Calder Smartphone Tour: Introduction to the SAM Exhibition

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection is now on view at SAM! As part of this SAM-exclusive exhibition, we’ve developed a free smartphone tour featuring additional insight on Calder’s life, legacy, and artistic career.

Composed of 15 stops, the tour includes interviews with collector Jon Shirley, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz, sculptor Kennedy Yanko, and Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower, as they share their educational and personal thoughts on artworks including Fish (1942), Toile d’araignée (1965), Bougainvillier (1947), Red Curly Tail (1970), and many more of the artist’s most iconic works.

Tune in to the tour’s introductory stop now to get acquainted with the artists, scholars, curators, and admirers who contributed to this auditory experience. Then, explore all 15 stops in the audio tour of Calder: In Motion by scanning the QR code next to select artworks in the exhibition or on your own time via our SoundCloud

Introducing Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection

JON SHIRLEY: My name is Jon Shirley, and I am pleased to share with you Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. The works of Alexander Calder that you will see in these galleries have been collected over the past 35 years first with my late wife Mary and now with my wife Kim. Over those years we have found that living with Calder’s work has been a beautiful and uplifting experience. 

Alexander Calder was a great artist whose father and grandfather were both sculptors. In Paris in the late 1920s Calder invented a new world of sculpture—first by using just wire and then by creating abstract works of sheet metal, wood, and wire that moved. As you will see, this collection spans Calder’s art career from the 1920s until his death in 1976. The audio guide will discuss many different works that I love so please take the time to listen and learn about Calder the man and his art.

My family and I sincerely hope that you will find this visit a dynamic experience and that you return to the Seattle Art Museum for many years as we present ongoing exhibitions related to Calder and the artists inspired by Calder.

NARRATOR: The exhibition attempts to capture something of how the works were displayed in the Shirleys’ home – setting up a unique dialogue across the decades. Joining us for this encounter will be exhibition curator José Diaz… 

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: My name is José Diaz.

NARRATOR: …painter and sculptor Kennedy Yanko…

KENNEDY YANKO: Hi! My name is Kennedy Yanko.

NARRATOR: …and Calder Foundation President—and grandson of the artist—Alexander S. C. Rower. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Hi, I’m Alexander Rower. Everyone calls me Sandy.

NARRATOR: I hope you’ll enjoy your tour.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Muse/News: Spotting Calder, The Other Curtis, and Smith’s Curation

SAM News

“Seattle Art Museum Becomes the Alexander Calder Destination with Shirley Family Collection”: Chadd Scott of Forbes tells you everything you need to know about Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection and the future of Calder exploration at SAM.

“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!’”

Ann Binlot of Galerie highlighted the journey of Jon Shirley’s collecting of Calders.

“‘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.’”

José Carlos Diaz, exhibition curator and Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, appeared on New Day NW to fill host Amity Addrisi in on this exciting moment at SAM when you can see both Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence and Calder: In Motion.

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.”

Local News

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.’”

Inter/National News

Via Brian Boucher of Artnet: “Help! 7 Times People Got Trapped Inside Artworks—Whether by Choice or by Accident.”

“Meet the African Artists Driving a Cultural Renaissance”: Dive into this New York Times multimedia project by Abdi Latif Dahir and Veronica Chambers, part of a larger series on “how Africa’s youth boom is changing the continent, and beyond.”

ARTnews’ Alex Greenberger on the National Gallery of Art’s exhibition of contemporary Native art, “organized with grace” by the artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. (Hot tip: you can see Smith’s dazzling retrospective at SAM next spring!)

“[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.”

And Finally

Still digging in the archives thanks to the Calder Foundation: “Sculpture and Constructions, 1944 by Herbert Matter.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Calder Surprises, Cultural Space, and Native Knowledge

SAM News

“A tender new show at the Seattle Art Museum will delight and surprise Calder newbies and connoisseurs alike.” Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times reviews Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, which is curated by José Carlos Diaz, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director of Art. The review appeared in print in the Sunday edition.

