“‘This humorous creature provides a lot of joy to people,’ Ali said in a recent interview. ‘It’s really beautiful to see how approachable this entity is, especially amongst children and families. ‘The Buddhist Bug’ has a way of softening people and eliciting curiosity.’”
“Ukiyo-e was considered low-brow art due to the highly reproducible nature of woodblock prints, which reigned supreme during the movement. Woodblock prints allowed artists to create a high volume of prints that they could sell cheaply. Even so, the level of detail and sophistication of technique found in woodblock prints is awe-inspiring.”
“‘Joyce J. Scott’s sophisticated and virtuosic use of a wide range of materials brings beauty and biting irony to bear on subjects ranging from the traumatic to the transcendental,’ the show’s co-curators, Cecilia Wichmann and Catharina Manchanda, said upon announcing the show last summer.”
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
Image: Live Performance of The Buddhist Bug at Wei-Ling Contemporary Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2019, Anida Yoeu Ali, Cambodian American, b. 1974, Image courtesy of the artist, photo: Nina Ikmal.
My first recreational adventure after settling in Seattle in 2021 was to SAM. As I had just recently decided to pursue a second degree in art history, I felt strangely comfortable throughout my visit. I left the museum that day filled with countless stories told through the installations, a growing curiosity for art curation, and a hope that I would be back soon.
And lucky for me, that desire came true. Working under the supervision of Theresa Papanikolas, SAM Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern over the last few months has allowed me to explore what curators do. As part of my role, I was tasked with research and writing supplementary information for the upcoming exhibition Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map. Opening Thursday, February 29 at SAM, the retrospective will survey five decades of Smith’s (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) work. My work focused on researching and creating an in-gallery display for the exhibition that highlights the artist’s relationship to Seattle.
My research began with sifting through existing scholarship and archival materials on Smith. The more I read, the more I came to understand her as a leading contemporary Native American artist who examines American life by engaging with powerful ideas of Indigenous memory, culture, and history. Although I compiled a hefty list of Seattle public art, exhibition, and curatorial projects she participated in, I felt that it lacked cohesion since the documents appeared separate from existing discussions of her work. How, then, could I organize them together in a display case?
I temporarily filed these questions away as I sifted through 150 newly acquired scans from Smith’s personal archives dating from 1996 to 1998. These digitized letters outlined years of correspondence regardingthe West Seattle Cultural Trail, a public art project she created alongside local artists Donald Fels and Joe Fedderson (Okanogan and Arrow Lakes).
As I meticulously pieced together these lengthy conversations, I watched the project unfold from a front row seat. It gave me a glimpse into the public arts process, the intentionality required, and the communications exchanged between differing personalities. I thought back to the initial questions Theresa encouraged me to consider within my work: What is Smith’s presence in Seattle? How do we illustrate it? I then recalled an interview in which Smith was quoted as saying, “All of our stories, all of our origin stories come out of the land.” Her words led me to reevaluate the trail’s physical dependence on land and its goal to “share in the collective memory of the West Seattle community.”
Suddenly, the collaborative storytelling throughout her oeuvre did not exclude what she accomplished in Seattle. From the trail, my project expanded outwards into three main themes for the display: her dedication to teaching, and the importance of language in her practice, and the role collaboration has played throughout her career. Regarding the retrospective, Smith says “in this long journey, it is step by step, hand over hand, something like climbing a rope.” Therefore, my goal became to guide visitors to see Seattle as a crucial strand in the rope she climbed.
To demonstrate Smith’s dedication to education, her correspondences with Donald Fels revealed their shared interest in involving local students in the project’s development. Smith was adamant that the trail give visibility to hidden stories, and the accompanying Voices of the Community booklet gave students the opportunity to share their perspectives through poetry. Her commitment to education also extends beyond the trail to her other public works, lectures, and children’s workbooks. Considering how her Olympic Junior College art teacher once told her “she could teach… but she shouldn’t count on being a painter,” she powerfully accomplished both. Therefore, when she said “I go out and teach… that’s what my life is about, my work is about,” it is important that our illustration of her presence in Seattle brilliantly reflects this.
That said, the trail allows other dimensions of teaching in her practice to be explored, such as writing. Countless letters between Smith and other Indigenous colleagues reveal that the Native stories told on the trail are intended to teach visitors, and that their accuracy was of the utmost importance.
This intricate combination of writing and collaboration is evident throughout her own curatorial practice, which first blossomed in Seattle. In each exhibition, she approached texts intentionally because writing inclusively “[showcases] the voices of Native artists.” As a curator, her exhibitions helped propel the trajectory of Native recognition in the arts, in turn increasing visibility for new artists. Altogether, her curatorial practice emphasizes that writing and “networking [are] as much for her artistic medium as paint and canvas.”
