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.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Photos

By the 1950s, Alexander Calder had established himself as an internationally renowned artist. Although the public perceived him as a social butterfly, he preferred to work in his Roxbury, Connecticut studio alone and in silence. Few outsiders were granted access to the artist’s workspace. Among them, however, was acclaimed photojournalist and filmmaker Gordon Parks.

Parks visited Calder in his home and studio in 1952 on assignment for Life magazine. That year, Calder represented the United States at the 26th Venice Biennale, an international exposition that highlights global artistic achievements. This photograph, featuring a mobile now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is one of several images that were taken by Parks for the August 25, 1952, issue of the magazine. The accompanying story celebrated Calder’s winning of the biennale’s grand prize for sculpture.

Learn more about this work and two other photographs of Calder in his studio by tuning in to the seventh stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. The full tour is available to explore on your own time via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select works in the exhibition.

Group of Photos: Calder Installing Gamma (1947), Alexander Calder, Roxbury Ct. (1957), and Alexander Calder (1952)

NARRATOR: These three photographs offer an intimate glimpse of Calder at work. 

Let’s focus on the image to the far right of the group. It was taken by the important photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks in 1952. That year, Calder had been selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Venice Biennale is sort of the Olympics of the art world where artists are chosen to represent their countries, and Calder actually won the Grand Prize that year.

This photo was taken for the August 25, 1952, issue of Life magazine and features Calder not installing an exhibition at the Venice Biennale but actually in his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. This was a very private space, and for Life magazine—or really the American public—to see the artist behind the scenes would have been really captivating at the time.

NARRATOR: For artist Kennedy Yanko, the photographs offer a different perspective on the work.

KENNEDY YANKO: When you typically see Calder’s work, you’re looking up and you’re looking around. So your entire physical gesture and exploration of it changes. But you can see here how different it is when he’s so close to it and how he’s experienced it in the making. He’s living within the work, and he’s living within the sculpture, and I think that that’s what allowed all of these monumental sculptures to kind of continue to carry us. That sense of life and that sense of curiosity is how deeply immersed and present he was inside of the pieces.

– 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.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: The Vanishing American

In Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s striking abstract painting The Vanishing American (1994), a series of Native figures dressed in traditional clothing are surrounded by marks and newspaper clippings with headlines including ‘Support the Tribal Dollar,’ ‘Best if Used by 2000,’ and ‘Built-in Upgradability.’ Clustered together, the figures stand in defensive positions.

This work represents the making of a comeback. Not only the comeback of a person or community of people, but also the return of a mentality that has been erased by contemporary society’s monoculture. Learn more about the significance behind The Vanishing American directly from the artist by tuning in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM. Originally produced by the Whitney Museum of Art, all nineteen stops of the audio tour are accessible by scanning the QR codes throughout the exhibition’s galleries or on your own time via our SoundCloud.

The Vanishing American, 1994

NARRATOR: Smith called this painting The Vanishing American. It mixes brushy abstraction with headlines clipped from newspapers. In the upper right, one reads “What Americans,” pointing loosely to the painting’s ironic explorations of identity. 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: See there’s always this thing about “the vanishing Native American.” The vanishing American Indian. And we’ve been hit with that all of our lives. That, “oh you guys are so watered down.” “Oh you guys are so mixed blood, you don’t know who you are.” “Oh you’re so bastardized, you have no culture left.”

NARRATOR: Smith said she was inspired to make the painting after a community meal during medicine lodge ceremonies on the lands of the Blackfeet Nation, near her childhood home. 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: And then when everybody would gather to eat, people would start talking about, “And, you know, the white people are just going to do themselves in with all their poisons and all the pesticides and everything that they’re using on our food. And so they’re just going to be the vanishing white men.” And then everybody would laugh.

So, I came back into the studio, and here I found this sign called built-in upgradability out of some New York Times or some ad or something. And I said, yeah, that really fits what the elders are saying, that we’re going to make it through this. Built-in upgradability, that’s what we have. We’ve been here for thousands and thousands of years. They just got here yesterday. They keep pretending like, oh, we just got here before them. Well, that’s not true. We’ve been here since the creation time. So the making of a comeback.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Bougainvillier

In the late 1940s, Alexander Calder developed sophisticated sculptures with pierced elements and interchanging relationships, the largest and most resolved of which is Bougainvillier. The construction of this vibrant masterpiece includes three wispy tendrils with mobile bursts, the lowermost of which is suspended by a handmade chain. Although it derives its title from the French word for the bougainvillea plant, this work—the most elegant and commanding sculpture on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM—is non-objective.

