SAM Art: Time to wave goodbye to the Mountain Devil Lizard

Pointillism is taken to new levels by Kathleen Petyarr who paints with meticulous care using a satay stick. Her wavy X across the middle of the painting marks the path of the Mountain Devil Lizard. What is recorded here is the lizard’s idiosyncratic habit of meandering, swerving around obstacles, never following a straight path. The dots that appear in dense clusters simultaneously convey the spotted pattern of the lizard’s skin, the seeds or small ants she eats, and the sandstorms she passes through. Like many of the paintings in Ancestral Modern, this work maps multiple levels of existence.

Called “a show that truly does take you into another world,” by the Seattle Times’ Michael Upchurch, Ancestral Modern presents more than 100 works of breathtaking beauty, eye-popping visual complexity, and dizzyingly deep meaning. This exhibition runs through this Sunday, 2 September.

SAM Art: Who presides at places of change? This man.

This is a gentleman who tempts fate. He likes to preside at places of transition, where he can push people to recognize the need to change directions. He carries a sword to cut through difficulties and a flywhisk to invoke his authority to make things happen. Esu is prepared to bring the insights of the gods to bear on earthly dilemmas, such as changing jobs and moving on.

After 37 years, Michael McCafferty retired from his work at the Seattle Art Museum on April 20, 2012. He was the lead designer for galleries in the downtown Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and oversaw the installation of several hundred exhibitions. He was offered the following praise salute on his last day:

Master of the delicate dance

Required to give art the chance

To fly through the air and land at our feet

May Esu guide your fate in all that you meet.

Standing Figure of Esu, early 20th century, Nigerian Oyo State, Yoruba, wood, iron, 19 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/4 in., General Acquisition Fund in honor of Michael McCafferty, 2012.11. Currently on view in the African art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

Celebrate Summer at SAM Remix!

With my summer as a PR intern for SAM coming to a close, I couldn’t leave without giving you a sneak peak of SAM Remix!  Just around the corner, Remix promises an evening packed with DJs, dancing, talks and more.  And as a first time attendee, I couldn’t be more excited!

Inspired by Sandra Cinto’s Encontro das Águas and Sarah Bergmann’s Portal to the Pollinator Pathway, SAM Remix celebrates stories of the land and seascape with a late night creative explosion on August 24 from 8 pm to midnight. The Olympic Sculpture Park will be alive with the celebratory spirit of Brazilian carnival, dancing, art, games and more!

Kick off the night with Show Brazil! in the Gates Amphitheater, followed by Seattle indie rockers BOAT telling stories of dinosaurs, real-life, punctuation, and the ferocious sounds of lobsters—I don’t think I’ve ever heard the ferocious sounds of lobsters, but I can’t wait to find out!  Dance all night as Tigerbeat mixes everything from mainstream pop to local favorites in the PACCAR Pavilion, and under the stars as DJ Riz infuses the waterfront with his soulful beats.  And don’t miss the outdoor screening of our favorite thriller Jaws against the backdrop of the Puget Sound—I can’t imagine a better venue!

The park will be filled with creative activities!  Make seed bombs to grown Washington wild flowers at home with artist Jeanne Dodds.  Remix the sights and sounds of the Olympic Sculpture Park by creating a portable viewfinder with Seattle artists The Unearth Collective.  Experience the park in new and unexpected ways on My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Tours—The Park After Dark with local artists, curators and more.   And come play America’s favorite beanbag toss game cornhole on boards designed by Dumb Eyes. Design sea adventure hats with Seattle artist Romson Bustillo for your next nautical adventures—I’m gathering inspiration from Cinto’s Encontro das Águas, a piece that celebrates our planet’s most precious resource: water.

Like Encontro das Águas, one of Remix’s very own co-hosts, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) is committed to preserving Washington’s water resources. Suzanne Skinner, executive director at CELP, said this about their role in Washington:

We have been watching the country burn this summer and we are now seeing Cle Elum fight rampant fires. The impacts of climate change are upon us—and in the West—where water has always been in short supply—that means more demands for our increasingly short supplies. We need water for everything. The Center for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) is Washington’s water watchdog. We bring our water law expertise and passion to help citizen groups and tribes throughout the state to protect their rivers, streams and aquifers. From what we learn from people working on the front lines, river by river, aquifer by aquifer, we advocate for science based, sustainable water management in the legislature, in the courts and with government agencies. Now more than ever, we need to work together to protect our water resources.

You can browse the links below to find out more about the CELP or any of our other rad cohosts.

We will party rain or shine, so please dress for the weather, as many tents will be located outside throughout the park.

Every Remix is different, so be sure not to miss it!

P.S.  Don’t forget that the first 50 guests at the door in aqua blue get in FREE.

Remix Co-Hosts, August 24th

Center for Environmental Law and Policy, ARCADE, ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, Bumbershoot, Central District Forum for Arts and IdeasFrye Art Museum, Greater Seattle Business Association, Happy Hour in Seattle, Network of Indian Professionals, National Organization of Minority Architects NW, OUT for Sustainability, Pacific Science Center, People for Puget Sound, Photo Center NW, Seattle Emerging Museum Professionals, Seattle Fun Events, Space.City, Tacoma Art Museum, The Vera Project, Twilight Artist Collective, Urban Art ConceptVoices Rising, World Affairs Council Young Professionals International Network, The World Is Fun, and Young Professionals Network

Photo: Robert Wade

Modern & Contemporary Galleries at SAM will be closed August 26-October 6

Women artists are taking over SAM’s Modern and Contemporary Galleries!  In anticipation of the new exhibition Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, the Seattle Art Museum is transforming a few galleries on the third floor of SAM Downtown.  The Ebsworth Gallery and the Wright Galleries for Modern & Contemporary Art will be closed August 26 through October 6.

