SAM Celebrates Pride: Between Rabbit and Fox

In honor of Pride Month, SAM Blog features reflections by SAM voices on collection artworks 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. Check out more Pride-related content on SAM Blog, including another object spotlight and a list of queer film recommendations curated by SAM’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group.

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972) foregrounds his Indigenous, queer identity in his artwork, often with bold colors and materials that make his personal history and intentions undeniable. As Gibson has noted in many of his interviews, he celebrates a state of “in-between-ness”: between cultures, between aesthetics, and between normative gender expectations.1

Gibson is also in-between in a few places at SAM—Gibson’s 2017 work, Between Rabbit and Fox, is on view on the third floor, in the space between the modern and contemporary galleries and American Art: The Stories We Carry. 

This large abstract painting on canvas depicts a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors, refracted in a vibrant pattern. Although at first the painting seems like a smooth solid surface, its raised lines cut through different shapes and shimmery paints in the center to reveal the texture of the canvas. Looking closely, every diagonal is intentional, forming more and more triangles, and they create the effect of overlapping pieces and colors that change as they are layered.

As a painter, Gibson draws upon the major art historical movements of modernism and abstraction that explored minimalism and color theory, including the work of Josef Albers, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Al Held, and Barnett Newman, all of whose works are in SAM’s collection.

Yet abstraction has long been a part of Native American artistic traditions as well, adorning many types of functional and cultural objects, such as Navajo textiles and Osage ribbonwork.2 Between Rabbit and Fox also references Gibson’s own earlier abstract paintings on hide, where he directly connected abstraction to Indigenous history by painting upon this culturally significant material. In the same room as Between Rabbit and Fox, you can see contemporary Tlingit/Unangax artist Nicholas Galanin’s work on deer hide, Architecture of return, escape (The British Museum) (2022).

Gibson grew up in Germany and South Korea, among other places with his father’s military assignments, but came back to the US to attend the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, for his BFA, and then the Royal College of Art, London for his MA in painting. While growing up abroad, he felt he was treated as an “American,” but back at home in the US, he was seen only as Native American.3

Gibson is of Choctaw and Cherokee lineage, but didn’t grow up on a reservation. Many Americans he encountered had assumptions about a monolithic Native American culture and artistic aesthetic. Facing these reductive stereotypes, Gibson felt limited by this necessity to explain Native American art and concepts to an unaware audience, but also wanted to make work that reflected his identity. He found there was even less acceptance for a queer Indigenous man and artist.4

Instead of trying to avoid representing these identities in his art, Gibson came to a realization that he needed to incorporate them all and create a new path for himself in the art world. Around 2011, Gibson began reaching out to other Native American communities to learn about and collaborate on artworks that involved beadwork and drum making.5 He chose to use these techniques and make works on animal hide rather than on canvas, and he incorporated text and pop culture references to make his messages more visible.

Gibson’s work often addresses US history and the government’s failings toward Native Americans as well as queer communities. His other work in SAM’s collection, IF I RULED THE WORLD (2018), is a repurposed punching bag covered with beading, fringe, and metal jingles, and embedded with the title of a song by the rapper Nas. Here, Gibson also uses abstract geometric decoration with bands of primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) interrupted by black triangles.

The punching bag evokes physical action and even a sense of violent masculinity, which is immediately undercut by the delicate and detailed ornamentation that Gibson applies. He questions gender identity by using techniques like beading that are associated with women makers, as well as integrating quotes from queer club and music scenes and performing in gender-bending costumes he designs. Combining popular culture, canonical art influences, and Indigenous art forms and materials, Gibson has forged a new way forward that combines his identities with activism. The Seattle Art Museum exhibited a survey show of Gibson’s work in 2018, LIKE A HAMMER, and this year, Gibson was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, one of the largest and oldest international art fairs. Gibson’s presentation, the space in which to place me, was the first solo show by a Native American artist at the prestigious event. With this platform, Gibson has brought his queer, Indigenous identity to the forefront, raising issues and history that his communities and all of us have to face in making a more just world.

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

1  “Innovation and Tradition: Jeffrey Gibson Interviewed by Emily Zimmerman,” Bomb Magazine, May 6, 2019, https://bombmagazine.org/articles/innovation-and-tradition-jeffrey-gibson-interviewed.
2 John P. Lukavic, “What Should Have Been, What Is, and What Will Be,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; p. 29.
3 David Pagel, “Jeffrey Gibson: American. Native American. Gay. An artist’s life outside labels,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-jeffrey-gibson-20171007-htmlstory.html.
4 “Material & Identity Merge in Jeffrey Gibson’s ‘Like A Hammer’ at Seattle Art Museum.” YouTube January 31, 2019. https://youtu.be/-RrqDSZKtLQ?si=1NN66Iigx6HO0685.
5 Anne Ellegood. “Jeffrey Gibson: Critical Exuberance,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; pp. 83-84.


Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

Sat Jun 22
Youth Pride Disco
Break out your disco wear for this LGBTQIA+ Pride party, planned for and organized by LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 22! Join us for drag performances, great music, friend-making activities, food and soft drinks, a quiet room, and more.

Through Sun Jun 23
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales: Together Again, Again!
Experience the comedy, music, and saucy stylings of two of the Pacific Northwest’s standout drag entertainers, in this wildly hilarious extravaganza set in an apocalyptic future. Check the event calendar for information about performances for teens, ASL interpretation, captions, and masking.

Fri Jun 28
Trans Pride Seattle 2024
Started in 2013, Trans Pride Seattle is an annual event organized by Gender Justice League. Visit the Volunteer Park Amphitheater from 5 to 10 pm for live music, community speakers, performances, and a resource fair all dedicated to increased visibility, connection, and love of the Seattle-area TwoSpirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse (2STGD) community.

Sat Jun 29
PrideFest Capitol Hill
Spanning six blocks of Broadway and Cal Anderson Park, this all-day market features queer local businesses, beer gardens, family and youth programming, and three stages with an unforgettable lineup of live performances.

Sun Jun 30
Seattle Pride Parade
Spend the final day of June by taking part in the 50th annual Pride Parade led by grand marshals Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. Then, head over to Seattle Center for the can’t-miss performances, hundreds of acts, beer gardens, food vendors, a new family area—and dancing in the iconic International Fountain.

Visit the official Seattle Pride website for even more suggested events.

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Circus-Themed Prints

Throughout the 1920s, Alexander Calder worked as an illustrator for the National Police Gazette. On one assignment, Calder was tasked with visiting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus life. The experience led to a newfound interest for the circus.

A series of seven lithographs on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM demonstrate Calder’s lifelong fascination with the circus. Originally drawn in 1931–32, the prints were published in New York in 1964 as part of an unbound portfolio reproducing the artist’s circus scenes. The portfolio, titled Calder’s Circus, includes a signature page by Cleve Gray and a reproduction of a letter from Joan Miró. Notably, the original line drawings were made during a time of transition for the artist: after his performative Cirque Calder (1926–31) and during his exploration of purely abstract forms—as well as voids and volumes—in his mobiles and stabiles.

On the eleventh stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz explains why Calder considered the circus to be a ‘highly sophisticated form of entertainment’ and shares details of the artist’s famous Cirque Calder. Listen at any time via our SoundCloud or, if you’re in SAM’s galleries, scan the QR codes next to select artworks on view to access the tour.

Group of Circus-Themed Prints, 1931–32, 1964

NARRATOR: These offset lithographs date from 1964; but they’re based on drawings that Calder made as a young man. 

During the 1920s, Calder took a job illustrating for the National Police Gazette. They sent him to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus scenes. The circus became a lifelong interest for Calder. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: During Calder’s youth, the circus was a great point of inspiration for him. This was a highly sophisticated form of entertainment. It had a global appeal. It included performative aspects—larger than life theatricality. It included actors, performers, and animals. And he illustrated this. He even went on to make his Cirque Calder, which was his own representation of a performative, sculptural circus that he himself was sort of the ringmaster of.  

