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The Contemporary American Struggle: Bethany Collins

“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”—it’s a song that everyone likely knows some version of and Bethany Collins is sharing why she created a chapel space where you can hear layered recordings of it inside of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at SAM. The exhibition questions the stories we’ve been told by amplifying narratives that have been systematically overlooked from America’s history. This exhibition reunites Lawrence’s revolutionary 30-panel series Struggle: From the History of the American People (1954–56) for the first time since 1958. These 30 panels are heavily informed by the contemporary issues of Lawrence’s time as they address the history of what it means to be an American. Collins’ installation extends the conversation around what it means to be an American into the art being made today.

Bethany Collins (b. 1984) is a multidisciplinary artist whose conceptually driven work is fueled by a critical exploration of how race and language interact. Her work in the exhibition titled America: A Hymnal is an immersive audio experience within a chapel space where six layered voices sing different versions of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” The altar object within the gallery is a book containing the sheet music to 100 versions of this well-known song which has changed and been used for various purposes since it was first penned as “God Save the Queen” in Great Britain. Collins describes the book as “100 dissenting versions of what it means to be American, bound together.”

Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series interprets the democratic debates that defined early America and echoed into the civil rights movements during which he was painting the series. Works by contemporary artists Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas engage themes of democracy, justice, truth, and the politics of inclusion to show that the struggle for expansive representation in America continues.

Muse/News: SAM Director Reflects, Portraits of Isolation, and Augusta Savage’s Crafted Life

SAM News

Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, was interviewed by Megan Burbank of the Seattle Times for a Sunday feature on “how Seattle-area museums are weathering the pandemic.” Read her insights—and those from her colleagues—on the challenges and opportunities that arose.

“Pivoting to their own permanent collections is something museums may do more and more as they emerge from the pandemic with smaller operating budgets. ‘I think it’ll be really fun for viewers, and also for us, by the way. We on the staff will learn what we have in storage as well,’ said Cruz.”

A Jacob Lawrence work was featured in the Monday “Gallery” from Harper’s Magazine. And here’s Seattle University professor Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, reviewing Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle for Hyperallergic.

“Angled figures and cutting diagonal lines — as blood, guns, and swords — iterate across panels as do themes of battle, war, migration, labor, land theft, and peace.”

Don’t miss Emily Zimmerman’s interview with Barbara Earl Thomas for BOMB Magazine. Her exhibition at SAM has been extended and will now close January 2, 2022.

“This idea of disarming my viewer is key to my process. In order to really see, one’s expectations need to be interrupted. I situate my vision in the big arc of time and human spirit, not the present journalistic moment.”

Local News

“How a Seattle game of ‘telephone’ became a worldwide art event”: Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on a Seattle art project gone global.

Gemma Alexander for the Seattle Times on MOHAI’s new exhibition, Stand Up Seattle: The Democracy Project.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reviews (Don’t Be Absurd) Alice in Parts, now on view at the Frye Art Museum through April 25.

“While the work is specific to the physical and mental pain Black women deal with every day (‘Alice has always been in her own personal pandemic,’ says Anastacia-Reneé), Don’t Be Absurd captures a portrait of isolation that urgently reflects the world we’re emerging out of.”

Inter/National News

Via Artforum: The African American Historic Places Project is a new initiative from the Getty Conservation Institute and the city of LA, whose goal is “identifying and preserving Black heritage landmarks throughout Los Angeles.”

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will undergo an expansion overseen by Safdie Architects,  to increase its footprint by 50 percent, reports Artnet.

“The Black Woman Artist Who Crafted a Life She Was Told She Couldn’t Have”: The New York Times’ Concepción de León on the sculptor Augusta Savage.

“Savage was an important artist held back not by talent but by financial limitations and sociocultural barriers. Most of Savage’s work has been lost or destroyed but today, a century after she arrived in New York City at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, her work, and her plight, still resonate.”

And Finally

Learn now to pronounce people’s names.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Muse/News: Asian Art Museum to Reopen, Post-Pandemic Art Eyes, and a Mughal Miniature

SAM News

It’s official! SAM’s Asian Art Museum will reopen to the public on May 28; members get the first look beginning May 7. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig offered this preview, revisiting her February 2020 article on the museum’s grand reopening following its three-year renovation and reimagining (we hardly knew ye!). Capitol Hill Seattle Blog also shared the news. Get ready for more art!

