New Leaves is a detail from The Karkhana Project (2003), a set of twelve paintings produced collaboratively by six graduates of the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan: Aisha Khalid, Nusra Latif, Hasnat Mehmood, Imran Qureshi, Talha Rathore, and Saira Wasim. Citing Mughal manuscripts and artists’ books by Muhammad Abdur Rahman Chughtai (1894–1975) and Sadequain (1930–1987), The Karkhana Project addresses problems around art education and cultural expression in Pakistan. Old Stacks, New Leaves taking its cue from such artwork, and presents words and pictures that aim to “delight and instruct,” to quote Martin Amis quoting John Dryden.

– Simon Tran, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Photo: Matt Leib.

Muse/News: Amiably Weird, Pride Art, and Creative Freedom

SAM News

Alex Greenberger of ARTnews recommends “44 Museum Shows to See This Summer,” including Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, which opens at the Seattle Art Museum on Friday, June 21. Can you dig it?

On view right now at SAM is Yirrkala: Art from Australia’s Top End, an exhibition of Australian Aboriginal paintings recommended in the May/June 2024 issue of Seattle magazine by Helen Lowenthal.

Artist Anida Yoeu Ali was interviewed for KUOW about “the fabulousness of being a Muslim woman” and her performance work, which is now on view in Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence at the Seattle Asian Art Museum through July 7.

Local News

For KNKX, two Garfield High students reflect on “what it’s really like to perform at the pinnacle of high school jazz”: the Essentially Ellington competition in New York. 

Here’s Brangien Davis of Cascade PBS on the opening of a delightful new brick-and-mortar bookstore in Pioneer Square, Long Bros. Fine & Rare Books.

Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times on “5 Seattle art shows to see during Pride month 2024.”

“The past, present and future of art is powerfully and inextricably linked with the creative contributions of LGBTQ+ artists who have used art for self-expression, advocacy and social critique.”

Inter/National News

Lance Esplund of the Wall Street Journal reviews the Norton Simon Museum’s exhibition, I Saw It: Francisco de Goya, Printmaker, with prints that include haunting allegorical scenes and brutal images of war.

Artnet’s Katie White interviews Pipilotti Rist at the artist’s “zany, kaleidoscopic, and creatively cluttered” Zurich studio on the occasion of her survey exhibition Doha’s Fire Station.

Via Gameli Hamelo for ARTnews: “When El Anatsui Isn’t Busy Being One of Africa’s Biggest Artists, He’s Collecting Vinyl.”

“Just like Fela, I believe that my career has proven that the audiences will always look to the artist to lead, to expand their experience with new presentations or renewals of old fare. When encountering objects, I think of what they can do and what has not been explored yet, and try to explore it. Freedom has a lot to do with it.”

And Finally

Kabosu, the dog behind the “doge” internet meme, has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Animated Coat Hanger

A material as humble and mundane as wire proved inspiring for Alexander Calder, who used it to create three-dimensional line drawings. During the late 1920s, he sculpted a range of wire acrobats, performers, animals, and portraits of famed figures of the day, including Fernand Léger, Josephine Baker, and Joan Miró.

These ‘drawings in space’ enthralled the international avant-garde for their projected shadows, captured voids, and challenged perceptions. His radical objects not only upended space through their transparent volumes, but also presented the reality of motion through vibrating wire lines and the inclusion of actual moving parts. As a result of these works, Calder was lauded as Le roi du fil de fer, or the king of wire.

Although intimate in size, Animated Coat Hanger speaks volumes about Calder’s ingenuity and resourcefulness with wire. The work’s title implies that a coat hanger was used to sculpt the profiled subject, but that is not the case. Perhaps the title is a nod to the artists from the Dada movement, who used the choice of selection to create readymades from preexisting common objects, such as hangers.

Tune in to the ninth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz and New York-based artist Kennedy Yanko share their perspectives on this simple yet surprising wire sculpture. Explore all 16 stops of the audio tour now via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select artworks on view.

Animated Coat Hanger, 1927

NARRATOR: Wire sculpture was Calder’s first great invention. He removed mass from sculpture and introduced transparency as well as gentle movement through vibration.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Animated Coat Hanger is really special to this exhibition.

NARRATOR: Curator José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: This particular work is from 1927 which is an example of one of the earliest works in the show. Calder had been so innovative with wire, so much so that we use the term drawing in space.

NARRATOR: Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: The fact that he would carry pliers in his pocket and just decide to start drawing is such a true thing to me, the idea of choosing a medium to represent drawing.  

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: But what’s really beautiful about it is the simplicity. You’ll notice the wooden base, which looks like it could have been a discarded material. You’ll notice the figurative aspect of it, sort of the profile of an individual.

KENNEDY YANKO: It’s surprising, and it’s intriguing, and somehow it’s barely there, but when you take a closer look at it, the sensibility, the delicacy, the gesture, the breasts, the face, how can a line have so much effect and so much life within it? So, I think that it’s just a gesture to like how powerful the way that the eyes can read something, and the way that the mind can fill the rest of the space. And I think with Calder’s work there’s always opportunity for that. He knows that the mind will always fill the blank spaces and always complete what needs to be there.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Circus-Themed Prints

Throughout the 1920s, Alexander Calder worked as an illustrator for the National Police Gazette. On one assignment, Calder was tasked with visiting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus life. The experience led to a newfound interest for the circus.

A series of seven lithographs on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM demonstrate Calder’s lifelong fascination with the circus. Originally drawn in 1931–32, the prints were published in New York in 1964 as part of an unbound portfolio reproducing the artist’s circus scenes. The portfolio, titled Calder’s Circus, includes a signature page by Cleve Gray and a reproduction of a letter from Joan Miró. Notably, the original line drawings were made during a time of transition for the artist: after his performative Cirque Calder (1926–31) and during his exploration of purely abstract forms—as well as voids and volumes—in his mobiles and stabiles.

On the eleventh stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz explains why Calder considered the circus to be a ‘highly sophisticated form of entertainment’ and shares details of the artist’s famous Cirque Calder. Listen at any time via our SoundCloud or, if you’re in SAM’s galleries, scan the QR codes next to select artworks on view to access the tour.

Group of Circus-Themed Prints, 1931–32, 1964

NARRATOR: These offset lithographs date from 1964; but they’re based on drawings that Calder made as a young man. 

