Object of the Week: Uncle Thomas

Despite becoming interested in art relatively late in life, Titus Kaphar quickly built an impressive career by blurring the line between art and activism. Through his use of paint, tar, sculpting, and a wide range of other techniques, Kaphar uses his work to recontextualize and reimagine the way we look at history. This includes literal instances of altering history by crumpling, shredding, and reforming well-known images.

With his 2008 painting Uncle Thomas, Kaphar uses his gift for portraiture to shift an age-old archetype. The term “Uncle Tom,” named after the lead character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, has long been used to promote a picture of blackness that centers on obedience and servitude. In this work from SAM’s collection, Kaphar takes inspiration from his real-life uncle Thomas to display his updated perception of the name. By placing his uncle—a well-respected, land-owning black man—at the center of Uncle Thomas, Kaphar exchanges an image of servitude and oppression for one of strength, dignity, and authority. During Black History Month especially, Kaphar’s art represents an important example of empowerment and support within one’s own community.

This work is less experimental than other pieces Kaphar has created in more recent years, but its bold confrontation of history is representative of the artist’s larger body of work. Kaphar’s willingness to challenge complicated historical narratives directly through images has driven him to work with Time magazine and receive several accolades, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018. Through his unique approach, Kaphar is altering the way many view our nation’s past while shining a light on the unheard voices and forgotten faces of history.

Michael Miller, SAM Communications Intern

Image: Uncle Thomas, 2008, Titus Kaphar, tar on paper, 48 x 36 in., Contemporary Art Support Fund, 2009.31 © Titus Kaphar

Lauren Farris: Emerging Arts Leader Intern Look at SAM

“Vulnerability” has been a bit of a buzz word ever since Brené Brown’s TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.” Having watched Brené’s TED Talk and read one of her books, I value vulnerability a lot, but being vulnerable myself can still feel fairly nerve-wracking. So when the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern and I were asked to lead a My Favorite Things Tour, little did I know that the next 10 weeks would also include a road trip down vulnerability lane. 

When I first heard about the tour, I thought this tour would remain in the realm of theoretical, academic concepts. To be fair, a large part of the process involved researching the history behind each piece, utilizing resources from SAM’s libraries (thanks, Traci, Jordyn, and Yueh-Lin!), and meeting with curators (thanks, Pam and Chiyo!). But along with the historical research, our mentors and colleagues, Rachel, Seohee, David, and Priya (thank you all!), encouraged us to delve vulnerably into our stories and weave them into each piece. 

Because of this, I began asking myself some questions about my story, including being mixed race. For a while, I’ve been nervous about my voice because being mixed race often feels like a grey area between two distinct points of view and voices in society. But as I worked on the tour, each of our mentors and countless people shared their time, insight, stories, and vulnerability to help me process, ask deeper questions, and craft the content of the tour. Without them, the tour and this blog post would look entirely different. 

Not to mention, I’ll always cherish the times the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern, Cat, and I practiced nearly 50 versions of our ever-evolving tour with each other. Because our tours delved into more personal topics, we became each other’s support and cheerleader through a lot of ups and a few downs. Together, we also arranged informational interviews with staff across many departments, assisted at events like SAM Remix, DragonFest, and Summer Institute for Educators, and attended department and equity team meetings. I learned so much from working with Cat (miss you!) and love the ways in which SAM values and integrates collaboration. 

Throughout this entire internship, I’ve learned so much about museums, equity work within museums, and about myself. The interdisciplinary focus provided the opportunity to learn about many of the departments that comprise SAM. All throughout and above the galleries, it’s inspiring to see how many dedicated individuals play a role – from fundraising to checking coats to communicating with the press to leading student tours—to make SAM the museum that it is. 

I also learned a lot about equity work in museums that I didn’t know before. I’ve realized that it’s not enough to know some terms or read some papers or books, but it takes the vulnerability to ask myself the same questions within these papers. And it takes the bravery to answer these questions honestly. 

SAM gave me a safe space to ask questions and come from a posture of growth and progression rather than perfection. More than ever, I’ve learned how crucial and empowering it is to connect with people who share both similar and different experiences. The ways that SAM strives for equity within education, programming, exhibitions, staff, and every part of SAM is inspiring. SAM is opening up dialogue, asking themselves, and others, critical questions, and aiming to lead and learn with each step towards furthering inclusivity and equity. SAM taught me that it takes vulnerability and guts to genuinely look at equity within ourselves in order to implement equity institutionally and beyond.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who made this internship so special. And guess what? I’m so grateful, honored, and thrilled to continue on with SAM’s amazing Development Team as a Campaign Assistant! See you around!

– Lauren Farris, SAM Campaign Assistant & 2019 Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Radical times, art world internships, and online wives

SAM News

The summer edition of the Stranger’s Art & Performance Quarterly is out! Recommended SAM shows in the visual arts listings include Hear & Now, 2018 Betty Bowen Award Winner: Natalie Ball, Victorian Radicals, Zanele Muholi, Material Differences: German Perspectives, You Are on Indigenous Land: Places/Displaces, and Claire Partington: Taking Tea. They also recommend upcoming events Summer at SAM and Remix.

Fine Art Connoisseur, 425 Magazine, and Seattle Gay Scene are also among those who look forward to getting radical with the Victorians when our major exhibition opens this Thursday night.  

Local News

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig looks—and looks again—at Cecilia Vicuña’s first major US solo exhibition, now on view at the Henry Art Gallery.

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley reports on the formal launch of the Art Workers Union (AWU), formed by and for security guards at the Frye Art Museum.

Margo Vansynghel for Crosscut on the future home of an incredible archive of Black Panther newspapers; a satellite of Estelita’s Library, it will be the first “tiny cultural space” from the Office of Arts & Culture.

The newspaper collection, says Dixon, preserves “an important, critical part of American history. To see that [this] time existed and that it’s captured in the pages of these newspapers so that people can actually see and read what we said—not what someone else is interpreting from afar—but what we said, how we articulated revolution in this country, that’s the importance of them.”

Inter/National News

From the Los Angeles Times: The Natural History Museum of LA County announced a major rethink of the La Brea Tar Pits site; the Olympic Sculpture Park’s designer Weiss/Manfredi is one of three firms making proposals for the project.

Hyperallergic’s Kealey Boyd on Margaret Kilgallen’s first posthumous museum exhibition—now on view at the Aspen Art Museum—and the artist’s “unique mix of folk, feminism, and street art.”

Artsy’s Benjamin Sutton examines “how internships are changing the art world,” detailing various initiatives at the Getty Foundation, Souls Grown Deep, and Artpace.

“Museums desperately need talent in all sorts of positions—curators represent a fraction of the staff of museums,” Anderson said. “We’d be thrilled if an accountant emerges from [the Souls Grown Deep initiative] and finds their way into the museum profession, but they’re an accountant who has knowledge and experience in a particular cultural remit that otherwise they may not have.”

And Finally

Please, My Wife, She’s Very Online.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: The Long Engagement, ca. 1854–59, Arthur Hughes, British, 1832–1915, oil on canvas, 42 1/8 × 21 in., Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Presented by the executors of the late Dr. Edwin T. Griffiths, 1902P13, © Birmingham Museums Trust, Courtesy American Federation of Arts.

SAM Connects Culture to Emerging Arts Leaders

Read all about Trang Tran’s experience at SAM as our 2018 Emerging Arts Intern. The Emerging Arts Internship at SAM grew out of SAM’s equity goal and became a paid 10-week position at the museum designed to provide emerging arts leaders from diverse backgrounds with an in-depth understanding of SAM’s operations, programming and audiences. We’re searching for our next Emerging Arts Intern! Does this sound like you? Applications are due April 1!

When I was asked to write a wrap-up blog about my experiences as an Emerging Arts Leader intern at the Seattle Art Museum, I asked myself, “Jeez, where do I even begin?” There are so many experiences, memories, and relationships that I have built at this museum, a place I now consider a second home, that it’s hard to summarize my journey in a paragraph or two.

As I was walking toward the museum on my first day of the internship, the word “anxious” wouldn’t have entirely encapsulated my emotions. I was also thrilled, grateful, and honored to be working at one of the best art institutions on the West coast. My first week flew by as I met staff members who were inclusive, welcoming, supportive, and helpful as I tried to find my way around the maze of the administrative office. Over the next weeks, I began conducting informal interviews with staff members, working on projects with the curatorial, communication, and educational departments, and I ran around the museum trying to find meeting rooms but repeatedly ending up on the wrong floor (“M stands for Maloney”– David). I also toured the Olympic Sculpture Park (Thanks, Maggie!), made multiple trips to the galleries and library as I began research for my December My Favorite Things Tour, spiraled down the rabbit hole in art storage (Thanks, Carrie!), attempted to write a press release for an upcoming exhibition (Thanks, Rachel!), participated in many events hosted by the museum, and more!

One event I was especially honored to participate in was the Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodpur, India Community Opening Celebration. I had the opportunity to interact with the community by greeting them at the door and answering questions about the evening’s programs. Instead of running around the administrative office or staring at a computer screen, I was able to engage with the museum’s audience. It was amazing to witness the enthusiasm, anticipation, and joy radiating from everyone I met at the door. Even though I ended up losing my voice that night, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

I was also fortunate to spend the day with my little brother, Kevin, at the Diwali Family Festival. Diwali, or the “festival of lights,” is one of the most important celebrations in India where people celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The museum’s annual Diwali Family Festival included a vibrant fashion show, numerous art activities, dance performances, live music, and tours of the special exhibition, Peacock in the Desert, as well as tours of SAM’s permanent collections and installations. By attending this event, I hoped to show my brother that art is not just about color pigments on a white canvas on the wall or a sculpture encased in glass that you forget about as soon as you walk away. Art has the effect of bringing people together. People of different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds come together to celebrate, learn about, and appreciate a culture. Art also has the power to encapsulate political struggles, social changes, cultural values, and art movements. These are the reasons why I love, and am passionate, about art. I hope that if I can help the youngest member of my family see how powerful art can be, maybe one day my parents, as well as the wider Asian-American community, will learn to accept and recognize the existence of the art world.

Throughout this 10-week interdisciplinary internship, I found myself learning about the numerous operations that keep the museum running on an everyday basis. Such operations range from researching artworks in the curatorial department to fundraising in the development department, from promotional strategies in the marketing department to writing press releases in the communication department, and from preserving artworks in the conservation department to engaging the public in the educational department. But if I were to selected one main lesson to take away after this internship, it would be that a museum is not just about the artworks in the gallery; it’s also about people coming together to successfully bring these artworks to the public. For an artwork to be displayed in the museum, for a sculpture to be standing in the gallery, or for an exhibition to be showcased for three months, it takes cooperation from every department in the museum. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has welcomed, accepted, supported, challenged, and encouraged me throughout this internship. Thank you for all the hard work that you are doing, not only for the world of art, but also for the public community.

– Trang Tran, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern 2018

Say Hi to SAM’s New Emerging Arts Leader: Trang Tran

SAM’s ongoing Emerging Arts Leader Internship continues this winter with Trang Tran, a senior at the University of Washington.

This paid internship is aimed at candidates who are underrepresented in the museum field. It’s an interdisciplinary internship that allows the intern to interact with diverse aspects of museum work and contribute their unique insights and perspectives. Members of SAM’s Equity Team, representing several departments at the museum, make up the hiring committee for this important internship that is just one way SAM is working to create points of entry into the museum field and work toward equity and inclusion within our own walls. Launched in 2016, the internship program now boasts seven graduates.

Trang started her internship in September and will be here through the end of 2018. Growing up, she was expected to pursue a STEM career and planned to study biology—until an introductory art history course changed the course of her life (art has a way of doing that). Graduating next June from UW, she’s now pursuing an art history degree—with a minor in microbiology! During her cross-disciplinary internship, she’ll explore all facets of the museum field and share her unique insights along the way. Says Trang, “I want to demonstrate to society—especially the Asian community—that every child deserves to have an equal opportunity to choose their career path. I want to become that change.”

Save the date for Thursday, December 6! Trang will lead a free My Favorite Things Tour in the galleries focusing on some of what she’s learned while contributing to SAM. You won’t want to miss it.

We asked Trang: What’s a work of art that challenged your perspective on life?

