Donor Spotlight: Seattle Art Museum Supporters

The Seattle Art Museum Supporters—or SAMS—is a dedicated group of nearly two hundred Seattle area women who are committed to fundraising for the Seattle Art Museum. The mission of SAMS is to expand the support of the Seattle Art Museum through fundraising and promotional efforts and to provide education opportunities for its members.

Since its inception in 1985, SAMS has raised nearly $7 million to fund selected Seattle Art Museum projects, including the Seattle Asian Art Museum campaign. Through their amazing efforts, SAMS has raised over $400K for our capital campaign, helping restore our building and create an Asian Art Museum for tomorrow. SAMS has been an integral component of our fundraising efforts and we are grateful for their unwavering support of our mission.

Docents Defined: Nina Vichayapai

Are you a fan of the Seattle Asian Art Museum who loves discussing your favorite artworks? Consider volunteering as a docent at the Asian Art Museum when it reopens later this year! SAM is recruiting new docents to start training to lead tours of the newly installed galleries and you have until May 31 to apply.

Docents bring their unique interests and backgrounds to each tour they lead and that’s what makes them fun and engaging for SAM’s diverse audiences. A docent like Nina didn’t go to museum growing up but later found them to be an important part of her life and started leading tours with SAM to help others become invested in museum visits early in life. Find about more about Nina in the interview below!

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to become a docent?

Nina: I am an artist and studied at an art school in San Francisco. Since I was young, I loved making art and knew I wanted to become an artist. It wasn’t until I was older that I also learned to love looking at art. A huge part of my college education took place at museums and included wonderful opportunities to meet the people who help these spaces function. Growing up I never really visited museums and by the time I became an adult, I somehow fell into the impression that the museum was a space reserved for people unlike me and the stories being told there did not represent mine.

After seeing many different museums, I was blown away by how much these spaces offer our communities. By the time I finished college and decided to move back to Seattle I knew that as much as I wanted to continue making art, I also wanted to find opportunities which would allow me to tap into the joy I have for museums. Becoming a docent with the Seattle Art Museum was really the perfect outlet for that joy. I was especially compelled to become a docent given my previous background of apprehension toward museums. There are many people who avoid museums out of feeling excluded. Having once been one of those people, I have a lot of patience and understanding when it comes to sharing what I think we can all learn from art.

What’s the best part of being a docent?

The best part of being a docent for me is definitely getting to see all the incredible connections people make to their own lives all just from looking at art. I’ve worked primarily with younger students and whether we are looking at a piece from the Pacific Northwest or from somewhere far away, whether it was made last year or hundreds of years ago, I’m always so thrilled to see how quickly the students will begin to relate the work to their own lived experiences.

Another thing I must mention as being a huge highlight is the wealth of resources we have access to! Through the online database, which docents can access, and the library at SAM, there is so much to learn about the art in SAM’s collections. Docents are always contributing to this wealth as well. For any art lover, it’ s really a dream and very fun to get lost in exploring the archives.

What’s your favorite work of art to tour?

My favorite installation to tour is Lessons from the Institute of Empathy. This installation includes the work of Saya Woofalk along with pieces from many other artists, so there is a lot to work within the gallery for the many different tours we do. But what I love most is seeing how students light up when they step into that space. The whole installation really breaks a lot of preconceived ideas about what art and museums are supposed to look like. And the concept of empathy is always one that generates really deep and often touching conversations.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

I gave an Elements of Art tour to a particularly enthusiastic class once. They walked in without much prior experience of talking about art, but by the end of our tour they couldn’t contain their excitement at discovering the different elements we had just discussed in every artwork we passed. It was as if I had revealed a magician’s trick to them and their glee was really contagious!

What advice do you have for people applying for the docent program?

Visit museums! Not just art museums too. Seattle has so many great museums. I think it’s important to get a feel for the culture and approach to education unique to each museum. It helped me understand what qualities I felt were important and how I could bring that to my role as a docent.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

Docents Defined: David Turner

Do you love art and can’t wait to spend loads of time in the Seattle Asian Art Museum when it reopens? We’ve got the volunteer position for you! SAM is recruiting new docents to start training to lead tours of the newly installed galleries and you have until May 31 to apply.

Our docents have a wide range of interests and background. Take David, for instance—he started volunteering to lead tours to get more involved in the arts community and his favorite artwork in the museum changes with every tour! Want to learn more about being a docent? Join SAM staff and current docents at our Docent Open House on May 16, 2019 from 6–7 pm

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to become a docent?

David: It was a way for me to get to be connected with the community when I came to Seattle.

What’s the best part about being leading school tours?

The exposure to the art and interacting with kids. One visit to a museum is never enough to get to understand or enjoy something. My joy in being in the museum comes from close contact with art over a period of time. It’s more meaningful when I can try to engage a group of kids or even adults in responding to an artwork. It’s a challenge, but it’s really a pleasure.

What’s your favorite work of art at SAM?

That changes every tour. I tell every group I take into the galleries, “I’m going to take you to see my favorite piece.” I want to express to kids, and everyone else on my tours, that I have regard for the work. Yesterday, my favorite piece was Market Scene by Paul Bril.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

The emotional response to Marie Watt’s Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations in the Northwest Coast galleries. My take on it has always been that every blanket has a story and Blanket Stories encapsulates the stories of the people who created the materials in the piece. I ask viewers if they have a blanket story and it’s always very moving. It’s a very meaningful moment when they see it’s not just about a blanket, but that this is a collection of human beings’ lives.

What advice do you have for people interested in the docent program?

Be yourself. That’s it! A mistake that’s easy to make is to think that there’s a canned presentation that you’re going to give. Those are not the most interesting tours by any means. When docents have internalized a piece, it makes a big difference in the way the audience that you’re speaking to reacts.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

Docents Defined: Erin Bruce

SAM is now recruiting new docents to start training for the reopening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. You don’t need to be an art historian or a teacher to apply! In fact, SAM docents have a variety of interests and experiences. Having a diverse group of docents is how we’re able to offer tours that are engaging to all visitors. Read below and find out more about docents like Erin Bruce who volunteer their time at the museum.

If you still want to learn more about being a docent? Join SAM staff and current docents at our Docent Open House on May 16 from 6–7 pm! Or, apply now to the docent program. Applications are accepted through May 31.

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to become a docent?

Erin Bruce: I have always been inspired by all things visual, whether it is nature, a building, a room and especially art. I studied art in college and made art whenever possible. Now I am a technical stock trader and rely on charts for my work—more visual interpretation! It was a three-year wait for a new docent class to start for me after a friend told me about SAM. The chance to participate with our museum is an honor.

What’s the best part about being a docent?

The best part is all of it: meeting energetic, generous, knowledgeable people; constant learning; leading a tour of young people and engaging them in the art and history of objects. It’s all gratifying. SAM’s collections are a wondrous gift to our city and special exhibitions join and expand experiences as well.

What is your favorite work of art to tour at the Asian Art Museum?

The Deer Scroll. Calligrapher Koetsu and painter Sotatsu collaborated to create this iconic masterpiece. Our 30 feet of the original 72 feet contains 12 poems from the Shin Kokinshu, which took four years to write. The beauty and harmony transports you to another time and place.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

Tours were scheduled the week before Mother’s Day so I made a gallery activity “A Gift for Mom.” Given one exhibition room students got to pick an object that they would give to their Mom if they could. It revealed so many wonderful things such as what objects in our Asian art collection young people were most drawn to, what they found beautiful and why. Crafting future tours improved since I had learned some of their favorite objects. The chance to interact with young people is yet another joy and benefit of leading a school tour.

