Muse/News: Royal treasures, royal brides, and the Sikh Captain America

SAM News

Sebastian Smee for The Washington Post with a glittering review of Peacock in the Desert, now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston—and traveling to Seattle Art Museum this fall. Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India illuminates nearly four centuries of Indian courtly life and opens at SAM on October 18.

“A thoughtful, stately and scholarly exhibition, filled with objects of almost unbelievable refinement, most of which have never left Jodhpur, let alone India.”

Local News

The Henry announced last week that Shamim M. Momin will be their new Senior Curator; Momin’s previous experience includes LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) and the Whitney.

Naomi Ishisaka, Ramon Dompor, and Corinne Chin of The Seattle Times tell the story of “accidental cartoonist,” performance artist, and activist Vishavjit Singh—AKA the Sikh Captain America.

Rich Smith of The Stranger speaks with Alexandra Gardner, the Seattle Symphony’s composer-in-residence, who worked with queer homeless youth on a new work that debuted underneath SAM’s tree sculpture Middle Fork last Saturday.

“The piece starts off with a lot of bells. It’s very sparkly. Some of the musicians were like, ‘Oh it’s so beautiful and sparkly, I thought it would be more angry,’ but it’s not at all. There are some ever-so-slightly dark parts. Overall the feeling they wanted to communicate was not about their past experiences, which may have been very dark, but rather a hopeful future. And I think that really speaks to the participants’ resilience and imagination.”

Inter/National News

Past Times by Kerry James Marshall, which once hung in a Chicago convention center, sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s. The price is a new record for the artist—and among living Black American artists, too.

This May marks the 50th anniversary of Paris’ 1968 student riots; Artsy’s Digby Warde-Aldam reflects on the protests’ legacy on the visual culture of protests.

The sacred, the profane, and the Rihanna: we’re still recovering from the recent Met Gala coverage. Here’s Eleanor Heartney of Artnet with a review of the “gorgeous and unsettling” exhibition that explores the Catholic imagination.

“Contemporary art and religion have long been perceived as antagonists. However, this show suggests that the real chasm is between religion and fashion—the one focused on the realm of spirit and values, the other on luxury and conspicuous consumption.”

And Finally

A couple got married last Saturday, and millions of people watched. The cultural meanings of it all were much discussed; don’t miss The New Yorker’s Doreen St. Félix on the “profound presence of Doria Ragland,” the bride’s mother.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Maharaja Abhai Singh on Horseback, c. 1725, Dalchand, Jodhpur, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, Mehrangarh Museum Trust, photo: Neil Greentree.

Be A Part of Something Big: Volunteer for Middle Fork

Artist John Grade is looking for volunteers to help sculpt the 60-foot addition to his sculpture, Middle Fork, which will be installed in SAM’s Brotman Forum in January. SAM employees have been helping out in Grade’s studio over the last few months and we all agree, you should consider volunteering as well.

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John Grade’s studio is large and located at the fringes of Seattle. It’s easy to understand why he would require a space as large as an airplane hangar if you’ve experienced his artwork. Grade creates organic shapes from the natural world at life size and impresses viewers with the grand scale of everyday objects such as, in the case of Middle Fork, trees.

Expect a warm welcome from Grade’s crew of studio assistants, though you may have to venture pretty far into the space before you’re noticed over the sound of the electric sanders. In an open room with several workstations scattered towards the back, you’ll notice sections of the original 40-foot long Middle Fork sculpture bubble wrapped and arranged unceremoniously around the room.

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More than a view behind-the-scenes, this is an experience you can inhale—quite literally if you’re not wearing your dust mask. Particles of the artistic process will coat your clothes, so dress for sawdust and be prepared to focus in on the details for a few hours. “It’s fun to be part of something big by doing something small,” said Natali Wiseman, senior designer at SAM. And small is right—the four-hour minimum volunteer shift flies by and you’ll be impressed by the section of the sculpture that you’ve created—how much, or how little you’ve gotten done, depending on your outlook.

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“Volunteering for Middle Fork is a great opportunity to get an insider’s look into John’s creative process,” says David Rue, public programs coordinator. “It’s refreshing to see how many helping hands are responsible for such a beautifully large-scale project, and it feels great to integrate community building with hands-on art making.” When John Grade began Middle Fork in 2014 it was being constructed at Mad Art in South Lake Union. The store-front gallery space was open to the public and passerbys were welcome to lend a hand in laying a couple, or a couple hundred, blocks of the sculpture.

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Far from the inaccessible side of the art world, Middle Fork has been touched and built by toddlers, teenagers, and Amazon employees alike. Megan Peterson, assistant registrar for exhibitions describes the process as “an honor. I appreciate how open John is to allowing each person the freedom to put their unique stamp on the work they do.” Don’t worry about being too precise or technically skilled. The sculpture is sturdy and, like nature, difficult to mess up. Each inches-long cedar piece you place is only one part of what will eventually be a 100-foot long whole, hanging at SAM.

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“It’ll be a particularly special feeling once Middle Fork is installed knowing that my hands helped contribute to its existence,” Rue added. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Lauren at John Grade’s studio: volunteer@johngrade.com.

—Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter & Content Strategist

Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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