Pride Celebrates Pride: Between Rabbit and Fox

In honor of Pride Month, SAM Blog features reflections by SAM voices on collection artworks that explore LGBTQIA+ art and artists. Queer lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate histories of joy, advocacy, and resistance. Stay tuned for more Pride-related content on SAM Blog, including another object spotlight and a list of queer film recommendations curated by SAM’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group.

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972) foregrounds his Indigenous, queer identity in his artwork, often with bold colors and materials that make his personal history and intentions undeniable. As Gibson has noted in many of his interviews, he celebrates a state of “in-between-ness”: between cultures, between aesthetics, and between normative gender expectations.1

Gibson is also in-between in a few places at SAM—Gibson’s 2017 work, Between Rabbit and Fox, is on view on the third floor, in the space between the modern and contemporary galleries and American Art: The Stories We Carry. 

This large abstract painting on canvas depicts a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors, refracted in a vibrant pattern. Although at first the painting seems like a smooth solid surface, its raised lines cut through different shapes and shimmery paints in the center to reveal the texture of the canvas. Looking closely, every diagonal is intentional, forming more and more triangles, and they create the effect of overlapping pieces and colors that change as they are layered.

As a painter, Gibson draws upon the major art historical movements of modernism and abstraction that explored minimalism and color theory, including the work of Josef Albers, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Al Held, and Barnett Newman, all of whose works are in SAM’s collection.

Yet abstraction has long been a part of Native American artistic traditions as well, adorning many types of functional and cultural objects, such as Navajo textiles and Osage ribbonwork.2 Between Rabbit and Fox also references Gibson’s own earlier abstract paintings on hide, where he directly connected abstraction to Indigenous history by painting upon this culturally significant material. In the same room as Between Rabbit and Fox, you can see contemporary Tlingit/Unangax artist Nicholas Galanin’s work on deer hide, Architecture of return, escape (The British Museum) (2022).

Gibson grew up in Germany and South Korea, among other places with his father’s military assignments, but came back to the US to attend the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, for his BFA, and then the Royal College of Art, London for his MA in painting. While growing up abroad, he felt he was treated as an “American,” but back at home in the US, he was seen only as Native American.3

Gibson is of Choctaw and Cherokee lineage, but didn’t grow up on a reservation. Many Americans he encountered had assumptions about a monolithic Native American culture and artistic aesthetic. Facing these reductive stereotypes, Gibson felt limited by this necessity to explain Native American art and concepts to an unaware audience, but also wanted to make work that reflected his identity. He found there was even less acceptance for a queer Indigenous man and artist.4

Instead of trying to avoid representing these identities in his art, Gibson came to a realization that he needed to incorporate them all and create a new path for himself in the art world. Around 2011, Gibson began reaching out to other Native American communities to learn about and collaborate on artworks that involved beadwork and drum making.5 He chose to use these techniques and make works on animal hide rather than on canvas, and he incorporated text and pop culture references to make his messages more visible.

Gibson’s work often addresses US history and the government’s failings toward Native Americans as well as queer communities. His other work in SAM’s collection, IF I RULED THE WORLD (2018), is a repurposed punching bag covered with beading, fringe, and metal jingles, and embedded with the title of a song by the rapper Nas. Here, Gibson also uses abstract geometric decoration with bands of primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) interrupted by black triangles.

The punching bag evokes physical action and even a sense of violent masculinity, which is immediately undercut by the delicate and detailed ornamentation that Gibson applies. He questions gender identity by using techniques like beading that are associated with women makers, as well as integrating quotes from queer club and music scenes and performing in gender-bending costumes he designs. Combining popular culture, canonical art influences, and Indigenous art forms and materials, Gibson has forged a new way forward that combines his identities with activism. The Seattle Art Museum exhibited a survey show of Gibson’s work in 2018, LIKE A HAMMER, and this year, Gibson was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, one of the largest and oldest international art fairs. Gibson’s presentation, the space in which to place me, was the first solo show by a Native American artist at the prestigious event. With this platform, Gibson has brought his queer, Indigenous identity to the forefront, raising issues and history that his communities and all of us have to face in making a more just world.