Lastly, Smith’s insistence on collectivity through collaboration is not limited to her immediate Native community. Her cooperation with other artists of color is a lesser known fact, despite her clear belief that “passion for our art and for one another,” commitment “to narrative work,” and a “strong sense of survival” bonds them together. Therefore, as part of this last theme, which explores Smith’s involvement with Asian Americans through the trail project, I hope to challenge this chronically overlooked detail.
Numerous letters reveal Smith’s dedication to including Asian American voices in retelling the history of Alki Beach. She spent weeks researching, and gaining approval from local experts and friends to ensure that the communities would be “proud of what is there.” With these letters, I hope to underscore how the diverse experiences and relationships that influence her are not constrained by gallery walls. These strands of her personal history may not be immediately apparent on the surface of her artworks, but through her ties to the city we share, they come to life.
As a result of my in-gallery contributions to Memory Map, I hope visitors leave SAM with a clear understanding of how Smith and her relationship to Seattle do not stand in isolation. Their interconnectedness leaves room for the viewer to contemplate how their presence in the exhibition’s galleries is also an act of collaboration and learning with Smith. Therefore, it is important that her voice rings throughout my work, such that the answer to her question “can I take these feelings and attach them to a passerby?” is an overwhelming yes.
I went into this internship eager to peel back the mysterious layers of museum work, in order to discover what processes are involved in curating exhibitions. Sitting at my desk in the corner of SAM’s administrative offices, I was initially afraid that I would feel alone. However, that sentiment couldn’t have been further from the truth. As I uncovered the intentional collaborations that flowed through Smith’s storytelling, I realized the same started swirling into mine. Through this experience, I found myself learning how to research unfamiliar topics with courage, and approach art curation as a storyteller. This growth was only possible because of the incredible SAM staff, who I want to take the time to thank.
I truly started to see curatorial work as storytelling after my lunches with Museum Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, where he also encouraged me to use Smith’s own voice to frame my in-gallery display. It was after an insightful conversation with Catharina Manchanda, SAM Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, that compelled me to incorporate Smith’s involvement with other communities of color. I want to thank Carrie Dedon, SAM Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, for reminding me to courageously explore the intersections of my studies and extend a special thank you to my cubicle-mate, Danelle Jay, SAM Curatorial Print and Content Associate, for always lending a listening ear, and reminding me that our storytelling should relate to people. Most of all, I want to thank Theresa, for her indispensable expertise, patience, and genuine collaborative spirit that has made my SAM internship an incredible experience.
As my internship draws to a close, I look forward to seeing how my display comes to life when Memory Map opens at SAM this spring and urge you to visitthe West Seattle Cultural Trailin the meantime. I am excited to take everything I have learned at SAM into my future endeavors, and am looking forward to where I next go.
– Elizabeth Xiong, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Curatorial
“By any standard, Calder is an essential. He’s one of the few artists who most people have seen, even if they don’t know it, or his name. They’ve seen his work on the street or in a museum or in a book or on TV. And once introduced, they’ll never forget it–‘oh, that’s a Calder!’”
“‘He created a whole new art form,’ said the collector. ‘He created sculpture that’s open to hang in space and incidentally move. There’s just something about how my brain works that I really enjoyed being with the works.’”
And at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, you’ve got just two weeks left to see Renegade Edo and Paris! Here’s Bob Knetzger for Boing Boing’s take on the prints exhibition.
“It’s a real treat to get to see up close the amazingly precise and exquisitely small Japanese woodcuts—and have them right next to the GIANT lithographed posters advertising Parisian shows and entertainers.”
The Seattle Times’ Tat Bellamy-Walker—along with videographers Kevin Clark & Lauren Frohne—sits in on a rehearsal of the Jafra Dabke Team, a Seattle-based Palestinian dance group, who performed at LANGSTON this weekend as part of a cultural education and community event.
“Ties that bind”: Shannon M. Lieberman for Oregon ArtsWatch on a new gallery show of works by Omak, Washington-based Joe Feddersen.
Knute Berger and Stephen Hegg revisit an earlier Mossback Northwest episode, “The Other Curtis Brother,” examining the regional photographer Asahel Curtis. It turns out that the episode generated many new Curtis finds from the public, which the Washington State Historical Society is working to digitize.
“The digitization is going well but slowly, Berger reports: ‘They can do about a hundred images a day.’ But amazing discoveries are being made already: ‘They’re finding everything from news photos [to] promotional photos of landscapes, pictures of all kinds of people in all walks of life.’”
