In Boafo’s Words: Reflection I

Reflection I marks Amoako Boafo’s first self-portrait following his move from Accra, Ghana to Vienna, Austria. With his head resting on his hand, Boafo resembles artist Auguste Rodin’s famed sculpture The Thinker, a work that has come to symbolize both the suffering and salvation found in self-reflection.

In addition to Rodin, many consider this self-portrait to allude to W.E.B. Du Bois and his notion of the double-consciousness as outlined in The Souls of Black Folks (1903), for which Boafo’s exhibition is named. This concept interrogates the idea that Black people constantly have to look at themselves through the eyes of ‘others.’ In looking at himself in the mirror, Boafo challenges the ‘othered’ gaze often applied to the Black body—a theme explored by the artist within many of his works.

Tune in to the free smartphone tour of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks to learn more about Reflection I and eight more of Boafo’s portraits. It can be accessed on your own time via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code accompanying each work in SAM’s galleries. Get your tickets to see the exhibition today!

Reflection I, 2018

NARRATOR: Boafo painted Reflection I in 2018, after leaving Ghana to study in Vienna, Austria. The radiator under the mirror deliberately points out the change to a European setting. The new environment sparked a period of self-evaluation for the artist: it led him—for the first time—to paint himself.

AMOAKO BOAFO: Working with myself helped me understand who I am as an artist and a human being. Making that image also help others look at themselves and think of things differently. It is a way that I wanted to experience my masculinity myself and not what society sees to be normal. I wanted to see how it looks like when you explore more of the flesh.

NARRATOR: As part of this exploration, Boafo has developed a distinctive skin color palette of umber brown and ultramarine blue. He applies the paint directly to the canvas using his fingers.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I wasn’t able to move forward with the brush painting the way I wanted my characters to feel, the way I want to express their feeling, because for me, painting is just more than capturing the perfection of a person. There is character. There is feeling. There is energy. The brush could not give me that kind of feeling. And so I arrived at painting with my finger.

NARRATOR: Here, the artist meets his own gaze in the mirror.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I think sometimes we look away from our experiences, and painting being a tool for me to express myself, I don’t want to shy away from the experiences. I want to look at it. I want people to see me looking at it because for me I feel like that’s the space where I get to be myself.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Reflection I (detail), 2018, Amoako Boafo, oil on paper, 51 1/8 x 43 3/8 in., Image and work courtesy Roberts Projects, Los Angeles and Private Collection, photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

Muse/News: Vivid Joy, Upcycled Fashion, and Expanding Indigeneity

SAM News

Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, the Ghanaian artist’s debut museum solo exhibition, is now on view at SAM! Marcus Harrison Green says the show “urges reflection on Black identity and the self” for the cover story of last week’s Real Change (also reshared in South Seattle Emerald). 

“Bringing these paintings alive are the vivid colors he uses: marigold yellows, starch whites, olive oil greens and cherry reds that are all catnip to the eye. No matter the direness of what Boafo’s subjects may have been through, brightness (i.e., joy) never abandons them. It all has the effect of making one muse over the origins of these not-so-make-believe characters.”

The Stranger’s Charles Mudede includes the exhibition in a recent “Stranger Suggests”; he has his own take on the exhibition’s connection to W.E.B. Du Bois’s idea of double-consciousness. 

As Soul of Black Folks tours the US, ARTnews’ Gameli Hamelo reports on how the artist is “using his star power to support Ghana’s art scene.”

“Boafo’s quest to show his work in Ghana attests to his dedication to his home country, which tends to get lost in discussions of his art, the prices for it, and his celebrity. Rather than coasting by on fame, Boafo is using his star power to support Ghana’s art scene.”

Also: The Seattle Times was among the outlets that announced major news from the museum last week. Amada Cruz will depart SAM for a director role at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, a place where she has a personal and professional connection. Stay tuned for more on the institution’s leadership transition plan.

Local News

“Free Seattle waterfront shuttle bus returns,” reports the Seattle Times’ Mike Lindblom. It offers a fun way to experience the downtown waterfront, including the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Junko Yamamoto and her “vibrating substances” are featured as the Stranger’s “artist of the week.”

Jas Keimig for Crosscut on the “slow-fashion” Seattle designer dan mcLean.

“‘When it’s a dan mcLean show, it’s Fashion Week,’ said one partygoer wearing a giant hat and shades.”

Inter/National News

Via ARTnews’ Francesca Aton: “Ancient Glass Workshop Discovered in Czech Republic May Have Hosted Sacred Rituals, Archaeologists Say.”

Naomi Polonsky for Hyperallergic on Carrie Mae Weems’s new show, now on view at London’s Barbican Art Gallery.

Exciting headline via Zachary Small for the New York Times: “Jeffrey Gibson, Indigenous U.S. Artist, Is Selected for Venice Biennale.” SAM is a big fan: Gibson’s solo exhibition Like a Hammer was on view at SAM back in 2019; a work by the artist in SAM’s collection is now on view in Reverberations

“‘The last 15 years of my career have been about turning inward and trying to make something I really wanted to see in the world,’ said Gibson, 51. ‘Now I want to expand the way people think about Indigeneity.’”

And Finally

RIP, Sinead O’Connor

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

SAM Leadership Update: Thank You, Amada

With deep gratitude and sincere appreciation, we bid farewell to Amada Cruz, SAM Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, after four years of leadership at the museum. 

Amada joined SAM in September 2019 and led the museum through what may be one of the most challenging periods in its 90 year history: the global COVID-19 pandemic and sudden closure of its three sites. Thanks to her tenacious leadership throughout this time the museum prioritized supporting its staff and created online experiences for the communities it serves to continue to engage with the museum. As the pandemic abated, her focus shifted to carefully reopen its sites to the public while maximizing the safety of both staff and visitors. SAM came through it stronger, with steady financial recovery, the return of audiences to its galleries and programs, and a renewed commitment to its mission to connect art to life.

Although the global pandemic was the undercurrent during much of Amada’s time at SAM, it did not define her tenure. During these unprecedented and complicated times, her achievements have been many. Under her leadership the museum ushered in many significant new initiatives and reached milestone moments including:  

  • In July 2020, the museum created a board-staff Equity Task Force to respond to the urgency of the moment and align around support for Black lives. This task force worked to establish a set of priorities across all departments and build a roadmap for the museum to be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive museum. In 2021, that task force became a board committee to shepherd these ongoing efforts. 
  • In August 2020, SAM’s first-ever Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion was identified. This executive role shapes the museum’s priorities, partnerships, communications strategies, and audience-engagement efforts to move SAM towards a more equitable future. 
  • SAM’s acquisitions strategy brought in even more works by Black, Indigenous, and artists of color as well as women into its global collection.
  • The transformation of SAM’s American art galleries, funded primarily by a $1 million grant from The Mellon Foundation. An unprecedented collaboration among SAM curators and staff, artists, and advisors from the Seattle community, the project deepened the museum’s commitment to inclusive exhibition-planning practices and debuted as American Art: The Stories We Carry in October 2022.
  • Two major collections of modern art and supporting funds came to the museum, transforming its already stellar holdings of modern art:
    • The Friday Foundation, celebrating the legacy of Seattle philanthropists and collectors Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis, gave 19 iconic works of Abstract Expressionist paintings and sculptures in 2021 as well as a total of $14.5 million to support various museum initiatives over the course of 2020-2021. The works went on view in 2021. The gift included the creation of The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Acquisition Fund for Global Contemporary Art.
    • And in April 2023, a gift of 48 major works by Alexander Calder was made by longtime museum supporters Jon and Kim Shirley. The gift of the Shirley Family Calder Collection is supported by a $10 million endowment and an annual financial commitment from the Shirley’s to support Calder-related exhibitions and research. The works will debut in November 2023 in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection.

“The Board of Trustees want to express our sincere gratitude to Amada for her leadership at SAM,” says Board Chair Constance Rice. “Amada’s achievements have been many. In addition to steering SAM successfully through a global pandemic, the museum came through even stronger with spectacular exhibitions, landmark gifts of art and funding, and an expanded commitment to equity across the museum. SAM faces a bright future thanks to her leadership during these immensely difficult times.” 

This fall, Amada takes the helm at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) as the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director and CEO where we know she will bring the same dedication and vision to SBMA that she did during her time at SAM. 

Amada will continue at SAM in her current role through the first week of October providing museum leadership the time and opportunity to collaborate on a smooth transition plan. 

Thank you, Amada, for your steadfast leadership of SAM the past four years. You are leaving SAM well positioned for a bright future. We wish you much success and fulfillment in Santa Barbara and know you will take SBMA to new heights like you did SAM. 

… you will be missed!

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

In Boafo’s Words: Jean Jacques Ndjoli

Before entering the galleries of Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at SAM, visitors are greeted by a 2020 portrait of contemporary fashion designer and stylist Jean Jacques Ndjoli. Hanging amidst a wall covered in Boafo’s well-known Monstera plant print, the portrait offers an introduction to the artist’s signature style with its vibrant yellow hues and the apparent use of his distinct finger painting technique.

Learn more about this artwork and eight more of Boafo’s portraits by tuning in to our free smartphone tour of the exhibition on our SoundCloud. Or, if you’re in the galleries, scan the QR code accompanying each work to be directed to the relevant stop on the tour. The exhibition closes Sunday, September 10—get your tickets to see it before it’s gone!

Jean Jacques Ndjoli, 2020

AMOAKO BOAFO: This is a painting I did in LA [where] it’s sunny all the time. You know, you are guaranteed to get your fresh pressed orange juice.

NARRATOR: To capture that mood, the artist focuses on one color.

AMOAKO BOAFO: You have three shades of yellow. So, the overall pullover is the cadmium yellow hue, and then the background, I tinted it with white, and then I added a bit of brown to the yellow hue to have that inner pullover.

NARRATOR: Boafo is a figurative painter. In other words, he paints recognizable figures and objects. But this image goes beyond straightforward representation. The flat, simplified forms of the hooded pullover become abstract areas of color.