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

1  “Innovation and Tradition: Jeffrey Gibson Interviewed by Emily Zimmerman,” Bomb Magazine, May 6, 2019, https://bombmagazine.org/articles/innovation-and-tradition-jeffrey-gibson-interviewed.
2 John P. Lukavic, “What Should Have Been, What Is, and What Will Be,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; p. 29.
3 David Pagel, “Jeffrey Gibson: American. Native American. Gay. An artist’s life outside labels,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-jeffrey-gibson-20171007-htmlstory.html.
4 “Material & Identity Merge in Jeffrey Gibson’s ‘Like A Hammer’ at Seattle Art Museum.” YouTube January 31, 2019. https://youtu.be/-RrqDSZKtLQ?si=1NN66Iigx6HO0685.
5 Anne Ellegood. “Jeffrey Gibson: Critical Exuberance,” Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. Munich, London, New York: Denver Art Museum, with DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019; pp. 83-84.


Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

Sat Jun 22
Youth Pride Disco
Break out your disco wear for this LGBTQIA+ Pride party, planned for and organized by LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 22! Join us for drag performances, great music, friend-making activities, food and soft drinks, a quiet room, and more.

Through Sun Jun 23
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales: Together Again, Again!
Experience the comedy, music, and saucy stylings of two of the Pacific Northwest’s standout drag entertainers, in this wildly hilarious extravaganza set in an apocalyptic future. Check the event calendar for information about performances for teens, ASL interpretation, captions, and masking.

Fri Jun 28
Trans Pride Seattle 2024
Started in 2013, Trans Pride Seattle is an annual event organized by Gender Justice League. Visit the Volunteer Park Amphitheater from 5 to 10 pm for live music, community speakers, performances, and a resource fair all dedicated to increased visibility, connection, and love of the Seattle-area TwoSpirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse (2STGD) community.

Sat Jun 29
PrideFest Capitol Hill
Spanning six blocks of Broadway and Cal Anderson Park, this all-day market features queer local businesses, beer gardens, family and youth programming, and three stages with an unforgettable lineup of live performances.

Sun Jun 30
Seattle Pride Parade
Spend the final day of June by taking part in the 50th annual Pride Parade led by grand marshals Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. Then, head over to Seattle Center for the can’t-miss performances, hundreds of acts, beer gardens, food vendors, a new family area—and dancing in the iconic International Fountain.

Visit the official Seattle Pride website for even more suggested events.

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

SAM Celebrates Pride: The Talented Mr. Delafosse

In honor of Pride Month, SAM Blog features reflections by SAM voices on collection artworks that explore LGBTQIA+ art and artists. Queer lives matter every day of the year, but this month is a particular opportunity to celebrate histories of joy, advocacy, and resistance. Stay tuned for more Pride-related content on SAM Blog, including another object spotlight and a list of queer film recommendations curated by SAM’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group.

If you Google “Léon Delafosse,” you’ll get more information on John Singer Sargent’s portrait of the French composer and pianist—part of SAM’s collection since 2001—than on Delafosse’s life story: his early years of poverty, rise as a piano virtuoso and composer, and the eventual destruction of his promising career by powerful men.

Before the arrival of recordings, musicians who were not independently wealthy or well-connected needed patrons and made money by performing in the private salons of rich people. Delafosse made two famous gay friends who propelled his career in Paris: Count Robert de Montesquiou (a social snob and poet-poseur) and writer Marcel Proust. Each of these men acted as unofficial “agents” for Delafosse, promoting his talents to their powerful friends. It’s long been assumed Montesquiou, in addition to being Delafosse’s principal patron, was his lover, too, and that their fraught relationship is immortalized in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (with the bisexual violinist Charles Morel as Delafosse and the gay Baron de Charlus as Montesquiou).  

Gay sex was decriminalized in France in 1791, but men who loved other men emotionally and sexually remained (for the most part) quiet about their private lives. Men who were suspected to be homosexual, who had “feminine” voices or mannerisms, wore colorful and outlandish clothing,  engaged in non-traditional (unmanly) careers were described in code words such as “dandy,” “decadent,” “artistic” and “aesthete” (admittedly better than the alternatives of the time:“sodomite,” “invert,” and “pederast”!)

Montesquiou was easily bored and his temper was volcanic. When Delafosse made the inevitable mistake (unknown, but believed to be the fact he was more interested in music than in anything or anyone), their breakup was cataclysmic. Montesquiou and his accomplice, Proust, set out to destroy Delafosse’s reputation and have him barred from important musical salons all over Paris. They succeeded. Delafosse was devastated and hopeless as he became a laughingstock in the capital. 

Enter: John Singer Sargent.