Trang: The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, which he painted on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City during the Renaissance era. The stylistic goals of the Renaissance era were rationality, balance, and unity. However, Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment was very dynamic, chaotic, and filled with ambiguity. Michelangelo challenged the norms of the Renaissance movement and as a result, he created one of the world’s greatest treasures. His refusal to conform to the norms of the current art movement encouraged me to pursue a career outside of the ones that children who grow up in Asian communities are generally expected to pursue. I want to demonstrate to society that I can become successful doing something I love instead of chasing a career that society labels as “successful.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Equity Team Outreach Taskforce Chair

Seohee Kim: Emerging Arts Leader Intern Look at SAM

During my first week as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern at Seattle Art Museum, I was told that by the last week of the internship this reflection post for the blog would be due. I remember thinking, “Oh, that sounds easy enough—just summarize what happened in a paragraph or two.” Clearly, I had no idea what was headed my way. The past week has been an endless cycle of drafting, writing, editing, only to draft again. (You know that feeling of when there’s so much you want to say, and say eloquently, that words and sentences are flying around your mind and you’re scrambling to make sense of them, but you actually just end up staring at the blinking text cursor for an hour? Yeah, that.)

When I reflect on the past 10 weeks of my internship, I imagine having one of those View-Masters (they’re still relevant, right?) and clicking through reels of moments at SAM. It starts with the welcoming faces of everyone I meet coming into view. Then, a whirlwind of back-to-back meetings; getting lost in the labyrinth of the administrative office; storage visits with Carrie (thank you, Carrie!); always pressing the wrong level in the elevator; researching objects; conducting informational interviews with staff; preparing for my My Favorite Things tour; taking part in Career Day, Seattle Art Fair, Summer at SAM, and Remix; and so much more. As if in slow motion, images of my last week include the nerve-wracking day of my tour and saying goodbye to everyone I had the privilege of working with.

I’m surprised how much I changed in this short time span. In the beginning, I thought I knew enough about diversity and equity work from courses at university and my past experiences that I was only focused on giving my perspectives rather than allowing myself to be vulnerable and molded by those far more experienced than I. Working closely with the equity team this past summer, I found myself constantly learning, practicing, and honing the use of an equity lens in my work. I experienced the behind-the-scenes of a museum and community working towards transparency and racial and social equity. I saw every meeting ask how to be inclusive, provide access, and advance equity. There was, and is, so much I don’t know, not only regarding the arts and museums, but also in becoming a better ally for community. Watching and working alongside these amazing and passionate individuals, I’ve come to reevaluate myself, my goals, and my passions on a weekly basis.

What resulted of this reevaluation was the “My Favorite Things” tour I had the privilege of leading (I still can’t believe I led a tour). To close off, I’d like to share a snippet from what I shared at the tour.

We tend to get easily distracted if an issue doesn’t directly affect us. From this internship and conducting research for this tour the past few weeks, I’ve realized again and again that privilege doesn’t always mean monetary wealth or status. It could be not having to worry about being seen as a threat walking in your own neighborhood late at night. It could be not feeling your heart pound every time you see words like ICE and DACA and UNDOCUMENTED in the headlines. It could be your close friends and family asking you if you’re doing alright and being able to genuinely answer that you’re well instead of brushing it off with an “I’m okay” when you really cried yourself to sleep at night because you’re supposed to have everything under control. Just because it doesn’t affect us directly, doesn’t mean it’s not there nor does it mean it’s less important. As a community, in order to work towards true equity, we have to embrace and endure all pains as if they are our own. We must face our worst selves and acknowledge our lacking. It’s going to be difficult; it will be uncomfortable…but I invite you to join me in this continuing journey of becoming more aware, becoming more responsible, and becoming more informed not only for ourselves but also for each other.”

To everyone I met and worked with this past summer, thank you so much for your continuous kindness, encouragement, and acceptance. I’ve never felt more welcome and cherished in a workplace setting than at SAM. And, thank you for all you do on a daily basis to work for and better our community.

–Seohee Kim, 2018 SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Dovey Martinez: Emerging Arts Leader Look at SAM

As I walked towards the Seattle Art Museum to begin my Emerging Arts Leader internship, I was excited. I knew I would be working with the education and curatorial departments, but had only the minutest idea of what the internship would entail. At the staff entrance, I saw the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern for the summer nervously sitting on the couch. As Seohee Kim and I began to get to know each other, it was apparent we had many similarities. We are both passionate about immigrant rights and we both originally intended to take a law career track but found ourselves working in the arts, despite the initial backlash from our parents. I didn’t know it then, but Seohee and I would become an inseparable and fierce duo.

Everyone we met was genuine, welcoming, caring, and passionate. I honestly could not believe my eyes, it seemed almost suspicious. The education department glows with kindness and a love for the Seattle Art Museum’s mission to connect art to life. I went to college in Connecticut, and although I was raised in Seattle, I didn’t have many friends or connections with the arts community. This quickly changed. I could share with you about how I gained professional experience using The Museum System to research and organize objects. I could tell you about the meetings I sat in on where my voice mattered and my opinions were valued. I could tell you how I learned about the behind-the-scenes work that most people don’t know about. I could tell you how this internship opened my eyes to a possible career path that I would’ve never known about prior to this summer: exhibition design. I could write about each of these topics, but I want to focus on the amazing events that allowed me to get involved with the Seattle community and touched my heart with the amount of support and healing that took place at these events.

Three events, in particular, had a strong impact on me; the [Black] Power Summit, the Creative Advantage, and Remix. The Power Summit was a health and wellness conference for Seattle’s Black community. The first panel was one on mental health and mindfulness. The panel spoke about generational trauma and the stigma behind mental illness within the Black community. I could relate to these trends within the Latinx community. Often times, our parents work so hard to provide for our families that they dwell in survival mode. When we are raised in households where mental illnesses are stigmatized, we feel as if we are a burden to our family if we bring up issues we may be facing. As we keep hiding, the marble-sized issue becomes a bowling ball. One panelist suggested that we sit with our discomfort and strip it of its power over us. The trauma may still be present in the form of memories or thoughts, but it will no longer have power over our ability to thrive.

If you’ve never been to Remix, just know you’re sleeping! Remix is a beautiful event in which many people come together to share the dance floor, art activities, tours, drinks, as well as their most fly outfits. I loved the art activities, but what really impacted me was the dancing. With performing artists such as the Purple Lemonade Collective, Bouton Volonté, and Randy Ford, the dance floor was throbbing with presence and beauty. When the dancers dipped, catwalked, and, yes, even twerked, a semi-circle formed around them of mainly white allies. Space was created for queer and trans people of color to exist, express their passion, make art, and share joy. As they created magic with their bodies, the viewers cheered and recorded, but mainly they yelled words of encouragement and awe. This wonderful space for marginalized groups to feel at ease within a large group of white folks didn’t feel uncomfortable or unwelcoming though. At that moment, race, gender, and sexuality were being praised and we were allowed to take up space with the knowledge that our allies are there to support us. If I wasn’t so busy sweating through my orange romper from all the dancing, I probably would have shed a tear of joy and love.

The Seattle Art Museum is a highly inclusive environment that truly values racial equity. The institution is not building inclusive spaces or challenging our thinking because it is the trendy thing to do. The Seattle Art museum genuinely values equity work, from the director of the museum to interns like me and Seohee, and in between. This experience was one of healing for me after graduating from an institution on the East Coast that lacked passion for equality and often protests had to occur to demand visibility for underrepresented groups. The Seattle Art Museum is taking a stand and a leadership role to highlight and welcome all identities. When the mission statement says that the Seattle Art Museum connects art to our lives, I understand that they connect art to our lives because they know that our lives matter and want to be a space for healing, learning, and unity.

– Dovey Martinez, SAM 2018 Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photos: Natali Wiseman

 

Building a Digital Collection: The Photographs and Lists of William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains

Do you ever wonder how Seattle Art Museum acquired enough porcelain objects to fill an entire room? Through my Directed Fieldwork (DFW) at the University of Washington I decided to illuminate a piece of the provenance story behind some of SAM’s porcelain objects in the beloved Porcelain Room.

Not much is known about the New York dealer, William H. Lautz’s life outside of the porcelain world, however William Lautz was a key figure in the growth of eighteenth-century porcelain in the United States during the 1940s and 50s. I’ve created a digital collection of porcelain object photographs and associated descriptive lists from the New York dealer, William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, from the physical collection held in SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library.


As a dealer of European porcelain, Lautz helped form the Warda Stevens Stout Collection at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis1, the Martha and Henry Isaacson collection in Seattle, and the Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, also in Seattle; the latter two now located partially at the Seattle Art Museum.


Both Martha Isaacson and Blanche Harnan were founding members of the Seattle Ceramic Society, which stimulated the collection of European porcelain through study groups. Their stated goal was to collect European porcelain worthy of exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. To that end, they connected with important dealers in the field.

In the mid-1950s, Lautz sent barrels of porcelain to the Seattle Ceramic Society, accompanied by photographs and descriptive lists of the pieces. In turn, the Ceramic Society members selected pieces and returned empty barrels to Lautz with checks for their purchases. This method became known as the “Seattle Scheme” and continued while the Seattle Ceramic Society members grew their individual collections.2

Over time, the Seattle Ceramic Society and its members held five exhibitions of their European porcelain collections at the Seattle Art Museum between 1949 and 1964. Many active members of the Ceramic Society donated pieces of their collection to the Seattle Art Museum, including the aforementioned Martha and Henry Isaacson and Blanche M. Harnan, along with Dorothy Condon Falknor, DeEtte McAuslan Stuart, and Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser.

To create this digital collection, I scanned all of Lautz’s photographs into JPEGs and all of his descriptive lists into PDFs. Using Adobe Acrobat’s OCR function, I made the lists keyword searchable. I then created a spreadsheet with the associated metadata for each file to improve online navigation and searching.

The collection was then uploaded to the Libraries’ Omeka site where I created an online exhibition by linking photos of the Lautz pieces that ended up at SAM with their descriptions. By providing online access to William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains photographs and descriptive lists I hope to encourage researchers and others to investigate the porcelain objects in SAM’s collection and to visit the Porcelain Room at SAM to see some of the objects in person.

Learn more about Lautz by visiting the William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, the Seattle Ceramic Society, and the Seattle Art Museum exhibit at Omeka.net

–Nicole Sonett, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Note: We want to thank Julie Emerson, the former Ruth J. Nutt Curator of Decorative Arts at the Seattle Art Museum, for her assistance in identifying porcelain objects from William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains that are now featured in SAM’s Porcelain Room.

1 Nelson, Christina H., and Letitia Roberts. A History of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain: The Warda Stevens Stout Collection. Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Easthampton, MA; New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2013.
2 Sebastian Kuhn in “Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain,” in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen et al. The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50. New York, NY: Frick Collection in association with D. Giles London, 2008.
Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Building a Digital Collection: Annual Reports at Seattle Art Museum

The following post is from two students who have been interning at SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library while completing their Master of Library and Information Science degrees at the University of Washington’s Information School.

We are Michael Besozzi and Kate Hanske, and we have been working with Librarian Traci Timmons in the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library on an exciting digital initiative for the culminating work of our degree program. At the University of Washington’s iSchool, every student must complete a Capstone project, which should apply classroom theory to address a real-world information problem. For our Capstone work, we decided to tackle an information gap presented by access to SAM’s institutional annual reports.

Dating back to 1932, the reports include information about specific accessions, ongoing museum activities, exhibitions, and other special events in addition to the financial statements for the year. In a survey of nearly 900 American museums and cultural institutions, only 171 host their annual reports online. Out of those 171 institutions, many have unaccountable gaps between years of published reports. In the library, we saw an opportunity for SAM to create a unique digital collection and exhibition that includes every annual report in the museum’s history. We decided to aim for three outcomes for the digital collection: accessibility, transparency, and posterity.

The Bullitt Library is composed of “open” and “closed” stacks. The “open” stacks consist of shelves containing materials that any member of the public, from curators to visitors, can browse and handle without the assistance of a staff member. The “closed” stacks, located in a back room, contain a number of historical special collections materials. Due to the fragility of special collections materials, the closed stacks are only accessible by staff and designated volunteers. Located in those closed stacks are the Seattle Art Museum’s annual reports, dated from 1932 to the present.