They also create a strong visual tension with the thickly finger-painted skin of the face.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I think of colors that, you know, just highlight the face and the figure.

NARRATOR: The important thing for Boafo is to elevate and celebrate his characters.

AMOAKO BOAFO: I consciously think about how to elevate the characters and place element or colors that only elevates them or complement them and not compete and take away from them.

I think the thing with celebration is that we don’t do it that often, and I think it would be good that we celebrate others more often: for people to know that we see what they are doing, and they are appreciated and noticed for what they are doing.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Jean Jacques Ndjoli, 2020, Amoako Boafo, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in., Collection of Josef Vascovitz and Lisa Goodman, courtesy of Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

In Boafo’s Words: Introducing Soul of Black Folks

“I like people to be with me through the journey of making [a] painting, even though they’re not in the studio space. I want people to come to the show and feel like they made the paintings with me…”

– Amoako Boafo

Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks is now on view at SAM! As part of the contemporary Ghanaian artist’s Pacific Northwest solo debut, we developed an audio tour of additional artistic insight. Featuring interviews with Boafo and exhibition curator Larry Ossei-Mensah, the tour highlights eight of the artist’s portraits created between 2016 and 2022 and is exclusive to Seattle audiences.

The tour kicks off with a brief introduction to the exhibition and Boafo’s artistic process. This stop includes a discussion of the exhibition’s title—drawing its inspiration from W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal 1903 ethnographic study The Souls of Black Folk—and the artist’s distinct finger painting technique used to sculpt the skin of his subjects. The recording concludes with Boafo explaining what he hopes Seattle visitors will take away from experiencing his artwork.

Explore all nine stops of our smartphone tour in SAM’s galleries by scanning the QR code accompanying each of the featured works on view or listen to it on your own time on our SoundCloud. Get your tickets to see the exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum through Sunday, September 10!

Soul of Black Folks: Introduction

NARRATOR: Welcome to the Seattle Art Museum and to Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks. This is the first solo museum exhibition in the United States for Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo. The show brings together over 30 works created between 2016 and 2022. It has been guest curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by the seminal ethnographic study, The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois, dating from 1903. The book was an assessment of Black life at the turn of the 20th century. Boafo’s work offers a visual equivalent for our times: it can be seen as an exploration of Black life in all its breadth of experience and emotion. The exhibition is a celebration of the humanity of Black people in 2023.

Boafo’s paintings combine skillful brushwork with finger-painting: specifically, he uses his fingers to mold and sculpt the bodies of his subjects—subjects that he refers to as ‘characters.’ We’re delighted that Boafo will be joining us throughout the tour, offering insights into his artistic process and inspiration. 

AMOAKO BOAFO: I like people to be with me through the journey of making the painting, even though they’re not in the studio space. I want people to come to the show and feel like they made the paintings with me because there is all the choices of colors and movement that you see, and you feel like you are part of the painting, or you are there when the painting was made.  I want people to have that feeling when they come.  

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Gazing Back, Messed-Up Art, and a Gorky Resurfaces

SAM News

Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, the solo exhibition now on view at SAM, is the pick of the week for arts reporter Mike Davis of KUOW. 

“Throughout this exhibit, the subjects in Boafo’s portraits, who are all Black, have a vibrancy in their eyes that you can’t miss. As I moved through the gallery, gazing at the subjects in the paintings, it felt like my stare was returned. As if the portraits were gazing at me!”

“These are fearless and fascinating paintings.” Gayle Clemans reviews the exhibition for the Seattle Times, speaking with curator Larry Ossei-Mensah and the artist about his techniques and goals.

“Asked what a solo exhibition means for him, Boafo says, ‘In Ghana, my studies were solid, but many artists don’t have access to opportunities. With time, I learned how important a solo exhibition can be, how it can cement an artist’s place in history.’”

File under: “Something to Look Forward To”: CBS Sunday Morning’s Serena Altschul interviews artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith about her retrospective. It’s now on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art and headed to SAM in February 2024. (The whole episode is interesting; her segment plays 15 minutes into the episode.)

Local News

South Seattle Emerald’s Sarah Goh on Guma’ Gela’: Part Land, Part Sea, All Ancestry, now on view at the Wing Luke Museum, an exhibition featuring artwork across many disciplines from a queer art collective for people from the Mariana Islands and its diaspora.

Via Seattle Times arts and culture staff: “8 PNW road trips for music and arts lovers in summer 2023.”

Crosscut’s Nimra Ahmad interviews artist Brandon Vosika, who has a solo show opening July 27 at Hologram Art Gallery. 

“Vosika still leans into ‘messed-up’ art—with his folk-art-esque paintings of people who don’t exist. His figures often have skin tones in watery blues and reds, their cheeks accented with clown-makeup circles of color. His work emanates a dark sense of humor and sometimes the absurd (see: skeletons hanging out together; legs made of cigarettes).”

Inter/National News

Don’t miss this very fun New York Times interactive on “How Manga Was Translated For America.” 

Artnet’s Caroline Goldstein tees up the outlet’s latest video collaboration with Art21, this one featuring Hank Willis Thomas.

Via Karen Chernick of ARTnews: “Long-Lost Arshile Gorky Portrait of Artist Anna Walinska Turns Up in Rhode Island.”

“The foundation made a ‘HAVE YOU SEEN THIS PAINTING?’ ad for the work using a faded slide kept in Walinska’s records, and began circulating the flyer at art fairs, with the hope that new leads would lead to its rediscovery.”

And Finally

“She Steals Surfboards by the Seashore.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

TAGZEEN: Teen Leaders Reflect on Their Year at SAM

Founded in 2007, the Seattle Art Museum’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) is an intensive internship program designed to cultivate the voices of diverse high school-aged youth who share a passion for the power of art and building community. TAG members meet monthly between October and May to learn about the many unseen sides of an art museum, develop leadership skills, plan Teen Night Out, and create their own art in new and familiar mediums.

As part of TAG, members are expected to complete a year-long project emphasizing the creation, curation, or discussion of art. While some TAG members opted to collaborate on Home Is Where the Heart Is, a teen art exhibition currently on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, three of the teens—Lila, Cris, and Smriti—decided to team up to create a zine they titled TAGZEEN.

Inspired by the community they call home, these adventurous teens set out across Seattle to highlight sights, food, and fashion that any teen can enjoy! Together, they left no stone unturned, exploring new and known Seattle staples; swimming through seas of people, petals, and felines; and examining teen fashion trends and their historic parallels.

Browse the zine below and be sure to check out a few of the sights and scenes the TAG teens recommend!

– Cristina Cano-Calhoun, SAM Museum Educator for Youth Programs

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Love Labors, Major League Art, and Take a Seat

SAM News

Victoria Valentine of Culture Type shares “15 Solo Exhibitions Featuring Black Artists” in museums this summer, including Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, which opens at the Seattle Art Museum this week. She shares a quote from curator Larry Ossei-Mensah.

“This exhibition is a labor of love and a holistic snapshot of how Amoako Boafo sees the world through his artistic practice. All who visit this exhibition—which is anchored by radical care and the celebration of Black life—will be moved and hopefully, see a little bit of their humanity embedded within the paintings in this show.” 

The exhibition also tops the list at Cultured in their weekly round-up of happenings.

Curiocity and Seattle Met both recommend Summer at SAM, and we have to agree! The annual free series of performances, art making, and more kicks off at the Olympic Sculpture Park this Thursday night.

Local News

The only thing better than a road trip is an artsy road trip! Seattle Times writers weigh in on some Pacific Northwest journeys for exploring art and music

“It’s up to us to save Black arts spaces in Seattle”: South Seattle Emerald’s Patheresa Wells reflects on the barriers facing Black art and artists, citing the stories of Sankofa Theater and Wolf Delux.

All-Star Week fever takes over Seattle: Here’s Gayle Clemans for the Seattle Times on a “Pioneer Square event [that] aims to bring baseball fans and art lovers together.”

“Seven local and national artists were chosen as the muralists, including Seattle-based artist Alexander Codd, who creates under the name A.CODD. ‘To be a part of All-Star Week is a win for me,’ Codd stated in an email interview, citing the ups and downs of being an artist…‘Similar to the Mariners, I am living an underdog story,’ he says.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Brian Boucher shares the “surprising side hustles” of six artists. 

“With freedom came fashion flair”: Seph Rodney for the New York Times on Africa Fashion, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum. 

Via Alex Greenberger for ARTnews: “Artist Carolyn Lazard Has a Radical Proposition for Museum Visitors: Have a Seat, and Be Comfortable.”

“When it comes to video art, seating tends to be an afterthought, if it is even present at all. But to pair with Leans, Reverses, Lazard crafted several ‘Institutional Seats,’ objects that viewers can sit on to watch the video. These seats are composed of benches sourced from the ICA itself; to these ready-made objects, Lazard added upholstery that renders them a lot more welcoming.”

And Finally

Big same: National Gallery of Art on the lighting-speed emergence of Threads.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Libby and D-Lee, 2019, Amoako Boafo, oil on canvas, 62 1/2 x 72 1/4 in., Courtesy of Holly Jane Butler and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

The Importance of Preventative Care: Emerging Arts Leader Jennifer Beetem Reflects

Over the decade between my very first lab tour at the Seattle Art Museum and my SAM Emerging Arts Leader Internship in Conservation, I learned that the scope within which conservators work is much larger than the lab. My earlier internships took place in private practice home studios, on-site projects, and archaeological fieldwork. During my EAL internship, I did numerous preventive conservation projects in collections spaces, shared workspaces, and the galleries. As SAM’s first IAIA Collections Care Intern, I am excited to share about the IAIA and the projects I’ve worked on! 

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is an intertribal college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a non-Native conservator whose work intersects with collected Indigenous objects, I enrolled in its museum studies online certificate program to study museum history and contemporary practices. Over the past two years, I participated in class discussions and learned from stellar professors on the best practices in navigating collections and curatorial work. This last semester I successfully hustled for an in-person internship for credit with SAM Senior Collections Care Manager Marta Pinto-Llorca.

