In checking out the exhibit, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the struggles and events that have ultimately lead to where we are today. SAM tasked me with making some work around the exhibit and so I decided to get some portraits of my favorite local artist friends, Cristina Martinez and Ari Glass in the space. We’ve all been inspired by Lawrence so this opportunity was really special.
Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle 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, and SAM will be its only West Coast venue. These modernist paintings chronicle pivotal moments from the American Revolution through to westward expansion and feature Black, female, and Native protagonists as well as the founders of the United States. Lawrence interprets the democratic debates that defined the early nation and echoed into the civil rights movements during which he was painting the Struggle 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.
Jacob Lawrence’s iconic series Struggle: From the History of the American People retells key moments in this country’s early history and centers the underrepresented contributions of Black Americans, Indigenous Americans, and women. Lawrence’s vision is an inspiration to young people today as they reflect on historic times. Created in partnership with South End Stories and Mr Santos Creations, this video features insights from Seattle Public School students, past and present. Delbert Richardson, founder and curator of the American History Traveling Museum: The Unspoken Truths, contextualizes this iconic work of American art and draws connection to our current times, from Crispus Attucks to Black Lives Matter. Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle is on view through May 23, 2021.
Terrence Jeffrey Santos Regional Emmy Awardee for Cinematography (2016), The Otherside Documentary Design Director of Video Production, UW Athletics Marketing Department (2010-2015) @filipinxfoodseattle @musangtinos @anaktoykompany @loveandpicnics
Donte Felder Donte is the founder and Executive Director at South End Stories (one of our new community partners) where they focus on Trauma-Informed Arts Practice: Healing Through History and Creativity. Donte is a former SPS educator and has been the recipient of WEA’s Humanitarian Award as well as Washington’s Golden Apple Award. Donte comes from a family of seasoned educators and community leaders focused on pursuing social justice by developing anti-racist and anti-oppression practices in schools and communities. southendstories-artsed.com
Bayje Felder has been acting since the age of 5. She has starred in productions through Stone Soup Theater, Stage Struck, Columbia City Youth Theater Group, Orca K-8 Drama Program, and South End Stories. Some of Bayje’s favorite roles were as Charlie, in an Orca Drama reboot, Lavendar in Matilda the Musical, and as Hamilton in the Stage Struck Summer Program. Bayje is 13, enjoys soccer, basketball, baking, singing, hanging with her best friends, and playing with her pets Tyson the hedgehog and Kairo the Akita. Bayje’s favorite mottos are “Be yourself because everyone is taken.” And “Live everyday like it’s your last.”
Cece Chan is an activist and educator from Seattle, Washington who uses she/her/hers pronouns. She is a second year student at Pacific Lutheran University where she is the student body president and a double major in Gender, Sexuality, and Race Studies and Communications with a concentration in Media Studies. Her passions include decolonizing and diversifying systems of education, criminal justice, and healthcare. She is recognized for her film, For the Culture: An Ethnic Studies Documentary and her curriculum writing with South End Stories. She is, as she describes herself, an imperfect yet fearless leader.
Savannah Blackwell is a senior at Franklin High School and will attend Howard University in the fall. She has performed all over Seattle including the Moore theater with More Music @ the Moore 2019, the Paramount for their annual fundraiser, and the Benaroya Hall, also in 2019, with IBuildBridges. Savannah has participated in several plays & musicals. Some of her favorite roles have been Alice in Alice In Wonderland, a Doowop girl in Little Shop of Horrors, and Dorothy in The Wiz. Savannah believes in the power of music and arts and is grateful she’s able to use it as a vehicle for change and connection.