SAM Libraries Annual Reports Archives

In order to access a report from a particular year, a visitor must have a staff member physically walk into the collection, pull out the box from the time range, and bring it to the patron, who must browse the materials in the box for the desired information. Requests for annual reports are common, ranging from staff members attempting to research financial records to visitors researching the history of the museum and the museum’s collections.

Annual Reports 1940s

Typically, a patron will perform a search that will require several boxes to be pulled at one time, which can also take up a lot of physical space in the small library. To add to the problem, the physical annual reports are not easily searchable: if a patron wants to locate a specific individual, exhibition, or piece from the collection, the user must usually go through multiple boxes (and other resources) in order to find what they need. This process can be time-consuming and frustrating! Further, the frequent physical handling of the documents, particularly the most aged and fragile, can cause irreversible damage over time.

Annual Reports 1950s & 1960s

Annual Reports 1970s

The completion of this digitization project empowers patrons to conduct research with the reports without being physically present in the library and without requiring the assistance of library staff and volunteers. The reports are more fully accessible to the public, which facilitates institutional transparency, and they are preserved digitally for posterity.

To create this collection, we scanned all 71 annual reports into the PDF file format and ran a program to make sure that the documents themselves are searchable. We then created a spreadsheet to store essential metadata (title, contributors, year, etc.) for the files to make the collection easy to navigate in an online environment. We uploaded these files and the associated metadata to the online repository and platform called Omeka.net

Annual Reports 1980s

Annual Reports 1990s

Once uploaded, we set about building and developing an online exhibition. With Omeka.net, we were able to customize the exhibition display, organizing the reports by decade, and share the narrative history of the museum as told through the reports themselves. This is the first online collection of its kind for SAM and we are incredibly excited to finally make it available!

—Kate Hanske and Michael Besozzi, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library Interns

You can explore the annual reports via the Omeka website here.

And watch a short video overview of the project here.

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

My Five – An Intern’s Favorite Things

Katie Morris is a graduate intern at the Seattle Art Museum, working with the Curatorial Division this fall. This week, she gave a thoughtful and insightful tour of five of her favorite objects to SAM staff and interns. Here, she shares her thoughts with you.

-Sarah Berman, Curatorial Associate for Collections

 

Having been asked to choose my five favorite pieces of art on display at SAM I must apologize because I have come to the conclusion that I simply cannot achieve this goal. For me, it is impossible. Not only did I find that choosing five objects above all others on my preliminary “list of favorites” too difficult, in the process of attempting to fine-tune my selection I would inevitably find another intriguing or beautiful object that captured my eye with every walk through the gallery space. And don’t get me started on what a new day and different mood did to my selection.

So, with defeat not an option I tried to look at the task from a different angle, to give myself some boundaries and to try and anchor my selections. With this in mind a very large theme began to emerge across many of the objects at SAM – the theme of Ceremony.

In its most basic sense, ceremony is defined as a ritual observance and procedure performed at grand or formal occasions. In many regards, ceremony is apart of our daily lives.

 

Canoe-shaped bowl with quail topknots, early 20th century, Native American, Californian, Pomo, willow, sedge root, bracken fern root, quail feathers, 1 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 2 1/4in., Gift of the Estate of Robert M. Shields, 2013.4.13. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.

Canoe-shaped bowl with quail topknots, early 20th century, Native American, Californian, Pomo, willow, sedge root, bracken fern root, quail feathers, 1 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 2 1/4in., Gift of the Estate of Robert M. Shields, 2013.4.13. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.

This canoe-shaped bowl with quail topknots is a quiet symbol of ceremony. For Native American Indians of the American West, basketry and weaving is considered a highly skilled art form passed down between generations. A woven object not only usually serves a direct and functional purpose, but it is also indicative of a broader system of cultural knowledge in its design, technique and the materials available locally for its creation.

Baskets such as this one were made as simple containers, but also as gifts during formal occasions. For example, traditional wedding ceremonies in certain regions often included the bride and groom gifting each other baskets full of objects signifying commitment; for women, bread and corn to symbolize the lifetime of support she will share with her new husband, for men, meat and skins for his bride to represent his promise to feed and clothe her. Baskets in other clans were used during birthing ceremonies, holding the baby’s umbilical cord along with other objects of meaning so that the ancestors will recognize them when they arrive in the spirit world.

 

Lkaayaak yeil s'aaxw (Box of Daylight Raven Hat), ca. 1850, Native American, Tlingit, Taku, Gaanax'adi clan, maple, mirror, abalone shell, bird skin, paint, sea lion whiskers, copper, leather, Flicker feathers, 11 7/8 x 7 3/4 x 12 1/4in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.124. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.

Lkaayaak yeil s’aaxw (Box of Daylight Raven Hat), ca. 1850, Native American, Tlingit, Taku, Gaanax’adi clan, maple, mirror, abalone shell, bird skin, paint, sea lion whiskers, copper, leather, Flicker feathers, 11 7/8 x 7 3/4 x 12 1/4in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.124. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.

This carving of maple, mirror, abalone shell, bird skin, sea lion whiskers, copper, leather and Flicker feathers is an elaborate example of Tlingit carved wood hats. These carvings, attached to larger headdresses, are among the most significant objects of Tlingit clans, kept safe by the clan leader or caretaker. They are shown or worn only on ceremonial occasions and their carving often captures distinct geographic features, animals or natural phenomena that form part of the clan’s legends to which it belongs.

 

This carved wood hat depicts Raven with human-like hands and fingers. Tlingit legend says that Raven was responsible for organizing the world to the form that we inhabit it today – this carving shows him releasing the sun, the red disk above his head, and the stars and moon which are in the box that he holds. It is unusual in its full sculptural form of Raven, who is frequently depicted in the face only.

 

Pukamani pole, 1999, Leon Puruntatamari, Australian Aboriginal, Tiwi Islands, Melville Island, born 1949, natural pigments with fixative on ironwood, height 104 5/16in., Partial and promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.155, © Leon Puruntatamari. Currently on view in the Australian Aboriginal art gallery, Seattle Art Museum.

Pukamani pole, 1999, Leon Puruntatamari, Australian Aboriginal, Tiwi Islands, Melville Island, born 1949, natural pigments with fixative on ironwood, height 104 5/16in., Partial and promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.155, © Leon Puruntatamari. Currently on view in the Australian Aboriginal art gallery, Seattle Art Museum.

This ironwood Pukamani pole is another example of carving used in ceremony. For the Tiwi people of the Tiwi Islands, just off the coast of the Northern Territory in Australia, Pukamani is the ceremony surrounding death. It is performed over a series of rituals beginning with the burial of the body and culminating in the final ceremony where carved Pukamani poles are placed around the grave in a circular shape to contain and comfort the spirit of the deceased.

Between death and the final placement of burial poles around the grave sometimes more than a year will pass, but most often about six months, as the family of the deceased work to organize the people who will be involved in the ceremonial duties. It also takes a long time to carve and paint a Pukamani pole. The artists of Pukamani poles such as Leon Puruntatamari, who made this example, are paid for their artistic efforts as whilst it is a privilege to be commissioned to complete a burial pole, the deceased’s honor is attached with how his or her family arranges the Pukamani ceremonies and how generous they are with those participating.

At a Pukamani ceremony members of different Tiwi clans congregate to ensure the safe and happy journey of the deceased to the spirit world through dance and song. People will paint their bodies with designs not foremost to designate clan as is usually thought to be the case, but rather to disguise the body from the deceased who is considered to be in trickster mode until the completion of Pukamani rituals. Tiwi people will also wear feather armbands and headdresses in order to better disguise themselves.

 

Katie Morris, looking at paintings by Emily Kngwarreye, promised gifts of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, all paintings © Emily Kngwarreye. Currently on view in the Australian Aboriginal art gallery, Seattle Art Museum.

Katie Morris, looking at paintings by Emily Kngwarreye, promised gifts of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, all paintings © Emily Kngwarreye. Currently on view in the Australian Aboriginal art gallery, Seattle Art Museum.

Although there are thousands of miles between the Tiwi Islands and Emily Kngwarreye’s Country Alhalkere, in Australia’s Utopia region of the central Desert, the act of body painting during and for ceremony is of equal and sacred importance.

Emily Kngwarreye starting painting on canvas in 1989 and before her death in 1996 she completed close to 3000 works. Posthumously she has been celebrated as a great abstract painter, contributing to the same artistic dialogue as artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. But Emily Kngwarreye never saw one of these iconic artist’s work, let alone studied them in a book. For Emily, her work considered and was about one subject only: her Country.

In Awelye (Ceremony), we are seeing the same lines on the canvas as they traditionally appear on the body during women’s ceremonies. With this in mind, the surface of the painting can be likened to a ceremonial ground in which Emily Kngwarreye reenacted the ceremony to which she was custodian. She was known to sing as she painted, using the canvas to remember and pay homage to her Country. With each brushstroke she connected herself to her ancestors and kin.

 

Tureen, ca. 1725-30, Austrian, Du Paquier manufactory, hard paste porcelain, 7 3/4 x 8 1/8 x 14in. overall, Gift of Martha and Henry Isaacson, 69.171. Currently on view in the Porcelain Room, Seattle Art Museum.

Tureen, ca. 1725-30, Austrian, Du Paquier manufactory, hard paste porcelain, 7 3/4 x 8 1/8 x 14in. overall, Gift of Martha and Henry Isaacson, 69.171. Currently on view in the Porcelain Room, Seattle Art Museum.

With family in mind, my final object of ceremony is of a vastly different tone to my four previous choices. It is in no way intended to trivialize the extreme significance of the four preceding examples of objects I have presented which are tied to ceremony, but rather to simply present another object from a new angle. Given the time of year and the busy Holiday season approaching, I cannot help but reflect on the ceremonies that I know I will be apart of in the last months of the year.

This hard paste porcelain tureen was produced in Vienna sometime between 1725 and 1730. The many treasures that made their way back to Europe as a result of increased trade in the eighteenth century influenced its design. You can see the lure of exotic and distant lands that came about with this travel is visible in the monkey and Japanese-inspired floral decoration.

When looking at this quirky object of domesticity I find myself wondering of the tables that this tureen has graced and the conversations it has overheard. Has it been apart of a wedding or a birthday celebration? Or perhaps a meal on a religious holiday? After all, what is the act of sitting around a dining table during the holidays or a special occasion with family and friends? Whether your holiday meals involve an elegant monkey tureen or paper plates and takeaway containers, I suggest that it is all ceremony.

-Katie Morris, Curatorial intern, 2014

 

 

 

With Unlimited Power and Unlimited Funding, I Would…

This summer, intern Sholeh Hajmiragha has been working with me on two projects. Her first project was to sift through years of accumulated notes on SAM’s maiolica collection, and update our records according to the best and most recent information. Her second project was different. She tells you more, below.

-Sarah Berman, Curatorial Associate for Collections

 

In the last three weeks of my curatorial internship at the Seattle Art Museum, I was given a project – to imagine that I had the power and the unlimited funding to acquire any and all art from contemporary artists in the Middle East.  This exercise was consuming and exciting, and it allowed me to gain a much greater insight into the acquisition process and research required in acquiring art.  On this last day of my internship, and for my farewell blogpost, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite artists that I researched during this exercise – ninety-eight year old Saloua Raouda Choucair.

Saloua Raouda Choucair represents an oversight in the western conception of contemporary art history.  Born in Beirut in 1916, Choucair is heralded as a pioneer of abstract art in the Arab world, though until recently Choucair was largely unknown outside of Lebanon.  Now in her ninety-eighth year, Choucair’s most recent exhibition at Tate Modern in 2013 was the first time her work has been shown publicly on a global scale.  In this regard, Choucair’s work can be considered new, with herself an unknown artist.  Yet, what makes her work significant is the reality that Choucair has been working as a female artist in the Beirut art scene from the 1940s, studying in the studio of Fernand Léger in Paris, and producing abstract art alongside the historical western modernist art movement.  Maymanah Farah writes in her essay “Saloua Raouda Choucair: Reinventing Abstraction”, “One of the many myths of the Western canon is that European modern artists invented abstraction…At the moment, there is a multidisciplinary campaign to correct the shortcomings of this history of Modernism by looking past the borders of Euro-American art centers.   It is within the experiments of artists who are noticeably absent from the Western view of art history, despite having been in pursuit of modern aesthetics, that examples of pre-modern abstraction are beginning to be reevaluated.”[1]  Choucair’s work is a perfect example of this as her abstract, modern forms and figures reflect both modernism aesthetics as well as historical Islamic art forms.