However, please enjoy the third floor galleries that will remain OPEN during the transition:

  • 18th and 19th Century American Art
  • Native Art of the Americas
  • Australian and Oceanic art
  • Japanese Teahouse
  • Textiles

Elles: SAM will be presented in conjunction with Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris.  Come and see these two shows October 11, 2012 through January 13, 2013!

SAM Art: Voice of the supernatural

With just a few instruments—whistles, horns, rattles, clappers, box drums and hand drums—coastal peoples effectively conjured up the sounds of the supernatural realm. Rattles and clappers display the widest array of shapes, yet often depict images of birds—creatures imbued with unique abilities to move between the realms of the earth, water and sky.

Rattles and clappers accompany a host of secular and sacred songs. Rattles are used by ritualists and shamans to call forth supernatural beings whose presence is desired. They are also rhythmically shaken by attendants to subdue the power that has overcome those undergoing initiation into secret societies. The Tlingit word for rattle, sheishoox, imitates the swooshing sound when shaken.

 Swan rattle, 19th century, Tlingit or Tsimshian, wood and paint, 5 5/16 x 10 3/4 x 3 3/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 59.104. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

Reflections on a summer at SAM

It is my pleasure to introduce another intern we have been lucky enough to work with this summer. Beimnet Demelash has been a terrific colleague–it is difficult for us to believe that she is still in high school! Without further ado, here are Beimnet’s thoughts about her summer with us at SAM.

-Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate

Nobody really knows what happens on the 5th floor of the museum. Everyone just thinks the art is placed there for them to look at and don’t understand how much work it takes for everything to go smoothly in the museum. All of the hard work is done on the 5th floor, whether it’s planning exhibitions, sending out invitations, planning events, or raising money for the museum. The staff on the 5th floor does it ALL.

This summer I have had the pleasure of working as a YWCA intern for the Seattle Art Museum. I have worked on a lot of different things that I feel will prepare me for any office job, things like entering data into different databases, filing, filling out paperwork by hand, mailings and much more. Some of these things were challenging at first, but after asking the right questions I got the hang of it.

My favorite part of my internship was giving a tour of my three favorite pieces of art in the museum. My three choices were “A Country Home”, “Man and Mouse”, and “Some/One”. I was very scared at first, but once I got in front of the art I knew exactly what I was going to say. Another thing that made everything go smoothly during the tour was the fact that everyone was very involved in the conversation. I want to say Thank you to my supervisors and the staff for helping me step out of my comfort zone and talk about the things I loved about those three pieces of art.

I thought my biggest challenge as an intern this summer was going to be adapting to the office environment, but everyone is very nice and helpful and best of all they all know that it’s ok to have fun while working. As a 15 year old that made everything easy to learn and more fun. I love being able to laugh and have fun during work. I think that the goofing off helped bring me closer to everyone. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else this summer. Thanks again to everyone on the 5th floor for making this an amazing internship!

-Beimnet Demelash, YWCA GirlsFirst Intern, 2012

Beimnet Demelash with “Some/One,” 2001, Do Ho Suh (Korean, works in America, born 1962), stainless steel dog-tags, nickel plated copper sheets, steel structure, glass fiber reinforced resin, rubber sheets, 81 x 126 in. overall, Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, 2002.43, © Do Ho Suh

Art and Adventure

I’ve been down to the Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection exhibition a few times now. I find the paintings spellbinding and mysterious. They remind me of those Magic Eye images from the 1990s—those 2D images that if you blurred your eyes and stared long enough, a secret 3 dimensional world would magically appear to the patient viewer. Like that art of yore, I find myself mesmerized by the paintings in the SAM exhibition, trying to see the story or the place or the songlines the artist is representing.

Traci departing from Golden Gardens, Seattle.

Recently, a colleague at SAM set off on a walkabout, of sorts, of her own. SAM’s Web Programmer/Software Engineer, Traci, and her friend—also Tracy—have set off on an epic journey up the inside passage. They are kayaking from Seattle to Ketchikan. They are carrying most of their food and supplies in their kayaks—50 days worth in 50 gallons (you can imagine what kind of culling that might entail). And they will only supplement and refill whenever there is a town close enough to the water to do so.

View Inside Passage 2012 in a larger map

They’ve mapped out a tentative route (yellow pins), plus some optional campsites as recommended by other paddlers (blue and pink pins). As Traci says, “I didn’t think I’d find the charts so mesmerizing, especially as I’ve spent time on Google Maps, charting applications, and smaller book-sized charts, but having big table-size maps to wander in is strangely compelling.”

The Tracies also have a blog and a SPOT Connect Satellite Communicator that allows those of us at home, to track their journey. They set off on June 24th and have been on the road, erm, open water, for 47 days now—and I learned that they reached their destination, just this morning! I’ve been keeping tabs on them and following their progression and as I look at the map with their path on it I can’t help but be reminded of the paintings in the Ancestral Modern exhibition. All the undulating lines of the British Columbia coastline and organic shapes are evocative of the similarly undulating and vibrating paintings of place by the aboriginal artists. But not only that, both the map and the paintings evoke place, journey, story and adventure.

“Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming”, 1996, Kathleen Petyarr, Australian Aboriginal, Anmatyerr people, Utopia, Central Desert, Northern Territory, born ca. 1940, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 48 1/16 x 48 1/16 inches, Seattle Art Museum, Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan. © Kathleen Petyarr, photo: iocolor, Seattle.

In drawing the connection between the map and the paintings, the Australian paintings seemed to snap into focus  for me. Like those Magic Eye paintings of yore, something in my brain needed to switch and now I feel like I can zoom in and out (like a Google Map) and I can see what is being represented. All at once I can see the lizard skin, footsteps in the sand and the cracks in the desert sand simultaneously. If you haven’t already, drop by the Ancestral Modern exhibition, on view through September 2nd. And maybe like me you’ll be transported to Australia or into some fantastical story.

Follow the Tracies as they navigate the wild blue yonder.

Liz Stone, Digital Media Support Specialist

Top Photo: “Wati Kutjarra (Two Men Story)”, 2003, Spinifex Men’s Collaborative (Ned Grant, born 1942; Kali Davis, n.d.; Ian Rictor, born ca. 1962; Lawrence Pennington, n.d.; Frank Davis, n.d.; Fred Grant, born 1941; Gerome Anderson, 1940–2011; Wilbur Brooks, n.d.; Simon Hogan, born 1930; Mark Anderson, born 1933; Roy Underwood, born 1937; Walter Hansen, n.d.; Loren Pennington, n.d.; Cyril Brown, n.d.; Alan Jamieson, n.d.; Lennard Walker, born 1949; Byron Brooks, born 1955), Australian Aboriginal, Pitjantjatjara people, Tjuntjuntjara, Southwestern Deserts, Western Australia, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 82 11/16 x 74 13/16 inches, Seattle Art Museum, Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum. © Spinifex Men’s Collaborative, photo: Susan Cole.

SAM Art: Farmers markets

The countless local farmers markets we host in Seattle are part of a long tradition—and one that is surprisingly well-plumbed by artists.

In this painting (known as a “world landscape”) a bustling market day is set within a vast scene that extends for miles into the distance. The sun breaking through the clouds provides an opportunity for painter Paul Bril to create alternating zones of light and dark that supply an attractive visual rhythm. A permanent settler in Italy from the age of twenty, Bril nevertheless remained a loyal heir to the Antwerp landscape tradition established in the sixteenth century.

Market Scene in Imaginary Landscape, 1600, Paul Bril (Flemish, 1554-1626), oil on canvas, 10 3/4 x 14 3/4 in., Gift of Seattle Art Museum Guild, 54.49. Currently on view in the European Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

Rafael Soldi at SAM Gallery



Rafael Soldi’s photography has a certain sentimentality to it. His work is personal, often portraying himself or those closest to him in seemingly private moments.  He uses photography as tool for coping, understanding and moving through life. In his series, “Sentiment” on view at SAM Gallery in our Summer Introductions exhibition, Rafael has captured a complicated break up with images that chronicle the pain, fear and healing process he’s navigated over the last two years.


“Embrace” archival inkjet print

Rafael shoots medium format color film which he then scans to make digital archival pigment prints. Using only natural and available light, his portraits make you feel as though you’re witnessing not something that was composed or fussed over, but a beautiful moment that just happened to be captured.


"Bajo Tu Manto" archival pigment print

“Bajo Tu Manto” archival pigment print

Originally from Peru, and then New York City, Rafael now works for the Photographic Center Northwest as their Marketing Director. He notes Matisse, Modigliani and Toulouse-Lautrec as painters that he seeks inspiration from and Harry Callahan as his favorite photographer. Rafael openly gathers inspiration from his friends and colleagues and readily admits that his work is directly influenced by those he surrounds himself with.

"A Step Towards Somthing I Have Yet To Figure Out" archival pigment print

“A Step Towards Somthing I Have Yet To Figure Out” archival pigment print

-Alyssa Rhodes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

On view at SAM Gallery through August 18th.

1220 3rd Ave (at University)
Seattle WA 98101
Tues – Sat 10:30 – 5

“I’m Here, Youre There” archival inkjet print

Joseph Hillaire: Carver of the Kobe-Seattle Sister City Friendship Pole

Hillaire carving the pole for Kobe, Japan, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 1961. Photograph by Harvey Davis. Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry.

Joe Hillaire Kwul-kwul-tu, (meaning “spirit of the war club”) was a man of indomitable spirit, grace, intelligence, and talent. For his Lummi people, he perpetuated song and dance traditions through the Setting Sun Dance group, was instrumental in reviving the Lummi Stommish water festival (and Chief Seattle Days at Suquamish), taught totem carving and canoe-making, and was a voice for social and political causes. Of parallel importance were his actions as a liaison between Native and non-Native people. He imparted knowledge of Lummi heritage to anthropologists Bernhard J. Stern and Erna Gunther (curator of the Northwest Coast Native exhibit at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair) and ethnomusicologist Willard Rhodes, as well as to the Boy Scouts of America and various school groups in the Seattle region. Hillaire also provided guidance to business and civic leaders, and traveled throughout the U.S. and to Japan with the objective of fostering inter-cultural friendships and bringing attention to Native culture.

Totem pole carved by Joe Hillaire, Kobe, Japan, 1961. Photograph by Lawrence Denny Lindsley, 1967. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division.