What advice do you have for people applying for the docent program?

Your interests and life experiences offer wonderful and unique perspectives. You will discover and explore the vast and layered connections of art to our lives. It is so much fun.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

Muse/News: Punching bags wearing skirts, pet portraits, and multiple voices

SAM News

There’s only a month left to see Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer! Seattle Magazine’s Gavin Borchert celebrates the exhibition’s insistence on blending all kinds of associations.

“You may notice the exquisite, painstaking craftsmanship first, or you may notice that many of the bags now look like they’re wearing skirts.”

SAM’s Chief Conservator Nicholas Dorman spoke with Hyperallergic’s Kealey Boyd for this story on the need for specialized conservators of East Asian art; SAM’s forthcoming Asian Paintings Conservation Center will treat works from its collection and serve other institutions as well.

AFAR’s Alison C. Meier calls The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China one of “10 Incredible U.S. Museum Exhibits to See This Summer.” This immersive, exciting exhibition of contemporary Chinese art debuts at LACMA this summer—and heads to SAM in 2020.

Local News

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores on the recently debuted Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in White Center, which founders Jake Prendez and Judy Avitia-Gonzalez will devote to Latinx art and programs.

And another gallery is on the way out:  Pioneer Square’s Mount Analogue will shutter after its May show—but will “live on as a freewheeling print magazine.”

Our pets are obviously the best. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig talks with several local pet portraitists—including Rebecca Luncan, a preparator and mountmaker at SAM!—who preserve their goodness for all time.

“It’s a funny idea that even in 2019, this medium of representation, of memory, of love is something that people still seek out. That with our smartphones and our ability to capture every aspect of our lives, people still go out of their way to commission portraits of their animal friends.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic’s Jasmine Weber on the Musée d’Orsay’s Black Models: from Géricault to Matisse, based on Denise Murrell’s thesis on black models in French art.

Artnet has the stunning images from a newly discovered tomb in the town of Saqqara, south of Cairo; more than 4,000 years old, it’s remarkably well preserved.

The Chicago Tribune’s Steve Johnson reports on the postponement of a major exhibition on Native pottery at the Art Institute of Chicago, due to concerns over a lack of Indigenous perspectives.

“The principal thing that we have not accomplished is to have an aligned indigenous perspective, scholarly and curatorial, with the project,” he said. “And I think that ultimately for us has been the crucial realization that our ability to reflect back what we were learning needed to be done in multiple voices, not just our voice.”

And Finally

I would like to see it: An interview with the first full-time art therapist on staff at a North American museum.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: IF I RULED THE WORLD, 2018, Jeffrey Gibson, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians/Cherokee, b. 1972, repurposed punching bag, acrylic felt, glass beads, metal jingles, artificial sinew, and nylon fringe, 79 x 15 x 15 in., Seattle Art Museum, Modern Art Acquisition Fund; by exchange Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Childe Hassam Fund; Sidney and Anne Gerber; Jan and Gardner Cowles; David Hoberman; Gordon Woodside; Ed Rossbach; Pat Klein and Stephen Wirtz Gallery; Gary Wiggs; Jerome D. Whalen; Karin Webster; Virginia Zabriskie; Dinah James and the Diane Gilson Gallery; Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Weyerhaeuser Davis; Norman and Amelia Davis Collection; Mrs. Will Otto Bell; Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters Award in memory of Eustace P. Ziegler, 1969, 2018.17, © Jeffrey Gibson, photo: Peter Mauney.

Donor Spotlight: Peggy Carlisle

I made my first trip to China in 1986. I wanted to see China before it changed, I had no idea it would completely alter my life. It opened a world of wonder, curiosity, and endless adventure for me that continues to this day. By 1990 I had become so obsessed that when an opportunity arose to study Asian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, I jumped at it. Since then, I have traveled extensively to see remote areas of Asia and visited hundreds of museums to quell my curiosity.

One of the reasons for my move to Seattle in 2000 was that there was this jewel box museum dedicated entirely to Asian art. There, in that perfect little building was a stunning collection. Many pieces from SAM’s collection had been referenced during my studies in London. And much to my surprise, each time I visited the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the curators had completely rotated the collection to display yet another aspect or region of the collection. In many museums, the collections never rotate and I go back to visit some objects like old friends. At the Asian Art Museum it was always a new wonder and delight.

For so many reasons, it has been my great pleasure to support the continuation of this remarkable institution. And thanks to everyone at the Seattle Art Museum for their enormous contribution to Seattle.

– Peggy Carlisle, SAM Donor

New Design Brings History to Light: Seattle Asian Art Museum

One of the most important sources of design inspiration for the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s renovations is the incredible place where it resides: Volunteer Park. It’s been more than 100 years since John Charles Olmsted conceived of Volunteer Park’s design. Yet, it continues to be the city’s most intensely used park—and an essential consideration within the museum’s renovation project that has involved input from national, city, and community groups that include Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, the National Park Service, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and Volunteer Park Trust.

“We took a lot of cues from the Olmsted plan and their design intent, their aesthetic and some of the principles they brought to planning all of the trails and pathways within this park,” explains Chris Jones, principal at Walker Macy, the firm overseeing the renovated landscape design. He continues, “In lieu of putting in plazas around the museum, we’re grading the landscape in a way that maintains the recreation that occurs onsite, really supporting the character of the park as the Olmsteds would, emphasizing a nice pastoral landscape with open lawn and trees.”

In addition to their importance within the pastoral aesthetic, trees intersect with the design process in another way. The design team has been working with the guidance of an onsite arborist, who has been integral to the renovation processes by making recommendations for construction methods and identifying important root areas to avoid, in order to best support the trees’ health.

 

The pathways surrounding the museum are also central to the Asian Art Museum’s landscape renovation plan. This includes creating safer traffic circulation around the museum, constructing a more direct connection between the museum and public transit on 15th Avenue, and improving accessibility to the museum. The plan also realizes two pathways that were in Olmsted’s original plan for Volunteer Park but were never fully established, an element that was developed in response to community groups’ input on the design. Jones says, “The intent was to provide each park-goer with an improvement that’s visible on a daily basis . . . I think we achieved that by coming to a really happy consensus that reflects the input from the community.”

In the months ahead, we will continue exploring the future of the Asian Art Museum as the renovations progress towards the much-anticipated re-opening in 2019.

– Erin Langner, freelance writer

Images: Photo: Eduardo Calderon. Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Donor Spotlight: Abe Lillard & Julia Kalmus Support Seattle Asian Art Museum

No matter where you’re from, SAM can become your local museum—take it from Abe and Julia. Hailing from Philly and Tennessee, their passion for Asian art got them involved with the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas when they relocated to the Seattle area. They have donated to support the renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum and can’t wait for it to reopen later this year. Learn more about the exciting and expanded programming that the museum will be able to host thanks to the support of donors like these, and how it can connect your life to art!