Choucair’s art encompasses the intersections of time, space, and place.  Though existing in the artistic school of western modernism, Choucair’s abstraction is distinct and notable.  As Samir Sayigh writes, “this abstraction, despite its proximity to that characterized by modern art in the great artistic capitals of the world, and despite its singularity in Lebanon and the Arab nation, remained an abstraction converging with the contemporary characteristics which characterize Eastern art, and more specifically Arab Islamic art, much more than with Western abstraction as perceived by Kandisnsky, presented by Mondrian, and realized in the Bauhaus Collection.”[2]  In addition to this dialogue of east and west lies another relationship of the object and space.  Not only does Choucair manipulate her paintings to reflect depth and form, but her three-dimensional sculptures present not only an abstraction of architecture and space and the manipulation of shape and form, but also bridge the divide between language and text and art and space.  Choucairs complex, interlocking sculptures are a clear example of this.  Choucair creates sculptural poetry that is constructed through various building blocks and carefully molded shapes that fit together and connect, creating a larger holistic form.  As Choucair has stated, “The way I organized my sculptural poems, for example, was inspired by Arabic poetry.  I wanted rhythm like the poetic meter, to be at once more independent and interlinked, and to have lines like meanings, but plastic meanings.”[3]  In this manner, Choucair translates the very deeply rooted Arabic cultural tradition of poetry into a modern and abstract art form that physically embodies a simultaneous interlocked dependence with a detached and separable independence.

Besides her sculptural work, her paintings reflect dualities as well.  In her painting Paris-Beirut, Choucair depicts an Islamic star, Cleopatra’s Needle, and the Arc de Triomphe in their most basic forms and shapes, both juxtaposed geographically and culturally, yet balanced compositionally, reflecting both an exchange between the east and west, while also hinting toward Choucair’s own decision to return to Beirut, rather than stay in Paris.  In her piece Les  Peintres Célèbres, Choucair presents a scene reminiscent of Fernand Léger’s Le Grand Déjeuner, while transforming it to reflect a new representation of women, presenting a contemporary artistic exchange between Choucair in Beirut and Léger in Paris.  Adrian Searle of The Guardian compares this painting to her former instructor Fernand Léger’s Le Grand Dé jeuner, writing, “The differences are telling, not least because the women don’t seem bothered by our gaze.  Instead, they look at art books, one of which has the title Les Peintres Célèbres (The Famous Painters), which also gives the title of these small studies.  Where Léger’s bodies are polished and overblown, these are wonkier, offhand and much more human.  Choucair’s little paintings depict women among women, oblivious to whoever stares at them.”  Finally, her painting Two=one, which Tate Modern chose to include in its exhibition, contextualizes Choucair within the time and place of Lebanon in the late twentieth century.  Riddled with glass shards, chipping paint, and a large gaping hole in its center, this painting was damaged by a bomb blast during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990).  Though no longer in the state it was intended, this piece highlights the reality of Choucair’s life in Beirut.  As Kevin Jones of ArtAsiaPacific writes, “Already in her 60s, with decades of study and practice behind her, when conflict broke out in Lebanon, Choucair simply had no artistic language to admit the war into her practice: her work was entirely rational, scientific, engineered almost to the exclusion of the human and the social.  The incursion of the war literally into the flesh of her practice with Two=one illustrates the potentially destructive force of forgetting: occluded memory, as much as the war itself, was Choucair’s nemesis.”[4]

For me, reading about and researching Choucair and her art was both inspiring and incredibly humbling.  The vast amount of work that she produced over her extensive life, with little to no recognition beyond her local art scene, is really profound.  This exercise in acquisition research highlighted for me the power and significance of displaying and curating art.   The power of her work lies not only in the art itself, but in the fact that it is now able to be seen and appreciated, showing not only her artistic achievements, but also her own life history.

 

-Sholeh Hajmiragha, Curatorial Intern, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Maymanah Farahat, “Saloua Raouda Choucair: Reinventing Abstraction”, Saloua Raouda Choucair, ed. Jessica Morgan (London: Tate Publishing, 2013), http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/14828/saloua-raouda-choucair_reinventing-abstraction-.

[2] Samir Sayigh, trans. Anna Swank, “Saloua Raouda Choucair: Distinctiveness of Style and Individuality of Vision”, ArteEast (2008), <http://www.arteeast.org/2012/03/04/saloua-raouda-choucair-distinctiveness-of-style-and-individuality-of-vision/>.

[3] Quoted in Mulhaq al-Nahar, 23 September 1995, p. 10, as recorded in Tate Modern summary of Poem (1963-5): <http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/choucair-poem-t13278/text-summary>.

[4] Kevin Jones, “Memory, Corrected: Saloua Raouda Choucair”, ArtAsiaPacific, Issue 88, May/June 2014, <http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/88/MemoryCorrected>.

Mona Lisa Smiles, Girdles, and Artistic Accomplishment

Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, November 1, 1953

Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, November 1, 1953

Let’s face it: women were not exactly free to challenge the system in the 1950s.  Donna Reed was the ultimate hero for women of that decade; the perfect example of what a housewife and mother should be.  Other examples of these women are found in the Seattle Times’ historic archives, where engagement announcements, sorority fundraisers, and art show reviews mix and mingle on the society pages.  Advertisements proudly display the latest fashions and gadgets that can help the average housewife “wow” her family and friends with her ability to clean the house, cook a full meal, and still look like she just stepped out of a magazine (note: this usually involved a girdle).

Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, July 19, 1959

Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, July 19, 1959

This decade has been picked apart in retrospect by television and film, but not many have explored the art and history of this time period better than Mona Lisa Smile.  Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), an art history professor at Wellesley College in 1953, challenges her female students by asking them to reconsider everything they’ve ever been told about “the roles they were born to fill.” [1]   Katherine Watson pushes them to think beyond marriage and the expectations of the time.

Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, July 19, 1959

Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, July 19, 1959

For those who have seen this film, you might remember the scene where Katherine Watson comes to class with slides featuring the latest advertisements for girdles and kitchen appliances.  Women were expected to go to college to find a husband and receive their “M.R.S.” degrees, and clearly Ms. Watson had had enough of students disappearing from class to get married.  In this particular scene, she asks:

“What will future scholars see when they study us? A portrait of women today? There you are ladies: the perfect likeness of a Wellesley graduate, Magna Cum Laude doing exactly what she was trained to do…I wonder if she recites Chaucer while she presses her husband’s shirts?  Now you physics majors can calculate the mass and volume of every meat loaf you ever make!”[2]

It is revealed in the film that Katherine’s mother was a part of the war effort and her independence from this time translated onto her daughter.  Many women of the 1950s were influenced by World War II and the aftermath of it that changed America and the way people thought about gender roles in society.  Women had been given a chance to be independent and made up a large portion of America’s work force while they held down the home front.  However, much of this changed when the war ended and men returned from overseas.

The Bon Marché advertisement, The Seattle Times, November 13, 1950

The Bon Marché advertisement, The Seattle Times, November 13, 1950

But what does this have to do with the Seattle Art Museum and the artists that we have in our collection?  A lot.  Many of the female artists I have been researching over the last year worked in this decade and had difficulty breaking the barriers that society had created.  Katherine Watson is a prime (Hollywood) example of what female artists were trying to do in the 1950s.  However, we have two artists that are a little closer to home for us that were able to create a name for themselves.  Ebba Rapp and Jean Cory Beall were both born in 1909 and were highly accomplished and well known in the art community.

Log End, ca. 1946, Jean Cory Beall, American, 1909-1978, tempera on Masonite, 17 5/8 x 21 ¾ in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 46.225, © Jean Cory Beall

Log End, ca. 1946, Jean Cory Beall, American, 1909-1978, tempera on Masonite, 17 5/8 x 21 ¾ in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 46.225, © Jean Cory Beall

Jean Cory Beall grew up drawing and painting and took this passion with her into higher education in Paris, Mexico, and Seattle.  Her watercolors and mosaics were primarily created for private clients but she also began receiving public commissions for mosaic murals.[3]  Beall’s work was quickly recognized as something special and led her to accomplish an extraordinary amount, especially for a woman living and working in 1950s America.  However, her career wasn’t easy to build.  Beall created her own art and assisted her husband with design sketches for some of his Boeing products, while also taking care of their three children, Alan, Corey, and Barbara.[4] Beall seemed to “do it all,” and was recognized many years by the Seattle Art Museum’s Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, winning an honorable mention in 1943 for her piece, “Boomtown.”[5] Her work continues to hang in various museums and public buildings across the country, including the Federal Reserve Bank, the General Administration Building (Olympia, WA) and the Erco/Co. in Washington D.C.[6]

Originally a painter like Beall, Ebba Rapp was an accomplished portrait artist by the time she reached high school, but in the 1930s she had an opportunity to study under the renowned sculptor, Alexander Archipenko.[7] She began to incorporate sculpture into her work and her talent was eventually noticed outside of her local community when one of her pieces was included in the American Art Today exhibition at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.  Rapp was also an active member of the Women Painters of Washington, founded in 1935.  Rapp joined this group of women in 1936 after commenting that the Seattle art community was “dominated and politically controlled by a clique” of men, and that women were “systematically excluded.”[8]  The Women Painters of Washington came together to “overcome the limitations they faced as women artists and to realize their artistic potential through fellowship.”[9]  This community was needed at a time when women were not afforded the resources and recognition that they wanted or deserved and it continues to support women and their artwork today.

The Rumor, 1946-52, Ebba Rapp, American, 1909-1985, terracotta, 15 ½ x 14 ½ x 9 in. overall, Gift of David F. Martin and Dominic Zambito, in memory of John D. McLauchlan, 2011.3, © Ebba Rapp

The Rumor, 1946-52, Ebba Rapp, American, 1909-1985, terracotta, 15 ½ x 14 ½ x 9 in. overall, Gift of David F. Martin and Dominic Zambito, in memory of John D. McLauchlan, 2011.3, © Ebba Rapp

Rapp, like Beall, had very a supportive husband who pushed her to share her work with the community.  Rapp was incredibly humble; she often “turned commission invitations to others and was reluctant to enter her work in exhibitions.”[10] Oftentimes her husband, John D. McLauchlan would enter work to shows on her behalf.[11] A Seattle Times reporter noted in 1959, that Beall’s husband, Wellwood E. Beall, was “a person who believe[d] in letting wives have careers.”[12]  This was out of the ordinary for the time; a husband who supported his wife having a career instead of a hobby?  Ludicrous!  Both Mr. McLauchlan and Mr. Beall broke the mold of a 1950s husband by encouraging their wives to follow their passions.

Among other things, the opinions of men are something that Katherine Watson tries hard to counter in Mona Lisa Smile.  Topher Grace’s character, Tommy, says it would be hard for his fiancée, Joan (Julia Stiles) to commute to and from law school and still get dinner on the table by five.  These were the expectations that many held during that period.  Finally, Katherine gets through to one of the girls.  Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst) was Katherine Watson’s most staunch opponent, but by the end of the film she understands that even though Mona Lisa is smiling in Leonardo’s masterpiece, we do not know if she was actually happy.  Like so many women of the time, Betty Warren wore a mask and pretended she was happy because she was doing what she was told she should be doing.  Jean Cory Beall and Ebba Rapp may not have had easy journeys to begin their creative careers, but they proved that they could support their husbands and families while also breaking those social mores and being successful and driven women who opened the doors for generations of artists to come.

 

-Annika Firn, Curatorial Intern

 

[1] Mona Lisa Smile.  Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures, Inc., California, USA, 2003.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Fitzgerald, Annamary.  “National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: General Administration Building,” United State Department of the Interior, National Park Service, July 1, 2006, p. 8.

[4] “1994 Distinguished Engineering Alumni/ae Award Recipients,” The University of Colorado, 1994.

[5] “Newcomers Win Prizes in Art Preview,” The Seattle Times, October 7, 1943, p. 26.

[6] “Assembly Names Five As Leaders in Fine Arts,” The Seattle Post Intelligencer, November 4, 1958, p. 12.