Mr. Delbert Richardson is a Community Scholar, Ethnomuseumologist, and Second Generation Storyteller, Owner of Global Unspoken Truths, LLC and President, of the National Awarding Winning American History Traveling Museum: The “Unspoken” Truths. With the use of authentic artifacts, storyboards, and the ancient art of “storytelling,” Mr. Richardson teaches “American History” through an afrocentric lens. His work is broken into four sections: Mother Africa, which focuses on the many contributions by Africans in the area of science, technology engineering, and mathematics (S.T.E.M.); American Chattel Slavery, the brutal treatment and psychological impacts on African Americans of the Diaspora; The Jim Crow era, the racial caste system that focused on the creation and enforcement of legalized segregation; and Still We Rise, which focuses on the many contributions in the Americas and Black inventors/inventions. Mr. Richardson’s work is geared towards K-12 students as well as professional development training for (primarily) white female teachers that make up over 79% of the national teaching force. Diversity, equity, and inclusion training is also a part of Mr. Richardson’s portfolio. Awards: 2013 National Campus Compact Newman Fellow, 2017 National Education Assoc. (NEA) Human and Civil Rights, 2019 Seattle Mayor Arts, 2019 Seattle Crosscut Courage in Culture, 2020 Assoc. of King County Org. (AKCHO) Heritage Education, 2020-2021 National Maquis Who’s Who.
And for Fodor’s, Chantel Delulio highlights 10 sculpture gardens in the US “where you can stretch your legs and take in some stunning pieces of art.” First on the list: SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, which remains open 365 days a year.
The Seattle Times’ Jenn Smith on “Tales of Quarantine,” a national art and writing contest for teens sponsored by Seattle-based nonprofit Mission InspirEd, which asked the question: “How has COVID-19 impacted you and your community?”
Brangien Davis of Crosscut with her weekly ArtSEA: in this edition, she spotlights pop-up gallery From Typhoon, a local artist’s work for the Academy Awards graphics, and more.
For her South Seattle Emerald column, Jasmine J. Mahmoud engages in conversations with artists & culture makers and also shares recommendations. For a recent edition, she speaks with poet and artist Shin Yu Pai about her work in Paths Intertwined, a group show now on view at the Wing Luke Museum.
“…For people who don’t know much about Chinese American artists or artists of the diaspora and/or how they relate to or connect to their culture or cultural traditions, this show is an opportunity for people from outside those communities to come in and look at the many ways in which Chinese American artists are innovating the ways in which they reflect upon and interrogate their identities and their cultures.”
As you’re catching up with all the Oscar-nominated films, don’t miss out on the nominees for international feature, including one inspired by an actual artwork.
The Made in L.A. biennial returns, this time with a new venue in the mix: The Huntington Art Museum. The New York Times’ Robin Pogrebin on how the museum you thought you knew is suddenly “a hub for cutting-edge contemporary art.”
“‘It’s a shot across the bow,’ said Christina Nielsen, who became the director of the Huntington Art Museum in 2018. She considers the exhibition ‘an opportunity to engage with the broader contemporary art community here in L.A. It’s really opening the doors.’”
“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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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 Struggle—Saints 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.
“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?’”
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.
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.’”
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.”
“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.”
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.’”
“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.’”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.
Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggleopens 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!
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.
Remember the snow days? (All two of ‘em?) The Stranger’s Charles Mudede had the wonderful idea to spend it with John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History, which is streaming on the Criterson Channel as part of its Afrofuturism collection.
“The pandemic has laid bare and amplified the issues that have eaten away at jazz far before the novel coronavirus’ first sour note. Those challenges include a daunting and shifting economic model, widespread lack of understanding among Americans about one of their few truly indigenous art forms, and underlying causes steeped, unsurprisingly, in race.”
The New York Times reports that the president of Newfields, home to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, has resigned, after the organization posted a job posting for a new director that would attract a more diverse audience while maintaining its “traditional, core, white art audience.”
Artnet’s Brian Boucher on the New Museum’s new exhibition, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, one of the final projects of curator Okwui Enwezor. A high-profile group of artists, curators, and scholars came together to achieve his vision.
“‘Okwui’s framing of the project takes the idea of a political crime and transfers it to the register of psychological impact,’ said curator Naomi Beckwith, who worked on the show, in a Zoom conversation with Artnet News. ‘The show’s title alludes not to a historic event, but rather to a state of being.’”
KUOW’s Ross Reynolds checked in with museums around the region on how they’re adapting to the pandemic, including the Kittitas County Historical Museum, the National Nordic Museum, and the Cowlitz County Museum.
The Seattle Times’ Megan Burbank reports on big news for the Seattle gallery scene: After 37 years, Greg Kucera will retire and move to a small French castle, selling the gallery to trusted employees.
