Hong Kong-born and Vancouver-based artist Lam Tung Pang made his Seattle debut earlier this year in Beyond the Mountain: Contemporary Chinese Artist on the Classical Forms at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. In September, the artist made the trip to the museum to see his artwork The Great Escape (2020) in the galleries for the first time. While in town, we sat down with the remarkable contemporary artist to talk about his pandemic-inspired kinetic installation and what it means to bring classical Chinese practices into the modern era. After you’ve watched the video, read below for even more from our conversation with the artist!
SAM: How does it feel to be showing your artwork to Seattle audiences for the first time?
LAM TUNG PANG: It’s so exciting to debut my artwork here in Seattle and especially at the Seattle Asian Art Museum! This museum features a lot of very interesting antique work, but my artwork is modern. It’s fascinating to see this all together in one museum, and I hope audiences will enjoy seeing all of this in one setting.
SAM: You worked with FOONG Ping, SAM Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, in bringing your artwork to life. What was it like to collaborate with her from afar?
LTP: I met Ping last year when she [virtually] walked me through the gallery space and we discussed how to best display my work. It was a big challenge because I hadn’t shown my artwork in this setting before and wanted to add in new elements. So, the version of The Great Escape that you’re seeing now at the Seattle Asian Art Museum was made especially for this exhibition and the audiences here. In working with Ping, I was talking to someone that had a good knowledge of traditional Chinese art but at the same time was open to incorporating new and contemporary art. When you work with someone like Ping who is really passionate about art, it’s amazing.
SAM: Tell us about The Great Escape. What inspired this work?
LTP: It came together in 2020 during the pandemic. I couldn’t really go back to my studio at the time, so I began copying drawings I saw in children’s books as an escape from reality. I then took all of these drawings and turned them into an installation. What I suggest audiences look at specifically is the one row of drawings that is taken out of the installation and hung on the wall. When you look at the rotating projection, eventually you’ll see a gap, which the light passes through and illuminates the wall in the gallery space. This isn’t a high-tech synchronized setting, but you do see different images project alongside the drawings on the wall. So, please come spend a bit more time looking at The Great Escape because you’ll have a totally different experience every time you see it.
A version of this interview first appeared in the January 2023 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.
“[Entrepreneur Andrew] Conru said his purchase of the building, which sits across from the Seattle Art Museum, was informed by his love for the city, the building and its history. ‘I go to SAM,’ he said, ‘and then you look across the street, and that building just cries out for help … I’m like, ‘Well, how can I help?’”
Via Artdaily: “Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and adidas Basketball announce CAMH COURT, the first-ever playable basketball court in an art museum, commissioned and designed by Houston-based artist Trenton Doyle Hancock.”
“The exhibition by Wiley…embraces a solemn vibe: dark and almost chapel-like with bright lights on individual pieces. Viewers can fill out response cards to write about the exhibit, which also will have multiple exits for anyone who needs a break.”
IKAT, not IKEA, is now on view at the Seattle Art Museum. The surprising similarity in appearance of these two words came up a few months ago when fonts for the exhibition’s marketing campaign creative were reviewed. But how different they actually are is why it’s worth seeing this exhibition.
Walking through IKEA is the ultimate contemporary shopping experience. It provides everything you need for an entire home to be outfitted—except the clothes—and it is all made by machines in a swift industrial manufacturing practice that strives to be as affordable as possible. Its aesthetic does rely on designers who add individual creativity to the company, but the handmade is missing.
Walking into galleries of Ikat: A World of Compelling Clothis a chance to take a break from a world of manufactured reality and be surrounded by the intimate sense of cloth exquisitely made for very distinct purposes. The exhibition was curated by Pam McClusky, SAM Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb Curator of African Art, and can only be seen at SAM.
However, as a first step, you need to understand what ikat is. Given how few people weave themselves, ikat might be considered a strange term from the past that is hard to connect with. To help recognize the thought and dedication that ikat requires, the exhibition features an entire gallery designed as a loom to walk through by contemporary artists Roland and Chimani Ricketts. From this immersive moment, you’ll embark on a world tour of ikat cloths, sometimes being greeted by garments, although most are of minimal tailoring, honoring the integrity of the fabric as it comes off the loom.
Textiles from Japan include futonji (bed coverings) and kimonos for adults and children as well as the Noh theatre. The Japanese cloths have a similar palette to those from Africa, indigo being prevalent, but the designs from numerous regions of Africa on view are distinct, with variegated stripes and medallions featured on cloths and dramatic robes. Indian and Southeast Asian ikats introduce cloths that are relied upon for ritual observations. Cloths from Uzbekistan are filled with flowing arabesques and exuberant designs in brilliant colors, including a robe of silk velvet which seems to come from a textile paradise. European ikats from 17th- and 18th-century France serve as a reminder that hand woven traditions faded away with the coming Industrial Revolution. And American ikats will include ponchos from the south and recent works from Santa Fe.
As we expect the urge to touch and feel cloth to emerge, we’ve created a cart just outside of the galleries’ entrance with threads and samples of ikats available for handling. And SAM Shop has set up adjacent to the galleries to showcase cloth made by artists who use natural dyes and woven processes that have a sustainable impact on our world. This spring, be immersed in the global reach and powerful beauty of this exceptional art form.
This article first appeared in the February through May 2023 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!
“The exhibit is not just about traveling the world, it also serves as a glimpse into how much textiles can mean, how they help people form bonds, and how they can create alternatives to buying from clothing stores.”
The Art Newspaper’s Book Club gets recommendations of “four must-read books” on Hokusai from Sarah E. Thompson, the MFA Boston curator of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, which travels to SAM this fall.
“Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is famed for his print Under the Wave off Kanagawa, commonly known as The Great Wave, an image reproduced innumerable times around the world in all sorts of contexts. But the Japanese artist’s work was so much more interesting than his much copied and parodied wave might suggest; anyone who has seen his prints in the flesh will be blown away by the intricate detail and skilled craftsmanship.”
“Our approach is based on direct experience—a way of development outward from an inner core; something of the same process that nature uses in the creation of a tree.”
– George Nakashima
This Saturday, March 11, the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas at the Seattle Asian Art Museum will welcome architect and woodworker Mira Nakashima as part of the 2022–2023 Saturday University Lecture Series. Mira, daughter of celebrated American architect, master woodworkers, and thinker George Nakashima, will discuss her father’s influence and legacy as the founding figure of the 20th century American studio art movement.
As the creative director of George Nakashima Woodworkers, Mira continues her father’s legacy by integrating his deep appreciation and reverence of nature with her own warmth, unmatchable prowess, and ingenuity in incorporating contemporary sensibility into his philosophy. In her upcoming talk, Mira will explore the development of her father’s lesser known spiritual spaces and articulate the ways in which they emphasize his philosophical and personal formation as an architect.
In anticipation of this fascinating lecture, Haley Ha, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, caught up with Mira to discuss what visitors can expect to see, learn, and experience this coming Saturday.
HALEY HA: You are the current creative director of Nakashima Woodworkers. Can you tell us a little bit about your days as the creative director?
MIRA NAKASHIMA: First of all, ‘creative director’ is a term I borrowed from a friend of mine who heads a chamber music group, as I didn’t know what else to call myself. When I first started in 1970, I was the general ‘gopher,’ doing everything from typing up orders to driving the truck to raking leaves, etc. As time progressed, I learned how to make the shop drawings, got to work in the shop making small objects, and accompanied my father to the sawmill. Following my father’s stroke, I began supervising the work in the shop, and after he died, I had to be responsible for conceptual as well as working drawings. There was always something to be done maintaining the buildings, grounds, and machinery, so that became a part of my job too. And after my mother died, someone had to keep an eye on the accounting. As it was a bit overwhelming for one person to do it all effectively, we hired both a manager and an assistant designer which made life more complicated, but better. As ‘creative director,’ I oversee the creation of all the furniture made here, but I am just one of the many people devoted to preserving our history and craft tradition. I usually have a hand in selecting and pricing wood for every project, create the conceptual and sometimes shop drawings, oversee the final cut lines, base and butterfly placement, and sign each piece before it leaves the shop.