[7] John McLauchlan. Interview by Barbara Johns.  Tape recording.  Seattle, WA., 26 February, 1987.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “History,” Women Painters of Washington, http://www.womenpainters.com/ABOUT/About.htm

[10] McLauchlan interview, 1987.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Mexican Muralist is Teacher,” The Seattle Times, August 23, 1959.

My Five – an intern shares her favorite things

Emma Johnson joined us a an intern in Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art this June. Today, on her last day with us, I asked her to share her “Five,” her top five favorite objects from our collection. I think her choices are pretty great. Do you? What are your favorite SAM objects?

-Sarah Berman, Curatorial Associate for Collections

 

After being at SAM for only three short weeks, I didn’t know how I could possibly choose five pieces of art that were my absolute favorite, as my supervisor Sarah Berman had requested. But after wandering through each gallery, several pieces stood out to me. Objects have always caught my eye more than paintings or other mediums so each piece I have selected is an artifact, not something hung on a wall.

Mirror with scene of the Judgment of Paris, 4th-3rd century B.C., Etruscan, `bronze, 10 3/8 x 7 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 48.36. Currently on view the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Mirror with scene of the Judgment of Paris, 4th-3rd century B.C., Etruscan, `bronze, 10 3/8 x 7 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 48.36. Currently on view the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

As a Classics major, ancient Greek myths are pieces of history that I find fascinating. One of my all-time favorite myths has always been the Judgment of Paris, so when I discovered an ancient mirror with the judgment scene etched into the back of it, the piece immediately claimed a position in my “top five.” As the ancient story goes, Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, three Olympic goddesses, asked Zeus to choose who among them is the ‘fairest of them all.’ Not wanting to create further drama among the goddesses, wise Zeus tells the Trojan mortal, Paris, to make the final decision. Each goddess quickly approaches Paris with a bribe, attempting to win him over in order that he chooses her. Hera offers to make Paris a king. Athena tells Paris she will give him the skills and wisdom every man needs in war. Lastly, Aphrodite promises him the most beautiful woman in all the lands, Helen. Paris excitedly chooses Aphrodite as the winner, as no man could ever turn down beautiful Helen. However, Helen is the wife of the Greek King Menelaus. Angered by this transaction, Menelaus seeks revenge and thus the Trojan War begins.

Ring, Asante, Ghanaian, gold, 1 3/16 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/2 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1684. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Ring, Asante, Ghanaian, gold, 1 3/16 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/2 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1684. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

In the African art collection, there is a beautiful and intricate gold ring which claimed a place among my favorite pieces once I heard the story behind its creation. There are several Asante proverbs behind the design of the tortoise shell on the ring. The first is along the lines of ‘a tortoise is suffering in its shell,’ meaning that no matter how confident and put-together a person might seem, they are always dealing with issues that you cannot see. The second proverb says, ‘if the tortoise eats the Earth, you eat some too.” This saying explains that if you are ever a visitor, either in someone else’s home or an entirely different country or culture, no matter how strange and foreign their customs seem, you must respect them and take part in them. (As a Classics major, I might phrase it, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”) The ring is displayed in a glass case among many other pieces of gold jewelry, and at first I almost overlooked it. However, the story and meaning behind the ring is so powerful to me that it is now in my “top five.”

Kantharos with Satyr and Maenad Heads, ca. 1st century, Roman England, ceramic, 7 1/4 x 6 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.108. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Kantharos with Satyr and Maenad Heads, ca. 1st century, Roman England, ceramic, 7 1/4 x 6 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.108. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Back in the Greek and Roman collection is another of my favorites, a ‘kantharos’ or cup for wine. On either side of the cup is a head; on one side of a maenad and on the other of a satyr. Both are mythological creatures who are followers of Dionysus, the wine god. I love that on an object made for wine there are the two symbolic representations of drinking. I also find this piece interesting because the satyr and maenad look simple and peaceful while usually they are depicted during a Dionysian rite in which they are in an altered state of mind.

Amulet with mummified monkey, Egyptian, Early Dynastic period (ca. 2920 - 2649 B.C.), wood, 3 3/16 x 11/16 x 7/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 55.136. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Amulet with mummified monkey, Egyptian, Early Dynastic period (ca. 2920 – 2649 B.C.), wood, 3 3/16 x 11/16 x 7/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 55.136. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

On the first day of my internship, a guard pointed out the small amulet of a mummified monkey and informed me it was one of the oldest objects in SAM’s collection. The monkey became a favorite because of its age. Made somewhere between 2920-2649 BC, the old age of it fascinates me. While I do not know much about the monkey, it is still one of my favorites here.

Divination Container (Opon Igede Ifa), Areogun (Yoruba, African, 1880-1954), wood, 21 1/2 in. diam., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.621. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Divination Container (Opon Igede Ifa), Areogun (Yoruba, African, 1880-1954), wood, 21 1/2 in. diam., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.621. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, 4th floor, Seattle Art Museum.

Lastly, a wooden divination container caught my eye as I was walking back from the ancient Mediterranean gallery. The container by Nigerian artist Areogun is easily in my top five favorite pieces at SAM. It is used to hold the diviner’s ritual equipment but is so elaborately decorated. As I looked into more information about the object, I learned that the detail of the carvings were a sign of the diviner’s success. I find it incredible that an everyday object can have such significance in one culture, but be completely mundane in another.

From this assignment, I learned that I cannot simply choose a favorite item solely by looking at the art. My favorites became my favorites once I had learned the story behind each piece and heard the details which made it unique. Learning about all of these objects’ stories, is what made my internship at SAM so useful and interesting.

-Emma Johnson, intern, 2014

Decorative Arts, Porcelain Tea Sets, and Mr. Darcy

Archives and exhibitions intern Kaley Ellis joins us again to talk about her discoveries in SAM’s archival holdings.

This month, after an impressive 37 years working at SAM, Julie Emerson, the Ruth J. Nutt Curator of Decorative Arts, is retiring. In recognition of Julie and her career, I am writing this blog entry on an exhibition that featured decorative arts. I am currently cataloguing the exhibition Worcester Porcelain: The Klepser Collection, which ran from August to September of 1985, and featured works that remain in SAM’s collection today.

Upon researching Worcester Porcelain, I was immediately drawn to the film screenings – highlighted in the 1985 Member’s Preview brochure – that were shown throughout the duration of the exhibition, including Tom Jones, Barry Lyndon, That Hamilton Woman, and Pride and Prejudice (the romantic black and white – but slightly less accurate – version, for those of you who know your Austen multimedia). Laurence Olivier plays the dashing hero in both That Hamilton Woman and Pride and Prejudice, and while he is the war hero in That Hamilton Woman – including missing limb and roguish eye patch – I remain drawn most strongly to his portrayal of Mr. Darcy (shocking, I know, but it’s hard to beat his reluctant fall for Ms. Elizabeth Bennet, played by the timeless beauty Greer Garson). These romanticized depictions of 18th century England (excluding, of course the rather depressing tale of Barry Lyndon’s misfortunes) offer their viewers a look at both the time period and the grand estates where these porcelain objects would have been found.

And if these classic films weren’t enough to lure visitors to the exhibition, there was also the promise of a reenactment of the tea scene from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (a delightfully witty play – later made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Rupert Everett, and Colin Firth, who also played Mr. Darcy in the most famous version of Pride and Prejudice). Here, the actors demonstrate the tea ceremony, a tradition in 18th century England in which a proper tea set was required – according to the exhibition catalogue – containing 48 pieces plus the additional eight mugs required for sipping chocolate (a necessary addition, in my opinion).

Tea scenes from The Importance of Being Earnest. Performed on August 11th 1985 at Volunteer Park.

Tea scenes from The Importance of Being Earnest. Performed on August 11th 1985 at Volunteer Park.

Although these films do not specifically reference 18th century English porcelain, they offer the viewer a glimpse at what would have been their natural setting, in which these objects would have served both an aesthetic and functional purpose. The elegant, romantic, vividly colored, and often Asian-influenced designs of the Worcester porcelain objects hint at the type of lifestyle found on the elaborate English estates during that period – one of luxury and everyday grandeur. In many cases the exhibition space for Worcester Porcelain: The Klepser Collection reflected the dual role of these art works – their functional role as serve ware arranged on elegant tables and their decorative role that shows them displayed in large wall cabinets or featured in individual cases that highlight their artistic value.

 Installation views from Worcester Porcelain: The Klepser Collection (Volunteer Park), 8/8/85 – 9/22/85


Installation views from Worcester Porcelain: The Klepser Collection (Volunteer Park), 8/8/85 – 9/22/85

The production of Worcester porcelain is separated into three main categories based on the period it was created, between the years 1751 and 1776. The first period (1750-55) saw the manufacturing location for porcelain shift from Bristol to Worcester. This period emphasized rococo styled European-scenes (think Fragonard and Boucher) in addition to oriental decorative influences (specifically Chinese – a result of Chinese porcelain that was being imported during the 17th and 18th centuries to England) seen in the graceful landscapes, floral varieties, long flowing robes worn by the central figures, and the animals portrayed. One example from this period can be found at SAM (seen below). The floral decorative pattern and color usage on this vase reflect the stylistic impact that Chinese arts had on the European porcelain market. The second phase of production (1755-65) saw hand-painted designs replaced by a new technique called overglaze transfer-printing, which allowed these luxury goods to be produced at a faster rate and resulted in a period of rapid growth in the porcelain business. The use of this technique – in which patterns and designs become standardized – allowed these pieces to be reproduced quickly and more economically. Furthermore, the sturdy quality of the glaze made it possible for it to hold boiling water without cracking unlike other porcelain products of the time, creating a significant advantage over their competition. Finally, the period from 1765-76, appears to have been one of the most lucrative periods, in which the decorative aspects are increasingly praised, blue underglaze transfer-printing reaches its pinnacle, and color grounds are mastered (Worcester now has the largest array of colors in England, including yellow, green, pink, purple, several shades of blue, and red).

Fluted Vase, 1962. English, Worcester. Seattle Art Museum, Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser Porcelain Collection, 94.103.1

Fluted Vase, 1962. English, Worcester. Seattle Art Museum, Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser Porcelain Collection, 94.103.1

In the end, Kenneth Klepser – Seattle businessman and owner of this impressive collection – viewed these works of art in much the same way as their original owners in 18th century England, as something to be cherished and integrated into his home. These objects act simultaneously as works of art as well as pieces of functional history, creating a more complete picture of the historical setting from which they originated. The combination of the exhibition’s installation space – which highlighted the dual function of these objects – and the events associated with the exhibition provided a successful lens through which audiences could view these art works. However, viewers don’t dismay! While this exhibition is no longer on view, the Seattle Art Museum has a gallery (curated by Julie Emerson) that is dedicated solely to porcelain! This rather splendid room – organized by color and theme – accentuates the intricate patterns and Asian-influences comparable to those highlighted in the Worcester Porcelain exhibition and offers contemporary viewers a chance to see these elegant styles favored by Europeans during the 17th and 18th centuries. Come visit, and see if you can find all the porcelain objects from the Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser Porcelain Collection.

See Julie Emerson’s guide to SAM’s Porcelain Room here.

Scene from Pride and Prejudice (1940), featuring Greer Garson as Ms. Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. MGM Studios

World War II through Artists’ Eyes

Battle of the Spirits in the Piazza Navona, 1953-54, Windsor Utley, American, 1920-1989, oil on Masonite, image 36 x 52 in., Gift of the artist, by exchange, 89.8, © Windsor Utley

Battle of the Spirits in the Piazza Navona, 1953-54, Windsor Utley, American, 1920-1989, oil on Masonite, image 36 x 52 in., Gift of the artist, by exchange, 89.8, © Windsor Utley

As an intern in the Curatorial Department at the Seattle Art Museum, I have spent much of the last year researching and writing about Northwest artists, all of whom experienced World War II in some way.  It has been an interesting project to learn about people who allow me to look at this era from different and very personal points of views.  World War II was a monumental event for the whole world.  It reached into every community and every household, becoming the single most written-about event in history.  The three artists who are highlighted in this post all have connections to the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Art Museum, and World War II.  While each of them has a distinct story from this time, their shared identities of being artists consumed by war bring them together in a unique way; they each contributed to the wider war effort, both at home and abroad while furthering their artistic talents.