During the 1920s, Calder took a job illustrating for the National Police Gazette. They sent him to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus scenes. The circus became a lifelong interest for Calder. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: During Calder’s youth, the circus was a great point of inspiration for him. This was a highly sophisticated form of entertainment. It had a global appeal. It included performative aspects—larger than life theatricality. It included actors, performers, and animals. And he illustrated this. He even went on to make his Cirque Calder, which was his own representation of a performative, sculptural circus that he himself was sort of the ringmaster of.  

NARRATOR: The Cirque Calder dates from after Calder’s move to Paris in 1926. It was a complex and unique body of art, and included tiny performers, animals and props such as he’d observed on his sketching trips to the circus. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Cirque Calder was a reenacted performative circus made of small figurines and design sets that mimic the circus. The Cirque Calder was something that was small enough to fit in one suitcase and eventually five, and Calder would perform the Cirque Calder across the Atlantic from Paris to New York. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

World-Renowned Artist Ai Weiwei Comes to SAM in 2025

Today, SAM made a major announcement: In 2025, the Seattle Art Museum will present the first US retrospective in over a decade of the work of Ai Weiwei. Titled Ai, Rebel: The Art and Activism of Ai Weiwei, it will explore over 100 works from across four decades, offering visitors from all over the world a rare opportunity to engage with the celebrated conceptual artist’s wide-ranging body of work. The exhibition will be on view at the Seattle Art Museum in downtown Seattle and is curated by FOONG Ping, SAM Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art. This also marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in Seattle.

The news arrived via a co-exclusive by ARTnews and The Seattle Times.

ARTnews highlighted the unique curatorial perspective that FOONG will take: “Unlike many curators who’ve worked with Ai, Foong does not specialize in contemporary art. She mainly works with age-old Chinese works presented by the museum, and she said this moved to her to explore the art history that guides Ai. ‘My intention is to find some language that might describe trends and patterns, the things that have stood the test of time, the things that he thought about in his first decade and are still with him decades on,’ she said.”

And in The Seattle Times, José Carlos Diaz, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, called this a “major moment” for the city: “Seattle is due for a major exhibition of his dynamic, large-scale work,” he said. “Ai is a global icon whose work resonates with so many types of audiences; this exhibition will make SAM a destination for locals and visitors alike who will want to engage with his work.”

Exhibitions of Ai Weiwei’s work have brought sold-out crowds around the world, so the museum anticipates high demand and is making preparations for the best visitor experience. To increase access, SAM planned an extended run of six months, beyond its usual exhibition timeframe. Timed ticketing will increase access to the museum and improve flow in the galleries. Ticket release dates will be announced in advance so that visitors can plan ahead. SAM members will have additional opportunities for access, including early access to reserve timeslots, member-only days, and member-exclusive events.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Gao Yuan / Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.

Muse/News: Peaceful Gestures, Art Response, and Ancient Labels

SAM News

Tune in: Anida Yoeu Ali was interviewed by Gregory Scruggs of Monocle Radio about her performance works now on view in Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Tip: Her segment starts about 31 minutes into the show.) You can see her as The Red Chador alongside her rainbow brigade on Saturday, June 1 across all three SAM sites!

“My gestures are the heart shake…and then sometimes I just bow to them as the Red Chador, just completely humble myself and offer a bow…that is always very well received and it sort of disarms a moment, too, when they see that I’m offering you a moment of reverence and a peaceful gesture.”

Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times was inspired by the aurora borealis to find more open-air beauty, including at the Olympic Sculpture Park: “Where to see free, outdoor art in the Seattle area in spring 2024.”

“The installation is a stunning illustration of Serra’s belief that sculpture wasn’t meant to be passively viewed but felt by moving through it. Here, let the undulating steel waves, at once tender and imposing, wash over you.”

Summer season is upon us: For Fodor’s, Sydney Baker has “The Perfect 5-Day Seattle Itinerary”; Baker recommends CityPASS for all your attraction needs, including a downtown day that includes the Seattle Art Museum. And Amanda Teague for The Manual has “4 reasons why Seattle is Kayak’s No. 1 summer travel destination,” including a shout-out for SAM

Local News

The skies also inspired Cascade PBS’s Brangien Davis, who found “Northwest artists channel Northern lights in galleries from Ballard to Pioneer Square.” 

Via Jenn Ngeth for South Seattle Emerald: “Events Bloom All Over Seattle to Celebrate AA&NH/PI Heritage Month 2024.”

Via Nova Berger for Capitol Hill Seattle Blog: “Capitol Hill resident and poet Janée Baugher has received the Dorset Prize.”

“Museums changed that for Baugher. She writes in a literary style known as Ekphrastic poetry: a poetic response to the emotions a piece of art brings. Using language as a tool to bridge the visual and the verbal, allowing the poet to capture their response to the artwork in a way we can all understand.”

Inter/National News

Don’t miss this full celebratory series of the greatest short story writer ever via The New York Times: “Alice Munro, Nobel Laureate and Master of the Short Story, Dies at 92.”

Via Artdaily: “Gagosian opens the gallery’s first exhibition of works by Lauren Halsey.” The artist had her solo show at SAM in 2022 in honor of her 2021 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize. 

For the ones who read the labels: Richard Whiddington for Artnet on English archaeologist Leonard Woolley’s excavation of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur and what he found in 1925.

“The clue that indicated that Woolley had uncovered a Neo-Babylonian museum was the presence of artifact labels. Each object corresponded to a small clay cylinder that boasted inscriptions in four languages explaining the object, its context, and its history.”

And Finally

“A Few Words About That Ten-Million Dollar Serial Comma.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Going Mobile, Deep Roots, and Mother Wit

SAM News

“Hope you like mobiles!!” The Stranger’s Everout names SAM’s first-ever Calder Symposium one of “The Best Things To Do in Seattle This Month: May 2024.” With a talk by renowned Alexander Calder biographer Jed Perl on Friday evening and a day of tours, lectures, and screenings about Calder’s genius all day Saturday, you won’t want to miss it.

And save the date: SAM’s summer exhibition, Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, opens in just over a month. 425 Magazine mentioned it in their “This Week in A&E” spotlight. 

Local News

In her latest ArtSEA post, Cascade PBS’s Brangien Davis sees arts venues “putting on a good face”; some of her recommendations have passed but some are ongoing—don’t miss out!

