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Muse/News: Support for SAM, Intiman’s Next Stage, and Lost Art Found

SAM News

Looking out from a place that looks out: The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig considers Louise Bourgeois’s Eye Benches at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

“It’s a dreamy experience to sit on the back of an eye. A surreal proposition that makes your observations of people, sky, park, and mountain so literal.”

Last week, the Seattle arts community received very welcome news: The Friday Foundation has gifted $9 million to nine organizations in the Seattle arts community, including the Seattle Art Museum. The foundation honors the lives and legacies of the late Jane Lang Davis and Richard E. Lang, inspired collectors and supporters of the arts. The Seattle Times and KUOW both announced the news.

Local News

For International Examiner, Danielle Quenelle reviews two Pioneer Square shows: Lakshmi Muirhead at J. Rinehart Gallery and Humaira Abid at Greg Kucera Gallery.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores reflects on how the pandemic has changed her role as an arts writer, and how she’s witnessed the resiliency of Seattle’s arts scene.

Intiman Theatre has a new home after eight nomadic years; it will become theater-in-residence and leader of a new program at Seattle Central College. The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley reports on the unique arrangement.

“‘If you look at the mission of the Seattle colleges and the mission of Intiman, they are so well aligned,’ [Sheila] Edwards Lange said. ‘I hope this will change the face of theater not only in our city but across the country.’”

Inter/National News

“A work you may not know—but should.” Artnet’s Katie White with a close reading of an oil pastel by Hollis Sigler. Another work by the feminist artist is currently on view at SAM in the installation, On the Edge.

Deana Lawson has won the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize, reports ARTnews. She is the first photographer to win the $100,000 award.

Thrilling news: One of the five missing panels from Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series has been found. Visitors will be able to see the newly discovered panel along with the others when SAM presents The American Struggle next spring.

“Last week a friend of mine went to the show and said, ‘There’s a blank spot on the wall and I believe that’s where your painting belongs,’ ” she continued. “I felt I owed it both to the artist and the Met to allow them to show the painting.”

And Finally

Jam not to scale.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Eye Benches I, 1996-1997, Louise Bourgeois. black Zimbabwe granite, 48 3/4 x 53 x 45 1/4 in., Gift of the artist, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.113.1-2 © Louise Bourgeois, photo: C.E. Mitchell

Shaping New Sightlines: The Olympic Sculpture Park’s Evolving Landscape

Walking through the Grove at the Olympic Sculpture Park, it’s easy to forget you’re in a city. As the path descends, the flickering Aspen leaves, purple pops of Oregon grapes, and thick layers of ferns make the urban landscape feel suddenly distant. One could almost mistake the path for a hike outside city limits were it not for the landmark that emerges at the end: Tony Smith’s sculpture Stinger, a square, geometric fortress made of slick, black steel.

The Olympic Sculpture Park’s landscape merges artistic, natural, and urban landscapes of the Pacific

Northwest, via the innovative design by architects Weiss/Manfredi and Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture. The Z-shaped Mosley and Benaroya paths guide visitors from the PACCAR Pavilion and surrounding cityscape at Elliott Avenue and Broad Street, down 40 feet to the waterfront below, bringing them through four landscapes that reference regional ecosystems along the way: the Valley, the Meadows, the Grove, and the Shore.

When the sculpture park opened in 2007, the plant palettes that filled those environments were 95% native to the region—an unusual accomplishment at the time and one that established the park as an early model for future parks’ design. Julie Parrett, a former project manager for Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture, explained, “Ten years ago, there weren’t a lot of examples of corporate campuses or institutions that were working with native plants extensively. A couple of universities were doing it but it was pretty rare. . . . One of the unexpected outcomes was creating habitats that we didn’t even necessarily know we would create, for both birds and marine life.”

Over the past ten years, the park’s landscape thickened and flourished around the sculptures and architecture, filling in with denser grasses and taller trees. This is due in part to the way the native plant species are maintained with limited human intervention. Bobby McCullough, Head Gardener since the sculpture park opened, described, “Unlike strict, well-groomed, extremely maintained gardens, the sculpture park landscape is meant to constantly evolve, so we have to let it grow as it succeeds and replace what fails.”

Humans aren’t the only species to appreciate this approach. The natural landscape has also encouraged wildlife to return to the once-toxic stretch of Seattle’s urban core. McCullough pointed to the Shore as an example of a new habitat that has become established since the park’s opening: “We allowed the shrubbery and grasses along the waterfront to grow more on the natural side, which has enabled it to become a bird sanctuary. Even though we clean it up once a year to remove the dead grass, we try not to touch it very much because it’s become an active habitat area.”

The Olympic Sculpture Park experience feels especially unique in the moments when the landscape, art, and design come together before our eyes. Whether this happens while sitting on one of Louise Bourgeois’s Eye Benches, spotting a seal on the Puget Sound, or watching crows perch in the steel branches of Roxy Paine’s Split, the land brings new insights to the way we see the art, and the art frames the natural world in ways we wouldn’t ordinarily see. Over time, the park’s sightlines will continue to shift and evolve, promising new encounters with every visit.

—Erin Langner, Freelance Arts Writer and Former SAM Adult Public Programs Manager

This post is the fourth installment in a series of stories exploring the history of the Olympic Sculpture Park in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Over the course of this year, we will continue reflecting on the Park’s evolution over the past decade.

Images: Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Benjamin Benschneider. Photo: Paul Macapia. Photo: Paul Macapia. Photo: Paul Macapia. Photo: Paul Macapia.

SAM Art: A Surreal seat

A contemporary Surrealist, Louise Bourgeois’ career stretched from the 1940s until 2010. Her lifelong fascination with myth, ritual, and totemic figures had its roots in French Surrealism, which reached a high point between the World Wars. In these Eye Benches, furniture takes the form of giant, observant eyes. Visitors encounter the disembodied eyes, which seem to follow their every movement around the Olympic Sculpture Park’s lower plaza, discovering that the enigmatic sculptural objects play a functional role: providing comfortable outdoor seating.

Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 in Paris. She entered university in 1932, intending to study mathematics, but turned to art the next year. She studied in art schools as well as apprenticing in artists’ studios in Montparnasse and Montmartre. She emigrated to New York in 1938, where she continued her studies, eventually having her first solo exhibition in 1945. She lived and worked in New York until her death in 2010.

Eye Benches II, 1996-97, Louise Bourgeois (American, born French, 1911-2010), black Zimbabwe granite, 48 x 76 15/16 x 46 1/2 in. each, Gift of the artist, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.114.1-2, © Louise Bourgeois, photo: Paul Macapia. Currently on view in the Olympic Sculpture Park.