Calder’s choices for titles, whether in English or French, are not assets for artistic interpretation. He was known to intuitively name his sculptures after they were created, based on “some vague association,” as he said. “Sometimes it’s the whole thing that suggests a title to me, sometimes it’s just a detail.”

Bougainvillier made its public debut on the heels of Jean-Paul Sartre’s seminal 1946 essay, “Les Mobiles de Calder,” written by the French philosopher for the artist’s show at Galerie Louis Carré, Paris. Sartre’s words anticipated the complex environment created by a work like Bougainvillier, with its gestural lines projecting into unpredictable spaces:

“The forces at work are too numerous and complicated for any human mind, even that of their creator, to be able to foresee all their combinations. For each [mobile] Calder establishes a general fated course of movement, then abandons them to it: time, sun, heat, and wind will determine each particular dance. Thus the object is always midway between the servility of the statue and the independence of natural events.”

Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower shares more excerpts from Sartre’s essay in the tenth stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion. Tune in now via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to Bougainvillier in the exhibition’s galleries.

Bougainvillier, 1947

NARRATOR: Bougainvillier is one of the works in the Shirley Collection most frequently requested for exhibitions. It dates from 1947, a period when Calder was focusing on standing mobiles. Calder Foundation President Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: The frilly lines, these wires that come out in space—even when they’re not active, you feel a tremendous sense of movement through space—are why he called it Bougainvillier. His process of titling, of course: it wasn’t that he saw a Bougainvillea vine with the beautiful purple leaves and blossoms. He made a sculpture and then, looking back in retrospect, said it’s kind of the tendrils of a line, I’ll call it Bougainvillier

And the use of the title is not any kind of access into understanding or meaning of a work. You should really consider that the work has no meaning. But then you have to bring yourself forward and contribute and participate with the work in a way that the meaning is created. Calder always anticipated that the viewer was going to have an active role in not just experiencing his work, but in the viewer’s own interpretation.

NARRATOR: The year before Bougainvillier was made, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre explored these ideas in a seminal essay on Calder. Sartre captures the sense of what it’s like to experience a Calder sculpture. As he put it:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: “Each of its twists and turns is an inspiration of the moment. In it you can discern the theme composed by its maker, but the mobile weaves a thousand variations on it. It is a little hot jazz tune, unique and ephemeral, like the sky, like the morning. If you miss it, it’s lost forever.”

– 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.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Untitled (Kalispell)

With strokes of green, pink, yellow, gray, brown, black, blue, and orange, Untiled (Kalispell) is a colorful and abstract interpretation of the natural environment. Deriving its title from the Montana city just north of where Quick-to-See Smith grew up, the pastel and charcoal drawing counters traditional themes of US landscape painting by depicting an environment that is already inhabited. Although void of people, Smith uses symbols such as animal tracks to signify the wildlife that has always considered the natural environment its home.

Take an up-close look at the abstract details of Untitled (Kalispell) in Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, on view at SAM through Sunday, May 12. Then, learn more about this 1978 artwork by tuning in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Its accessible by scanning the QR code in SAM’s galleries or on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Untitled (Kalispell), 1978

NARRATOR: In the late 1970s, Smith began making landscapes of Montana, where she’d grown up. With their abstract forms, her works stand outside of the US landscape tradition that began in the nineteenth century. Those painters had a white East Coast audience in mind, and painted canvases of the western landscape suggesting that the land there was as empty as it was beautiful—ready to be claimed. In the works on view here, Smith made modest gestures to show that, in fact, the landscape had always been inhabited. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: You know, when I go home, I would see fields of mustard, fields of fireweed, or plowed fields. And also, because there was so much talk about the wilderness being empty space, I put bird tracks in, and sometimes little animals, horses. And in some cases here, I’ve got pictographs that you would see on the plateau. So they’re kind of made up landscapes, but they’re all based on what I would see at home.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Untitled (Kalispell), 1978, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, pastel on paper, 30 x 22 in., Collection of the artist; courtesy Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

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