Shelly Uhlir, a full-time exhibition mountmaker since 1989 and senior mountmaker at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian since 2001, spoke to SAM staff today about the technical aspects of mountmaking.
From the PR Office at SAM comes a new and fun project called “Beauty Shot Fridays.” In order to promote Beauty & Bounty and Reclaimed, we are asking our Facebook Fans to send us photos in response to a weekly question that is based on themes in the exhibitions.
We will update our question on the SAM Facebook page every Monday by 3pm and submissions will be uploaded to the page every Friday by 4pm. If you’d like to send a photo submission (captions are welcome too!), please email email@example.com
Our question this is week is: where do you find beauty and bounty in your day?
Within the Fuller room, visiting monks from the Gaden Shartse monastery were creating a mandala and will do so over the next few days. Mandalas are a Buddhist form of sacred art that carry spiritual significance. They are made by layering colored sands in an intricate design which usually relates to the dwelling of a diety. The monks vigorously run one chakpur (a bronze funnel that holds colored sand) over the ridges of another chakpur in order to direct the sand into the design.
Once the design is complete, the monks will sweep the sand into a container which will be placed in moving water such as a river or ocean. So four days of concentrated, intricate work gone in about thirty minutes. Quite a reminder of beauty and its impermanence.
Continuing through the museum, I repeatedly viewed objects made of nephrite. Upon later research, I learned that nephrite is one of two kinds of jade and usually comes in shades of green, grey, and brown with varying degrees of translucence. My favorite object was a dragon and tiger plaque, made of nephrite in the Ming period (1368-1644). It’s a decorative object, and it made me think about how there was a time that anything functional was expected to be beautiful, that functionality and beauty are not mutually exclusive.
The displays of ceramics, sculptures, and scrolls were lovely and accessible. The labels gave clarity to the objects they described but still left me with room to interpret and understand the works on my own. I most appreciated this when admiring a woman’s robe from China, ca. 1875-1908. The label mentioned that garments in this era were seen as descriptors of one’s true nature as well as indicative of socioeconomic status. I found this idea inspiring and refreshing as much of what I’ve studied with fashion discusses garments as an act of display of wealth or a purposeful effort to control how others’ interpret us, not necessarily as an indication of our nature.
I definitely enjoyed my time at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It’s a manageable museum with space that facilitates easy movement from exhibition to exhibition and that contains a diverse range of work characterized by unique perspectives. I enjoyed something in each exhibition: plaques, robes, kimonos, prints, ceramics, and contemporary prints juxtaposed with sculptures and paintings. I plan on going back there and taking some people I know that will likely enjoy it as well.
Top photo: First camel ride ever.
I started volunteering with the McCaw Foundation Library at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in October of 2007. Since then I’ve applied to, attended, and graduated from, the University of Washington’s Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. These two experiences have been intertwined from the start.