The 35-foot-tall pole depicted in the image to the right was carved by Hillaire in 1961 as a part of a two-pole project to call attention to the upcoming 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Kobe is Seattle’s sister city and the story pole was a goodwill gift meant to point out commonalties between the two cities, ease the memories of WWII, and promote trade between the U.S. and Japan. Hillaire’s approach is richly symbolic: two sisters grow closer as they acknowledge the things they share, like the salmon, mountains and sea, and the rising sun (Japan) and setting sun (Seattle). The monster blowing a dark cloud symbolizes the darkness of war, while the sun alludes to the hope of peace.

Images from Joseph Hillaire’s Trip to Kobe, Japan (1961)




Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems

Lummi artist Joseph Hillaire was commissioned to carve two story poles in connection with the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, we are remembering Hillaire’s contributions to the Century 21 Exposition in a series of weekly posts. Please check back each week or subscribe to our RSS to learn more about Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems. 

Top Photo: Hillaire carving the pole for Kobe, Japan, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 1961. Photograph by Harvey Davis. Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History and Industry.

Sarah Bergmann: The Birds and the Bees

It will be the most comfortable Birds and Bees conversation you’ll ever have…

All over the US, pollinating insects and other pollinators (big shout-out to birds and bats!), which are vital to the well being of plants, the diets of many animals, and almost 1/3 of the food we eat, are struggling to survive. The Western Honeybee, for example, has almost completely disappeared on the west coast despite its role in pollinating some of your favorite foods: tomatoes, avocados and even delectable summer snacks like cherries and blackberries!

With these vital insects compromised, one woman, one hero has emerged! In the face of this pollination crisis, Sarah Bergmann, an artist and ecological designer, has taken the challenge to design and plant a one-mile Pollinator Pathway through downtown Seattle. The pathway runs along Colombia Street beginning at Seattle University and finishing at Norah’s Woods. It is a series of normally grass sidewalk strips transformed into pollinator friendly gardens. The plots and pollinator specific plants are maintained by the local homeowners and with their help, these insect populations can flourish.

Sarah will be at the Olympic Sculpture Park every Saturday throughout this August and up until September 15th to talk more about her project, the plants, the pollinators, and what you can do to help. Come down and learn different ways that you can help protect these pollinators! The tours begin at 11am and continue on to the pathway itself.

Feel free to join in the conversation after your morning OSP yoga session ends at 11:30!

You can keep thinking Plants & Pollinators at

Summering at SAM

This summer, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of talented interns in the Curatorial division. Today, I share reflections from Sophia Green, whose project focused on background research for a future exhibition project.  -Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate

As an art history major at Middlebury College interested in the museum world, my decision to apply to SAM’s internship program was a no-brainer. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my summer than working in a museum with such a longstanding commitment to fine art in the Seattle community. Growing up in Seattle, I have many fond memories at SAM. Spanning over a decade, they began in elementary school when my first grade class lined up by the Hammering Man, waiting impatiently for the museum doors to open. Over the years, my family and I brought many out-of-town guests and family to the museum. As I grew into my own and truly adopted a passion for art, I visited the museum alone and explored the collections for hours. Upon receiving the internship, I was thrilled to add another experience to my SAM memory book.

During my time spent in the curatorial department of SAM, I worked primarily on a specific research assignment. I am certain that the research assignment strengthened my critical thinking and problem solving skills. I received a unique insight into the museum’s inner workings by performing odd jobs, such as making wall labels, cataloging books, and archiving images. In the curatorial wing, I was surrounded by SAM’s curators and staff who incredibly helpful and friendly. While incredibly busy, they always had time to say hello, answer any question I might have had, or offer me some delicious chocolate or exotic tea. During my time, I also attended a luncheon at the Asian Art Museum for all the interns and received a private tour of the permanent collections.

I greatly enjoyed my internship at the SAM and would readily recommend it. My internship was interesting, intellectually stimulating, and greatly informational. It was invaluable being surrounding by such bright, passionate people who are committed to the museum. It was also a treat to be located in downtown Seattle where I got to explore the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and cafes in Pike Place Market during my lunch breaks. The summer has flown by too quickly and I hope to stay involved with SAM for years to come.

Ruby Lhianna Smith: The Hidden Shadows of Cancer

Seattle Art Museum is proud to present the photographs of Ruby Lhianna Smith, who passed away in May of this spring.  After first gracing the walls at Gallery4Culture earlier this summer, we are honored to bring her inspiring work to the SAM. Today, twenty-eight of Smith’s black and white archival inkjet prints will be installed in our South Hall gallery and will remain there through September 9th. Said Ruby of her photography and her work, The Hidden Shadows of Cancer, “Cancer is a hidden disease. I have it right now even though you cannot see it—but it causes pain and makes me nauseous. It appears only as the shadows on an X-ray. Photography for me is a search for the shadows. An image that has no shadows is not very interesting; it’s the shadows that make photographs beautiful. I started this project as a way to show my classmates what it’s like to have cancer—but as the project has grown more people have become interested and now I am using photography to show the world the story of my experience.”

The show is free and donations made in Ruby’s name to The Seattle Children’s Hospital Fund go directly to The Therapeutic Play Fund, which supports art and music therapy at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

SAM Libraries Book Sale is August 25

Get ready for another exciting Seattle Art Museum Libraries Book Sale, August 25 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. We’ll have a pre-sale for SAM members and Wyckoff Teacher Resource Center Borrowers from 9–10 am, then the sale opens to the public at 10 am, ending at 3 pm (or whenever we run out of books).

To give you a taste of what we’ll be selling, SAM’s three librarians have selected these highlights:

New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century by Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1982).

This three-volume set has nearly 600 pages of fine, functional and decorative objects from early New England settlers. Objects are annotated descriptively, and include origin, dimensions, marks and provenance. A must-have for anyone interested in early Colonial history.