HH: Your father is considered one of the most celebrated woodworkers and architects of the 20th century in the US, Japan, and across the world. As a woodworker and architect in your own right, what do you consider to be the challenges and blessings of carrying out Nakashima’s legacy today?
MN: My father studied architecture at Fontainebleau, France, worked in the office of Antonin Raymond in Tokyo from 1934-38, and was sent to Pondicherry, India in 1936 to build a reinforced concrete building, so he had deep roots in many cultures and countries of the world.
His furniture practice grew in the aftermath of World War II, embracing and manifesting Japanese aesthetic ideals during a time when they were not socially accepted and slowly making his mark along both US coasts. In 1963, my parents sent me to Tokyo to attend Waseda University where I earned a Masters in Architecture. My father went on to join the Minguren group and earned the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his cross-cultural activities in 1983. After his passing in 1990, his work became ‘vintage’—a part of the renewed interest in 20th-century design worldwide. Auction houses began selling his work both locally and internationally, leading his fame to spread.
It has been a challenge to live up to my father’s legacy and to continue the work as he hoped we would. With his book The Soul of a Tree, originally published in 1981, generations of woodworkers have been inspired to take up the practice, and indeed, to copy his designs. We strive to preserve his original methodology and mindset by working from the pile of wood he collected during his lifetime and hiring younger craftsmen and designers to learn the Nakashima way. Fortunately, we have been able to keep Nakashima alive and well, and we will do our best to keep it going beyond my lifetime.
HH: Your family was forcefully moved alongside over 12,000 incarcerated Japanese Americans to the Minidoka Camp in Idaho when the war broke out. Could you tell us about how this period impacted your father, his work, and your family?
MN: I was a baby when we were incarcerated. My mother was traumatized by the relocation while my father made friends with a highly skilled Japanese carpenter named Gentaro Hikogawa. Gentaro taught my father many that he would not have otherwise learned in developing his craft. Fortunately, in 1943, my father’s employer in Tokyo, Antonin Raymond, had moved to Bucks County and offered to sponsor my father to work on his farm so we did not stay in the camp as long as our other relatives. While in Idaho, my father’s friend, artist Morris Graves, carefully kept our meager belongings in Seattle and returned them all to us when we moved to Pennsylvania to start our new life. My father prophetically called the move a “New Hope” and found many artists in the area to call his friends. He called the incarceration “stupid” but said that eventually, “the wounds healed over and left no scars.”
HH: As we know, your father’s sense of spirituality deeply influenced his practice. You’ve previously been quoted as saying that for him, work “was a spiritual calling, a form of prayer.” Can you tell us about a bit more about the relationship between his beliefs and practices and explain a bit more of what you’ll be focusing on in your talk this Saturday?
MN: When my father was working on the reinforced concrete building for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India, he learned that physical labor was “karma yoga,” no less a yoga than meditating, praying or chanting all day. There, he and the other workers devoted their time to creating a hitherto unimagined place of beauty and peace. When he visited France’s Chartres Cathedral in the 1930s, not only was it an astounding space because of its incredible engineering, beautiful sculpture, and stained-glass windows, but also because it was built over several centuries by people from all walks of life whose only intent was to create a sacred space for the glory of God. In Seattle, my father converted to Catholicism and developed a deep kinship with the Benedictine monks and their monasteries. He volunteered to assist them in not only designing, but helping construct their remote chapels by gathering materials, building technology, and hiring local craftsmen.
HH: While he considered his work as a spiritual calling, his reverence for materials was remarkable yet practical. For example, could you tell us how kodama—the Japanese belief of offering a second life to a tree—became a central belief to his practice and how it bore the iconic aesthetic of Nakashima Woodwork?’
MN: I do not think the concept of ‘offering a second life to a tree’ is particularly Japanese, but in Shinto, Druid, Native American, and other so-called ‘primitive’ belief systems, inanimate objects like trees, stones, and water are respected not merely as ‘dead’ objects, but as living examples of the Creator. Perhaps my father’s connection to trees was fostered by his early days as a boy scout where he spent long weekends hiking throughout the Pacific Northwest and sleeping amongst the trees. In Japan, the forces and forms of nature are respected, honored, and integrated into everyday life. So, it is perhaps this practice which found voice in the Nakashima aesthetic.
HH: The Nakashima estate in Pennsylvania became a National Historic Landmark in 2014. I’m envious of your beautiful home and curious to know what it is like to live in a space with such powerful intention, art, and legacy?
MN: To me, this is simply the home where I grew up and have worked all of my life. I didn’t realize it was anything special until I returned from my first trip to Japan in 1966, and not until I wrote my book in 2003 that it became clear how groundbreakingly bold the architecture was for its time. It is indeed a responsibility to maintain the property, and to allow limited access so that it does not suffer from too much traffic, while encouraging and educating people about its history. I do not live on the original property, but in a house across the road that my father built for me in 1970, so it is an easy commute but also provides some distance to the place I now call home.
HH: In our ongoing Saturday University Lecture Series, we’ve been exploring the different notions of sacredness within built environments amid our ongoing climate crisis. There seems to be a sense of reverence, deeper recognition, and ecological thinking that is rooted in your father’s practice. Would you agree?
MN: My father built each of his buildings with a sense of economy and ecology that was way ahead of his time. From working in Japan, he instinctively knew the principles of kimon—in Chinese, feng shui—including the auspicious positioning of buildings and usage of the rooms according to its geography, path of the sun, seasons, and source of water on the site. He selected each site because of its south-facing slope and built most of the buildings along the brow of a hill, intentionally leaving an open slope and field in the center. All of his buildings have large expanses of glass to the south, and their carefully proportioned roofs overhang to keep the rooms cool with cross-ventilation in the summer and warm in the winter with solar gain.
On the Pool House, built in 1960, he installed a series of water pipes along the rooftop as a way to heat the shower water by passive solar energy when no one else was even thinking of that. His last building, the Reception House, built in 1975 during the first oil crisis, has a plenum and fan system behind its Franklin stove-like fireplace to heat the entire house. There is also a cook-top on the fireplace hood and an oven compartment in the wall of the fireplace like the old Bucks County farmhouses. There is even a large sunken Japanese bath with water heated by a wood-burning boiler imported from Japan. We are currently working with the University of Pennsylvania to create an overall campus plan which will minimize our dependence on fossil fuels in the future by installing both passive solar and geothermal energy sources, and of course, increasing insulation and minimizing air infiltration without destroying the original design concepts. It’s bound to be an exciting challenge!
HH: Lastly, what kind of legacy would you like to leave behind to the next generations of woodworkers?
MN: Harvest materials sustainably and replant as many trees as possible. Know and respect the woods local to your area and use them whenever possible. Learn to do honest joinery yourself. Do not imitate forms, but create your own. Remember that less is more; don’t complicate things just to be different.
– Haley Ha, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Asian Art Museum
“‘Every single piece of art within this place has its own story,’ Leingang said. ‘And the best part about my team is they are the gateway to those stories. They are taking their own personal experiences of what resonates with them within this museum and sharing that with every person that walks in.’”
Say hi to Chelsea and the rest of the SAM crew at Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, an exhibition exploring over 100 dazzling textiles opening to the public this Thursday, March 9.
In their latest print edition, Seattle Met shouts out all three SAM locations in a graphic “tourist trap matrix.” Online, they share “Where to Take Tourists in Seattle” according to their editors, including a day at Volunteer Park and the Asian Art Museum.
“[Director Roya] Sadat also recognizes, however, that inequality and deprivation of fundamental human rights are not unique to Afghanistan, but are issues that reverberate across the globe. ‘I want this opera to stand as a reminder of their strength in the face of violence. This opera is a narrative of women’s resilience.’”
“Smith’s curatorial turn comes at a moment of long-overdue institutional recognition for the artist, whose incisive and wide-ranging practice rooted in painting and collage is the subject of a major retrospective opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art next month, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map.”
Most visitors to Seattle artist Joseph Steininger’s Pioneer Square studio are mesmerized by his walls of spray paint. On one wall, the full cans are sorted by tone and color in an organized grid system. On the opposite wall, empty cans fill open spaces, surrounding completed works. Like Joseph’s artworks, the studio’s colors are vibrant and draw attention.