Via Sarah Stackhouse for Seattle Magazine: “Rebuilding Re-Sole 206.”

“One Reel, former Bumbershoot producer, closing; its art paper survives”: Chase Hutchinson for The Seattle Times with an update on the 52-year-old nonprofit arts organization.

“In an email, Elisheba Johnson, One Reel’s board president, spoke of the organization’s ‘roots that are long and deep in the community. Almost every events/music employee in this region has worked at One Reel at some point of their career,’ Johnson said. ‘One Reel will be remembered as the incredible convener of arts and culture in Seattle for over 50 years.’

Inter/National News

Artnet rounds up the best looks inspired by art history at the Met Gala.

Via Ad Age: “Apple apologized Thursday for a new iPad Pro commercial that was met with fierce criticism from creatives for depicting an array of creative tools and objects—from a piano, to a camera, to cans of paint—being destroyed by an industrial crusher.”

Via Evan Nicole Brown for T: The New York Times Style Magazine: “Betye Saar Remains Guided by the Spirit.”

“Saar, who is 97, decides what to reach for based on something she has referred to over the years as “mother wit”: she feels when a wooden statue, antique doll or rusted dagger is calling to be used. Saar considers this selection process to be a sacred one.”

And Finally

“10 Times Artists Hid Themselves in Their Paintings.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Global Agitator: An Interview with Anida Yoeu Ali

Since the debut of Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence in January, visitors to the Seattle Asian Art Museum have been enthralled by Anida Yoeu Ali’s dynamic performance-based artworks. Now, we speak with the Tacoma-based international artist with the activation of The Buddhist Bug behind her and the activation of The Red Chador taking place on Saturday, June 1.


SAM: Something that connects The Buddhist Bug and The Red Chador is their incredible visual impact that sparks immediate curiosity and delight: the humor and vivid color of the bug and the entrancing sequins of the chadors in all colors of the rainbow. Is this an artistic strategy?

ANIDA YOEU ALI: I know people in general don’t expect to see my specific Asiatic face, with its stoic countenance—which I have inherited from my mother and grandmother—as the visage of The Buddhist Bug or The Red Chador. I’m interested in hypervisibility and an acknowledgement of my presence. I tend to place my body in colors that evoke some kind of joy and pleasure or an infusion of “fabulousness.” For me, performance allows for a magic of reinventing the self and projecting a larger-than-life persona that isn’t imprisoned by oppressive representations. There’s an awareness of the spectacle and ultimately a power in reclaiming the gaze, which has trapped and dehumanized so many of us and our communities.

SAM: You’ve said that the sculptural garments are “artifacts” when not being performed. Tell us about the exhibition space experience you’ve hoped to create for visitors to the museum.

ALI: Many of my installations, whether wearable garments or otherwise, require activation in which the live body completes the artwork. My art form is performance-installation where meters and meters of textile act as skin, as a way for the surface of my body to extend into public spaces, and as a metaphoric device for stories to spread across an expanse. But those stories aren’t literal or spoken; they are experienced through performances and encounters. The audience will need to do the hard work of figuring out what all this might mean to them: personally, politically, and/or spiritually.

I want visitors to pay attention to the encounter they are having with the colors on the walls, the colors of the textile, the highlighted text quotations, the artifacts of performance through exhibited videos, photographs, and installations. In the end, visitors will feel something and they might even be provoked.

SAM: It turns out that The Buddhist Bug and The Red Chador have both been performed at least 16 times. What new discoveries have you made as you’ve enacted the works at different times and places around the world?

ALI: As a performance artist, I put my body into public spaces and take on people’s reactions and responses. If my work provokes, then that means people are not only thinking but they are feeling. I create out of feelings and I want others to feel as well. With every live performance, my body is so publicly accessible that I must engage in a lot of visualization and meditative activities in preparation for a worst-case-scenario situation. However, what grounds me is knowing that someone will be positively affected, whether it’s the ability to bring warmth and smiles to them for a brief moment or offering something unexpected that they will think about beyond the live moment. For me, in every location around the world children and youth have responded with the most joy, curiosity, and genuine wonder. Children have disarmed rare situations in which adult reactions have been alarming or hurtful.

SAM: And what are you excited about for the upcoming performance of The Red Chador on June 1?

ALI: Because my works are more known outside of the US context, I am excited to finally bring this epic performance to the Seattle area. There’s a freedom I feel with performing in public spaces and enacting fantastical/mythical heroines that’s extremely powerful and necessary. All I want to do is to be able to offer people inside and outside my communities an opportunity to witness, engage, and experience a glimpse of the world that I have worked so rigorously to hone.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

This article first appeared in the February through May 2024 edition of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks!

Photos: Chloe Collyer & Alborz Kamalizad.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: McFlag

In McFlag (1996), Jaune Quick-to-See Smith critiques the commercialization of American nationalism by creating a US flag that directly connects the national symbol with corporate branding and advertising. Composed of oil, paper, and newspaper, Smith affixes speakers to the canvas to mimic the dish-like ears of Disney’s iconic mascot Mickey Mouse, and co-opts the ‘big, bigger, biggest’ language of McDonald’s slogans, to humorously depict the US government as being under the control of multinational corporations.

Many artists whose work influenced Smith’s—including Jasper Johns and David Hammons—have also taken liberties with the representation of the American flag. Here, however, Smith’s use is explicitly anti-capitalist. Artist Marie Watt reflects on McFlag as part of the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM, perceiving the work as a rebuke to powerful empires. All 19 stops of the exhibition’s audio tour are accessible by scanning the QR code next to select artworks on view in SAM’s galleries or by visiting our SoundCloud. Memory Map closes this Sunday, May 12, so don’t miss out—reserve your tickets to see the exhibition before it’s gone.

McFlag, 1996

NARRATOR: Smith titled this work McFlag and gave the canvas “ears” made of speakers that resemble Mickey Mouse’s ears. She layers brand identities like McDonald’s and Disney over the American flag, and suggests that American commercialism and American nationalism have become inseparable. 

MARIE WATT: I am Marie Watt, and I am an artist and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. 