Juanita Vitousek was a mother in Hawai’i when bombs fell on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  A watercolor artist, already known both in Hawai’i and in the continental United States, she had lived in Hawai’i for twenty-four years before the war.  During World War II, Juanita wrote a daily account of life on the Island during and after the attack on Pearl Harbor.[1] She originally kept her wartime journal so she could send it to her children on the mainland when mail was once again able to flow freely without censorship.  She opened her diary with: “We can’t phone, cable or even write you. I want you to know all about us, so I will write a daily account of what has happened. Some day you will see it.”[2] She contributed to the war effort by donating blood and volunteering to make camouflage nets for troops.[3] Her husband, Roy Vitousek Sr, also made history as “the first American plane engaged in combat during World War II.”[4]  An amateur pilot, he was out for a flying lesson with their son, Martin, when the Japanese began to attack Pearl Harbor.  He was able to land the plane amid Japanese fire and hide with his son in nearby bushes.[5]

Windsor Utley was more removed from the action because of his objection to violence and war.  He was classified as a conscientious objector during World War II.  He believed in the Baha’i faith, which continues to spread ideas and practices of peace in the world today.[6]  Utley was one of 12,000 conscientious objectors in the United States, who were required to perform free labor around the country in lieu of serving in the armed forces.[7]  The Civilian Public Service (CPS) program allowed these men to avoid conflict but still contribute to the war effort.  Men in 152 camps worked in soil conservation, forestry, firefighting, agriculture, social services and mental and public health instead of going to war.  Some also served as test subjects for medical experiments.[8]  Originally from California, Utley arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1940s, where he completed his civilian public service duties as a cook at Fort Steilacoom’s Western State Hospital for the mentally ill.[9] Here, Utley painted portraits of the hospital’s patients and staff, among other subjects, which allowed him to practice and refine his painting skills, using the war to turn a part-time hobby into a full-time passion and future career.[10]

Unlike Vitousek and Utley, Jess D. Cauthorn personally took part in combat action.  He was studying as a commercial-art student at Seattle’s Edison Vocational School when he was drafted into the army.  Cauthorn “knew little of combat but quite a bit about art…stocking his pack with pencils, charcoal, brushes, watercolors, and sketch paper.” [11] The army was where his artistic career as an illustrator and watercolor artist began to flourish.  During his spare time, Cauthorn produced small watercolor portraits of his comrades, using whatever materials he could find, often mixing his paints with water from his canteen.[12] He was later commissioned to create illustrations of his wartime experiences while in the South Pacific.[13] His depictions include “quiet moments in camp.  A line of soldiers on the move…the jungle canopy.  Mortar explosions and GIs,” and the liberation of Japanese-occupied Manila.[14] His personal collection of illustrations created during his three years in the army serve as a unique glimpse into the life of an infantryman in the Pacific theater of World War II.  He signed each picture with “Sgt. Jess Cauthorn” and used them as his journal from the war, adding text to the larger sketches to describe the scenes he chose to depict.[15] Cauthorn returned from war after three years with the 146th Infantry Regiment and earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.[16]

Each of these artists has pieces of the work in the Seattle Art Museum’s permanent collection, none of which indicate their respective histories with the war, but they were all influenced by this major event.  Cauthorn and Utley started their art careers during the war, and all three artists continued on to have nationally recognized careers.

I find these three stories so compelling because they go beyond the history books to show us what life was like at the time.  Windsor Utley’s story is particularly intriguing because he did not go to war.  We do not tend to hear about those who stood by their beliefs and fought for peace, while still contributing to the war effort; they are often a passing thought in history because they were not a part of the action.  His artwork is also incredible to see.  There is no hint of the fact that he was a self-taught artist, someone who only started painting as a hobby.  His artwork is not always clear, favoring a non-objective approach that often excludes reality; but that’s just part of the fun for the viewer.

For more information about these artists, be sure to search the Seattle Art Museum’s online collections for their biographies.

 

-Annika Firn, Curatorial Intern, 2014

 

[1] Krauss, Bob.  “Journal Captured Turmoil of Life,” The Honolulu Advertiser, December 5, 2001.  http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2001/Dec/05/ln/ln02a.html

[2] Krauss, 2011.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Fournier, Rasa.  “Family Plane Hit By Zero Fighter,” East Oahu News, December 13, 2006.  http://archives.midweek.com/content/zones/east_news_article/family_plane_hit_by_zero_fighter/

[5] Fournier, 2006.

[6] Transcript, Windsor Utley Oral History Interview, March 14, 1985, Laguna Beach, CA, by Barbara Johns, Seattle Art Museum, Northwest Cataloguing Grant, pg. 3.

[7] “CPS Unit Number 021-01,” The Civilian Public Service Story: Living Peace in a Time of War.  2014.  http://civilianpublicservice.org/camps/21/1

[8] Ibid.

[9] Transcript, Windsor Utley Oral History Interview, March 14, 1985, pg. 2.

[10] “Composer of Paintings Windsor Utley dies at 68.” The Seattle Times, 1989.

[11] Goodnow, Cecilia.  “Through The Eyes of a Soldier,” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 12, 2001.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “News,” The Art Institute of Seattle, August 16, 2010. http://www.artinstitutes.edu/seattle/news-and-events/the-burnley-gallery-at-the-art-institute-of-seattle-to-host-an-exhibition-of-work-by-northwest-watercolorist-and-art-educator-jess-cauthorn-2522510.aspx

[14] Ibid.

[15] Goodnow, 2001.

[16] Ibid.

Spring showers in the SAM archives

Drops of Rain, Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925), ca. 1903, National Gallery of Australia

Drops of Rain, Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925), ca. 1903, National Gallery of Australia

It’s raining again. I stare as rivulets of water course down the window panes of my room, obscuring the view outside. Beyond my window, the passing cars blur together alongside the chairs that decorate my lawn. Everything assumes a greyish cast. “Welcome to Seattle,” people say. Prior to moving to here, I had never encountered a group of people so fixated on the weather, and I’ve lived in Cleveland where it is not only grey but also claims ownership of “The Lake Effect,” which encompasses all manner of atmospheric sins.

Yet as I approach my second year of living in Seattle, I too, have become consumed by thoughts of the dreary weather – so consumed by these thoughts that I seem to have neglected my blog – and the ever-present hope that sun is just around the corner. However, it was the weather that inadvertently led me to the exhibition Camera Work: Process & Image held at SAM from November 26, 1985 to February 2, 1986and focused on the early pioneers of photography including Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, Paul Strand, Alfred Langdon Coburn, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Cover of Camera Work, Issue No 2, April 190, published by Alfred Stieglitz and designed by Edward Steichen.

Cover of Camera Work, Issue No 2, April 190, published by Alfred Stieglitz and designed by Edward Steichen.

Determined to elevate both photography and the photogravure to the status of fine art, Stieglitz produced a magazine whose primary focus was photography. As a member of the New York Camera Club, Stieglitz spearheaded the production of a quarterly journal – called Camera Notes – dedicated to both high quality photography and articles surrounding the art form. Yet Camera Notes was merely the beginning, for in 1902 – a mere five years later – Stieglitz left the Camera Club and started his own quarterly, Camera Work, in which he strove to establish a journal that was in and of itself a work of art. From 1903 to 1917, Stieglitz edited and published a total of fifty editions of Camera Work, through which he championed photography as a form of art instead of a mechanical process that simply documented reality. He pushed photographers to take an active role in the editing process of photogravure production – a print of the photographic image that emphasized deep shadows and a rich textural quality – in which the photo negatives are transformed into photo positives and transferred onto a printing plate that is then etched and printed. Stieglitz strove to maintain high quality photogravures that he felt could be viewed as original prints that had their own artistic value. Through this process, photographers in Stieglitz’s circle were able to participate in the production of the photogravures, which instigated a collaboration between the artist’s intent and the hand that created the final product.

Exhibition media file - including exhibition installation views and transparencies and prints of checklist images - from Camera Work: Process & Image and the exhibition catalogue. Photo: Kaley Ellis.

Exhibition media file – including exhibition installation views and transparencies and prints of checklist images – from Camera Work: Process & Image and the exhibition catalogue. Photo: Kaley Ellis.

This examination of Stieglitz’s Camera Work and the photographers involved in that publication act as the focal points of the 1985 exhibition at SAM. Of the works displayed, Clarence H. White’s Drops of Rain, Adolf de Meyer’s Still Life, Hugo Henneberg’s Villa Falconieri, and Alfred Stieglitz’s Spring Showers, New York are the works I find the most compelling. Water is prominently featured in all these works, whether it takes the form of rain, a glass of water, or a shimmering river. The water either distorts and obscures aspects of the work or is itself distorted. Far from being a direct representation of fact, the water provides a medium through which the artistic intent becomes clear. The fact that it is raining outside is not the point of the image in White’s Rain Drops; instead, the simplicity, the lighting, and contrast between the smoothness of the glass ball compared to the pattern of rain drops on the window pane combine to make this work beautifully compelling. The emotional response that these images evoke transcends time and, like other forms of art, is subjective.

Today – despite rapid advances in technology and the advent of the digital camera – artists such as Stieglitz, White, and Cameron remain relevant. New lens are engineered, such as the lensbaby, to create a blurring effect or to obscure the background, while plastic cameras allow photographers to further experiment with light and shadows and finally Photoshop and the Instagram app offer the opportunity to enhance or manipulate an image with the click of a button. Despite these developments, photographers are still creating images that favor the deep shadows, blurred lines, and sometimes dreamlike quality that continues to reference the past and the art of Stieglitz’s circle that he tirelessly perfected for publication in Camera Work.

By Kaley Ellis, Exhibitions and Archives Intern

 

What every holiday season needs… The Nutcracker

By Kaley Ellis, archives and exhibitions intern

As I was considering what to write in my next blog post, I stumbled upon an exhibition from 1984 featuring the works of Maurice Sendak, famous for the book he both wrote and illustrated, Where the Wild Things Are. Young and old alike seem drawn to his tale of Max, the mischievous boy who cavorts about in a monster costume (which I sometimes wish came in my size). Upon being sent to his room as punishment for his behavior, Max escapes to a fantasy isle where he soon discovers real monsters. Much like the stories of Peter Pan, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Alice in Wonderland, Sendak creates an alternate realm where the main character – a child – can escape. Fashioning a magical place where children can explore and monsters can be friend or enemy, Sendak offers something that most children – and if I’m being honest, myself included – would be intrigued by.

Intern Kaley Ellis, with the Maurice Sendak-illustrated Nutcracker book

Intern Kaley Ellis, with the Maurice Sendak-illustrated Nutcracker book

As I look through the folder of prints, negatives, and slides, I can see the exhibition where Sendak’s fantasies were brought to life. The 1984 exhibition titled Sendak Onstage displayed sketches, intricate theatrical sets and even costumes. Prominently featured in this exhibition are the tales Love of Three Oranges and Higgelty-Piggelty Pop with smaller selections from Where the Wild Things Are and The Nutcracker. I am immediately drawn to images of The Nutcracker because as a child I used to perform in the ballet every year. While I always dreamed of being one of the party girls (who got to wear pointe shoes and carry dolls), I was inevitably something less glamorous – like a gum drop or a rat soldier. Nonetheless, attending The Nutcracker (to my brother’s dismay) has always been a holiday favorite. However the Seattle version – with theatrical sets and costume designs by Sendak – is the most spectacular rendition I’ve yet to witness.