Preventive conservation is like preventive medicine: appropriate and timely care intended to slow deterioration. This includes monitoring objects’ condition, using safe storage and display materials, managing indoor climates, emergency planning, surface cleaning, and pest management. Preventive care review included shadowing SAM Collections Care Associate Vaughn Meekins on his weekly gallery cleaning rounds. 

Here is a glimpse of the preventive care that was completed for Marie Watt’s sculpture Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations. Before installation in American Art: The Stories We Carry, conservation workers treated the wool blankets to prevent introducing invisible pest activity into the gallery. Vaughn Meekins, SAM Collections Technician Ignacio Lopez, and I spent many hours non-contact vacuuming both sides of each blanket, refolding, then sealing batches in plastic to freeze for a week. 

On my days at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, I supported periodic gallery rotations of scroll paintings and textiles. Marta trained me to handle boxed scrolls and to safely unbox, unroll, roll, and box Japanese hanging scrolls. SAM Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator Tanya Uyeda taught me specific terms related to Japanese scroll paintings which added to my vocabulary for condition reporting paper and textiles. 

Over many downtown work sessions, I condition mapped William Cordova’s massive mixed-media assemblage Untitled (Cosmos). Cordova intentionally applied dust, unstable collage adhesives, and non-archival tape in his artwork, so it was important to create a detailed condition map before going on view later this year. To mitigate risks during installation and display, I gently tested delaminating collage papers with an air puffer and collected runaway pieces in labeled bags.

Working with invisible disabilities is tough and I’m grateful to my community for sharing collective ambition to build a culture of caregiving: for people and for art. Thank you to SAM for giving me the space to cook up my first public education session! For my EAL intern gallery talk, I introduced the subject of preventive conservation to colleagues and visitors alike, and pantomimed how to dust frames, objects, and casework. I loved fielding questions and teaching skills people can use to care for art in their own homes!

– Jennifer Beetem, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Marta Pinto-Llorca.

Pride Month: The Fleet’s In and Queer Art at SAM

This July marks my one-year anniversary at SAM and June was my first Pride in Seattle. I even had the honor of walking the parade with the city’s Consulate of Mexico. As a gay professional of Mexican descent, this is all a big deal for me!

In my role as the museum’s deputy director for art, I work among so much art, and every day I’m actively discovering captivating items within the SAM collection. Thinking about LGBTQ+ artists, I was surprised to learn that the collection has a print of The Fleet’s In (1934) by gay artist Paul Cadmus. He created this work on paper in response to the censorship of his painting of the same subject. In it, a raucous group of sailors enjoy shore leave while in Manhattan. The original painting, commissioned through the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) during the Great Depression, caused quite a stir in its day. So much so that it was removed from view for what Naval officers and critics considered “outrageous” for the behavior depicted in the work: the figures, many from the LGBTQ+ community, merrymaking with the featured service men. A queer celebration appropriate for Pride Month! The original painting is part of the Met’s collection, and you can learn more about it here.

To this day, the painting has had limited exposure but it is well known within queer art history. The print version, like the one in SAM’s collection, is important because it was intentionally created by Cadmus in an act of rebellion to disseminate the image and prevent its censorship. He would even credit the uproar with making his work more well known during his life. The work may have garnered a negative response, but the image itself carries gay culture, much of it coded and strategically placed by Cadmus, during a period when homosexuality was illegal. The print at SAM is interesting because it was gifted to the collection in 1944 by the founder of our museum, Dr. Richard Fuller. Could he have known about its notoriety and importance before gifting it to the museum? To more surprise, we also have a 1937 photographed portrait of Cadmus by Carl Van Vechten in the museum collection.

Reflecting on the collection during Pride Month, I sought other queerness currently on view in SAM’s galleries and by gay artists. Pop artist Andy Warhol has a strong presence in the museum; he even came to the museum for a solo exhibition in 1976. His large painting of the musician Elvis Presley as a young gunslinger heartthrob immortalized in silver is not only a reference to the future but to the reflective aesthetic of his famed studio the Silver Factory. It was an inclusive space for its day and a beacon for anyone who felt different, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some individuals who stood out even took on a role as  “Superstar” of the Factory for their beauty, personality, or talent. While Warhol’s universe tended to focus around himself, his impact on popular culture included making queerness more visual, and many artists today follow in his footsteps.  

Everywhere you turn, the museum also has a younger generation of queer artists on view: Mickalene Thomas’s large bedazzled painting, Chicano artist Laura Aguilar’s evocative and haunting black-and-white photography, Native American multidisciplinary artist Jeffrey Gibson’s beaded punching bag with the phrase “If I Ruled the World” in colorful plastic beadwork, Jacolby Satterwhite’s projected video work about his mother and Ballroom culture, Kehinde Wiley’s portrait featuring a Black subject in a classical style and Nick Cave’s maximalist soundsuit. There’s a recent acquisition by Naama Tsabar, an Israeli artist (and friend) whose practice includes intimacy and contact through the tactile materials that she uses, sculptures she builds, and evocative sonic performances. In my previous role at The Andy Warhol Museum, I hosted a performance of hers in conjunction with the exhibition Fantasy America. Titled Stranger, it comprised a double-sided guitar and two nearly physically identical women (the artist and Kristin Mueller) struggling through a non-verbal but acoustic conversation. Many of these artists I have followed for years and have even met. Having them in the collection is so inspiring and special for Seattle.    

Although marginalized peoples enjoy this honorary month of acknowledgement, the support in this city is ongoing and Pride Month felt the most festive during a time of nationwide hate and oppression against LGBTQ+ people. In addition, I’ve met so many people, including colleagues at SAM, who are also part of the community or dedicated allies. We work across many departments in the museum and it’s clear we really care about the community in Seattle. Pride Month has passed, but the visibility and support of LGBTQ+ artists has and will continue at SAM.

– José Carlos-Diaz, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art

Photos: The Fleet’s In, 1934, Paul Cadmus, American, 1904-1999, print, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 44.229. © Estate of Paul Cadmus. Paul Cadmus, 1937, gelatin silver print, 10 x 7 5/8 in. (25.4 x 19.4 cm), Mary Arrington Small Estate Acquisition Fund and Photography Purchase Fund in honor of Cheryl Ann Christie, 98.87. © Estate of Paul Cadmus.

 

Shawna Bliss Celebrates 24 Years of Service at SAM

Earlier this year, volunteers across all the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, and Olympic Sculpture Park came together to celebrate another incredible year of service at SAM. Hosted by the Seattle Art Museum Volunteers Association Advisory Committee (SAMVA-AC), the 2023 Volunteer Soirée honored the landmark accomplishments of some of SAM’s longest-serving volunteers.

Of the many awards handed out that evening, none were as significant and surprise-filled as the Dorothy C. Malone Award. Established by the SAM Board of Trustees in 1989, the award is given to an exceptional volunteer who exemplifies the highest standard of dedication and service to the museum.

Dorothy “Dottie” C. Malone is a significant part of SAM’s history, having invested 63 years in the museum as a staff member and volunteer. She treated the museum as her family, taking a warm and personal interest in the staff, volunteers, and operations of the museum. She cared deeply and held the museum to a high standard of excellence. Her concern for volunteers, which she called “the backbone of the museum,” combined with her own dedication and commitment, inspired the Board of Trustees to establish this award in her name.

This year’s recipient of the Dorothy C. Malone Lifetime Achievement Volunteer Award is Shawna Bliss. A volunteer for over 24 years, Shawna currently volunteers in our docent program and has consistently contributed to the development of gallery learning across all three SAM locations. Born and raised in West Seattle, Shawna is the oldest of five siblings and discovered a passion for education at a young age. She received her bachelor’s degree in education and psychology from the University of Washington and completed her master’s in education at the University of Utah.

The following years saw Shawna traveling with her husband, Don, throughout the United States and Australia before settling into a long term home in Bremerton to raise their family. For many years, Shawna commuted from Bremerton to Seattle to volunteer at SAM, becoming one of the museum’s most prominent supporters. Family gifts often included museum memberships, invitations to view exhibitions and programs, and one-of-a-kind items from SAM Shop. She encouraged her siblings and children to visit SAM and often brought her parents downtown to explore the museum’s galleries.

Following our celebration of Shawna and her continued contributions to SAM, we asked her about her time at SAM and any advice she’d offer prospective volunteers. Read below to see what she had to say!


SAM: How did you learn about the opportunity of becoming a SAM volunteer? What was the process like for you to join?

Shawna Bliss (SB): I learned about the opportunity of becoming a SAM volunteer at an education job fair held in Seattle before the start of the 1999 school year. A SAM representative was promoting SAM’s education programs and volunteer opportunities. I completed a volunteer application, had an interview with SAM’s Manager of Volunteer Programs, and was hired to assist a SAM educator in the Art Studio.

SAM: What is your favorite memory of being a SAM volunteer?

SB: I have so many favorite memories of being a SAM volunteer! What keeps me at SAM year after year are the opportunities to work with, and learn from, other volunteers, SAM staff, and museum visitors.

SAM: Were you surprised to receive the Dorothy C. Malone Award? What was your reaction?

SB: I was totally surprised! 2019 was the last year SAM held its Volunteer Soirée, so I came to this year’s soirée expecting to celebrate “our” return to SAM. I was not expecting any of us to be personally recognized!

SAM: Why should people consider becoming a SAM volunteer? 

SB: Do you like making new friends? There are many volunteer opportunities at SAM, all of which give volunteers occasions to meet and engage with like-minded people, including other volunteers, SAM staff, and visitors. 

Do you like learning about art, artists, and connecting art to the lives of visitors? If so, there is always much to see, read, and think about at SAM.