The importance of Seattle Asian Art Museum to the cultural history of Seattle, really to the entire Pacific Rim, cannot be overstated. Julia and I were both active as board members with the Albuquerque Museum during our time in New Mexico. Julia grew up in Philadelphia and lived in New York City and museums were a large part of her daily activities as a child and also as an adult. I grew up in rural East Tennessee where there were no museums, so we’re both acutely aware of how much value art and cultural museums can add to a community. We just knew that, on moving to Seattle, we would both get involved. After her career as an attorney in New York, Julia obtained an MFA in art history from the University of New Mexico. We’re both students of the Chinese language, which provided our initial draw to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The highlight of my experience with the museum would have to be the privilege of volunteering with Sarah Loudon at the Gardner Center. Both Julia and I are both quite excited about the reopening of in late 2019.

– Abe Lillard & Julia Kalmus

Muse / News: Bergman’s gravitas, an elegy for the viaduct, and the walls of a Seattle collector

SAM News

There was lots of love last week for The Magic Lantern of Ingmar Bergman, a film series full of “grim existential gravitas” playing every Thursday through March 14. It was recommended in Seattle Met’s “What to Do After Work” and in The Stranger’s “Complete Guide to January 2019 Events.”

“Oh, hey, and they’re showing one of the most traumatizing movies about relationships ever made, Cries and Whispers, on Valentine’s Day. Happy coincidence?”

Strike a pose, Seattle Asian Art Museum! The renovated and expanded museum set to reopen this fall is included this Vogue wrap-up on “The Best New Places to Eat, Stay, and Play in Seattle.”

Local News

Seattle artist and professor Robert C. Jones recently passed away at the age of 88; his work soon goes on view alongside the work of his wife Fay Jones in dual shows at G. Gibson Gallery and James Harris Gallery.

“An elegy to the viaduct on the eve of its passing.” For Crosscut, it’s the brilliant Lola E. Peters with a poem for the viaduct (1953-2019).

Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne asks the important question, “What’s Inside the Weird White Boxes at Third and Virginia?”

“What’s interesting about Light as a Common Thread is that the narrative imposes a new gloom around Hogan’s pieces while they’re still in a gallery. Instead of being championed, they’re doomed.”

Inter/National News

Here’s Artsy’s Julia Wolkoff with an editorial on “Three Ways Art History Needs to Change in 2019.”

Art & Object takes a look at Night Coming Tenderly, Black, a new series by photographer Dawoud Bey of twilight landscapes taken at stops along the Underground Railroad.

Shaun Kardinal, artist and lead web developer at Civilization, was featured in Show Us Your Wall, the New York Times’ recurring series exploring art collections.

“I don’t think of them as investments. I only get things that I love. I do know that that piece, Royalties Wanted, by Anthony White, would probably go for three or four times what I got it for.”

And Finally

Know her name! TIFF schooled me—a self-proclaimed Film Nerd—with this amazing thread on queer feminist film pioneer Dorothy Arzner.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Muse/News: Party crashers at SAM, Seattle’s Instagrammable library, and Zanele Muholi’s self-portraits

SAM News

Claire Partington: Taking Tea is now on view! This site-specific installation brings out the untold human stories of the 1,000 European and Asian porcelain pieces in SAM’s Porcelain Room, reminding viewers of the reality of precarious ocean voyages and human exploitation. Brangien Davis of Crosscut offers this review of this “intervention” that will be on view for the next two years.

“Now, smack in the middle of the room — unprotected except by a guard at the door — stand six ceramic people in old-fashioned dress, positioned as if having tea. Suddenly, our focus is shifted to the figures, who don’t have any teacups in hand, but seem to get their pick of the room. These party-crashers might just change the space forever.”

This Thursday, light up the dreary days of December with SAM Lights. The Seattle Times has all the details on this annual event in their feature, “Holiday sights light up the night.”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ David Gutman talks with artist Laura Hamje about why she can’t stop taking pictures—and making paintings—of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Volunteer Park Trust and Kaiser Permanente announced a new partnership in support of programming at the Capitol Hill park that also houses the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut has a great story about the Central Library, which was just named the “most Instagrammable library” in the world.

“A recent Tuesday afternoon at the library didn’t turn up a single photo snapper. Instead, people could be found using the lofty building for a range of purposes: a man excitedly picking up a stack of books that had just come available; a chatty cluster of folks having coffee at the cafe; people with all their belongings in bags using the computer stations in the so-called Mixing Chamber; a young adult practicing violin in one of the reservable music rooms; one woman seeking documentation of the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s debut; another in search of a name steeped in Seattle history for a new restaurant.”

Inter/National News

Roberta Smith, Holland Cotter and Jason Farago of the New York Times look back at “The Best Art of 2018,” including Hilma af Klimt at the Guggenheim, Charles White at MoMA, and Delacroix at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hyperallergic broke the news that a board member of the Whitney owns a company that produces tear gas that’s been used at the border; both the Whitney staff and its director have offered their powerful replies.

Yrsa Daley-Ward of the New York Times reviews Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, the new book on South African artist Zanele Muholi; the portrait exhibition comes to SAM in 2019.

“If storytelling is one of humanity’s most powerful gifts, then visual activism feels like alchemy. Especially when the work in all of its detail, subtle or overt, moves you in a way you don’t all the way understand.” 

And Finally

The most wholesome content on the Internet last week happened at SAM.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Claire Partington: Taking Tea at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman

Donor Spotlight: Shawn Brinsfield Supports the Asian Art Museum

It’s nice to know that our community also thinks the future of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is going to be cool! More than the critical infrastructure updates to the Art Deco building that won’t be very apparent to visitors, there’s the long history of Asian culture in the Seattle area made visible at the museum. To Shawn Brinsfield, the modest expansion on the back of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is a physical commitment to expanding the understanding and appreciation of Asia. Read why the Asian Art Museum matters to this donor, learn more about the project, and stay up to date on the progress of the renovation and expansion of the Asian Art Museum.

The new Seattle Asian Art Museum is going to be very cool with more space for SAM’s growing collection, better flow and open ‘look-throughs’ to the outside. I take art lessons and sometimes they take us to Volunteer Park to draw; so I look forward to sitting on my chair outside near the trees and drawing the new large glass-walled rear addition of the museum. Ok, full disclosure—I am still just learning to draw; but it will be fun viewing Asian Art Museum visitors fishbowl-like.

The average museum-goer may not appreciate the museum’s new sophisticated climate control environment, which gives the art ‘eternal life.’ Sometimes I think about the centuries of artists who made the works inside the museum. What kind of challenges and human pressures did they have? I wonder how they would react, knowing that their year-after-year sweat and toil and evolution as artists would be preserved by loving and meticulous conservationists today. It’s my understanding that the Asian Art Museum will be an important national center of conserving Asian art. And conserving art is actually a fascinating process. Really!

My mom and her family are of Japanese descent. They were living a full life here in Seattle back in the ‘good old days.’ Grandma Benko Itoi wrote tanka poetry, the family attended art events at the Nippon Kan Theater, they danced in traditional ways at the Bon Odori. Then when World War II broke out they were compelled to destroy most things related to their Japanese culture. So, 75 years later, it’s important to me to support the expansion of Japanese and Asian culture in the Seattle area.

All the art at the Asian Art Museum tells stories of history, ideas, and ways of life. In addition to enjoying the exhibitions on wooden block prints, folding screens, and Chinese scrolls, I have loved going to the Gardner Center’s Saturday University Lecture Series and listening to experts from all over the world. I value this, especially since I help recruit speakers for an Asian art and history group in Florida.

