Hiding within the busy city streets of Pioneer Square sits an intimate artist’s studio unlike any other. In this small, square room, SAM 2021 Betty Bowen Award winner Anthony White creates mesmerizing paintings crammed with products, name brand logos, and digital icons that assess our increasingly intertwined analog and digital lives.
“It’s my happy place,” says White. “It’s nice to have a space that’s reserved only for creating art.”
White spends most of his days in this space. It’s quiet and personal, with an ever-rotating array of his creations adorning the walls. It’s here that many of his completed artworks sit before they’re delivered to their next—or final—destinations. In the back corner sits a small desk, a focused space where White first sketches his paintings. Pink, brown, blue, green, purple, yellow, and more, endless rolls of polylactic acid—White’s medium of choice and the same material used in the 3D printing process—occupy the other corner, adding a pop of color to the room. A black leather couch hides next to the door, a place for guests to sit, talk, model.
“I don’t have many guests,” says White. “It’s only when I’m collaborating with someone or asking a friend to model that someone else is in here with me. Otherwise, it’s just me and my art.”
Where White spends the most of his time, however, is in the center of the room. With an unfinished canvas sitting on a sawhorse, it’s here that White paints. With his headphones in, White will work anywhere from eight to 10 hours a day. Circling the canvas, he is precise and careful with each line of polylactic acid he paints.
From his studio to museum walls, experience Anthony White’s breathtaking artwork on view in Anthony White: Limited Liabilityat SAM’s downtown location through January 29, 2023. Meet the artist and hear from him in SAM’s galleries on Thursday, September 15 at 6:30 pm as we celebrate the opening of White’s first solo exhibition at SAM. There’ll be a public reception in the Susan Brotman Forum with a bar and music by Seattle’s own DJ Housepartysea. Reserve your tickets to this free event—space is filling up fast!
In Alberto Giacometti’s never-ending pursuit of a new vision of the human form, the artist often turned to nature for inspiration. Many of his early artworks—most notably in his paintings and sketches—focused on the dynamic landscapes of his upbringing in Stampa, Switzerland. This motif remained as his career progressed, yet his exploration with nature and man’s relationship to it was explored in new ways.
With its tiny head perched on an oversized mound, of which only the figure’s arms can be identified, Man with a Windbreaker (1953) is one of Giacometti’s sculptures which best demonstrates his evolving relationship to nature. While he experimented with scale, texture, and perspective in nearly all of his artworks during this artistic period, this sculpture stands out for its evocation of a geological concretion, with some scholars going so far as to call it a stalagmite.
In this audio recording, SAM Associate Director of Interpretation Erika Katayama discusses Man with a Windbreaker, comparing the rough texture of the mound to a “rocky mountainside.” Tune in to this, and seven other audio recordings which accompany artworks on view in Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure, when you visit the exhibition at SAM’s downtown location through October 9.
Man with a Windbreaker, 1953
NARRATOR: Giacometti’s experimentations with scale and texture come to the fore in Man with a Windbreaker. Associate Director of Interpretation Erika Katayama:
ERIKA KATAYAMA: At this point in his career, Giacometti is constantly manipulating perspective and scale as a means for him to capture his vision of the human figure. Notice the dramatic contrast of proportion in this sculpture. The tiny head sits atop a large, almost mountainous body. The rough texture of his clothes reminds me of a rocky mountainside. As a viewer, this gives us the illusion that the body of the man is close to us, looming large, whereas the tiny head is far away.
VOICE OF GIACOMETTI: For me, any deformation is entirely involuntary. I simply try to recreate what I see. My struggle is to grasp and possess an appearance that constantly escapes me. I try to express what I see, but unfortunately I never manage to make something that truly resembles it.
SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents the 2022–23 season of the Saturday University Lecture Series, with nine talks by leading scholars exploring the social power of architecture. Renée Cheng, Dean of the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington and a catalyst for advocating diversity and inclusion in the field, kicks off the series on Saturday, September 10 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum with a discussion of cultural identities and their expression in the built environment. Haley Ha, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Asian Art Museum, spoke with Cheng about her background, why equity matters in architecture, and how architecture can respond to ecological concerns.
“Space and culture are interconnected—they shape and reflect one another. When we understand the cultural messages conveyed via sacred architecture, we become aware of how those messages are heard differently depending on cultural identity.”
– Dr. Renée Cheng
Haley Ha: Tell us about your background. How did you first become interested in architecture?
Dr. Renée Cheng: I grew up in the Midwest—the daughter of a painter and an engineer—and in so many ways architecture is something of a combination of the two. I always enjoyed making things when I was a child. I did a lot of painting and sculpture, but it was messy stuff. It wasn’t like a kit of Lincoln Logs or Legos; it was clay and paint and messy things that were much more open-ended in what they would lead to. So I wouldn’t say that it was a straight line to architecture by any means. I actually considered medicine at one point, but I grew into really understanding my passion for making things and making beautiful things.
Later, I started realizing that it had to do with spaces, not objects, and my focus shifted over time to be increasingly oriented towards people and the collaborative ways that you have to work to build buildings. I became more interested in the interaction between people aligning around shared goals for occupied spaces and the use of space and places.
Ha: How would you describe your work and research to someone who has never heard of the ideas you explore?
Dr. Cheng: I am an architect and I maintain my license, but I don’t build buildings. I don’t design buildings. I teach those that will be building buildings. I also study the field itself and look at ways that it could be more innovative and beneficial to more people. There’s a lot of the stereotype of an architect like Frank Lloyd Wright in a cape, working for wealthy clients, or even, you know, primarily working for a limited number of people. I am really trying to promote an idea of architecture that positively affects more people, the idea that a well-placed window to a view or a sequence of spaces that allow you to be part of a group ceremony can elevate the spirit. It’s something that an individual might be able to do, but working together with others, really understanding the different points of view that go into making a space that works for more than one person, creating a space that’s large, larger than what one person can build is really what I what I look at in in my work.
It was not a practice in the same way that an architect would practice in an office, where there are buildings that you can show and point to and say we did that; but it’s more of a development of programs and looking at ways that the entire discipline and profession can change. My work has been primarily US-based, but I look at a lot of international examples, often in terms of the way they incorporate new technologies or legal structures of financing that allow for different ways of working. So it encompasses more than just the practice of architecture itself.
Ha: You’re an advocate for diversity and equitable practices in the field of architecture and built environments. Can you briefly describe built environments in both research and practice? And what role does diversity, equity, and inclusion play in it?
Dr. Cheng: Built environments really include all of the areas that are not natural, that are actively built by shaping of land and the infrastructure. It includes smaller-scale spaces, rooms like where you woke up this morning, with a particular light condition and orientation, or the transit you use for shopping or working. The room that you were in, the living structure, the transit, the infrastructure were all planned. It’s part of a city that was planned.
Volunteer Park was planned and laid out in certain ways to emphasize or enhance certain aspects through the choice of what to plant. Some of it might have been growing here and preserved, and others might have been added. So there’s all those aspects of what makes up our built environment. They were all planned, designed, and executed. Someone had to figure out how to pay for it, had to logistically make it happen, and get all of the permissions to make sure that it would work and function in the way that it was intended.
So, what role does diversity, equity, and inclusion play, when you think of that broad definition of built environments? Historically those designers were hired by a small group of people, often very wealthy, and the input was usually fairly limited. And so in the end you ended up with some really beautiful spaces and places for sure, but also certain decisions that really negatively impact communities—often communities of color—whether it was in the placement of highways or the general economic investment in affordable housing. You had a lot of communities that were left out and negatively impacted by architecture. And so what I have worked for is to find ways to include more voices, to include more factors. When we consider what is good design and to find ways that we can accomplish them effectively, not only economically but with sustainable and good practices.
Ha: In the past, architecture has been viewed as a male-dominated field. As an Asian American architect and a woman of color, what challenges have you faced in the field?
Dr. Cheng: There is a definite stereotype of architecture as a male-dominated field and definitely the dominant culture is white males; if you look across the leaders and award winners, they tend to be white men, especially in America. In my experience as a Asian American architect, I’m the first woman dean of the college. I’m the first person of color. But I’ve also been the first or often the only designer or practicing architect in a group of academics, academic architects, or woman in a very dominant technology-related field. So, quite often these are even more white male dominated than the general population of architects. I’ve definitely experienced being the only woman in the room. This can have some positives in that you get noticed, and some negatives in that you get scrutinized, or you sometimes feel like you’re speaking for an entire group and can be tokenized.
I’ve been committed to increasing the number of women in architecture in particular since I was in school. I had an experience when I was in graduate school, where our class was composed of about 30% women who went on to do amazing things like become firm leaders, these women were just really incredible. And there was a time in our graduate studies where there were no women faculty on a fairly large faculty group. And we talked to the dean about this, and his response was: there were no qualified women to hire for teaching, and that statement was so shocking to me, and made me renew a commitment that I think I hadn’t articulated before then to change that by setting up systems and programs that mentor and initiate faster pathways through the education and the professions for women and other identities that were underrepresented in the field.