Do you like SAM and support its mission, vision, and values? SAM volunteers do! Young or old, just getting started or having volunteered for decades, all of us take pride in representing SAM as we serve in our volunteer roles. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Rising Star, New Leader, and a Wave of Influence

SAM News

Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks opens Thursday, July 13 at the Seattle Art Museum. The Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel includes the exhibition—the artist’s first in Seattle—on her list of recommendations for July.

“The star of Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo has risen almost too fast to behold—like the speed of light.”

“Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Free in New York thanks to the Seattle Art Museum.” Terumi Pong of An Emerald City Life and her family make excellent use of a patron-level SAM membership.

Via Denise Sakaki for 425 Magazine: “The Market Fishmonger & Eatery is a Summertime Catch.” We couldn’t agree more, and we recommend you check out our restaurant partner’s eateries at the Seattle Art Museum and for the summer, the Olympic Sculpture Park.

In other Olympic Sculpture Park news, it’s been named one of the ten best sculpture parks by the readers of USA Today. Thank you!

Local News

In her latest ArtSEA post, Crosscut’s Brangien Davis shares a behind-the-scenes of the final preparations for XO23, the forthcoming art space in the old Coliseum Building opening July 13 (hmm, could make a night of it with the Boafo opening…). 

Check out The Stranger’s comprehensive Pride month coverage, with event recommendations, engaging profiles, and reported features. 

The Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel also reported the recent news that Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture has named Minneapolis arts administrator Gülgün Kayim its new director.

“Seattle is a city that is known for its world-class artists, creative entrepreneurs, and arts scene,” Kayim continued, “and I look forward to working with them to make the arts more equitable and accessible to all.”

Inter/National News

Howard Halle for ARTnews on “12 LGBTQ+ Artists Having Institutional Shows This Pride Month,” including Jacolby Satterwhite, Keith Haring, and Lauren Halsey.

Via Artnet: There’s a new episode of the acclaimed series Art in the Twenty-First Century to check out on PBS. It features contemporary artists including Anicka Yi, Tauba Auerbach, the Guerrilla Girls, and Hank Willis Thomas.

“How Hokusai’s Art Crashed Over the Modern World”: Jason Farago of the New York Times reviews Hokusai: Inspiration And Influence, from The Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Now on view in Boston, it heads to SAM this October!

“[…] one of the greatest of all printmakers appears at the nucleus of a worldwide cultural transformation, in which art became more urbane and more fleeting, and the observed world got flattened out into signs and symbols.”

And Finally

The Seattle Times revisits Sleepless in Seattle locations (and seeks justice for Walter!).

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

SAM’s Teen Arts Group Reflects on a Year of Programming

SAM’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) is an intensive internship program for high school-aged youth who are interested in leadership, eager to learn about themselves and the world through art, and want to make SAM fun and engaging for teens. This year’s cohort of future art leaders met once a week from October 2022 to May 2023 to create art, learn about the many unseen sides of an art museum—including exhibition conceptualization, curation, and conservation—lead public gallery tours, and plan Teen Night Out. As we close out another school year, we asked a few of this year’s members to share a bit more about TAG’s purpose and their favorite memories from their year at SAM. 

Let’s start with the basics: What is TAG and what did you do as a TAG member?

TAG is all about community to me. Essentially, we work toward our collective goal of making events, activities, and opportunities for teens at the museum. My favorite aspect has been hosting art making activities at influential spaces such as the Seattle Symphony and the Gates Foundation. I was surprised to learn that we get the opportunity to tour the museum after hours and have direct access to staff across a range of departments at SAM. This included folks from Public Programs, Education, AV, Curatorial, and Exhibition Design.

My favorite TAG meeting was when we got creative in how we announced the call-for-artists for our teen exhibition, Home is Where the Heart Is, on view through September 17. We drafted, directed, and filmed a skit that served as one of our core advertisements on social media. It was really fun to work together and come up with a product that we thought would be interesting for teens our age!

– Nivedita Raj, 17
Home is Where the Heart Is at Seattle Asian Art Museum in June 2023.

An integral part of TAG is planning and overseeing the museum’s annual teens-only celebration, Teen Night Out. What was this process like? What was your favorite part of putting this event together?

Planning Teen Night Out was an exciting journey filled with creativity and teamwork. We brainstormed themes, curated an array of activities, and transformed the museum into a vibrant space for teenagers.

My favorite part of Teen Night Out was watching the museum come alive with colors and people. Seeing the galleries turn into immersive environments was truly magical, and it showed the power of our artistic expression. The most rewarding thing was witnessing the impact of our efforts on the teenagers attending the event. Their laughter, curiosity, and awe reflected how art can inspire and touch hearts. It was a priceless reward to see their newfound appreciation and the spark of inspiration in their eyes.

Teen Night Out was more than a party. It was a chance to explore, create, and connect. I think in that evening we helped to bridge a gap between generations, making young voices heard and fostering a sense of belonging in the museum. By opening the doors of the art museum to a new generation, we painted a brighter future. Together, we showed that art has the power to transform lives and unleash boundless potential.

– Kaz Jennings, 16
SAM’s 2022–2023 Teen Arts Group leaders.

This year marked your second year as a TAG member. What advice would you offer any teen thinking about joining TAG?

This was my second year as a TAG member and I have genuinely loved every moment. A word of advice I would give to future TAG members or any teen looking to work with and around art is to just take it slow. Being in a program like TAG there is a lot of information being presented to you every meeting and a lot of opportunities for you to take advantage of. Just remember to pace yourself through those opportunities. You don’t have to take on every elective task that applies to your pursuit of the arts outside of TAG. Balance is essential.

Enjoy learning and watching your peers learn with you; I promise your resume and experience are already cool enough. I mean, you intern at SAM so you have to be cool! Take time to build connections with SAM staff and the other TAG members. They are cool people, you are cool people. Surround yourself with cool people!

If I could go back and give myself some advice before I joined TAG it would be that there is not one way to be an artist or someone who enjoys art. There are all kinds of personalities and people in TAG and everyone brings something unique to the table. Everyone is an important member of the team, myself included!

– Mori Peña, 18

– Cristina Cano-Calhoun, SAM Museum Educator for Youth Programs

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Pride Month: Rosemarie Trockel’s Bibliothek Babylon

In honor of Pride Month, SAM Blog features reflections by SAM voices on artworks from the collection that explore LGBTQIA+ art and artists. Queer lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate histories of joy, advocacy, and resistance.

In Det lika olika/The Same Different, a 2018–2019 solo exhibition at Sweden’s Moderna Museet Malmö, contemporary German artist Rosemarie Trockel interrogated viewers with a single question written on a small piece of paper: What is it like to be what you are not?

SAM’s collection features Trockel’s Bibliothek Babylon (1997), a photographic screenprint on transparent red Mylar. In it, the subject sits at a library table surrounded by books, wearing only cords of rope that outline where clothing seams would fall on the body. The title, in Trockel-fashion, asks to be picked apart: “Babylon” the Greek, Latinized form for “city of Babel.” In Abrahamic tradition, the Tower of Babel is a bastion for humanity and explanation for the world’s languages. One would have to guess that Trockel means to contrast this with the biblical Babylon (a woman atop a seven-headed beast, meant to personify promiscuity).

“[Trockel] started in Germany in the 80’s. It was a male-dominated art world she lived in and tried to make herself visible, which was not that easy. So she infiltrated the art world with materials that perhaps did not belong to that male art world. Such as wire, wool and knitting instead of painting… Many have said or read her art as feminist. And I think, yes there’s a truth in this, but there is so much more.”

– Iris Müller-Westernmann, Curator, Det lika olika/The Same Different.

The purpose of the title is to conjure religious and historical fears regarding femme people’s pursuit of knowledge and bodily autonomy. The use of rope—a fiber—invites us to consider whether the subject is liberated or restrained in their nakedness. For this image, the total edition consists of 60 screenprints: 25 on red, 20 on yellow, 15 on clear, as well as 25 artist proofs. The tone of each varies in how the subject and the books’ covers are accentuated and made readable.

In other works, Trockel deftly uses medium to talk about women as creators of art subjugated to the realm of the underappreciated “craft” and the household. “Woman,” also, as a narrowly defined and restrictive category. Much of Trockel’s body of work incorporates clothing and textile that’s often unisex in appeal until stretched, conformed, and gendered by the wearer. Reflecting on reunification years, Trockel’s series of masks, Balaclava, are a commentary on gender roles, women’s muteness, and the necessity for radical action. Trockel herself has at times rejected the title of “artist” or referring to her work as “art.”

“In Trockel’s art, the mixing of the idealized feminine with the mundane is a potent means of raising consciousness about the ways women have come to be classified and evaluated…

…Without question, the body and what has been designated as ‘woman’s work’ are powerful signifiers… to blur the division between genders and to suggest the foundering of the traditional ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ connotations associated with dress.”

– Sidra Stich, Art Historian

Another who took inspiration in literary metaphor is Argentine thinker and librarian Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986). In his 1941 short story The Library of Babel, Borges imagines a theoretical library containing all knowledge. The dimensions of such a place are impossible, but its books would contain letters and punctuation in every possible combination. Meaning, if searched for long enough, you could find a copy of this blog post, a transcript of any conversation, and even the details of your own death.

In 2015, writer and coder Jonathan Basile tried exploring the implications of this by describing the library through algorithm. On his website, enter any text you like: a favorite memory, a bold lie, a list of groceries. You’ll then be pointed to the room and book where, in an ontological sense, it’s already written. Not all things in the library are true and few pages are legible. But is it not helpful (and terrifying) to know your thoughts have already taken form? What, read back, would feel the most validating? What might Trockel, wishing to be “free of the binary system,” write? It’s already there to be found, of course.

Here’s one final resonance: The 2017 German television series Babylon Berlin invokes “Babel” to depict the last days of the Weimar Republic as a time of extravagance, danger, unrepressed art, and sexuality. These are the oft-forgotten “golden twenties” preceding totalitarian rule and the burning of books and libraries. Of things lost: the significant shift away from traditional roles  for the Neue Frau (“new woman”), as well as a wealth of research on identity and gender-affirming care.

Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

Fri Jun 23
Trans Pride Seattle
Produced by Gender Justice League, this event in Volunteer Park will feature music, performances, food trucks, and educators.

Sun Jun 25
Seattle Pride Parade
The official 49th annual Pride Parade! Join in the fun or grab a spot in the grandstand. Say hi to SAM’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group who will be marching together. 

Aug 17–20
Pacific Northwest Black Pride 2023 in Columbia City
Celebrate the 6th year celebrating the Black LGBTQIA+ community with workshops, a health festival, music performances, parties, and more.

– Travis L., SAM Event Security Officer

Travis (they/them) is a mixed-media artist working in the realms of history and romanticism. They were recently featured in The Process Project and currently have work on view in the group exhibition Freedom at Gallery B612 through July 21.

References: Rana, Matthew. “What Is It like to Be What You Are Not? Rosemarie Trockel’s Diverse Practice.” Frieze, 31 Oct. 2018. Issue 200. Drier, Deborah. “Spiderwoman: Rosemarie Trockel.” Artforum, Sept. 1991. Vol. 30, No. 1. Stich, Sidra. The Affirmation of Difference in the Art of Rosemarie Trockel. 1991. Phillips. “Bibliothek Babylon (Trockel).” Artsy, June 2019. Auctions. Edition Schellmann—Fifty Are Better Than One.

Images: Bibliothek Babylon (Library Babylon), 1997, Rosemarie Trockel, German, b. 1952, screenprint on transparent red Mylar, 47 x 35 1/2 in. (119.38 x 90.17 cm), Print Acquisition Fund, 97.57 ©️ Rosemarie Trockel, photo: Mark Woods. The Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563; in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Leaving My Mark on Art: Emerging Arts Leader Alexa Smith Reflects

Art has always been a passion of mine. I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid, and as I grew up, I knew art needed to be an ever-present aspect of my life, no matter the capacity. I have had some significant figures that helped me come to that conclusion: teachers, mentors, and so many more. With their influence, I came to recognize my path in life: to help people realize their own love of art, just as others did for me. The journey to this point was not without its difficulties, perhaps even a bit tumultuous. Yet, it’s what led me to teaching art classes and, most importantly, my internship here at the Seattle Art Museum.

Being at SAM has been a dream. I truly never expected to be here. During the application and interview process, I admittedly was not the most confident. Had I done enough to deserve to be here? But, I knew if I spoke to my passions, I had a chance. Teaching has always been my way of helping to foster creativity and artistic passion in kids at developmental ages, but being at SAM has allowed me to contribute to something bigger. I have had the opportunity to be a part of an institution dedicated to connecting art with the public and to be a part of a curatorial department that informs, educates, and inspires people through all facets of art—I couldn’t imagine a better place to be!

Seeing all that goes into what makes a museum function successfully has been an education in and of itself. It has been amazing to see the cross-departmental collaboration at work, and to be a part of it. To have conversations with staff across departments and learn more about their contributions to the museum has been one of my favorite parts of this experience thus far. In particular, my conversations with the education, interpretation, and public engagement teams have been so impactful, especially with my mentor. From him, I’ve been able to learn more about what each team is doing in the realms of accessibility and further connecting the public to the work that is displayed in the museum. I have even been given the opportunity to contribute research and content to a few artworks at the Seattle Asian Art Museum and build upon the educational materials already available for them. That kind of experience—to have my contributions be a part of the museum in a permanent capacity—is what I want to continue to do, to leave my mark.

Thankfully, the work that I have done within the curatorial department has given me that chance. I have worked on presentations for exhibition proposals, formatted labels for objects, researched artists for interviews and future exhibitions, imagined my own exhibition, and developed an in-gallery presentation. But, one of the most rewarding parts of this experience has been connecting my conceptual exhibition with the development of my in-gallery presentation because of how personal it became for me. 

When I was assigned to curate a potential exhibition featuring ten items from SAM’s collection, I wanted to use this chance to explore my heritage and learn more about the available Filipino art and artifacts. I am incredibly proud of my culture, and it has always been disappointing to see how Filipino art and culture is rarely showcased or discussed in the greater context of Asian culture and history, even though it is incredibly rich and multi-faceted. Even in higher education, where I’ve taken classes dedicated to the history of Asian art and culture, the curriculum usually centers on China, Japan, Korea, and India. And I can imagine most people think of those countries, as well, when they think about Asian culture in general. 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much variety or depth in the artworks from the Philippines at SAM, but there was one set of figures that stood out among the rest: the bulul figures from the Ifugao people of Northern Luzon. Researching these objects provided me with a new direction to take my project. I decided to focus on Indigenous cultures and spirituality throughout the islands in the Pacific. After learning more about the history of the bulul and the Ifugao, it was clear that prehistoric and indigenous Filipino cultures and traditions were more akin to other Oceanic and Austronesian Indigenous cultures found in regions like Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia, with their spiritual beliefs centered on honoring the earth and ancestral relationships. That belief system has been appointed the term animism by western cultures and it is the perspective in which all things—animate and inanimate objects, places, and creatures—possess a distinct spiritual essence. 

With these findings, my conceptual exhibition focusing on the important bonds between visual traditions and spiritual beliefs in Indigenous cultures across islands in the Pacific took shape. In my gallery presentation, I wanted to spotlight the bulul figures, the Indigenous culture of the Ifugao people, and its similarity to the cultures of other Pacific Islands, all a divergence from the more discussed modern history of the Philippines (i.e., Spanish colonization, American occupation, and Philippine independence). All I wanted was to share with people the ways that Filipino culture is special, and now I can. 

I cannot begin to describe how excited I am to share the research I’ve done so far. It has been such a fulfilling experience to be able to learn more about the history of my culture in the context of art, and being here at SAM has given me the opportunity and the resources to do just that. I am extremely grateful for what this internship has provided me in terms of exploring my passions and building upon what I have already learned. I feel as though I have just scratched the surface as to what I can accomplish here at SAM and I am itching to see the contributions I can make at SAM in the near future. 

I’d like to thank SAM Intern Programs Coordinator Samuel Howes for helping me adjust and transition into this internship; to SAM Museum Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, for being such an amazing mentor and for our stimulating conversations that I always looked forward to; and, of course, to SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz—I couldn’t have asked for a better supervisor and mentor.

– Alexa Smith, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Curation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Visions of a Coming City: William Whitaker on Louis Kahn’s Legacy in South Asia

Despite achieving a legacy as one of the 20th century’s preeminent figures in architecture, many remain unaware of Louis Kahn’s substantial achievements across South Asia and their embodiment of his deeply held modernist artistic ideals.

On Saturday, June 10, SAM’s Saturday University Lecture Series will host curator and archivist William Whitaker for a discussion on Kahn’s many travels to South Asia accompanied by rare images and documents from the Kahn Archive at the University of Pennsylvania. In advance of his talk, SAM Manager of Public Engagement Haley Ha spoke with Whitaker to understand what made Kahn’s architectural vision in South Asia so noteworthy.


Haley Ha: You were trained as an architect and currently serve as a curator of the Architectural Archives at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design. Can you tell us about your role and explain a day in your life as an archivist?

William Whitaker: I see myself, in part, as a teacher who uses collections to educate young architects and landscape architects about thinking and developing their ideas through design. Looking at the drawings of an architect like Louis Kahn can reveal much about their individual talent and way of working, but also about their collaborations with others in the drafting room, on the job site, or in conversation with their clients. The big idea is that thinking through drawings helps you to understand what is good, what is really good, and most importantly, the difference between the two. I meet with high school and college students to talk about and think through topics such as “taking notes on site.” We do this over a large table packed with archival collections: artist sketchbooks are always a favorite, but photography and other techniques also inform and reshape the understanding of place—and these techniques are not always visual! Archives provide an essential tool for understanding why things are the way they are, so incorporating the archive into public exhibitions and tours to a broader public is important to me and the work that I do.

HH: How did you first encounter Kahn’s work? What about it caught your interest?

WW: You can learn a lot from Louis Kahn. His way of working was a struggle that remains visible in his writings and lectures, as well as in the histories of the clients and staff who worked closely with him. His work was also consequential in reinvigorating architecture and its connection to history, place, and the craft of building. He brings a wonderful sense of the human element into his architecture with the expectation that places have the potential to profoundly impact the people who use them.

As an architecture student in the late 1980s, Kahn’s work was often discussed so I knew there was something to learn by looking at his work and understanding his collaborations with engineers, landscape architects, and clients. The first building I ever saw that he designed was the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1959–67). A friend and I drove through the night from Albuquerque, New Mexico to see the building and it was a life changing experience. Working toward my Master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania opened up the possibility of working in the Architectural Archives where Kahn’s papers and drawings are kept. I’ve been there 30 years now and continue to learn from his work on a daily basis.

HH: This month’s Saturday University lecture presents a rare opportunity to engage deeply with Kahn’s work in South Asia. Can you tell us about his time in Asia and the lasting impact it left on him and his legacy?

WW: Between 1947 and his death in 1974, Kahn traveled extensively across the continent where he worked as an architect across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Nepal, and Israel. Meanwhile, back at the University of Pennsylvania,  his “master’s studio” was comprised of 68 students from Thailand, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. In Japan, at the Katsura Imperial Villa, Kahn experienced the deep interrelationship between a building and its landscape, including the magnificent ways the elements of nature—from light to wind and sound—are modulated to inform or shape the human experience.

HH: Kahn, unlike many of the Western architects working in Asia at the time, engaged deeply with the social and political fabric of the cities he worked in and considered their existing architecture, histories, and cultures when drafting his designs. How will these concepts be explored in your Saturday University lecture?

WW: There are distinctions to be made between buildings that serve and support a civic purpose and those conceived of as drivers of economic development. Kahn saw his work as supporting “institutions” important to the development of individuals and their ability to realize their own worth—places to learn, places to assemble, or places that honored human endeavor. It was Kahn’s search for a deeper purpose in architecture that continues to be relevant to this day and serves as the foundation of my lecture.