Steininger’s artistic process begin with a photograph. All of his paintings originate from photos he has taken in cities around the world. Many capture landscapes in Seattle and New York City, but others include scenes from cities such as London, Florence, and Portland. For his next big trip, Joseph plans to travel to and photograph Tokyo, Japan.
Once he has decided on a photograph, Steininger digitally designs stencils based on his selection. Each artwork typically requires 14–24 stencils. He digitally color matches the stencils, prints them, and cuts them by hand with an exacto knife. Cutting the stencils is time intensive, taking up an approximate 95% of time it takes to complete a single canvas. He spray paints the stencils on panels, one layer at a time, to build an image with depth and intricate detail.
Steininger’s work is inspired by street art culture and his background in printmaking. He began his art career as a relief printmaker and implements these methods across his artworks. His art often shows urban scenes, including graffiti, infrastructure like bridges and water towers, and rail yards or train stations. Up next for the artist? Commissions for the Washington State Convention Center and Avenue 55. Plus, he’ll be participating in the celebration of SAM Gallery’s 50th Anniversary in November 2023.
Check out his artwork in person or online now at SAM Gallery and discover more featured gallery art and artists by following @AtSAMGallery on Instagram.
In honor of Black History Month, Object of the Week will feature artworks from SAM’s collection that explore Black art and artists. Black lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and legacies of Black leaders in civic and cultural life. Exploring and reflecting on the past and present of Black lives is one important way to continue to imagine better futures. Here’s the final of four reflections from four different SAM voices on one artwork and what it means to them.
Black History Month is the perfect time to envision a new world, one that is governed by empathy, equity, and justice.
Through her multi-year project, ChimaTEK: Virtual Chimeric Space (2015–16), New York-based artist Saya Woolfalk invites viewers to imagine a new reality. When you step into her virtual utopia, it invokes the spirit of the Empathics, a fictional race of women who can alter their genetic makeup and fuse with plants. Their world centers around the divine feminine, and their superpower is the ability to unite with the plant and animal kingdoms.
Woolfalk’s immersive installation was acquired by the museum in 2017 and is now on view as part of Lessons from The Institute of Empathy. There, her dynamic work is in dialogue with works from the museum’s African art collection, along with thought-provoking “empathy lessons” from the Empathics to guide your experience. Her aesthetic produces a resonance that stirs the soul. The choice of African symbols and rich colors, the incorporation of digital media, and the inclusion of sculptures that resemble spiritual totems create a hypnotic experience that transports audiences into an imaginative world. Deific figures speak to you through the movement of the images in the backdrop, evoking a sense of wonder and awe. The result is that through the exhibition, you also fuse with empathy and sense the etheric euphoria that comes from authentic connection.
Today, the immersive world portrayed in ChimaTEK is more relevant than ever. Society, from farmers to financiers, is being forced to examine business as usual. For example, the concept of regeneration, from regenerative agriculture to regenerative capital, exposes the harmful impacts of creating monocultures, being extractive, and being reductionist (on the soil and on the human soul) and offers a powerful alternative. These new approaches are proving that mimicking the ways of nature—embracing diversity, interdependence, and cooperation—are reversing the climate crisis, restoring plant and animal health, and providing the conditions for abundance, thriving, and flourishing in our businesses, institutions, and relationships.
Lessons from Woolfalk’s Institute of Empathy, like regenerative models, remind us that humanity is a part of nature, not apart from nature. That the result of a true union with nature can produce a sea change: a society where everyone resonates with the frequency of empathy. The Institute reminds us that nature’s language is love.
As Black History Month concludes and we transition from winter to spring, let’s reflect on our collective future and imagine a world governed by indigeneity (the fact of originating or occurring naturally in a particular place). Let’s respond to Woolfalk’s call to action to create a future that is inclusive, just, abundant, and flourishing. Let’s fuse with nature and shape our world, empathetically.
– Falona Joy, President of SNP Strategies, Inc. and SAM Trustee
Photo: Natali Wiseman.
Celebrate Black History Month in Seattle with these suggested events and additional resources.
Alison Sutcliffe for Tinybeans shares “25 Things to Do with a Baby in Seattle,” including mentions of the tranquil setting of the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the fresh air and sculptures of the Olympic Sculpture Park.
“[World Monuments Fund’s Kateryna] Goncharova stressed the importance of cultural heritage preservation, saying: ‘Restoring a monument that was destroyed gives people a reason to withstand whatever the circumstances we have to face, whatever challenges may come. It gives us something to look forward to. So continue believing in Ukraine, continue believing in our future.’”
Artworks of the past never cease to offer new lessons, insights, and interpretations.
In this video created as part of the two-year reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries, SAM Emerging Museum Professional of American Art and member of the Seneca nation Kari Karsten discusses her research into Spokane-born artist Kenneth Callahan’s The Accident, and the enduring questions artworks such as these can raise, even over 75 years after their creation.
In honor of Black History Month, Object of the Week will feature artworks from SAM’s collection that explore Black art and artists. Black lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and legacies of Black leaders in civic and cultural life. Exploring and reflecting on the past and present of Black lives is one important way to continue to imagine better futures. Here’s the third of four reflections from four different SAM voices on one artwork and what it means to them.
Twenty eight days a year isn’t long enough to commemorate hundreds of years of Black history that has shaped the world we live in. The contributions to the United States by Black Americans is everlasting; even the White House was built by Black Americans, free and enslaved. Every February, American institutions pay respects to the brave Black Americans for fighting an almost impossible battle against white supremacy to advocate for the value of Black life. Celebrated are the many contributions that have been made by Black culture: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., jazz music, the invention of peanut butter, and more. Many Black Americans find it is hard not to feel like these recycled acts aren’t performative when ushered right back into that impossible battle on March 1. This anxiety and dissociation is captured so authentically in a short film currently on view in SAM’s galleries through August 6, Howard L. “GATO” Mitchell’s Forgive Us Our Debts (2018).
Based in Portland, Oregon, GATO is an award-winning American director. GATO showcases his unique point of view as an Afro-Panamanian along with the tangible and intangible intricacies of his identity in his artwork. His universal theme is to depict what isn’t seen. GATO’s multi-disciplinary talents in painting and filmmaking make his work a full sensory experience. This 15-minute narrative film is about a young Black 13-year-old boy named Trey, who is struggling to make sense of the hate he was born into. Riddled with stress and anxiety, the almost disorienting video truly captures the chaos of being a Black person in America living in poverty. Between tender family dynamics and unsettling visuals, Mitchell gives viewers a sense of the helplessness that is left behind from the impact of racism.
Every day, Black people fight to live peacefully and prosper. As a teenager, Trey is learning how to become a man from his father, who teaches him how to be tough through the power of his fist. With generational trauma instead of generational wealth as a legacy, Trey’s coming of age is complex. A good education, livable income, providing for your family, and pursuing your dreams: none of these are presented options as for Trey. Being a young teen, it’s heartbreaking for Trey to accept these harsh truths, when he would likely prefer to live as the average American teen as portrayed in the media: discovering themselves, having fun, and getting a good education.
Society is telling Trey that he’ll always be seen as a criminal without resources or opportunities for a better life. He is forced to carry burdens passed down hundreds of years that cause him to grow up disadvantaged and affect his mental health negatively. Yet he also has to reconcile his love for his family and the hope they instill in him to live better than them. The familial responsibility along with the current and constant visualization of Black boys and men being murdered by police doesn’t allow Trey to stay in the naiveté of adolescence. There isn’t much difference from Trey and Trayvon Martin, and the film makes that clear in the shot of an officer with a “G. Zimmerman” name tag.
Racial tensions and inflation have increased tremendously over the past few years. With so many outlets and resources of information, America is more divided than ever on how to improve the quality of life for its citizens. Black Americans, and especially Black Americans living in poverty, are still having to overcome institutional racism while overt racism is on the rise. Many white Americans will denounce racism and claim allyship. Having liberal beliefs, online activism, and celebrating Black History Month, while commendable, isn’t enough. Young Black children similar to Trey continuously live in that perplexing reality regardless if people decide to vote blue or red. What can be done to help Black citizens all year?