Installation shot from Sendak Onstage, Seattle Art Museum (Volunteer Park), 11/15/84 – 1/27/85

Installation shot from Sendak Onstage, Seattle Art Museum (Volunteer Park), 11/15/84 – 1/27/85

Asked in 1981 – by Kent Stowell with the Pacific Northwest Ballet – to design theatrical sets for the Nutcracker, Sendak created another fantasy realm for children to explore. Here, members of the European aristocracy gather for a holiday party in which the daughter of the host is given a magical nutcracker that comes alive at the stroke of midnight. But in this version, the mice appear to have a more exotic (possibly Colonial) appearance and carry curved sabers instead of swords and battle Imperial foot soldiers and cavalry with variations in costuming that seem to link them to French, British and German armies (distinctions in rank not typical in other ballets). Following the battle’s conclusion, Clara and her nutcracker prince travel to another realm, akin to a sultan’s palace that might have been found in the Middle East or South Asia. The ruler of the palace regales the couple with exotic performances (including one featuring a ballerina in a peacock body suit and elaborate feathered tail) after which they are inevitably sent home to their realm. Sendak’s costumes are vibrantly colored and have a magical quality to them much like Max’s monster suit, for they allow the viewer a glimpse into the evening’s fairy tale resplendent with life-size dolls, an epic battle (at one point there is an enormous rat tail that extends from the wing of stage merely hinting at the size of its owner), a sea voyage across turbulent waters, a sultan’s palace and last but not least, the sugar plum fairy and her court. However, my favorite part of the performance is the end in which Sendak has created a nutcracker head that becomes visible on the curtains when they close – from the top and bottom of the stage – with teeth chomping shut to hide the performers from view.  If you haven’t already, everyone should take a trip to the The Nutcracker in Seattle, for it allows the viewer to interact on a grand scale with Sendak’s art, much like the 1984 exhibit at SAM did for its audiences.

Top image: Installation shot from Sendak Onstage, Seattle Art Museum (Volunteer Park), 11/15/84 – 1/27/85

Interning with the buried treasure

By Kaley Ellis, archive and exhibitions intern

What is an archive? And why would I work in one?

When I first spoke with Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate at the Seattle Art Museum, she mentioned the possibility of interning in SAM’s archives and my mind immediately conjured images of buried treasure languishing in the basement of the museum awaiting a moment (or in this case a person) to tell its story. Although admittedly somewhat implausible, the thought of digging through the museum’s archive – tucked out of sight and thus inherently mysterious – was intriguing.

I could easily imagine Indiana Jones (relocating to the Pacific Northwest for example) uncovering a treasure map that led to an underground chamber in SAM, overflowing with riches, long lost paintings by Titian, Vermeer, or Degas, ancient Egyptian coffins, or Roman marble sculptures for example. Now, seeing as my mind had already made this leap from archives to Indiana Jones to priceless art work, the next obvious step was to accept Sarah’s proposed internship working with the archives.

During my first few weeks interning, Sarah asked if I’d like to see where the archives were kept – which I clearly needed to see if I was going to discover the previously mentioned hidden treasure. However, I was instead led to a small, rather dreary room, decorated with a table, chair, and numerous filling cabinets. While this was a bit depressing, I was promised I would not be left alone to work in this windowless room that had a door that occasionally locked you inside, so I suppose there was a silver lining. However, this process of imagining an archive filled with treasure – whether those are jewels and piles of gold or artwork – and then coming to terms with the reality of a room bursting with metal cabinets of old documents made me think about what it means to be an archive.

The SAM archives (part of them, at least). Photo: Kaley Ellis.

The SAM archives (part of them, at least). Photo: Kaley Ellis

Archives preserve documentation of the past, in this case a visual reminder of the art and exhibitions held at the SAM since the 1930s. While these files do not contain actual treasure, they do offer valuable insight into the museum’s history and collection. They offer the chance to analyze and reflect upon the past while simultaneously acting as a reservoir of memories. (And, thankfully they have been moved from that cell-like room to the much sunnier library!) During the upcoming months, I plan to delve into and share some of the secrets found within these file folders. I hope you’ll join me.Recognize the fedora and whip? Photo: Gary Stewart

 

Top photo: Recognize the fedora and whip? Photo: Gary Stewart

 

SAM Talks With Valerie Steele

Do you consider yourself fashionable? Creative? Curious? Well, whether you’re the world’s next top fashion designer or, like me, just a compulsive shopper, SAM Talks this Friday, July 19, is sure to intrigue, inform, & inspire you.

This SAM Talks will be given by someone that I am particularly excited about, Valerie Steele. For those of you who don’t know, Valerie Steele is the Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) in New York City… but that’s not all! She is also a fashion historian, and has been described as one of “fashion’s brainiest women” and a “High-Heeled Historian!” She has even been on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

… Ha! You thought I was done, didn’t you? Not quite!

Steele is also the renowned author of several books, including that which coincides perfectly with SAM’s current exhibition, Future Beauty: 30 years of Japanese Fashion, Japan Fashion Now. Japan Fashion Now, both the exhibition and accompanying book, were completed in 2010, and explored what has been called Japan’s “fashion revolution,” beginning in the 1980’s.  From this “fashion revolution” emerged an innovative and radical notion of what fashion is, one that played with the unusual, both in terms of materials and design, and the imperfect. 

In this talk, Steele will discuss and analyze this movement by exploring the ingeniousness and influence of Japanese fashion designers, such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo! — These designers (and many, many others) are featured in Future Beauty – Don’t miss the opportunity to expand your knowledge, improve your style, or just hang-out and listen to one of the most interesting people in the world of fashion!

For More Information Visit: http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/calendar/eventDetail.asp?eventID=26286&month=6&day=19&year=2013&sxID=&WHEN=

Caroline Sargent, Communications Intern

Valerie Steele, Director & Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT).

Where the Park Meets the Sound

The view from the Olympic Sculpture Park is heavenly. As you sit in one of the vibrant red chairs, you can gaze out on a harbor filled with sailboats, and onto the Olympic Mountains scraping the clouds. The meadow’s colorful flowers bloom and sway with the ocean breezes, and the native foliage is juxtaposed against clean, modernist lines and bold contemporary art to create a visual feast. It’s hard to imagine, with all its runners, dog walkers, and parades of children running through the distinctive Z-path, that this now iconic park was once site to the Union Oil Company of California.

Since it’s birth in 2007, the Olympic Sculpture Park has undergone hefty changes and challenges, but a large portion of the transformation is ongoing. It was World Ocean Day June 8, and there was no better location to celebrate than on the reclaimed rocky shore of the park. As an intern gardener at the park, I work closely with Bobby McCullough, who has been head gardener since the park opened its gravel walkways.  He ensures that water is being used efficiently, and that the naturalized beach area is healthy for park visitors of all kinds, from people to dogs and even harbor seals. Keeping this area in good shape is an important part of the crew’s work: the beach is patrolled for litter almost daily, plants have been placed and cared for to act as a natural buffer, and we even climb the trees to search for troublesome insects. It is safe to say that years after the design implementation, the Olympic Sculpture Park is continually taking efforts to create a clean Puget Sound.

I assist Bobby by hand weeding and performing maintenance, keeping plants healthy and the open space clean and friendly. The park uses organic gardening methods—no pesticides, fertilizers, no harmful chemicals. By using these techniques, it prevents contamination in the soil and on the ground surface, which could then wash into Puget Sound. And what’s even more unique and sustainable than our gardening practices are the plants themselves; they are all native to the Pacific Northwest. Visitors experience four distinct archetypal landscapes at the Olympic Sculpture Park: the valley, the meadows, the grove, and the shore. These series of precincts give the park a sense of regional identity, and reduce water use.  The plants are already adapted to Seattle’s climate, and therefore do not require any additional water. Sprinklers in the park are energy-efficient and only turned on when necessary. Young plants are watered while they become established, but in the future they will require little-to-no watering.

Without a doubt, the sculpture park’s most carefully maintained area is where the park meets the Sound.  The beach features large logs and boulders, perfect for climbing and sitting to admire the harbor. The shore was designed to act as a natural filter, collecting debris that wash up with the tides. Each year after the storm season, usually in February, Bobby organizes a massive clean up to remove trash and treated lumber. Creosote is a substance created through the distillation of tar to preserve wood, and is toxic. It is often used to treat lumber used in structures like boats and docks, and can wash up onto the beach. Each year Bobby removes six to eight tons of this treated wood from the shore to prevent creosote from leaking into the water. This maintenance continues throughout the year, with treated wood removal and daily trash pick-ups.

The shoreline is carefully monitored through a variety of efforts to create safe wildlife habitat. Learn more about the Olympic Sculpture Park and its restoration.

-Stephanie Stroud, Intern Gardener, Olympic Sculpture Park

Remix: It’s Got What You Need

As a brand-new intern at SAM, my very first assignment involved getting up close and personal with the details of the upcoming Remix (as in tomorrow, Friday, June 7!), and let me tell you, the night is jam-packed with good stuff. After learning about all the events, activities, and performances planned, it’s no surprise I’m counting the hours until the doors open, and you should be, too!

Every quarter, SAM holds Remix, an after-hours, 18-and-older event, drawing hordes of party-goers to SAM Downtown to get an intimate view of the museum’s latest exhibition, test their own art-making abilities at various activity booths, watch some unbelievable dance performances, and, of course, bust a move (or two, or ten) of their own.

This season’s Remix event is centered on the Modern exhibition The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States and promises to be nothing short of a modern explosion and an event that you don’t want to miss.

Come see SAM after dark, this Friday from 8 pm–midnight, when the lights turn low and the jams turn up.

DJ Riz kicks the night off in the Brotman Forum with an irresistible, groove-inducing variety of soul-meets-pop-meets-hip-hop beats.

As if that weren’t enough reason to linger, the Brotman Forum will also play venue to three performances by Seattle’s Alchemy Tap Project, whose dancers bring a whole new modern flavor to tap dancing.

Want even more dance?

Head up to the third floor galleries for Modern art-inspired dance vignettes by Seattle-based Salt Horse.

While you’re there, take advantage of SAM’s aptly-titled My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Tours to get a fresh and highly opinionated (surprise!) look at SAM’s Collection Galleries. With a wide array of knowledgeable and outspoken guides to choose from, the only way you could possibly go wrong with these tours is by not taking one.

After seeing Fifty Works for Fifty States, you’ll no doubt be itching to start an art collection of your own (if you aren’t, you might want to get your pulse checked), and SAM’s got you covered.

Head to the Chase Open Studio area where artist Joey Veltkamp and other local artists will be waiting to create and exchange mini artworks with you in the SAM Mini Fair; grab a FREE Remix tote bag to store your goods!

If all this dancing, art collecting, and opinion-hearing has you feeling wiped, swing by the Rec Room for libations at the bar and some good, old-fashioned (but not) bingo. If you’re envisioning a room in Florida with faded floral prints and a slow-moving ceiling fan, stop right there. This is not your grandmother’s bingo (and if it is, you’ve got one cool grandma).

Hosted by the fabulous members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, this bingo has a modern (art that is) twist with cards featuring pictures of SAM’s favorite modern artworks. One game in, and you’ll be dying to make a habit of it (SAM is not responsible for any pun-related injuries).

With all the excitement and endless stream of options offered, you may just feel like a kid in a candy store. If you want to make that metaphorical candy a reality, TASTE Restaurant is open ‘til midnight to keep your sweet tooth satisfied. Didn’t I say SAM’s got you covered?

Whatever venue you favor, be it the dance floor, the art exhibition and galleries, or any of the numerous SAM creates studios (minimalist jewelry making, anyone?), one thing is for certain: SAM Remix has everything you need to make this Friday a night to remember.

-Carter Stratton, Communications Intern

Photo by Robert Wade.

World Environment Day 2013: Think Globally, Eat Locally

When you have, as I do, the privilege of living in a setting as beautiful as the Pacific Northwest, nature’s abundance and magnificence are both too easily and too often taken for granted. More difficult, however, is to acknowledge and pursue the changes that need to be made in order to sustain them.

If you’re at all like me (someone with only a modest understanding of environmental issues) and you love nature’s playground here in Washington State, you’re probably thinking: I want to make a difference, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Well, fear no more! I recently learned that today, June 5, 2013, marks the 41st annual celebration of World Environment Day (WED).

While WED, like Earth Day, promotes worldwide environmental awareness, it advocates for primarily local participation and action. In doing so, WED enables small-scale involvement and activity and large-scale awareness, encouraging people to think globally, but act locally.

As a new intern in the Communications department, and thus a new member of the “SAM fam,” I wanted to learn how SAM’s environmental efforts pertain to this year’s WED theme, Think.Eat.Save. Think.Eat.Save addresses food-waste and food-loss around the globe and its effects on the environment, an issue I’ve come to learn is taken very seriously by the museum’s own TASTE Restaurant. The TASTE team has made it their mission to support the local community, and since May 2007, when the restaurant opened in the newly expanded museum, they have affirmatively implemented a wide variety of strategies to reduce their food print.  In speaking with Executive Chef Craig Hetherington, I was informed that these efforts include recycling, composting (did you know that most of TASTE’s take-away-food packaging is compostable?), buying organic foods, and supporting local farmers and farms, many of which are within 60 miles of the restaurant. According to Chef Hetherington, purchasing locally is both environmentally and economically beneficial. Supporting local farms allows farmers to continue to and more actively farm sustainably, in turn helping to foster the growth of local farms.

