Memory Map Smartphone Tour: McFlag

In McFlag (1996), Jaune Quick-to-See Smith critiques the commercialization of American nationalism by creating a US flag that directly connects the national symbol with corporate branding and advertising. Composed of oil, paper, and newspaper, Smith affixes speakers to the canvas to mimic the dish-like ears of Disney’s iconic mascot Mickey Mouse, and co-opts the ‘big, bigger, biggest’ language of McDonald’s slogans, to humorously depict the US government as being under the control of multinational corporations.

Many artists whose work influenced Smith’s—including Jasper Johns and David Hammons—have also taken liberties with the representation of the American flag. Here, however, Smith’s use is explicitly anti-capitalist. Artist Marie Watt reflects on McFlag as part of the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM, perceiving the work as a rebuke to powerful empires. All 19 stops of the exhibition’s audio tour are accessible by scanning the QR code next to select artworks on view in SAM’s galleries or by visiting our SoundCloud. Memory Map closes this Sunday, May 12, so don’t miss out—reserve your tickets to see the exhibition before it’s gone.

McFlag, 1996

NARRATOR: Smith titled this work McFlag and gave the canvas “ears” made of speakers that resemble Mickey Mouse’s ears. She layers brand identities like McDonald’s and Disney over the American flag, and suggests that American commercialism and American nationalism have become inseparable. 

MARIE WATT: I am Marie Watt, and I am an artist and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. 

I think that one of the things that Jaune Quick-to-See Smith does in this painting is she really does call upon us to think about these different constructs of empire, whether it’s nationhood or the entertainment industry. I am very much aware is when you zoom into this image and you start looking at the collage elements that have washes of paint over them, how there’s phrases like “the last frontier,” and “spirits are rich,” and “prices are low” and “big business,” and it’s interesting to reflect on the relationship between consumerism and stereotypes, between consumerism and colonization, and even consumerism and environmental degradation. And so this piece on one hand, I think is playful and funny, and yet, it also sort of looks at this darker side of empires.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: McFlag, 1996, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, oil, paper, and newspaper on canvas with speakers and electrical cord, three parts: 60 × 100 in. overall, Tia Collection. Fabricated by Neal Ambrose-Smith, © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Photograph courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

Muse/News: Complex Stories, Sowing Seeds, and Desk Drawings

SAM News

On Seattle Met’s list of “Things to Do in Seattle”: the “complex cultural storytelling” of artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, now on view for just five more days at the Seattle Art Museum. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map closes after Sunday, May 12—don’t miss it!

Local News

SIFF is fifty! (Say that fifty times fast.) The Seattle Times has expansive coverage on the film festival taking place May 9–19.

Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine features three local designers—Guillermo Bravo, Prima Dona Studios, and Eighth Generation—who are giving “Seattle fashion” a good name.

Via Jas Keimig of South Seattle Emerald: Native-led arts organization yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective announced the acquisition of a property it will turn into a Native arts center.

“‘By creating an inclusive space where young people, Elders, and all our relatives can create and experience art together, we are sowing the seeds for the vibrant Indigenous futures we want to see bloom for generations to come,’ said Asia Tail (Cherokee), yəhaw̓’s executive director, in a press release about the news.”

Inter/National News

“Went From Bauhaus to Fun House”: Deborah Soloman with an appraisal of Frank Stella, who died this Saturday at the age of 87.

Hyperallergic is already thinking about “14 Art Books to Read This Summer.”

Via Adam Schrader for Artnet: “Kosovar Artist Petrit Halilaj’s Whimsical Met Roof Installation Belies a Dark History.”

“‘These desks were from the ‘70s, years I was not yet born. They have seen the fall of Yugoslavia, all the conflicts of the ‘90s, all the segregation, all the war. They still survived. All those generations of kids were all coexisting in a very beautiful mix with each other,’ he said.”

And Finally

The saga of Sugar the Zebra.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Warrior for the 21st Century

In Warrior for the 21st Century (1999), a figural sculpture periodically dances to the sound of a rattle while an unidentified voice counts to 10 in the Salish language. To create this work, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith collaborated with her son and fellow artist Neal Ambrose-Smith. The sculpture is constructed by objects including an electronic motor, metal chains, steel, deck of cards, fry bread, aspirin, cassette tapes, echinacea, and more. All of these elements, Ambrose-Smith notes, are objects “every warrior needs.”

The artists created this sculpture to reflect serious issues affecting contemporary Native Americans, and armed their warrior with items for facing the challenges of the new millennium. Included are red ochre and sage for ceremonies, as well as the Indian AIDS Hotline telephone number (an important resource given the growing rates of HIV and AIDS in Indigenous communities in the late 1990s, when this work was made). The warrior also carries a copy of the 1855 Treaty of Hellgate, which established the reservation lands of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, where Smith was born and returns to often. The treaty serves as a reminder of past struggles with the federal government and the limitations of working within a colonial legal structure to protect land, water, and resources.

Learn more about Warrior for the 21st Century from Ambrose-Smith by tuning in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM. Produced by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the tour can be accessed online via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR codes positioned next to select works on view in the exhibition. Memory Map closes in less than one month at SAM. Don’t miss out: reserve your tickets to see it at SAM before it’s too late.

Warrior for the 21st Century, 1999

NARRATOR: In 1999, Smith was commissioned to make a work that could be packed into a small box–a time capsule. Working on the project with her son, Neal Ambrose-Smith, she set out to make the work take up as much space as possible when it was removed from its container. 

NEAL AMBROSE-SMITH: And so this, the idea was born of maybe a figure and then it could dance or move. And it could be animatronic. 

NARRATOR: Neal Ambrose-Smith. 

NEAL AMBROSE-SMITH: So we got these guys down the street to make a motor for us to mount this thing on. And then we decided to use chains instead of ropes to hold it together because they make sound and they collapse. 

And it was a lot of fun because Jaune went into this super creative mode of like, oh, we’re going to do some sound. It needs sound. And so we went to this guy’s recording studio and we brought coffee cans full of coffee beans and, you know, to make a rattle sound. And then we got somebody up on the reservation to do a recording from Sophie May, she’s one of our Salish speakers, counting one to ten for “Ten Little Indians.”

The figure itself is a combination of all the things that you might need as a warrior for the 21st century. And when I say warrior, it doesn’t necessarily mean male or female.

So the stomach is frybread and then a T-shirt from the reservation. It says Salish Kootenai on it and it’s red, which is good. And then at each of the joints, we put these little clear boxes like jewelry boxes or something to stuff things in. So there’s sage and there’s some tobacco and the feet are cassettes, you know with like powwow songs. And then there’s a snag bag connected to one of the hands, you know which are gloves. And a snag bag, for those who aren’t in the know is—at a powwow, sometimes you go in there for a snag, which is to get a date. And so a snag bag has lubricants, maybe a condom. Things for safe practice of snagging.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Warrior for the 21st Century, 1999, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Neal Ambrose-Smith, electrical motor, metal box and mechanical timer, metal chains, steel, hardware, acrylic sheets, photograph, Salish Kootenai College T-shirt, deck of cards, copy of Hellgate Treaty, fry bread, beaded cuffs, cotton gloves, aspirin, bottle of echinacea, plastic sewn with sinew (with Salish Kootenai Health Department Reservation Snag Bag, condoms, sage, red ochre), cassette tapes (Black Lodge “The Peoples Dance” and Star Basket Jr.’s “Get Up and Dance! Pow-Wow Songs Recorded Live”), wooden crate, CD player, sound, dimensions variable, Collection of the artist; courtesy Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, © Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Rain (C.S. 1854)

In Rain (C.S. 1854) (1990), long-handled silver spoons are adhered to a wood canvas. Below the spoons, oozing layers of paint, oil, wax, and ink punctuate the work’s surface like drops of rain.

Contemporary Native artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith was inspired to create Rain (C.S. 1854) in 1990 while traveling through the northeast United States with Seneca artist G. Peter Jemison. She recalls, “When I went up to Buffalo and Syracuse [New York], the Iroquois up there were saying the maple trees were dying because of acid rain.” The incorporation of silver spoons in the work, says Smith, represents “the mouths” of the steel mill companies most responsible for the acid rain. Taken as a whole, the installation calls out the unequal distribution of both environmental harm and financial benefit as well as the sense of capitalist entitlement that allows factories to burn fossil fuels so recklessly.

Rain (C.S. 1854) is one of many environmentally-focused works Smith has created throughout her five-decade career. Tune in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM to hear G. Peter Jemison discuss the significance of this work, its connection to Chief Seattle, and Smith’s passion for environmentalism. The exhibition closes in just over a month on Sunday, May 12—reserve your tickets to see it at SAM before it’s gone!

Rain (C.S. 1854), 1990

NARRATOR: Smith called this work Rain (C.S. 1854). G. Peter Jemison is a member of the Seneca Nation heron clan.

G. PETER JEMISON: As you move around the painting, you would be struck by this light being reflected from the spoons. And I like that idea, because it’s difficult to capture, really, what rain looks like If you try to paint it. 

NARRATOR: The “C.S.” of the painting’s subtitle stands for Chief Seattle, who was a Suquamish and Duwamish chief during the middle of the 19th century.

G. PETER JEMISON: Chief Seattle, of course, is famous for making an early statement about the necessity to live in harmony with the natural world, and not to be in the process of destroying it. Perhaps Jaune’s commentary here is related to what is it, that is, now not only in the soil, but what is coming from the atmosphere. Because of the kind of air pollution that we now live with.