NARRATOR: The Cirque Calder dates from after Calder’s move to Paris in 1926. It was a complex and unique body of art, and included tiny performers, animals and props such as he’d observed on his sketching trips to the circus. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Cirque Calder was a reenacted performative circus made of small figurines and design sets that mimic the circus. The Cirque Calder was something that was small enough to fit in one suitcase and eventually five, and Calder would perform the Cirque Calder across the Atlantic from Paris to New York. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Little Yellow Panel

Although it was never publicly exhibited in his lifetime, Little Yellow Panel exemplifies Alexander Calder’s desire to create “paintings in motion.” This exotic wall sculpture’s origin can actually be traced to a significant moment in Calder’s development that inspired him to experiment with movement: his visit to the studio of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in October 1930.

The artist recalled being impressed not by Mondrian’s paintings but by the environmental space of his studio: “Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.’” 

In the wake of his visit, Calder began to work in the abstract. Beginning the following year, he explored the frontal formality of painting in three dimensions but with actual motion—elements in oscillation—usually by way of simple motors. Eventually, he experimented more freely with the possibilities of movement, suspending elements to be activated by air within wood frames or in front of panels made of painted plywood. Little Yellow Panel showcases how Calder ingeniously blurred the lines between painting and sculpture to reflect a choreography of nonobjective imagery.

Supplement your visit to Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM and learn more about Little Yellow Panel by tuning in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Access it now on our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to select works on view when exploring the museum’s galleries.

Little Yellow Panel, ca. 1936

NARRATOR: Little Yellow Panel is part of a series of works from the mid-1930s that explored the concept of ‘paintings in motion.’ The work blurs the lines between painting and sculpture: viewed from the front, its various elements appear to be positioned against a defined yellow background. But these elements can be moved around—so the composition changes. Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: What I like about it is that it’s perfect. It’s a perfect piece. Where the colors show up: they’re placed perfectly with just the right amount of randomness. It’s ironic. It’s calling upon all these different things. It captures, you know, an entrance into a more minimal thought of color and form. And it also holds his curiosity. And this really feels kind of like a pivotal moment of clarity.

NARRATOR: This was an intense period of innovation for Calder. In 1930, he visited the Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian. Calder was excited by the way the older artist had arranged his studio: Mondrian had pinned rectangles of colored cardboard to the walls, as he experimented with different compositions. For Calder, the whole space became an installation.

Following this visit, he made his first wholly abstract compositions. It was also at this time that he invented the kinetic sculptures we know as mobiles. It was his friend the French artist Marcel Duchamp who suggested the term. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He suggested it because in French the word mobile: it refers not only to motion, but it also means your motivation or your motive—Calder’s motivation, Calder’s motions, Calder’s motives. It was like that. It was a pun.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: The Vanishing American

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

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

The Vanishing American, 1994

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

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

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

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

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

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Untitled (Kalispell)

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

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

Untitled (Kalispell), 1978

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

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

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

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

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Indian Madonna Enthroned

As visitors enter the galleries of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, they’re greeted by the life-size sculpture of a seated woman with an American flag draped over her lap. She is Indian Madonna Enthroned (1974).

With long braids, a thicket of beaded necklaces, a wool shawl, pheasant feathers, and beaded moccasins, she is a representation of the contemporary Native experience, encompassing all of its tender beliefs and violent histories. Embedded in her chest, where her heart should be, is corn. Just behind her, a hide piece is marked “Property of BIA,” signifying the colonial governmental agency established to control Indigenous people and which is now a part of the Department of the Interior. Meanwhile, in her feathered hands, the Madonna demonstrates a sign of resistance by holding activist Vine Deloria Jr.’s God is Red, a 1972 study of Native spiritual practices.

Indian Madonna Enthroned is the subject of the third stop on the free smartphone tour of Memory Map. Produced by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the recording features Smith’s son and fellow artist Neal Ambrose-Smith—who helped restore the sculpture after many years spent in storage—discussing the significance of this work and the American flag draped along its lap. Tune in now to learn more about this Madonna!

Memory Map is now on view at SAM! Throughout the run of the exhibition, we’ll be sharing insight from the exhibition’s free smartphone tour to provide additional information about many of the works on view that can’t be found in the galleries. To access all 19 stops on the tour, scan the QR code next to select artworks on view or browse our SoundCloud on your own time.

Indian Madonna Enthroned, 1974

NARRATOR: Take a moment to look at the materials Smith used in this early sculpture, which she called Indian Madonna Enthroned. She has corn at her heart, and pheasant wings for hands. She holds a book by the Standing Rock Sioux writer Vine Deloria, which contrasts Christianity to Native religions, with their focus on the interconnectedness of all living things. While these elements suggest the figure’s connection to nature, other aspects of the work point to the ways she’s constrained by colonial forces.

Her face is literally framed. If you walk around to the back of the sculpture, you’ll see that her child also appears in a frame. Look closely at the hide behind the figure’s head on the frame of the chair, and you’ll see that Smith has stenciled on the words “Property of the BIA”—or Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Smith often collaborates with her son, the artist Neal Ambrose-Smith, who restored parts of this sculpture after many years in storage. He’s talked about the flag on the Madonna’s lap, and its symbolic complexities for Native Americans.

NEAL AMBROSE-SMITH: Many people have different identities regarding flag and flag etiquette and things that are connected to that, like war, for instance, which traditionally is the most documented way of documenting history. When we talk about history, it’s always like every 200 years because there’s a war connected to it or something. In Native identity, we talk about history through the land, and so it goes back 10,000 years, it goes back 40,000 years. We talk about the glaciers, we talk about the winds and the trees and how we’re connected to all that, and so I think for me, that aspect of that flag really brings a lot of those things together.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Introduction

“It’s that maybe [my art] will start to crack this whole issue of Native Americans being invisible. Being Indigenous in making art means that you’re looking at the world through lenses that are curved or changed by your upbringing and by your worldview.”

– Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Welcome to the world of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith! With Memory Map now on view at SAM, we’ll be sharing excerpts from the exhibition’s free smartphone tour throughout its run in Seattle. Produced by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the tour is accessible via our SoundCloud or through your own device by scanning the QR code next to select works on view in the galleries. Verbal descriptions of some of the artworks on view are also available for low/no vision visitors.

The tour’s first stop introduces listeners to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and the many themes her artwork explores. It also introduces listeners to the guest artists featured throughout the tour, including Neal Ambrose-Smith, Andrea Carlson, Jeffrey Gibson, G. Peter Jemison, Josie Lopez, and Marie Watt. Tune in now!

Memory Map Introduction

NARRATOR: Welcome to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map. Together we’ll explore five decades of Smith’s career, looking at paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: Most people will never have heard of me. And that’s not off-putting.

NARRATOR: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith:

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: It’s that maybe it will start to crack this whole issue of Native Americans being invisible. Being Indigenous in making art means that you’re looking at the world through lenses that are curved or changed by your upbringing and by your worldview. 

NARRATOR: For Smith, who is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, that worldview first began to form in the Pacific Northwest and western Montana. Today, Smith lives and works in New Mexico. Throughout her life and work, she has underscored the importance of the land and of Indigenous communities. As we move through the exhibition, we’ll look at the ways in which Smith addresses the traumas of Native American people with rigor, inventiveness, and critical humor. 

You can use this guide to explore the works in any order you wish. As you go, you’ll be hearing not only from Smith but from writers and other artists including Neal Ambrose-Smith, Andrea Carlson, Jeffrey Gibson, G. Peter Jemison, Josie Lopez, and Marie Watt. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Celebrate Black History Month With Five Artworks by Black Artists on View at SAM

Every February, the United States recognizes Black History Month with a specific theme. In 2024, the theme is African Americans and the Arts.