A lot of the work that I do is centered on the experience I had in graduate school, of feeling like there’s got to be another way. It’s not that there were no qualified women. It’s that they were not easy to find, or that they weren’t retained, promoted, and made visible. Because I knew that my female classmates had a lot to offer. We were probably losing a lot of amazing input as well by not having the role models to help us succeed in our field.
Ha: What are some of the biggest challenges for ecological issues of our time, and how can architecture play a role in solutions?
Dr. Cheng: Worldwide, buildings are forty percent of the energy consumption and they can make up eighty percent of what goes to our landfills through construction and demolition processes. You can say that you know buildings and cities bear a disproportionate share of energy consumption, and also they have a disproportionate responsibility of being a solution to the problem.
Let’s use embodied carbon, for example: the carbon that is used while you produce a building, maintain a building, and disassemble a building. It’s actually a more sophisticated way of thinking, not just of the cost of your electric bill for your air conditioning. Or consider a materials decision, and how much transportation it takes to transport this piece of wood from a place that maybe doesn’t have natural forests. Would concrete be a more economic, ecologically, and carbon-reducing choice? So, it gets pretty complicated, pretty fast, but the overall impact of the development on sustainability and climate is really pretty clear. Architects, building contractors, real estate developers, and landscape architects, we all bear a disproportionate responsibility for climate solutions, because the product of our work bears a disproportionate share of the energy consumption.
Ha: This Saturday University lecture series is focused on sacred spaces in urban settings; I’m interested in the collaborative work between UW’s College of Built Environments and the Nehemiah Initiative for faith-based congregations and the communities they serve in the Central District. It seems to have been vital for these places to survive the socioeconomic challenges in the historically black neighborhood. Can you tell us more about this collaborative effort and how this initiative played a role?
Dr. Cheng: This project is a multi-year commitment to the Nehemiah Initiative, which is a group of Black churches in the Central District of Seattle who are working together to promote their beloved community. Our college hosts a series of studio classes where students work with church leaders and community members to study the potential for church property to be developed in ways that provide housing and community spaces that can support the Black community.
We have an interdisciplinary team of faculty and I teach about the intercultural aspects of working across differences. The differences that I focus on for the class include disciplinary differences in how an urban planning student and a real estate student might think about the best use of the land. It also includes how our students can work with a Black faith-based community while bringing in their own experiences and expertise in respectful and effective ways.
– Haley Ha, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Asian Art Museum
Photo: Renée Cheng, dean of the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington. Image courtesy of Sean Airhart, NBBJ.
In short, Seattle is back, but not all the way…But the city’s defining cultural institutions remain healthy, new restaurants and coffee places are popping up all over town, and the communities ringing the center are more vibrant than ever.”
“It’s a knockout show, with bold, tech-enhanced, multimedia works playing off traditional images and themes. And it’s also a fitting symbol of Seattle in the aftermath of the pandemic.”
Lonely Planet writes up “the 8 best museums in Seattle for a rainy day”; all three SAM locations get a mention, even the outdoor space of the Olympic Sculpture Park. You know what they say: no such things as bad weather, only bad clothing!
Qina Liu for the Seattle Times on the opening of Loving Books, a Black-owned bookstore in the Central District, which curator Kristina Clark long envisioned as a “safe place where Black children could be Black children — where Black children could fully belong.”
“Oppenheim’s inventive, shape-shifting works are difficult to classify. Unexpected combinations of materials, like fungus, buttons, and dried pasta with wood, stone, and clay, speak to her sense of imagination and experimentation. Nature and transformation are at the core of many pieces, but her message to viewers is ultimately open ended.”
In both his paintings and sculptures, Alberto Giacometti used the architectural device of a cage to surround and outline specific constraints for his artistic vision. While Giacometti used a physical frame to demarcate the borders of his paintings, in his sculptures, the artist built physical cages in which to constrain his artworks. First utilized in Cage (1930–31) and Suspended Ball (1930–31), Giacometti returned to the idea of the enclosure as a framing device nearly twenty years later as he began to think more deeply about the self-referential interior of the sculpture compared to its surroundings.
The Cage, First Version is reminiscent of a display case. The upper portion presents a figure and a bast as if laid out in a vitrine. The standing figure is not proportional to the considerably larger head, thus disrupting a reading of these figures within a conventional perspectival space. Placed at the outer edge, the standing figure holds on to the armature that marks the perimeter, looking out beyond. The cage, just as the figures themselves, are composed of the same nubby bronze texture that Giacometti is often recognized for.
Listen to the audio recording above to hear SAM Associate Director of Interpretation Erika Katayama discuss Giacometti’s continuous use of cages, frames, and proportionality throughout his artistic career. All eight audio recordings—produced by the Seattle Art Museum as part of the free smartphone tour of Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure—can be found by scanning the QR codes accompanying selected artworks on view in the exhibition through October 9.
The Cage, First Version, 1949–50
NARRATOR: Giacometti uses cages and frames as a way to further explore the relationship between the viewer and the object, the sculpture and its surroundings. Associate Director of Interpretation Erika Katayama:
ERIKA KATAYAMA: The cage functions both symbolically and psychologically in this work, forming a space which encloses the subjects within. And as a viewer, we see the standing figure and the oversized head, which are not in correct proportion to each other, yet they both exist within the bounds of the cage—and so we have to consider them in relation to one another.
NARRATOR: How does the cage shape how you view this piece? Try imagining it without the cage, what changes?
In the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, artist James Ellingboe has built a beautiful artist studio in his garage. The studio is filled with a wide array of machines and tools, custom-built to create sculptures inspired by math, science, and the natural world from a variety of materials.
Ellingboe has always built things, initially starting with found materials. He learned to weld during high school and created his first metal sculpture in 2004. He now commonly works with mild steel, stainless steel, bronze, and wood, and just recently began creating artworks with clay. He is constantly seeking new ways to manipulate materials in order to give form to his ideas.
Ellingboe’s sculptures explore botanical and scientific themes, often relating to cellular structures and cellular organisms. Examples of this can be seen in the sculptures in his Diatom series. The rounded sculptures in this series are a geometric manipulation of an abstracted form inspired by single-celled organisms called diatoms. The large-scale sculptures from this series are unique, while the smaller-scale sculptures are created in a limited edition of five works and sold at SAM Gallery.
Another series of artworks, titled Fractals, is created from the repetition and manipulation of a simple shape to describe the space inspired by molecular geometries. An artwork from this series, Emergence, is inspired by perennial plants breaking dormancy. The green leaves of the plant are formed by repeated triangles, reaching upwards. He creates artworks like Emergence as a unique monumental sculpture at seventeen feet tall, as well as a limited edition of five smaller sculptures standing at eight and a half inches tall. Another artwork from this series, Nebula, is inspired by nebulous cloud formations in space. Blue triangles are repeated to echo the giant clouds of dust and gas. The large-scale sculpture is fifty-two inches tall, while the limited edition smaller-scale works stand small at thirteen inches tall.
Added in January 2022, James Ellingboe is one of the most recent additions to SAM Gallery’s artist roster. His large-scale and small-scale sculptures will be featured at SAM Gallery this October alongside artworks by Harold Hollingsworth. See his artwork on view at SAM Gallery in the coming months or browse his SAM artist page to get a sneak peek at what’s to come.
“The immersive, multimedia exhibition is small—a casual viewer could survey the handful of pieces in minutes—but it’s one that rewards a more thoughtful approach, revealing new layers and details the longer you look. Each artist relates classical forms with timely themes, addressing topics from street protest to quarantine.”
Lonely Planet’s “8 best beaches in Washington State” includes the pocket beach at the Olympic Sculpture Park, noting that “at low tide, you (and the kids) can explore tidepools brimming with marine life, from sea stars to chitons, all within view of the Space Needle.”
SAM Remix: The clouds didn’t keep you beautiful people away! We were thrilled to bring back the late-night art experience to the Olympic Sculpture Park last Friday–and thrilled for the shoutouts from The Stranger, The Ticket (new site alert!), Seattle Met, and Seattle Times.
“What’s delightful about the piece is that even though the garden of PNW plants is virtual, it still grounds me in reality. Vichayapai’s personal rendition of Seattle’s summer made me think about the foliage and smells and textures I associate with the season.”
“Mr. Kulzer, an art teacher at Eden Valley-Watkins High School who specializes in sculpture, spent two years shadowing Ms. Christensen in order to learn the intricacies of working with cold butter, which is harder to manipulate than the soft-water-based clay he’s accustomed to…Teaching is the second-best job in the world, he said. ‘The first is carving butter heads.’”
“There’s no such thing as spending too much time in a museum. But as much time as you spend walking between artworks, pausing to absorb the work or read the accompanying text, you’ll never see a museum’s art quite the way those who regularly work around it do.”
This week’s SAM Object of the Week was written by University of Washington student Ji In following a presentation given by SAM Assistant Curator of South Asian Art Natalia Di Pietrantonio to the class “Gender and the Hindu Goddess” in the spring of 2022. This essay has been edited from its original form by SAM staff for brevity but the overall content remains the same.