Forgive Us Our Debts can be seen as a call to action for non-Black Americans to get involved in Black disenfranchised communities and organizations, whether it be volunteering, teaching a free class, or helping a local community center. It’s key to think about what Black history means and what can be done all twelve months of the year. Black Americans have to think about it every day, whether they want to or not.
– Karly Norment Meneses, SAM Marketing Coordinator
Photos: Forgive Us Our Debts, 2018, Howard L. Gato Mitchell, American, digital video, 15 minutes, Courtesy of the artist.
Celebrate Black History Month in Seattle with these suggested events and additional resources.
Happy Valentine’s Day! For the last seven days, we’ve been highlighting expressions of familial, romantic, and platonic love at SAM during our #SAMWeekOfLove on our Instagram. As part of the series, we shared photos and stories from four couples for whom SAM has played a significant role in their relationship. To give you an extra dose of love this holiday, we’ve rounded up all four of the love stories we previously shared on our social media below. Scroll below to learn how SAM played Cupid in all of these relationships!
“We were searching for a venue that had both an indoor and outdoor space and was both modern and simple. The sculpture park fit that search perfectly! I am a wedding calligrapher and event designer by trade, so working with the different areas of the venue was so much fun. The spaciousness of the park was also great—from our wedding album it looks like we went to several locations, but they’re all taken from different areas of the park!” – Diane
“I had my wedding at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. From childhood to adulthood, the museum and its camels will forever hold a special place in my heart. Pictured are me and my bridesmaids: my two sisters, and my two best friends.” – Tiffany
This photo and story was shared to us by SAM’s very own Director of Membership and Annual Giving Tiffany Tessada. Tiffany has been a part of the SAM family for over 24 years and our membership program wouldn’t be what it is today without her tireless work and dedication. Considering everything she’s done for SAM, we’re honored to have been a part of her love story!
With most of their guests coming from out of state, Ciera and John wanted a venue that celebrates Seattle and the life they’ve built together in the city. With views of their home in West Seattle, the Olympic Mountain Range where they ski and backpack, and the iconic Space Needle, the park served as the perfect location to host their nuptials. Their most cherished wedding memory? Read it in their own words below:
“Our favorite memory was having the opportunity to sneak away to take quiet sunset photos around the park while our guests enjoyed cocktail hour overlooking the Puget Sound.” – Ciera
A few weeks before their wedding, Tina and Greg dressed in their most glamorous and practical attire—her, red Converse hightops and him, green bowling shoes and a Puyallup Fair hat—and visited several Seattle locations that had a special meaning to them. With their photographer Shel Izen in tow, they captured fun and scenic moments across the city, including at the Seattle Asian Art Museum (then just called the Seattle Art Museum) where they had spent one of their first dates as a couple.
– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator
Photos: Sam and Sola Lee. Courtesy Tiffany Tessada. Joe Tobiason. Courtesy Tina Koyama.
“Shao’s illustrations are rooted in her personal experience. They combine her Chinese American heritage with her life in the Pacific Northwest. Her patterned, brightly colored, illustrative work taps into the Chinese culture and history she learned from her family — and now proudly shares with the community.”
“I think Mexico City has an energy of the future—in music, in art, with architecture, design, and fashion. It is a vital place in the world we are in, and it also has a focus on craftsmanship. Our artists are aware of this.”
In honor of Black History Month, Object of the Week will feature artworks from SAM’s collection that explore Black art and artists. Black lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and legacies of Black leaders in civic and cultural life. Exploring and reflecting on the past and present of Black lives is one important way to continue to imagine better futures. Here’s the second of four reflections from four different SAM voices on one artwork and what it means to them.
There are images that have become synonymous with the pandemic years: boarded shop windows, deserted streets, protests, and tear gas, to name a few. Seattle was a center for it all, and there remain some remnants of that turbulent first year of the pandemic around the city. Still, we possess a collective anxiety. We have bruises on our hearts and souls from the images of violence and injustice; The feeling of powerlessness that came from being trapped inside and glued to our screens. It wasn’t safe to go out, but inside was a cycle of mania.
These feelings are aggressively and powerfully rendered in Untitled Anxious Bruise Drawing (2021) by Chicago-based artist Rashid Johnson (b. 1977). He portrays the anguish, frantic energy, and damage of the upheavals of 2020 with sustained, forceful brush strokes until the paint thins to a faint wisp. A series of boxes with confused, startled eyes. Mouths blurred in motion. Oscillating from dense to light, black and blue. The unraveling chaos is contained by rough edges, where strokes of paint find their way out of bounds. With the same curatorial intent of modern media, we’re viewing a selection of the multitude of blue cells. All wavering, unnerved, and anxious. There’s more beyond what we see; truths we have yet to acknowledge.
The unjust experiences of Black people in America continues to be a bruise on the national consciousness. It’s often difficult to talk about or relate to, although art can provide a conduit. With Untitled Anxious Bruise Drawing, there’s a possibility of relation, of realization, and even relearning. Johnson boldly carries the torch proclaiming that the arts have a role to play in confronting the past for a better future.
“Through the use of atmospheric effects, GATO brings viewers inside the family’s home, reminding viewers of the deeply personal fallout that comes with the displacement of families.”
It feels like February, but trust us, summer is right around the corner! Tinybeans rounded up all the best Seattle summer camps for kids to plan for now, including SAM Camp at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Registration opens February 15!
“But right now, a building where magic once took place is gathering dust. Maybe something’s in the works; maybe we’ll hear something soon; maybe that diamond-bright screen will light up again. In the meantime, we and Cinerama wait, and remember.”
“Its content is chaotic and absurd, but in the view of creators like Aamir, it’s this Dada-esque nature—making sense out of the nonsense of being online—that levels up the genre. ‘What does art do,’ he said, ‘if not attach meaning to the meaningless and arbitrary experiences we have as humans.’”
In honor of Black History Month, Object of the Week will feature artworks from SAM’s collection that explore Black art and artists. Black lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and legacies of Black leaders in civic and cultural life. Exploring and reflecting on the past and present of Black lives is one important way to continue to imagine better futures. Here’s the first of four reflections from four different SAM voices on one artwork and what it means to them.
In January of 2016, I began working at the Seattle Art Museum. It was like going to a new school—I felt ready with an open heart, looking to shake up my norm, help me step out of my comfort zone, and provide me with something that I didn’t know how to express with words quite yet. After 16 years of working at the University of Washington, I left the stability of what had become a predictable world and delved right in. Part of this terrifying new world that I was immediately immersed in included giving a public tour for Free First Thursday, talking about artworks in our collection that I loved and connecting them to my life. My background was in communications and American Ethnic Studies, and so art was something I knew and loved, but not from an academic perspective. It seemed like everyone at SAM knew so much more than me, but I have always tried to lead with authenticity and leaned on that to guide me.
The artwork I knew I wanted to end the tour with that night was my favorite in our collection: Hair Portrait #20by Mickalene Thomas. The beautiful Swarovski crystals, the powerful face depicted over and over again, the magnitude of its size… all of those things drew me. I wore a sequined top so I could match. The piece stood out. It was so much different from everything else I saw at SAM and so different from all the neighboring art in that gallery. It felt… like me at that time. I felt so out of place, with such a different perspective and aesthetic from everyone else. But I kept remembering that that was why I was hired: to beat to my own drum and do things the way I do them. Hair Portrait #20 brought me comfort, and it reminded me that it was okay to do things differently, to stand out unapologetically and shine brightly, as a beacon of hope, light, and realness.
Thomas’s work continued to come back to me over the years, reminding me of the valuable lesson that MORE is MORE and not to be less in order to make others more comfortable. In 2018, the museum presented Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, exploring the work of these three pivotal Black artists. By then I was feeling more comfortable at SAM, and it helped that I had my colleague David Rue, who had become my SAM soulmate. He and I started working at SAM the very same day, and we had a similar love for all things bright, extravagant, beautiful, and authentic. David helped me feel so much more comfortable in my skin, and when Figuring History opened, it meant so much to both of us. We brought everyone we knew and created programming and partnerships that are still talked about in our community today. We reveled in the glory of Thomas’s muse, Racquel Chevremont, and dreamed of what it might be like to be someone’s muse (David has since pretty much become EVERYONE’s muse so there’s that!).