NARRATOR: Smith made this painting after traveling around the northeastern United States with Jemison, and encountering the effects of acid rain on forests in upstate New York.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Untitled (Kalispell)

With strokes of green, pink, yellow, gray, brown, black, blue, and orange, Untiled (Kalispell) is a colorful and abstract interpretation of the natural environment. Deriving its title from the Montana city just north of where Quick-to-See Smith grew up, the pastel and charcoal drawing counters traditional themes of US landscape painting by depicting an environment that is already inhabited. Although void of people, Smith uses symbols such as animal tracks to signify the wildlife that has always considered the natural environment its home.

Take an up-close look at the abstract details of Untitled (Kalispell) in Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, on view at SAM through Sunday, May 12. Then, learn more about this 1978 artwork by tuning in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Its accessible by scanning the QR code in SAM’s galleries or on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Untitled (Kalispell), 1978

NARRATOR: In the late 1970s, Smith began making landscapes of Montana, where she’d grown up. With their abstract forms, her works stand outside of the US landscape tradition that began in the nineteenth century. Those painters had a white East Coast audience in mind, and painted canvases of the western landscape suggesting that the land there was as empty as it was beautiful—ready to be claimed. In the works on view here, Smith made modest gestures to show that, in fact, the landscape had always been inhabited. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: You know, when I go home, I would see fields of mustard, fields of fireweed, or plowed fields. And also, because there was so much talk about the wilderness being empty space, I put bird tracks in, and sometimes little animals, horses. And in some cases here, I’ve got pictographs that you would see on the plateau. So they’re kind of made up landscapes, but they’re all based on what I would see at home.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Untitled (Kalispell), 1978, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, pastel on paper, 30 x 22 in., Collection of the artist; courtesy Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Muse/News: Must-See Smith, Seattle U Gift, and Finally Gilot

SAM News

“3 must-see shows by Indigenous artists in Seattle this spring”: Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times recommends Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map among two other exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum and the Henry Art Gallery.

“Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) has been a force in the art world for over five decades, creating deeply impactful work and opening doors for the increasing recognition of contemporary art by Native Americans.”

And don’t miss Elizabeth Hunter’s “mother-daughter review” of the exhibition for Seattle’s Child, featuring insights from Smith, reflections on the works on view, and tips for how to make the most of a museum visit with your family.

Spring is here, and so is a new edition of The Stranger’s Art and Performance Magazine featuring a dazzling Anida Yoeu Ali on the cover. Inside the magazine—which you can pick up around the city—catch the interview with Ali that covers “absurdity, grief, the diasporic dilemma, cosmogonies, and Dune.” (Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map is also among the mag’s recommendations.)

Local News

Via Jas Keimig for South Seattle Emerald: “New Seattle-based podcast Invisible Histories explores the history of Seattle—specifically South Seattle—that might not always be readily apparent or celebrated.”

Seattle Magazine rounds up a bevy of spring arts recommendations around the city, including Calder: In Motion.

“Seattle University gets $300 million gift of art — among largest in history”: Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times announces exciting news for the city’s arts scene. 

“The collection—which spans more than six centuries and contains prime examples of Western art history—will serve as a resource for students, faculty and art enthusiasts across the city, said Seattle University President Eduardo Peñalver. ‘I think it’s a win-win for Seattle University and for Seattle,’ he said.”

Inter/National News

The New York Times sends a chorus of three critics—Jason Farago, Travis Diehl, Martha Schwendener—to the Whitney Biennial.

Via Artnet: “Forget Kate Middleton’s Photoshop Blunder: Here Are Other Royals Who Had Their Portraits Edited.”

Via Rhea Nayyar for Hyperallergic: “Picasso Museum Is Showing Françoise Gilot’s Work, Finally.”

“In a press interview regarding the new display, Musée Picasso President Cécile Debray noted that Gilot was at last ‘being given her rightful place as an artist’ at the Parisian institution through this special exhibition of her work.”

And Finally

“What Your Bookshelf Organization Says About You.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Celebrate Women’s History Month With Five Artworks by Women Artists on View at SAM

Every March, the United States recognizes women’s past and present contributions to society with Women’s History Month. On International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, we took to social media to highlight the five ongoing and upcoming solo SAM exhibitions by remarkable contemporary women artists. They include:

Now, our celebration of Women’s History Month continues with this round-up of five artworks by women artists you can currently see on view in SAM’s galleries. The five artworks discussed below represent only a few of the many works by women artists in SAM’s collection, but show the range of different techniques, subject matter, and ideas they bring to their art. Women have always been artists and craftspeople, but they have not always been celebrated or acknowledged for their contributions. Plan your next visit to the Seattle Art Museum to appreciate these artworks in person and learn more about the historical and contemporary artists who made them.


Yunarla, 2010
Yukultji Napangati

The precisely painted dots of Yunarla form patterns and undulations that take on a meditative, entrancing quality. Curving lines radiate out from the central knot, suggestive of a topographic map in some ways, but also referring to the vines of the bush banana. Also called the silky pear vine, the bush banana (marsdenia australis) only grows in Australia and serves as food with edible fruit, roots, leaves, seeds and flowers. The name Yunarla also signifies a particular rockhole and soakage site where ancestral women camped to replenish their energy near these places in the desert where water is stored beneath the surface of the sand. 

Yukultji Napangati (born ca. 1970) lived with her family in the Gibson Desert until 1984, when she and several others from her Pintupi tribe made contact with non-Indigenous Australians for the first time. The “Pintupi Nine” became a media sensation as a “lost tribe,” while they insisted they were not lost, as they were living as their ancestors had for millennia. While adjusting to culture shock, Napangati became aware of the Papunya Tula’s community art center, which established a thriving business for Australian Aboriginal people to create and sell their art in 1972. Women began painting in the mid-1990s, and Napangati quickly adopted the ethos of educating outsiders by conveying extensive knowledge about her community and culture through this restrained mark making. Don’t miss your chance to see this work in Honoring 50 Years of Papunya Tula Painting, which closes after April 14.

The First People, 2008
Susan Point

The First People was commissioned for the Seattle Art Museum and stands twelve feet tall, greeting visitors to the museum’s Native American art galleries. Prominent Northwest Coast artist Susan Point (born 1951) brings traditional Salish forms and techniques to contemporary and often public settings to share the history and culture of First Nation people. Point has been credited with single-handedly reviving a unique Salish style that laid dormant for nearly 100 years; she is among only a handful of Native female artists working in the media of woodcarving.

In this work, the eight faces connecting via flowing tendrils refer to the hereditary roots and extended families of the Salish people. These root-like forms also signify the fjords and meandering pathways that punctuate the traditional homelands of her own people, the Musqueam of the Fraser Delta in present-day Vancouver. These pathways are the lifelines that yield salmon and other foods for Salish people. Looking closely at the carving, we can see the perfectly smooth surface of the faces, in contrast to the visible chisel marks of the roots, both showcasing the natural beauty of the cedar wood itself, a material highly valued by First Peoples.

Dug Up from Kitchen Weeds, 2014
Ebony Patterson

In its barrage of color, pattern, and glittering textures, Dug Up from the Kitchen Weeds, on view in Remember the Rain, hides a more somber image. The black-and-white stripes at the center clothe a figure that is lying face down. Though this form is camouflaged within the pink floral background, rhinestones, and tropical birds and plants, it is also hypervisible. Once you notice the stripes, leopard print pants, and red shirt, you can’t overlook them.

Ebony Patterson (born 1981) cites bling funerals, an increasingly popular occurrence in Kingston, Jamaica, as a source of reference, as “the glitter and bling shines light on things.” These lavish celebrations held for working class people say, “You may not have noticed me when I was alive, but you will damn well see me before I leave.” Patterson is interested in bringing people on the margins into focus in her work—first by catching the eye with striking color and imagery, and then by asking viewers to look more closely and see what they find embedded within and protruding from the surface of her collages. Her aesthetic of ornamentation and ostentation often takes on qualities of both disguise and hypervisibility to engage with issues one might rather ignore, such as wealth disparity, high murder rates, and police-related deaths in Jamaica.

Codigo Desconhecido #5, 2015 
Marilá Dardot

Marilá Dardot (born 1972) often works with text-based materials—including books, printed cards, and magazines—to explore ideas of language, communication, and memory. In Codigo Desconhecido #5 (which translates to “unknown code”), books are cut down to their spines, rendering them illegible. Instead of reading and accessing the books’ knowledge, the viewer is left to see these books as objects or artifacts. Each book is cut or ripped to reveal its unique paper and binding materials rather than its words, making its structure but not its content visible.

This work, on view in SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries, is part of a series that Dardot began during an artist’s residency in Vienna, when she was surrounded by books in a language she could not read. Words are powerful, but here she removes them and in doing so, opens up many avenues for interpretation. Dardot’s work plays with books as our main source and conduit of knowledge—questioning which stories get told or repressed, how translation and language can limit our understanding of others, and possibilities for political resistance on the page and outside of it.

The Sink, 1956
Joan Mitchell

The Sink (1956) is nearly ten feet in length; its size engulfs the viewer in a range of colors, textures, and feelings. Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) was an artist who used her memories, experiences, and environment as inspiration for her abstract works, seeking, in her own words, “to define a feeling.” The Sink, also on view in SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries, is an abstracted landscape of sorts, with its pools of green and blue interrupted by swirls, drips, and jagged lines in yellow and red and interspersed with thick applications of white paint. Rather than capturing a strictly realistic image of nature, this painting seems more like a memory or impression of a place built up with emotive brushstrokes and applications of paint.

Mitchell grew up in Chicago with strong interests in athletics, art, and literature, thanks to her mother, the poet Marion Strobel Mitchell. She studied art at the School of the Art Institute and then in France on a fellowship. She moved to New York in 1949 and joined the artistic scene there, becoming one of the few female Abstract Expressionists celebrated in her own time. About a decade later, she settled in France where she found artistic inspiration in Impressionists like Paul Cézanne and Claude Monet, continuing a long tradition of artists observing nature and finding her own unique visual language.