Among the numerous local farms incorporated into TASTE’s edible repertoire are:

  • Skagit River Ranch in Sedro Wooley
  • Stokesberry Chicken in Olympia
  • Neuawkum Farms in Olympia
  • Foraged and Found in Seattle
  • Olsen Potatoes
  • Nash’s Organics in Sequim
  • Tonnemakers Fruits
  • Smith Brothers Dairy

The efforts made by TASTE are among those most widely acknowledged and practiced in the anti-food-waste/loss movement, but such efforts can also be quite costly. If you don’t have the time or, like me, are on a college-student’s budget, you can still make a difference!

Here are a few of the less-costly ways to participate and raise awareness this World Environment Day:

  • Visit your local farmers market and get to know a farmer!
  • Create posters about food-waste/loss and other ways to conserve natural resources around the city. Then take a photo and share it: Follow Seattle Art Museum on Instagram (http://instagram.com/seattleartmuseum), then post photos with #seattleartmuseum.
  • Share an article on Facebook about an issue that you’re passionate about, tell your followers on Twitter about WED and how they can get involved, or post a picture on Instagram to show your friends how you’re making a difference!
  • Visit the Seattle Parks and Recreation website to discover ways to make a difference here in Seattle, such as planning a park cleanup!
  • Plant and sustainably cultivate food at home
  • Compost
  • Encourage friends and family to get involved
  • Think before you eat and help save our environment!

With summer in sight there’s no better time to ‘give back’ to this glorious place that we are lucky enough to call home.  Now let’s get out there and make a difference!

 

Facts about Food Waste/Loss

-Caroline Sargent, Communications Intern

TASTE Restaurant’s Executive Chef Craig Hetherington paying a visit to Skagit River Ranch. Photo: Clare Barboza.

Sam at SAM: Through the Back Door

On my first day at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), I was a nervous, fidgety high school senior from The Bush School who entered through the back door on Second Avenue. Fumbling with my purse I told the security guard, “Um…My name’s Samantha Simon. I think I should have a badge up there.” A shaky hand pointed to the wall filled with SAM IDs and sure enough, my face was among them. It was official: I belonged at SAM. Taking multiple wrong elevators, not realizing the museum is closed to the public on Mondays, I finally made it up to the correct 5th floor where I greeted my supervisor. Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate at SAM, patiently showed me to my desk where four large coffee table books awaited me.

I smoothed my dress. “Pick a piece of art,” she told me. After a year of art history, I still hadn’t been exposed to anything past the Rococo, so when I scanned through a book labeled Contemporary Art, my mind went wild. I found a beastly wooden sculpture entitled Bovine by a local artist named Whiting Tennis. Showing Sarah, she told me that I was to write a biography on who owned that piece before it came to the museum; the technical term for this history of ownership is provenance.

For the next three days, I poured my caffeine-driven energy into finding out every piece of information I could about Greg Kucera, owner of the Greg Kucera Gallery in Pioneer Square, Seattle, and donor of Bovine. I worked in the shadows printing anything relating to Mr. Kucera, from graduation announcements to gallery reviews, and putting them in a growing pile on my desk. Finally, when I sat down to write, the words came naturally. By the end, I presented the man’s life story thus far in two pages.  After writing about Greg Kucera, I was so excited about contemporary art. I moved on to Robert and Honey Dootson, Asian and contemporary art collectors who have now passed away. Quickly becoming an obsession, I combed through SAM catalogues from the ‘70s and used the SAM library to my fullest advantage. Seattle Times articles from the 1960s became my best friend as I researched for fifteen hours, and when it came time to write, four detailed pages magically appeared. Another life: captured.  Finally, still newly fascinated with contemporary art, I decided to write about Sidney and Anne Gerber, Native American and contemporary art collectors, who had also passed away. Five pages quickly emerged.  Soon, my biographies on Greg Kucera, the Dootsons, and the Gerbers will make their way into SAM’s art database, and will be available to the public in the coming years. It’s an amazing experience to know that, because of me, those people’s stories will be heard.

Along with writing these biographies in the curatorial department, I was also given the opportunity to explore and volunteer in other departments. From conservation to registration to education, I explored SAM widely in my three weeks and learned about how a museum operates. Ducking in and out of ventilating systems, industrial elevators, and lighting rooms, I felt like a character in Narnia as I would turn a darkened corner and enter into a serene museum gallery surrounded by tourists. Like the siblings returning from Narnia, I wanted to tell the patrons about what they might be missing. I saw a room of art storage two stories high, a room behind the Porcelain Room with lighting panels to the ceiling where taped to them were practical jokes, and a conservation lab containing every chemical imaginable where a Jackson Pollock was being restored.  Of course, as a SAM patron, one may never know about any of this. The calm gallery floors are a stage and we, the staff and volunteers, the puppet-masters on the other side, have the privilege of sneaking around behind the scenes waiting for the curtain to rise, making sure the art receives the undistracted recognition it deserves.

This fall I will be leaving for college and as I will soon be finished at the museum (at least for this summer) I leave my own personal Narnia behind by exiting through the same door, but different from the way I came: More confident, independent, and ready to take my next step.

Remixed for the Very First Time

As the newest PR intern, it is slightly embarrassing for me to say that I have never been to SAM Remix, but this March 8 will be my very first time. As disconcerting as my lack of experience may be, I have made up for it with enthusiastic research and comprehensive interviews, which I believe present an authentic representation of the evening. It is my deepest desire that the following information may help other Remix newbies better prepare themselves for the upcoming SAM Remix. Read More

It’s Elles REMIX Style

Before moving to Seattle to start my fall internship at the Seattle Art Museum this past August, I had already developed an appetite for Remix. I’d never been to one on my many visits to the Northwest but I had seen the posters—shiny, glossy and wickedly designed, I wanted, needed to know more about SAM’s quarterly event.

Aimed at engaging and building relations with young adults, SAM’s Remix events align ever so nicely with the museum’s special exhibitions to create a dance-party-meets-fine-arts experience that gets under your skin in the best way. This fall’s French import Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris weaves its way seamlessly throughout this month’s Remix at SAM Downtown on November 9 from 7:30 pm–12:30 am; showing that ladies can hang with the boys and party just as hard.

DJ Michele Myers kicks off the night in the Brotman Forum with intoxicating rhythms and beats from pop, local favorites, soul and just about anything else you can dream of to keep you dancing your pants off. Watch as choreographers Linda Austin, Anne Furfey and Amy O perform excerpts from Ten Tiny Dances on a 4×4 foot dance floor throughout the night. Enjoy the musical styling’s of Hollis and The Pytons as they perform sets from ACT Theatre’s These Streets—an homage to the grunge movement in Seattle with a feminine twist. Curated by Gretta Harley and Sarah Rudinoff, these sets are sure to get the blood pumping and bring out your long dormant grunge kid.

Head on over to the Arnold Board Room to rest those tired dogs while testing your mettle and your knowledge of pop culture, sports, film and more at the Women All-Stars Trivia with Geeks Who Drink. Or earn your Artistic License with Erin Shafkind at her Department of Artistic Licensing with the help of Jenny Zwick and Tessa Hulls. It’s like the DMV only fun.

Let your activist self run free in the South Hall and create Take Action Buttons with Janet Fagan. Too much activism and not enough space?  Create a Power Band with Romson Bustillo to showcase your inner superhero! Put your thinking cap on at the Second Floor Think Tank and ask yourself Can Women Really Have It All? Join Vivian Phillips and Priya Frank as they explore questions raised by Elles: Pompidou through interactive activities. Give your brain a break and mosey on up to the Fourth Floor Galleries and listen to Seattle Symphony Orchestra harpist Valerie Muzzolini Gordon while she performs music inspired by Elles: Pompidou’s French roots.

But wait there’s more! (Isn’t there always?) It wouldn’t be Remix at the museum without the My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Tours. Happening periodically throughout the entire night, the tours are led by short folks, tall folks, artistic folks, academic folks and just about everyone else in between to offer up their opinions, whether good or bad, about the art and artists featured in the Elles: Pompidou exhibit.

Reflections on a summer at SAM

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

-Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate

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

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

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

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

-Beimnet Demelash, YWCA GirlsFirst Intern, 2012

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

Sarah Bergmann: The Birds and the Bees

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

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

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

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

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

You can keep thinking Plants & Pollinators at www.pollinatorpathway.com

Summering at SAM

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

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

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

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

Gearing up for Remix!

Hey there! It’s Natalie Dupille, SAM’s newest PR intern. I’m excited to be working here, and even more excited for tomorrow—and not just because June 1 is my 21st birthday. Tomorrow is Remix, SAM’s hippest quarterly event, and it promises an evening jam-packed with performances, talks, dancing, DJs, and more.

I’m totally intrigued by Seattle band Midday Veil, who will be fusing mesmerizing, hypnotic rock meditations and vibrant projections to grace us with unique multimedia performances at 9:00 and 10:45 pm in the South Hall. On top of that, there’s the collaborative music and art installation by SAM and Olson Kundig Architects, inspired by the Theaster Gates exhibition, which runs through July 1. Join us in the Chase Open Studio, where, in addition to listening stations and hands-on activities, DJ Riz presents the Stairway to Vinyl Listening Party, where he’ll spinning LPs from the Record Store’s robust collection of records throughout the evening.

Remix is also a great opportunity to check out SAM’s newest exhibit, Ancestral Modern, an exuberant exhibition of contemporary art from one of the world’s oldest living cultures that includes more than 100 artworks created by Australian Aboriginal artists in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Cellist Paul Rucker will be creating “Sonic Interpretations” live in Ancestral Modern at 9:15 and 10:30 pm tomorrow, a surefire way to experience an already rousing exhibition.

Having never before attended Remix, I am thrilled to not only be able to attend, but also to be a part of this exciting event. Looking forward to all that and more, hopefully my enthusiasm is contagious, and I will see you there!

PS- The first 50 people in rainbows get in for free. Rock that ROYGBIV!

Designing Memories

We’ve all been swept away by the ability of an album to evoke memories, ideas, or particular moods. How does the design of an album cover relate to the music and how do music and cover together evoke these memories, ideas, and moods? In the Theaster Gates: the Listening Room exhibition the wall of records is an aesthetic display of the importance of visual imagery to the music we listen to. I can pick up any of these records and attempt to date the year it was released and the type of music that will be heard on the album. Just from looking at the album cover I have an idea formed for what I’m about to experience and something visual to stimulate more thoughts as I listen to the music.

Stan Gets’ “Another Time, Another Place” and Teena Marie’s “Robbery” and are examples of records that tie my ideas of trends popular in an era to the  music and design that characterize this era.

 

What associations do we have of visual designs, colors, and images to musical rhythms? There’s a whole set of abstract visual artists (past and contemporary) who base their design on connecting to some sort of musical rhythm, or spiritual rhythm of which they believe music and visual art are the expressions. Examples of this connection between music and visual art are Wassily Kandinsky’s “Composition” paintings or the intimate relationship between jazz music and visual artists. I would say a musical rhythm relates to emotions, but we all feel emotional sways a little differently and we have different dreams and myths that we associate with certain emotions, music and imagery. Where do we find the overlap between each of our personal dreams and associations to a type of music and imagery?

Critical discussions around trends in artistic and cultural media play a game of informing and being informed by music of an era. These criticisms impact our own experience of music as well. I don’t think the whole arena of critical review and genre categorization hold only arbitrary value, but I wonder what key effects in a song or an album do we agree make it interesting to discuss? How does the social climate affect our experience with music? How does an album or song become iconic or timeless? What does this record collection tell us about certain times in our communal history and our personal relationship to this history?

These are the sorts of questions that Theaster Gates: The Listening Room brings up for us to think about and discuss together.  Think about what ideas, fantastical or historical, are evoked in you the next time you listen to something that someone recommends to you, or that you find in a store. Why is this record valuable to remember? What about its album design tells us about when the album was released and the cultural history it represents?

 

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