“These days, so many institutions find themselves competing with the tumult on our screens or with immersive “museums” where visitors take selfies in front of LED walls. Here, nothing shouts. You can take these sculptures in all at once, but consider taking your time to follow the minuscule movement of a small perforated disc or a wispy metal petal as they react to the movements of our bodies in space. Your patience will be rewarded.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis featured the Calder exhibition in her ArtSEA post, sharing details about Calder’s Seattle connections and collector Jon Shirley’s assertion that “everything looks better here than in our house.” 

“Calder wasn’t a fan of imposing “meaning” on his works, preferring instead that they be experienced in the moment—enjoyed for their… physicality and wonder. You’ll have plenty of chances to do so, as this show is the first in a Shirley-funded plan for annual exhibits, programming, and collaborations, including with artists influenced by Calder.”

And Kurt Schlosser of Geekwire spoke with collector Jon Shirley about the former Microsoft executive’s love of in-person art. 

“Shirley said Calder’s hands-on creation of art always appealed to him, and while artificial intelligence is a big deal at Shirley’s former company and across the tech and cultural landscape, art remains a physical creation in his view.”

Local News

Grace Madigan of KNKX reports that ArtsWA has approved grants for 17 arts programs serving military communities and veterans.

Seattle Met names The Boat its “Restaurant of the Year” for how sisters Quynh and Yenvy Pham brilliantly renewed their family’s restaurant’s history as Seattle’s first pho shop.

Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times shares news of another exciting opening event: a new cultural hub for five youth-focused community organizations in the historic King Street train station.

“Olisa Enrico, executive director of the Cultural Space Agency that developed the project, called it ‘a new home here for young artists to thrive, a safe haven for artistic expression.’ It will feed the ‘dreams of young minds, who will find inspiration and a sense of belonging here,’ she told the diverse audience. ‘You belong here.’”

Inter/National News

Via Andy Battaglia of Art in America: “Nicholas Galanin’s Pointed Public Sculpture Inspires Glorious Noise in New York.”

“In quiet yet scrupulous detail, the exhibition asks how the US National Park Service (NPS) shapes the narratives it tells about this country and the lands it claims”: Alexis Clements for Hyperallergic on a new show at LA’s Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI).

Taylor Defoe invites Jaida Grey Eagle to highlight four key works now on view in an exhibition she guest-organized: In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. 

“‘I don’t look at this as a beginning,’ Grey Eagle said, alluding to the colonialist logic of racing to be the first to put a name on something. ‘I look at it as an acknowledgment. There have been many people who have dedicated their lives to this medium and I don’t ever want to erase their work.’ The show, she went on, is about ‘honoring the knowledge that has been there and that museums have failed to support.’”

And Finally

Another gem from the Calder Foundation archives: “From the Circus to the Moon” (1963) by Hans Richter.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Hokusai’s Fame, Culture Streetcars, and Caravaggio’s Cardsharps

SAM News

José Carlos Diaz, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, was interviewed for KING5’s Evening Magazine about Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which is now on view at SAM.

“Hokusai’s probably an artist you’ve always known. You know him for the Great Wave, but he’s also one of the most famous artists of all time.This exhibition has almost 300 works that represent the artists Katsushika Hokusai, but also his peers, his pupils, his rivals, and also the influence he had on Europe as well as contemporary culture today.”

On Saturday, the Seattle Asian Art Museum hosted the Diwali Family Festival. KING5 News’ Angeli Kakade previewed the event on Friday’s broadcast, and Nicole Henao, SAM Manager of Teen & Family Programs, appeared on the Saturday morning news to share all the details (did you catch it?). 

Jas Keimig for South Seattle Emerald with recommendations for arts events in November, including Legendary Children on November 17 at the Olympic Sculpture Park. This celebration of queer and trans BIPOC communities is produced with many partners.

Local News

“At this Green Lake dive bar, karaoke is a cathartic, unifying experience”: Nathalie Graham for the Seattle Times with a moving read. 

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis gets you ready for the Big Dark in her latest ArtSEA post, including an update on the just-christened SIFF Cinema Downtown’s opening date. 