African American art is intricately woven with influences from Africa, the Caribbean, and the lived experiences of Black Americans. In celebration of the rich history of Black Americans in the arts, we’re reflecting on five artworks by historical and contemporary Black artists in the museum’s collection which visitors can currently see in our galleries. Plus, scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about a few ways you can celebrate Black History Month this February and all year long!


Mitchell’s Point Looking Down the Columbia, 1887
Grafton Tyler Brown

Grafton Tyler Brown (1841–1918) was one of only a few Black Americans who made a living as an artist before the 20th century, first as a topographic artist and a lithographer and later as a landscape painter. Brown’s parents were freedmen living in Pennsylvania, but Brown decided to move West for greater freedom and opportunities in the 1850s, as many African Americans did. In the 1880s and 1890s, Brown traveled around the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, painting and selling images of his surroundings. This serene scene of the Columbia River, titled Mitchell’s Point Looking Down the Columbia and on view in American Art: The Stories We Carry, depicts smooth, reflective water framed by rocky cliffs, rolling hills with patches of trees, and distant mountains. The few Native American figures situated in the foreground serve more as indications of the remote-ness of this place, rather than detailed observations of particular Indigenous peoples.

Gwendolyn Knight, 1934–35
Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage (1892–1962) studied sculpture in New York and Paris before opening her own art school in Harlem, New York in 1931. She was devoted to sharing her skills and resources with her students and mentored many young Black artists including Gwendolyn Knight, depicted here, and Knight’s husband Jacob Lawrence, both of whom would later live in Seattle. This portrait depicts Knight in her early twenties with careful attention paid to her facial features and gracefully pulled up hair. Savage gifted this portrait bust to Knight, which she kept until her death in 2005 and bequeathed to the Seattle Art Museum, allowing this rare and fragile plaster work to survive while many of Savage’s other works did not. You can learn more about this bust and Augusta Savage’s artistic career in this 2016 SAM Object of the Week blog post and take an up-close look at  its intricate sculpted details in American Art: The Stories We Carry.

Wounded Eagle No. 10, 1963
James Washington Jr.

James Washington Jr. (1908–2000) saw his animal sculptures as deeply symbolic and resonant with his spiritual beliefs. Born the son of a Baptist minister in Mississippi, he brought these beliefs with him when he moved to the Seattle area in 1941 for a job at the Bremerton Navy Yard. He felt that God was guiding him in his life and as an artist, calling him to create images that would communicate universality and truth about the world. His animal sculptures, such as Wounded Eagle No. 10 on view in Remember the Rain, showcase his close observations of the natural world, as well as his understanding of line, form, and medium. Washington was active in the arts community in the Northwest, taking classes at the University of Washington, exhibiting his work often, forming relationships with artists including Mark Tobey, Kenjiro Nomura, and George Tsutakawa, among many others, and starting a foundation for art scholarships.

In Case of Fire and In Case of Flood, 2014
Barbara Earl Thomas

In a striking and jarring confusion of black and white lines, Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas (born 1948) illustrates two related themes in this pair of linocut prints titled In Case of Fire and In Case of Flood on view in Remember the Rain. These scenes of people dealing with apocalyptic disasters—fire and flood—draw from Biblical sources, but also from folklore, literature, and Thomas’s own family history and experiences. Rather than creating scenes of pure fantasy, Thomas describes her work as chronicling real narratives from the past and our present day, compelled by the economic and racial inequity she witnesses. In a 2019 SAM Object of the Week blog post, Thomas was quoted as saying: “It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in the midst of the chaos.” Thomas was a student of Jacob Lawrence at the University of Washington, who himself was taught by Augusta Savage, exemplifying a legacy of socially engaged and community-oriented artists.

Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7, 1997
Glenn Ligon

Glenn Ligon’s (born 1960) Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7 renders a powerful text by civil rights activist and writer James Baldwin nearly invisible by stenciling the black type on a black background and coating it with coal dust. On view in SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries, the work’s unclear presentation of Baldwin’s words leaves viewers searching and straining to read the message. Baldwin’s essay published in 1955 recounts his visit to a remote Swiss village where he is the first and only Black person that many of the townspeople had ever met. In Ligon’s painting, the sense of hypervisibility that Baldwin describes becomes camouflaged and concealed. Ligon often uses text in his works to question the power of language, modes of engaging with visual art, and the legacy of slavery and racial stereotypes.

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

Celebrate Black History Month in Seattle with these suggested events. 

February 1–29
Call to Conscience
Take a trip to the Columbia City Theater every Tuesday through Sunday this month to explore the Call to Conscience Black History Month Museum. Organized by Rainier Avenue Radio, the converted theater celebrates the achievements of the Pacific Northwest’s Black community with exhibitions about the Seattle Black Panther Party, the Black Heritage Society, the Hartsfield Family and Slave Quilt Collection, and more.

Sundays in February
Black Ice: An American Sitcom Improvised
Unexpected Productions Improv wants you to be a part of their live studio audience every Sunday this month as they perform an improvised television sitcom inspired by Norman Lear’s iconic 1970s sitcoms. And yes, they’ll be asking for crowd suggestions throughout the show.

February 15
Keynote Program with Dr. Doretha Williams
Our friends at the Northwest African American Museum are celebrating Black History Month with a keynote speech from Dr. Doretha Williams, Director of the Robert F. Smith Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History. In her speech, she’ll discuss the importance of Black family history in America and genealogy.

February 16–17
BE Great Celebration
Celebrate Black Excellence at this free two-day event in Occidental Square hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association. This soulful celebration will bring together Black culture, arts, music, and food with live performances by local musicians, a pop-up night market featuring Black artists and creatives, and more.

February 24–March 9
X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X
As Black History Month comes to a close, the Seattle Opera is tackling the story of Malcolm X’s life through a series of biographical vignettes. Scored by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis, the three-hour opera fuses elements of modernism, minimalism, and jazz to produce a riveting interpretation of one of history’s most misunderstood civil rights icons.

Photos: Chloe Collyer & Jo Cosme. Mitchell’s Point Looking down the Columbia, 1887, Grafton Tyler Brown, oil on canvas, 18 x 30 in., Bruce Leven Acquisition Fund, 2020.26.

Muse/News: Ali’s Debut, New in Old, and Cornell Gifts

SAM News

Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence has made its dramatic debut at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Jim Dever of KING5 Evening shares this story: “Tacoma artist Anida Yoeu Ali transforms herself to transform others.” Mike Davis of KUOW includes the show in his “list of new art exhibits challenges and inspires.” The exhibition was recommended in a recent Stranger Suggests and in this fun video by The Ticket. And Craig Sailor reviews the show for The News Tribune and its South Sound readers: “Tacoma artist with reputation as global agitator now has solo show at Seattle Art Museum.”

“‘I’m constantly fluctuating between the insider/outsider perspective at any one point,’ she explained Tuesday during a press preview of the show. ‘I’m never quite the person that people expect me to be, whether that’s a local or a foreigner, an insider to a culture, or an outsider, whether I’m here or there.’”

Conde Nast Traveler includes the Seattle Art Museum on its list of “The 16 Best Things to Do in Seattle,” calling out the “well-curated” exhibitions throughout the space.

Speaking of SAM’s collections galleries: American Art: The Stories We Carry was referenced in Artsy’s feature, “15 Leading Curators Predict the Defining Art Trends of 2024.” Marina Isgro of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden name-checked SAM’s 2022 reinstallation of its American art galleries as a trendsetter for other institutions.