Painted in 1986 by Baua Devi, Kali, as the title explains, is a portrait of the Hindu goddess Kālī. Most recently on view in Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Timeat the Seattle Asian Art Museum, this artifact is a medium sized painting made on paper with ink and color. This essay will explore the format and iconography of the painting that illustrates the goddess’s benevolent yet captivating assertion of power by focusing on the gaze depicted in the portrait. Stylistically, the painting belongs to Maithili art. Historical background on the art style, including a brief biography of Baua Devi, will help explain the significance of Maithili art which has given female artists renewed identities and empowerment adding special elements of power to this painting.
The format of the painting—ink and color on paper—and its technical features, bring out the intensity of Kālī’s gaze focused straight at the viewer, lending an aspect of assertiveness. The painting depicts the face of the goddess colored in vibrant and saturated colors. The range of colors Devi uses is limited to a palette of white, black, and dark blue, filling most of the painting to depict the goddess’s skin. Meanwhile, the colors pink, red, and yellow are used as accent colors to bring out certain features like the outline of the goddess’s eyes and lips. Kālī’s features are made up of mostly thick and bold lines, except for the bindi/tikkā on her forehead, suggesting her third eye, elaborated with fine lines of black ink. The overall simplicity of this painting with bold strokes and a limited range of color, allows the viewer to easily focus on the essential aspect of strength in Kālī’s glare that Baua Devi portrays.
The iconography depicts the goddess lacking the typical visual features of Kālī and mainly focuses on the eyes and her benevolent assertion of power. Some elements of Kālī’s typical characteristics are portrayed in this painting, such as her deep black and blue skin, as well as her three eyes. However, the painting lacks a lot of other features associated with the goddess. Kālī is recognizable as a fearsome and destructive female deity, often visualized holding a sword and a severed head, wearing a garland of skulls and a skirt of arms, and with her tongue protruding and dripping blood.1 Baua Devi’s painting lacks these features and focuses only on the goddess’s face with no hint of ferocity. Her typical menacing appearance is replaced with a smile aimed toward the viewer. Normally, a scary portrayal of Kālī’s distinguishable characteristics is important as Kālī’s is known to lead people to liberation, moksa, allowing people to face their fear and the uncertainties of life, while enabling them to be conscious overcome realities.1 At the same time, Kālī still had benevolent elements with iconography of her right hand in a mudra hand gesture that grants boons and assures her people to not fear.1 Such shows how it is only the physical appearance of Kālī that might be unsettling, because Kālī is compassionate to those who worship her and grants them something beyond what this physical world can offer. And possibly, Baua Devi wanted to focus more on such a benign, yet still powerful aspect of the goddess.
Stylistic Composition of Mithila Art
As mentioned previously, the main stylistic composition of this painting is that this artwork is done in Maithili/Madhubani style. Not only the fact that this painting is done by Baua Devi, who is a renowned Maithili artist, there are detectable elements of the Maithili style painting such as bordering of the painting, and usage of bright natural pigmented colors. The artwork has a painted frame that borders around Kālī’s depicted face in a pink and yellow zigzag pattern. Such framing pattern is typical in a lot of Baua Devi’s work and that of many other Maithili artist. The bright colors of the painting can also be a clue to distinguish the work to be Maithili art, which appears to be done intentionally to maintain the original style of this art. In an interview with The Better India, a digital media platform covering popular news, Baua Devi emphasizes the importance of maintaining authenticity by keeping the traditional style of using twigs, fingers, and natural pigments of colors like black from charcoal, yellow from turmeric, white from rice, blue from indigo, and saffron from marigold.
History of Mithila Art
The history of Mithila art and its various associated artists—like Baua Devi—comes from an ancient cultural region of India, located in the Northeastern part of Bihar, made up of small rural villages.2 This art form originated from their wall art depicting images of various Indian epics of many deities in people’s personal homes. Such paintings were done by a particular practice known as Bhitti chitra where Maithili women painted on the walls and floors of their mud homes.3 It also served a common social purpose which is to summon gods to bless newly married couples with love and fertility.4 In the same interview with The Better India, Baua Devi also said, “According to the custom, all the women in the village gather during a wedding or a special occasion to draw complex geometric and linear patterns on the walls of the house. The art would usually be scenes from mythology and nature as symbols of love and prosperity.”2 This art was originally very personal, kept only as a regional cultural practice, and wasn’t known to a much greater public. Carolyn Brown Heinz, a professor of Anthropology at California State University Chico, noted on such seclusion of the art until a fateful event of earthquake in 1934 that hit the area and exposed many of the wall paintings to be seen by several people, including William Archer who was a young British official visiting the area to assess the damage.4 Archer was amazed at images of the vibrant colors of goddesses with various features of the deities like water lilies, snakes, and the sun in natural pigments painted in the interior of the houses. Sometime after, a drought in 1966 prompted an urgent need to improve the economy in the area. Chair of All-India Handicraft Board, Pupul Jayakar who was aware of beautiful images of Mithila’s wall art, sent an artist, Bhaskar Kulkarni to Madhubani (city in the Mithila region) to look for female artists of the Mithila to produce paintings on a paper, that could easily be sold. Baua Devi was one of many female artists who were recruited. Heinz highlights how such movement of the art from wall to paper as medium brought many changes to the region and its people. First, it fulfilled its main goal by bringing significant economic relief, especially in the impoverished area of Bihar. Mithila art also became known to a much wider public like tourists and foreigners, bringing a cultural awareness of Madhubani, a region previously rarely visited, which brought a significant change to the artists. Most of the well-known Maithili artists were women. These female artists, who used to make no profits from their art works, now became the main source of income to support their families. Being in a fairly patriarchal society, such an art movement empowered these women by allowing them to gain greater respect and support, and to contribute greatly to not just their families, but to the greater region of the location with its economic and cultural growth.
History of Baua Devi
Baua Devi was also one of the female artists who became successful after contributing to the transfer of Maithili art on paper. She was born in Jitwapur village in Bihar and was taught Maithili art as the usual tradition by her mother when she was 13.2 Her talent was discovered by Kulkarni, the artist sent to recruit Maithili artists, when she was 19 after her infant’s death and was suffering from a physically abusive husband. Kulkarni influenced her art to change from typical Maithili art form to a place where she can be expressive of her thoughts. He advised her to freely paint out of her imagination.3 Such teaching might explain the unconventional portrayal of this painting of Kali. However, his advice to the Mathila artists might have also influenced the deterrence of traditional aspects of Maithili art. Heinz also noted how one negative impact from the movement to paper was that the art might have lost its religious meanings in order to better cater towards foreigners who have no interest in knowing its significance.4 This raises concern about the authenticity of Maithili style art and that it only focuses on the elaborated and visually appealing aspect of the artwork to attract the public’s interest. However, Baua Devi’s artworks testify to how the artist still appreciates and maintains the traditional aspects of the art by continuing to portray Hindu deities and conserving traditional art technique methods like using natural dyes in her art work, while not being limited to add her personal identity through abstract elements as well. She is now an incredibly successful Maithili artist who is recognized all across the world. Devi has won many awards such as the National Award in 1984 and Padma Shri in 2017, and her work is sold in various countries across the globe like the United States, Spain, France, and Japan.5 With such success, this new form of Maithili art has given Devi a new identity and freedom in various aspects. She found the freedom to express her thoughts through her paintings, and to no longer be subjected to patriarchal bondage. Devi often discusses how she can’t choose her favorite painting because she views Madhubani painting as her identity and says, “All my paintings are amalgamations of customs, history, and love.”2 Her statement shows how she believes the Maithili paintings have given her a new identity that has connected her with history.
The artwork Kali made in ink and color on paper depicting the frontal profile of goddess Kālī lacks typical iconographic features to instead focus on the goddess’s intense gaze and benevolent yet dominant assertion of power. The Maithili style of painting, and Baua Devi’s own personal story together embodies the theme of female assertion of power. Kālī being the goddess with power of time, lives as the goddess to many from the ancient times of Vedic era to contemporary period among Maithili artists including Baua Devi.
– Ji In, University of Washington Student
1 Foulston, Lynn, and Stuart Abbott. Hindu goddesses: beliefs and practices. Sussex Academic, 2009. “Behind Painted Walls: The Story of Baua Devi & Mithila Painting.” Sarmaya, March 26, 2019.
2 “Painting Is My Everything: Art from India’s Mithila Region – Exhibitions – Asian Art Museum.” Asian Art Museum, May 4, 2020. https://exhibitions.asianart.org/exhibitions/painting-is-my-everything-art-from-indias-mit hila-region/.
3 Rinder, Lawrence. Baua Devi and the Art of Mithila. University of California Berkeley Art Museum, 1997. https://bampfa.org/program/baua-devi-and-art-mithila-matrix-175.
“When viewed from different vantage points, Tall Thin Head seems to be two distinct heads. From the front the head is narrow; the effect is like looking straight on at a knife edge. From the side, the profile is full-bodied and dramatically silhouetted, completely contradicting the frontal view.”
– Valerie Fletcher
Alberto Giacometti used a variety of artistic devices to disrupt the viewers’ interpretation of space. His 1954 portrait bust Tall Thin Head—or Grand tête mince—was just one of a series of busts made by the artist in the 1950s which played with scale, perspective, and texture. From the front, the sculpture looks flat and vague, but when viewed from the side, however, a detailed portrait emerges revealing the angular features of a male figure.