Joshua McNichols and Mike Davis on the proposal for a streetcar line through downtown Seattle that would connect cultural institutions

“Putting the streetcar line at the center of this arts renaissance is not just a gimmick. It turns out there’s a strong correlation between the presence of the arts downtown and transportation, whether it’s streetcars or single occupancy vehicles.”

Inter/National News

Claire Selvin for ARTnews on the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new show on Ruth Asawa that focuses on her works on paper. 

“Collectors Marilyn and Larry Fields make ‘landmark gift’ of 79 works to MCA Chicago”: Ruth Loepz for The Art Newspaper reports on a gift of art “predominantly by woman-identifying and BIPOC artists.”

“There’s Much More to Caravaggio’s ‘The Cardsharps’ Than Vice”: Katie White of Artnet takes another look at the masterpiece, now on view in Chicago.

“The painting is mischievous, the older conman’s face comical in expression, and we feel ourselves rooting, with a bit of a smile, for the bad guys.”

And Finally

Let’s dive into the Calder Foundation archives: “Works of Calder, 1950 by Herbert Matter.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Tremendous Hokusai, Indigenous Fashion, and a Gentileschi Revealed

SAM News

All that’s fit to print! SAM exhibitions were featured in the print editions of two Sunday newspapers:

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, which opens in the double-height galleries of November 8, was previewed by Tanya Mohn for the New York Times, who told the story of “giving the gift of Calder.”

“‘Because of Jon Shirley’s meticulous collecting,’ said José Carlos Diaz, curator of the show and deputy director for art at the museum, ‘we have representation of basically every type of work Calder did as a professional artist from the ’20s, all the way to his death in 1976. It helps us create one of the most important collections of the 20th century in Seattle.’”

And the just-opened Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston was reviewed by Gemma Wilson of the Seattle Times, who offered “5 highlights of Seattle Art Museum’s tremendous new Hokusai exhibit.”

“Investigate these prints and you’ll notice the tiny details that give his work such a sense of dynamism: snow blowing in, a hat rolling away, water rushing under a bridge. ‘Landscapes so gorgeous they knocked people’s socks off,’ said [MFA Boston curator Sarah] Thompson.”

The dazzling Hokusai exhibition was also recommended by Mike Davis of KUOW, Charles Mudede of The Stranger, and Brangien Davis of Crosscut (who goes birding in this week’s edition of arts picks).

Local News

Via Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times: “Meet Gülgün Kayim, the new director of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture.”

Jas Keimig for South Seattle Emerald on the launch of FILIPINOTOWN Magazine, “a new publication dedicated to highlighting the diversity and strength of the Filipino American community in Seattle.”

Fashion and culture writer Andrew Hoge with his first Seattle Times story on the Eighth Generation blanket that draped actor Lily Gladstone on the cover of British Vogue. (There’s a callback to SAM’s 2018 Double Exposure exhibition.)

“A cover feature is an impressive milestone for any brand. For Eighth Generation, however, it’s an essential step in the company’s mission to flip the narrative on consuming Indigenous culture and art.”

Inter/National News

Hilarie Sheets for the New York Times on the transfer of a five-ton sculpture by Richard Lippold from Lincoln Center to La Guardia Airport.

Elena Goukassian of the Art Newspaper on Ann Philbin’s retirement from The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles after 25 years as its director.

Sarah Cascone of Artnet on how a female nude by Artemisia Gentileschi, once “prudishly censored by heavy drapes of blue,” is now restored by digital imaging technology

“…restoration scientists went over the painting—which curators removed from the ceiling for the first time in its history—with a fine toothed comb, examining every nanometer and every thin layer of paint.”

And Finally

The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones on Ryuichi Sakamoto.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Leaving My Mark on Art: Emerging Arts Leader Alexa Smith Reflects

Art has always been a passion of mine. I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid, and as I grew up, I knew art needed to be an ever-present aspect of my life, no matter the capacity. I have had some significant figures that helped me come to that conclusion: teachers, mentors, and so many more. With their influence, I came to recognize my path in life: to help people realize their own love of art, just as others did for me. The journey to this point was not without its difficulties, perhaps even a bit tumultuous. Yet, it’s what led me to teaching art classes and, most importantly, my internship here at the Seattle Art Museum.