You can find used copies online beginning at $100 for a single volume, and upwards of $500 for the whole set. We are selling this set in very good condition for $50.

Michelangelo by Howard Hibbard (Harper & Row, 1985).

This great biography is left over from when the Museum hosted Michelangelo Public and Private: Drawings for the Sistine Chapel and other Treasures from the Casa Buonarroti back in 2009. It’s been a little loved and it has our library marks on it, but it’s in great condition and is still very readable. is currently selling a brand new copy of this book for $42. You can get it at our sale for $1. That’s a 97% discount.

The Japanese Courtyard Garden: Landscapes for Small Spaces by Kanto Shigemori (Weatherhill, 1981).

A Japanese courtyard garden is small private garden and intends to reflect the personality and sensitivities of the people who enjoy it every day. This book provides 75 full-color plates revealing Japanese courtyard gardens’ special features as well as their architectural plans and commentaries for both the gardens and the buildings that surround them.

This book is in great condition, almost like brand new. At Amazon, it is priced for $198.18 for new copy, and used copies are starting at $69.95. We are selling for $10!

The Coast Salish Peoples by Frank W. Porter III (Chelsea House, 1989).

A great overview of the tribes of the Coast Salish, this book was one of several copies in one of the TRC’s Outreach Suitcases that is being updated for the 2013 school year. Even though it’s been out in the classroom, this library binding edition is in great condition—no TRC library markings and only one “I Belong to SAM” sticker on the back cover.

New copies of this out of print book run for $42 on – we’re selling ours for $2!

We hope to see you there!
Learn more about the book sale.
Traci Timmons, Librarian
Yueh-Lin Chen, Associate Librarian
Anna Elam, TRC Librarian/Educator

Joseph Hillaire: Carver of the Century 21 Exposition Totem Pole

Joseph Raymond Kwul-kwul’tu Hillaire (1894–1967) was an artist, storyteller, performer, Native activist, and diplomat. When Joe Hillaire was born, lingering distrust permeated Native-White relations. Many of Joe’s totem poles were created as civic monuments and served to bridge cross-cultural understanding, as well as to project the rich Lummi oral traditions.

Hillaire’s monumental carvings are “story poles”—the deeds of ancestral heroes and their encounters with supernatural beings appearing on both sides of the pole. When Hillaire learned carving from his father at sixteen, Coast Salish totem pole carving was a recent practice. While this art form was adopted in shape and size from northern Native groups, it displayed more naturalistic figures (adapted from traditional interior house posts) and arranged them in narrative fashion.

In 1961, Hillaire was commissioned to create two totem poles for the Seattle World’s Fair celebration, one to tour the United States to promote the Fair (and the unique heritage of the Northwest) and one for Seattle’s sister city, Kobe, Japan. The Land in the Sky Pole—which tells the story of the adventures of two brothers who enter the sky worldtraveled to 300 cities and towns before it was returned to Seattle for the April 21, 1962 opening of the Exposition. By the time it was completed the sixty-six year-old Hillaire having carved on it in twenty-five states! The Land in the Sky Pole was never erected at the Seattle Center but stood near Chief Seattle’s grave on the Suquamish reservation from 1963 until 2005, when it was deemed unsafe and taken down, and returned to his ancestral home, the Lummi reservation near Bellingham, WA.

Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems

Lummi artist Joseph Hillaire was commissioned to carve two story poles in connection with the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, we are remembering Hillaire’s contributions to the Century 21 Exposition in a series of weekly posts, starting this week! Please check back each week or subscribe to our RSS to learn more about Joseph Hillaire and the Saga of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Totems.

Hillaire and grandson, Ernie Lewis, 1950s. Photograph courtesy of Pauline Hillaire.

Seattle Magazine: Let the Good Wines Flow!

This August 1st, Seattle Magazine is hosting Red, White & Brew, an evening filled with 2012’s top local Wines and Brews as featured in Seattle Magazine’s upcoming August issue. Come one and come all and let the good wines flow as you taste the Best Washington has to offer! This groovy eve is to be held at the Olympic Sculpture Park will benefit SAM. Enhance your palate’s journey with TASTE, Oil & Vinegar, and then Belle Epicurean as they provide delicious appetizers, snacks, and sweets along the way. The horn sounds at 6:30, (just kidding, there is no horn…) so be there, or be square.Tickets are available online here for $35.

No need for young rebels, 21 and older please. The event will be held in PACCAR Pavilion and ends around 9pm.

Arrange safe transport and we hope to see you there!

Yogi SAM Wants You!

Thanks to Yogi Bhajan’s journey to the USA back in 1969, Yoga has ventured from ancient India and in to your very own Olympic Sculpture Park! The chance to become a Saturday Yogi (yoga-do-er) is upon us! Every Saturday morning through the end of August, join fellow Seattleites and Terilyn Wyre on a journey as you assume the Warrior II, Half Moon, Royal Pigeon and Thunderbolt amongst other physically enlightening poses. If you’re lucky enough you might experience great self transformation while in Bharadvaja’s Twist or Distinguished Hero… Spiritual serenity and improved self-awareness are on the morning’s menu, all while you wave goodbye to your timber-limber (that’s not very limber…) self!