The sculpture, modeled after his brother, Diego Giacometti, falls into a familiar trend seen across Giacometti’s artistic career. Since the beginning of his artistic life, Giacometti preferred to work with those closes to him as models, especially Diego and his wife Annette. Sitting for him required long hours of concentration, and both his brother and wife also assisted with various aspects of managing his studio and career. For the artist, working with consistent models allowed him to better pursue his vision, unveiling the stranger beneath the familiar.
This audio recording marks the third stop in SAM’s free smartphone tour which accompanies Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure. Listen now to experience a close-looking art activity led by SAM educator and teaching artist Lauren Kent and tune in to all eight stops in the tour when you visit the exhibition at SAM’s downtown location through October 9.
Tall Thin Head, 1954
NARRATOR: Perspective can change everything in a sculpture, and that rings true especially for Giacometti’s later work. Here’s SAM educator Lauren Kent to guide you in a close looking activity for Tall Thin Head.
LAUREN KENT: As you approach Tall Thin Head, position yourself so that you are in front of the sculpture, looking at the face straight on. What do you see? What do you think about what you see? What do you wonder? Does this sculpture express an emotion or remind you of anything?
Slowly move about a foot in one direction around the sculpture, then stop. What do you notice now? What do you see that you didn’t before? What has changed?
Move another foot in a circle around the sculpture and stop once more. What do you notice here? What do you see now that you didn’t before? What has changed?
Continue moving in a full circle around the head. Observe how it expands and contracts. Observe all of the different ways that it looks and feels at each angle. You can keep an eye on Tall Thin Head as you walk through the rest of this gallery.
– Lily Hansen, Marketing Content Creator
1 Alberto Giacometti: 1901-1966, Valerie Fletcher, p.180.
The Seattle Times arts team helpfully gathered all the “ways to stretch your entertainment dollars in the Seattle area” with free or discounted tickets and events. They mention the free days at SAM’s three locations—Seattle Art Museum (First Thursday!), Seattle Asian Art Museum (Last Fridays!), and the Olympic Sculpture Park (365 days a year!)—as well as other hot tips for free or discounted admission. Now, go ART!
Though the exhibition was no longer on view when Savita Krishnamoorthy’s International Examiner review of Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Time was published, it’s still very much worth a read. And you can still see Chila Kumari Singh Burman’s neon installation Kali (I’m a Mess) in the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s park lobby.
“We are witnessing an aspirational South Asianfuturism, dreaming of a world without war and human suffering.”
“‘You felt a sense of community in the fields because it was people talking your language, people hearing the kind of music you hear at home, people eating the foods you eat,’ [Exhibition subject Luz] Iniguez said. ‘It really felt like a community of people that were just working hard trying to make the most of a situation that was hard.’”
“‘I’m calling this the poetics of restitution, which is something I’m trying to explore in the work,’ Julien said in a telephone interview from London. ‘The debates that we’re having today that seem contemporaneous were happening 50 years ago, if not before. I think that’s really interesting.’”
At the dawn of world history God gives life to the first humans under a luminous pastel sky. This small panel, painted around 1510 by Renaissance artist Bartolomeo di Paolo, known as Fra Bartolomeo, is titled TheCreation of Eve and is currently on view in SAM’s European art galleries. While the religious content of this picture, based on the book of Genesis, would have been immediately recognizable to its prevalently Christian audience in 16th century Italy, the way Fra Bartolomeo chose to visualize this biblical story sheds light on Renaissance ideas around the role of women and the arts in early-modern western society that can still inspire us today.
At the center, Eve rises from the side of a sleeping Adam, reaching for support as she prepares to take her first step into the world. Her right hand is met by the Creator’s, who lifts and blesses her—his fluttering cloak and the motion of his feet indicating forward movement. His commanding presence contrast with her crouched pose and unstable balance, highlighting her suspended state of becoming. Scholars have termed this way of depicting Eve’s creation “emergence iconography” to stress the image’s departure from the Genesis text, where the first woman is said to have been modeled by God from a rib taken from Adam. The challenges to a naturalistic and efficient representation posed by that plot led artists to evolve this solution, which was interpreted most famously by Michelangelo in the Sistine ceiling just a few years before Fra Bartolomeo painted this picture.
In addition to emphasizing the corporeality of Eve’s body, softly modeled to accentuate the underlying structure of bones and muscles and imbued with the illusion of gravity, Fra Bartolomeo’s composition offers a visual translation of the first woman’s role as a companion and an equal to Adam that early Christian theologians had formulated in their interpretation of scriptures. They reflected on the fact that in Hebrew (the original language of Genesis) the term tsela used in the creation passage meant both “rib” and “side,” focusing on the latter translation to argue for the equality of man and woman, whose union they intended as the basic unit of human society.
This idea materializes in Fra Bartolomeo’s Creation of Eve, unique among Renaissance depictions of this popular subject matter for combining the creation episode with a group portrait of the first family (Adam, Eve, and their children Cain and Abel are featured in the middle ground) and a cityscape in the distance to signify the modern accomplishments of their descendants. Sixteenth-century Florence—where this picture was likely painted—was a city-state whose strong tradition of independent self-governance and artistic excellence were a point of civic pride for artists and patrons alike.
Here, the omission of the episode of The Fall that traditionally followed the creation of Eve in most Genesis cycles also suggests our artist’s intent to celebrate humanity’s achievements rather than emphasize the consequences of the first sin. In this respect, God’s physical hold on Eve’s hand may evoke the Renaissance trope of the artist as a divinely inspired creator, further exalting the intellectual potential of the visual arts.
While this picture offers a limited representation of humanity that reflects the ableist, heteronormative canons of its time, it also speaks to present-day concerns around bodily autonomy by reminding us of a time when Renaissance humanism affirmed confidence in the human potential to achieve greatness through free will, and in the dignity and beauty of the human body.
– Gloria de Liberali, SAM Guest Contributor & Art History Ph.D
Alberto Giacometti’s vision of a new human form was heavily inspired by Cycladic, African, and ancient Egyptian art. In 1927, the artist purchased a sculpture from Gabon—then one of France’s colonies in West Africa—and placed it in the center of his studio. Giacometti studied such non-European works in the Parisian museums he visited, where he found himself fascinated by African sculptures that emphasized volumes and geometric voids.
Giacometti and many of his artistic peers greatly admired such artworks for their unique power and approaches to stylized form, which they thought offered visionary and radical alternatives to European academic models of representation. This admiration for non-European art’s visual power was at times marked by a lack of knowledge about the origins of works brought from the colonies to the West. Giacometti may not have known, for example, that the figure he owned once guarded sacred remains of the Kota people of Gabon. In Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure, African sculptures from SAM’s private collection—including this early 20th century Reliquary Figure from Kota, Gabon—are placed alongside Giacometti’s bronze and plaster sculptures to illustrate the Giacometti’s fascination with the structure and composition of ancient African artworks.
Listen to SAM Curator of African and Oceanic Art Pam McClusky discuss the influence of artworks such as Reliquary Figure on Alberto Giacometti’s artistic development in this audio recording from SAM’s free smartphone tour of Toward the Ultimate Figure. Discover all eight recordings when you visit the exhibition at SAM’s downtown location through October 9.
Reliquary Figure, early 20th century
NARRATOR: Like many European artists living and working in Paris in the 20th century, Giacometti found inspiration in works of African sculpture. Here’s curator of African and Oceanic Art Pam McClusky on this Reliquary Figure from SAM’s collection.
PAM MCCLUSKY: Giacometti sits with a sculpture like this in his studio, as can be seen in a photo nearby. It served as a mysterious muse that transforms a face and body into dynamic forms coated with a flashing metal surface. It offered a bold fresh vision of a very strong archetype. Giacometti bought his sculpture, similar to the one in front of you, from a fellow artist in 1927, and no doubt they talked about how its inventive geometric shapes replaced anatomical correctness. Yet, what they saw was not what the Kota intended. In its original setting, this figure stood guard over a bundle of sacred ancestral remains. The reflective face was meant to draw attention to their presence and repel any harm to them. Giacometti gave this unknown agitator a place of honor, and drew inspiration from it for his own reframing of the human body.
– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator
Image: Reliquary Figure, 20th century, Wood, copper and brass, 23 3/4 × 11 1/2 × 2 1/4 in. (60.3 × 29.2 × 5.7cm), Gift of Dr. Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb, 2014.3, photo: L. Fried.
“The beauty of the museum is that it allows for interesting juxtapositions of artworks against architecture from the 1930s, and the ability to move works already on view into different configurations to satisfy new goals.”
Crosscut’s Brangien Davis also featured the “compact but compelling” new exhibition, which is just one show on view now in Seattle about people’s relationship to nature. (Margo Vansynghel also blurbed the show for their August things to do list.)