Being at SAM has been a dream. I truly never expected to be here. During the application and interview process, I admittedly was not the most confident. Had I done enough to deserve to be here? But, I knew if I spoke to my passions, I had a chance. Teaching has always been my way of helping to foster creativity and artistic passion in kids at developmental ages, but being at SAM has allowed me to contribute to something bigger. I have had the opportunity to be a part of an institution dedicated to connecting art with the public and to be a part of a curatorial department that informs, educates, and inspires people through all facets of art—I couldn’t imagine a better place to be!

Seeing all that goes into what makes a museum function successfully has been an education in and of itself. It has been amazing to see the cross-departmental collaboration at work, and to be a part of it. To have conversations with staff across departments and learn more about their contributions to the museum has been one of my favorite parts of this experience thus far. In particular, my conversations with the education, interpretation, and public engagement teams have been so impactful, especially with my mentor. From him, I’ve been able to learn more about what each team is doing in the realms of accessibility and further connecting the public to the work that is displayed in the museum. I have even been given the opportunity to contribute research and content to a few artworks at the Seattle Asian Art Museum and build upon the educational materials already available for them. That kind of experience—to have my contributions be a part of the museum in a permanent capacity—is what I want to continue to do, to leave my mark.

Thankfully, the work that I have done within the curatorial department has given me that chance. I have worked on presentations for exhibition proposals, formatted labels for objects, researched artists for interviews and future exhibitions, imagined my own exhibition, and developed an in-gallery presentation. But, one of the most rewarding parts of this experience has been connecting my conceptual exhibition with the development of my in-gallery presentation because of how personal it became for me. 

When I was assigned to curate a potential exhibition featuring ten items from SAM’s collection, I wanted to use this chance to explore my heritage and learn more about the available Filipino art and artifacts. I am incredibly proud of my culture, and it has always been disappointing to see how Filipino art and culture is rarely showcased or discussed in the greater context of Asian culture and history, even though it is incredibly rich and multi-faceted. Even in higher education, where I’ve taken classes dedicated to the history of Asian art and culture, the curriculum usually centers on China, Japan, Korea, and India. And I can imagine most people think of those countries, as well, when they think about Asian culture in general. 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much variety or depth in the artworks from the Philippines at SAM, but there was one set of figures that stood out among the rest: the bulul figures from the Ifugao people of Northern Luzon. Researching these objects provided me with a new direction to take my project. I decided to focus on Indigenous cultures and spirituality throughout the islands in the Pacific. After learning more about the history of the bulul and the Ifugao, it was clear that prehistoric and indigenous Filipino cultures and traditions were more akin to other Oceanic and Austronesian Indigenous cultures found in regions like Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia, with their spiritual beliefs centered on honoring the earth and ancestral relationships. That belief system has been appointed the term animism by western cultures and it is the perspective in which all things—animate and inanimate objects, places, and creatures—possess a distinct spiritual essence. 

With these findings, my conceptual exhibition focusing on the important bonds between visual traditions and spiritual beliefs in Indigenous cultures across islands in the Pacific took shape. In my gallery presentation, I wanted to spotlight the bulul figures, the Indigenous culture of the Ifugao people, and its similarity to the cultures of other Pacific Islands, all a divergence from the more discussed modern history of the Philippines (i.e., Spanish colonization, American occupation, and Philippine independence). All I wanted was to share with people the ways that Filipino culture is special, and now I can. 

I cannot begin to describe how excited I am to share the research I’ve done so far. It has been such a fulfilling experience to be able to learn more about the history of my culture in the context of art, and being here at SAM has given me the opportunity and the resources to do just that. I am extremely grateful for what this internship has provided me in terms of exploring my passions and building upon what I have already learned. I feel as though I have just scratched the surface as to what I can accomplish here at SAM and I am itching to see the contributions I can make at SAM in the near future. 

I’d like to thank SAM Intern Programs Coordinator Samuel Howes for helping me adjust and transition into this internship; to SAM Museum Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, for being such an amazing mentor and for our stimulating conversations that I always looked forward to; and, of course, to SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz—I couldn’t have asked for a better supervisor and mentor.