– Compiled by Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

Photos: Jo Cosme, Chloe Collyer, and Alborz Kamalizad.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Indian Madonna Enthroned

As visitors enter the galleries of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, they’re greeted by the life-size sculpture of a seated woman with an American flag draped over her lap. She is Indian Madonna Enthroned (1974).

With long braids, a thicket of beaded necklaces, a wool shawl, pheasant feathers, and beaded moccasins, she is a representation of the contemporary Native experience, encompassing all of its tender beliefs and violent histories. Embedded in her chest, where her heart should be, is corn. Just behind her, a hide piece is marked “Property of BIA,” signifying the colonial governmental agency established to control Indigenous people and which is now a part of the Department of the Interior. Meanwhile, in her feathered hands, the Madonna demonstrates a sign of resistance by holding activist Vine Deloria Jr.’s God is Red, a 1972 study of Native spiritual practices.

Indian Madonna Enthroned is the subject of the third stop on the free smartphone tour of Memory Map. Produced by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the recording features Smith’s son and fellow artist Neal Ambrose-Smith—who helped restore the sculpture after many years spent in storage—discussing the significance of this work and the American flag draped along its lap. Tune in now to learn more about this Madonna!

Memory Map is now on view at SAM! Throughout the run of the exhibition, we’ll be sharing insight from the exhibition’s free smartphone tour to provide additional information about many of the works on view that can’t be found in the galleries. To access all 19 stops on the tour, scan the QR code next to select artworks on view or browse our SoundCloud on your own time.

Indian Madonna Enthroned, 1974

NARRATOR: Take a moment to look at the materials Smith used in this early sculpture, which she called Indian Madonna Enthroned. She has corn at her heart, and pheasant wings for hands. She holds a book by the Standing Rock Sioux writer Vine Deloria, which contrasts Christianity to Native religions, with their focus on the interconnectedness of all living things. While these elements suggest the figure’s connection to nature, other aspects of the work point to the ways she’s constrained by colonial forces.

Her face is literally framed. If you walk around to the back of the sculpture, you’ll see that her child also appears in a frame. Look closely at the hide behind the figure’s head on the frame of the chair, and you’ll see that Smith has stenciled on the words “Property of the BIA”—or Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Smith often collaborates with her son, the artist Neal Ambrose-Smith, who restored parts of this sculpture after many years in storage. He’s talked about the flag on the Madonna’s lap, and its symbolic complexities for Native Americans.

NEAL AMBROSE-SMITH: Many people have different identities regarding flag and flag etiquette and things that are connected to that, like war, for instance, which traditionally is the most documented way of documenting history. When we talk about history, it’s always like every 200 years because there’s a war connected to it or something. In Native identity, we talk about history through the land, and so it goes back 10,000 years, it goes back 40,000 years. We talk about the glaciers, we talk about the winds and the trees and how we’re connected to all that, and so I think for me, that aspect of that flag really brings a lot of those things together.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: Introduction

“It’s that maybe [my art] will start to crack this whole issue of Native Americans being invisible. Being Indigenous in making art means that you’re looking at the world through lenses that are curved or changed by your upbringing and by your worldview.”

– Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Welcome to the world of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith! With Memory Map now on view at SAM, we’ll be sharing excerpts from the exhibition’s free smartphone tour throughout its run in Seattle. Produced by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the tour is accessible via our SoundCloud or through your own device by scanning the QR code next to select works on view in the galleries. Verbal descriptions of some of the artworks on view are also available for low/no vision visitors.

The tour’s first stop introduces listeners to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and the many themes her artwork explores. It also introduces listeners to the guest artists featured throughout the tour, including Neal Ambrose-Smith, Andrea Carlson, Jeffrey Gibson, G. Peter Jemison, Josie Lopez, and Marie Watt. Tune in now!

Memory Map Introduction

NARRATOR: Welcome to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map. Together we’ll explore five decades of Smith’s career, looking at paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: Most people will never have heard of me. And that’s not off-putting.

NARRATOR: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith:

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: It’s that maybe it will start to crack this whole issue of Native Americans being invisible. Being Indigenous in making art means that you’re looking at the world through lenses that are curved or changed by your upbringing and by your worldview. 

NARRATOR: For Smith, who is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, that worldview first began to form in the Pacific Northwest and western Montana. Today, Smith lives and works in New Mexico. Throughout her life and work, she has underscored the importance of the land and of Indigenous communities. As we move through the exhibition, we’ll look at the ways in which Smith addresses the traumas of Native American people with rigor, inventiveness, and critical humor. 

You can use this guide to explore the works in any order you wish. As you go, you’ll be hearing not only from Smith but from writers and other artists including Neal Ambrose-Smith, Andrea Carlson, Jeffrey Gibson, G. Peter Jemison, Josie Lopez, and Marie Watt. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Vital Traditions, CID Santas, and Zen Mona Lisa

SAM News

At the close of Native American Heritage Month in November, Megan D. Robinson for Art & Object highlighted “10 Must-See Artworks by Indigenous American Artists at the Seattle Art Museum.” 

“Works by contemporary artists are displayed with older historic pieces, creating a visual dialogue that continues throughout the museum…This gives a sense of cultural continuity and showcases the vitality of Indigenous arts and crafts—the very real living tradition of artistic creation in the Native community—while placing it firmly within the greater realm of worldwide arts and culture movements.”

Hannah Mwangi visits Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence for Seattle University’s Spectator, speaking with fellow visitors about their impressions of the exhibition. And Seattle Met includes the exhibition on its list of Things to Do, calling out the free docent tours available every Saturday and Sunday through the run of the show, which closes after January 21.

And Smithsonian Magazine writes up the “expansive” Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection exhibition.

Local News

“ArtSEA: Seattle is brimming with holiday shows”: Crosscut’s Brangien Davis has you covered—in rhyme, no less!—with a poetic round-up of holiday happenings.

Here’s even more festive recommendations, including into the South End, from Jas Keimig of South Seattle Emerald.

Tat Bellamy-Walker of The Seattle Times on the two new Santa Clauses who will be at the Chinatown International District’s Wing Luke Museum for its annual CID Santa photo day.

‘We know that’s what creates goodness,’ [Wing Luke Executive Director Joël] Barraquiel Tan said. ‘We know that’s really what true public safety looks like — when we’re all here together on a regular basis. So, if an Asian American Santa is the clarion call for that, let it be that. We need joy at this time.’”

Inter/National News

Brian Boucher of Artnet brings you “12 Famous Artists Offer Life Advice.”

ArtReview is out with its annual Power 100 list. Catch up on what it means, how they decide, and who made the list.

Via Will Heinrich for The New York Times: The “Zen Mona Lisa” makes a “once-in-a-lifetime trip” to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco for three weeks only.

“An irregular lineup of five orbs, with a sixth in front, absent any background or context and rendered only in tones of gray, the piece, approximately a foot square, exemplifies the kind of stark simplicity and attunement to nature that Americans found so bracing in Zen. It also illustrates just about any Buddhist concept you would care to name.”

And Finally

Via Seattle Met: “Christmas Lights Road Trips in Washington.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Reigniting My Passion for Museums: Emerging Arts Leader Thaddeus Gonzalez-Serna Reflects

I grew up going to the Seattle Art Museum. Its annual Día de los Muertos celebrations were a tradition for my family. Alongside my mom and sisters, we’d excitedly hop on the light rail and make the trip to the museum. I was always so excited to see the traditional masks displayed in the galleries—first the ones like my parents made for Día de los Muertos in Mexico, and then other examples from around the world. Taking the escalators to the fourth floor to admire the collection of African masks on view was, and still is, my favorite thing to do at the museum. 

Earlier this year, I traveled to Mexico to visit my grandparents and found myself exploring art museums in my free time. In walking through these spaces and admiring the artworks on view, my passion for museum work—that first sparked during my childhood visits to SAM—was reignited.

With my interest in cultural masks, I was excited to be presented with the opportunity to work on a project related to SAM’s Katherine White collection—composed of over 2,000 masks, baskets, textiles, and other objects from Africa. As I dove into drawers of catalog cards, I discovered how a mask’s story was told through its creators, donor, and eventually museum curators. As an Emerging Arts Intern, I helped to update SAM’s online collections record, eMuseum with useful information about many of the objects in this collection.

As part of my internship, I also contributed to labels for objects on view in Pacific Species. With assistance from the curatorial team, I researched the history of Netsuke (small sculptures which developed as a Japanese art form across more than three hundred years) and its relationship to Japanese myths.

My final contribution as a SAM intern was leading a public tour through the museum’s galleries. It tied together my personal interests and work at the museum with a focus on the objects that have always inspired me: masks. I think the tour nicely encapsulated my internship, as I discussed masks from the Katherine White collection, information I learned from my research alongside the curatorial team, and my personal experience with mask-making at SAM’s Día de los Muertos community celebration.

Being at SAM opened my eyes to the volume of work and coordination goes into operating a museum. I learned so much about how departments interact with one another and the many ways scholars, curators, and the public interpret art, museums, and life itself. Whether it was helping SAM Manager of Teen & Family Programs Nicole Henao develop the itinerary of this year’s Día de los Muertos community celebration, assessing records with former SAM Collection Records Associate Elizabeth Smith in the registrar’s office, or talking about object labels with SAM Photographer Scott Leen and Curator of Oceanic and African Art Pam McClusky, I always felt like a valuable part of the SAM team.

This experience also taught me value of approaching new people and asking more questions. I have grown more comfortable with being put into new situations and reaching out to individuals I wanted to learn from. One of my favorite parts of being at SAM was listening to various staff members discuss their day-to-day work because it was these seemingly mundane conversations that allowed me to develop important networking skills. Looking back on my time at the museum, it’s clear how committed every member of SAM’s staff is to providing the best experience for all museum visitors.