As for the future of the Asian Art Museum, I expect that the Asian Art Museum’s growth will mirror that of Asia’s increasing presence on the world stage. I hope that it continues expanding its collection of South Asian art and continues reaching out to the growing South Asian community here in the Northwest; as well as reaching out to the non-Asian community. My spending time in India on several trips has had a significant impact on my mind and behavior. I include, in my daily life, some practices and rituals which are indigenous to India and South Asia. I have a warm and friendly feeling towards the people and culture of South Asia.

– Shawn Brinsfield

Volunteer Spotlight: Leanne Hawkins

Volunteers make SAM go! Some of our docents, like Leanne Hawkins, have been volunteering since the 1980s when SAM’s only location was our original home in Volunteer Park (now one of our three locations, Volunteer Park is home of the Seattle Asian Art Museum). Every volunteer has their own reasons for contributing their talents to SAM. For Leanne, the opportunity to see art across centuries through the eyes of children and youth always allows her to learn something new about an artwork. Our Manager of Volunteers asked Leanne some questions so you can get to know her and get familiar with the important role SAM’s volunteer play in the museum.
 
SAM: What is your current role?
Leanne Hawkins: I am the Docent Executive Committee (DEC) chair, though my title as part of the SAM Volunteer Association Executive Committee is Docent Program Chair.
How long have you been volunteering at SAM?
Counting my year of docent training in 1998, plus perhaps a year or so volunteering once a month on Thursday nights in the early 1980s at the original SAM, I’ve been a SAM volunteer for about 21 years.
Why is the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) important to you?
My association with SAM has provided so many ways to learn about artists, eras, cultures, and perspectives that are new to me, or different from what is comfortable for me, and I appreciate the opportunities to be delighted, amused, sometimes upset—but never bored. Most of my docent tours are with school groups, ranging from kindergartners through high schoolers, and I love seeing SAM and its myriad objects through their eyes and reactions—I always learn something new, for which I’m grateful.
What is one of your favorite artworks in SAM’s collection, and why?
This is tough. I feel a kinship with so many of the works. But one of my all-time favorites, which I hope comes back on view soon, is Some/One by Do-Ho Suh. For those who may not have seen the piece in a while, it looks like a chainmail tunic on steroids—the skirt can overflow a gallery space. From a distance, it’s elegant, evocative, imposing. When you get closer and find out that the “chainmail” is thousands of dog tags, each individually stamped with a name and ID number, all of which are made up—well, it provokes a lot of intense looking and thoughtful discussion.
When not at SAM, what do you do for fun?
My favorite non-volunteer activities are reading, doing needlework, attending concerts and lectures, weeding the yard, and walking in places near and far from home.
What is something that most people might not immediately know about you?
I’m often told that I seem calm and organized, but I’m actually quite emotional and reactive. Raising two sons helped me perfect my poker face.
What is a simple hack, trick, or some advice that you’ve used over time to help you better fulfill your role at SAM?
As a docent, I see my role as a facilitator. I’m here to help people, especially children and youth, feel more comfortable thinking about and responding to art. To do that, I supply a framework for guests to look and ponder, and then I try to ask questions that stimulate robust discussion. I also try to have fun, a bit of self-deprecating humor often sets people at ease in the museum.
– Danie Allinice, Manager of Volunteer Programs

Seattle Asian Art Museum: A Storied Past Inspires a Bright Future

“Renovating a museum that is an architectural icon is no small task,” explains Sam Miller, Partner at LMN Architects, the firm overseeing the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s renovation and expansion design. Preservation of the landmark building is essential, but modern demands necessitate change. These changes include improved ADA accessibility, seismic and climate control upgrades, and other electrical/mechanical controls imperative to present-day museum standards. The renovation features a modest expansion that adds exhibition and educational space, allowing the museum to better serve the community.

The Art Deco building is considered one of architect Carl F. Gould’s greatest achievements. “Our goal has been to impact the existing spaces as minimally as possible,” Miller says of LMN’s approach to the renovation process. “When there’s any new intervention that’s not replicating or preserving the historic architecture, we’re distinguishing the work with a more contemporary detailing so it’s clearly different from the building’s historic fabric.”

Gould’s original design serves as inspiration to LMN’s renovation plan, as does historic Volunteer Park, designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm in 1903. “There is this beautiful building in a beautiful historic park, and yet the two weren’t connected. We felt restoring some of that connection would be a great opportunity,” Miller says.

He explained how Gould’s design incorporated skylights that flooded the galleries with light, as well as windows with views into Volunteer Park. However, later building additions and a transition towards artificial lighting closed off many of those elements. The renovations will include LED light boxes that allow display of light-sensitive objects in an environment inspired by the original skylights. LMN also designed a glass lobby addition that improves building circulation while also providing park views. Conceived by Gould as an indoor-outdoor space, the Fuller Garden Court will also offer those views, through two new openings that will connect it to the lobby. “As you stand in the Garden Court, you’re going to have this incredible view of the park,” Miller says.

The community was integral to the design process. SAM received feedback from the City, local parks groups, and other community members. In addition to suggesting changes to a building staircase and landscaping that were incorporated into the final design, the community also led the museum back to an important source of inspiration—the Olmsted Brothers’ historic design for Volunteer Park pathways. In response to this feedback, SAM is restoring a set of Olmsted-designed paths. This opportunity to complete and augment these walkways through Volunteer Park speaks to the nature of the restoration project: historic preservation that has led to design inspiration.

In the months ahead, we will continue exploring the future of the museum as the renovations progress towards the much-anticipated re-opening in 2019.

– Erin Langner, freelance writer

Images: Eduardo Calderón.

A Dedicated Collector: Griffith Way (1920–2018)

The Seattle Art Museum is saddened to have lost a tremendous friend of the museum. Griffith Way was appreciated for his gentle nature combined with fine humor that enriched everyone who knew him. He became a Trustee of the Seattle Art Museum in 1995 and received honorary distinction in 2009. A graduate of the University of Washington, Griff was part of the first graduating class specializing in Japanese law. He was also an Adjunct Professor, University of Washington School of Law and spent decades periodically practicing law in Tokyo. In 2007, he was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan in recognition of his long-standing support to increase economic and cultural development between the United States and Japan.

Early in their years in Japan, after the conclusion of WWII, Griff and his wife, Pat, became interested in the then-new style of modern Japanese painting executed in traditional media and formats, known as nihonga; a late 19th-century style among artists seeking both cultural continuity and to address Japan’s emergence as a modern nation. Griff and Pat went on to develop a remarkable nihonga collection that they have shared broadly with the public.

In winter of 1999, SAM welcomed Modern Masters of Kyoto: The Transformation of Japanese Painting Traditions, Nihonga from the Griffith and Patricia Way Collection presented at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Their gift to SAM of 150 nihonga paintings has made SAM the repository of the largest collection of nihonga outside Japan.

As a member of SAM’s board, Griff served as Chair of the Seattle Asian Art Museum Committee and then as Honorary Chair of the Seattle Asian Art Museum Campaign Committee. As Trustee Emeritus of the Blakemore Foundation, Griff facilitated critical funding from the Foundation, which has supported SAM since 1992, most notably through the Blakemore Internship Program for Asian Art at the Asian Art Museum.

Griff’s unwavering dedication to the Seattle Asian Art Museum will be remembered by the museum and community in a future reading area named in his honor, of our McCaw Foundation Library. Griff’s commitment to Asian art and culture will continue to inspire us and our role in connecting with Asia as never before.