“When people imagine a Native company, they imagine a small company, the aunties weaving,” [Gong] says. “They’re focused on Native people being craftspeople, not entrepreneurs building a thriving business[…]by using cutting-edge technology to produce textiles in-house, we’re sort of meeting this expectation halfway and then bringing it to where we want to be, which is that our Native-owned brand can be a global success.”
“The first piece of art my aunt ever purchased for herself, Mobassi’s canvas hangs in her living room still. The piece embodies Artistic Impressions’ predominant aesthetic, a style that came to be known as the Black Romantic: representational, mixed media, superlative in its sentimentalism and in an unambiguous race pride owed to a glamorized, monarchical African past.”
Printed in 1974, decades after his celebrated Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence’s The ‘20s…The Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots depicts Black Americans casting their votes in an election. The screenprint was produced on the occasion of the American Bicentennial, part of the Kent Bicentennial Portfolio, for which contributing artists were asked to the respond to the question, What does independence mean to you?
Like much of Lawrence’s work, this print focuses attention on the African American experience. Here, we see Black Americans exercising their right to vote—a right that was systematically suppressed in the Jim Crow South, from which millions migrated to the North and West during the Great Migration.
On Wednesday, January 6, we saw the historic election of Georgia’s first Black senator—and only the second Black senator from a former Confederate state since Reconstruction. This landmark victory, and that of Georgia’s first Jewish senator as well, points to a marked shift in the Georgia electorate and increased voter turnout, especially among Black voters. However, we also witnessed events in the nation’s Capitol whose consequences are still unfolding; events that are rightly eliciting anger, sadness, disappointment, and fear; events that will require much more time to process, unpack, and understand. Turning to Lawrence’s work at this juncture may help reconcile the past with the present moment: Lawrence’s work so often captures the messy complexities and contradictions of America and its history—a history whose ideals of freedom, liberty, and equality are inextricable from realities of subjugation, suppression, and violence.
When describing his Migration Series, Lawrence wrote, “To me, migration means movement. There was conflict and struggle. But out of the struggle came a kind of power and even beauty.” There is no doubt that, as a nation, we remain mired in conflict and struggle, that one century after the scene in The ’20s …The Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots, voting—and the right to vote—is as fragile as ever. However, hopefully out of this struggle we can emerge stronger and, as Lawrence believed, find beauty in that strength. First we need to truly reckon with where we are as a country, and take steps to repair what is broken.
– Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collections & Provenance Associate
Seattle Met’s fall print edition is out; for the culture section, Stefan Milne explores the future of equitable art spaces. He interviews SAM director & CEO Amada Cruz and director of equity, diversity and inclusion Priya Frank, as well as artist Barbara Earl Thomas, whose solo exhibition opens at SAM next month.
She likens this moment, with its calls for more equitable structures, to the creative process. ‘Right now, we’re in the chaos phase.’ But if we trust the process, and push through the confusion, eventually a clear idea emerges. Then, says Thomas, you follow it, and ‘not only do you have a truth, but you see a whole new set of questions.’”
“‘Over the course of two decades, Simone Leigh has created an indelible body of work that centers the experiences and histories of Black women and at such a crucial moment in history, I can think of no better artist to represent the United States,’ said Medvedow in a statement.”
SAM announced last week that Dawn Cerny is the winner of the 2020 Betty Bowen Award, an annual juried award for Pacific Northwest artists. Cerny will receive $15,000 and a solo exhibition at SAM in 2021. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig shared the news, as did Artdaily.
“But she didn’t want to just capture them exactly as they were — she wanted to answer in her work the question, ‘What do I wish for them?’ Thomas didn’t want to talk about what she didn’t want — racism, violence, tragic deaths — but she wanted the work to embody the hope for the children’s futures.”
“I would argue that the Venus discovery is cultural, in the vein of Carl Sagan’s assertion that we’re all ‘made of star stuff.’ The mystifying connections across our vast universe contribute to the culture we humans create, even if subconsciously, or via some microscopic cellular nudge.”
The Brooklyn Museum made headlines last week when it announced it would sell twelve works from its collection at auction, to support the “management and care” of its full collection. They are the first major museum to take advantage of loosened regulations—due to the difficulties brought on by the coronavirus—around deaccessioning of works.
“…those kinds of cases she made her career of are the stuff of opera. The underdog, the ill-served character: Manon Lescaut, Violetta, women who have to struggle their way to the top for survival. They connected to her sense of right and wrong and what is a humane way of living.”