After years of working from home, I recently made the commitment to spend more time in SAM’s galleries in order to inspire my own creative practice, which is a big focus for me this year. And lo and behold, I ran into an old friend: Hair Portrait #20, back on view again as part of a reinstallation in the modern and contemporary galleries called Reverberations. Immediately, I broke out into the biggest smile, thinking of all of the times that that piece made David and I feel like we were home. There she was: a continued beacon of hope. These last seven years have been the best of my life, and I continue to live unapologetically, unwilling to take shit, and more willing to shine bright like the Swarovski crystals that Thomas interweaves into this room-filling artwork. Getting to see a whole new generation of folx also experience the piece for the first time is the greatest joy. A few weeks ago, the UW Sisterhood Initiative came for a visit, and there was a gorgeous impromptu photoshoot in front of that pivotal piece. The mission of SAM is to connect art to life, and this piece provides exactly that: an opportunity to feel seen, and not just tolerated but acknowledged, celebrated, and seen. Unapologetically.
– Priya Frank, SAM Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
Photo: Jen Au.
Celebrate Black History Month in Seattle with these suggested events and additional resources.
Don’t miss JiaYing Grygiel’s wonderful itinerary in ParentMap for a family adventure in Volunteer Park, including the conservatory, water tower, and Seattle Asian Art Museum (including posing on the camel replicas!).
Call all tourists and staycationers! It’s Seattle Museum Month again, when you get museum admission deals with your hotel stay. Curiocity has all the details. The museum also got a staycation shoutout from Listette Wolter-McKinley for Seattle Refined.
There were some final mentions of Anthony White: Limited Liabilityin Crosscut and on KUOW. The artist’s debut solo show at SAM in honor of his Betty Bowen Award win is now closed, but the museum has acquired one of the molten plastic paintings for its collection.
Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel takes in the new Seattle Convention Center, focusing on the numerous artworks in the new addition (designed by LMN Architects, who created the renovated and expanded Asian Art Museum!).
For the Seattle Times, here’s Gary Faigin with an obituary for artist Gregory Blackstock, who has died at the age of 77. Blackstock’s drawings catalogued all kinds of ephemera, including vegetables, animals, and buildings.
Local media news, via Daniel Beekman of the Seattle Times: The Seattle Chinese Post has ceased publication and Northwest Asian Weekly is going online only. The sister publications were led by Assunta Ng for the past 41 years.
“But the Northwest Asian Weekly will keep churning out stories for online readers, so the project that Ng began will endure. She hopes younger news hounds will take over soon, because the truth that motivated her in 1982 remains relevant.”
Zachary Small of the New York Times on Kenneth Tam’s exhibition at Marfa Ballroom, Tender is the hand which holds the stone of memory, which honors “the lives of Chinese laborers in Texas who helped build the country’s railroad system.”
“Mounted on the walls surrounding the museum’s runway floor were collaged black and white images of 13 Black female performers, Josephine Baker, Diahann Carroll, Marpessa Dawn, Lena Horne, and Nina Simone being among them… ‘To see these monumental figures, take up such space in a setting that celebrates their elegance and talent,’ Thomas told ARTnews, is a ‘moving moment.’”
Happy Lunar New Year! The Seattle Times, EverOut, and ParentMap all have round-ups of all the ways to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit and all of them include the Lunar New Year Family Celebration at the Seattle Asian Art Museum on February 4! Join us for a live Lion Dance, drop-in art activities, and a storytime inspired by the holiday.
“When [Jackson] started doing workshops for his upcoming play, History of Theatre: About, By, For and Near, which looks at the untold stories of African American thespianism, he kept getting the same reactions over and over again. Comments of ‘I didn’t know about that’ and ‘Why wasn’t I taught this?’ were common refrains at the reading circles.”
“As an expression and reflection of culture, art too is the opposite of innocent, and the idea of beauty attached to it is always complicated for that reason, a generator of questions as much as a giver of answers.”
One of the most exciting parts of hosting contemporary art exhibitions is the opportunity to welcome living and working artists to SAM to reflect on their artwork and careers directly with audiences. Throughout the three month run of Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue at SAM, we had the honor of welcoming both artists to SAM for conversations on their friendship, artistic processes, and collaborative exhibition.
If you weren’t able to get tickets to see their talks in person, you can now watch both conversations on our YouTube. Check out both conversations below for even more supplemental context following your visit to In Dialogue and be sure to catch the exhibition before it closes Sunday, January 22 at SAM!
SAM Photo Club is almost over! With Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogueclosing at SAM this Sunday, January 22, we are accepting the final photo submissions to the third defining theme and motif of these legendary photographers’ artistic careers: family & community.
To incentivize you to get your last-minute submissions in and join SAM Photo Club, we’re featuring some of the family & community photos taken by SAM’s two staff photographers: Alborz Kamalizad and Chloe Collyer. Outside of photographing all SAM events, exhibitions, installations, programs, and more, Alborz and Chloe are also working professionals. Browse through a few photos taken by Alborz of their family and community below, then discover which of Carrie Mae Weems’s photographs on view in SAM’s exhibition resonates with him.
Family & Community, 2021–2022
My family emigrated from Iran when I was three years old. This made me young enough to easily assimilate into American culture. But even though the bulk of my cultural connections are American, there is Iranian culture swirling inside me as well — culture that is usually easy to ignore while walking through an American life.
With a project I’m calling Rebuilding Babel I have friends engage with artifacts of my familial culture. These objects, which are mostly meaningless to them, render the images inaccurate to who they are. Instead, these photos of friends portray a relationship between my own American and Iranian selves.
The current humanitarian crisis in Iran, as people fight for freedom and equality, has underscored both my connection to and separation from the culture I was born in.
Untitled (Woman with Daughter and Children), Carrie Mae Weems, 1990
Walking into the space where The Kitchen Table series is displayed at the Seattle Art Museum feels like walking into the middle of someone’s psyche. It’s intimate. It’s a real testament to the need to experience photography in person. Moving your body from image to image while they transport you through time cannot be experienced on a screen.
Alborz Kamalizad (he/him) is a visual artist who moves between photography, animation, documentary filmmaking, and illustration. He was born in Iran, raised in the US, and currently works as a staff photographer for the Seattle Art Museum. As a visual journalist and photographer, his work has been featured by Los Angeles’s NPR affiliate, Mother Jones Magazine, the United Nations, The Nature Conservancy, MasterClass, and the Getty.
Participate in #SAMPhotoClub by sharing your own family & community on Instagram and tagging us through Friday, January 20. Once the window for submissions closes, we’ll share a few of the photographs we’ve been tagged in on our Instagram Stories.
– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator
Photo Credit: Untitled (Woman with Daughter and Children), Carrie Mae Weems, American, born 1953. Untitled (Woman and daughter with children). Kitchen Table Series. Gelatin silver print. 1990. 40 x 40 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
“Bey and Weems act as interpreters and eyewitnesses, asserting Black history as American history. Through their reflection of personal memories and their reimagining of critical sociocultural events, the past reverberates and resonates with the contemporary moment. Economic and institutional forces — racial global capitalism, political divisiveness, and gentrification, to name a few — shape collective ways of seeing and being. Antithetical to these oppressive, isolating processes, ‘In Dialogue’ asks us to pay attention, question, celebrate, and be present.”
“‘This exhibition is a rare opportunity for the public to see a body of work that has mostly been in storage for decades,’ said [curator and author David F.] Martin…‘Contrary to what the public might presume, Tsutakawa’s earlier works are highly informed by European Modernism and not Japanese art or technique, that came later in his career. So, George really transcended labels and was truly an independent modern American artist.’”