These classes suit all levels; so if your flexibility rivals mine, don’t worry about struggling through body-bending and mind-blowing poses designed for rubber bands and silly-putty. Please bring your own stylish mat and arrive 15 minutes early to sign in. Classes meet at the Olympic Sculpture Park’s Amphitheater from 10:30 to 11:30 and if it dares to rain on your yoga-day, classes will move into the adjacent Pavilion to render mother nature offenseless through the power of Patanjali and his Yoga Sutras (and also a functional roof…)!

Come down and stretch it out this Saturday!

Keep it Flexi,

-Yogi SAM

SAM Art: Herbert Vogel, in memoriam

Over the course of four decades, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel built a collection of American and international contemporary art, often creating lasting relationships with the artists. They did this on salaries of a librarian (Dorothy) and a postal worker (Herbert, who passed away this Sunday, 22 July, 2012)

Their extraordinary collection was committed to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and in 2008, in partnership with the National Gallery, the Vogels donated a portion of this collection—2500 works—to one museum in each of the fifty states. The Seattle Art Museum was selected by the Vogels to represent Washington state, and is now home to works by such internationally recognized artists as Tony Smith, Robert Mangold, Sol LeWitt, and Richard Tuttle.

Yellow Bird, 1971, Tony Smith (American, 1912-1980), heavy-weight paper, adhesive, paint, 6 1/4 x 9 x 3 3/4in., The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, 2008.29.33, Photo: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, © Tony Smith Estate. Currently on view in the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

Gardner Center’s Friday Night Movies in the Park

Starting the weekend off right with some time for relaxation, Bollywood action and natural inspiration is no problem this summer. On Friday nights through August 3rd, dawn your Snuggies, stuff your pillows, ferment your fruits or malted barley and harvest your picnic goodies in preparation for an 8:30 journey to Volunteer Park. Enjoy Bollywood music and a sunset picnic alongside carefully selected company. Important Notice: Cuddling is A-Okay!

Beginning just as darkness arrives, the Gardner Center is partnering with Tasveer to bring you a Friday night of Bollywood Film under the stars or clouds or whatever shows up to the Volunteer Park Amphitheater. One night, you might see the 1977 classic Shatranj Ke Khilari, a film about two men engrossed in their chess match amidst British attempts to annex the kingdom of Awadh, while on another it might be Band Baaja Baaraat, a 2010 film about two Wedding Planners who enjoy a successful business partnership until feelings interfere. There is something especially appreciable about outdoor movies, especially in such a pleasant natural medium like good old Volunteer park. Although nine months a year we wouldn’t dare watch a movie OUTSIDE!?!? in Seattle, summer is our time to do it. Despite the 99.99% certainty that it’s going to be a perfect night every time; we acknowledge the weather MIGHT not cooperate with such lofty predictions. That being said, we Seattleites are adept at adapting whenever summer-chills come our way, so make your plans fearlessly. Worst case, enjoy watching the movie inside of the Stimson Auditorium, bundled in all of your comfort devices.  There is a no-judgment policy on indoor Snuggie use…

If you’re left wanting more when the Bollywood fun runs out, head down to Cal-Anderson Park on Fridays through the remainder of August for more outdoor movie action!

So remember: Friday nights at Volunteer Park Amphitheatre, the music starts at 8:45 and the movie begins at dark (9:30ish). It is a grand occasion, ’nuff said!

Click here for specific movie information or schedules.

See you Friday!


SAM Art: Bahram Gur, and one of his seven pavilions

In this scene, King Bahram Gur has won the hand of seven beautiful princesses from seven distinct lands. They each entertain the great king on successive days, ensconced in different pavilions, dressed in different colors, all with different lessons for the king. Depicted here, after spending a day with each of his other six consorts, Bahram Gur visits Diroste, the daughter of a Persian king and mistress of the White Pavilion on Friday, the final day of the week. Teaching the king perhaps his most important lessons, Diroste tells of the attraction of passion, and the redemption of virtue.

The 12th-century poet Nizami is famous for setting down in writing the great folk histories of Persia. This scene is drawn from the Haft Paykar (“Seven Beauties”), one of the sections of Nizami’s Khamsa (“Quintet”). The Haft Paykar records the rise to power of the Sasanian king Bahram Gur, while also serving as a fable of love and morality.

Bahram Gur in the White Pavilion (detail), mid-16th century, Persian (modern Iran), Safavid period (1501–1722), opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, 9 3/16 x 5 7/16 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.16, Photo: Marta Pinto-Llorca. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Announces New Director

We are thrilled to report that, this morning, the Chairman of the Board of SAM announced the selection of Kimerly Rorschach as the next Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director of the Seattle Art Museum.Since 2004 Kim has been the Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and we look forward to fall 2012 when she will formally begin her work at SAM.

In making the announcement, Charles Wright, Chairman of the Board said, “We feel fortunate to be bringing a new arts leader of such caliber to Seattle. Kim’s engagement with national and global arts issues, along with her combined experience in scholarship, business management and community engagement will benefit SAM and the wider community immeasurably and strengthen the city’s reputation as a national leader in the arts.”

Click here for more information about Kim.

We hope you will join us in welcoming Kim Rorschach and her husband this fall. Watch this space for more information about her start date and when you will have the chance to meet her yourself.

Congratulations SAM Design Team!

Our talented designers won quite a few awards from the 2012 AAM Museum Publications Design Competition.