Photo: Team Photogenic

Conserving SAM’s Asian Art Collection

Thanks to funding from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project, a pair of important 17th-century Japanese screens, Scenes in and around the Capital, are currently being restored by specialists at Studio Sogendo, a private studio in California. The screens, likely created by a machi-eshi, or “town painter,” present a panoramic view of Kyoto during the Edo period. They show both Kyoto’s center and its periphery, and give insight into the daily lives of different social classes, in addition to representing seasonal festivals.

When the screens first arrived at SAM in 1975, they were already in fragile condition and by the time this conservation work began in 2017, extensive repairs were desperately needed. Painted using ink, color, and gold, and mounted on wooden frames, the screens are being restored using traditional Japanese methods and materials. I was able to visit Studio Sogendo while one of the panels had been stripped of its backings and laid on a light table, allowing a rare perspective of the materials and quality of the painting. The conservation treatment has been invaluable, not just in terms of preserving the paintings, but also in offering opportunities for examination and study. The internal frames must be replaced and expert craftsmen in Japan made new custom frames for the work. The incredibly precise joinery of the new frames can be seen in these images. The conservation phase of the project is nearing completion and the reassembly of the structure, replacement of the mount fabrics, and retouching of the areas of loss is underway.

 

This crucial project would not be possible without Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project, one of few programs dedicated to preserving historically or culturally significant artworks. We look forward to the return of Scenes in and around the Capital, which will be on view among SAM’s extensive Asian art collection when the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens in late 2019!

– Nicholas Dorman, SAM Chief Conservator

Muse/News: Still plenty of summer, feeling an opera, and the next generation of curators

SAM News

Our family-friendly Summer at SAM programming at the Olympic Sculpture Park is recommended by ParentMap’s JiaYing Grygiel in this segment on KING’s New Day Northwest.

“But the skull must move on!” Crosscut’s Brangien Davis with a shout-out (ha) for the Basquiat before it leaves SAM. Today’s the last day to see the extraordinary painting.

Some news on the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project: The building “topping out” is complete. Capitol Hill Seattle shares the news.

Local News

Eileen Kinsella of Artnet with a report on the fourth edition of the Seattle Art Fair; interest and sales led one gallerist to note that “patience will pay off—and it has already.”

Stefan Milne of Seattle Met reviews both shows now on view at the Henry, finding explorations of the female gaze in the work of Mickalene Thomas and Martha Friedman.

Gemma Wilson of City Arts speaks with ChrisTiana ObeySumner—Seattle Opera’s social impact consultant—about Porgy and Bess, the six sides to every story, and how not to be scurred.

“I wish for the days when you go to an opera or musical or a symphony or fine arts gallery and go looking for the message. It’s not about watching the movement or seeing the color or hearing the music. But feeling the music, having a connection with the movement.”

Inter/National News

For Vanity Fair, curator Kimberly Drew visited Tina Knowles Lawson’s Hollywood home, which houses her incredible art collection including works by Elizabeth Catlett, Genevieve Gaignard, and Romare Bearden.

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe on the Australian TV show called Everyone’s a Critic; it “invites everyday people to act as art critics,” generating responses ranging from dismissive to funny to profound.

Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times with a feature on how museums are “addressing diversity with new urgency,” highlighting institutions that are cultivating curators of color.

“’When you have people in an institution who have a range of perspectives, you have a much richer program,’ said Eugenie Tsai, citing ‘openness to consider exhibition proposals, to consider programming, to consider hires, to consider things another group might want to dismiss as not what’s important.’”

And Finally

Four excellent words: Will Smith, art critic.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Robert Wade

Donor Spotlight: The Rivera Family Support Seattle Asian Art Museum

It feels like we came to Seattle at a very exciting time. The Seattle Asian Art Museum is re-imagining an historic building, adding a world class conservation studio, and—very dear to our hearts—creating a beautiful space for education and meaningful hands-on experiences.

Education is very important in our family. Tim was a teacher in the Peace Corps and I have been working and teaching in the arts my entire life. The new education center will make this collection, and the museum in general, more accessible to all. Our family has lived in many different places and Seattle, even more that other cities, seems to be intrinsically connected to the arts. SAM has helped us meet other people that share our passion. But at a recent event we were asked, “Where are all of the other 40 year olds?” We’re not sure but we’d like to invite them all to come and join us. The Builder’s Club is the perfect way to make a mark on Seattle. Literally. Our names will be on the building and we look forward to bringing our family and friends for years to come.

Like so many families, the holidays are a special time for us. Our favorite family event is SAM Lights at the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s a lot of fun for our three year old twins, our teenage boys, and even the grandparents. The crisp air and beautiful lights make the sculpture park a special experience for the holidays.

–Laura Marie and Tim Rivera

Inside the Asian Art Museum: Demolition Today, Reinforcement Tomorrow

We are thrilled to see significant progress on our construction at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Our construction partners BNBuilders have completed the interior demolition in preparation for rebuilding reinforced walls. Many structural upgrades are also underway, in addition to preparing for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing improvements. The foundations for the East Addition have been completed and preparations for installing the North Addition foundations have begun.

For detailed information and continued project updates, visit the BNBuilders project website.

In the image above, the translucent panel ceiling of the Fuller Garden Court has been removed to access the concrete walls above that require seismic retrofitting. With the ceiling taken down, the beautiful laminated glass skylights (original to the 1930’s design but replaced in the 1990s) have been temporarily revealed.

South exhibit hall looking south

In addition, the demolition of interior gallery walls has been completed. The hollow clay tile walls at the perimeter of the galleries will remain, but have been opened up for seismic upgrades. Structural improvements are continuing inside the existing spaces. As is common with historic buildings, asbestos was found and safely removed.

Auditorium looking south

The seats have been removed from the auditorium, along with the sound booth that previously stood in the middle of the back row.

Alvord Board Room looking southeast

The interior wall of the Alvord Board Room has been removed. Once the expansion is complete, this area will be transformed into our new education space.

Want to know more about what’s happening at the Asian Art Museum? See renderings and get more news on the website about the project.

Photos: Courtesy of BNBuilders

Donor Spotlight: Yucca and Gary Support Seattle Asian Art Museum

The renovation and expansion of our Asian Art Museum is about more than the preservation of art. We’re also furthering our mission to connect our Asian art collection to the life of our community for generations to come. Our donors are sharing how important art is to them in making connections to both the past and the future and the importance of SAM in creating those connections. Learn more about the project and show your support!

We are very pleased to support the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the mission of greater understanding between the US and Asia. We lived several years in Japan and over ten years in China, and feel that art and culture play a major role in more deeply appreciating the history, achievements, and challenges of the Asia-Pacific region.

Seattle is uniquely positioned as a true gateway to the Asia-Pacific, with a number of the industries and technologies that are at the core of the next decades of development. Integrating art and culture into the mix in a more direct way through SAM is something we are very excited to support.

– Yucca & Gary Rieschel

Muse/News: New visions, final bows, and happy little Zzzz’s

SAM News

Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson is now on view! Last week, Kim Holcomb of KING5’s Evening Magazine got a sneak peek of the exhibition, interviewing Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art, and featured artist Tracy Rector.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut looks at both our show and the Deconstructing Curtis show at the Suquamish Museum.

“These added perspectives emphasize that Native Americans are contemporary Americans. They continue to adapt while preserving a long legacy of strength and struggle.”