“I’m excited to get back into the building and see what new connections my brain will make after more than a year away. And in the wake of the targeted violence on the Asian community both here and across the country, it’s an important moment to reflect on the history and culture of an invaluable part of Seattle.”

And the downtown Seattle Art Museum is open, with the special exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle on view through May 23. Carla Bell reviewed the show for PREVIEW Magazine, out in the world now.

Local News

Last week, Washington State announced Rena Priest as its next Poet Laureate. Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel has more on the state’s first Native American named to the post.

Have you reviewed the full lineup for the 2021 Seattle International Film Festival? It’s first-ever virtual edition? Seattle Met has the details.

Also this week from the Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig: A moving long read reflecting on how the pandemic has changed the way we look at art.

“Had that Georges de la Tour painting always been so tender? Or that Akio Takamori sculpture so solemn? My mind was a mess. Good Critic Impulses were apparently left in March of 2020.”

Inter/National News

“How an LA Printmaking Workshop Advanced the Career of Women Artists.” Hyperallergic’s Jordan Karney Chaim on June Wayne’s Tamarind Lithography Workshop.

“My work is focused on the idea of how crucial it is for Black people to think of leisure as a radical act.” Derrick Adams speaks with Vogue; his work is on view at SAM as part of The American Struggle.

One of those “ooh…ahh!” New York Times art interactives! Jason Farago with a stirring close read of an eight-inch tall, 17th-century Mughal painting.

“Within the details of this miniature lies a master class in the political uses of cultural hybridity. And the uses of something else too: dumbfounding, superhuman beauty.”

And Finally

Welsh bunnies, archaeologists.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Tim Griffith

The Contemporary American Struggle with Derrick Adams

Hear Derrick Adams discuss his artworks included in SAM’s exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. The exhibition reunites Lawrence’s revolutionary 30-panel series Struggle: From the History of the American People (1954–56) for the first time since 1958 and features contemporary art, all of which work together to question the stories we’ve been told by amplifying narratives that have been systematically overlooked from America’s history.

Derrick Adams’s (b. 1970) multidisciplinary practice probes the influence of popular culture on self-image, and the relationship between man and monument. Adams is deeply immersed in questions of how African American experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism. He describes his two works in The American StruggleSaints March and Jacob’s Ladder—as a way to “contribute to conversations that expand on histories that are both Black American and American overall.” Saints March is a video considering the original American dance form of tap and contemporary street tap performance, while Jacob’s Ladder brings Lawrence’s personal archives into the gallery through a sculptural installation that lends optimism to the concept of struggle.

Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series interprets the democratic debates that defined early America and echoed into the civil rights movements during which he was painting the series. Works by contemporary artists Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas engage themes of democracy, justice, truth, and the politics of inclusion to show that the struggle for expansive representation in America continues.

Muse/News: Wonder Boys, Men on Pointe, and Frankenthaler’s Poise

SAM News

The Seattle Art Museum is now open with the special exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle on view through May 23. KOMO’s Eric Jensen interviews curator Theresa Papanikolas about the Struggle series in a video for Seattle Refined.

Also on view at the museum: Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence. The Seattle Times’ Megan Burbank, Corinne Chin, and Ramon Dompor visit the celebrated Seattle artist’s first solo show at SAM, along with two special visitors: friends and portrait subjects Elisheba Johnson and her son Emery Spearman (whose portrait is titled, Wonder Boy).

“The struggle her work reckons with is more internal, cerebral, something every viewer is called upon to consider. ‘I create what I want from the other,’ she said. ‘So it’s not a space for you to go and just think about all the bad things that happen to Black people or happen to Black children. What about your own children? What about you?’”

Local writer Naomi Tomky for Condé Nast Traveler with a great weekend agenda for Seattle, including a stop at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

And finally, over the weekend, SAM’s Asian Art Museum invited the community to reflect on its steps at a memorial for those impacted by anti-Asian racism and violence. See stories from Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and KIRO.

Local News

What’s the Deal with That Immersive Van Gogh Installation?” asks the Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig. She responds and makes recommendations for immersive art installations more worth your time.

NFT? We don’t get it, either, but Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel looks into the booming—and controversial—world of crypto art.”