“Sit for a spell as the black-and-white images emerge slowly from the mist. Squint and you’ll start to see jagged mountains appear—but look even closer, and you’ll notice that these monoliths are made from so many skyscrapers. A rushing waterfall proves to be a highway packed with cars. Those trees? Construction cranes. The artist created these astonishing works by combining thousands of photographs and videos from megacities, thereby painting a natural landscape from man-made ambition.”
You don’t want to miss the triumphant return of SAM Remix, the 21+ after-hours art experience, held at the Olympic Sculpture Park on Friday, August 26. Curiocity fills you in on the details.
“I like to go head back up the incline and into the SAM park that zig-zags over the train tracks and street to that big orange structure with the orange chairs – another great place to rest in the shade, adjust your playlist or take out a sketch pad for a while before heading back into Belltown and home again.”
“Bruce Lee could blast a man backwards with one punch, but his identity as an intellectual and voracious reader was far less known. ‘You think of Bruce Lee as a martial artist and as an actor, but you don’t necessarily think of him as a philosopher,’ says Jessica Rubenacker, exhibit director of Wing Luke Museum.”
“Guston makes the imagery more visually striking by sticking strictly to variations on red and blue; the bluntness and obtuseness of its iconography is compellingly mysterious, as disembodied fingers, pointing hands, and crude painter’s canvas float monumentally but awkwardly around each other in space. Its painterly surface is tinged with naiveté. What a rare pleasure to see his painting up close.”
As the wind picks up at the Olympic Sculpture Park, American artist George Rickey’s Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III (1973) uses the natural elements to transform from a still sculpture to a mesmerizing experiment in movement, allowing us to consider how that movement can in turn create its own forms.
Rickey’s kinetic sculptures come from an amalgamation of life experiences and technical skills. He was born on June 6, 1907 in South Bend, Indiana; his father was an engineer, setting the stage for the technical foundation that would become a pertinent aspect of his future work. Rickey went on to temporarily reject engineering to study history and eventually art, becoming a history teacher and painter. During and after World War II, he was majorly influenced by the work of Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo, and David Smith among others.
During the 1970s, Rickey began using flat planes in his kinetic sculptures, burnishing the stainless steel planes in order to create luminosity. He rejected motorized mechanics; instead the planes are able to create motion through the combination of weight, design, and ball bearings inside of the bearing housing. The laws of physics and the unpredictability of the natural world are his tools of choice.
Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III is inspected and treated annually by SAM’s conservation department to ensure that Rickey’s vision remains in motion at the sculpture park. In 2022, the sculpture was cleaned, examined for stability, spot treated to maintain an even and uncorroded exterior, and the access panels were opened up to inspect the stability of the rods and bearings. The sculptures at the Olympic Sculpture Park, including Rickey’s, require constant care to withstand weather, constant movement, and exposure to the Puget Sound’s salty water.
As a part of my Emerging Arts Leader Internship in conservation, I am working alongside SAM conservators to examine, record, and treat a number of SAM collection works, focusing specifically on the outdoor sculptures in the Olympic Sculpture Park. It is very special to have the opportunity to work directly with sculptures that I have spent years studying or admiring. I’m glad to have contributed directly to the preservation and future enjoyment of modern and contemporary public art.
– Rosa Sittig-Bell, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern
Although Alberto Giacometti may be most remembered for his delicate yet commanding bronze sculptures and busts, his artistic career began with vibrant watercolor paintings and drawings that capture the mountainous landscape of Giacometti’s home in Stampa, Switzerland. Scenes from the village and dramatic views of the surrounding mountains are depicted in his early paintings which draw inspiration from his father, Giovanni Giacometti, a celebrated post-impressionist painter.
In The Mountain Road (ca. 1919), a thin, lavender road marks the entry point to a large, mountainous landscape. On the left, dark green trees line the road, while on the right, a telephone lines follow the road. Colors of blue, pink, red, and yellow complete the painting, depicting a segment of the Swiss Alps on a summer day. Placed beside one another, watercolor paintings such as The Mountain Road offer a striking departure from the gothic sculptures which defined his later career and illustrate Giacometti’s development as a postwar era artist.
In this audio recording, Erika Katayama, SAM Associate Director of Interpretation, discusses Giacometti’s early artistic inspirations in Switzerland and the influence of his famous father in his artistic development. Tune in to all eight recordings as part of the free smartphone tour of Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figurewhen you visit the exhibition at our downtown location through October 9.
The Mountain Road, ca 1919
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI: “I could spend every day looking at the same garden, the same trees, and the same backdrop.”
NARRATOR: Alberto Giacometti was talking about the views of his small town of Stampa, Switzerland, where he grew up surrounded by towering mountains and trees. It was there that he began his journey as an artist. Associate Director of Interpretation Erika Katayama:
ERIKA KATAYAMA: So Giacometti came from a family of artists, and his early works like this watercolor landscape, are reminiscent of the style of his father Giovanni, who was a post-impressionist painter. Alberto loved his hometown of Stampa Switzerland, and although he moved to Paris in the 1920s, he came back to visit throughout his life, drawing inspiration from the alpine landscape and channeling it into the shapes and textures of his sculptures.
“What’s up with all these rabbits everywhere?” asks Brendan Kiley for the Seattle Times’ Pacific NW Magazine. For the story, he met up with Bobby McCullough, Facilities and Landscape Manager at the Olympic Sculpture Park, to go in search of King Bunny, a resident bunny who may be responsible for a good number of the 500+ rabbits who make the sculpture park their home. P.S. Check out our video series Botany with Bobby for more stories from the park.
Crosscut’s Black Arts Legacies project, which launched in June, is still delivering. Here, project editor Jasmine Mahmoud writes about singer Ernestine Anderson, who had a voice like “honey at dusk.”
“Ernestine was jazz and blues personified — she musically participated in both worlds,” daughter [Shelley] Young says of her mother’s musical impact. “Singing the blues involves storytelling,” she continues, “and she loved telling a story.”
“[Former Seattle SuperSonic Spencer] Haywood said in an interview on Sunday that he and Russell would often dine at a Seattle restaurant called 13 Coins after road trips, and Russell would regale him with stories about the civil rights movement.”
“…Giacometti’s subject matter was actually the matter of subjectivity: How each one of us, as an individual, relates to the world around us and acts within it. For decades, Giacometti focused on rendering the human body in order to reveal—or discover—something about the human condition, very often his own.”
“The call for art and its cancellation have spawned so many responses and comments elsewhere on the social media app—both in support of and against—that it can be dizzying to track. The comments reveal the pain of a struggling art community, as well as deep fissures in how artists and art advocates think the sector should engage with criticism, tech and philanthropy.”
Tlingit and Unangax̂ artist Nicholas Galanin is also creating a new work for American Art: The Stories We Carry that will debut in 2023 at SAM; here’s his recent New York gallery show reviewed by the New York Times.
“‘I would stand up for that flag,’ an artist commented on a social media post featuring a photo of Nicholas Galanin’s ‘White Flag’ (2022), a sculpture with a polar bear rug mounted on a rough wooden staff. At a time when flags representing nations and political causes feel particularly fraught, ‘White Flag,’ in Galanin’s exhibition ‘It Flows Through’ at Peter Blum, feels poignant.”
When a male colleague coined “so good it could have been made by a man” as a shiny new art-descriptor, artists Dawn Cerny and Victoria Haven weren’t so keen on its uptake.
Cerny and Haven met in Seattle in 2012, when Haven was working on a show at SAM on view concurrent with ELLES: Women from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Cerny had expertise in printmaking, and Haven had a story to share: at the show’s opening event, a male painter they both knew told her not only that her work was “so good it could have been made by a man,” but “that he was mystified (with a tinge of pity) that it had been relegated to a show of work by women.”
The comment prompted the pair to collaborate, under the witty moniker DAFT KUNTZ, to reframe his words (both literally and figuratively). Without adding their own commentary, the artists ask us to consider: Should we interpret it as an underhanded compliment or a reminder that artistic and intellectual achievement is still measured by male accomplishments?
Perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive. SO GOOD IT COULD HAVE BEEN shares a certain arresting visual quality with the iconic Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into The Met. Museum? 1989 poster by the Guerilla Girls (the data for which has since been updated and is, spoiler alert, just as abysmal). The works are conceptually similar in their use of jarring statements that force the viewer to reflect on social structures, presented with bold text and graphic imagery. A component of Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met? that is often overlooked, however, is one essential word: modern. It was not the case that 5% of all of the art in the Met Museum in 1989 was created by women, rather, only 5% of the art in the galleries of modern art was created by women. A common refrain in response to criticisms of male hegemony is the classic “it was a different time,” and “that was then, this is now.” It may be true that the times they are a-changing, but Cerny and Haven remind us that we still have a ways to go.
“We all know the [women] artists that most people are able to list off automatically, right? The list usually goes a little something like…Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Lange, etc. And they are all fantastic women artists worthy of such recognition! But there’s so many more out there. Our goal at SAM is to share a wider range of women that may not be as well known, including women of color and more contemporary artists, all from our collection.“
Relegating the exclusion of women to the past both excuses the history of male superiority in art and minimizes the exclusionary tactics that contemporary women artists face. SO GOOD IT COULD HAVE BEEN admonishes the very present imbalance and asserts a new way forward. The top text, “so good it could have been,” is hopeful and earnest. “Made by a man” is tacked on below like an official stamp; it’s a dark cloud, a swift gut punch expelling the air from once hopeful lungs. But it’s a necessary evil, because only by understanding the imbalance can we move toward a future where women artists are celebrated without being measured by male accomplishments. And perhaps, if we’re lucky, even be let into the Met fully clothed.