1st Prize
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth Wheatpaste Series
Designed by: Matthew Renton, Rebecca Guss, Stephanie Battershell & Michele Bury

2nd Prize
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Luminous: The Art of Asia
Designed by: Matthew Renton, Rebecca Guss, Stephanie Battershell & Michele Bury

Invitations to Events:

Honorable Mention
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth Invitations
Designed by: Matthew Renton, Rebecca Guss, Stephanie Battershell & Michele Bury

Marketing/Public Relations Materials:

1st Prize
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Beauty & Bounty Ad Campaign
Designed by: Matthew Renton, Rebecca Guss, Stephanie Battershell & Michele Bury

Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth Ad Campaign
Designed by: Matthew Renton, Rebecca Guss, Stephanie Battershell & Michele Bury

Summer Introductions at SAM Gallery

 I come at painting from the wrong way around. I do not set out to illustrate anything – not an object, a scene, nor an idea. The painting is a record of events in the studio and of experiments both intuitive and calculated – with color, with the physical properties of paint on a surface, and with random shapes and gestures. Throughout most of the process, the subject of the painting is the painting itself. Marks, colors, and shapes accumulate, are modified, are erased by abrasion or layering, are consolidated and connected to one another. Over time a working surface is built, destroyed, and rebuilt.

During the process, as work continues, glimpses of subject matter beyond the canvas begin to appear. Relationships and connections develop between what happens on the canvas and personal memories of dreams, events, and landscapes. The painting moves from an inchoate assemblage of visual elements to “something resembling something,” however abstract. Relationships are built, strengthened, diminished, redrawn.

JoEllyn Loehr, Tumbling Dice, oil on panel

 Within this seemingly random process, there are themes and patterns that recur. The image is oriented to the edges of the canvas. The surface constitutes a shallow field of space established by variations in transparency and intensity. The color black is important to the overall visual structure. There is a balance between finished and raw, dull and bright, areas of gestural activity and areas of calm, between grace and awkwardness.


JoEllyn Loerh, Sauseebe 2, oil on panel

Over time I have realized that the paintings echo similarities in structure that can be perceived over vast differences in scale: from microscopic views of insect wings, to geological processes in land formations, and even to hypotheses about the ordering of matter in the cosmos. These structures then are ultimately the subject matter, arrived at more viscerally than intellectually, through the process of painting itself.

 -JoEllyn Loehr

Come see artwork by artists JoEllyn Loehr, Katie Anderson, Leif Anderson, Patti Bowman, Betty Jo Costanzo, David Owen Hastings, Rafael Soldi, Bradley Taylor, and June Sekiguchi in our Summer Introductions exhibition opening Thursday, July 19, 2012.

Join us for the Opening Reception
Thursday, July 19,  from 5 – 7pm

Exhibiton through August 18, 2012

SAM Gallery
1220 3rd Ave
Seattle WA

 206 343 1101

Top photo: JoEllyn Loehr, Steens, oil on panel

Words on Water: Indian Writers in Conversation

After outstanding conversations last summer, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas is once again teaming up with Elliott Bay Book Company and Teamwork Productions of Delhi, India to provide two stimulating evenings of discussion in Volunteer Park. Each night, writers from India engage in dialogue with local writers of Indian origin.

Tonight- Wednesday July 11th, from 6:30 to 9  join M.J. Akbar, an acclaimed journalist and the Editiorial Director of India Today as he shares his views on the subcontinent and his life as a journalist alongside fellow journalist Shiraz Sidhva. There will be time for discussion with the audience following their discussion.

Tomorrow Night- Thursday July 12th, from 6:30 to 9 enjoy first Nayanjot Lahiri, a Professor of History at the University of Delhi and author of The Decline and Fall of the Indus Civilization and Finding Forgotten Cities as he is joined for discussion by Vikram Prakash, Professor of Architecture at the UW. Next, Urvashi Butalia, the co-founder of India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, will discuss India’s partition and more with Sonora Jha, an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Seattle University.

Both evenings will be held in Stimson Auditorium and tickets ($7 members, $12 non-members) include Chai break and light refreshments.

We hope to see you there!


-Seattle Asian Art Museum

Opening Night: GET OUT! Summer at SAM

It has been said that when you snooze you lose! So please, trust these words and don’t miss out on good-fun tomorrow night, July 12th, at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Come by from 5-8 and let your evenings’ actions be that of artistically inspired whim- make an Australian Aboriginal Bike Reflector with local artist Elizabeth Humphrey or draw all-over, all-evening (we’ll provide materials) while you enjoy the groovy Brazilian carnival vibe as Eduardo Mendonça’s Show Brazil! and the VamoLá Drum & Dance Ensemble make it hop-nd-pop in the sunshine! At 6:30, join forces with Seattle artist Susan Robb to form a Haiku-Cru (crew) as you tour different landscapes in the Sculpture Park and collectively concoct OSP inspired Haikus. Of course, all of said enjoyable activities would work even-mo-BETTA with an assortment of Seattle’s best food trucks and wines as well as SAM’s delicious Taste Restaurant. To get even more JAZZED about Thursday night, visit or to find the mood for food!

So please join us from 5-8. Bring an empty belly and a smile and beautiful Seattle will do the rest!

We can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

Art Around Us: Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney

A video with fascinating excerpts from Kusama: Princess of Polka Dots, featuring Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Her current show, organized by the Tate Modern Museum in London, will open at the Whitney Museum of American Art July 12th. Some of her work will come to SAM this fall as a part of the Elles exhibition.

Visit for more information on the July 12th opening.

SAM Art: A Box, some sounds, and a lecture

A member of New York’s avant-garde in the early 1960s, Robert Morris famously experimented with the perceptual and intellectual issues that fueled Minimalism and Conceptual art.  He rebelled against the notion of the artwork as a precious, handcrafted original object, arguing that art could also be the embodiment of the idea from which it was conceived.  Box with the Sound of Its Own Making was a landmark work: A small cube assembled from walnut boards, containing a recording that allows viewers to hear the piece being constructed.  The viewer looks at a completed product and hears the process of its making. 