– Thaddeus Gonzalez-Serna, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Museum Services

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & 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.

Shining a Light on Possibilities: Nicholas Galanin on Inviting Viewers into His Work

Museums are places of reflection and respite as well as places to learn and work through challenging ideas and painful experiences that are not shared equally in an unjust society. In this video interview, multidisciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangaẋ) speaks about the historical divisions between “contemporary” or “American” art and “Native” art that the reinstallation deconstructs, his goals for audience engagement with his participatory installation, and the layered meanings of the words and symbols he uses in the work.

Explore his latest interactive installation Neon American Anthem (2023) in American Art: The Stories We Carry on view now at the Seattle Art Museum.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

Muse/News: Staff Stories, Operatic Resilience, and Artist Curates

SAM News

“How one Seattle Art Museum staffer adds a personal touch to museum-going”: Don’t miss this story that appeared in the paper’s Sunday print edition featuring Chelsea Leingang, Visitor Experience Manager at SAM. Chelsea took reporter Jerald Pierce around their favorite places in the museum and shared their infectious enthusiasm for connecting over art. 

“‘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. 

Local News

Gather, readers, AWP is here! Via Annie Midori Atherton for Seattle Magazine: “Your Favorite Authors Might Very Well Be In Seattle This Weekend—Here’s How To Catch Them.” 

Jerald Pierce of the Seattle Times had more good news to report recently: “PNW basket maker Ed Eugene Carriere named NEA National Heritage Fellow.” You can see one of his extraordinary baskets on view at SAM in American Art: The Stories We Carry.

Danielle Hayden for South Seattle Emerald on Seattle Opera’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, based on the Khaled Hosseini novel. Go see it!

“[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.’”

Inter/National News

AP reports: “Notre Dame Cathedral set to reopen in December 2024.” Catch up on the reconstruction efforts.

Artnet’s Melissa Smith asks artists Alisha Wormsley, Mequitta Ahuja, and Cauleen Smith what it means to be an Afrofuturist now.

Via Benjamin Sutton of the Art Newspaper: “Native American painter Jaune Quick-to-See Smith will be the first artist to curate a show at the US National Gallery of Art.”

“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.”

And Finally

Meet Sonny and Uno.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

An Honest Approach to Art: Inye Wokoma on Reimagining SAM’s American Art Galleries

“Historically, when we say the word ‘American,’ it typically denotes white people. But the actual story of what has happened on this continent over the past half millennium is so much more complex.”

– Inye Wokoma

When deciding what artworks to include in their reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries, SAM curator Theresa Papanikolas and co-curator Barbara Brotherton weren’t interested in including conventionally beautiful or visually engaging artworks that are typically thought of as examples of American art. Instead, they thoroughly examined every American-made artwork in SAM’s collection and its relationship to the history and evolution of the United States. To ensure the two-year project incorporated as many viewpoints as possible, the curators invited visual artist and Wa Na Wari co-founder Inye Wokoma to guest curate a gallery that captures his personal interpretation of what American art is.

In the interview above—filmed before the renovation of the galleries—Inye discusses the need to reverse society’s existing exclusionary interpretation of American art, being invited to curate a gallery at SAM, and the inspiration he found in some of the galleries’ original artworks.

Visit Inye’s gallery on view now in American Art: The Stories We Carry at SAM’s downtown location and reconsider your own definition of American art.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Chloe Collyer.

Artist Wendy Red Star’s Visions of Native Women

“I’ve never had the opportunity to walk through an American collection and see Native women and youth presented in the way I hope to do with this new work.”

– Wendy Red Star

Now on view at SAM is American Art: The Stories We Carry, a dramatic reinstallation of the museum’s American art galleries that explores a more expansive look at the American experience. It’s the result of an extensive collaboration among SAM curators, staff, artists, community advisors. In this video, Apsáalooke artist Wendy Red Star describes her experience collaborating with SAM and offers insights into her process as she was in the midst of creating a commissioned artwork for the project. She also describes the significance of including Native women’s voices when redefining American art.

Red Star’s striking artwork, Áakiiwilaxpaake (People Of The Earth) (2022), is now the first thing visitors see when they approach the American art galleries. The lightbox installation is a compelling hybrid of iconic American art genres: the portrait and the landscape. To create this large-scale work, Red Star invited Seattle photographer Holli Margell to create portraits of local Native women and children in a session held at the museum. Red Star then set these cutout portraits within her vision of the Seattle skyline, including Japanese artist Yoshida Hiroshi’s (1876–1950) woodblock print of Tahoma (also known as Mount Rainier) from SAM’s collection. By recalling the history of the region’s original inhabitants, Red Star celebrates the vibrant present and future of Natives in their home territories as well as urban Natives.

This isn’t the first time the museum has collaborated with Red Star. In 2016, she was the winner of SAM’s Betty Bowen Award, an annual award for Northwest artists that includes a solo show at SAM. The museum also acquired for its collection four prints from her photographic Four Seasons series, which was on view in the 2019 installation YOU ARE ON INDIGENOUS LAND: places/displaces.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Fresh Attention, Shark Tank, and Broken is Mended

SAM News

For Crosscut’s weekly ArtSEA dispatch, Brangien Davis is inspired by “fresh attention to art arrangement” at both the Frye Art Museum and at SAM in American Art: The Stories We Carry.

“…a striking section…includes a huge portrait by Kehinde Wiley, a tintype photo of a Lummi violinist by Will Wilson and a turn-of-the-century cast-bronze sculpture of an ‘Indian Warrior’ by Alexander Phimister Proctor. Each holds a long straight object: a rod, a violin bow, and a spear. Each prompts thoughts about who is portrayed in art and how.”

Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue opens Thursday, November 17! The exhibition—which brings together the work of these two legendary photographers for the first time—was featured in Crosscut’s list of “things to do in Seattle this November.”

“What connects their work, besides a friendship and a medium, is a shared timeframe and understanding of the power of photography as a way to explore—and celebrate—the experiences of Black people.”

And there’s a whole alphabet of fun from Gemma Alexander for ParentMap as she shares “Amazing A–Z PNW Winter Adventures Family Fun Workshops”—including SAM’s recurring Family Fun Workshops at both the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Local News

There’s a new venue in a very old space at the Pike Place Market. Crosscut’s Alexa Peters reports on the launch of The Rabbit Box.

The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce on the site-specific Saltwater Soundwalk, “a 55-minute listening experience that uplifts the stories and voices of Indigenous Coast Salish peoples.”

The Seattle Times’ Sandi Doughton on the development of the Seattle Aquarium’s new Ocean Pavilion, which will transform the downtown waterfront.

“‘This landscape that was dominated by a big, honking, gray, rumbling freeway will now be a massive public park for the people,’ says Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, whose district includes the waterfront. At the center of it all will be the Seattle Aquarium’s new Ocean Pavilion: a 50,000-square-foot exhibit space featuring sharks, rays, and other animals and ecosystems from the tropical Pacific.”

Inter/National News

Elaine Velie for Hyperallergic on the National Portrait Gallery’s seven new “Portrait of a Nation” commissions, including Serena and Venus Williams, Marian Wright Edelman, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Artnet’s Vittoria Benzine catches you up on “Every Artwork Attacked by Climate Activists This Year, From the ‘Mona Lisa’ to ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring.’”

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone with a deep look at the new stained glass windows by artists Faith Ringgold and Barbara Earl Thomas at a residential college of Yale University.

“‘I took it as a huge responsibility,’ Thomas told Artnet News, noting that she had heard about the controversy surrounding the broken window, but never dreamed that she would become part of the story. ‘I feel quite emotional about it. This was a moment for me to be part of something far bigger than me.’”

And Finally

CBS Sunday Morning visits the new Museum of Broadway.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

Muse/News: Evolving Art, Analog’s Return, and a New Artemisia

SAM News

“How Seattle Art Museum is working to make its American art galleries more inclusive”: The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce on American Art: The Stories We Carry. He spoke with SAM curators and several collaborators on the project to reimagine our American art galleries.

“As SAM looks ahead at the future of its newly redone galleries, Papanikolas said she hopes this will slow patrons down as they go through, taking in the historical works alongside the contemporary and finding new personal meaning in the art. Both Papanikolas and Brotherton said they know there are still moments in history that haven’t been highlighted in this particular version of the installation, and artists who aren’t yet in their collection, but they’re excited about the flexibility and nimbleness of these galleries and their ability to respond to an evolving definition of ‘American art.’”

“What is America? Who is American? These are the questions that SAM strives to answer by including Asian, Latinx, Black, and Indigenous works in what was previously a series of rooms dominated by white male artists.” Kai Curry for Northwest Asian Weekly on the revamped American art galleries at SAM.

The Seattle Times also highlights “5 exhibitions to see during Native American Heritage Month,” including Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers at SAM. Curated by Kari Karsten and featuring works by Francis Dick, Susan Point, and more, it’s on view at SAM through December 11.

Local News

“Molly Vaughan’s After Boucher Brings Rococo to the Frye”: SAM’s 2017 Betty Bowen Award winner Vaughan recounts the process of her latest work, on view on the façade of the Frye Art Museum.

Yoona Lee for South Seattle Emerald on the work of attorney-turned artist Zahyr Lauren.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on the Northwest’s resurgence of interest in analog photography.

“But, as [Panda Labs owner Jessica] Fleenor and others proclaim under Instagram and TikTok posts featuring analog photography: #FilmIsNotDead. ‘Film is still very much alive,’ Fleenor says. And perhaps surprisingly, the comeback is in large part driven by a generation of ‘digital natives’ who developed a love for film photography and classic film cameras during the pandemic.”

Inter/National News

Jasmine Liu for Hyperallergic on the first official public statue of Emmett Till, just unveiled in Greenwood, Mississippi.