Local News

Charles R. Cross offers this remembrance of a Seattle legend: “Susie Tennant, early champion of Nirvana and other bands, dies at 61.”

Get ready for “10 must-see Seattle art shows in February 2024” recommended by the Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel.

Brangien Davis’s recent ArtSEA post highlights creative organizations that creatively repurpose old spaces.

“Alongside the city’s constant expansion, arts venues tend to be in flux, always coming and going. Many take a hermit crab approach, making homes in old buildings that lost their original purpose amid the changing times.”

Inter/National News

“A Fire at a Seattle Gallery Destroys Works By Picasso, Rembrandt, and Goya”: A fire at Davidson Galleries made national news, including this from Artnet’s Adam Schrader.

The Olympic Sculpture Park is nominated for Best Sculpture Park in USA Today 10Best’s annual readers’ choice awards. Public voting takes place now until February 19. Maybe you’d like to make your voice heard?

Via Deborah Solomon of the New York Times: “National Gallery of Art Receives Major Gift of Joseph Cornell Boxes.”

“…Cornell seems perfect for the nation’s capital because his story is so archetypally American. He was obstinate, cranky and consumed with the beauty of common objects; he persisted with his art in the face of enormous loneliness. Living with his mother and his disabled brother, he found his inspiration in the work of other artists and dedicated his boxes to figures ranging from the composer Franz Schubert to the poet Emily Dickinson to the television actress Patty Duke.”

And Finally

Art But Make It Sports never misses.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: White Cyclamen I

As a founding member of the 1970s Pattern and Decoration movement, American artist Robert Kushner favors geometric and floral patterns within his work. Like many of the artists in this movement, Kushner resisted conforming to the minimal compositions that dominated American artistic conventions at the time, opting instead to look beyond the nation’s borders for artistic inspiration. 

His 1999 painting, White Cyclamen I, on view as part of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at SAM, features aesthetic resonances from Islamic tile work, Iranian carpets, and Japanese ceramics and woodblock prints. As part of the free smartphone tour of the ongoing SAM exhibition, Kendall DeBoer, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, spoke directly with the artist about how the work of historic Japanese artists, including Katsushika Hokusai, influenced the creation of this work and many others across Kushner’s oeuvre.

Tune in to this recording blick clicking the link above or by scanning the QR code adjacent to this artwork in the exhibition’s galleries. Listen to all seven stops of the audio tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence via our SoundCloud. The exhibition closes later this month on Sunday, January 21. Don’t miss out—reserve your tickets to see it at SAM before it’s too late!

White Cyclamen I, 1999

KENDALL DEBOER: In the mid-1970s and 1980s, the Pattern and Decoration movement in the United States declared independence from the reigning Western aesthetics of masculinist Minimalism and defied Modernism’s rejection of ornamentation. Reveling in beauty and looking to global influences, Robert Kushner is considered one of the founders of this significant movement in American art. His colorful, blossoming, exuberant, sparkling canvases incorporate transhistorical points of aesthetic reference, including but not limited to Japanese woodblock prints. The magnified florals, like White Cyclamen I, pay homage in particular to Hokusai’s large flower prints.

While working on this exhibition, we were in touch with the artist directly. Thinking about Hokusai and his relevance to contemporary artists, Robert shared the following thoughts, which I will read on his behalf:

“When I look at the flower compositions of Hokusai, and indeed other Japanese masters, I am always drawn to the precision of line, the exactness of observation of the plant forms, and the grace with which they inhabit an open indeterminate flat space. Even more inspiring to me is the intentional and skillful flattening of the drawn lines. A single thin line can enclose the form of a flower’s petal or leaves, allowing the flat, unshaded white paper behind to create a three-dimensional volume. In my own paintings, such as White Cyclamen I, I try to paint with my own version of this manner of engaged, enlivened, observed, accurate, delicate, bold lines. Looking one way, the curving whiplash lines of my cyclamen and its leaves are scattered shapes on the colored surface behind them. But then, there is a magical moment when those lines coalesce into the volumetric form of the living flower that is before me. This is a wonderful lesson to be offered by Hokusai, a Japanese painter and printmaker from two hundred years ago.”

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: White Cyclamen I (detail), 1999, Robert Kushner, American born 1949, oil, acrylic, and gold leaf on panel, Courtesy of the artist and D.C. Moore Gallery, New York, NY.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: Chemical Falls

Katsushika Hokusai’s influence knows no bounds. Nearly four centuries after his death, the Japanese master and his woodblock prints continue to inspire the work and practice of contemporary artists. One such artist is Merion Estes.

With strong ties to early Los Angeles feminist art spaces and a pioneering role in the Pattern and Decoration movement, Merion Estes typically depicts landscapes and seascapes. She combines found imagery from printed fabrics with collaged materials and spray paint to build up lively texture and vivid color, often with a political tone. In Chemical Falls, on view in Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at SAM, Estes blends visual pleasure with the horror of environmental crises, specifically citing Hokusai as an influence on her ongoing treatment of natural scenes.

Learn more about this 2016 work from Kendall DeBoer, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, by tuning in to the fifth stop of the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Explore all seven stops on the tour by scanning the QR code adjacent to select artworks in SAM’s galleries or on your own time via SoundCloud. Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence closes on Sunday, January 21. Reserve your tickets to see Estes’s work, alongside more than 300 artworks by Hokusai and his contemporaries, now!

Chemical Falls, 2016

KENDALL DEBOER: Chemical Falls by Merion Estes is a more recent example of a theme the artist has frequently visited throughout her over fifty years of art making: beautiful landscapes and environmental degradation. As is her process for many of her artworks, Estes created Chemical Falls by combining collage elements with a section of found, printed, mass-produced fabric, which she then spray painted in high-keyed and striking colors. Building up layers of pigment and texture, Estes presents us with a breathtaking waterfall that is as alluring as it is otherworldly—and laced with the sinister specter of polluted waters.

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1938, Estes received her BFA in 1970 at the University of New Mexico. She then quickly earned her MFA in 1972 at the University of Boulder Colorado before moving to Los Angeles, California. In LA, Estes would become a key figure in early feminist arts organizations like Womanspace and Double X. She was also part of the Pattern and Decoration movement in the United States, which often intersected with feminist art concerns. Pattern and Decoration artists rejected the austerity of Minimalism and Conceptualism, which they felt relied on sexist and racist assumptions, in favor of championing ornament, aesthetic beauty, and artistic production traditionally categorized as “women’s work,” like fiber arts. These interests persist in Chemical Falls, with its fabric basis, layers of patterned land masses, and geometric striations of water.

Many pattern and decoration artists felt the European canon of Western art history was too narrow in scope and therefore looked elsewhere for artistic precedents. Quite a few of these artists found inspiration in Japanese prints, including Estes, who has looked to Hokusai as an ongoing influence throughout her career. The intense verticality and perspectival view of Chemical Falls feels in direct conversation with Hokusai’s series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces. Comparing Chemical Falls to Hokusai’s work The Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaidō Road from 1832 reveals similar treatment of linear falls pouring between curving, earthy cliffs dotted with sprigs of green vegetation. Each work features a circular form near the top of its composition, perhaps a source for the waterfalls. These parallels show the continued relevance of Hokusai in Estes’s work.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Chemical Falls, 2016, Merion Estes, American, born 1938, printed fabric and spray paint on canvas, courtesy of the artist.

Muse/News: Membership Musts, Kucera’s 40th, and Hendricks at the Frick

SAM News

Seattle Times readers just GET it (especially Cynthia Ryan). Sarah-Mae McCullough gathered their recommendations for what new arrivals to the city really need and waterproof gear and access to our cultural offerings got top mentions.

“Take this example from Cynthia Ryan. ‘When I moved here, my boss gave me a 1-year membership to the Seattle Art Museum and an enormous umbrella,’ Ryan said. ‘I gave the umbrella away early on but buy my own membership now. I think of it as a present to myself.’”