“The history of the Asian communities in Seattle isn’t all just barbecue pork buns and egg tarts. The ugly side of Seattle’s past includes anti-Chinese riots, discriminatory laws, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Now here we are, in the middle of a pandemic that has been tinged, including by the president, with anti-Asian overtones, and restaurants in the ID are hurting badly. Yet they’re remaining open.”
“The three of us looked at whatever interested him, from Dogon sculptures to Dubuffet. Lawrence was a bearish, humble man, courtly, endearing. ‘I guess there’s nothing wrong with a negative statement,’ he reassured himself out loud at one moment, before screwing up his courage to dis Jackson Pollock.”
In this delicate drawing Henry Bannarn depicts 21-year-old artist Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence using soft graphite markings and subtle blending and shading. The sketch, folded and preserved by the sitter throughout her life, was gifted to the museum in 2006 as part of her estate. Bannarn’s drawing remained in Knight’s collection until the end of her life, and was stored among many of her own drawings and sketches. Knight moved to Harlem at the age of 13, and attended Howard University and took classes at the Harlem Community Art Center and the Black Mountain College before settling in Seattle with her husband, painter Jacob Lawrence.
Although Bannarn created drawings and paintings throughout his career and taught drawing at the Wheatley House, Minneapolis, his best-known works are his sculptures. Born in Oklahoma and trained at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts, Bannarn moved to New York City to study sculpture at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. Bannarn’s sculptures were praised by Howard University art history professor James Porter and included in Porter’s 1943 publication Modern Negro Art. Porter praises Bannarn’s sculptures as daringly original.
While living in New York, Bannarn rented a studio with fellow artist Charles Alston in Harlem at 306 West 14st street. By 1940 Bannarn and Alston had turned their studio into an exhibition and artists’ space which they named the 306 Group. The 306 Group became a hub of African American artistic production in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The group focused on admitting members who “reflect[ed] and represent[ed] the African American community’s standards for Black American art.”1 Prominent members of the group included Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence.
Bannarn met his subject Gwendolyn Knight when he was teaching at the Harlem Community Art Center, where Knight came to study sculpture with Augusta Savage in 1934. Savage was assigned as Project Supervisor for the Federal Art Project under the Works Project Administration (WPA) and taught a broad group of influential African American artists during that time. Many members of the 306 Group worked for the WPA in the 1930s including Bannarn, Knight, and Lawrence. Having grown up in a poor family in Florida as one of fourteen children, Savage went on to study in France, exhibit at the Salon d’Autumne, and Carnegie Foundation grant to travel through Europe. Savage’s longest lasting impact was in her role as director of the Harlem Community Art Center, where she shaped the careers of a whole generation of African American artists.
SAM is lucky to have these two portraits of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence by Bannarn and Savage as they illustrate not only the artist at the height of her youth, but also give a sampling of the broad artistic talent that came out of Harlem Community Art Center and the important role of the WPA as a support system for American artists in the 1930s. The discovery of Bannarn’s drawing illustrates the hidden depths of the rich collection at SAM.
– Genevieve Hulley, SAM Curatorial Intern, American Art
1 Buick, Kirsten Pai. “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Sculpture of the Harlem Renaissance.” In A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance. Ed. Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, 317–336. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015, 327.
Virginia “Jinny” Wright, a pillar of the SAM family, passed away last week at the age of 91. The Seattle Times obituary of the collector and philanthropist noted that she “lived for art—and dedicated herself to sharing it with others.” KUOW and ARTnews also shared remembrances of her legacy. She will be greatly missed.
KEXP’s Hans Anderson interviewed SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu about the reimagined Seattle Asian Art Museum for their Sound & Vision show; head to their archive for Saturday, February 15 for the story, which started at 7:49 am.
“So the piece, like
Parker’s music, is full of extremes, pushing the voice’s boundaries,” [tenor
Joshua] Stewart says. “When you have a piece this difficult, you have to bring
to it everything you have to offer. You have to go on the full journey.”