SO GOOD IT COULD HAVE BEEN is notable in another way: it is a collaboration between two past winners of the SAM’s annual Betty Bowen Award, an unrestricted cash prize for a Northwest artist to further their career. Dawn Cerny and Victoria Haven are both previous Grand Prize recipients of the Betty Bowen Award: Haven was awarded the prize in 2004, the two artists came together to create SO GOOD IT COULD HAVE BEEN in 2015, and Cerny went on to win the Grand Prize in 2020.
So who will be next? The 2022 Betty Bowen Award is currently open for applications through Monday, August 1 at 11 pm PST. The winner receives an unrestricted cash prize of $15,000 and a solo exhibition at SAM. For more information and to see a list of past winners, please visit visitsam.org/bettybowen or email email@example.com.
– Johnna Munsen, Betty Bowen Award Administration Intern
Image: SO GOOD IT COULD HAVE BEEN, 2012, DAFT KUNTZ, Collaboration between Victoria Haven and Dawn Cerny, silkscreen on paper, 33 1/2 × 26 in. Gift of Matthew Offenbacher and Jennifer Nemhauser with funds from the 2013 Neddy Award in Painting, 2015.2.1.
Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers, now on view through December 11 in SAM’s third floor galleries, was a year-long journey, the culmination of my thesis project for the University of Washington Museology masters program. Overseen by Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art at SAM, and Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Curator of Northwest Native Art at the Burke Museum, the curation process involved many hours of reflecting on and researching how Indigenous women artists are represented within museums. Western museological practices have on the whole lacked recognition of the importance of women within Indigenous communities, but women have always been a driving force of their creative practices and creations.
I came to this topic because I am Seneca, an Indigenous Nation located in Western New York. Growing up, I was immersed in the creative expressions of my people and was taught the importance of artistic freedoms and legacies. It was not until I graduated high school that I started putting together the pieces of how our artworks carry our stories and culture, aiding in the revitalization and celebration of who we are. Coming into the museological field, my goal is to highlight and promote Indigenous culture through the arts. With great thanks, that is what I was able to accomplish working with SAM over the past year to curate this exhibition.
For the exhibition, I selected works by Pitseolak Ashoona, Francis Dick, Myra Kukiiyuat, Jesse Oonark, Susan Point, and Angotigolu Teevee. Our women have continued to drive many aspects of life for Indigenous communities across the world, yet only in recent years have we seen museums and galleries approach working with a feminized view of Native arts. The purpose of this exhibition is to create a learning environment conducive to promoting woman-centered Indigenous narratives and to educate the public on histories and cultures that they may have yet to encounter. Bringing contemporary Indigenous art into an institutional setting helps reframe harmful historical narratives and highlights Native women’s current lived experiences through research that is informed by traditional knowledge and community revitalization efforts.
With this exhibition, I hope to impact the future of Indigenous peoples who work and exhibit within museums and more specifically, art institutions. This work breaks down some of the barriers that many Native peoples face when working with art institutions. As the first exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum to be curated by an Indigenous female-identifying student, Indigenous Matrix is a small—but significant—step in creating more institutional accessibility for emerging museum professionals and Indigenous curators.
– Kari Karsten, SAM Emerging Museum Professional Curatorial Intern
Seattle Met’s “Things to Do in Seattle” includes a recommendation for Summer at SAM at the Olympic Sculpture Park, noting that “live music, hands-on arts and crafts, and food truck meals define summer nights at the waterfront park.” Join us every Thursday night and Saturday morning for all the free fun.
The Stranger may no longer have their legendary print covers, but art director Corianton Hale is back thanks to their new web design, which includes an “artist of the week” to explore. Here’s his chat with Janet Politte, whose work is included in the Photographic Center Northwest’s thesis exhibition.
The (other) big Seattle art world news this week: The Seattle Art Fair takes place July 21–24 at the Lumen Field Event Center. The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce gives you a peek into the fair’s triumphant return under its new organizer, Art Market Productions. SAM is thrilled to be the fair’s beneficiary partner—drop by our booth to learn about the latest SAM and SAM Gallery happenings!
“Gallery owner Judith Rinehart knows that attending an art fair may fall outside of some people’s comfort zones, but she encourages folks to take that leap. ‘I think there’s this myth that you have to have a robust arts education to engage with artwork,’ Rinehart said. ‘You don’t.’”
“All museums need to look honestly at their own practices of exclusion and what enabled them, from governance structure, to hiring practices, to opaque decision making, and be up front about them so the entire field can begin to act as true cultural stewards and meet the broad call for change.”
“Few visual artists have become as synonymous with existentialism as Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966), sculptor of slender anguish… At SAM, photographs of the artist in his studio (by photographers like Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Gordon Parks) accompany dozens of Giacometti’s paintings and sculptures. Among a thicket of his elongated bronze sculptures and busts, expect some of his greatest hits, such as ‘The Nose,’ a bronze depicting a tormented Pinocchio-from-your-nightmares stuck in a cage, or the iconic, life-sized ‘Walking Man I.’”
“‘The park has been an amazing resource for the last two years helping people cope with everything that’s going on by just having some green space and some respite and a space to retreat to,’ Rutherford said. ‘One of the things that we really wanted to focus on as we come back into in-person programs is bringing the piece that’s been missing from the last two years from the park — and that is community.’”
Here’s Brittni Williams for Travel Noire with recommendations for “one day in Seattle,” including the Olympic Sculpture Park and its “spectacular, contemporary sculptures that are a treat to capture in photos.”
Here’s KEXP’s announcement of Ethan Raup as the music organization’s next President and CEO, succeeding longtime CEO Tom Mara. SAM’s music-loving Chief Financial Officer, Cindy Bolton, serves as a KEXP board member and helped select Raup for the position.
“These abstract paintings are both radically different from his later collages and full of foreshadowing, holding hints of Bearden’s compositional virtuosity and material experimentation. This exhibition sets out to prove a point and it does so brilliantly: These paintings were fundamentally important to Bearden’s development as a collage artist.”
“The show considers how female painters, photographers, and sculptors, drawn to Paris from near and far, navigated the era’s tensions, finding ways to insert themselves into a still male-dominated art world and proclaim their right to self-determination.”
The museum held its annual summer fundraiser this past Friday at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Artists, makers, chefs, musicians, performers, supporters, and more all came together to have a blast while raising funds for the museum’s artistic and educational programs. Seattle Refined was there to capture all the magic in this sun-drenched photo slideshow.
“These tales of friendships and affiliations create a subversive dimension of art history, and they are also a testament to the adamant question from political activist and organizer Ella Baker: ‘Now, who are your people?’”
The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce speaks with Anastacia-Reneé as the celebrated writer prepares to leave Seattle after 15 years for a new adventure in New York City.
“Whether you are a seasoned Afro-space traveler or new to “astro-Blackness,” the artworks exhibited at MoPOP and MoM offer an intriguing and interstellar voyage into Afrofuturism and beyond.”
“This is like a Jenny Holzer installation or something right”: Artnet’s Dorian Batycka reports on last week’s news from the US Supreme Court, sharing how the art world responded to the Court overturning people’s constitutional right to an abortion in the United States.
“If design is a window on the culture, perhaps there is nothing more revealing than the Curtain of Courage Memorial unveiled last week in San Bernardino, Calif., a sculptural ribbon of patterned bronze and steel meant to enfold the Mendozas, Meinses and Johnsons, among the families who lost 14 loved ones killed in a mass shooting in 2015, in its sinuous communal embrace.”
Last week, we shared the exciting news that José Carlos Diaz will be joining SAM in July as the new Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art. He spoke with KUOW’s Kim Malcolm about what he’s thinking about as he makes his way to Seattle.
“I’m going to hit the ground running. I really want to get a sense of where we are, listen to the staff, but also start communicating with stakeholders and think about what the needs are for an institution in the Pacific Northwest, and how that responds to what’s happening in the country.”
“The Seattle Art Museum’s collection of Japanese art is so vast that only a fraction is on display on any given day. But the depth of its holdings allowed curator Xiaojin Wu to create this little gem of a show. Taking the concept of containment and the technique of folding and selecting objects that represent different artists’ responses to those ideas, she has shown how cultural influences flow across media and over time.”
This past Sunday, many in the US celebrated Juneteenth. In case you missed it, the Seattle Times’ graphic team shared information on the meaning of the holiday’s flag (including a link to print your own!). Explore more about its history at juneteenth.com and check out this article written by SAM Marketing Associate Karly Norment Meneses on how to celebrate responsibly.
No change in commute: the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) announced that Tom Mara will be its next executive director. Mara just celebrated his departure from SIFF neighbor KEXP after 30 years with the radio station.