“[The exhibition] proves that Native American artists cannot be pigeonholed into one aesthetic—or even one medium—and that their output has taken up the painful remnants of colonialism via a range of subjects. Smith’s exhibition also demonstrates that the struggle for land rights continues to impact not just the objects these artists make, but their outlook on the world as well.”
“Throughout this exhibit, the subjects in Boafo’s portraits, who are all Black, have a vibrancy in their eyes that you can’t miss. As I moved through the gallery, gazing at the subjects in the paintings, it felt like my stare was returned. As if the portraits were gazing at me!”
“Asked what a solo exhibition means for him, Boafo says, ‘In Ghana, my studies were solid, but many artists don’t have access to opportunities. With time, I learned how important a solo exhibition can be, how it can cement an artist’s place in history.’”
File under: “Something to Look Forward To”: CBS Sunday Morning’s Serena Altschul interviews artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith about her retrospective. It’s now on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art and headed to SAM in February 2024. (The whole episode is interesting; her segment plays 15 minutes into the episode.)
“Vosika still leans into ‘messed-up’ art—with his folk-art-esque paintings of people who don’t exist. His figures often have skin tones in watery blues and reds, their cheeks accented with clown-makeup circles of color. His work emanates a dark sense of humor and sometimes the absurd (see: skeletons hanging out together; legs made of cigarettes).”
“The foundation made a ‘HAVE YOU SEEN THIS PAINTING?’ ad for the work using a faded slide kept in Walinska’s records, and began circulating the flyer at art fairs, with the hope that new leads would lead to its rediscovery.”
“With his distinct blend of Pacific Northwest iconography, and Mexican and Asian influences, Arreguín became a key figure in Pacific Northwest art history and paved the way for a generation of artists of Latin American descent.”
“Making it happen was no picnic”: Emily Anthes for The New York Times on the American Museum of Natural History’s new exhibit of leafcutter ants (yes, there are pictures).
“Redefines what ‘American’ means”: The New York Times’ Jillian Steinhauer on Memory Map, the overdue retrospective of Jaune Quick-To-See Smith that just opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art and travels to SAM in 2024.
“But if the current wave of attention has opened up new possibilities for Indigenous artists, particularly younger ones, credit is due less to the institutions than to Smith and others of her generation for the tireless work they did to ‘break the buckskin ceiling,’ in her words. The Whitney retrospective makes that clear.”
“‘If you saw my score, which I always keep close at hand, you’d see I’ve written breathe! Breathe! Breathe! all over it,’ says [Anne] Allgood, who has studied and now teaches singing technique. ‘I use the inhalations as a chance to relax, reset, refuel, even if they are very quick.’”
Have a listen to The Week in Art, The Art Newspaper’s podcast; this edition, they talk about Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life at the Tate Modern, a reconstructed Roman gateway, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, which just opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art and heads to SAM in 2024.
LA-based artist Lauren Halsey has debuted a new monument on the roof garden of the Met. Halsey was the winner of SAM’s 2021 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize and the museum acquired her Untitled (2022), a work of hand-carved gypsum that resembles the new monument.
“Where the ancient Egyptians covered the walls of their tombs and shrines with illustrations from the Book of the Dead, Halsey and her team of artists and artisans have created an immersive Book of Everyday Life, one focused on, but by no means restricted to, contemporary Black urban existence, evoked and preserved in words and images carved into hundreds of concrete panels.”
“‘Every single piece of art within this place has its own story,’ Leingang said. ‘And the best part about my team is they are the gateway to those stories. They are taking their own personal experiences of what resonates with them within this museum and sharing that with every person that walks in.’”
Say hi to Chelsea and the rest of the SAM crew at Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, an exhibition exploring over 100 dazzling textiles opening to the public this Thursday, March 9.
In their latest print edition, Seattle Met shouts out all three SAM locations in a graphic “tourist trap matrix.” Online, they share “Where to Take Tourists in Seattle” according to their editors, including a day at Volunteer Park and the Asian Art Museum.
“[Director Roya] Sadat also recognizes, however, that inequality and deprivation of fundamental human rights are not unique to Afghanistan, but are issues that reverberate across the globe. ‘I want this opera to stand as a reminder of their strength in the face of violence. This opera is a narrative of women’s resilience.’”
“Smith’s curatorial turn comes at a moment of long-overdue institutional recognition for the artist, whose incisive and wide-ranging practice rooted in painting and collage is the subject of a major retrospective opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art next month, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map.”