ARTnews’ Tessa Soloman reports from a talk held at the Islamic Museum of Art in Doha that invited four museum directors to tackle questions about museums and social responsibility.

Via Artnet’s Sarah Cascone: “A Painting Nearly Destroyed in the Beirut Blast of 2020 Has Been Identified as a Long-Lost Artemisia Gentileschi—and Is Now Undergoing Restoration.”

“‘This painting is definitely by Artemisia,’ Davide Gasparotto, the Getty Museum’s senior curator of paintings, who arranged for the work’s restoration and loan, told the New York Times. ‘It’s a very powerful, convincing painting—one of her most ambitious in terms of size and the complexity of the figures.’”

And Finally

It’s Halloween; it’s KXVO Pumpkin Dance time.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

A Curator Reflects: An Exploration That Never Ends

As I write this, the first wave of visitors have finally experienced American Art: The Stories We Carry. This major reinstallation of our American art galleries has been two years (at least!) in the making and is the product of the work of a mighty team of collaborators, funded by generous grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art. 

The multiple crises of recent years, together with the museum’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity have made it essential that we question and dismantle the biases and myths that have historically driven—whether intentionally or not—our understanding and presentation of American art at the museum. As a curator of American art with a degree in European art history and a career in museums from Houston to Honolulu, I know well that the art of the United States does not begin and end with the oceans that define its coastal borders. Indeed, American art is as multilayered as America itself. More a collective of regions than a homogenous whole, the geopolitical expanse now known as North America is home to numerous clearly identifiable, yet often intersecting, communities, each of which is mirrored in equally layered artistic traditions and cultural practices. 

To reflect and respond to the many-sidedness of American art, when embarking on this project we knew we needed to set aside art historical chronology and instead consider constellations of artworks from many different time periods and traditions. We immersed ourselves in the museum’s storage vaults, unearthing works that had not been exhibited in years—or, in some cases, ever—and contemplating the counterpoints they offered to the better known, classically canonical examples ordinarily on view in the museum’s American art galleries. These works speak volumes about the history of art at SAM and in this region, and they shed light on the communities that have been historically excluded in traditional narratives of American art.

Theresa Papanikolas & Barbara Brotherton at the opening of The Stories We Carry on October 20, 2022.

My use of the word “we” is intentional: Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art, has been with me on this project every step of the way as a powerful ally in determining what American art can and should be at SAM. Over her 20 years at the museum, she has always been aware that Native American art is American art. Together, Barbara and I sought points of intersection between these two branches of the museum’s collection and for the first time envisioned a space in which they would intersect. Our work has been bolstered by a host of individuals—three artists, four interns, 11 advisors, and just about every museum department—all of whom brought knowledge that not only greatly enriched the project, but also established a collaborative model that will continue to shape exhibition planning at SAM.  

All of us are delighted to share The Stories We Carry with you! In our new galleries, you will see old favorites alongside new and unexpected surprises that show how ideas persist across time and space and how history resonates in the present. And you will find curatorial interpretation (labels and wall texts) together with video clips from artists and experts—“living labels”—whose wisdom and perspective adds nuance to the objects on view. I’m also thrilled by the in-depth exhibition website, which brings you into the process with a project timeline, quotes, photos, and inspiring videos featuring our collaborators sharing their perspectives.

The Stories We Carry has definitely been a rich and rewarding journey. We invite you to now make it your story.

– Theresa Papanikolas, SAM Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art

Images: Alborz Kamalizad.

Introducing American Art: The Stories We Carry at SAM

This week, SAM will enthusiastically reopen its American art galleries, revealing new perspectives on our collection, commissioned work from celebrated Northwest artists, and paintings restored by our conservation team. But the purpose of this update is much more significant than simply presenting a new array of must-see art.

This project, funded primarily by the Mellon Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art, has been an energizing, collaborative, and thoughtful exploration of what American art is today. To execute this examination, we assembled a paid advisory circle of 11 community leaders and artists to provide valuable feedback as we reinterpret our collection to meet the present moment and acknowledge the evolving definition of American art.

“With inclusivity as one of our values, we felt the urgency to take the collection and hold it accountable to that mission,” says Theresa Papanikolas, SAM’s Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art.

The new galleries, titled American Art: The Stories We Carry, will present the collection thematically and across time periods and feature works by nationally renowned local and national artists long overdue for closer examination within the American context. This includes moving objects from SAM’s Native American art collection into the American art galleries—previously dominated by the work of white artists—for the first time.

“We acknowledge that we must change all aspects of our practice as an institution of privilege and one that cares for the belongings of others,” says Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art.

Also on view will be newly commissioned works by Native artists Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke) and Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax̂), a themed gallery curated by Seattle artist Inye Wokoma, and a dedicated gallery for rotating series of temporary installations exploring fresh perspectives on American art. The first of these installations will feature 15 prints from Jacob Lawrence’s series The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Visit American Art: The Stories We Carry at SAM’s downtown location beginning October 20 and experience a more thorough representation of the past, present, and future of American art.

– Kat Bryant Flaherty, SAM Director of Marketing & Communications

This article first appeared in the July through September 2022 article of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks.

Image: L. Fried.

Celebrating Native Women and Youth

One sunny Saturday in June, the Seattle Art Museum’s Chase Open Studio, which has been mostly closed for the past two years due to COVID-19 safety precautions, sprung to life. Convivial sounds echoed in the hall, people greeted each other exuberantly, the marble staircase produced perfect clacking noises as tiny, shiny shoes jumped down them, and photographer Holli Margell made gentle coos to get the attention of little models and their family members.

The scene was a photoshoot celebrating Seattle-area tribal communities and urban Indian communities. More than 70 mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, grandmas, and children came from near and far to sit for a portrait. The models dressed in a variety of clothing from traditional regalia to a t-shirt and jeans. Some posed alone while others gathered in multi-generational groups of as many as 10.

These stunning portraits of Native women and youth will be integrated by Apsáalooke artist Wendy Red Star into a commissioned artwork for American Art: The Stories We Carry, SAM’s updated American art collection opening on October 20. The reinstallation expands the vision of how art depicts the American experience, with Wendy Red Star’s artwork serving as a welcome to visitors at the entrance of the American art galleries.

“At the core of Wendy Red Star’s artistic process is engagement and community,” says Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art. “She foregrounds the voices of others as a means of revealing the complexity of Native identity.”

This shoot, and the examination of the definition of American art, are examples of SAM’s equity goals in action. SAM relies on its collection, exhibitions, and artists to reflect its institutional values of fostering equity and inclusion throughout the museum and its local community.

“At Wendy’s photoshoot, the Seattle Art Museum came alive with people sharing their stories—where they come from, who their ancestors were, special things about what their families are involved with,” says Brotherton. “It felt like a moment of connecting and healing after the long, challenging time of the pandemic.”

– Kat Bryant Flaherty, SAM Director of Marketing & Communications

This article first appeared in the October 2022 through January 2023 article of SAM Magazine. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks.

Images: L. Fried.

Muse/News: New Visions, Hello Fall, and Martin’s Collection

SAM News

“Grapples with the institution’s past and reaches for a new vision of its future”: Online and in the new print edition of Seattle Met, Sophie Grossman previews American Art: The Stories We Carry, the major reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries opening October 20. 

The Stranger team is out with their fall arts preview, AKA the “fun, sexy, weird, and smart things you need to do this fall.” In it, Jas Keimig highlights the work of two “photography titans” headed to Seattle, AKA Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue, the touring exhibition that opens at SAM on November 17. 

“Both are artists of world renown who have meticulously told stories of Black people, Black history, and Black subjectivity in the United States since their careers began back in the 1970s. And, on top of it all, they are friends.”

ICYMI: The Seattle Times’ Vonnai Phair spotlighted Legendary Children, the celebration of queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities held this past Friday, September 23, for which SAM is a partner. And Alex Garland captured its beauty for South Seattle Emerald. It’s back to an annual event, so start planning your outfit for next year’s celebration now!

Local News

Seattle news from New Haven: Seattle-artist Barbara Earl Thomas recently unveiled stunning new stained glass windows she created for Yale University residential building Grace Hopper College. The story includes a link to an artists’ conversation about the project.

“Is there a North Bend arts scene?” asks this Seattle Times package, with stories about the town just outside of the city. 

And Crosscut knows that fall arts isn’t just later in October and November, it’s…right now.

“Adieu, summer. We’re ringing in the arrival of fall with a slate of intriguing concerts, shows and installations.”

Inter/National News

The New York Times’ Aruna D’Souza on a new MoMA exhibition exploring the important legacy of another New York arts space: Just Above Midtown Gallery, or JAM.

Via Chelsea Weathers for Hyperallergic: “In Santa Fe, Artists and Retirees Join Hands to Combat Loneliness.”

Via Artnet’s Sarah Cascone: “‘I Had Never Seen Anything Like It Before’: Steve Martin on Becoming One of the Top Collectors of Australian Indigenous Art.” SAM frontline staff have spotted Martin at the museum over the years, checking out our impressive galleries of Australian Aborginial art; right now, you can see Honoring 50 Years of Papunya Tula Painting.  

“‘I think it’s such a fascinating story,’ Martin said. He also appreciated collecting in an area where there wasn’t a huge amount of established scholarship. ‘It’s fun to have something to study, to try to understand, to apply your critical eye to without any outside pressure,’ he added. ‘There’s not a lot of promotion about [these] artists. You just have to find it out yourself.’”

And Finally

Ireizō.com.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Minidoka Series #2: Exodus, 1978, Roger Y. Shimomura, acrylic on canvas 60 x 72 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ofell H. Johnson, 79.5 © Roger Y. Shimomura.