Fred Wong of The International Examiner interviewed curators Xiaojin Wu and Ping Foong about their transformative vision for the future Asian Art Museum. If you’re a SAM member, hopefully you’ve reserved your spot to hear more at their sold-out Conversations with Curators lecture this Wednesday.

“It promises to be a mixture of old and new treasures: the magnificent Art Deco building, the vast Asian Art collections, and the bold re-imaging of the objects’ stories by Drs. Xiaojin Wu and Ping Foong, the two new treasures at [Seattle Asian Art Museum].”

Local News

After 16 years with the company, dancer Karel Cruz took his final bows with Pacific Northwest Ballet. The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald offers this farewell to this “master of partnering.”

Aileen Imperial and Stephen Hegg of Crosscut take us into the growing Ball and House culture of Seattle with this video story.

Here’s City Arts’ Brett Hamil on Chad Goller-Sojourner’s live multimedia memoir, Marching in Gucci: Memoirs of a Well-Dressed AIDS Activist, coming to Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute June 21–23.

“More than a remembrance of those he lost, it’s an expression of his determination to make art out of those frantic years, in which he fought to save others while doing harm to himself. It’s an account of improbable survival.”

Inter/National News

Happy little Zzzz’s: Laura M. Holson of the New York Times on the voice—which can only ever be described as “dulcet”—that’s now lulling users of the Calm app to sleep.

I miss having Kerry James Marshall’s work on view at SAM, so I enjoyed this Vancouver Sun review of his new solo exhibition at the Rennie. Also, his Vignette (The Kiss), which debuted in Figuring History, sold this week at Art Basel.

Speaking of the Swiss fair “best known for presenting the bluest of blue-chip European art,” Julia Halperin of Artnet notes the eager interest of buyers for works by African American artists.

“It’s great people are interested,” the dealer Jack Shainman says. “But the big question is why did it take so long, and why was it so hard to get here?”

And Finally

Contemporary art space SITE Santa Fe announced the lineup for their SITElines.2018 Biennial in a most melodic way. Could this be the future for press releases?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman

A Civic Leader: Brooks Geer Ragen

When Brooks Ragen moved to Seattle in 1961, our cultural community was in its formative years. The anchor organizations we know today only grew through the commitment of dedicated leaders and civic-minded citizens, people like Brooks Geer Ragen. From his business ventures to his board service at SAM and other major organizations throughout Seattle, Brooks approached these undertakings with the same philosophy: to make our community stronger. It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of Brooks’s passing on April 15.

Brooks was a SAM Trustee for over 25 years, a time of incredible growth and expansion for the museum. He joined the Board in 1992 and served as Vice President from 1996 to 1998. He served as President from 1998 to 2000, and as Chairman from 2000 to 2001. Brooks’s dedication to his causes was unparalleled, and his work ethic incomparable.

As Board President and as Board Chairman, he used his business acumen and endless energy to expertly guide SAM through the planning phases in advance of the SAM Transformation campaign, creating the Olympic Sculpture Park and expanding our downtown museum, both of which have continued to shape our city and museum. Most recently, Brooks served as a member of our Seattle Asian Art Museum Campaign Committee, once again providing his invaluable insights as we undertake this next major civic project.

His advice and expertise have been instrumental on so many of SAM’s committees, including among others Finance and Investment; Audit and Real Estate; Executive and Governance; Corporate Relations and Succession planning. Brooks and his wife, SAM Docent Laureate Susie Ragen, created the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Film and Education Endowment, which provides key support to the museum’s renowned film program, and countless educational programs for people of all ages.

Beyond SAM, Brooks embraced roles of civic service for over 50 years. He served as board president of many Seattle institutions, including ACT Theatre, The Bush School, The Seattle Foundation, UW Medicine, and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He also served on the boards of the Washington chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Bloedel Reserve and The High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. The philanthropy of Brooks and Susie has established endowments and scholarships at institutions all over the country.

Within all his successes and a long career—he never retired—Brooks Ragen was always kind and gracious, and never pretentious. Approachable, intelligent, and always determined, Brooks was the very definition of a civic leader. Seattle is a stronger community because of Brooks Ragen, and he will be greatly missed.

Donor Spotlight: Carol Frankel Supports Seattle Asian Art Museum

We’re not the only ones excited about the renovation of our Asian Art Museum! Hear from the donors that are making the preservation of SAM’s original home possible for the benefit of generations to come. Learn more about the project and show your support!

There is no place in Seattle that means more to me than the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. Many, many years ago when it was the entire Seattle Art Museum and I got my first drivers license at age 16, the first place I drove by myself was to the Seattle Art Museum to see a Van Gogh exhibition. I felt very grown up and very sophisticated!

Some decades later when I retired from the faculty of the University of Puget Sound, I decided to become a docent. I had not been an art major. For me art was always “the road not taken,” but through my university work, I had become very interested in Japan. The year of my docent training, the downtown location was being remodeled and all our training was the Volunteer Park site. Needless to say, by this time I was hooked on Asian art and deeply in love with the Asian Art Museum. I was so delighted when Xiaojin Wu and Ping Foong brought their new vision to my old friend. I have experienced Song landscape painting, which formed the basis for the background in Disney’s Bambi and waded through the rubble of Live On, Mr’s post-tsunami installation. I was completely overjoyed to hear that the Asian Art Museum was being renovated. Contributing to help make that possible became one of my highest priorities. I am so proud of that site and can hardly wait to wander those new galleries!

– Carol Frankel

Illustration: Natali Wiseman

Inside the Seattle Asian Art Museum Renovation: Plan Today, Exhibit Tomorrow

During the few months between the Seattle Asian Art Museum closing its doors and the start of the renovation and expansion, our staff was keeping busy. While the entire Asian art collection was relocated to our downtown location to store and protect it during the construction, the curatorial staff began thinking about how to display it when the museum opens again in fall 2019. Xiaojin Wu, SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, and Ping Foong, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art made use of the empty museum walls to brainstorm how the future of the galleries will be organized.

L to R: Xiaojin Wu, Ping Foong

One traditional method of curation is to group objects according to the region they come from. When the museum reopens, the goal is to move beyond this method and explore new ways of integrating and presenting the eclectic artworks. “The challenge,” says Wu “is attempting to create accessible art while embracing how complex art and history can be.”

 

Cross-cultural display is interesting but it can be confusing to present as a museum and to understand as a visitor. “We’re more concerned about boredom,” Says Wu. “The key is excitement—making people want to learn.”

L to R: Rachel Harris, Amelia Love

There are 13 galleries in the Asian Art museum to use for the collection works and the items within them will need to rotate regularly since all Asian paintings and textiles are light sensitive and every six months, or so, they need to rest, sometimes for years at a time!

Ping Foong organizing our collection

It’s hard to gain a sense of scale from print outs, but planning how the rich and diverse piece of our Asian Art Museum will fit back together again is underway! Learn more about the entire renovation and expansion process on our website or, if you’re a SAM member, don’t miss Ping Foong and Xiaojin Wu discussing their plans for the museum in more detail at Conversations with Curators, June 20. From large Buddha sculptures to delicate hair clips, how you would place these priceless objects in the newly upgraded museum when it reopens?