“Why Seattle Is One Of The Best Cities For A Fall Weekend Getaway”: Katie Chang for Forbes highlights the city’s offerings for local and visitors alike, including the Seattle Art Museum—with a special callout to American Art: The Stories We Carry—and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. 

Local News

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis talks with Rafael Soldi about his new solo show at the Frye Art Museum. There’s an interview and a video.

Chase Hutchison of The Stranger on “Five Films You Need to See at Seattle Queer Film Festival.”

The Seattle Times’ Gemma Wilson on the new show at the Greg Kucera Gallery, which looks forward and back at their impressive roster of artists on the occasion of the gallery’s 40th anniversary

“‘Something Old, Something New’ elucidates not only the evolution of an artist’s career over time, it highlights the connective tissue between artist, gallery and arts community.”

Inter/National News

Sarah Cascone for Artnet catches you up on the four artists who are among the 20 winners of this year’s MacArthur “genius” fellowships, each receiving an $800,000 grant.

Via Francesca Aton for Art in America: “Women’s History Is at the Forefront of Judy Chicago’s Retrospective at the New Museum in New York.”

Natasha Seaman for Hyperallergic on the Frick’s exhibition of 14 Barkley L. Hendricks portraits.

“While the exhibition’s premise is to explore Hendricks’s connection to the art history embodied in the museum’s regular collection, its effect is to change the way we view those same paintings.”

And Finally

Meet a “queen that’s thicker than a bowl of oatmeal.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Hispanic Heritage Month at SAM: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Alfredo Arreguín

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually between September 15 and October 15 in recognition of the contributions and influence of Hispanic and Latine Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. At SAM, we’re continuing our efforts to expand the representation of Latine American artists in our collection to reflect the diversity of this community in our region.

One recent acquisition we’re especially excited about is Four Self-Portraits (1995) by acclaimed Pacific Northwest Chicano artist Alfredo Arreguín. Purchased in 2022 as part of the reinstallation of our American art galleries, the painting features a tapestry of interlaced tropical flowers, birds, leaves, arabesques, and ancient symbols that camouflage four distinct portraits of Alfredo—two at the top and two more, mirrored, at the bottom—literally merging the artist with the places and cultures of his ancestry.

Before his passing in May 2023 at the age of 88, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Alfredo in his studio to discuss his self-portrait and incredible artistic career as part of our interactive Living Labels series in American Art: The Stories We Carry. Featuring dynamic voices—including artists, scholars, and community leaders—responding to artworks on view, these videos deepen visitor engagement by presenting accessible, personal, and expressive alternatives to standard museum texts. While this experience was previously only available via touch screens in our galleries, we can’t think of a better time to share Alfredo’s Living Label with the greater public.

Today, Alfredo is remembered 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 Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, and the nature and topography of the Pacific Northwest. Watch his Living Label above to learn more about Alfredo’s incredible life and career, and be sure to find his portrait in our galleries during your next visit to SAM.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Chloe Collyer. 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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Perspectives on American Art: Inye Wokoma on Beauty, Critique, and Personal Revelations

As part of the collaborative process to reimagine its American art galleries, SAM invited Inye Wokoma—artist, filmmaker, journalist, and co-founder of Wa Na Wari in Seattle—to curate Reimagining Regionalism, a gallery that offers a distinctive new interpretation of works from SAM’s collection. Here, he shares about his experience. 

A good friend recently asked about my relationship to SAM prior to embarking on my curation project for American Art: The Stories We Carry. The question took me back to my childhood; some of my earliest memories are of going to the original Volunteer Park location to see vintage cinema with my mother and sister. For years I was infatuated with one film I saw there, Alexander Mackendrick’s The Man in the White Suit (1951). The final scene is of “the man” running through the streets at night in his luminous “indestructible” suit, pursued by an angry mob of textile workers and factory bosses inflamed by industry captains. His incredible fibers begin to disintegrate in the fracas, and the anger of his pursuers evaporates in the face of his near nakedness. It was an early experience with art that critiqued capitalist oligarchs and complicit proletariats. At seven years old, I was too young to understand its clearly Marxist undertones, but my young imagination was captured by the image of the man, glowing, urgent, and gliding through the dark streets of an English city.

Still from The Man in the White Suit (1951). Courtesy of STUDIOCANAL.

Subconsciously, memories of this film intertwined with my feelings about SAM, regarding it as an institution where provocative art can find a home. And it informed my curatorial approach, which was inspired by its rich interplay of aesthetic beauty, political satire, social commentary, and economic critique.

Inye Wokoma with SAM curators Theresa Papanikolas and Barbara Brotherton in the galleries of American Art: The Stories We Carry at SAM. Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Art helps us acknowledge that no gaze is neutral. My personal and creative lens is shaped by being a Black American man and more specifically a man of dual heritage via my father’s Nigerian origins. Approaching this project, my perception was shaped by the previous galleries’ predominant themes: classical landscapes, portraits of the powerful, fetishized representations of Indigenous people, and objects of conquest. I was called to confront the roles my ancestors played in the histories these works depict without a sense that the curation was a two-way conversation between these realities. With this gallery, I wanted to upend that dynamic while avoiding a flattened protestation of America’s racial and colonial history. I wanted to be able to relay stories through my curation that included these historical truths, but were also personal and therefore infinitely accessible. Hopefully.

– Inye Wokoma, Guest Curator of American Art: The Stories We Carry

A version of this article first appeared in the February through May 2023 edition of SAM Magazine and has since been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks!

Photo: James Harnois.

Muse/News: Calder Gifts, April Theater, and Ancient Fabrics

SAM News

Last week, SAM had exciting news to announce: Thanks to the generosity of Jon and Kim Shirley, one of the most important private collections of Alexander Calder’s artworks will make its way to SAM!

The gift of the Shirley Family Calder Collection includes 48 of the iconic American sculptor’s works and is supported by a $10 million endowment and an annual financial commitment to support Calder-related exhibitions and research. Maximilíano Durón of ARTnews and Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times broke the news on Tuesday morning, including a front page appearance. The Art Newspaper, Geekwire, Artdaily, and local TV and radio were all among those who joined the chorus. 

Stay tuned for November, when the inaugural exhibition of all 48 works goes on view! Until then: there’s so much to see at SAM, including Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, on view through May 29.

For Seattle Magazine, Sean Meyers explored “100 Years Of Seattle Modernism” in architecture and design, including Jim Ellis Freeway Park, the William B. Tracy House, and, of course, the Olympic Sculpture Park designed by Weiss/Manfredi in 2007.

Local News

Via the City’s Art Beat Blog: Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture is in the midst of a national search for its next director. Read up about what they’re looking for in this critical role and share your thoughts via the community survey link at the end.

Crosscut’s Nimra Ahmad invites you to “meet 3 young PNW writers”—Azura Tyabji, Sah Pham, and Matthew Valentine—in honor of National Poetry Month.

The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce has you covered with “6 theater productions to add to your April calendar.”

“…you’ll have a chance to take a trip down the yellow brick road, make an appointment with a demon barber or perhaps watch as a group of actors tries to tackle Shakespeare without knowing which character they’ll play until the night of the performance. You’ll also be able to see carefully crafted conversations centered on a collegiate debate, mixed-race relationships and the legendary August Wilson’s life.”

Inter/National News

Via Artforum: RIP to photographer Kwame Brathwaite, who died last week at the age of 85. In his work, he popularized the phrase and idea of “Black is beautiful.”