Emerging from the Matrix: Kari Karsten on Curating for SAM

Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers, now on view through December 11 in SAM’s third floor galleries, was a year-long journey, the culmination of my thesis project for the University of Washington Museology masters program. Overseen by Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art at SAM, and Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Curator of Northwest Native Art at the Burke Museum, the curation process involved many hours of reflecting on and researching how Indigenous women artists are represented within museums. Western museological practices have on the whole lacked recognition of the importance of women within Indigenous communities, but women have always been a driving force of their creative practices and creations.

I came to this topic because I am Seneca, an Indigenous Nation located in Western New York. Growing up, I was immersed in the creative expressions of my people and was taught the importance of artistic freedoms and legacies. It was not until I graduated high school that I started putting together the pieces of how our artworks carry our stories and culture, aiding in the revitalization and celebration of who we are. Coming into the museological field, my goal is to highlight and promote Indigenous culture through the arts. With great thanks, that is what I was able to accomplish working with SAM over the past year to curate this exhibition. 

For the exhibition, I selected works by Pitseolak Ashoona, Francis Dick, Myra Kukiiyuat, Jesse Oonark, Susan Point, and Angotigolu Teevee. Our women have continued to drive many aspects of life for Indigenous communities across the world, yet only in recent years have we seen museums and galleries approach working with a feminized view of Native arts. The purpose of this exhibition is to create a learning environment conducive to promoting woman-centered Indigenous narratives and to educate the public on histories and cultures that they may have yet to encounter. Bringing contemporary Indigenous art into an institutional setting helps reframe harmful historical narratives and highlights Native women’s current lived experiences through research that is informed by traditional knowledge and community revitalization efforts.

With this exhibition, I hope to impact the future of Indigenous peoples who work and exhibit within museums and more specifically, art institutions. This work breaks down some of the barriers that many Native peoples face when working with art institutions. As the first exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum to be curated by an Indigenous female-identifying student, Indigenous Matrix is a small—but significant—step in creating more institutional accessibility for emerging museum professionals and Indigenous curators.

– Kari Karsten, SAM Emerging Museum Professional Curatorial Intern

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

#SAMSnippets: Native Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast

Introducing #SAMSnippets! We recently launched a new live series on our Instagram which gives followers an in-depth look at works from SAM’s permanent and semi-permanent installations virtually. Each month, we’ll choose a new gallery to walk viewers through, providing a taste of SAM from wherever you may be!

To kick off the series this November, we featured a diverse collection of artworks from “Native Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast” in celebration of National Native American Heritage Month. Watch the video now to get a peek at what’s on view at SAM now and read about the works shown in this video below. Visit SAM now to see all of the featured works and more in-person!

Masks Right to Left: Deer Mask, Owl Mask, Wolf Mask, Bukwus Mask (Wild Man of the Woods), Raccoon Mask, Cod Fish Mask, Mouse Woman Mask, Grizzly Bear Mask, Bukwus Mask (Wild Man of the Woods), Kingfisher Mask, Porcupine Mask, Otter Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Gifts of the Pacific Science Center. Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Masks of the Animal Kingdom Dance

As we enter the galleries on this short walkthrough you’ll see an installation of masks arranged on platform. Performances featuring masked dancers are birthright of particular families and derive from long-ago auspicious encounters between human ancestors and supernatural beings, in the guise of animals or unique spirits. The “Dance of the Animal Kingdom” represents a heroine ancestor’s adventures among the animal beings, who in turn bestow the dance and masks upon her for use by her family and subsequent generations.

According to Chief Bill Scow (1902–1984), the Animal Kingdom story took place at Shoal Harbor (Gilford Island, British Columbia) where in the distant past a girl went looking in the woods for her lost brother. She instead encountered a dance of animal beings inside a cave. The messenger of the animals, Mouse Woman, was sent to see if there was indeed an intruder. Because the girl was able to overcome the supernatural power present in the animal dance, she was allowed to witness it and to bring to her people the privilege of performing it. The masks shown here were carved by artist Sam Johnson (1930–2007) for the opening ceremonies of the Seamonster House at the Pacific Science Center in 1971.

Mouse Woman Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, enamel paint, cotton cloth, and leather, 11 x 9 1/2 x 9 in. (27.94 x 24.13 x 22.86 cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.8.

As we pan across the arrangement, keep an eye out for Deer, the “curious one,” recognizable by its antlers. You’ll also see Owl, called the “Wise One” perhaps because its large eyes see deeply into the real and spirit worlds. Its distinctive markings, rotating head and binocular vision, put the owl in the pantheon of auspicious creatures. George Hunt (1854–1933), a knowledgeable First Nations consultant to anthropologist Franz Boas, recorded that some Kwakwaka’wakw believed that after death man becomes an owl.

According to Bill Scow, one of the heirs of the Animal Kingdom privilege, Wolf was the leader of the animals and would call them out one-by-one to pantomime the characteristics of each creature. After all the animals had danced in sequence, they would dance together as a group for the finale.

Raccoon, as keeper of the fire, would have been in charge of illuminating the sacred cave where the Animal Kingdom Dance first took place.

Because of her speed and sharp mind, Mouse Woman is sent out to make sure no one is watching the secret dance of the animals. In the story, she befriends the girl and tells the others that no one is watching. In time, the girl is allowed to observe and to take the supernatural treasure of the dance and masks back to her family.

Grizzly Bear is the “fierce one” and can be identified by his upright ears, large snout, and moveable jaw.

The presence of Bukwus in the Animal Kingdom Dance may be a reference to the lost brother that the girl was seeking. Bukwus are feared ghost-like creatures believed to represent humans who have become separated from their community and wander the woods. In the story, the brother loses his human identity and becomes a Bukwus.

Kingfisher is said to be the assistant to Wolf, the leader of the animals. In the wild, they are stocky birds with a shaggy blue crest who fly quickly over rivers and shorelines looking for fish. Their rattling cry and expert diving abilities make them special and mysterious creatures.

Seated Human Figure Bowl, pre-1800, Coast Salish, Soapstone, 14 3/4 x 4 5/16 x 7 5/16 in. (37.5 x 11 x 18.5 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 83.223.

Now we turn to historic and contemporary works created by Native peoples across the Northwest Coast. The first work in this collection, Seated Human Figure Bowl, portrays a skeletal humanoid figure cradling a bowl in its lap, with its arms and legs encircling the bowl. Three distinct snake images are carved downward from the head, resembling a headdress with two footprints on top. Bowls such as these, carved from stone, wood, and horn, are often used by Coast Salish peoples in rituals of healing and protection.

Next to the bowl sits a Sxwaixwe Carving. The unusual being depicted in this carving is used in Coast Salish communities to bless and protect people in life crisis events, such as sickness and death. Only the right person with the right to use the masks would know its deeper meanings. This small carving might have once been the finial of a rattle or the top of a staff.

Skull Rattles (Xawikw Yadan), ca. 1890, Kwakwaka’wakw, Alder wood, red cedar bark, paint, Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.86.1.

Also in this collection, we see two Skull Rattles. The imagery of these two works reveals the death-and-rebirth aspect of initiation into the t’seka or Winter Ceremonial whereby acolytes are temporarily imbued with supernatural power then restored by attendants who shake rattles to tame the wild behavior of the initiate. The subdued initiate is reborn with greater status and connection to spiritual power.

Halibut—giant flatfish that can weigh one hundred pounds or more—were traditionally caught in Tlingit and Kaigani Haida communities from cedar canoes using special barbed hooks. Fishermen used imagery that referenced the help of a shaman. This Halibut Hook (Naxw) which is then panned to represents a human figure with animal-like feet biting an octopus tentacle. The octopus appears frequently on shaman charms and is considered to be a supernaturally powerful being.

The importance of shamans, called halait, as powerful spirits which aid in combatting sickness and soul loss in Native communities along the Northwest is reiterated in the next work featured in the video, Soul Catcher (Am’halait). This special amulet of bone, abalone shell, and buckskin is a container that was manipulated while the shaman was in a trance, in order to locate and retrieve the wandering or bewitched soul of a person, thus restoring their health.

Small carved shaman figures such as the one which is next panned to, represent spirit helpers and were part of the myriad curing paraphernalia employed to purge ill persons of evil spirits. Objects such as these would protect the shaman against supernatural enemies while completing his healing duties.

Xoots Kudás (Bear Shirt), ca. 1890, Tlingit, Tekweidí clan, Commercial wool cloth, cotton cloth, imported mother-of-pearl buttons, applique, synthetic indigo dye, 41.5 x 57 in. (101.6 x 144.78 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.80.

To the right of this shaman figure, we see a venerable ceremonial garment. Xoots Kudás displays a bear on one side and a stylized design of bull kelp on the other, both crests of the Tlingit clan. The crests are held communally and symbolize ancestral encounters with supernatural beings. Such regalia is considered to be at.óow (“an owned or purchased object acquired through an ancestor”), one of many traditional art works brought out on ceremonial occasions to signify the connection between the ancestors and the living.

Leaving the glass case of Northwest Native works, we pan to two pedestals with works highlighting the importance of Raven in Tlingit communities. The first, Raven at the Headwaters of Nass Hat (Naas shagi Yeil S’aaxw) was used in Alaska to comfort those in mourning. Clan hats are the ultimate expression of complex shared histories and are featured prominently in potlatches. When the song associated with the hat was sung, the host family and guests—ritually dressed in headgear and robes—would dance in remembrance of their loved ones.

The second work is a stunning combination of maple, mirror, abalone shell, bird skin, paint, sea lion whiskers, copper, leather, and Flicker feathers. According to myth, the distinguished natural features of Tlingit homelands can be attributed to Raven. Lkaayaak Yeil S’aaxw (Box of Daylight Raven Hat) depicts the wily Raven in the act of releasing the sun, moon, and stars from his grandfather’s box, which the legendary bird clutches in his human-like hands.

Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale), Preston Singletary, ca. 2003, American, Tlingit, born 1963, Fused and sand carved glass, 72 x 92 x 3/8 in. (182.9 x 233.7 x 1cm), Purchased in honor of John H. Hauberg with funds from the Mark Tobey Estate Fund, John and Joyce Price, the Native American Art Support Fund, Don W. Axworthy, Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Marshall Hatch, C. Calvert Knudsen, Christine and Assen Nicolov, Charles and Gayle Pancerzewski, Sam and Gladys Rubinstein, SAM Docents, SAMS Supporters, Frederick and Susan Titcomb, and Virginia and Bagley Wright, 2003.12.

Behind these pedestals, we see Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale) by Tlingit artist Preston Singletary. Growing up in west coast cities and trained in European glass techniques and practice, Singletary began incorporating Native Iconography into his work in 1987, explaining: “I found a source of strength and power [in Tlingit designs] that brought me back to my family, society, and cultural roots.” In this, his first monumental work, the artist studied the house screen in this gallery, fusing his clan Killer Whale crest into sixteen panels, thus recharging an ancient tradition and bringing the past forward. Learn more about this artwork featured in SAM’s Object of the Week series.

Canoe Breaker: Southeast Wind’s Brother, Robert Davidson, ca. 2010, Canadian, Haida, Masset Village, born 1946, Acrylic on canvas, 60 × 40 in. (152.4 × 101.6cm), Gift of The MacRae Foundation, the Native Arts of the Americas and Oceania Council, and Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, 2013.35.

The tour concludes with Robert Davidson’s Canoe Breaker: Southeast Wind’s Brother. According to Haida oral traditions, Canoe Breaker is one of ten brothers of Southeast Wind, who is responsible for the turbulent weather on Haida Gwaii. You can learn more about the story behind Canoe Breaker in this highlight as SAM’s Object of the Week.

“Southeast Wind is in the form of a killer whale. The [white] ovoid actually separates the lower teeth from the upper teeth in the mouth. And the top shape would be the tail and this U-shape could be the pectoral fin and dorsal fin. When you see the killer whale in their world we see them as killer whales but when…they go into their dwelling [below the sea] they will take off their skins and hang it near the door..so that’s why…human attributes [are] mixed in with what a killer whale looks like.”

– Robert Davidson

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Video Artworks: Deer Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, antler, paint, cloth, 14 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. (36.83 x 24.13 x 24.77 cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.7. Owl Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Wood with enamel paint, 12 x 9 1/2 x 10 in. (30.48 x 24.13 x 25.4 cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.5. Wolf Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, enamel paint, and cloth, 8 x 8 1/8 in. (20.32 x 20.64 cm) L.: 20 3/4 in., Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.10. Bukwus Mask (Wild Man of the Woods), Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, paint, cloth, Overall: 12 x 11 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (30.5 x 29.2 x 21.6cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.12. Raccoon Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, enamel paint, and cotton cloth, 12 1/2 x 9 x 9 13/16 in. (31.75 x 22.86 x 24.96 cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.9. Cod Fish Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, paint, cloth, 12 3/4 x 9 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (32.39 x 23.18 x 24.13 cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.1. Mouse Woman Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, enamel paint, cotton cloth, and leather, 11 x 9 1/2 x 9 in. (27.94 x 24.13 x 22.86 cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.8. Grizzly Bear Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, paint, cloth, 9 1/8 x 8 in. (23.18 x 20.32 cm) L.: 15 3/4 in., Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.6. Bukwus Mask (Wild Man of the Woods), Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, paint, cloth, 12 x 9 1/4 in. (30.48 x 23.5 cm) , Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.2. Kingfisher Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, paint, 8 1/4 x 9 in. (20.96 x 22.86 cm) L.: 11 in., Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.4. Porcupine Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, paint, cloth, 11 1/4 x 9 11/16 x 10 in. (28.58 x 24.57 x 25.4 cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.3. Otter Mask, Sam Johnson, ca. 1970, Kwakwaka’wakw, Musgama, Dzawada’enuxw Nation, 1930–2007, Red cedar, paint, cloth, Overall: 6 1/2 x 8in. (16.5 x 20.3cm) Length: 16in. (40.6cm), Gift of the Pacific Science Center, SC2006.11. Seated Human Figure Bowl, pre-1800, Coast Salish, Soapstone, 14 3/4 x 4 5/16 x 7 5/16 in. (37.5 x 11 x 18.5 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 83.223. Stone Mortar, pre-1800, Salish, Granite, 10 x 5 3/4 x 4 3/4 in. (25.4 x 14.61 x 12.07 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.136. Eagle and Salmon, Manuel Salazar, 2007, Canadian, Cowichan, born 1966, Deer hide, acrylic paint, Diam.: 20in. (50.8cm), Gift of Doug and Thelma McTavish, 2008.49. Sxwaixwe Carving, ca. 1880, Coast Salish, Wood, Mountain goat horn, mountain sheep horn, cow horn, copper, 5 1/2 x 2 in. (13.97 x 5.08 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.140. Drum with Skull Painting, Susan Point, 1991, Musqueam, Canadian, Born 1951, Animal hide, acrylic, wood, bone, 17 x 3 in. (43.2 x 7.6 cm), Gift of Simon Ottenberg, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, SC2005.13. Halibut Hook (Naxw), ca. 1890, Tlingit or Kaigani Haida, Yew wood, yellow cedar, iron, cedar bark twine, and commercial cotton twine, 4 5/8 x 1 3/8 in. (11.75 x 3.49 cm) L.: 9 1/2 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.105. Soul Catcher (Am’halait), ca. 1860, Tsimshian, Bone, abalone shell, and buckskin, 1 5/8 x 1 1/8 in. (4.13 x 2.86 cm) L.: 7 3/4 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.83. Shaman Figure, ca. 1860, Tlingit, collected in Sitka in 1869, Yellow cedar wood, human hair, and paint, 14 5/8 x 4 x 3 in. (37.15 x 10.16 x 7.62 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.119. Xoots Kudás (Bear Shirt), ca. 1890, Tlingit, Tekweidí clan, Commercial wool cloth, cotton cloth, imported mother-of-pearl buttons, applique, synthetic indigo dye, 41.5 x 57 in. (101.6 x 144.78 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.80. Raven at the Headwaters of Nass Hat (Naas shagi Yeil S’aaxw), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Taku village, Alaska, Gaanax.ádi clan, Maple, paint, shell, hair, baleen, 8 1/2 x 7 x 12 in. (21.59 x 17.78 x 30.48 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.125. Lkaayaak Yeil S’aaxw (Box of Daylight Raven Hat), ca. 1850, Tlingit, Taku village, Alaska, Gaanax.ádi clan, Maple, mirror, abalone shell, bird skin, paint, sea lion whiskers, copper, leather, Flicker feathers, 11 7/8 x 7 3/4 x 12 1/4 in. (30.2 x 19.7 x 31.1 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.124. Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale), Preston Singletary, ca. 2003, American, Tlingit, born 1963, Fused and sand carved glass, 72 x 92 x 3/8 in. (182.9 x 233.7 x 1cm), Purchased in honor of John H. Hauberg with funds from the Mark Tobey Estate Fund, John and Joyce Price, the Native American Art Support Fund, Don W. Axworthy, Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Marshall Hatch, C. Calvert Knudsen, Christine and Assen Nicolov, Charles and Gayle Pancerzewski, Sam and Gladys Rubinstein, SAM Docents, SAMS Supporters, Frederick and Susan Titcomb, and Virginia and Bagley Wright, 2003.12. Canoe Breaker: Southeast Wind’s Brother, Robert Davidson, ca. 2010, Canadian, Haida, Masset Village, born 1946, Acrylic on canvas, 60 × 40 in. (152.4 × 101.6cm), Gift of The MacRae Foundation, the Native Arts of the Americas and Oceania Council, and Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, 2013.35.

Object of the Week: Feast Dish

Crafted out of wood, paint, and opercula shells, Calvin Hunt’s monster Feast Dish, is a testament to the importance of food, community, and potlatch culture to the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples of British Columbia. Born in 1956, Calvin Hunt is known for his monumental sculptures and is a well-respected artist from the Kwagu’l band located in Fort Rupert. Hunt’s feast dish provides a remarkable contrast to the typical Kwakwaka’wakw dishes.

As many partake in Thanksgiving celebrations, it is pertinent to recognize the cultural significance of the potlatch for the First Nations, along with the impact of the Canadian potlatch ban that restricted Indigenous peoples from practicing their traditions for over sixty years, only officially ending in 1951. The word potlatch, in Kwak’wala means “to give.” Potlatching for the Kwakwaka’wakw continues to this day and has been practiced for as long as spoken and written history can remember.

Feast bowls are carefully carved and ornamented by their creators, specifically designed for their use at potlatches that will hold delicious foods such as eulachon fish oil, seal meat, cranberries, and cinquefoil roots. Hunt’s bowl, however, was crafted specifically for SAM to coincide with the Chiefly Feasts exhibition in 1994. The feast bowl is modeled after Sisiutl, a three-headed sea serpent from Kwakwaka’wakw mythology, who can change between human and animal, along with morphing into a self-propelling canoe whose owner must feed with seals. Operculum shells encircle the mouth of the bowl. In nature, these shells protect marine gastropods (snails) from predators along with preventing the gastropod from drying up if they are exposed to air. With these operculum shells adorning the mouth of Hunt’s bowl where feast food is placed, along with this piece having been created shortly after the potlatch ban was lifted, it can be inferred that these shells are protecting the sacred tradition of potlatching from predatory laws.

Today, and every day, is an occasion to give thanks to Indigenous communities.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

– Kari Karsten, SAM Emerging Museum Professional Curatorial Intern

Image: Lukwalil (feast dish), 1994, Calvin Hunt (Tlasutiwalis), Wood, paint, opercula shells, Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund, 94.63 © Calvin Hunt.