Jerry Saltz of New York Magazine with “7 Art Shows We Can’t Wait to See in 2023”; he mentions a few shows with SAM connections, including Sarah Sze’s show at the Guggenheim (there’s an incredible work by the artist now on view at SAM!) and the Georgia O’Keeffe show at MoMA (which will feature SAM collection work Music–Pink and Blue No. 1).
“‘While we’re here, it allows us more freedom, in this building that’s kind of a laboratory,’ said Wardropper. ‘It’s almost the antithesis of the Gilded Age mansion, where we can experiment more easily. We’re hoping we develop audiences and ideas here that we can take back to the mansion.’”
With his first solo SAM exhibition, Limited Liability, coming to a close in a few short weeks, 28-year old Seattle artist Anthony White woke up bright and early one December morning to meet Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz in the galleries of his exhibition before the museum was open to the public. Sitting around the retro lunchroom table—the centerpiece of SAM’s 2021 Betty Bowen Award winner’s gallery—the two spoke about the response he’s received to Limited Liability, the meticulousness of his practice, queer representation in art, what’s next for Seattle’s rising star, and what it means to artistically render this moment in time.
Read the full interview below and experience Anthony White: Limited Liability at SAM’s downtown location before it closes Sunday, January 29.
José Carlos Diaz: I want to start off here by thanking you and SAM curators Catharina Manchanda and Carrie Dedon for putting this exhibition together. Limited Liability was the second exhibition that opened after I joined SAM in July 2022, and it’s been a joy getting to know you and to see visitors interact with your paintings. So, my first question is: What has been the response to this exhibition. What have you observed? What have you heard visitors say while seeing your artwork at SAM?
Anthony White: Overall, the response has been great. I think people are excited to see work like mine in an established institution. My work is vibrant and modern, and I think it can be refreshing to see in a museum gallery. It’s always fun to see people stumble on artwork they weren’t really expecting to see at a museum. I will say, everyone is infatuated with my age. I didn’t expect I’d receive so many comments about that.
JCD: Did they think you were older?
AW: Yeah. Generally, people are surprised that someone my age is able to do this.
JCD: It’s definitely incredible that someone your age has a solo exhibition at a major regional museum.
AW: Totally, but it’s still incredibly surprising to me. And a lot of people did reach out to say that it was nice to have something that they could relate to. There were a lot of people that would identify with certain symbols and objects that came out of very specific time periods. It’s really cool to see how my artwork connects with people, even if in the smallest degrees.
JCD: That’s great to hear! Many people may not yet know this, but SAM actually acquired one of your works from this exhibition. The artwork that the curatorial team and the board approved is UNTIL THE END OF TIME (2022). It was really important to our team to acquire this particular artwork because it really reflects the diversity within SAM’s collections, but it’s also a representation of an artist who is living and working in Seattle. But, as a curator myself, I was curious how you’d like to see your artwork displayed and used in the future when you visit SAM? Maybe in a different context? With similar or different artworks? Is this something you’ve thought about?
AW: First, I want to say how excited and honored I am to have my artwork in SAM’s collection. It’s an incredible way to be connected to this institution for a long time. But I do often find myself thinking about what happens to artworks that end up in collections. I think most institutions either keep their works either independently displayed somewhere or they pull it into a group installation to give it additional context. My hope is that UNTIL THE END OF TIME is shown alongside other artworks at SAM that tell the stories of time.
JCD: Would you be interested in seeing it integrated into the European galleries, as having a conversation or even challenging the Old Masters?
JCD: I think that’d be a really fun conversation to have! Many of the European artworks in SAM’s collection capture a specific moment or time in history. With your artwork alongside these other pieces, I think they’d be talking about the same exact things but across vastly different time periods. I love it!
AW: I think there are endless opportunities for my artwork to interact with historic artworks throughout SAM’s collection. It’s fascinating to see how our interpretations of everyday life have changed over time.
JCD: Plus, it’s the first artwork in the collection featuring Kim Kardashian.
AW: She should be honored. Someone tell her!
JCD: I was so thrilled that you’ve gotten so much press from this exhibition. But what’s made me the most proud is seeing all of the national press you and SAM have received about the work that’s being done in Seattle in showcasing LGBTQ+ art.
That being said, the work I find myself gravitating toward the most in Limited Liability is JOYRIDE (2022). Because you have such a deep visual archive, I was blown away when you revealed—at least to me—that the format of this painting is based on Picasso’s Still Life With the Caned Chair (1912), which was a really groundbreaking moment for Picasso. But then, looking deeper at your painting, this idea of a joyride, it has such a coded language specifically around queerness and blackness; It’s almost like a special language. Walking up to this painting—even as someone who works at the museum and has seen it many times—it’s clear that there’s so much joy in it. So, I wanted to ask you to elaborate on your use of coded or visual languages throughout your art.
AW: Yeah, I think JOYRIDE offers people a way of getting to know me, my practice, and my experiences that my other works may not do so much. There is a slightly discreet symbolism and language that I’m using in this work and that has led to the invention of an entirely new way of speaking within my practice, I think.
I don’t like to spoon-feed people and give them only one way to see, think, and interpret my work. For example, JOYRIDE includes a sticker that says ‘cruisin’ that can be interpreted in two totally different ways. You could either think about it within the context of hard culture and vehicle cruising, or think about it as speaking toward a homoerotic experience, activity, or participatory event. So, the decision to interpret pieces and little details like those throughout my work is ultimately up to the viewer.
JCD: I can definitely see the nature of the symbolism you’re talking about. I think there’s also this playfulness with the inclusion of the Lisa Frank stickers and the young anime woman in red. And, in looking at all the works in this gallery, I think you once told me that you make one self portrait per year. Is that true?
AW: It is true.
JCD: Can you talk about the origins of this tradition? How is your process of depicting yourself different from that of the rest of your work?
AW: Every year, there comes a month where I feel an unrelenting need to get my feelings and the way I’m seeing myself onto a canvas. It’s been a very strict practice that I’ve had for the past five years. I think it’s just as important to depict myself within a specific period of time as it is to depict the cultural objects and symbols that define it.
My self-portraits are also a bit more dramatic than my other works. I feel more comfortable and honest with the subject since it’s myself. In HYPNOSIS (2022), I’m lying horizontally on my stomach, staring deep into the void.
JCD: The void being the cellphone.
AW: Yes, It’s that constant endless rabbit hole that we all get sucked into these days. I think this was a pretty daring piece to execute and I didn’t want to inaccurately represent someone else with a piece like this.
JCD: The subject is you but I think the work is really representative of all of us today. It’s a beautiful piece.
You’ve had many people ask you about your complex process. When I first saw your work, I thought they were textile-based. They almost looked like quilted pieces of material—even your self portrait. I know you’ve talked about your use of melted coils of colored plastics quite a bit but I think it’s a very revolutionary medium—I think it’s called polylactic acid. The device you use to paint is very meticulous too. You’ve mentioned that it can take over a hundred hours to complete a single painting.
AW: It can. Sometimes longer.
JCD: But you’ve also previously mentioned that there is a sort of intuition to creating your paintings; that it’s an organic process. How do you balance the strict boundaries of using polylactic acid with your organic, or intuitive, process?
AW: There are definitely some set boundaries with the process. The methods I use to melt the plastic and draw lines on my canvas are very specific. But, there’s also this sort of synthetic or artificial nature to it that I find complementary to what I want to represent on each panel. That was really fun to stumble on at the very beginning of my practice. Although everything is very systematic, there’s a natural intuition that comes into play the more I work with this medium. Like an oil painter, I create my own palette for each work.
JCD: Your use of this medium is incredible. There’s an intense satisfaction that I think everyone receives from seeing your work in person. Have you faced any challenges with the digital life of your work? It’s interesting because you source so much content from the digital world in your art, and now that art is part of our collective digital archive. Is this something you’ve thought about?
AW: There are challenges with not being able to translate my works accurately in a digital image. As we move forward in our technological world, there may be a time when our methods of documentation of works such as my own are displayed differently. But there is so much satisfaction with seeing my, and all, paintings in person.