I think that one of the things that Jaune Quick-to-See Smith does in this painting is she really does call upon us to think about these different constructs of empire, whether it’s nationhood or the entertainment industry. I am very much aware is when you zoom into this image and you start looking at the collage elements that have washes of paint over them, how there’s phrases like “the last frontier,” and “spirits are rich,” and “prices are low” and “big business,” and it’s interesting to reflect on the relationship between consumerism and stereotypes, between consumerism and colonization, and even consumerism and environmental degradation. And so this piece on one hand, I think is playful and funny, and yet, it also sort of looks at this darker side of empires.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: McFlag, 1996, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, oil, paper, and newspaper on canvas with speakers and electrical cord, three parts: 60 × 100 in. overall, Tia Collection. Fabricated by Neal Ambrose-Smith, © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Photograph courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

Dr. Prita Meier on the Vibrant Arts of the Swahili Coast

SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents the 2023–24 season of the Saturday University Lecture Series, exploring various topics on Asian art and culture across time. On Saturday, May 11, Dr. Prita Meier, Associated Professor of Africanist Art History in the Department of Art History and Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, will discuss the vibrant contemporary art and architectural scenes of the Swahili Coast. In advance of her talk, SAM spoke with Meier about what visitors can expect to learn about in her upcoming talk, the boundaries of culture and geography, and her extended travels to Mombasa, Lamu, and Zanzibar.


SAM: What can the public expect to learn about in your upcoming Saturday University lecture? What initially drew you to this topic?

PRITA MEIER: I will introduce audiences to the vibrant arts and architectures of the Swahili Coast of present-day Kenya and Tanzania. This maritime region of eastern Africa is where Africa and the Indian Ocean intersect. This vibrant arena of convergence has been a center of globalism and intercultural negotiating for more than a millennium. The Swahili Coast has an especially long history or engagement and exchange with Asia. My lecture will focus on a range of artifacts, ornaments, architectural forms—and even photographs—from the early modern period to the present. I will invite audiences to rethink how they draw boundaries between cultures and geographies. Oceanic places like Swahili port cities are transcontinental and multicultural in ways that challenge our ways of seeing the world. The main question animating my lecture will be: Where does Africa end and Asia begin from the vantage point of archipelagos, islands, and itinerant objects moving across the sea?

SAM: Academic research often involves travel. Is there a travel experience related to your lecture experience that you could share with us?

PM: I am trained as an Africanist, which means my primary research method is fieldwork and ethnography. That is, I talk to people about their culture in order to learn from them. I have been traveling and working in the port cities of Mombasa, Lamu, and Zanzibar for over twenty years. I have become deeply connected to families in Old Town Mombasa, who have been nurturing me and sustaining me for a long time. While my research on the arts of the Swahili Coast is focused on object and material culture, I am first and foremost dedicated to centering the amazing Kenyan individuals who have mentored me and guided me over the years. In fact, I have just spent the month of April in Mombasa and Nairobi, working on a new research project with local collaborators.

SAM: The Seattle Art Museum is home to nearly 25,000 works of art. What’s one artwork from the museum’s collection that resonates with you? Why?

PM: I am fascinated this Pakistani Bodhisattva from the mid-2nd to 3rd century. I love artworks and cultural forms that challenge our ideas about where an object or style belongs. This is a sacred Buddhist manifestation, but its style and figuration is connected to the Hellenistic world. It belongs to two artistic traditions, but also exceeds those traditions. It is a fascinating artwork of the crossroads.

SAM: What’s one book you’d recommend to those interested in learning more about your lecture topic?

PM: Here are a few recommendations:

– Simon Tran, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Photos: Headshot by Josh Kwassman. Hair Comb, about 1800, from Swahili coast of eastern Africa, courtesy of Minneapolis Museum of Art. Image of Bodhisattva by Paul Macapia.

Muse/News: Complex Stories, Sowing Seeds, and Desk Drawings

SAM News

On Seattle Met’s list of “Things to Do in Seattle”: the “complex cultural storytelling” of artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, now on view for just five more days at the Seattle Art Museum. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map closes after Sunday, May 12—don’t miss it!

Local News

SIFF is fifty! (Say that fifty times fast.) The Seattle Times has expansive coverage on the film festival taking place May 9–19.

Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine features three local designers—Guillermo Bravo, Prima Dona Studios, and Eighth Generation—who are giving “Seattle fashion” a good name.

Via Jas Keimig of South Seattle Emerald: Native-led arts organization yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective announced the acquisition of a property it will turn into a Native arts center.

“‘By creating an inclusive space where young people, Elders, and all our relatives can create and experience art together, we are sowing the seeds for the vibrant Indigenous futures we want to see bloom for generations to come,’ said Asia Tail (Cherokee), yəhaw̓’s executive director, in a press release about the news.”

Inter/National News

“Went From Bauhaus to Fun House”: Deborah Soloman with an appraisal of Frank Stella, who died this Saturday at the age of 87.

Hyperallergic is already thinking about “14 Art Books to Read This Summer.”

Via Adam Schrader for Artnet: “Kosovar Artist Petrit Halilaj’s Whimsical Met Roof Installation Belies a Dark History.”

“‘These desks were from the ‘70s, years I was not yet born. They have seen the fall of Yugoslavia, all the conflicts of the ‘90s, all the segregation, all the war. They still survived. All those generations of kids were all coexisting in a very beautiful mix with each other,’ he said.”

And Finally

The saga of Sugar the Zebra.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Little Yellow Panel

Although it was never publicly exhibited in his lifetime, Little Yellow Panel exemplifies Alexander Calder’s desire to create “paintings in motion.” This exotic wall sculpture’s origin can actually be traced to a significant moment in Calder’s development that inspired him to experiment with movement: his visit to the studio of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in October 1930.

The artist recalled being impressed not by Mondrian’s paintings but by the environmental space of his studio: “Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.’” 

In the wake of his visit, Calder began to work in the abstract. Beginning the following year, he explored the frontal formality of painting in three dimensions but with actual motion—elements in oscillation—usually by way of simple motors. Eventually, he experimented more freely with the possibilities of movement, suspending elements to be activated by air within wood frames or in front of panels made of painted plywood. Little Yellow Panel showcases how Calder ingeniously blurred the lines between painting and sculpture to reflect a choreography of nonobjective imagery.

Supplement your visit to Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM and learn more about Little Yellow Panel by tuning in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Access it now on our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to select works on view when exploring the museum’s galleries.