“This is coming at
a time when museums and other cultural institutions are really trying to make a
case for their existence,” says the OMCA’s associate director of evaluation and
visitor insight, Johanna Jones, who led the project. “We know we make a
difference in people’s lives, now we need to really demonstrate it through
“The concept of
their endeavor . . . is simple: Put together one show a year with a kickass
lineup, pay the performers royally, preach the gospel that working artists
deserve a fair wage, have a damn good time and repeat.”
“After a long pause
a nine-year-old said: ‘Objects have rights.’ The phrase has stuck. It captures
both the need to conserve objects and to consider them as active participants
in the museum experience.”
“It’s an image I’ve
seen hundreds of times—as misandrist memes across the internet, a patch on the
back of my partner’s denim jacket, to list a few iterations—but witnessing
Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith
and Holofernes in person at the Seattle Art Museum last weekend still sparked
a visceral reaction.”
Vansynghel reports on the
“badass” PNW artists who received prestigious Creative Capital
grants, including J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi.
“To him, the
preprogrammed voice trapped in a mass-market workhorse metaphorically resonated
with the life of the average Korean millennial. The ironic sadness of being
comforted by a product of a system that creates the discomfort in the first
place seemed ripe for dramatic inquiry.”
“In an election
year in which the country is bitterly divided between those for and against
President Donald Trump, and over who is welcome to immigrate and become a
citizen, it seems likely to resonate.”
This 1975 screenprint by Jacob Lawrence was commissioned on the occasion of the United States’ bicentennial. The prompt: to create a print that reflects an aspect of American history since 1776. Lawrence, one of 33 artists to contribute to the portfolio An American Portrait, 1776-1976, chose to depict the infamous incident in Alabama known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
On Sunday, March
7, 1965, hundreds of unarmed protesters—led by civil rights leaders such as
Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis—organized a 54-mile march from Selma to
the state’s capitol, Montgomery, advocating for the voting rights of African
Americans. As demonstrators began their route out of Selma, they were met by a barrage
of state troopers at Edmund Pettus Bridge. With orders from Alabama Governor
George Wallace “to use whatever measures are necessary to prevent a march,” the
state troopers attacked the activists—resulting in the death of 26-year-old
Jimmie Lee Jackson—using clubs and tear gas. Though the march dissipated due to
this senseless violence, two days later the protesters safely reached
Montgomery (thanks to court-ordered protection) and numbered nearly 25,000.
as these events were, what took place on March 7—publicized nationally and
internationally—helped galvanize public opinion and finally mobilize Congress
to pass the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson
five months later.
In Lawrence’s screenprint, the troopers’ brutal actions are represented through the presence of a vicious, snarling dog. To its right, we see African American men and women of various ages clustered together, their political solidarity conveyed through their visual unity. A tumultuous sky surrounds them, whose jagged cloud forms find likeness in the choppy waters below.
This horrible event would leave an indelible mark on our nation’s history and is remembered today for the courage shown by the thousands of activists who marched for a more equitable world. When articulating his choice to depict this important moment, Lawrence recalled: “I thought [the Selma-to-Montgomery march] was part of the history of the country, part of the history of our progress; not of just the black progress, but of the progress of the people.”
– Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection and Provenance Associate
In Case of Fire is striking. Disorienting and surreal, the black-and-white landscape unfurls into the supernatural. A tree is anchored in a sea storm, a larger-than-life chicken is perched on the remains of a sinking home, animals and human figures are scattered against scenes of disaster.
Just as the flames and embers of fire possess movement, this linocut—a print carved onto linoleum block—captures the turbulent motion of winds, hills, and water swirling in waves across the surface. This fantastical presentation is of an apocalypse. Yet, despite the chaotic and apocalyptic imagery, In Case of Fire feels intuitively familiar. The fragmented images are contained in a single frame, and recall the nature of dreams with their strangely linear order of otherwise disconnected events and forms. Fishing and work-a-day motifs reflect the roles of labor and personal memory.
Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas is a storyteller. Though born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Thomas remains deeply connected to her Southern roots: Thomas’s parents had “left behind family and friends and a history rooted in slavery and sharecropping to take up 1940s war jobs.” As an art student at the University of Washington, Thomas studied under Jacob Lawrence, who remained her close mentor and friend until his passing in 2000.