Jonathan Monk has been active on the international contemporary art scene since the early 1990s. His recent practice has primarily focused on reinterpreting the avant-garde of the 1960s. Often taking iconic works of Conceptual, Minimal, and Pop art as his starting points, his work makes playful commentary on the ideas that defined a previous generation while simultaneously attempting to pin down the values of our own. The Sound of Music makes a direct connection with one of the most celebrated works within the Seattle Art Museum’s collection, Robert Morris’ seminal Box with the Sound of its Own Making.

One innocent-looking box and how it changed the course of art—Robert Morris: Box with the Sound of Its Own Makingwith Catharina Manchanda
Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
7–9 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown

The Sound of Music ( A record with the sound of its own making*), 2007, Jonathan Monk (English, born 1969), record, silkscreen print on paper, and black and white photograph, each element: 12 x 12 in., Gift of Virginia and Bagley Wright, 2008.8. © Jonathan Monk. Not currently on view.

SAM Art: An American image

There are innumerable ways to be “American,” and artist Abe Blashko explored many of those routes in his Social Realist drawings.

The Great Depression, fascism in Europe, America’s entry into world war—the dark forces that changed the western world forever in the decade from 1930 to 1940—upended America’s art establishment as artists channeled moral outrage into a new sense of social purpose. Social Realism is a term traditionally applied to the work of these artist activists who chose to express themselves in a style that forcefully conveyed human suffering and moral character. But realism is an inadequate description, for these artists filtered reality through the imagination and even modeled their satirical statements on the most expressive art of the past. Their subjects might be the common man and woman, but their portrayals are sophisticated and startling exaggerations, personifications of the forces of good and evil within all of us as individuals and as a society.

Street Corner, 1939, Abe Blashko (American, 1920–2011), lithographic crayon on cream-colored heavy weight wove paper, 19 7/8 x 13 1/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 40.63, © Abe Blashko. Currently on view in the American Art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Egyptian Art Friday

SAM is honored to welcome Dr. Sarah L. Ketchley, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington. Dr. Ketchley is also currently undertaking research on SAM’s collection of Egyptian art. This is the first of several blog posts she will be writing.

Memorial Day Weekend heralded the much-anticipated return to Seattle of selected treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun in an exhibition running through January 2013. SAM hosted the exhibit when it visited Seattle in 1962 and again in 1978; this year Tutankhamun: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs will be on display at the Pacific Science Center in time to celebrate Seattle Center’s 50th anniversary.  Although the famous golden funerary mask no longer leaves Egypt, this year’s touring exhibit features a number of iconic artifacts from Tut’s tomb, as well as a wide range of artwork from all periods of Egypt’s ancient history.  What many exhibit visitors may not realize is that SAM downtown has a collection of Egyptian artwork permanently on display. In keeping with the “Tutmania” sweeping the city, over the next few months SAMart will showcase a selection of ancient Egyptian art.

This first piece comes originally from the tomb of Montuemhet (TT34), which is situated on the West Bank of the Nile opposite ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) in an area known as the Asasif.   Montuemhet was the most influential administrator in this region during the period ca. 680 – 648 BC (straddling the reign of Taharqa at the end of the Kushite Twenty-fifth Dynasty, the sack of Thebes by the Assyrians and the reign of Psammetichus I of the Saite Twenty-sixth Dynasty). While a number of statues portraying him are preserved, his tomb is without doubt his most impressive legacy.  The practice of constructing large individual tombs with complex schemes of decoration underwent a remarkable revival at Thebes during this period, some four hundred years after its virtual abandonment. Montuemhet’s tomb is one of the largest built during this time; its mud brick pylons remain a distinctive landmark on the Asasif plateau even today. The extensive substructure includes two sunken courts, one with a series of ten chapels leading off of it, and a large number of underground rock-cut rooms, almost all of which have carved decoration and texts.

The SAM Montuemhet relief is a fine example of sunk carving on a limestone block.  The tomb owner sits with one of his three wives, Shepenmut (also seen as “Shepetenmut”), the remains of three columns of hieroglyphs above their heads. There are traces of original paint and vertical chisel marks on the piece (the latter was common in tomb decoration from this period in Thebes). The tomb owner’s shoulder-length wig has long curls hanging in vertical rows, and he wears a plain collar and a sash with a knotted fastener on his left shoulder. Traces of paint on his chest in the form of small rosettes indicate that he originally wore the priestly leopard skin. His near arm would have been held over his lap, his far arm held outwards towards an offering table (now lost). The wife wears a dress with knotted straps leaving her breast exposed, a small plain collar and a long striated wig.

Stylistically, this fragment recalls relief work from the Old Kingdom, some two thousand years earlier.  The deliberate harking back to a period in the distant past perceived of as ‘classical’ is one of the characteristic and distinctive features of tomb art from the Saite Period; and can perhaps be explained by a desire to reinforce Egyptian patriotic sentiment after a period of foreign occupation.  That the Saite artist added a few new stylistic twists of his own makes this artwork quite unique and compelling.

Relief of Montuemhet and his wife Shepenmut, ca. 665 B.C., Egyptian, Luxor, tomb 34, pigment on limestone, 13 9/16 x 10 7/16 in., Bequest of Archibald Stewart and Emma Collins Downey, 53.80. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.