HH: While Kahn belonged to no particular faith, he was drawn to religious sites and left behind many sketches of ancient temples, churches, and mosques. How do you see the notion of spirituality or the “sacred” manifest in Kahn’s work?

WW: I think you can see it in his appreciation of the everyday. Kahn has an amazing eye for such moments and this is made clear in his notion that, “A city should be a place where a little boy walking through its streets can sense what he someday would like to be.” I would point to the study carrels in his library at Phillips Exeter Academy, the candle niches of the Hurva Synagogue, or the monumental steps at the Four Freedoms Park as expressions of how an individual becomes aware that they are part of something much larger than themselves.

HH: Visitors to Kahn’s works have been quoted as having something close to a ‘spiritual experience’ while occupying his spaces. Can you explain what Kahn meant when he said that the “building is a living thing” and how this may explain visitors’ experiences at his sites? 

WW: Kahn based the conception of a building on human desire and providing a platform to support the impulse to express. As such, his buildings are an expression of human experiences and feelings. Here, Kahn is thinking in non-technological, non-practical, and non-physical terms–in his words this is “silence.” Those human impulses are then brought to “light” through all the circumstantial aspects of building–this is the brick and mortar, budget and code, and client and user part. For Kahn, the success of a building—what he thought of as “an offering to architecture”—was to be found in the structure’s ability to evoke an essential aspect of humanity. That he spoke to a brick is a well-known detail of Kahn’s persona (“You say to brick: ‘What do you want brick?’ To which brick replies, ‘I like an arch.’”). Behind that dialogue is an acknowledgment of human ingenuity, living traditions, working with materials, and more.

HH: Lastly, if you had to choose, which of Kahn’s sites would you recommend visiting to those who travel to South Asia?

WW: This is a difficult question to answer—it’s like asking someone who their favorite child is! It is also difficult because for various reasons, Kahn’s works are difficult for the public to access. If one can manage to access the Capital Complex in Dhaka, I’d put that at the top of any list. But I would also say that there are places where Kahn ventured–the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, the “pols” of old Ahmedabad, the Stepwell at Adalaj, or seeing the landscape of Dhaka along the Buriganga River—that can shed light on his thinking. All are well well-worth a visit.


Hear more about Louis Kahn’s travels to South Asia from William Whitaker, Curator and Collections Manager at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, on Saturday, June 10 at 10 am at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in the final lecture of the 2022–2023 Saturday University Lecture Series. Tickets are still available—get yours now!

– Haley Ha, SAM Manager of Public Engagement at the Asian Art Museum

Images: Dhaka, Bangladesh, © by Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban, Creative Commons. William Whitaker, photo: Barrett Doherty. Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, Louis Kahn, 1959–1965, photo: John Nicolais, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania. Louis Kahn in His Office in Philadelphia, 1970, photo: Joan Ruggles, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania. Dhaka Complex, Bangladesh by Louis Kahn (1962–83), photo: Nurer Rahman Khan.

Muse/News: Boafo Summer, Book Machine, and Real Van Gogh

SAM News

Art in America shares “The Art World’s Summer Happenings to Add to Your Calendar.” On the list: Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks, opening July 13 at the Seattle Art Museum. This is your chance to experience the rising art world star’s larger-than-life portraits!

Gemma Alexander for ParentMap on “10 ways to create and enjoy art outside as a family this summer.” She mentions the free and family-friendly Summer at SAM series at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Stay tuned for the full program announcement.

“Helps families gain access to the arts”: Ellie White for Seattle’s Child on the Seattle Public Library’s Museum Pass program, which includes 11 cultural institutions, including SAM. 

Local News

Dip your toe into The Seattle Times’ comprehensive “Guide to a Great Seattle Summer.” 

And then immerse yourself in Crosscut’s second year of the Black Arts Legacies project, with written features, videos, and podcast episodes featuring local celebrated Black artists. 

The “Sistah Scifi Book Vending Machine” lands at Black Coffee Northwest and soon, at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM); Jas Keimig has all the details for South Seattle Emerald. 

“‘I’m excited to get other people excited about science fiction and science fiction writers and these themes of fantasy and Afrofuturism, centering Blackness and Black stories and Black people,’ said [NAAM operations director Ashanti] Davis.”

Inter/National News

What do you think about the Supreme Court’s decision against the Andy Warhol Foundation in Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith? Artnet discussed the outcome from many perspectives and also shared this opinion in favor of the decision by Ben Davis. 

ARTnews’ Maximilíano Durón reports on the 15 artists just announced as the winners of the annual Latinx Artist Fellowship given by the US Latinx Art Forum (USLAF). The list includes Mexican artist Margarita Cabrera, whose soft sculptures are now on view at SAM as part of Reverberations: Contemporary Art and Modern Classics.

Sebastian Smee for the Washington Post: “Forget ‘Immersive Van Gogh.’ These exhibitions are the real thing.”

In the end, there was only one thing—art. The point is, he made it so—by sheer striving. By the time van Gogh hit his stride, only 2½ years before he died, you couldn’t tell if he was sweating perspiration or paint.

And Finally

Don’t miss this New York Times package on the life and legacy of Tina Turner (1939–2023), especially the essay by Wesley Morris.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Celebrate Pride with a Mickalene Thomas-Inspired Art Activity

On Saturday, June 3, SAM staff will participate in Seattle Pride in the Park to celebrate the city’s LGBTQIA+ community. This all-ages, family-friendly event features Drag Queen Storytime, youth spaces, lively performances, food trucks, nonprofit booths, queer vendors, and more. We’ll be at Volunteer Park from 12–7 pm to facilitate an art activity and spread the word about our upcoming programs and exhibitions.

As I brainstormed ideas for a fun, engaging, and educational art activity for Pride, one of my personal favorite artists, Mickalene Thomas, came to mind. Thomas’s work embodies the spirit of inclusivity, and her use of bold colors challenge traditional notions of beauty, gender, race, and identity. She is a Black queer contemporary artist that creates colorful and lustrous paintings, collages, photography, videos, and installations and uses materials like paint, pictures, colorful patterns, and rhinestones in her large-scale paintings. In 2018, SAM mounted Figuring History, an exhibition of her work alongside fellow artists Robert Colescott and Kerry James Marshall. Here’s a Seattle Times video interview about the show.

Inspired by Mickalene Thomas’s style, SAM Education staff has crafted Sparkling Icons, an art activity for participants of all ages. Using images of noteworthy LGBTQIA+ artists and activists, visitors will create collages with patterned papers and rhinestones that venerate the beauty and individuality of some of our most beloved legends. We wanted to highlight individuals that have paved the way for social justice and equality and have helped build a supportive community for future generations. 

Art museums, as cultural institutions, have the responsibility to promote inclusivity and highlight the work of artists in a way that provides art historical context but also shares the truth about their lived experiences. By participating in Pride Month, we want to demonstrate that SAM’s museum spaces are ones that are welcoming to queer self-expression and points of view (and not just during June!). Plus, who doesn’t want to come and play with glitter and rhinestones?! Hope to see you up at Volunteer Park on June 3, looking sparkly and iconic! 

Can’t make it to Pride in the Park? Check out the Sparkling Icons art activity and try it on your own time.

– Nicole Henao, SAM Manager of Youth and Family Programs

Photos: Chloe Collyer & Nicole Henao.

Film As Art: Howard L. GATO Mitchell on Making Movies with Meaning

“I got into filmmaking not only to tell stories and to entertain, but to express myself and bring meaning to moving pictures.”

– Howard L. GATO Mitchell

In his 2018 short film Forgive Us Our Debts, Portland-based artist, director, and writer Howard L. GATO Mitchell depicts moments in life we don’t always see, interweaving the tangible and intangible to reveal “the fire beneath the ice of humanity.” The film tells the fictional story of 13-year-old Trey, who lives with his family in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

While in Seattle in April, we sat down with GATO to talk about artistic filmmaking, the relationship shared between a director and viewer in cinema, and how Trey’s fictional story is a reflection of larger economic and political pressures affecting people across the United States, especially communities of color. Watch our interview with GATO above and experience the artist’s 15-minute film at SAM’s downtown location through August 6.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

Celebrating Community: Families Collaborate on Murals at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Family Saturdays at the Seattle Asian Art Museum connect families with artists, authors, and performers, through art-making and other programming that celebrates Asian art and culture. As we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian Heritage Month in May, SAM would like to thank all of the families and community members who amplified the BEAUTY OF US visual campaign and contributed to the three collaborative murals displayed in the museum’s Community Gallery.

In 2021, anti-Asian hate crimes across 16 major US cities spiked by 342%. This alarming statistic, coupled with the waning media coverage of hate crimes against Asian Americans, inspired artists Erin Shigaki, Juliana Kang Robinson, and Saya Moriyasu to come together to create BEAUTY OF US, a visual campaign aimed at boosting awareness of anti-Asian violence in Seattle and beyond.

The three artists collaborated with four additional Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women artists in Seattle—Diem Chau, Julie Kim, Raychelle Duazo, and Saiyare Refaei—to create original artworks that were printed on posters and distributed throughout the city. With their bright colors and positive messaging, the artworks raise awareness, beautify streetscapes, and uplift Seattle’s AA+NHPI community.

Browse and download all seven BEAUTY OF US campaign posters for free by clicking on the artists’ name below.

Inspired by the BEAUTY OF US, SAM Educators partnered with featured artists Juliana Kang Robinson, Julie Kim, and Raychelle Duazo to design three unique murals in the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s Community Gallery that invited community collaboration. Over the course of three Family Saturdays at the museum, families learned about and celebrated their cultural heritage by contributing to the murals. Now completed, these murals represent a proud statement of community and healing where children, families, and friends connected and collaborated over collective art-making experiences.

Following their display in the Community Gallery through Sunday, May 21, the murals will be moved and displayed indefinitely in SAM’s Education Studio.