The composition and dramatic scope of In
Case of Fire is inspired by folklore, myths, Biblical tales, and magical
realism, drawing on the storytelling traditions passed through generations in
Black history. An active figure in writing, arts administration, and public art
commissions, Thomas maintains a social responsibility in her artwork. She
invokes issues of inequity and injustice across communities and writes, “It is
the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically,
emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create
stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in
midst of the chaos.”
Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence were married for 59 years, in a harmonious partnership of two prolific and engaged creators that was both romantic and artistic. Though it was Jacob whose star would rise over the years, becoming celebrated around the world for his dynamic pictorial style of historical narratives, Gwendolyn continued her studies—in painting, drawing, design, and dance—and served vital roles in the cultural community of their adopted city of Seattle.
With this intimate portrait of her husband (Jacob, 1986), Gwendolyn explores her own artistic project, distinct from her husband’s grand themes of history and social justice. Instead, she pursues an expressive and personal idiom, reflecting the emotional truths of the immediate world around her.
Gwendolyn—or Gwen, as she was affectionately known—began the portrait in 1960, when the couple was still living in New York City. But she kept returning to it, with final retouches in 1986, when they would firmly be ensconced in their lives in Seattle. She found it challenging to create a portrait of the person she saw every day, in all of the moods and changes that an individual necessarily undergoes over the years. Instead of a frozen moment in time, we instead see the process of a person becoming.
Jacob’s face fills nearly the entire frame, even going out of the bounds of the canvas in one corner. His skin is rendered in broad and unusual strokes of brown, green, and yellow, reflecting against the hint of a red shirt at the neck and glimpses of orange in the background. He wears a calm smile and a somewhat inquisitive brow, exuding kindness.
In the catalogue for Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight, a 2003 solo show held at the Tacoma Art Museum, curator Sheryl Conkleton noted, “As her work developed, Knight became more committed to the interpretation and communication of visual delight in the world around her. It superseded the need to tell a story or to explore the larger meaning of what it meant to be a modern painter.”
When artist Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence died on February 18, 2005—almost exactly 14 years ago—she’d lived in Seattle for 34 years. The city was lucky to have her.
I always loved running—it was something you could do by yourself and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.
— Jesse Owens
One of 29 artists commissioned to design a poster for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Jacob Lawrence chose to highlight the achievements of Black athletes. In his Study for the Munich Olympic Games Poster, five runners, depicted in Lawrence’s characteristic graphic flatness, recall the figurative style of Greek vase painting—an apropos homage on the occasion of the Games of the XX Olympiad.
The iconic colors of the five interlocking Olympic rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—recur throughout the study, from batons and jerseys to shorts and shoes. Framed by the curvature of the track, the runners’ physicality and strength are difficult to ignore. Together, their musculature, movement, and form encapsulate the excitement and competitive finish of the relay—where gold, silver, and bronze are determined by mere tenths of seconds.
Known for his stylistic experimentation and depictions of African American life, Lawrence’s commission also has special importance within the context of the Civil Rights Movement and history of the modern Olympic Games. Created only four years after the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics, and on the occasion of the first Olympics held in Germany since 1936, his representation of Black athletes is especially meaningful.
In the 1968 Olympic Games, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos respectively won the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter race. Upon climbing the podium, with the Star Spangled Banner playing behind them, both Smith and Carlos, donning black gloves, raised their right and left fists and bowed their heads—a symbol of protest and strength on an international stage. Though interpreted by many as an explicit demonstration of Black Power, for Smith, it was a human rights salute: “It was a cry for freedom and human rights. We had to be seen because we couldn’t be heard.”
Just 32 years earlier, in 1936, the Summer Olympics were held in Berlin. Though Germany had won the bid in 1931, prior to the rise of the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler’s rhetoric of white supremacy and antisemitism was already well established. For Hitler, the Olympics became a stage upon which Germany could prove his theories of racial superiority. It was within this Olympic setting—in which athletes of color and Jewish heritage were openly discriminated against—that Owens won four gold medals, set two world records, and came away the most successful athlete of that year’s games.
For Smith, Carlos, and Owens, these Olympic victories allowed them to transcend—and publically challenge—the political divisions and discrimination taking place in the United States and abroad. Similarly, Lawrence’s Study for the Munich Games Poster, depicting all Black athletes, is an important work that finds its place within this complicated history of the Olympic Games.
– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator
 Other artists included Hans Hartung, Oskar Kokoschka, Pierre Soulages, David Hockney, and Josef Albers, to name just a few.
 Tommie Smith won the 200 meter race with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds.
 It is believed that Smith raised his right fist, and Carlos his left, to represent Black unity, forming “an arch of unity and power.” BBC News, “1968: Black athletes make silent protest,” http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/17/newsid_3535000/3535348.stm.
 Rick Campbell, “An Olympic moment—from 1968,” Houston Chronicle, August 5, 2008, http://blog.chron.com/40yearsafter/2008/08/an-olympic-moment-from-1968.
For art institutions evolving with technology and visitors’ tastes, it’s a delicate balance. “In the end, it’s, ‘How do you have a meaningful experience of art?’ and the answers will depend. From a curatorial perspective, I just want to make sure that the traditional and core mission of the museum lives on,” Manchanda said.
Antwaun Sargent for Artsy on the recent unveiling at Princeton of a public sculpture by Titus Kaphar, which was commissioned as part of the university’s reckoning with its history of slavery. Kaphar was the inaugural recipient of SAM’s Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize in 2009.
Get more intimate with SAM’s collection by becoming a docent! Docents will learn about our global collection of artwork and then share their knowledge and passion for art with a diverse range of visitors. No experience necessary! SAM docents have a wide range of reference points and experiences that they each bring to the art in SAM’s collection and that is what makes our public tours so unique. Making room for new perspectives is how we continue to offer engaging and informational tours throughout the year. Here’s a chance to get to know Celeste Ericsson, just one of our many docents who volunteers their time at the museum. Are you interested in becoming a SAM docent and leading tours of the museum? Apply now! Applications are accepted through July 12 and new docents start training in fall 2017!
SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you become a docent?
Celeste Ericsson: I’ve always loved art museums ever since I was a child growing up in New York City. My favorite New York museums were/are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters. I have always been interested in history in general, and in symbolism/iconography. As an illustrator and a graphic designer, a knowledge of art history and art movements both inspires me and helps me to communicate in my artwork.
What’s the best part of being a docent?
I get to share my interests with others, and I love doing it with kids. I’m constantly adding their insights to my tours. I do like talking with adults also. In order to communicate clearly, I have to figure out the most important things I believe about art and art philosophy. And in order to make things relevant I need to figure out the connections and the contexts for the art I’m touring so that the pieces do not become disembodied objects. In other words my docent work clarifies my own understanding of art.
What work of art is your favorite to tour?
The works of art that are my favorite to tour definitely differ from the works I’m personally drawn to. I’m drawn to the Archaic Greek Antefix with Medusa or Akio Takamori’s Blue Princess. For art to tour I liked Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune Stage One, definitely a favorite before it was deinstalled last winter. Aesthetically, I found it horrifying, but it tells the story of art so clearly. I can’t think of even one class that it did not connect to, or who failed to figure out the story of a car flipping and exploding.
I’m finding that kids are really drawn to John Grade’s Middle Fork also. My favorite description from a third grader is that it looks like a Jenga game.
What’s your most memorable touring experience?
My favorite touring experience lately was Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series for kindergarten, no less. I hadn’t expected the kids to get it, but the themes of having to leave home and everything familiar, and the theme of fairness really resonated with them. They created the most amazing drawings afterwards. A couple were very personal, and the kids were kind and appreciative of each other’s creations.
What advice do you have for people considering applying to the docent program?
This is a hard one to answer, but I’d say to be in it for how art can be inspiring. Really try to find those paths of wonder and fun for the kids. Discover your own genuine voice. Finally, it’s great to not take oneself too seriously, and to have a sense of humor.
– Kelsey Donahue, Museum Educator, School & Educator Programs
In the beginning
somewhere in time
In the fields
In the mountains
In the jungle
In the vineyard
There they were
The Polish ones, they came through Ellis Island
Looking for a new life
Foreign? Not foreign . . .
Jewish? Not Jewish . . . (Jewish)
Through NY to the mid-west
Saginaw, Traverse City, Ann Arbor
The light ones were here already, somehow
Didn’t remember the roots quite right
Norse or something like it.
Meanwhile in Peru
An intelligent engineer, a dark man
A missionary from the Canary Islands
Corsica, Spain, Italy
Little girl . . . your mom was HOW old?