Little Yellow Panel, ca. 1936

NARRATOR: Little Yellow Panel is part of a series of works from the mid-1930s that explored the concept of ‘paintings in motion.’ The work blurs the lines between painting and sculpture: viewed from the front, its various elements appear to be positioned against a defined yellow background. But these elements can be moved around—so the composition changes. Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: What I like about it is that it’s perfect. It’s a perfect piece. Where the colors show up: they’re placed perfectly with just the right amount of randomness. It’s ironic. It’s calling upon all these different things. It captures, you know, an entrance into a more minimal thought of color and form. And it also holds his curiosity. And this really feels kind of like a pivotal moment of clarity.

NARRATOR: This was an intense period of innovation for Calder. In 1930, he visited the Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian. Calder was excited by the way the older artist had arranged his studio: Mondrian had pinned rectangles of colored cardboard to the walls, as he experimented with different compositions. For Calder, the whole space became an installation.

Following this visit, he made his first wholly abstract compositions. It was also at this time that he invented the kinetic sculptures we know as mobiles. It was his friend the French artist Marcel Duchamp who suggested the term. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He suggested it because in French the word mobile: it refers not only to motion, but it also means your motivation or your motive—Calder’s motivation, Calder’s motions, Calder’s motives. It was like that. It was a pun.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Spring Into Fall, Gwen’s Care, and Steely Watt

SAM News

Artnet has you covered with “9 Must-See Shows Around the U.S. This Spring,” including one for an artist who “tackles the weight of history with humor and wit.” Joyce J. Scott: Walk a Mile in My Dreams is now on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art; Seattle audiences get to see it this fall when the retrospective—co-organized by the BMA and SAM—travels here.

Local News

Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine on Subterranean Ceremonies, the solo show of Sky Hopinka on view now through May 26 at the Frye Art Museum. 

Isabella Breda of the Seattle Times on the work of Children of the Setting Sun, an Indigenous-led and -centered nonprofit based in Bellingham that “defies the traditional categories of a ‘media’ group.”  

Black Arts Legacies, a project of Cascade PBS, debuts its third season of stories of Black artists and arts organizations in Seattle. Don’t miss this feature by Jas Keimig about Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence: her young life in Harlem, independent artistic vision, and long partnership with husband Jacob Lawrence. 

“The emotional quality of this work — the gaze, the moody colors, the otherworldliness of its background — shows Knight’s signature attentiveness, the great care she afforded all of her subjects.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “Why Does the Louvre Want to Give the Mona Lisa Her Own Room?”

Via Howard Halle for ARTnews: “As Surrealism Turns 100, a Look at Its Enduring Legacy.”

Via Leslie Wayne for the New York Times: “At the Carnegie Museum of Art, an installation by the artist Marie Watt celebrates the region’s industrial history with I-beams and glass.” Watt’s Blanket Stories is a beloved work in SAM’s collection.

“Steel fits right in with her vision: It was steel from Pittsburgh that helped build the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge in New York, and many other famous structures. And it was Mohawk Native Americans, who have been celebrated in her past works, who worked on many of those projects, earning them the moniker ‘skywalkers’ for their daring feats on steel beams.”

And Finally

“Dropping Stitches at Knit Night.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Warrior for the 21st Century

In Warrior for the 21st Century (1999), a figural sculpture periodically dances to the sound of a rattle while an unidentified voice counts to 10 in the Salish language. To create this work, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith collaborated with her son and fellow artist Neal Ambrose-Smith. The sculpture is constructed by objects including an electronic motor, metal chains, steel, deck of cards, fry bread, aspirin, cassette tapes, echinacea, and more. All of these elements, Ambrose-Smith notes, are objects “every warrior needs.”

The artists created this sculpture to reflect serious issues affecting contemporary Native Americans, and armed their warrior with items for facing the challenges of the new millennium. Included are red ochre and sage for ceremonies, as well as the Indian AIDS Hotline telephone number (an important resource given the growing rates of HIV and AIDS in Indigenous communities in the late 1990s, when this work was made). The warrior also carries a copy of the 1855 Treaty of Hellgate, which established the reservation lands of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, where Smith was born and returns to often. The treaty serves as a reminder of past struggles with the federal government and the limitations of working within a colonial legal structure to protect land, water, and resources.

Learn more about Warrior for the 21st Century from Ambrose-Smith by tuning in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM. Produced by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the tour can be accessed online via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR codes positioned next to select works on view in the exhibition. Memory Map closes in less than one month at SAM. Don’t miss out: reserve your tickets to see it at SAM before it’s too late.

Warrior for the 21st Century, 1999

NARRATOR: In 1999, Smith was commissioned to make a work that could be packed into a small box–a time capsule. Working on the project with her son, Neal Ambrose-Smith, she set out to make the work take up as much space as possible when it was removed from its container. 

NEAL AMBROSE-SMITH: And so this, the idea was born of maybe a figure and then it could dance or move. And it could be animatronic. 

NARRATOR: Neal Ambrose-Smith. 

NEAL AMBROSE-SMITH: So we got these guys down the street to make a motor for us to mount this thing on. And then we decided to use chains instead of ropes to hold it together because they make sound and they collapse. 

And it was a lot of fun because Jaune went into this super creative mode of like, oh, we’re going to do some sound. It needs sound. And so we went to this guy’s recording studio and we brought coffee cans full of coffee beans and, you know, to make a rattle sound. And then we got somebody up on the reservation to do a recording from Sophie May, she’s one of our Salish speakers, counting one to ten for “Ten Little Indians.”

The figure itself is a combination of all the things that you might need as a warrior for the 21st century. And when I say warrior, it doesn’t necessarily mean male or female.

So the stomach is frybread and then a T-shirt from the reservation. It says Salish Kootenai on it and it’s red, which is good. And then at each of the joints, we put these little clear boxes like jewelry boxes or something to stuff things in. So there’s sage and there’s some tobacco and the feet are cassettes, you know with like powwow songs. And then there’s a snag bag connected to one of the hands, you know which are gloves. And a snag bag, for those who aren’t in the know is—at a powwow, sometimes you go in there for a snag, which is to get a date. And so a snag bag has lubricants, maybe a condom. Things for safe practice of snagging.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Warrior for the 21st Century, 1999, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Neal Ambrose-Smith, electrical motor, metal box and mechanical timer, metal chains, steel, hardware, acrylic sheets, photograph, Salish Kootenai College T-shirt, deck of cards, copy of Hellgate Treaty, fry bread, beaded cuffs, cotton gloves, aspirin, bottle of echinacea, plastic sewn with sinew (with Salish Kootenai Health Department Reservation Snag Bag, condoms, sage, red ochre), cassette tapes (Black Lodge “The Peoples Dance” and Star Basket Jr.’s “Get Up and Dance! Pow-Wow Songs Recorded Live”), wooden crate, CD player, sound, dimensions variable, Collection of the artist; courtesy Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, © Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith.