Read on to learn more about each of the three community murals, then participate in an art project with family and friends by clicking on the resources linked below.

Kaleidoscope Stories Community Mural
Julie Kim and Families
Mixed media on illustration board

Julie Kim is a children’s storybook artist and author who is deeply interested in stories that arise from our personal lived experiences, and in myths and folktales that arise from our collective human experience. This mural is a snapshot of those stories, big and small, as told by our community members in patches of obangsaek tiles—the five directional colors in Korean—that describe wholeness and balance through inherent and necessary diversity. Create your own story tile here with guidance from Julie’s illustrated instructions.

No One Like You Community Mural
Raychelle Duazo and Families
Mixed media acrylics on paper

Raychelle Duazo is a queer femme Filipina-American illustrator and tattoo artist based in Seattle. She aims to combine dreamy aesthetics, vibrant colors, and cultural significance to her work through themes of identity, queerness, language, symbolism, love, transformative grief, and Filipino culture. This mural of two figures captures the importance of identity and individuality in body art. Contributing families added pops of color while learning the Tagalog words for jasmine, the Philippine national flower (sampaguita), carabao (kalabaw), butterfly (paruparo), shell (kabibi), and crocodile (buwaya). Click the links above to access a coloring sheet of each of the tattoo designs featured on the mural.

Year of the Rabbit Community Mural
Juliana Kang Robinson and Families
Mixed media on illustration board

Juliana Kang Robinson is an interdisciplinary artist creating work that draws from Korean art traditions and culture. Participating families created pojagi (the Korean word for patchwork) with mixed media prints and drawings that were collaged on mounds in celebration of Lunar New Year. Click here to create your own origami bunny pocket designed by Julie Kim and inspired by the stories that celebrate the year of the rabbit.

– Nani Trias, SAM Educator for Family Programs

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Textile Messages, Gallery Futures, and Video Art

SAM News

It’s the final week for Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at the Seattle Art Museum! Crosscut’s Brangien Davis featured the show in her latest ArtSEA letter. 

“There are so many gorgeous garments and wall hangings here: indigo kimonos from Japan and multipatterned robes from Nigeria; astonishing cloth artworks from India, Uzbekistan and the Americas.”

We were thrilled to host Amity Addrisi and the whole crew at New Day NW recently at SAM. Check out the segment where José Carlos Diaz, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, takes Amity to some of the museum’s most beloved spots.

Puget Sound Business Journal names Northern Trust a Corporate Citizenship honoree for 2023; the firm; they share quotes from José Carlos Diaz and Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, about their support of SAM.

Great minds think alike: Curiocity, Seattle’s Child, and Seattle Met all wrote up lists of the city’s best parks and bike trails, including mentions of Volunteer Park (home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum) and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

“A who’s who of the region’s arts and fashion community”: 425 Magazine’s Andrew Hoge on the Seattle Art Museum Supporters (SAMS) benefit at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which featured a presentation of fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra’s fall collection.

Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine speaks with artist and architect Iole Alessandrini, whose exhibition at SOIL Gallery—which closes this Saturday—iterates on projects held at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Via Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times: “Two longtime and prominent pillars of the local art world, Linda Hodges and James Harris, announced this week they’re closing their namesake Seattle galleries.”

“‘Seattle has tremendous potential,’ Harris said. ‘Even though some of the old established people are retiring, or I’m moving away, I really feel that the visual cultural scene there is still going to flourish.’”

Inter/National News

Via the New York Times: “Can You Spot the Dog Hidden in This Picasso Painting?

NPR reports on the Supreme Court ruling against The Andy Warhol Foundation in a copyright infringement case over “fair use” of artworks

Artforum’s May cover story: Tina Rivers Ryan on Signals: How Video Transformed the World, now on view at the Museum of Modern Art.

“It helps us see ‘video art’ as something that was shaped by television—a technology and medium that was also the site of a novel public sphere—and that, like television itself, is now transitioning into a new form.”

And Finally

Heaven’s receptionist.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Shining a Light on Possibilities: Nicholas Galanin on Inviting Viewers into His Work

Museums are places of reflection and respite as well as places to learn and work through challenging ideas and painful experiences that are not shared equally in an unjust society. In this video interview, multidisciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangaẋ) speaks about the historical divisions between “contemporary” or “American” art and “Native” art that the reinstallation deconstructs, his goals for audience engagement with his participatory installation, and the layered meanings of the words and symbols he uses in the work.

Explore his latest interactive installation Neon American Anthem (2023) in American Art: The Stories We Carry on view now at the Seattle Art Museum.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

Muse/News: Ikat Sights, Chocolate Popcorn, and Mural Discovery

SAM News

Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts, a textiles and tours small business, wrote about Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at the Seattle Art Museum. You’ve got two weeks left to see this dazzling show, which closes after Monday, May 29.

“There is much to see at SAM—from glances across whole galleries to up-close inspections of the threads and patterns!”

For Alta Journal, multimedia artist Perri Lynch Howard reflects on the many meanings she’s found over the years in Gloria Tamerre Petyarre’s Leaves (2002), a beloved work in SAM’s collection (that’s now on view). 

“I remain transfixed by Leaves, a monumental work informed by totemic geography, dreamtime, and ancestral wisdom rooted in the land.”

The American Alliance of Museums’ blog on “How Museum Stores Are Embracing Sustainability and Inclusivity”; they include a mention of SAM Shop’s featuring of works made by local Indigenous artists.

Curiocity shares “15 of the absolute best beaches you can find in and around Seattle,” including the Olympic Sculpture Park and its pocket beach.

“The Olympic Sculpture Park is just straight up one of the coolest spots in the city.”

Local News

“Renders new truths from old objects”: Hannelore Sudermann for University of Washington Magazine on Abstract Truth, Preston Wadley’s show now on view at Bellevue Arts Museum. 

As more works from the collection went on sale at Christies, Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times dove deep to find out “what happened to Paul Allen’s Northwest art collection.”

At the opening night of the 49th Seattle International Film Festival, the organization announced that it has acquired the shuttered Cinerama theater. Crosscut’s Brangien Davis shared the good news. 

As for the big question on Cinerama fans’ minds: ‘We will have chocolate popcorn, absolutely,’ SIFF artistic director Beth Barrett said in a phone call on the eve of the festival. ‘That was one of the first questions for all of us, too,’ she added with a laugh. ‘The deal did not hinge on it, but it seemed important emotionally.’”

Inter/National News

Jaeyong Park for Artsy on “10 Standout Artists at the 14th Gwangju Biennale,” including former Saturday University guest Yuki Kihara. 

Via Tessa Soloman for ARTnews: “Manet’s ‘Olympia’ Will Travel to the United States for the First Time This Fall.”

Via Eve M. Kahn for the New York Times: “Vanished Murals From the Empire State Building Rediscovered.”

“Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts gallery will offer these works, two oval murals of damsels engulfed in rainbows of blossoms and foliage, which the German-born artist Winold Reiss painted in 1938 for a Longchamps restaurant at the Empire State Building’s base. (It’s now a Starbucks.)”

And Finally

Via NPR: “Meet the father-son journalists from Alabama who won a Pulitzer and changed laws.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Supporting the Arts: SAM Trustees Called to Serve the White House

A museum board does many things: provide oversight and support for the institution’s financial and operational health, offer guidance and insights based on their professional expertise, and represent the museum within the community and the broader world. SAM’s board trustees are an impressive bunch, serving as leaders across many fields including the arts, education, technology, and the law, but they are also community service allstars, giving their time and resources to support SAM’s mission to connect art to life.

It’s really exciting, then, when our board members are recognized in their respective fields or tapped for their leadership. Recently, two significant appointments to Presidential Committees were announced by the White House. President Biden announced the appointees to his Committee on the Arts and the Humanities; on the star-studded list that includes Lady Gaga, George Clooney, and Shonda Rhimes is Kimberly Richter Shirley, a SAM trustee since 2011. The news was announced around the world, including by the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter.  

Per the White House, this committee “advises the President and the heads of U.S. cultural agencies on policy, philanthropic and private sector engagement, and other efforts to enhance federal support for the arts, humanities, and museum and library services. The PCAH will also engage the nation’s artists, humanities scholars, and cultural heritage practitioners to promote excellence in the arts, humanities, and museum and library services and demonstrate their relevance to the country’s health, economy, equity, and civic life.”

“Being invited to serve on this committee is a tremendous honor, as it recognizes the vital role that creativity and culture play in shaping our society and advancing the human experience,” said Richter Shirley. “I am very grateful and humbled to have been asked.”

Richter Shirley is a retired attorney who serves on several boards and is an active supporter of arts, education, and human services organizations. On SAM’s board, she serves on the Audit, Equity, and Finance Committees. Along with her husband Jon, she also recently made an extraordinary gift to the Seattle Art Museum of 48 works by iconic American sculptor Alexander Calder, along with a $10 million endowment and other financial support to establish SAM as a center for Calder-related exhibitions and research. Congratulations, Kim, on this exciting appointment (and say hi to the rest of the committee for us)!

Also just announced were the appointments to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, which included SAM trustee John E. Frank. The White House notes that this committee “is charged with establishing policies relating to the museum function of the White House, its state rooms, and collections. It also works to make recommendations on acquisitions for the permanent collection of the White House and provides advice on changes to principal rooms on the ground floor, state floor, and the historic guest suites on the residence floor of the White House Executive Residence.” This is Frank’s second time serving on the committee, he last served from 2016–2018. 

Frank is the Senior Vice President and Chief Public Affairs Officer of Illumina, Inc. He is also a collector of French decorative arts and an art history hobbyist. In fact, he recently sourced a chair from the original suite of furniture made by Pierre-Antoine Bellangé and purchased by President Monroe in 1817 to refurnish the White House after it was burned down in 1814. Frank purchased the chair in coordination with White House curators and donated it to the collection. The Bellange suite of furniture is now in the Blue Room of the White House. Here’s a fascinating video from the White House Historical Association on the restoration of the Bellangé suite

The White House is a very special place for our nation,” says Frank. “I am looking forward to how we evolve the White House collection so that every American who walks through the building can see and feel a personal connection to our shared history.”