– Alexa Smith, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Curation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Textile Messages, Gallery Futures, and Video Art

SAM News

It’s the final week for Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at the Seattle Art Museum! Crosscut’s Brangien Davis featured the show in her latest ArtSEA letter. 

“There are so many gorgeous garments and wall hangings here: indigo kimonos from Japan and multipatterned robes from Nigeria; astonishing cloth artworks from India, Uzbekistan and the Americas.”

We were thrilled to host Amity Addrisi and the whole crew at New Day NW recently at SAM. Check out the segment where José Carlos Diaz, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, takes Amity to some of the museum’s most beloved spots.

Puget Sound Business Journal names Northern Trust a Corporate Citizenship honoree for 2023; the firm; they share quotes from José Carlos Diaz and Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, about their support of SAM.

Great minds think alike: Curiocity, Seattle’s Child, and Seattle Met all wrote up lists of the city’s best parks and bike trails, including mentions of Volunteer Park (home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum) and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

“A who’s who of the region’s arts and fashion community”: 425 Magazine’s Andrew Hoge on the Seattle Art Museum Supporters (SAMS) benefit at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which featured a presentation of fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra’s fall collection.

Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine speaks with artist and architect Iole Alessandrini, whose exhibition at SOIL Gallery—which closes this Saturday—iterates on projects held at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Via Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times: “Two longtime and prominent pillars of the local art world, Linda Hodges and James Harris, announced this week they’re closing their namesake Seattle galleries.”

“‘Seattle has tremendous potential,’ Harris said. ‘Even though some of the old established people are retiring, or I’m moving away, I really feel that the visual cultural scene there is still going to flourish.’”

Inter/National News

Via the New York Times: “Can You Spot the Dog Hidden in This Picasso Painting?

NPR reports on the Supreme Court ruling against The Andy Warhol Foundation in a copyright infringement case over “fair use” of artworks

Artforum’s May cover story: Tina Rivers Ryan on Signals: How Video Transformed the World, now on view at the Museum of Modern Art.

“It helps us see ‘video art’ as something that was shaped by television—a technology and medium that was also the site of a novel public sphere—and that, like television itself, is now transitioning into a new form.”

And Finally

Heaven’s receptionist.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

This Moment in Time: A Conversation with Anthony White and José Carlos Diaz

With his first solo SAM exhibition, Limited Liability, coming to a close in a few short weeks, 28-year old Seattle artist Anthony White woke up bright and early one December morning to meet Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz in the galleries of his exhibition before the museum was open to the public. Sitting around the retro lunchroom table—the centerpiece of SAM’s 2021 Betty Bowen Award winner’s gallery—the two spoke about the response he’s received to Limited Liability, the meticulousness of his practice, queer representation in art, what’s next for Seattle’s rising star, and what it means to artistically render this moment in time.

Read the full interview below and experience Anthony White: Limited Liability at SAM’s downtown location before it closes Sunday, January 29.


José Carlos Diaz: I want to start off here by thanking you and SAM curators Catharina Manchanda and Carrie Dedon for putting this exhibition together. Limited Liability was the second exhibition that opened after I joined SAM in July 2022, and it’s been a joy getting to know you and to see visitors interact with your paintings. So, my first question is: What has been the response to this exhibition. What have you observed? What have you heard visitors say while seeing your artwork at SAM?

Anthony White: Overall, the response has been great. I think people are excited to see work like mine in an established institution. My work is vibrant and modern, and I think it can be refreshing to see in a museum gallery. It’s always fun to see people stumble on artwork they weren’t really expecting to see at a museum. I will say, everyone is infatuated with my age. I didn’t expect I’d receive so many comments about that.

JCD: Did they think you were older?

AW: Yeah. Generally, people are surprised that someone my age is able to do this.

JCD: It’s definitely incredible that someone your age has a solo exhibition at a major regional museum.

AW: Totally, but it’s still incredibly surprising to me. And a lot of people did reach out to say that it was nice to have something that they could relate to. There were a lot of people that would identify with certain symbols and objects that came out of very specific time periods. It’s really cool to see how my artwork connects with people, even if in the smallest degrees.