Teens Look Forward: Emerging Arts Leader Karla Pastrana Reflects

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I have been asked this question since I was a child. Now, as a junior at the University of Washington Tacoma, that question has evolved:

“What do you want to do after college?”

No matter how it’s phrased, the question still sends a wave of nerves down my body. Growing up, there were high expectations for me to excel. As the only US citizen in my family, I wanted to show my parents that their sacrifices were worth something; as a student with a learning disability, I have struggled to catch up to my classmates; as an early-career professional, I constantly face uncertainty about what success looks like for me. Whenever I am asked who I want to be, I am reminded of my childhood fears—of the dark, the unknown, and what the future holds for all of us. 

I joined SAM’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) in 2020 as a senior in high school, and just recently wrapped up my second year as an intern helping to oversee the same program. As part of SAM’s education team, my goal was to provide youths with the same community experiences and leadership opportunities I received when I was a TAG member.   

I joined TAG at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, I was beyond scared about my future. I knew I wanted to go to college and get a degree in writing, but I was uncertain about where to take that experience afterward. While serving as a TAG leader, I learned that there were many opportunities out there which combined my passions for art, writing, and creating inclusive community programs.

After graduating high school, I decided I was interested in learning more about museum education. More specifically, I wanted to play an active role in creating artistic and educational opportunities for young students of color, populations who—like myself—have been historically excluded from art museums as a result of income inequality and systemic racism. Throughout 2020, TAG meetings were often spent discussing this issue because many of us had personally experienced exclusivity from art institutions. We made it our goal to prioritize inclusion across all our events, encouraging BIPOC teens from all social backgrounds to showcase their art and feel welcome at the museum. This led to On The Verge, a teens-only exhibition featuring artists whose perspectives and identities are shaped by race, gender, ethnicity, and social background. This exhibit was free, accessible, and open to the public—all of which helped artists, and my TAG colleagues, feel seen and valued at the museum.

As I have grown into my role as the Teen and Family Programs Intern, I have learned so much about how TAG is planned and executed behind the scenes. On the same day I am writing this reflection, I am also helping develop TAG’s yearly and weekly schedules, lead discussions and presentations with TAG participants, create content for @SAMTeens on Instagram, plan icebreakers and team-building activities, coordinate guest speakers, and provide mentorship opportunities for this year’s cohort of teens.

TAG is intended to help teens explore their passions and build leadership skills that will benefit them long after their time at SAM. I know how confusing and stressful it can be to navigate life after high school, and know how vital it is for teens to have a safe place to learn, ask questions, and make mistakes. As a TAG mentor, I’ve encouraged teens to anticipate problems, discuss questions, and think deeply about their short- and long-term goals—all of which are skills I have found helpful in my work as an Emerging Arts Leader.

My internship experience at SAM has expanded my view of what art and museums can be. By collaboratively planning projects and facilitating group discussions, I came to realize how great diversity leads to greater inclusion in museums. The teens I work with all come from different backgrounds, use different art mediums, and have different styles of leadership that shape their worldview.

I still have much to learn about running a community program like TAG, but my experience so far has shown me that I am on the right path in achieving my goals and overcoming my uncertainties about the future. Now when I get asked what I want to do when I grow up, I can confidently say: “I’d like to work for an amazing organization like SAM, making sure art is accessible and inclusive to all.”

– Karla Pastrana, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Teen Programs

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Big Deal at SAM, Art Labyrinth, and Joyful Revolt

SAM News

Theresa Papanikolas, Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, appeared on KING5’s New Day Northwest to talk about Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map. You have four weeks left to see this powerful retrospective at the Seattle Art Museum before it closes on May 12!

And Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence is on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Haley Ha wrote about the exhibition for International Examiner. 

Local News

Seattle Met recommends “Washington Museums Worthy of a Road Trip.”

In her latest ArtSEA post for Crosscut, Brangien Davis touches on a new book about local street trees and a can’t-miss Pacific Northwest Ballet bill.

For the Seattle Times, Rachel Gallaher gets a look inside the art-filled home of artists Dennis Evans and Nancy Mee. The couple announced last year that they will leave their collection to Seattle University. 

“It feels like a never-ending labyrinth of discovery; ducking into each room reveals something exciting, with pieces juxtaposed against each other, such as a swirling bronze sculpture by Gerard Tsutakawa placed near work by Ann Hamilton made from deconstructed books.”

Inter/National News

Via CBS Sunday Morning: “From the archives: Faith Ringgold’s colorful and daring art.” The acclaimed artist has died at the age of 93.

Artnet has pictures and details of the Brooklyn Museum’s glamorous Artist’s Ball held last week. 

Jillian Steinhauer for the New York Times previews artist Jeffrey Gibson’s exhibition that will debut this weekend at the US Pavilion in the Venice Biennale. 

“That, in the end, is the message of Gibson’s art: Everything is multifaceted. His over-the-top aesthetic is a joyful revolt against the reductiveness of fixed categories and the pressure he’s felt, both externally and internally, to always show up on behalf of Native Americans.”

And Finally

Meet Roger, the dog hero of the Taiwan earthquake.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Earth Day Rewind: 🍃 Botany with Bobby 🍃 Episodes 1–3

Since 2022, we’ve followed the adventures of Bobby McCullough, SAM Facilities and Landscape Manager, at the Olympic Sculpture Park as part of our video series 🍃 Botany with Bobby 🍃. In each episode, Bobby offers viewers an up-close look at the natural ecosystems living and thriving at the park as well as insight into its continued development and the art that resides within it. With Earth Day coming up on April 22, we’re taking it back to the beginning with a round up of the series’s first three episodes.