Sargent (whose obsession with the male body is evident in his work) took a liking to the handsome Delafosse and in genuine friendship promoted his talents to influential Americans like arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner. Beginning in 1895, Sargent painted Delafosse (then in his early twenties) and gave him the portrait as a lavish gift. Delafosse kept the painting until the day he died.

Pride Month is a celebration of LGBTQ+ history and a time to ponder the world as it is. Community is fragile, and examining the story of Léon Delafosse presents a warning and a quandary. In Belle Époque France, anyone who did not fit easily into standard society, whose sexual identity or gender expression made them outsiders, had to examine and monitor their appearance, their every move, their every spoken or written word. Such nonstop, intense, and protective self-scrutiny must have been exhausting, infuriating. And seeing “yourself” in another man or woman who was like you must have been frightening and intimidating, and it often led to betrayals, based not just on what was held in common but what was different: money, class, looks, and the power that those things bestow.

When I examine Sargent’s image of Léon Delafosse with contemporary eyes and in the current worldwide political climate, I wonder: is Delafosse emerging from the darkness or receding into it? 

– Kevin Stant, SAM Docent

Kevin Stant has been a docent at SAM since 2002. Kevin’s next assignment will be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum; beginning August 31, he’ll give Saturday tours on the exhibition Meot: Korean Art from the Frank Bayley Collection.


Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

Sat Jun 22
Youth Pride Disco
Break out your disco wear for this LGBTQIA+ Pride party, planned for and organized by LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 22! Join us for drag performances, great music, friend-making activities, food and soft drinks, a quiet room, and more.

Through Sun Jun 23
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales: Together Again, Again!
Experience the comedy, music, and saucy stylings of two of the Pacific Northwest’s standout drag entertainers, in this wildly hilarious extravaganza set in an apocalyptic future. Check the event calendar for information about performances for teens, ASL interpretation, captions, and masking.

Fri Jun 28
Trans Pride Seattle 2024
Started in 2013, Trans Pride Seattle is an annual event organized by Gender Justice League. Visit the Volunteer Park Amphitheater from 5 to 10 pm for live music, community speakers, performances, and a resource fair all dedicated to increased visibility, connection, and love of the Seattle-area TwoSpirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse (2STGD) community.

Sat Jun 29
PrideFest Capitol Hill
Spanning six blocks of Broadway and Cal Anderson Park, this all-day market features queer local businesses, beer gardens, family and youth programming, and three stages with an unforgettable lineup of live performances.

Sun Jun 30
Seattle Pride Parade
Spend the final day of June by taking part in the 50th annual Pride Parade led by grand marshals Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. Then, head over to Seattle Center for the can’t-miss performances, hundreds of acts, beer gardens, food vendors, a new family area—and dancing in the iconic International Fountain.

Visit the official Seattle Pride website for even more suggested events.

Image: Léon Delafosse, ca. 1895–98, John Singer Sargent, Born Florence, Italy, 1856; Died London, England, 1925, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 23 3/8 in. Given in honor of Trevor Fairbrother by Mr. and Mrs. Prentice Bloedel by exchange, and by Robert M. Arnold, Tom and Ann Barwick, Frank Bayley, Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Contemporary Art Council, Council of American Art, Jane and David R. Davis, Decorative Arts and Paintings Council, Robert B. Dootson, Mr. and Mrs. Barney A. Ebsworth, P. Raaze Garrison, Lyn and Gerald Grinstein, Helen and Max Gurvich, Marshall Hatch, John and Ann Hauberg, Richard and Betty Hedreen, Mary Ann and Henry James, Mrs. Janet W. Ketcham, Allan and Mary Kollar, Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, Rufus and Pat Lumry, Byron R. Meyer, Ruth J. Nutt, Scotty Ray, Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Vance Salsbury, Herman and Faye Sarkowsky, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Scheumann, Seattle Art Museum Supporters, Jon and Mary Shirley, Joan and Harry Stonecipher, Dean and Mary Thornton, William and Ruth True, Volunteers Association, Ms. Susan Winokur and Mr. Paul Leach, The Virginia Wright Fund, Charlie and Barbara Wright, Howard Wright and Kate Janeway, Merrill Wright, and Mrs. T. Evans Wyckoff, 2001.17. Photo: Elizabeth Mann.

Pride Month: The Fleet’s In and Queer Art at SAM

This July marks my one-year anniversary at SAM and June was my first Pride in Seattle. I even had the honor of walking the parade with the city’s Consulate of Mexico. As a gay professional of Mexican descent, this is all a big deal for me!