The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald speaks with Ashton Edwards, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s first male professional division student to take pointe technique classes, about traditional ballet’s possible gender-fluid future. Don’t miss the video by Ramon Dompor and Corinne Chin.

“The first time Ashton Edwards tried dancing on pointe, it felt like coming home. ‘It was just like magic. It felt beautiful on pointe. I felt like I could dance forever.’”

Inter/National News

There’s a new auction of photographs documenting missing paintings that Jacob Lawrence made while he was a war artist with the Coast Guard during World War II, Artnet’s Brian Boucher reports. The photographs could help unearth more original Lawrence works.

The Washington Post’s Peggy McGlone reports on the Smithsonian’s search for six—yes, six!—museum directors, which could “reshape the institution for generations.”

NPR’s Susan Stamberg on a new biography of Helen Frankenthaler by Alexander Nemerov; don’t miss the from-the-archives 1988 audio interview with the artist, too.

“Asked what the paintings are ‘about,’ the biographer says, ‘that lyrical moment of possibility in life, which is not unmixed with sadness and even grief. It’s about feeling the world.’”

And Finally

Muse/News recommends: Victor Luckerson’s Run It Back newsletter.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Wonder Boy, 2020, Barbara Earl Thomas, American, cut paper and hand-printed color backing, 40 x 26 in., Courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery, photo: Spike Mafford.

Muse/News: Witnessing America, Asian Restos Go Digital, and Calder Maquettes

SAM News

The Seattle Art Museum is open, with limited capacity and timed tickets released online every Thursday. Chamidae Ford reviews Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle for South Seattle Emerald, noting that the exhibition “takes us on a journey through American history, reframing the narratives we have heard for centuries.”

And Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne reviews American Struggle as well as the solo show, Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence, exploring how they both “witness America.”

“As different as can be, the two shows are rooted in a truth: How we see our past and our present are inextricable from how we see our future. That is, we’re still filling in frames, and might, with some attention, fill them in more honestly.”

SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park is recommended by The Architect’s Newspaper as one of 11 “outdoor art spaces and museum grounds worth checking out this spring.” Take some allergy meds, mask up, and get out there!

Local News

Seattle Times columnist Naomi Ishisaka asks Karen Maeda Allman of Elliott Bay Books to recommend “15 books to read to learn more about Asian American history and experiences.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis is back with her weekly ArtSEA; this time, she visits Seattle’s new newsstand, previews the ByDesign festival, and some musical events.

Seattle Met’s Erin Wong with the story of how adult children of owners of Chinatown-International District restaurants are bringing their digital literacy to help the businesses during the pandemic crisis.

“Now, it’s the younger generations who are circling back to help their parents navigate the internet age. ‘This is just one thing I can do for my tribe, you know?’ [Carol] Xie says, ‘If that’s all it takes, I’m more than happy to do it.’”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic says, Listen to the Sounds of an 18,000-year-old Conch.” Muse/News says, OK.

Catching up with gallerist Mariane Ibrahim, a Seattleite for a short and lucky-for-us time: in addition to her Chicago space, she is now expanding to Paris.

“The secret stunt doubles of the art world”: Peter Libbey for the New York Times on the seven maquettes—or models—of works by Alexander Calder made for MoMA’s new exhibition, Modern From the Start.

“Calder’s mobiles, whose orbits are eccentric, are particularly hard to anticipate. ‘I’ve never encountered a museum before that makes large, full scale cutouts for the actual gallery where the sculptures are going to go into,’ [Alexander S.C.] Rower said. ‘I think that’s amazing.’”

And Finally

A mural for the Storm.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at Seattle Art Museum, 2021, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Jacob’s Story, New Models, and a Will to Equity

SAM News

The Seattle Art Museum is open, with limited capacity and timed tickets released online every Thursday. Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger reviews Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, now on view at SAM.

“America’s persistence as a country and a project was not foretold. Rather, it was violently taken and sketched out, marked by slavery, genocide, war, and immense struggle experienced by those seeking their own freedom and those looking to impose their will on others. It’s a point hammered out in the rest of the series.”

KING’s Evening Magazine toured the exhibition, interviewing SAM curator Theresa Papanikolas. Thrillist recommends the show, and Artdaily also shares the news

The University of Washington’s Daily on the “revolution and inclusion” on view in the exhibition; they also shared details of a Lawrence seminar this spring. And they reported on the museum’s recent gift of Lang Collection artworks.