More episodes of 🍃 Botany with Bobby 🍃 are on the way! Until then, catch up on all eleven available episodes via our YouTube channel.


Episode 1: Bobby’s Top Five Favorite Plants

SAM is lucky to have a beautiful piece of earth to take care of: the Olympic Sculpture Park. And Bobby McCullough is dedicated to doing just that! In this inaugural episode of 🍃 Botany with Bobby 🍃, SAM’s Facilities and Landscape Manager discusses his five favorite natural plants visitors can find at the park: Check out our first installation of Botany with Bobby for his top five favorite plants at the park.

Episode 2: Climate Change at the Olympic Sculpture Park

The effects of climate change can be seen in local and global environments both big and small. In this episode, Bobby shares how its effects have manifested in the native plants living and growing at the Olympic Sculpture Park, paying particular attention to the Dawn Redwood—a plant previously believed to be extinct in the United States—and the Ginkgo Biloba.

Episode 3: King Bunny 🐰

The Olympic Sculpture Park’s booming rabbit population can be linked back to one particular coney: 👑 King Bunny. In this episode, Bobby spots King Bunny among the park’s plants and shares his admiration for the illusive four-legged ‘beast.’ Be sure to keep an eye out for this mischievous long-eared mammal next time you’re at the park!

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Rain (C.S. 1854)

In Rain (C.S. 1854) (1990), long-handled silver spoons are adhered to a wood canvas. Below the spoons, oozing layers of paint, oil, wax, and ink punctuate the work’s surface like drops of rain.

Contemporary Native artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith was inspired to create Rain (C.S. 1854) in 1990 while traveling through the northeast United States with Seneca artist G. Peter Jemison. She recalls, “When I went up to Buffalo and Syracuse [New York], the Iroquois up there were saying the maple trees were dying because of acid rain.” The incorporation of silver spoons in the work, says Smith, represents “the mouths” of the steel mill companies most responsible for the acid rain. Taken as a whole, the installation calls out the unequal distribution of both environmental harm and financial benefit as well as the sense of capitalist entitlement that allows factories to burn fossil fuels so recklessly.

Rain (C.S. 1854) is one of many environmentally-focused works Smith has created throughout her five-decade career. Tune in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM to hear G. Peter Jemison discuss the significance of this work, its connection to Chief Seattle, and Smith’s passion for environmentalism. The exhibition closes in just over a month on Sunday, May 12—reserve your tickets to see it at SAM before it’s gone!

Rain (C.S. 1854), 1990

NARRATOR: Smith called this work Rain (C.S. 1854). G. Peter Jemison is a member of the Seneca Nation heron clan.

G. PETER JEMISON: As you move around the painting, you would be struck by this light being reflected from the spoons. And I like that idea, because it’s difficult to capture, really, what rain looks like If you try to paint it. 

NARRATOR: The “C.S.” of the painting’s subtitle stands for Chief Seattle, who was a Suquamish and Duwamish chief during the middle of the 19th century.

G. PETER JEMISON: Chief Seattle, of course, is famous for making an early statement about the necessity to live in harmony with the natural world, and not to be in the process of destroying it. Perhaps Jaune’s commentary here is related to what is it, that is, now not only in the soil, but what is coming from the atmosphere. Because of the kind of air pollution that we now live with.

NARRATOR: Smith made this painting after traveling around the northeastern United States with Jemison, and encountering the effects of acid rain on forests in upstate New York.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Professor Aurelia Campbell on the Rarity and Artistry of Chinese Buddhist Burial Shrouds

SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents the 2023–24 season of the Saturday University Lecture Series, exploring various topics on Asian art and culture across time. On Saturday, April 13, Aurelia Campbell, Associate Professor of Asian Art History at Boston College, will examine the artistry and significance of the elaborate Buddhist burial shrouds that were excavated from the graves of high-ranking men and women from China’s Ming and Qing dynasties. In advance of her talk, SAM spoke with Campbell about what visitors can expect to learn about in her upcoming talk, her first encounter with a burial shroud, and prevalent misconnections of Buddhism.


SAM: What can the public expect to learn about in your upcoming Saturday University lecture? What initially drew you to this topic?

AURELIA CAMPBELL: My talk will introduce Buddhist burial shrouds excavated from tombs dating between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties in China. The shrouds vary in form depending on the identity of the tomb occupant (for instance, those of lower-ranking individuals are printed on paper, while those of higher-ranking individuals are embroidered on silk). Some shrouds are executed in a Chinese style while others reflect a more Tibetan style, which was popular after the Mongols ruled China in the 13th and 14th centuries. Despite these differences, the shrouds all combine text and image to create a kind of power object that was thought to help bring about an auspicious rebirth. I was initially drawn to the topic of Buddhist burial shrouds after first encountering one in 2016. Since then, I have found out about several others while conducting research for my new book project on Ming dynasty burials. I now know of at least five burial shrouds, all of which are quite extraordinary, and I eventually plan to publish my research on them in a journal article.

SAM: Academic research often involves travel. Is there a travel experience related to your lecture experience that you could share with us?

AC: Given the fragile nature of these burial shrouds, they are rarely on display in museums. Moreover, only a few survive and, in some cases, they are associated with very lofty individuals, including emperors and empresses. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to obtain access to them in China. Perhaps surprisingly, my first encounter with a burial shroud, and my only travel related story pertaining to one, was in California. This shroud was part of an exhibition entitled Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China held at the University of Southern California Pacific Asia Museum in 2016. At that time, I had never heard of this burial shroud, nor did I know that Buddhist burial shrouds even existed China. The shroud was massive and was entirely covered with text and image printed in red. I probably spent a half hour looking at it, totally captivated. Sometime soon, I will travel to see another burial shroud in the collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island. Beyond that, I’m not sure I’ll be able to see any of the precious shrouds in person, unfortunately. 

SAM: The Seattle Art Museum is home to nearly 25,000 works of art. What’s one artwork from the museum’s collection that resonates with you? Why?

AC: The Seattle Art Museum has a fantastic collection of East Asian art, so it is difficult to choose just one. But I’m fascinated by this sleeveless undergarment with Buddhist text from 19th century Japan. The garment, made of hemp and silk and printed with Sanskrit and Chinese Buddhist text, was meant to protect the wearer from evil spirits. According to the object’s description, it may have been worn during rituals or when going into battle. The talismanic function of the sacred writing on this garment is analogous to that of the burial shrouds that I will be discussing in my talk. However, it obviously differs in the sense that it is fabricated into an item of clothing and worn by the living. I would love to be able to study this garment more closely.