“Elevating these topics (reproductive rights, trans rights, women’s health, and autonomy) to the platform of aesthetic enquiry blasts the logic and word games of political rhetoric to pieces. Art demonstrates the material reality of personal experience in a way that can’t be argued or legislated.”
Best Booths at Basel! ARTnews’ Sarah Belmont takes you there, including to former Seattle-based gallerist Mariane Ibrahim’s inaugural booth, which includes two paintings by Amoako Boafo.
“‘The sculptures are very complex and imaginative, reflecting the fairy world imagined by people at that time, and they demonstrate the diversity and richness of Chinese civilization,’ said Zhao Hao, an associate professor at Peking University.”
Historically, Americans have celebrated July 4—the day in 1776 when the 13 colonies liberated themselves from the rule of Great Britain—as its national independence day. Many people living inside the borders of this country during that time, however, were not free.
Juneteenth—celebrated every year on June 19—is a national holiday celebrating the day Black Americans were granted their freedom and status as human citizens in the United States. A common misconception exists that slaves were freed with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 or at the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865, but the reality is southern states rejected Union laws and kept their slaves in the dark about their freedom in the hopes that they could still win the war. Some states, such as Delaware and Kentucky, remained in a state of rebellion and continued to allow slavery. As one of the most remote southern states with a low Union presence, Texas served as a refuge for slave owners—a place to hide enslaved Africans from in hopes of keeping what they considered to be their “property.” Texas saw an influx of over three times as many slaves after the proclamation was issued. It wasn’t until Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived on the island of Galveston, Texas on the morning of June 19, 1865 and read the following words that many enslaved Africans found out about their freedom:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
From these words, Juneteenth was born.
Still, this day in history did not end the practice of slavery entirely. Thousands of accounts from Black Americans document their continued enslavement beyond Juneteenth—some not freed until as late as the 1960s, forced into labor and isolated from the advocacy being done through the Civil Rights Movement. Despite how complex this history may be, the freemen of Texas migrated throughout the United States, going North in an effort to unite their families ripped apart by the slave trade, carrying with them the importance of June 19, 1865.
From Local Celebration to National Holiday
Juneteenth is the longest running African American holiday. While celebrated by the Black community since the first holiday on June 19, 1866 and through the Reconstruction Era, Jim Crow, and beyond, this holiday was not adopted by White Americans who have historically refused to acknowledge or fund this celebration. Many history textbooks did not educate students on Juneteenth and many Black Americans living in northern states did not grow up celebrating it. Juneteenth’s history prevailed through sheer will and a fight for representation. Black activists have been fighting for Juneteenth to become a paid federal holiday for decades. It was only on July 17, 2021 that US President Joe Biden finally signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, declaring Juneteenth an official federal holiday.
Black Americans have historically used Juneteenth as a day to reflect and mourn for what their ancestors lost as well as to celebrate how far they’ve come and how much they’ve prospered despite the persistence of racism. There is no right way to celebrate Juneteenth, but many black families get together, throw a barbeque, and eat red foods like a red velvet cake and strawberries alongside soul food staples. The red foods are eaten as a representation of the blood and sacrifices inflicted as a result of slavery.
While the declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday is a step forward in recognizing the resilience of Black Americans, there is more work to be done. The systemic challenges brought on by slavery continue to persist, including the racial wealth gap, disproportionate rates of incarceration, persistent health disparities, and police brutality. The United States still has a very long way to go in providing true equity to everyone living within its borders.
Commemorating Juneteenth as an Ally
How do you respectfully commemorate Juneteenth? As a white American or non-Black ally, Juneteenth is a day to confront this country’s horrific past and critically analyze the space you occupy. Repercussions of the slave trade still exist to this day, but there steps everyone can take to promote a more equitable society.
Read below for a list of ways to get started:
Reflect on Institutional Racism: How are white people contributing to systemic racism and how do they want this country to evolve? This holiday is a great opportunity to think about racism and privilege. Allies can research the history of slavery and learn more about the origins and persistence of institutional racism.
Learn About Black Culture and History: Study works by Black leaders, artists, poets, and activists. Juneteenth can be used as a time to challenge internalized white supremacy and have uncomfortable conversations with oneself and others.
Support Your Neighbors: Show appreciation for the achievements of your fellow black citizens and support black businesses and organizations working to uplift black communities in America.
Read a Book:
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written By Himself by Olaudah Equiano
The Autobiography of Malcolm X byAlex Haley and Malcolm X
Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 by W.E.B. Du Bois
Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South byDeborah Gray White
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? By Beverly Daniel Tatum
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Check out this list from the New York Public Library with books for kids to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth
Juneteenth is a time for remembrance and healing. Americans can pay respects to the past and the enslaved Africans that built this country. Visit the Seattle Art Museum’s downtown location to see exhibitions and installations which reference this history.
In her installation at SAM, 2021–2022 Betty Bowen Award winner Lauren Halsey shows artworks in which proud declarations of Black-owned businesses intermingle with images of Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, and pharaohs and queens, all drawn from a personal archive Halsey has developed through research and community interactions.
Looking back 500 years, one can see the late 15th century as a major turning point in history. When Portuguese navigators first arrived on the shores of West Africa, the two continents of Europe and Africa began interacting in new ways. After a very brief period of mutual respect and commercial exchange, European traders quickly moved to exploit the region’s natural resources—including human labor—which became the basis for the massive slave trade that eventually affected twenty million Africans. The ten works of European and African art in this gallery, dating from the end of the 15th century to the end of the 20th, have been selected from SAM’s collection as examples of these interactions over time.
Three Empathics have moved into Seattle Art Museum and are a central feature to the latest installation imagined in our African art galleries. Now a part of SAM’s permanent collection, the Empathics have surrounded themselves with works from our African art collection as a way to help visitors awaken their own empathy.
A Path Forward
Hopefully, these resources can provide some guidance and insight as you celebrate Juneteenthand learn about the significance of this holiday to Black Americans. Black people have been fighting for centuries against white supremacy and oppression. However, true equity can only come when white people renounce their privilege against Black people and other people of color. All Americans must lend a hand to take action and spread knowledge to end the oppression that continues today.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Nelson Mandela
– Karly Norment Meneses, SAM Marketing Coordinator
Last week, SAM shared the exciting news that José Carlos Diaz will be joining the museum as its new Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art. Formerly Chief Curator at The Andy Warhol Museum, Diaz is passionate about contemporary art, multidisciplinary programming, and connecting with artists and communities. You can learn more about him in this interview in the Seattle Times, or elsewhere on this blog. The news was also shared in The Stranger, Artdaily, and Artnet. Diaz’s fraternal twin–from his very artistically inclined family!–was also excited.
“As Diaz noted, museums across the country are challenged by relevancy, battling perceptions that they’re either archaic or not for everyone. It’s important to remember that museums, he said, are ‘living, breathing institutions that have to evolve.’”
“‘It was like stumbling upon buried treasure,’ Barnett recalls. With her decades of experience placing art in private and corporate collections, she could easily imagine some of these swirling, semiabstract landscape paintings on the walls of a major museum. But most of the works had never left Wang’s home.”
Artnet’s Katie White goes below the sunny surface of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte to explore its ambiguities.
“The painting has been interpreted as revealing the essence of modern existence and its double-edged sword of social spectacle and isolation. A butterfly hovering in the middle left of the painting reinforces this reading. A symbol of fragility, during the Industrial Revolution the butterfly was used in art as motif for the environmental and social consequences of progress. Indeed, this scene of bourgeoise leisure had only recently been enabled by the factory life existing just beyond the painting’s frame.”
“I’m a total optimist. I believe museums are places where people can find inspiration. I want SAM to inspire the next generation of curators and artists and patrons. This is something that museum curators are discussing — we’ve been discussing this for years, but it’s more urgent now.”
– José Carlos Diaz
Following a months-long international search, SAM is proud to announce José Carlos Diaz as its new Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art. Diaz comes to SAM from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to oversee SAM’s eight brilliant curators in developing thoughtful exhibitions and maintaining the museum’s collections, publications, and libraries across SAM’s downtown location, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park. He succeeds Chiyo Ishikawa who retired in 2020 after 30 years at SAM.
In celebration of his new role, we spoke with Diaz about his background, hopes for SAM, and becoming a part of Seattle’s artistic community. Read below for the full interview and check out his interview in The Seattle Times to learn even more about what Diaz will bring to SAM when he starts on July 1.
SAM: Tell us about your new role. Why is it important at a museum?
José Carlos Diaz: In this role, I will be part of the senior leadership team and responsible for ensuring we develop a relevant and ambitious curatorial program across all three of our sites. I bring management, administrative, and fundraising experience and possess a track record of creating dynamic exhibitions and projects. This role also has a direct impact on what SAM audiences will see in SAM’s galleries. The exhibitions we’ll be designing going forward will be the result of the needs and wants of our visitors and will uphold SAM’s mission of connecting art to life.
SAM: What drew you to this position, and this position with SAM, in particular?
JCD: I actually have a background working in multi-site institutions! I previously worked at Tate Liverpool, which is part of the Tate Museums in the UK. I’m also coming directly from The Andy Warhol Museum, which is part of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. So, managing the curatorial team of a multi-site institution isn’t too foreign for me.