JCD: That’s great to hear! Many people may not yet know this, but SAM actually acquired one of your works from this exhibition. The artwork that the curatorial team and the board approved is UNTIL THE END OF TIME (2022). It was really important to our team to acquire this particular artwork because it really reflects the diversity within SAM’s collections, but it’s also a representation of an artist who is living and working in Seattle. But, as a curator myself, I was curious how you’d like to see your artwork displayed and used in the future when you visit SAM? Maybe in a different context? With similar or different artworks? Is this something you’ve thought about?

AW: First, I want to say how excited and honored I am to have my artwork in SAM’s collection. It’s an incredible way to be connected to this institution for a long time. But I do often find myself thinking about what happens to artworks that end up in collections. I think most institutions either keep their works either independently displayed somewhere or they pull it into a group installation to give it additional context. My hope is that UNTIL THE END OF TIME is shown alongside other artworks at SAM that tell the stories of time.

JCD: Would you be interested in seeing it integrated into the European galleries, as having a conversation or even challenging the Old Masters?

AW: Certainly.

JCD: I think that’d be a really fun conversation to have! Many of the European artworks in SAM’s collection capture a specific moment or time in history. With your artwork alongside these other pieces, I think they’d be talking about the same exact things but across vastly different time periods. I love it!

AW: I think there are endless opportunities for my artwork to interact with historic artworks throughout SAM’s collection. It’s fascinating to see how our interpretations of everyday life have changed over time.

JCD: Plus, it’s the first artwork in the collection featuring Kim Kardashian. 

AW: She should be honored. Someone tell her!

JCD: I was so thrilled that you’ve gotten so much press from this exhibition. But what’s made me the most proud is seeing all of the national press you and SAM have received about the work that’s being done in Seattle in showcasing LGBTQ+ art. 

That being said, the work I find myself gravitating toward the most in Limited Liability is JOYRIDE (2022). Because you have such a deep visual archive, I was blown away when you revealed—at least to me—that the format of this painting is based on Picasso’s Still Life With the Caned Chair (1912), which was a really groundbreaking moment for Picasso. But then, looking deeper at your painting, this idea of a joyride, it has such a coded language specifically around queerness and blackness; It’s almost like a special language. Walking up to this painting—even as someone who works at the museum and has seen it many times—it’s clear that there’s so much joy in it. So, I wanted to ask you to elaborate on your use of coded or visual languages throughout your art.

AW: Yeah, I think JOYRIDE offers people a way of getting to know me, my practice, and my experiences that my other works may not do so much. There is a slightly discreet symbolism and language that I’m using in this work and that has led to the invention of an entirely new way of speaking within my practice, I think.

I don’t like to spoon-feed people and give them only one way to see, think, and interpret my work. For example, JOYRIDE includes a sticker that says ‘cruisin’ that can be interpreted in two totally different ways. You could either think about it within the context of hard culture and vehicle cruising, or think about it as speaking toward a homoerotic experience, activity, or participatory event. So, the decision to interpret pieces and little details like those throughout my work is ultimately up to the viewer.

JCD: I can definitely see the nature of the symbolism you’re talking about. I think there’s also this playfulness with the inclusion of the Lisa Frank stickers and the young anime woman in red. And, in looking at all the works in this gallery, I think you once told me that you make one self portrait per year. Is that true?

AW: It is true. 

JCD: Can you talk about the origins of this tradition? How is your process of depicting yourself different from that of the rest of your work?

AW: Every year, there comes a month where I feel an unrelenting need to get my feelings and the way I’m seeing myself onto a canvas. It’s been a very strict practice that I’ve had for the past five years. I think it’s just as important to depict myself within a specific period of time as it is to depict the cultural objects and symbols that define it.

My self-portraits are also a bit more dramatic than my other works. I feel more comfortable and honest with the subject since it’s myself. In HYPNOSIS (2022), I’m lying horizontally on my stomach, staring deep into the void.

JCD: The void being the cellphone.