Frank has served on SAM’s board since 2008, including tenures as Vice President (2010–2013) and Board Chair (2013–2015). He currently serves on the Collections committee, advising on new works to SAM’s collection, a role that aligns with this appointment very well. Thank you for helping keep the People’s House beautiful, John!

Congratulations and thank you again to Kim Richter Shirley and John E. Frank for your service to SAM and the nation.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photos: Photo of Kim Richter Shirley by Spike Mafford, Zocalo Studios, LLC. Photo of John E. Frank courtesy John E. Frank.

Remembering Alfredo Arreguín

“Art is life. It is a vessel that allows me to express my perception of the world, my sense of beauty and my social concerns–which, I believe, are shared by many other persons around the world.”

– Alfredo Arreguín, in an interview with Artophilia

Everyone at the Seattle Art Museum was very saddened to learn of the recent passing of beloved Seattle painter Alfredo Arreguín at the age of 88. Acclaimed for his lavish, intricately patterned, and highly symbolic canvases, he was one of the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent Chicano artists. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Alfredo when the museum purchased his artwork, Four Self-Portraits (1995) for the collection. We were in the midst of checklist development for our major project to reimagine the museum’s American art galleries and were struck by the underrepresentation of Mexican American artists in the museum’s collection—particularly given the breadth of this community in our region. Jake Prendez, owner and co-director of Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery, a member of our Advisory Circle for American Art: The Stories We Carry, and a wonderful resource on Seattle’s Chicanx community and its artists, invited me to his gallery to view Alfredo’s work. I was hooked. One visit to the artist’s studio later, and we were on our way to acquiring the first of his paintings to enter SAM’s collection.

Alfredo was born in Morelia, Michoacán in 1935, and was encouraged by his grandparents (who raised him) to begin painting at a young age. When he was nine, he enrolled in the Morelia School of Fine Art, eventually moving on to the prestigious Escuela Nacional Preparatoria at the University of Mexico, from which he graduated in 1956. That same year, encouraged by a local family, he came to Seattle and obtained a permanent visa so that he could attend Edison Tech (now Seattle Central College) to study English, earn his US high school diploma, and enroll at the University of Washington to study architecture. When a condition of his visa made him eligible for the draft, he entered the army and was stationed in Korea and Japan. Upon his discharge in 1960, he returned to architectural studies, eventually transitioning to interior design and, finally, the School of Art. While there, he studied alongside celebrated artists Alden Mason, Michael Spafford, and, for a time, Elmer Bischoff. After receiving his MFA in 1969, he settled permanently in Seattle, becoming a force among artists and an integral member of the local Chicanx community.

Alfredo is celebrated for his astonishing signature style: exuberant, mosaic-inflected, all-over compositions comprised of motifs derived from the rainforests and Indigenous cultures of Mexico, the compositions of Hokusai and Hiroshige, and the nature and topography of the Pacific Northwest. His work is closely aligned with American Pattern Painting of the 1970s, yet it is also deeply personal and symbolic. A series of paintings of historical figures Emiliano Zapata and Frida Kahlo, for example, pay homage to activists whose interests resonate with his own, while a body of landscape paintings encode the flora, fauna, and natural beauty that inspire him. For him, painting was a form of therapy, a flow activity to which he returned every day.

Arreguín’s singular—even autobiographical—approach is nowhere more evident than in his large number of self-portraits, of which Four Self-Portraits is perhaps the most extreme and challenging example. A tapestry of tropical flowers, birds, leaves, arabesques, and ancient symbols interlace to camouflage four distinct portraits of Arreguín: two at the top and two more, mirrored, at the bottom—literally merging the artist with the places and cultures of his ancestry. Remembering Alfredo, I find myself seeing this engrossing painting afresh, grateful that SAM now shares in the legacy of this distinguished artist. Its acquisition will shape our collection strategy for years to come, as we amplify our efforts to bring in artworks—both historical and contemporary—by Chicanx and Latinx artists.

– Theresa Papanickolas, SAM Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad. Four Self-Portraits, 1995, Alfredo Arreguin, Oil on canvas, Painting: 49 3/8 x 42 3/8 in. (125.4 x 107.6 cm) Frame: 55 x 43 in. (139.7 x 109.2 cm), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2022.13 (c) Alfredo Arreguin.

Inside SAM’s World of Compelling Cloth: French Coverlet

While many of us source our coverlets—more commonly referred to today as a bedspread—from big-name companies, in 18th century France these objects were typically handwoven and dyed with meticulous precision by local artisans. They often featured intricate embroidery details that took hours to craft. In the sixth stop of our smartphone tour of Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at SAM, we take a close look at a French coverlet from the late 18th century and explore its fabric, known as Chiné à la branche. Browse all seven stops of our free smartphone tour from the exhibition’s galleries before it closes on Monday, May 29 or in your own time here.

How was Chiné à la branche used?
European ikat fabrics were incredibly expensive to produce, which is one of the reasons Chiné à la branche is most closely associated with royalty. Marie Antoinette had a particular affinity for the fabric, having her court clothes and palace furnishings made of various Chiné à la branche designs. The more popular designs in court were soft, blurred floral patterns, which were used for everything from dresses to upholstery.

How did industrialization affect ikat?
Industrialization led to the French abandoning the slow and costly production of ikat. Rather than hand-dying individual bundles, they were able to print patterns directly onto the warp threads. The dress shown above is stylized to look like ikat, but technically does not follow the traditional ikat process.

Verbal Description of French Coverlet

This coverlet was made in the late 18th century and measures five feet, six inches tall and four feet, nine inches wide. The ikat top layer of this coverlet is made of silk and linen thread and the back is made of silk. The layers are connected by quilted embroidery. This coverlet—or, bedspread—has both the colorful print-like pattern of the weave and a textured pattern created by the quilting process that joins the ikat fabric with other layers of the piece. The backing of this bedspread is a pink silk fabric. Between the silk backing and the ikat top layer, there’s about half an inch of batting—or, filling—that would make the coverlet a more effective warming layer for a bed.

First, we’ll examine the woven pattern of the ikat, which is precise in its execution, but has an intentional blurry quality around the edges. The pattern is a repeat of vertical stripes: a powder-blue stripe about three inches wide sits next to a cream colored stripe about five inches wide. This set of stripes is repeated six times across the coverlet. Within the cream colored stripe, there’s more detail. Thin lines on both edges of the cream stripe in pale yellow, dusty rose, and black frame an abstract design of flowers.

The stems and leaves of the flowers are a soft, mossy green and run down the center of the cream stripe in alternating curved lines that are reminiscent of vines. Splashes of the same dusty rose color form the blossoms of the flowers. Both the blossoms and the stems have irregular edges that artists in France nickname ‘flambé’—or, flaming—an aesthetic that was desirable at the time. On the sides of the coverlet, there are two strips of the fabric that have been cut off and attached perpendicularly to the rest of the bedspread, making the pattern horizontal on the edges.

Now let’s focus on the quilting that joins the layers together. The quilted stitching is done in a clear thread so that the lines themselves are only visible by the indentation and texture they create on the surface of the bedspread. In the center of the piece, there is a circle surrounded by eight symmetrical petal shapes, forming a simple flower shape like a large daisy. The daisy has three rings encircling it and then diamond shapes fill up most of the coverlet until about a foot from the edges where they are boxed in. Around the diamonds, small hearts and daisies alternate in a border to the quilting.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: French Coverlet, late 18th century. Collection of David and Marita Paly. Silk, warp ikat, linen weft, quilted embroidery. 66 in. x 57 in. Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria by Joseph Ducreux. 1769. Pastel on parchment. © Château de Versailles. Robe à la Française, French, 1760–70, Silk. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Make Art with Seattle Weavers’ Guild & Learn More About SAM’s Public Programs

Join SAM and the Seattle Weavers’ Guild (SWG) for a free and public art-making workshop on Thursday, May 4 and Friday, May 6. Members of SWG will offer a hands-on demonstration of the steps involved in the ikat weaving process with participants having the opportunity to try their hand at weaving with magic heddle looms that have been pre-warped with thick fiber “dyed” using markers to simulate the resist dye process used to create an ikat pattern. Then, purchase your tickets to explore SAM’s ongoing exhibition Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at the museum’s Ticketing Desk and head upstairs to see outstanding examples of ikats from across the globe.

Public programs like this art-making workshop invite visitors to explore art on view at SAM in exciting and hands-on ways. SAM is fortunate to have Amazon’s sponsorship of our exhibition-driven public programs, which create a deeper connection to the museum’s exhibitions and installations. These programs are free for visitors, and typically offered on Free First Thursdays when the museum is free to all, all day, bringing more people into the museum engaging with the art on view.

SAM hosts community programs in conjunction with our exhibitions year round. Regular events include My Favorite Things tours, drop-in art-making workshops, and pop-up performances. Recently, Claudia Webb, an artist and member of the Pacific Northwest African American Quilters (PNWAAQ), hosted a My Favorite Things tour focused on two quilt pieces on view in American Art: The Stories We Carry. At another workshop, participants worked with artist and educator Valencia Carroll to explore drawing techniques and tips for sketching, and later with artist Klara Glosova to practice drawing from a live model. These programs are vital to ensuring that all members of our community have access to interactive and enriching artistic experiences.

Amazon is an important supporter of the arts and cultural sector, and we are grateful to have their partnership. In addition to their support of SAM, Amazon is known for its Artist in Residence program, which awards grants and studio space to seven local artists annually. Their dedication to our region includes giving more than $96 million to over 180 local organizations, and last year they won the Puget Sound Business Journal’s Corporate Citizenship Award for Arts & Culture.

Keep your eyes on our website to see what free programs and events we’ll be hosting next. We can’t wait to see you at an upcoming event!

– Kelly Buck, SAM Institutional Giving Coordinator

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

SAMBlog