Also announced in ARTnews last week: the 171 scholars and artists who will receive 2023 Guggenheim Fellowships

Via Artnet’s Min Chen: A piece of fabric discovered in a peat bog 40 years ago has finally been analyzed and revealed to be the “world’s oldest piece of tartan,” dating back to the 16th century. (Fun fact: a fragment of Peruvian ikat on view at SAM dates back to the 9th century!)

“‘The Glen Affric tartan is clearly a piece of national and historical significance. It is likely to date to the reign of James V, Mary Queen of Scots, or James VI/I,’ said John McLeish, chair of the Scottish Tartans Authority. ‘There is no other known surviving piece of tartan from this period of this age.’”

And Finally

Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Jon and Kim Shirley with Mountains (1:5 intermediate maquette, 1976). © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy Jon and Kim Shirley.

Muse/News: Staff Stories, Operatic Resilience, and Artist Curates

SAM News

“How one Seattle Art Museum staffer adds a personal touch to museum-going”: Don’t miss this story that appeared in the paper’s Sunday print edition featuring Chelsea Leingang, Visitor Experience Manager at SAM. Chelsea took reporter Jerald Pierce around their favorite places in the museum and shared their infectious enthusiasm for connecting over art. 

“‘Every single piece of art within this place has its own story,’ Leingang said. ‘And the best part about my team is they are the gateway to those stories. They are taking their own personal experiences of what resonates with them within this museum and sharing that with every person that walks in.’”

Say hi to Chelsea and the rest of the SAM crew at Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, an exhibition exploring over 100 dazzling textiles opening to the public this Thursday, March 9.

In their latest print edition, Seattle Met shouts out all three SAM locations in a graphic “tourist trap matrix.” Online, they share “Where to Take Tourists in Seattle” according to their editors, including a day at Volunteer Park and the Asian Art Museum. 

Local News

Gather, readers, AWP is here! Via Annie Midori Atherton for Seattle Magazine: “Your Favorite Authors Might Very Well Be In Seattle This Weekend—Here’s How To Catch Them.” 

Jerald Pierce of the Seattle Times had more good news to report recently: “PNW basket maker Ed Eugene Carriere named NEA National Heritage Fellow.” You can see one of his extraordinary baskets on view at SAM in American Art: The Stories We Carry.

Danielle Hayden for South Seattle Emerald on Seattle Opera’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, based on the Khaled Hosseini novel. Go see it!

“[Director Roya] Sadat also recognizes, however, that inequality and deprivation of fundamental human rights are not unique to Afghanistan, but are issues that reverberate across the globe. ‘I want this opera to stand as a reminder of their strength in the face of violence. This opera is a narrative of women’s resilience.’”

Inter/National News

AP reports: “Notre Dame Cathedral set to reopen in December 2024.” Catch up on the reconstruction efforts.

Artnet’s Melissa Smith asks artists Alisha Wormsley, Mequitta Ahuja, and Cauleen Smith what it means to be an Afrofuturist now.

Via Benjamin Sutton of the Art Newspaper: “Native American painter Jaune Quick-to-See Smith will be the first artist to curate a show at the US National Gallery of Art.”

“Smith’s curatorial turn comes at a moment of long-overdue institutional recognition for the artist, whose incisive and wide-ranging practice rooted in painting and collage is the subject of a major retrospective opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art next month, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map.”

And Finally

Meet Sonny and Uno.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Lessons of the Past: Kari Karsten on Curating SAM’s American Art Galleries

Artworks of the past never cease to offer new lessons, insights, and interpretations.

In this video created as part of the two-year reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries, SAM Emerging Museum Professional of American Art and member of the Seneca nation Kari Karsten discusses her research into Spokane-born artist Kenneth Callahan’s The Accident, and the enduring questions artworks such as these can raise, even over 75 years after their creation.

Read more about Kari’s contributions to SAM while serving as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern in this reflection she wrote after completing her year-long thesis for the University of Washington Museology masters program and opening Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers last fall.

Visit SAM today to experience all American Art: The Stories We Carry has to offer and see Callahan’s painting for yourself.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

An Honest Approach to Art: Inye Wokoma on Reimagining SAM’s American Art Galleries

“Historically, when we say the word ‘American,’ it typically denotes white people. But the actual story of what has happened on this continent over the past half millennium is so much more complex.”

– Inye Wokoma

When deciding what artworks to include in their reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries, SAM curator Theresa Papanikolas and co-curator Barbara Brotherton weren’t interested in including conventionally beautiful or visually engaging artworks that are typically thought of as examples of American art. Instead, they thoroughly examined every American-made artwork in SAM’s collection and its relationship to the history and evolution of the United States. To ensure the two-year project incorporated as many viewpoints as possible, the curators invited visual artist and Wa Na Wari co-founder Inye Wokoma to guest curate a gallery that captures his personal interpretation of what American art is.

In the interview above—filmed before the renovation of the galleries—Inye discusses the need to reverse society’s existing exclusionary interpretation of American art, being invited to curate a gallery at SAM, and the inspiration he found in some of the galleries’ original artworks.

Visit Inye’s gallery on view now in American Art: The Stories We Carry at SAM’s downtown location and reconsider your own definition of American art.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Inspiration of Ambition, Artist Amends, and Wautier’s Moment

SAM News

Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue is now on view at SAM! Jerald Pierce of the Seattle Times shared highlights from the exhibition’s themes alongside photos by Erika Schultz. The review also appeared in the paper’s Sunday print edition. 

“Over the decades, these two artists have become known for their explorations of Black life in America, melding history with the present through intimate portraits, thoughtful landscapes and carefully crafted visual storytelling. Bey called their friendship a kind of “inspiration of ambition,” where the two photographers inspired each other to push the boundaries of their medium as they’ve watched photography evolve over the decades.”

The exhibition was also featured in the digital weekly Air Mail. 

And don’t miss Arte Noir’s interview with artist Inye Wokoma about his curatorial project as part of American Art: The Stories We Carry, also on view at SAM.

“I want people to see the gallery as an interrogation of the complexities of our personal and political relationships. Contemporary relationships that are often born of brutal histories.”

Local News

“Brings down the house with every number”: The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce also loved The Wiz at the 5th Avenue Theatre and thinks you should see it.

“Minimalist pleasures in a maximalist holiday season”: Here’s Brangien Davis’s most recent ArtSEA dispatch of what to see.

Evelyn Archibald for The Daily on Amends, Miha Sahari’s solo show on the University of Washington campus. 

“A core theme of Amends is the nature of past, present, and future. The artist revisits his home in many pieces, whether it be the portraits of his family, the cultural icons of Slovenia, or subconscious influence from his life in the Balkans.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone on Eyes on Iran, a new public art installation “inspired by the ongoing women’s rights protest movement in Iran” that debuted recently at New York’s Roosevelt Island. One of the participating artists is Shirin Neshat; you can read more about her art and activism in this reflection by SAM staff photographer Alborz Kamalizad. 

Erin L. Thompson for Hyperallergic shares stories of the Red Orchestra, a group of young German artists who resisted Hitler. 

Milton Esterow of The New York Times reviews the first US exhibition of the work of 17th-century painter Michaelina Wautier, which is now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. A work by Wautier is a beloved painting in SAM’s European collection—you can learn more about Boys Blowing Bubbles in this 2018 SAM Blog story

“The Boston show, said Marisa Anne Bass, a professor of art history at Yale University, ‘is part of a broader and important trend in scholarship on early modern European art, which no longer treats the recuperation of women artists as an end in itself but instead increasingly aims to recognize the central role of women as actors, thinkers and creators. To give women equal historical representation is not just about answering the concerns about the present. It is also about gaining a fuller understanding of the past.’”

And Finally

Sight and Sound is out once again with its list of the “Greatest Films of All Time.” DISCUSS. 

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Artist Wendy Red Star’s Visions of Native Women

“I’ve never had the opportunity to walk through an American collection and see Native women and youth presented in the way I hope to do with this new work.”