AW: Yes, It’s that constant endless rabbit hole that we all get sucked into these days. I think this was a pretty daring piece to execute and I didn’t want to inaccurately represent someone else with a piece like this.

JCD: The subject is you but I think the work is really representative of all of us today. It’s a beautiful piece.

You’ve had many people ask you about your complex process. When I first saw your work, I thought they were textile-based. They almost looked like quilted pieces of material—even your self portrait. I know you’ve talked about your use of melted coils of colored plastics quite a bit but I think it’s a very revolutionary medium—I think it’s called polylactic acid. The device you use to paint is very meticulous too. You’ve mentioned that it can take over a hundred hours to complete a single painting.

AW: It can. Sometimes longer.

JCD: But you’ve also previously mentioned that there is a sort of intuition to creating your paintings; that it’s an organic process. How do you balance the strict boundaries of using polylactic acid with your organic, or intuitive, process?

AW: There are definitely some set boundaries with the process. The methods I use to melt the plastic and draw lines on my canvas are very specific. But, there’s also this sort of synthetic or artificial nature to it that I find complementary to what I want to represent on each panel. That was really fun to stumble on at the very beginning of my practice. Although everything is very systematic, there’s a natural intuition that comes into play the more I work with this medium. Like an oil painter, I create my own palette for each work.

JCD: Your use of this medium is incredible. There’s an intense satisfaction that I think everyone receives from seeing your work in person. Have you faced any challenges with the digital life of your work? It’s interesting because you source so much content from the digital world in your art, and now that art is part of our collective digital archive. Is this something you’ve thought about?

AW: There are challenges with not being able to translate my works accurately in a digital image. As we move forward in our technological world, there may be a time when our methods of documentation of works such as my own are displayed differently. But there is so much satisfaction with seeing my, and all, paintings in person. 

That’s not to say I want my work to be an exclusive viewing experience—I want anyone and everyone who wants to see my work to see it! But, I’ve heard many people say they had no idea of the meticulousness of my art until they saw it in person. Only then do they understand how much complexity there is within each of my works. You can see the evidence of my hand, every line that I make, what direction I led my pen, and the decisions I made with every mark.

JCD: I never like to ask an artist what inspires them, but I can’t stop myself this time. What is actually inspiring you right now?

AW: At this specific moment? A lot of podcasts.

JCD: I wouldn’t have guessed that.

AW: Of course, my main influences are social media, but a lot of the things I listen to while working are podcasts about white collar criminals, corporate fraud, technological advances, and the state of the world. All of my canvases are inspired by what I’m listening to and my perception of the direction our world is headed in, but I think that does change over time. One day, I want to be able to look at the archive of my work and pinpoint precise moments of my life. I’ll create a timeline by identifying certain symbols and objects across every work.

JCD: But that’s not to say your work itself is dated. It captures specific moments in time but has longevity in its interpretation.

AW: And the world moves so fast, too. So, I think it is accurate to say that some of my works are dated. Certain objects pictured within them are already obsolete.

JCD: It’s interesting to think how future scholars will interpret the artworks being made during this period in time, especially yours. That’s the dream, right?

AW: Yes, but I think they should be a bit more concerned with the state of their existence. There’s a meme I recently saw that said if you showed somebody back in 2000 how much content we consume now, they would have a meltdown. It’d be so overwhelming. Our past selves would be stunned by the pace of life today. Hopefully, it slows down in the years to come but you never know.

JCD: I’ve never thought about that.

You have an exhibition coming up, Extended Warranty at Greg Kucera Gallery, opening in January. It sounds like you’ve got no plans of slowing down in 2023. So what’s next? What can the public expect to see in that exhibition and what else are you working on in the coming year?

AW: Yeah! That’ll be a smaller exhibition than Limited Liability, but it’s sort of an extension of thought that resulted from building the body of work that’s on view at SAM. As this exhibition opened, I was still thinking through these ideas of materialism and digital culture and wanted to extend them into the exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery. So, both exhibitions—Limited Liability and Extended Warranty—explore similar threads. I have these trains of thought that I’ve been exploring since I became an artist and I want to continue seeing them out in the months and years ahead.

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

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