In my role as the museum’s deputy director for art, I work among so much art, and every day I’m actively discovering captivating items within the SAM collection. Thinking about LGBTQ+ artists, I was surprised to learn that the collection has a print of The Fleet’s In (1934) by gay artist Paul Cadmus. He created this work on paper in response to the censorship of his painting of the same subject. In it, a raucous group of sailors enjoy shore leave while in Manhattan. The original painting, commissioned through the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) during the Great Depression, caused quite a stir in its day. So much so that it was removed from view for what Naval officers and critics considered “outrageous” for the behavior depicted in the work: the figures, many from the LGBTQ+ community, merrymaking with the featured service men. A queer celebration appropriate for Pride Month! The original painting is part of the Met’s collection, and you can learn more about it here.

To this day, the painting has had limited exposure but it is well known within queer art history. The print version, like the one in SAM’s collection, is important because it was intentionally created by Cadmus in an act of rebellion to disseminate the image and prevent its censorship. He would even credit the uproar with making his work more well known during his life. The work may have garnered a negative response, but the image itself carries gay culture, much of it coded and strategically placed by Cadmus, during a period when homosexuality was illegal. The print at SAM is interesting because it was gifted to the collection in 1944 by the founder of our museum, Dr. Richard Fuller. Could he have known about its notoriety and importance before gifting it to the museum? To more surprise, we also have a 1937 photographed portrait of Cadmus by Carl Van Vechten in the museum collection.

Reflecting on the collection during Pride Month, I sought other queerness currently on view in SAM’s galleries and by gay artists. Pop artist Andy Warhol has a strong presence in the museum; he even came to the museum for a solo exhibition in 1976. His large painting of the musician Elvis Presley as a young gunslinger heartthrob immortalized in silver is not only a reference to the future but to the reflective aesthetic of his famed studio the Silver Factory. It was an inclusive space for its day and a beacon for anyone who felt different, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some individuals who stood out even took on a role as  “Superstar” of the Factory for their beauty, personality, or talent. While Warhol’s universe tended to focus around himself, his impact on popular culture included making queerness more visual, and many artists today follow in his footsteps.  

Everywhere you turn, the museum also has a younger generation of queer artists on view: Mickalene Thomas’s large bedazzled painting, Chicano artist Laura Aguilar’s evocative and haunting black-and-white photography, Native American multidisciplinary artist Jeffrey Gibson’s beaded punching bag with the phrase “If I Ruled the World” in colorful plastic beadwork, Jacolby Satterwhite’s projected video work about his mother and Ballroom culture, Kehinde Wiley’s portrait featuring a Black subject in a classical style and Nick Cave’s maximalist soundsuit. There’s a recent acquisition by Naama Tsabar, an Israeli artist (and friend) whose practice includes intimacy and contact through the tactile materials that she uses, sculptures she builds, and evocative sonic performances. In my previous role at The Andy Warhol Museum, I hosted a performance of hers in conjunction with the exhibition Fantasy America. Titled Stranger, it comprised a double-sided guitar and two nearly physically identical women (the artist and Kristin Mueller) struggling through a non-verbal but acoustic conversation. Many of these artists I have followed for years and have even met. Having them in the collection is so inspiring and special for Seattle.    

Although marginalized peoples enjoy this honorary month of acknowledgement, the support in this city is ongoing and Pride Month felt the most festive during a time of nationwide hate and oppression against LGBTQ+ people. In addition, I’ve met so many people, including colleagues at SAM, who are also part of the community or dedicated allies. We work across many departments in the museum and it’s clear we really care about the community in Seattle. Pride Month has passed, but the visibility and support of LGBTQ+ artists has and will continue at SAM.

– José Carlos-Diaz, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art

Photos: The Fleet’s In, 1934, Paul Cadmus, American, 1904-1999, print, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 44.229. © Estate of Paul Cadmus. Paul Cadmus, 1937, gelatin silver print, 10 x 7 5/8 in. (25.4 x 19.4 cm), Mary Arrington Small Estate Acquisition Fund and Photography Purchase Fund in honor of Cheryl Ann Christie, 98.87. © Estate of Paul Cadmus.

 

SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: May and June

I didn’t get an entry in for May, so you’re getting a double-whammy of book highlights this month!

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. Many artists acknowledge, raise awareness of or define their own sexuality through their artistic practice. We have a number of books in our libraries that address the art, intersections, relationships and crossroads of the LGBT community.

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