– Wendy Red Star

Now on view at SAM is American Art: The Stories We Carry, a dramatic reinstallation of the museum’s American art galleries that explores a more expansive look at the American experience. It’s the result of an extensive collaboration among SAM curators, staff, artists, community advisors. In this video, Apsáalooke artist Wendy Red Star describes her experience collaborating with SAM and offers insights into her process as she was in the midst of creating a commissioned artwork for the project. She also describes the significance of including Native women’s voices when redefining American art.

Red Star’s striking artwork, Áakiiwilaxpaake (People Of The Earth) (2022), is now the first thing visitors see when they approach the American art galleries. The lightbox installation is a compelling hybrid of iconic American art genres: the portrait and the landscape. To create this large-scale work, Red Star invited Seattle photographer Holli Margell to create portraits of local Native women and children in a session held at the museum. Red Star then set these cutout portraits within her vision of the Seattle skyline, including Japanese artist Yoshida Hiroshi’s (1876–1950) woodblock print of Tahoma (also known as Mount Rainier) from SAM’s collection. By recalling the history of the region’s original inhabitants, Red Star celebrates the vibrant present and future of Natives in their home territories as well as urban Natives.

This isn’t the first time the museum has collaborated with Red Star. In 2016, she was the winner of SAM’s Betty Bowen Award, an annual award for Northwest artists that includes a solo show at SAM. The museum also acquired for its collection four prints from her photographic Four Seasons series, which was on view in the 2019 installation YOU ARE ON INDIGENOUS LAND: places/displaces.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Fresh Attention, Shark Tank, and Broken is Mended

SAM News

For Crosscut’s weekly ArtSEA dispatch, Brangien Davis is inspired by “fresh attention to art arrangement” at both the Frye Art Museum and at SAM in American Art: The Stories We Carry.

“…a striking section…includes a huge portrait by Kehinde Wiley, a tintype photo of a Lummi violinist by Will Wilson and a turn-of-the-century cast-bronze sculpture of an ‘Indian Warrior’ by Alexander Phimister Proctor. Each holds a long straight object: a rod, a violin bow, and a spear. Each prompts thoughts about who is portrayed in art and how.”

Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue opens Thursday, November 17! The exhibition—which brings together the work of these two legendary photographers for the first time—was featured in Crosscut’s list of “things to do in Seattle this November.”

“What connects their work, besides a friendship and a medium, is a shared timeframe and understanding of the power of photography as a way to explore—and celebrate—the experiences of Black people.”

And there’s a whole alphabet of fun from Gemma Alexander for ParentMap as she shares “Amazing A–Z PNW Winter Adventures Family Fun Workshops”—including SAM’s recurring Family Fun Workshops at both the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Local News

There’s a new venue in a very old space at the Pike Place Market. Crosscut’s Alexa Peters reports on the launch of The Rabbit Box.

The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce on the site-specific Saltwater Soundwalk, “a 55-minute listening experience that uplifts the stories and voices of Indigenous Coast Salish peoples.”

The Seattle Times’ Sandi Doughton on the development of the Seattle Aquarium’s new Ocean Pavilion, which will transform the downtown waterfront.

“‘This landscape that was dominated by a big, honking, gray, rumbling freeway will now be a massive public park for the people,’ says Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, whose district includes the waterfront. At the center of it all will be the Seattle Aquarium’s new Ocean Pavilion: a 50,000-square-foot exhibit space featuring sharks, rays, and other animals and ecosystems from the tropical Pacific.”

Inter/National News

Elaine Velie for Hyperallergic on the National Portrait Gallery’s seven new “Portrait of a Nation” commissions, including Serena and Venus Williams, Marian Wright Edelman, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Artnet’s Vittoria Benzine catches you up on “Every Artwork Attacked by Climate Activists This Year, From the ‘Mona Lisa’ to ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring.’”

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone with a deep look at the new stained glass windows by artists Faith Ringgold and Barbara Earl Thomas at a residential college of Yale University.

“‘I took it as a huge responsibility,’ Thomas told Artnet News, noting that she had heard about the controversy surrounding the broken window, but never dreamed that she would become part of the story. ‘I feel quite emotional about it. This was a moment for me to be part of something far bigger than me.’”

And Finally

CBS Sunday Morning visits the new Museum of Broadway.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

Muse/News: Evolving Art, Analog’s Return, and a New Artemisia

SAM News

“How Seattle Art Museum is working to make its American art galleries more inclusive”: The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce on American Art: The Stories We Carry. He spoke with SAM curators and several collaborators on the project to reimagine our American art galleries.

“As SAM looks ahead at the future of its newly redone galleries, Papanikolas said she hopes this will slow patrons down as they go through, taking in the historical works alongside the contemporary and finding new personal meaning in the art. Both Papanikolas and Brotherton said they know there are still moments in history that haven’t been highlighted in this particular version of the installation, and artists who aren’t yet in their collection, but they’re excited about the flexibility and nimbleness of these galleries and their ability to respond to an evolving definition of ‘American art.’”

“What is America? Who is American? These are the questions that SAM strives to answer by including Asian, Latinx, Black, and Indigenous works in what was previously a series of rooms dominated by white male artists.” Kai Curry for Northwest Asian Weekly on the revamped American art galleries at SAM.

The Seattle Times also highlights “5 exhibitions to see during Native American Heritage Month,” including Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers at SAM. Curated by Kari Karsten and featuring works by Francis Dick, Susan Point, and more, it’s on view at SAM through December 11.

Local News

“Molly Vaughan’s After Boucher Brings Rococo to the Frye”: SAM’s 2017 Betty Bowen Award winner Vaughan recounts the process of her latest work, on view on the façade of the Frye Art Museum.

Yoona Lee for South Seattle Emerald on the work of attorney-turned artist Zahyr Lauren.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on the Northwest’s resurgence of interest in analog photography.

“But, as [Panda Labs owner Jessica] Fleenor and others proclaim under Instagram and TikTok posts featuring analog photography: #FilmIsNotDead. ‘Film is still very much alive,’ Fleenor says. And perhaps surprisingly, the comeback is in large part driven by a generation of ‘digital natives’ who developed a love for film photography and classic film cameras during the pandemic.”

Inter/National News

Jasmine Liu for Hyperallergic on the first official public statue of Emmett Till, just unveiled in Greenwood, Mississippi.

ARTnews’ Tessa Soloman reports from a talk held at the Islamic Museum of Art in Doha that invited four museum directors to tackle questions about museums and social responsibility.

Via Artnet’s Sarah Cascone: “A Painting Nearly Destroyed in the Beirut Blast of 2020 Has Been Identified as a Long-Lost Artemisia Gentileschi—and Is Now Undergoing Restoration.”

“‘This painting is definitely by Artemisia,’ Davide Gasparotto, the Getty Museum’s senior curator of paintings, who arranged for the work’s restoration and loan, told the New York Times. ‘It’s a very powerful, convincing painting—one of her most ambitious in terms of size and the complexity of the figures.’”

And Finally

It’s Halloween; it’s KXVO Pumpkin Dance time.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

A Curator Reflects: An Exploration That Never Ends

As I write this, the first wave of visitors have finally experienced American Art: The Stories We Carry. This major reinstallation of our American art galleries has been two years (at least!) in the making and is the product of the work of a mighty team of collaborators, funded by generous grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art. 

The multiple crises of recent years, together with the museum’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity have made it essential that we question and dismantle the biases and myths that have historically driven—whether intentionally or not—our understanding and presentation of American art at the museum. As a curator of American art with a degree in European art history and a career in museums from Houston to Honolulu, I know well that the art of the United States does not begin and end with the oceans that define its coastal borders. Indeed, American art is as multilayered as America itself. More a collective of regions than a homogenous whole, the geopolitical expanse now known as North America is home to numerous clearly identifiable, yet often intersecting, communities, each of which is mirrored in equally layered artistic traditions and cultural practices. 