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist & Social Media Manager

Images: Xiaojin Wu

Boundaries of Belonging with the Gardner Center

Debating critical issues over immigration and refugee issues, and the security of national borders in the US can escalate quickly or quickly become tiresome. But, through inquiry, SAM’s Gardner Center offers an alternative way of engaging with, and thinking about, global events that impact us all. The Saturday University Lecture Series beginning this week, is a chance to reflect and discuss how some of these issues manifest around the world. Six outstanding speakers will consider various ways that national borders and other boundaries are created, maintained, and crossed in different parts of Asia in the winter lecture series, Boundaries of Belonging.

Two major events of the mid-20th century that resulted in new national borders—between India and Pakistan, and the formation of North and South Korea—still have resonance in international tensions. Our first speaker, David Gilmartin, looks at the Partition of India and Pakistan in terms of dividing the Indus River Basin, which was then the site of the world’s largest integrated river irrigation system. Next up is the DMZ that separated the members of so many families between North and South Korea. Suk-Young Kim considers that heavily militarized border as a site of intense emotion over the conflicting bonds of family and nation, and discusses various forms of border crossing.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, President Duterte has declared war on marginalized communities within their own nation. While most Filipinos are removed from the violence, Vicente Rafael discusses the work of photojournalists who aim to bring national and international attention to the victims of this “drug war.”

 In a comparison of the treatment of Koreans living in Japan and Japanese Americans in the US during World War II, Tak Fujitani uncovers how both governments recruited among these communities for military service as their duty to the nation, while at the same time denying them full rights.

How to imagine a refugee camp of over 650,000 Rohingya people in Bangladesh? Azeem Ibrahim shares his research conducted over several visits to Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Our final speaker, Lucinda Ramberg, considers issues of religion, caste and gender among a Buddhist community in South India.

Join us and consider the many questions raised during the Saturday University Lecture Series. Tickets are still available to the series and individual lecture tickets are sold at the door, day-of.

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Photo: NASA

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

In a ceremony at the Seattle Art Museum last Wednesday, Dr. Chiyo Ishikawa, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), joining a prestigious group of artists, writers, scholars, and producers recognized for fostering French arts and culture. ARTnews and Vanguard Seattle both shared the news.

The project to renovate and expand the Asian Art Museum met some important milestones in recent public hearings with the Seattle City Council. Last week, Brendan Kiley of the Seattle Times filed an update on the project.

Local News

Seattle says farewell to educator Mona Humphries Bailey, who passed away recently at the age of 85. We here at SAM were honored to have her once serve on our Education & Community Engagement Committee.

Last week’s New Yorker cover featured an illustration by Mark Ulriksen depicting Seahawk and activist Michael Bennett kneeling with Colin Kaepernick and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alison Marks: One Gray Hair, now on view at the Frye Art Museum, was reviewed by Erin Langner for Hyperallergic.

“ . . . instigates an urgent conversation about the perspectives that are lost in a monolithic world, with questions and answers moving fluidly between the work, the viewer and the artist.”

Inter/National News

The Brooklyn Museum has announced that they’ll present a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat in a one-painting exhibition (which will then go on tour); the work made headlines last spring after it was purchased by collector Yusaku Maezawa.

Meredith Mendelsohn of the New York Times profiles artist Derrick Adams, whose exhibition opening this week at the Museum of Arts and Design was inspired by the “Green Book,” guides for black travelers published from 1936 through 1966.

Antwaun Sargent writes for Artsy about LaToya Ruby Frazier—2013 winner of SAM’s Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize—who has a new show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in Harlem.

‘”Whenever I’m making a portrait,’ says Frazier, and its subjects are ‘looking back at me, showing their dignity and pride and humanity, they are a marker on the timeline of history.’”

And Finally

This past weekend saw the Women’s March 2.0 take over cities and towns across the country. Here’s a song for those who want to keep the party going.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Harmony
Part of the Aomori Prefecture, Tsugaru is found at the far north of Japan’s main island of Honshu. The Sea of Japan meets its western shore, while the Pacific Ocean is to the east. Surrounded by water, this mountainous area is beautiful, remote, and endurably peaceful.

Map showing the Tsugaru Strait (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Japan, access 8/9/17)

Two of the photobooks from the Harris collection give us glimpses of captivating people and places in Tsugaru.

Rugged, Deep, Delicate
Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka and Kojima Ichiro (Izu Photo Museum, 2014) opens a window that allows us to view everyday life in Tsugaru. The images that reach out from these pages convey the at-home attitude and the quiet sense of belonging expressed by the people who live in this vast, remote landscape.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

These stunning images capture the sense of eternal clarity that suffuses the landscape and the people of Tsugaru. This masterful work depicts people living in harmony within the natural world, using images that are artistically compelling and evocative.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Integrity and Integration
Masako Tomiya’s Tsugaru (self-published, 2013) is a study of individualists adapting to a beautiful, rugged world. The unique character of the landscape and people of Tsugaru is captured beautifully in this collection of black and white photographs.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

It celebrates the majesty of the rugged rural terrain, whipped by fierce wind and snow in the winter, then bathed in summer’s balmy breezes. The people who live there are portrayed as the resourceful individuals they are, living life in tune with the call of the natural world.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Ping’s Puzzle: Putting Together a New Narrative for the Asian Art Museum

While the Asian Art Museum is closed in preparation for renovation, our curators are staying busy. Hear from Ping Foong, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, on what she’s busy with and how it will impact the Asian Art Museum.

SAM: What are you working on while the Asian Art Museum is closed for the next 18 months?

PING: I’m hoping to convene a panel of senior advisors to help us address big-picture questions for the museum: What defines Asian Art? How can we define Asian Art in the 21st century? What are the boundaries of Asia that we want to talk about? What role does contemporary Asian Art play? What role does less represented areas of Asia play? The term Asia doesn’t refer only to East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) or South Asia (India and Pakistan). So one of the big questions is how to balance the stories the collection itself can tell versus the stories we ought to tell. So, basically I’m asking my elders for help.

A motivation for the proposed renovation is to better display South Asian artworks, correct?

Yes, this is not my area, so I found us expert help: a senior curator of South Asian art will join my team as a consultant so that we will have “three pillars” representing our collection—China, Japan, and South Asia. Another important question is what role must Islam play in the display of Asian art. Islamic art is not geographically specific. Right? So, we have on display right now downtown a room full of Islamic art, but then the question is should it also be included in the Asian Art Museum? Where do you draw those lines? That’s an important question to ask. And how do we ask these questions? Well a curator has a very important role in these things, but I like to have feedback. I want this to be part of a conversation.

How do you see this conversation impacting the future of the Asian Art Museum?

The theme that surfaces often is transcultural connections. There are objects that cannot be defined by religion. We want to talk about how artistic styles travel. Other things travel that you may not imagine. For instance, tattoos travel because they’re on the body. I like to think about the ways that color travels. I would love to make a room full of color talking about the way that trade connects Persia and China. Cobalt goes from one end of the world to the other end and gets made into something and comes back. This process of going back and forth can be demonstrated with objects.

In the meanwhile, what sort of Asian art will be on view at Seattle Art Museum?

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is on view this summer. People are very excited about that exhibition. Another reason to be excited is Pure Amusements: Wealth, Leisure, and Culture in Late Imperial China. It’s basically a scholar’s objects show with a twist. Certainly, you get to see some very important examples of well-known furniture, lovely Ming dynasty chairs, elegant brush pots, pens—the kinds of objects that a scholar might need for everyday life. But the theme of the show is that these things are not just necessarily belonging to scholars. They belong to people who aspire to join the community scholars, or to participate in scholar culture. These beautifully crafted objects may have been made for somebody who wants a scholar’s object, but is not a member of that class.