And with this nice weather, don’t forget to visit the Olympic Sculpture Park; The Expedition includes it on this list of “best sculpture gardens for families.”

Local News

First Hill’s Museum of Museums will finally open, reports Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. 

And the Wing Luke Museum reopened recently; Sean Harding for South Seattle Emerald checked in on how things are going. 

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel dives deep with a survey of local arts and culture organizations and how they’re faring, one year into the pandemic; she finds dramatic losses and tentative hope for new models. 

“The arts and culture industry has relied on old models and underpaid, overworked people for decades. Those models weren’t cutting it even pre-pandemic, says LANGSTON’s [Tim] Lennon. ‘The old ways were not that great for a lot of small organizations, artists and culture workers, especially those from BIPOC communities,’ he wrote.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic’s Sarah Rose Sharp shares the news that United States Artists (USA) president and CEO Deana Haggag will be stepping down for a position at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

PBS NewHour interviews Peabody Essex Museum curator Lydia Gordon about the two recovered panels of the Struggle series, both of which are now on view at SAM.

Tessa Soloman of ARTnews on how executive roles in equity and belonging are on the rise at museums; she interviews Rosa Rodriguez-Williams at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Craig Bigelow at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and others. The article references SAM’s appointment of Priya Frank to Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in August 2020. 

“Not all of this work requires funding—it’s about changes in procedure and process,” [Bigelow] said. “Too often there’s a default to slowing the work or stopping the work because there’s a perceived lack of funding. But this isn’t entirely about funding—it’s about will.”

And Finally

Oscar nominations have been announced; get going on your watch list!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at Seattle Art Museum, 2021, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Who is Jacob Lawrence? The American Struggle Overview

Join Theresa Papanikolas, Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, for an in-depth virtual exhibition overview of Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, on view at SAM through May 23. Get to know Jacob Lawrence—a New Yorker, a University of Washington professor, a modernist painter, and an influential Black American artist—through this talk and by visiting SAM to see Lawrence’s revolutionary story. Advance tickets are required and are selling out so get yours soon, more tickets will be made available on a weekly basis, every Thursday. Speaking of Thursdays, starting April 1, First Thursdays at SAM are entirely free!

The American Struggle reunites Lawrence’s revolutionary 30-panel series Struggle: From the History of the American People (1954–56) for the first time since 1958, and SAM will be its only West Coast venue. Works by Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas engage themes of democracy, justice, truth, and the politics of inclusion to show that the struggle for expansive representation in America continues.

This talk was originally offered as a free SAM member-exclusive event. Interested in learning more about the perks of membership? Find out more about all the benefits you get when you join SAM.

Free Ways to See Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle opens this Friday, March 5, and tickets to opening weekend are already sold out! But, don’t worry, future dates are available and released on a rolling basis, every week on Thursdays. Meanwhile, we all love the sound of free—find out how you can experience this revolutionary story as told by Jacob Lawrence and contemporary artists Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas for free.

  • Free community passes are available to any requesting individual, family, or group as passes are available. Passes are especially those for whom the cost of a ticket is prohibitive and groups who have been historically excluded from the museum space due to systematic oppression, including communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, low income communities, queer communities, and the disability community.
  • First Thursdays are back and better than ever starting April 1 (no foolin’)! Previously, admission to special exhibitions wasn’t included as part of Free First Thursday but now the entire museum, including The American Struggle, is free on the first Thursday of every month.
  • First Friday: With this reopening, we’ve also expanded benefits on First Fridays. Now, admission to The American Struggle is free for anyone 65 years and older and $7.99 for everyone else!
  • UW Art Students, fill out our customer service form to request free tickets.
  • Members of City of Seattle’s Gold and FLASH card program can get free tickets for caregivers by filling out our customer service form.
  • SAM members and children (14 & under) are free.

SAM is for everyone and we’re here to make sure anyone can see the art they love! Don’t forget, entry to SAM’s permanent collections is always suggested admission! You can experience our global collection year-round and pay what you want by calling our customer service center. At this time, capacity at the museum is limited and everyone must get tickets in advance of their visit. We can’t wait to see you at the museum again.