To reflect and respond to the many-sidedness of American art, when embarking on this project we knew we needed to set aside art historical chronology and instead consider constellations of artworks from many different time periods and traditions. We immersed ourselves in the museum’s storage vaults, unearthing works that had not been exhibited in years—or, in some cases, ever—and contemplating the counterpoints they offered to the better known, classically canonical examples ordinarily on view in the museum’s American art galleries. These works speak volumes about the history of art at SAM and in this region, and they shed light on the communities that have been historically excluded in traditional narratives of American art.

Theresa Papanikolas & Barbara Brotherton at the opening of The Stories We Carry on October 20, 2022.

My use of the word “we” is intentional: Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art, has been with me on this project every step of the way as a powerful ally in determining what American art can and should be at SAM. Over her 20 years at the museum, she has always been aware that Native American art is American art. Together, Barbara and I sought points of intersection between these two branches of the museum’s collection and for the first time envisioned a space in which they would intersect. Our work has been bolstered by a host of individuals—three artists, four interns, 11 advisors, and just about every museum department—all of whom brought knowledge that not only greatly enriched the project, but also established a collaborative model that will continue to shape exhibition planning at SAM.  

All of us are delighted to share The Stories We Carry with you! In our new galleries, you will see old favorites alongside new and unexpected surprises that show how ideas persist across time and space and how history resonates in the present. And you will find curatorial interpretation (labels and wall texts) together with video clips from artists and experts—“living labels”—whose wisdom and perspective adds nuance to the objects on view. I’m also thrilled by the in-depth exhibition website, which brings you into the process with a project timeline, quotes, photos, and inspiring videos featuring our collaborators sharing their perspectives.

The Stories We Carry has definitely been a rich and rewarding journey. We invite you to now make it your story.

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

Images: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Fresh Perspectives, Artist Homes, and Real Change

SAM News

It’s finally here! American Art: The Stories We Carry opens October 20 at SAM, after a two-year collaborative process to reimagine the museum’s American art galleries. Artdaily has all the details, including this quote from curator Theresa Papanikolas. 

“Collaborating with our many partners has brought fresh perspectives to this work as well as a layer of accountability not always present in exhibition planning. The reinstalled galleries are not only the physical manifestation of this process, but also, we hope, an incubator for ever-evolving ideas of what American art can and should be.”

Local News

Eater’s Jade Yamazaki Stewart on Brendan McGill’s new trattoria in downtown Seattle, Bar Solea. It’s just blocks from the Seattle Art Museum, so grab an Italian meal (or just some gelato!) after taking in some art. 

Just in time for spooky season, Seattle Met collected “Washington State’s Most Horrific Film Achievements.”

The Seattle Times’ Grace Gorenflo was there for the groundbreaking ceremony of the city’s new space for five cultural organizations, including the Cultural Space Agency, which is spearheading the project. 

“We have great programs, but that can only thrive when there’s a place,” [Totem Star co-founder Daniel Pak] said. “The whole meaning of this project is to give artists a place in this city that’s growing so fast. It’s very simple. That’s what this is all about. It’s about giving artists a home.”

Inter/National News

“5 Works to Know by Rosa Bonheur”: ARTnews’ Shanti Escalante-De Mattei on the 19th-century French artist whose work is currently on view at the Musée d’Orsay.

The New York Times’ Alex Marshall on the kerfuffle last week at London’s National Gallery, when two activists from Just Stop Oil threw soup “over” (it was under glass) Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

Via Artnet’s Sarah Cascone: “For the first time in 20 years, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) will be updating the standards for its member institutions, adding new required goals on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI).”

“‘We’re seeing that most museums are prioritizing DEAI in genuine ways,’ [Laura Lott, AAM president and CEO] said. ‘Having specific guidance on what is expected and third-party review and validation, however, is critical to deep and sustained work that leads to real, systemic change.’”

And Finally

Rest in peace, Eclipse the Bus-Riding Dog.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: 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. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Fund, 2022.13 © Alfredo Arreguin.

Introducing American Art: The Stories We Carry at SAM

This week, SAM will enthusiastically reopen its American art galleries, revealing new perspectives on our collection, commissioned work from celebrated Northwest artists, and paintings restored by our conservation team. But the purpose of this update is much more significant than simply presenting a new array of must-see art.

This project, funded primarily by the Mellon Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art, has been an energizing, collaborative, and thoughtful exploration of what American art is today. To execute this examination, we assembled a paid advisory circle of 11 community leaders and artists to provide valuable feedback as we reinterpret our collection to meet the present moment and acknowledge the evolving definition of American art.

“With inclusivity as one of our values, we felt the urgency to take the collection and hold it accountable to that mission,” says Theresa Papanikolas, SAM’s Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art.

The new galleries, titled American Art: The Stories We Carry, will present the collection thematically and across time periods and feature works by nationally renowned local and national artists long overdue for closer examination within the American context. This includes moving objects from SAM’s Native American art collection into the American art galleries—previously dominated by the work of white artists—for the first time.

“We acknowledge that we must change all aspects of our practice as an institution of privilege and one that cares for the belongings of others,” says Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art.

Also on view will be newly commissioned works by Native artists Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke) and Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax̂), a themed gallery curated by Seattle artist Inye Wokoma, and a dedicated gallery for rotating series of temporary installations exploring fresh perspectives on American art. The first of these installations will feature 15 prints from Jacob Lawrence’s series The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Visit American Art: The Stories We Carry at SAM’s downtown location beginning October 20 and experience a more thorough representation of the past, present, and future of American art.

– Kat Bryant Flaherty, SAM Director of Marketing & Communications

This article first appeared in the July through September 2022 article of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks.

Image: L. Fried.

Celebrating Native Women and Youth

One sunny Saturday in June, the Seattle Art Museum’s Chase Open Studio, which has been mostly closed for the past two years due to COVID-19 safety precautions, sprung to life. Convivial sounds echoed in the hall, people greeted each other exuberantly, the marble staircase produced perfect clacking noises as tiny, shiny shoes jumped down them, and photographer Holli Margell made gentle coos to get the attention of little models and their family members.

The scene was a photoshoot celebrating Seattle-area tribal communities and urban Indian communities. More than 70 mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, grandmas, and children came from near and far to sit for a portrait. The models dressed in a variety of clothing from traditional regalia to a t-shirt and jeans. Some posed alone while others gathered in multi-generational groups of as many as 10.

These stunning portraits of Native women and youth will be integrated by Apsáalooke artist Wendy Red Star into a commissioned artwork for American Art: The Stories We Carry, SAM’s updated American art collection opening on October 20. The reinstallation expands the vision of how art depicts the American experience, with Wendy Red Star’s artwork serving as a welcome to visitors at the entrance of the American art galleries.

“At the core of Wendy Red Star’s artistic process is engagement and community,” says Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art. “She foregrounds the voices of others as a means of revealing the complexity of Native identity.”

This shoot, and the examination of the definition of American art, are examples of SAM’s equity goals in action. SAM relies on its collection, exhibitions, and artists to reflect its institutional values of fostering equity and inclusion throughout the museum and its local community.

“At Wendy’s photoshoot, the Seattle Art Museum came alive with people sharing their stories—where they come from, who their ancestors were, special things about what their families are involved with,” says Brotherton. “It felt like a moment of connecting and healing after the long, challenging time of the pandemic.”

– Kat Bryant Flaherty, SAM Director of Marketing & Communications

This article first appeared in the October 2022 through January 2023 article of SAM Magazine. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks.

Images: L. Fried.

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