SAM: Is there anything we didn’t ask that you want to share with the public in advance of your lecture?

AC: It might be useful for the audience to think about what the burial shrouds examined in my talk tell us about what Buddhists living in the Ming and Qing dynasties believed and how they practiced. I have often felt that there is a general misconception that Buddhism is not a religion, but rather a “philosophy” centered on meditation. While that may be true in some times and places, these shrouds reveal that spells, magic, rituals, and notions of salvation were actually much more closely associated with lay Buddhist practice at this time than was meditation.

SAM: What’s one book you’d recommend to those interested in learning more about your lecture topic?

AC: Paul Copp’s The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) provides an excellent introduction to the apotropaic function of Buddhist writing in China. He investigates spells inscribed onto a wide range of objects that were situated in temples, worn on the body, and buried with the deceased. The book is richly illustrated and full of interesting material that has not traditionally been examined in academic scholarship. Although the book focuses on an earlier period than I will cover in my talk, it helps set the scene for the Ming and Qing period by demonstrating the longstanding perceived efficacy of Buddhist texts and images in a funerary context. 

– Simon Tran, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Photos: Headshot by Ashley Craig. Wang Shancai 王善才, ed. Zhang Mao fufu hezang mu 張懋夫婦合葬墓 (The tomb of Zhang Mao husband and wife). Beijing: Kexue chubanshe, 2007. Sleeveless Undergarment with Buddhist Text, early 19th century, Japanese, Hemp and silk with ink, 36 x 24 in. (91.44 x 60.96 cm), Purchased with funds from the Estate of Pauline King Butts, 93.166.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People)

In Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), images related to American colonization appear alongside newspaper headlines describing the dark reality of reservation life. Above, an array of cheap toys, souvenirs, and sports memorabilia—which speak to the commodification of Native American identity—are offered as gifts to white people in exchange for the return of stolen lands. Presented together, the large-scale mixed-media collage is illustrates the historical and contemporary inequities between the United States government and Native American communities.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith created this work in 1992 as a response to the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in North America. Part of the series The Quincentenary Non-Celebration, the work is one of the earliest ‘trade canoes’ Smith developed across her career.

Tune in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map to hear contemporary Native American artist Jeffrey Gibson further explore the themes and significance of Smith’s trade canoe. All 19 stops of the exhibition’s are available via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR codes next to select artworks on view. Memory Map closes Sunday, May 12—reserve your tickets to see it now at the Seattle Art Museum before it’s gone!

Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), 1992

NARRATOR: This is one of Smith’s earliest “Trade Canoes.” From the beginning, she drew on the importance of canoes to Native peoples in order to make complex statements about their experience of American history. 

JEFFREY GIBSON: I think for Indigenous people, it is mobility. It is the ability to be able to travel. 

My name is Jeffrey Gibson. I’m an artist. I live in the Hudson Valley, and I’m a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and half Cherokee.

What’s interesting about this painting is we don’t know the direction. All the directions are removed. There is no front end of the canoe versus the back end of the canoe. It’s empty and it’s in a chaotic world that that version of the canoe doesn’t really make sense.

All of the kind of text and imagery that she’s put here are the things that have robbed us of knowing the Indigenous definition of a canoe. And I think putting the trash on the string above the painting, those are also just those images and those texts brought into object form, mass-produced all over the world, cheap and plentiful.

This painting of the canoe down below and all of the text and imagery that surrounds it speaks in the same way of this kind of difficult, challenging world for Indigenous people to find and navigate who they are as contemporary people, who they are as traditional people, who they are in relationship to their communities and their families. And then you hang this… I’m going to use the word trash, and I don’t mean that, but I mean it sort of like this very much throwaway culture…this kitsch and camp racist memorabilia hanging above it on the string. I think it’s sort of the audacity of this painting that makes it really successful.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), 1992, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, oil, paper, newspaper, and fabric on canvas with thirty-one found objects on a chain, four parts: 86 × 170 in. overall, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; museum purchase in memory of Trinkett Clark, Curator of American and Contemporary Art, Fabricated by Andy Ambrose, © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Muse/News: Thrilling Ali, Wake Floats, and Craft is Art

SAM News

Amelia Ketzel pens a “love letter” to Anida Yoeu Ali’s performance-based works for Variable West—part of a recurring series for the platform for West Coast art. See Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence now at the Seattle Asian Art Museum!

“Ali’s presence is thrilling and completely engrossing: what will these colorful entities do next? Where will they go? Where can they go?”

Check this out: Last week, The Seattle Seahawks and Delta Airlines visited the Seattle Art Museum to surprise Yaoyao Liu, SAM Manager of School & Educator Programs, naming her a “Delta Community Captain” for making a difference with her work to support arts education

Local News

The Seattle Times returns to its This City Block series, this time visiting Ballard. Rachel Gallaher features “3 must-visit Ballard museums and art galleries.”

Sarah Stackhouse for Seattle Magazine reports back from Visit Seattle’s annual meeting that the city of Seattle is “again the place to be,” with an increase in visitors nearing pre-pandemic levels.

In her latest ArtSEA post, Crosscut’s Brangien Davis remembers the late Richard Serra with a visit to Wake at the Olympic Sculpture Park

“Narrowed at the base of what might be the prow and stern, the five rusted steel forms seem to move as a flotilla, impossibly balanced as a giant ship on water — how does it stay afloat?”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “The Door From ‘Titanic,’ Too Small to Fit Two People, Sells Big at Auction.” (“Too small”??)

Faye Hirsch for Art in America on the retrospective of Käthe Kollwitz now on view at the Museum of Modern Art. 

Joyce J. Scott: Walk a Mile in My Dreams opened last week at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). Baltimore Magazine interviewed Scott to preview the retrospective, which was co-organized by the BMA and the Seattle Art Museum and opens here this fall. 

“I’m an artist-craftsperson. I don’t separate them. I’m always doing both. It’s the same impulse, the same creative feeling or setting that makes me make a cup and makes me make a piece of sculpture. There’s not a hierarchy that I ascribe to.”

And Finally

In case you missed our big announcement.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

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