That’s not to say I want my work to be an exclusive viewing experience—I want anyone and everyone who wants to see my work to see it! But, I’ve heard many people say they had no idea of the meticulousness of my art until they saw it in person. Only then do they understand how much complexity there is within each of my works. You can see the evidence of my hand, every line that I make, what direction I led my pen, and the decisions I made with every mark.
JCD: I never like to ask an artist what inspires them, but I can’t stop myself this time. What is actually inspiring you right now?
AW: At this specific moment? A lot of podcasts.
JCD: I wouldn’t have guessed that.
AW: Of course, my main influences are social media, but a lot of the things I listen to while working are podcasts about white collar criminals, corporate fraud, technological advances, and the state of the world. All of my canvases are inspired by what I’m listening to and my perception of the direction our world is headed in, but I think that does change over time. One day, I want to be able to look at the archive of my work and pinpoint precise moments of my life. I’ll create a timeline by identifying certain symbols and objects across every work.
JCD: But that’s not to say your work itself is dated. It captures specific moments in time but has longevity in its interpretation.
AW: And the world moves so fast, too. So, I think it is accurate to say that some of my works are dated. Certain objects pictured within them are already obsolete.
JCD: It’s interesting to think how future scholars will interpret the artworks being made during this period in time, especially yours. That’s the dream, right?
AW: Yes, but I think they should be a bit more concerned with the state of their existence. There’s a meme I recently saw that said if you showed somebody back in 2000 how much content we consume now, they would have a meltdown. It’d be so overwhelming. Our past selves would be stunned by the pace of life today. Hopefully, it slows down in the years to come but you never know.
JCD: I’ve never thought about that.
You have an exhibition coming up, Extended Warranty at Greg Kucera Gallery, opening in January. It sounds like you’ve got no plans of slowing down in 2023. So what’s next? What can the public expect to see in that exhibition and what else are you working on in the coming year?
AW: Yeah! That’ll be a smaller exhibition than Limited Liability, but it’s sort of an extension of thought that resulted from building the body of work that’s on view at SAM. As this exhibition opened, I was still thinking through these ideas of materialism and digital culture and wanted to extend them into the exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery. So, both exhibitions—Limited Liability and Extended Warranty—explore similar threads. I have these trains of thought that I’ve been exploring since I became an artist and I want to continue seeing them out in the months and years ahead.
“Historically, when we say the word ‘American,’ it typically denotes white people. But the actual story of what has happened on this continent over the past half millennium is so much more complex.”
– Inye Wokoma
When deciding what artworks to include in their reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries, SAM curator Theresa Papanikolas and co-curator Barbara Brotherton weren’t interested in including conventionally beautiful or visually engaging artworks that are typically thought of as examples of American art. Instead, they thoroughly examined every American-made artwork in SAM’s collection and its relationship to the history and evolution of the United States. To ensure the two-year project incorporated as many viewpoints as possible, the curators invited visual artist and Wa Na Wari co-founder Inye Wokoma to guest curate a gallery that captures his personal interpretation of what American art is.
In the interview above—filmed before the renovation of the galleries—Inye discusses the need to reverse society’s existing exclusionary interpretation of American art, being invited to curate a gallery at SAM, and the inspiration he found in some of the galleries’ original artworks.
“‘We all have a stake in righting things that were wrong, and the first step is really to acknowledge wrongs and tell the stories,’ [exhibit developer Mikala] Woodward said. ‘Telling these stories is a step along the way to naming what needs to happen, and fighting together… giving visitors an invitation to become part of that is what we really wanted.’”
“I know we are not here forever and there are quite a lot of things I want to achieve,” [Boafo] said. “My game plan is to bring as many people through the door as possible and build something here that we can manage here.”
On a fall day last November, 16 members of SAM’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) gathered around the craft tables of the museum’s Nordstrom Art Studio. Today, instead of making art, they’d be talking art with one of the most significant artists working today, Dawoud Bey.
Bey had traveled to Seattle for SAM’s presentation of Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue, an exhibition that brings together the work of the two friends and mutual inspirations for the first time. Bey would be giving a public talk that evening, but during the day, he generously met with these future artists and leaders.
Founded in 2007, TAG is an intensive program for high school-aged youth who are interested in learning about themselves and the world through art. The program cultivates the voice and leadership of diverse young people who share their passion for the power of art to build community. The group comes together in weekly meetings from October to May, learning about the behind-the-scenes work of the museum, making art, and leading tours. Their work culminates in Teen Night Out, a free teens-only event held in May with DJs, live music performances, art tours, workshops, and art-making activities.
Bey talked with the teens about his relationship with art and photography when he was their age and how his passion for music as a young man influenced the way he would make art more than 30 years later. Artists in their own right, TAG members were eager to learn about Bey’s thought process as he positioned a model for his portraits. He revealed that he only ever accentuated a pose or gesture the person was already doing naturally. Bey illustrated the point with program intern Karla Pastrana, encouraging her to bring her relaxed arm more forward for the sake of the shot.
Here are some reflections from various TAG members on the experience of meeting Dawoud Bey:
“It was an amazing opportunity to meet an artist like Dawoud Bey in person. It was really cool to get to hear about his story, creative process, and inspirations. I’m personally interested in the arts and museum industry myself so his advice was really insightful and inspiring.”
– Charlotte, 16
“My first impression was that he was a very thoughtful person. He took his time when he sought to communicate something, and did so with purpose. That careful observance was weaved into each of his photographs.”
– Sreshta, 17
“Meeting Dawoud Bey was inspiring for me because we had the opportunity to ask about his life and artistic process. I thought it was interesting to hear about what he was doing when he was a teenager and how he got into the art world by getting his first camera when he was a teen. Getting to talk to an artist like Dawoud Bey, who is so amazing and accomplished, is really incredible because it’s really easy to idolize artists, which they should be, but it’s important to remember that they are people and they started as teens just like us.”
– Lila, 15
Hot tip: Want to join TAG? Applications to join the 2023–24 TAG cohort will be available in spring 2023. Follow @samteens on Instagram for the latest updates!
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
The third theme of SAM Photo Club is in full swing! With Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogueclosing at SAM on Sunday, January 22, we’re now accepting photo submissions to the final of three defining motifs of these legendary photographers’ artistic careers: family & community.
As inspiration to post your own photo and join SAM Photo Club, we’re spotlighting some of the family & community photos taken by SAM’s two staff photographers: Chloe Collyer and Alborz Kamalizad. Outside of photographing all SAM events, exhibitions, installations, programs, and more, they’re also working professionals. Scroll down to browse through a few photos taken by Chloe of their family and community and learn which of Dawoud Bey’s photographs on view in SAM’s exhibition inspires them the most!
Mom and Dogs, 2016
My family is a jumble of genetic relations and adopted relatives. I was raised by my biological mother and her parents, all four of us born and raised in Seattle, WA. My grandparents are Maddog and Robyn Collyer; two animals that probably shouldn’t nest together but somehow find a balance. My grandad is a funny prankster, a songwriter who plays piano, bass, guitar and for some reason collects flashlights. My grandma is a soft spoken Jeopardy genius and angelic in every way.
Maddog at Night, 2019
Cribbage with Grandparents, 2022
Friends in Laughter, 2022
My oldest friend is my godbrother Ardent has been by my side since sixth grade. We are stuck together for life. He is my most reliable comedian, hype man and supporter over the years.
The Birmingham Project: Wallace Simmons and Eric Allums, 2012
Another symmetrically balanced image from Bey, this time balancing two generations of the African American community in a mirrored image. The poses match, the light source reversed in each side of the diptych. It’s a timeless, solemn memorial to the loss of young life in Birmingham 1963. It’s one of my favorite images of all time.
Chloe Collyer (they/them) is a photographer, journalist, and fifth-generation Seattle resident whose work is deeply connected to the history and communities of the Pacific Northwest. A natural born documentarian, their toolkit includes 15+ years behind the camera, an associate’s degree in commercial photography, and seven years of experience working as a photojournalist and photo editor. In addition to working as a staff photographer at the Seattle Art Museum, Chloe also teaches photography at Youth in Focus and Photo Center Northwest, and has had their work featured in The New York Times, Bloomberg Business, NPR, Buzzfeed, Real Change, Crosscut, and more.