I think what drew me most to SAM was its vast collection which spans across period and place. In college, I studied art history and cultural history. So, to have access to a collection which combines historical and contemporary art is very exciting to me. When you visit any SAM location, you’re bound to encounter a combination of painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture, costume, and more. From a curation standpoint, the versatility SAM has to offer is thrilling.
Not only that, but the museum is in the artistic center of a great American city known for having a robust cultural landscape. I think it has the potential to be one of the top art cities in the country—almost even rivaling New York or London. Plus, Seattle is home to a strong Latinx population and LGBTQ community which I am looking forward to joining and representing. I’m really excited to bring more representation to these communities at SAM and highlight the work of artists from these communities.
SAM: You’re stepping into a leadership role from a curatorial one: what lessons and skills from curation will you bring? Also, will you still be curating?
JCD: As a curator, I form ideas and craft narratives using art. This process requires creative thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, research, and a direct connection to the mission of the institution—and these are all really important skills to me. These are skills that I will bring to this new role while building a unified and creative team of curators and exhibitions. Occasionally I would love to curate if there’s the opportunity or if a certain curator needed support because of the robust exhibition and programming schedule, but I’m mostly focused on looking ahead and rebuilding a strong museum as we continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAM: Even though this will take some time to develop, what are some of your goals or ideas for this role, and overseeing a global collection and large team of curators across disciplines?
JCD: One of the top goals is understanding the internal climate at SAM and how to best contribute to its existing environment. At the same time, I want to consider what the city and its artistic community want from SAM, and how we can do better and be better. With a vast collection of artworks across three locations and the varied curatorial expertise of our team, I’d love to unify our offerings and collaborate to build awareness across the city that would allow SAM to explore a broad range of ideas and themes in its exhibitions. Perhaps some of our artworks could also travel to other cities for public art commissions, publications, and/or exhibitions.
SAM: An easy one: Why is art important?
JCD: Art, in my opinion, is a form of expression, but also a form of self-care, especially in these times. It’s as simple as that.
SAM: What role do museums serve in a city and for the communities they serve?
JCD: Museums are places to inspire and seek inspiration. They’re also social spaces which continuously evolve and improve. SAM shows historic works, but also global and local creativity through its incredible collections. It features limited-run exhibitions as well as ongoing installations, while continuously rotating its collection and introducing new narratives, often around current affairs and through multiple voices. So, using SAM as an example, I think museums in general seek civic excellence through varied representation.
SAM: Tell us more about you! Outside of art curation, what do you like to do with your time?
JCD: I’m originally from Miami, but my family is from Mexico so I’m Latin American. My husband is an oceanographer and we share a dog named Elvira, Mistress of Bark. I have a fraternal twin who’s a Latin Grammy Award-winning and Grammy-nominated children’s music artist named Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. I love to travel and go to the beach. On my time off, you can often find me on a boat or somewhere by the water. It’s just my happy place.
– Interview conducted by Lily Hansen, Marketing Content Creator
The Seattle Times reporter Grace Gorenflo and photojournalist Alan Berner checked out SAM’s recent first-ever mask-required hour, speaking with museum visitors about why the offering appealed to them. The museum no longer requires masks for entry, but visitors are encouraged to wear them for their personal safety and comfort–and the next mask-required hours are scheduled for the third Saturdays of June and July.
“‘Accessibility and inclusivity are important goals for SAM,’ [Chief Marketing Officer Mikhael] Mei Williams said. ‘This was something that we wanted to do to make sure that we could give as many people as possible access to the museum.’”
“[Visitor Melissa] Rothe said that more places that are prone to crowds could benefit from a mask-required hour, and her family would visit any museum that institutes something similar. Her son Ethan, 12, seconded that, saying the mask-required hour makes him feel safer when visiting museums, which he enjoys doing. ‘I just like looking at all the cool stuff that people have built in the past and things that have happened before us,’ he said.”
The Seattle Times’ Pacific NW Magazine takes a look at the stories behind the official state symbols, including some throwback photographs connected to Middle Fork at SAM and the state tree, the Western Hemlock. The massive sculpture by John Grade that spans the museum’s Brotman Forum entrance lobby was photographed twice by Alan Berner: in 2015, when the artist and his team went into the sky to cast an old-growth hemlock, and in 2018 as visitors gazed up at the final sculpture.
Dive into Crosscut’s Black Arts Legacies project, which “highlights the longstanding, vital and ongoing role of Black artists and Black arts organizations in the cultural landscape of the Seattle region.” Created by many local Black storytellers, including project editors Kemi Adeyemi and Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, the project includes written, video, and podcast stories and conversations.
“We are recognizing an intergenerational group of 26 local musicians, dancers, visual artists, poets, performers, curators and architects, whose creative expressions document the complexity of being a Black artist in Seattle. Theirs are stories of being the first, of contending with discrimination and breaking down barriers, of long careers and careers cut short, and of building community through the arts.”
“Most significantly, the lessons of the Benins have changed museums’ attitudes toward repatriation, making it less contentious and more commonplace. And that will be its lasting contribution to the field, experts say. ‘These are low-hanging fruit. This is a clear-cut case of these objects must be returned,’ RISD Museum chief curator Gina Borromeo said of the Benin bronzes. ‘There are more complicated issues that need to be addressed in African art, and really in art created in the Global South. It is important that we continue to think about these issues and keep shining a light on them.’”
Alexander Phimister Proctor was an American artist renowned for his bronze sculptures depicting the western frontier. Toward the end of 1896, he received the prestigious Rinehart Scholarship to practice in Paris on a three year contract. The scholarship committee commissioned Indian Warrior for the Rinehart Prix de Paris Collection.
In the fall of 1895, Proctor traveled to Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana and stayed at a Blackfeet reservation where he studied two Blackfeet men. He started the cast for Indian Warrior there, and later finished it in New York and Paris. The model for the figure was a man named Weasel Head, while the horse was owned by a mutual colleague named Dixon. A New York lawyer, Dixon allowed Proctor to borrow the horse for the piece.
Proctor brought the lessons he learned in Paris to his practice of American naturalism. In Paris, he absorbed the Beaux-Arts style which upheld classicism in sculpture. As for the naturalistic element, he was interested in depicting realistic scenes from the American West. In this piece, the figure sits calmly above a trotting horse in action. Where they are going is beyond what the viewer knows. Yet, the figure’s spear draws itself parallel to the nape of the horse in a way that honors the spiritual connection of the two main subjects. Personal interdependence lies in the body language of them both: proud and secure.
Proctor’s appreciation of Native American culture is a layer of protection provided to historically white Western artists. Proctor’s privilege lies in his freedom to determine Native Americans worthy enough to sculpt. The concept of the Noble Savage stems from this privilege and calls this artwork into question. Indian Warrior does not find a hold in contemporary Native American representation-nor does it attempt to. It functions as Proctor’s own interpretation of Natives existing within their culture and doesn’t leave room for further understanding.
Folding back these layers does not detract from Proctor’s artistic excellence. He was a master of his craft. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a fellow acclaimed American sculptor and friend to Proctor, knew this. Theodore Roosevelt, a continued supporter and avid commissioner of Proctor’s work, expected it. Yet, this piece is only poignant because of its subject matter. The way in which the horse and Weasel Head are both stopped in a moment in time. Admiration can fill the subsequent space. But admiration is nothing without reflection. And reflection is nothing without the impulse for more. To follow this piece to where they are going.
The responsibility of responding to Native American monuments lies with every person that views Indian Warrior. These snapshots of moments in time are a careful reminder of what it means to be valiant beyond the circumstance. Proctor’s technical excellence in Indian Warrior is made possible by who he is representing. This work is emotive and communicative because of the history it depicts. It is not Proctor’s touch that carries this work, but the themes that it reflects on Native Americans being represented by white mainstream artists. If there are accolades to be given to this work, its honor should be in the identity of Weasel Head, and the legacy of Native American heritage. Where is the horse taking Weasel Head? Or where is Weasel Head taking the horse? Beyond the space of the Seattle Art Museum, to the future in sight, for all to see.
– Moe’Neyah Holland, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern
“The exhibit is not limited by a certain medium, location, point of view, age, or history; rather, it embraces the duality of art forms to create an immersive experience. The multitude of forms the exhibit takes emphasizes the universal need for a healthy planet. Ultimately, the exhibit comments there is no place or person who will not be affected by climate change.”
Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel with their weekly ArtSEA post; in it, she celebrates a week of positive arts news, including the rescue of the historic Columbia City Theater, art exhibitions worthy of a ferry ride, and a bevy of outdoor festivals coming up.
And so, the collaboration will continue. The more the City buffs, the more graffiti writers will tag, reserving their worst and sloppiest work for the places the City buffs the most, according to one artist. After all, who but a Buddhist would paint a masterpiece if they knew someone would wipe it away the next day?
“In the subway project, fur, sticks, hair extensions, sequins, buttons, embroidery, festive masks, and even birds and flowers are marvelously and convincingly realized through the glasswork fabricated by Franz Mayer of Munich.”