Muse/News: Imogen’s Influence, Painting Last Meals, and Finding a Dürer

SAM News

Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective is now on view at SAM! Carrie Dedon, SAM’s Associate Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, spoke with KUOW’s Kim Malcolm about Cunningham’s life and work. And Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on “how Seattle’s Imogen Cunningham changed photography forever.” She spoke with six local artists about Cunningham’s influence and legacy.

“Cunningham’s headstrong nature would come to define her long career as a fine arts photographer: She never hesitated to experiment, even if it meant sailing against the wind as a female photographer in a male-dominated industry.”

Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud for Variable West on “the boundless light of Black children” shining in Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence. Also: Check out the show’s accompanying book, featuring an essay by the artist.

“I want everybody to be a little bit off their rocker, a little bit shocked, a little bit dazzled, a little bit held. That’s what I get to do.” – Barbara Earl Thomas

Local News

“Why they give.” In the spirit of holiday giving, 425 Business checks in with local philanthropists about their charity practice. The Banks family is featured; Dr. Cherry A. Banks is a SAM trustee.

For Thanksgiving, Crosscut once again highlights the bounty of Native art on view in the area, including Duane Linklater: mymothersside at the Frye Art Museum, new public art at Climate Pledge Arena, film screenings, holiday markets, and much more.

“A painterly catalog of the death penalty in America”: The Seattle Times’ David Gutman on Julie Green’s The Last Supper, now on view at the Bellevue Arts Museum.

“You think you’re looking at something that’s very blasé and very familiar and comforting and then it’s something that really jolts you once you actually understand what you’re looking at,” said Lane Eagles, associate curator at the museum. “I think the idea is to sort of lull you into this sense of comfort so that you’re sort of disarmed and that that’s when the reality that every single plate is a dead person hits you.”

Inter/National News

From NPR: “Frida Kahlo’s Diego y yo, a painting of herself with her husband’s image on her forehead, sold for $34.9 million in a Sotheby’s auction… It’s the most money ever paid at auction for a work by a Latin American artist.” Speaking of: Don’t miss Imogen Cunningham’s portrait of Kahlo on view at SAM!

The New York Times reviews The Loft Generation, a memoir by artist Edith Schloss discovered after her death; she brings to life the mid-century New York scene, including Frisson artists such as Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning.

One of Muse/News’ favorite genres: A man purchased a drawing at an estate sale for $30; it may be a Albrecht Dürer worth $50 million.

“On a lark, he bought it for $30. At the very least, it was ‘a wonderfully rendered piece of old art, which justified purchasing it,’ he recalled.

And Finally

The shaggy appeal of Kurt Vonnegut.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

Object of the Week: Focal Point

This week’s object is from the SAM Libraries’ collections. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library and McCaw Foundation Library collect book arts such as photobooks, artists’ books, zines, and broadsides. A broadside is a large sheet of paper printed on only one side. Historically, they were ephemeral works plastered onto walls or folded into pamphlets and distributed. Typical broadsides include public decrees and proclamations, event posters, commentaries, or advertisements. Today, broadsides are an important artistic form created via various printmaking and hand-drawn processes which are held by libraries and museums worldwide.

Focal Point [Imogen Cunningham] is a broadside from the Bullitt Library’s collection created by Tacoma artists, Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring. The work is part of their limited-edition broadside series entitled Dead Feminists. Originating in 2008, they have released 31 broadsides focused on historical feminists: political figures, activists, environmentalists, scientists, artists, and more. Each broadside is letterpress-printed on a Vandercook Universal One press from hand-drawn lettering and illustrations and includes a quote as well as biographical information about the subject(s).

If you’re familiar with the series, you might notice that unlike the other works printed on white paper, Focal Point [Imogen Cunningham] is one of only two printed on black paper. This decision helped the artists “pull the focus” onto Cunningham’s quote: “The seeing eye is the important thing.” O’Leary and Spring thought it “provided a beautiful backdrop for a tribute to someone who spent her life creating black-and-white images.”1 Lettering was done with a metallic ink (a recipe that Spring developed) that includes real gold powder. This broadside was printed in an edition of 164 as a nod towards Cunningham being a founding member of Group f/64, a group of photographers devoted to exhibiting and promoting a new direction in photography. F/64 refers to the small aperture setting on the large format camera used by the group’s members.

When asked what drew the artists to Cunningham, Spring said, “The print was made in 2014, and we were definitely feeling the pull of social media, a world full of distractions, and a desire to focus back on our work as artists. As makers ourselves, we recognize the power of observation and the artist’s eye.”2 And observe, they did. Every aspect of this work was carefully considered, from the choice of metallic silver filigree that mimics the traditional silver-gelatin photographic process to the pastiche of images drawn from Cunningham’s photographic subjects. If you look closely, you might recognize several images from Cunningham’s work in SAM’s collection—Magnolia Blossom (Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels) (1925, 89.67) and Frida Kahlo, Painter 3 (1931, 89.28).3 Look for these and other images when you visit Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective, on view at SAM from November 18 through February 6, 2022.

In addition to this single broadside, the Bullitt Library also holds O’Leary and Spring’s book, Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color (Sasquatch Books, 2016), which details the entire series in brilliant color and a set of reproduction postcards. Currently, the SAM Libraries are still closed to visitors, but we encourage you to see these items in person when we reopen. In the meantime, the book and the reproduction postcards are available in the SAM Shop during the run of Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective. The entire Dead Feminists series is also currently on view at the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections in an exhibition titled, And Then She Said: Voices of Feminists Past and Present.

– Traci Timmons, SAM Senior Librarian

Image: Focal Point [Imogen Cunningham], 2014, Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring, Broadside print, 46 x 26 cm, Image courtesy of the artists. Magnolia Blossom (Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels), 1925, Imogen Cunningham, Gelatin silver print, Img/sht: 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.67 © Imogen Cunningham Trust.

1 O’Leary, Chandler and Jessica Spring. “Focal Point.” Dead Feminists blog, March 18, 2014. http://www.deadfeminists.com/focal-point/.

2 Email interview with Jessica Spring and Chandler O’Leary, November 2, 2021.

3 Frida Kahlo became the subject of O’Leary and Spring’s 26th Dead Feminist broadside, Estados Divididos, in 2017.

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