Join #SAMPhotoClub by sharing your own family & community photography on Instagram and tagging us before January 20. Every week, we’ll share a few of the photographs we’ve been tagged in on our Instagram Stories.
The new year brings new art… and lots of it! We’re so looking forward to an entire calendar’s worth of must-see exhibitions across all three of our dynamic locations and can’t keep it to ourselves any longer. Read below for a sneak preview of what’s to come at SAM over the next twelve months!
“There will be something for everyone at SAM in 2023,” says José Carlos Diaz, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art. “The exhibition schedule includes rich displays from the museum’s collection as well as a global array of dynamic art and programming from places such as Indonesia, Ghana, Japan, and right here in the Pacific Northwest region. 2023 welcomes not only a new year but also the 90th anniversary of SAM, which first opened to the public in June 1933.”
Kicking off the year, SAM’s modern and contemporary galleries now play host to Reverberations: Contemporary Art and Modern Classics. This array of art spotlights recent acquisitions and includes many works going on view for the first time. With works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko, and Ruth Asawa, contemporary artists Senga Nengudi, Laura Aguilar, and Mickalene Thomas, and emerging artists Dana Claxton, Woody de Othello, Naama Tsabar, and Rashid Johnson, this collection installation explores the idea of ongoing artistic exchange. Many of the works on view are by artists of color and many are by women artists, reflecting the museum’s ongoing commitment to diversifying the collection and the perspectives we present.
On March 9, SAM will open Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, presenting an immersive exploration of the complex textile created in regions around the globe. The exhibition will feature over 100 textiles made from the 12th century to the present including kimonos, furnishings, robes, and other cloths from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. A large-scale installation by contemporary artists Roland and Chinami Ricketts that offers the experience of walking into an ikat will also be on view.
Summer brings Soul of Black Folks, an exciting touring exhibition and the Seattle debut of Ghanian artist Amoako Boafo (b. 1984). One of the most influential artistic voices of his generation, Boafo is known for vibrant portraits that center on Black subjectivity, Black joy, the Black gaze, and radical care. Co-organized by the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Soul of Black Folks will present over 30 works created between 2016 and 2022.
Later in July, the Seattle Asian Art Museum will debut Renegade Edo and Paris: Japanese Prints and Toulouse-Lautrec, exploring the cities’ early 20th century artistic and social transformations. Through nearly 90 prints drawn from SAM’s Japanese prints collection as well as private holdings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s artwork, this exhibition offers a critical look at the renegade spirit in the graphic arts in both Edo and Paris, highlighting the social impulses—pleasure seeking and theatergoing—behind the burgeoning art production.
Finally, the fall will see SAM celebrate the works of Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) with Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, opening October 19 at SAM’s downtown location. Thanks to the popularity of the instantly recognizable Great Wave—cited everywhere from book covers and Lego sets to anime and emoji—Hokusai has become one of the most famous and influential artists in the world. This touring exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), takes a new approach to the work of the versatile master, pairing more than 100 of his woodblock prints, paintings, and illustrated books from the MFA’s collection with more than 200 works by his teachers, students, rivals, and admirers.
Other 2023 highlights at SAM include the solo exhibition of 2022 Betty Bowen Award winner Elizabeth Malaska; the SAM debut of artist, director, and writer Howard L. Mitchell—also known as GATO—whose 2019 film, Forgive Us Our Debts, tells the fictional story of Trey, a terrified 13-year-old Black boy who lives with his family in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood; large-scale sculptural works at the Olympic Sculpture Park 365 days a year; and so much more.
With so much in store for 2023, we can’t wait to welcome you back to SAM soon!
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations & Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator
Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialoguecloses in less than one month at SAM! While the exhibition is on view, we’re launching #SAMPhotoClub, an Instagram campaign that asks our followers to share their favorite photographs inspired by three common motifs of these legendary American artists.
We’re now accepting submissions to the second theme of SAM Photo Club: street photography. As a way to inspire continued participation, we’re spotlighting a few street photos taken by SAM’s staff photographers Alborz Kamalizad and Chloe Collyer. Read below to see a selection of Alborz’s favorite street photographs and discover which of Carrie Mae Weems’s street images has stuck with him the most.
Street Photography, 2021–2022
Photographer Jeff Wall has said that he thinks of the snapshot as the most fundamental type of photography, and that every other photograph derives meaning by its relationship to the snapshot. I like to think about this when I’m out in public with a camera. My street photos take about as much deliberation as a snapshot: they’re instinctive and quick. But through the combination of subject matter and composition, I hope to create a gentle feeling around what city life is like.
The things that consistently draw my eye:
1. How a camera can render the many different scales of reality that exist in and around a modern city. A deep valley becomes texture. The base of a lamppost feels monumental. Buildings and signs turn into abstractions.
2. Little signs of fleeting humanity. Walking through a city we’re surrounded by other people, yes. But there is also so much evidence for things that have already happened — signs of people we did not see. I’m drawn to these tiny stories. Likewise, there are people caught at a distance or in the middle of moments that are just slightly difficult to understand because we’ve somehow missed the essence of whatever set them in motion.
In either case, I’m drawn to the infinity of possibility in a city.
Harlem Street, Carrie Mae Weems, 1976–77
This photo perfectly balances spontaneity and almost mathematical precision. The straight-on view of the buildings (probably from the middle of the street?) makes a grid-like background out of doors, windows, bricks, stairs, and the vendor’s signage. Meanwhile, the people are in an utterly casual moment of everyday life.
Alborz Kamalizad (he/him) is a visual artist who moves between photography, animation, documentary filmmaking, and illustration. He was born in Iran, raised in the US, and currently works as a staff photographer for the Seattle Art Museum. As a visual journalist and photographer, his work has been featured by Los Angeles’s NPR affiliate, Mother Jones Magazine, the United Nations, The Nature Conservancy, MasterClass, and the Getty.
Participate in #SAMPhotoClub by sharing your own street photo on Instagram and tagging us through Friday, December 20. Every week, we’ll share a few of the photographs we’ve been tagged in on our Instagram Stories. Stay tuned as we announce submissions for our final themes—family & community photography—later this week.
The lens can be used all kinds of ways… Not just affirm or confirm the thing in front of the camera, but for my purposes, to actually reshape it in a subjective way.
– Dawoud Bey
How can photography be used to amplify Black voices in America? To commemorate the opening of Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue at SAM, we sat down with renowned American photographer Dawoud Bey to ask this question, talk about his friendship with Carrie Mae Weems, and discuss the significance of showing their photographs in conversation. Watch the video now to hear Bey reflect on what it means to break artistic hierarchies, bring history into our modern era, and tell the complex and powerful stories of Black Americans through a single frame. Don’t miss your chance to experience this limited-run exhibition at SAM before it closes on January 22—get your tickets before it’s too late!
“Affordable, artsy, and amusing items”: Crosscut has your shopping list covered with this round-up of museum gift shops, including highlights of artist-made selections from SAM Shop! You can find incredible gifts at the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, and online.
“SAM Shop is a big, sprawling bonanza of artful gifts, including several cases of handmade jewelry by local makers. Look for thin geometric earrings by Kim Williamson, pearled pieces by Simon Gomez and chunky metal works by Sarah Wilbanks. One wall showcases a large collection of carved and painted wood pieces by Coast Salish artists, including salmon, bear, wolf and eagle plaques by Squamish artists Richard Crawshuk, Neil Baker and John August.”
Supreme doesn’t know how many records he has now—’I stopped counting around 50,000’—but his garage is full of vinyl, and the top floor of his home is overflowing too. Even still, he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. ‘Only when I have to move.’”
Artnet has published The Burns Halperin Report, a data-based reporting package on equity and representation in museum collections and the art market. SAM participated in this important project by sharing information on its collection.
“They see the cafe as a ‘place of continuity,’ where basket makers and other artists from around the state might gather under its traditional redwood shade structure, or ramada. It is already a new kind of landmark where, as Medina put it, ‘elders can get dressed up to the nines, come out for a Saturday night dinner and be able to sit at the head of the table.’”