Also, it’s a chance to display things we’ve never displayed before. I found a set of very nice ink sticks that belonged to one of the most famous Chinese emperors. He lived in the 18th century and collected like a maniac. He was probably the greatest emperor collector on earth; no one had a bigger collection than him! These ink sticks are little and each of them looks like a tiny musical instrument. With an ink stick, you rub it with a little bit of water against the inside of an ink stone and you create ink you can use in paintings or calligraphy. They’re ephemeral, they disintegrate, but yet these ink sticks are so beautifully crafted.

Sounds like we won’t be missing out on Asian art in the interim. But what will you miss most while the Asian Art Museum is closed for proposed renovation?

Well, I miss a number of things. The offices, for example, those will change. They are historic offices. There’s history in sitting on those seats and that will go away. The plan right now is that where the current offices are will become perhaps the conservation studio and the administrative offices will move. So I will miss my beautiful window. I have a tree outside it. That was my favorite part about working in the park. As objects are concerned, I’ll miss my favorite Buddha.

What are you most excited about maybe in terms of the new space?

We’re planning on two new education spaces. Currently, we’re busting at the seams on Saturdays because we cannot accommodate all the kids who come to the museum. So we’ll have one space in the lower level, an art-making area, and a family area upstairs that is currently a gallery. It’s one of the most important parts of the proposed renovation because we just don’t have room for that currently.

Anything else you want to share about your future plans for the Asian Art Museum?

I think that the conversations we’re having with our advisory panel have to happen now, as I’m formulating ideas. And I do have some crazy ideas. I’m not sure if I can talk about them yet. It’s like this: Permanent collections—we’ve got to bring them a little love. You know? I want to put together a new and exciting narrative that people will love now and in the future.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter & Content Strategist

Photo: Natasha Gillett

Object of the Week: Crows

The six-panel Crows screen is a monument in SAM’s Asian art collection and also forms an integral part of Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi, where it serves as a reference point for a digital aviary. In what other company have the Crows flown?

Back in 1936, the exceptional screen featured in a display of Japanese Buddhist Art at the gallery Yamanaka & Co., from which SAM purchased it. In 1953 it mingled with other Japanese painted screens in an exhibition at the Portland Art Museum. Birds, Blossoms, Bees and Bugs—The Nature of Japan (1976) brought the screen to Los Angeles for a look at Japanese art inspired by the environment. Dozens of permanent collection displays at the Seattle Art Museum have flocked around the Crows. A 1994 installation marking the reopening of the Volunteer Park building as the Seattle Asian Art Museum situated the screen among Japanese netsuke, bronze waterdroppers, jewelry, and lacquers. Flights of Fancy (1998-1999) placed it among newer acquisitions of painting and sculpture, while Signs of Fortune, Symbols of Immortality (2000-2001) engaged its spiritual content. A Fuller View of China, Japan, and Korea (2013-2014) considered the Crows among the countless contributions to the museum from co-founders Dr. Richard Fuller and Margaret MacTavish Fuller.

Dr. Fuller in storage with Crows screen

Wherever the words “Asian” and “masterpiece” were used in a show title at SAM, the Crows screen was there. Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum (1998-1999) displayed it among some other remarkable Japanese paintings, like the Hell of Shreaking Sounds scroll from the Heian period, and Bokkei Saiyo’s Moonlit Landscape. Care for the Crows took center stage in Five Masterpieces of Asian Art: The Story of their Conservation (2007). Over 2009–2010, they took a rare flight out of Seattle for Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art from the Seattle Art Museum, which traveled to the Suntory Museum, Tokyo; Kobe City Museum; Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art; MOA Museum, Atami; and Fukuoka City Museum, before landing back home.

As truly great artworks do, the Crows have spoken loudly in a range of themed and cultural contexts, amid a variety of fellow works. This restless murder continues to spark new and innovative ideas from its perch at the Asian Art Museum.

–Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections  Coordinator

Image: Crows, early 17th century, Japanese, Edo period (1603-1868), pair of six panel screens; ink and gold on paper, 61 9/16 x 139 5/16 in. Seattle Art Museum, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 36.21.1. Photo: Paul V. Thomas.

 

Learn More about Indigo through Resources at the McCaw Foundation Library

Textile artists have been using indigo, a type of dye, for thousands of years, mastering methods of creating beautiful patterns with this deep blue color. A visit to the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition, Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World features striking hues and the multitude of ways in which indigo manifests in various materials. If your visit leaves you yearning to learn more about the indigo-dying process, we’ve got what you need!

The McCaw Library at the Seattle Asian Art Museum provides resources to visitors about works in our collection and in special exhibitions. During the run of Mood Indigo, the library features a number of titles about indigo, its processes, and methods of application. Because the McCaw Foundation Library is one of the few libraries in the region to focus specifically on Asian art, many of our resources are not available anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest.

Check out this selection of resources related to indigo and its uses in Asian textiles

Shibori and Chinese Indigo Batik

Arimatsu shibori: a Japanese tradition of Indigo Dyeing by Bonnie F. Abiko
(Rochester, MI: Meadow Brook Art Gallery, Oakland University, 1995).
In the early 17th century, Shokuru Takeda settled in Arimatsu, a small town on the road to the capital city, Kyoto. There he created Arimmatxu shibori, the now-famous stunning indigo designs expressed on fabric using shibori dye-resist techniques. This book, written in English with many color pictures of this special fabric, tells engaging stories of how and where it came into being and influenced the development of Japanese textile design.

Designs of Chinese Indigo Batik by Pu Lu
(New York: Lee Publishers Group; Beijing, China: New World Press, 1981).
Indigo batik has a long history among the common people of China, particularly in the remote southwestern provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan. It has been an integral part of the social customs and folk art of the area. This book, written in English, details the methods, materials, and history of making Chinese indigo batik. It includes many images of designs used in creating these beautiful and socially significant pieces.

Genshi tennen no nuno = 原始・天然の布 by Okamura Kichiemon
(Osaka, Japan: Sansai, 1981).
This elegant two-volume set includes a wide variety of fabric samples, many of them using indigo dye. The captions are written in Japanese. This book will fascinate both artists and scholars.

Kasuri no michi: fujimoto hitoshi korekushon by Hitoshi Fujimoto
(Tokyo : Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1984).
Kasuri is the Japanese term for ikat weaving. Yarn threads are tied before they are dyed. Tying “masks” the part of the thread that is knotted, and so it will resist the dye. The pattern used when tying the knots creates the finished patterns which will be woven into the cloth. Sometimes only the weft yarn is tied; when both the weft and warp yarns are tied, it is called double kasuri–a technique which can yield designs that range from simplistic to marvelously complex and pictorial. This book, written in Japanese, contains descriptions and images detailing the creation of these textiles, and color images of finished pieces.

indigo-books4

Jidai Resshu Kasuri = 時代裂集 絣
Peruse a wide selection of ikat textile samples, most of them using indigo dye. The stunning variety of designs is captivating: some are intricate and representational, while others are simple yet graceful. Japanese captions often are paired with English translations. This is a must-see!

The McCaw Foundation Library is open to the public, Thursdays and Fridays, 2–5 pm and Saturdays, 10 am–2 pm (through September 3). Beginning September 10, our Saturday hours are extended from 10 am–5 pm.

Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

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