You had HOW many brothers and sisters?
My mom – NY
1960s to Cali
My dad – MI
1960s to Cali
Music – people – love – not – war
Two smart young people with the dream of making a family
Dream of peaceful trees and quiet home
Dream of music and art
Dream of computers and education
1970s to Seattle
THIS was it
Trees – house – dog – kids – family – yard
Work . . . work . . . work
THIS was it.
1980s West Seattle
Our block . . . us
Together on the street
Bikes – games – yards – cats – dogs
Constantly moving, yet in one place
Work . . . work . . . PLAY
Mom and Dad
what they never had,
they gave to US.
Since the day I was born
My only home.
Still is as long as I can stick it out
Can’t price me out yet
Can’t push me south
THIS is home.
My only home.
they all came here, together
I’m still watching for the ancestors on the shores of Lincoln Park,
Waiting to see the rainbow
Waiting for the Sun Dog
as the eagles play in the breeze.
I’m not going anywhere.
–Lindsey Dabek, SAM Shop Manager
Inspired by Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series, Seattle Art Museum’s Equity Team and staff is sharing personal stories of immigration, migration, displacement, and community. Enjoy this blog series? Hear more stories in person from local legends and how their perspectives relate to the works on view inJacob Lawrence’s artwork during Migration Stories events on the first and second Thursdays at Seattle Art Museum through April.
Kittie (known as Katie by her family) grew up on a beautiful farm in Carnation, Washington, riding horses and exploring the woods with her dog. As part of her Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree at Bellevue College, she excelled in hand-drawn animation classes (and was published in her mentor Tony White’s book, How to Make Animated Films) but decided she wanted to be an oil painter. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Studio Art from Central Washington University in 2016, where she discovered her love of making three-dimensional objects and using her painting skills to give them sophisticated surface qualities. Working as a Visitor Services Officer in the galleries of the Seattle Art Museum keeps her engaged in her greatest interest—art history.
SAM: Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series opened January 21 and is running until April 23. What is your favorite piece in this series?
McAllister: Every painting in The Migration Series is full of earth tones, so Panel 5 struck me for its vibrant colors and total absence of browns. A black locomotive speeding through the deep blue night, with its yellow bell swinging in the force of the wind and light penetrating the darkness ahead, gleams like an emblem of hope for the migrants leaving deplorable living situations behind. The yellow paint of the bell is even brighter than the bold yellow seen throughout the series, perhaps emphasizing it as a symbol of liberty and progress.
What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?
The huge Mann und Maus sculpture by Katharina Fritsch, for the BIG reactions it always gets! I often hear adults say that waking up to giant vermin on their bed is their worst nightmare, while children perceive the “mousy” as cute and funny; one child thought he got so big from eating too much cheese! I see dark symbolism in the piece and feel a little uneasy when posted in its imposing presence.
Who is your favorite artist?
As I delved deeper into John Lennon’s music, I became curious about the woman he wrote such desperate love songs about, and I discovered the avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. Her sculptures and poems are minimalistic and give simple commands to the viewer—the act of physically, or mentally, carrying out those actions focuses your cognizance in the moment. A brief writing example of Yoko’s:
Light a match and watch till it goes out.
One of my favorite works is a white ladder that, when you climb to the top and look through a magnifying glass hanging by a delicate chain, you can find the tiny word, “Yes” written on the white ceiling. John Lennon fell in love with Yoko when he felt refreshed by her positive message in this interactive art piece.
What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM?
Make a day of it! I always recommend starting back in time on the fourth floor with our most ancient art objects, and working your way back to the present with our more contemporary works on the third floor. SAM celebrates diversity and is a safe space to be yourself and unabashedly explore the eccentric world of art.
Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?
Recently I had a painting in the Erotica exhibition on Capitol Hill for Second Thursday Art Walk—it was such a hoot! Now that I’m finished with school I have time to get back into my guitar and I love spending lazy days just journaling. My shorthaired black cat, Tobias Funke, always demands my attention, and I’m simply enjoying my time with friends and family now that I’m back in Seattle. I’m always making little plans and schemes for my creative notions—working at Seattle Art Museum keeps my creativity fueled!
–Katherine Humphreys, SAM Visitor Services Officer