Muse/News: Imogen’s Influence, Painting Last Meals, and Finding a Dürer

SAM News

Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective is now on view at SAM! Carrie Dedon, SAM’s Associate Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, spoke with KUOW’s Kim Malcolm about Cunningham’s life and work. And Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on “how Seattle’s Imogen Cunningham changed photography forever.” She spoke with six local artists about Cunningham’s influence and legacy.

“Cunningham’s headstrong nature would come to define her long career as a fine arts photographer: She never hesitated to experiment, even if it meant sailing against the wind as a female photographer in a male-dominated industry.”

Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud for Variable West on “the boundless light of Black children” shining in Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence. Also: Check out the show’s accompanying book, featuring an essay by the artist.

“I want everybody to be a little bit off their rocker, a little bit shocked, a little bit dazzled, a little bit held. That’s what I get to do.” – Barbara Earl Thomas

Local News

“Why they give.” In the spirit of holiday giving, 425 Business checks in with local philanthropists about their charity practice. The Banks family is featured; Dr. Cherry A. Banks is a SAM trustee.

For Thanksgiving, Crosscut once again highlights the bounty of Native art on view in the area, including Duane Linklater: mymothersside at the Frye Art Museum, new public art at Climate Pledge Arena, film screenings, holiday markets, and much more.

“A painterly catalog of the death penalty in America”: The Seattle Times’ David Gutman on Julie Green’s The Last Supper, now on view at the Bellevue Arts Museum.

“You think you’re looking at something that’s very blasé and very familiar and comforting and then it’s something that really jolts you once you actually understand what you’re looking at,” said Lane Eagles, associate curator at the museum. “I think the idea is to sort of lull you into this sense of comfort so that you’re sort of disarmed and that that’s when the reality that every single plate is a dead person hits you.”

Inter/National News

From NPR: “Frida Kahlo’s Diego y yo, a painting of herself with her husband’s image on her forehead, sold for $34.9 million in a Sotheby’s auction… It’s the most money ever paid at auction for a work by a Latin American artist.” Speaking of: Don’t miss Imogen Cunningham’s portrait of Kahlo on view at SAM!

The New York Times reviews The Loft Generation, a memoir by artist Edith Schloss discovered after her death; she brings to life the mid-century New York scene, including Frisson artists such as Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning.

One of Muse/News’ favorite genres: A man purchased a drawing at an estate sale for $30; it may be a Albrecht Dürer worth $50 million.

“On a lark, he bought it for $30. At the very least, it was ‘a wonderfully rendered piece of old art, which justified purchasing it,’ he recalled.

And Finally

The shaggy appeal of Kurt Vonnegut.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L. Fried.

Object of the Week: Blanket Stories

Every blanket tells a story. From their weaving structure, hems, threads, and wear, one can uncover the many unspoken stories of both the blanket and its owners, past and present.

Marie Watt is an Indigenous artist from the Seneca Nation whose practice deliberates the intricacies of history, community, and storytelling. For Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations, Watt collected blankets through an open call to the public, with some blankets coming from donations from her community. Some of the blankets have visible tags that state the owner’s name and story. These blankets hold the memories and stories of those who donated them, while simultaneously sharing personal connections, community history, and Iroquois creation stories. In the words of the artist:

“As I fold and stack blankets, they begin to form columns that, to me, hold many references: linen closets, architectural braces, memorials (e.g. the Trajan Column), sculpture (e.g. Brancusi), the great totem poles of the Northwest, and the giant conifers among which I grew up. In Native communities, blankets are given away to honor people for witnessing important life events, births, and comings-of-age, graduations and marriages, namings, and honorings. Among Native people it is as much of a privilege to give a blanket away as to receive one.”

– Marie Watt

Raised by her Seneca mother in the Pacific Northwest, Watt was taught the importance of the continuation and celebration of Indigenous culture. In Blanket Stories, she credits the Iroquois story of The Three Sisters, as one of the many sources of inspiration for this piece. The Three Sisters discusses the themes of home, community, and sharing. The three sisters, Corn, Beans, and Squash, spent their days in a field when, one day, they were visited by a young native boy. Curious about the boy, the sisters followed him home, one after the other. Discovering the warmth and comfort of the boy’s home—and because it was getting colder by the day—the sisters decided to stay and keep the dinner pot full for the boy and his family. The stack of blankets represents how the sisters rely on each other throughout the season to feed our people, highlighting the importance of food, family, and oral history within Indigenous heritage.

Living and working in the Northwest, Watt has stacked blankets so that they rise from floor to ceiling, reminiscent of the totems, or welcome figures, seen in this area of the United States. By visually and thematically connecting two vibrant Indigenous cultures from opposite coasts, Watt welcomes viewers and tells of how we are all connected through the stories that we share. Indigenous people look to the past for guidance from our ancestors, while also thinking towards future generations. These blanket stacks illustrate the histories that they hold, while also demonstrating the comfort and security that they have left to offer.

Every blanket has a story. What is yours?

– Kari Karsten, Emerging Museum Professional Curatorial Intern

Image: Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations, 2007, Marie Watt, Wool blankets, satin binding, with salvaged industrial yellow cedar timber base, 150 x 40 x 40 in., General Acquisition Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.41 © Marie Watt.

Flow with Keet Shagoon

Hear artist Preston Singletary talk about the imagery in his work and how he uses the medium of glass to reconnect and reinterpret traditional Tlingit art and culture.

In addition to being a visual artist, Preston Singletary is a musician and member of Khu.éex’, an Indigenous band. The band focuses on bringing awareness to social issues affecting Indigenous communities and keeping tribal culture and endangered ancient languages alive through music, storytelling, and art.

Listen to a Khu.éex’ song. As you listen, think about the story being told through the song and how this might be visually represented in Keet Shagoon.

Excerpt from”Khu.éex’: the Magic of Noise” by Heartstone Studios.

Watch this clip of Singletary describing how his glass art flows like music.

Singletary was inspired by YéilX’eenh (RavenScreen), which hangs in SAM’s galleries across from Keet Shagoon. YéilX’eenh (Raven Screen) is an interior house screen like those that can be found in the clan houses of the Tlingit tribal community. These screens separate the chief’s quarters from the rest of the clan house. The small hole in the middle of the screen acts as a portal that is used by the chief to make dramatic entrances when entertaining guests or at potlatches. The imagery on the screen depicts a family crest—in this case, it depicts Raven.

How are these artworks similar? How are they different?
How are the materials the artists use different?
What could these continuities and departures tell us?

Formline by Steve Brown, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage.

Both Keet Shagoon and YéilX’eenh use formline design, a stylistic approach that serves as the foundation for designs by artists from central British Columbia to southeast Alaska. Objects like animals or people are depicted with one continuous outline, called a form line, and then filled with different shapes that represent anatomical details like eyes, wings and fins, thus creating positive and negative space within the delineated object.

Formline designs are typically made up of four basic shapes. See how many you can identify in both the contemporary artwork and the traditional artwork the next time you visit SAM.

Images: Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale), 2003, Preston Singletary. Fused and sand carved glass, 72 x 92 x 3/8 in., Purchased in honor of John H. Hauberg with funds from the Mark Tobey Estate Fund, John and Joyce Price, the Native American Art Support Fund, Don W. Axworthy, Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Marshall Hatch, C. Calvert Knudsen, Christine and Assen Nicolov, Charles and Gayle Pancerzewski, Sam and Gladys Rubinstein, SAM Docents, SAMS Supporters, Frederick and Susan Titcomb, and Virginia and Bagley Wright, 2003.12. © Preston Singletary. Yéil X’eenh (Raven Screen), ca. 1810, Native American, Kadyisdu.axch’, Tlingit, Kiks.adi clan. Spruce, paint, 105 3/4 x 129 in. Gift of John H. Hauberg, 79.98.

Object of the Week: K’ómoks Imperial Stormtrooper

I would like to acknowledge that the museum sits on the Indigenous land of the Coast Salish People in and around the city of dᶻidᶻəlalič (renamed Seattle for Chief siʔaɫ).

My work is a response to the ways in which photography has been used as a mechanism of colonization. Decolonizing photography for the use of American Indians has to occur through the articulation of a Native representational subjectivity. In the place of colonizing representation, I want to produce images and sensory experiences that convey representation of, by, and for American Indians.

– Will Wilson

Since 2012, Will Wilson has put cultural sovereignty at the root of image-making events he calls the Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX). The thousands of images created over the course of this project now comprise the largest Indigenous created archive of images of Native peoples. These photo sessions—in which Wilson uses an old wet-plate technology to produce tintypes—are held in tribal communities and at urban institutions such as museums. Wilson’s CIPX event at the Seattle Art Museum, which took place in November 2017, centered on capturing the rich complexity of Native peoples living in the environs of Seattle, members of local reservation-based tribes, and “urban Indians” who came to Seattle from other places. Wilson invites anyone who wants to be photographed to present themselves however they want—wearing what they choose, holding objects that are important to them, and posing to their liking. As part of the exchange, he gives the tintype to the sitter while asking for permission to digitize the image for use in large-scale prints, like the work in SAM’s collection, K’ómoks Imperial Stormtrooper (Andy Everson). It is an amazing process to witness and reminds us that, for those who take authority over the processes of representation, methodologies and interpersonal exchanges matter.1

The sitter in this portrait is K’ómoks First Nation’s artist Andy Everson. His recent work draws from his two passions: Indigenous art and Star Wars. He transformed the stormtrooper into a positive figure by doing away with the uniform’s whiteness and covering it with formline designs. Everson wanted to change the stormtrooper from someone who blindly follows instructions from his higher-ups to someone who is able to take action for himself and for his own people. And so began this idea of the West Coast warrior, a defender of the land.2

Chilkat weavers were the inspiration for Everson when he created the Northern Warrior (2015), with its distinctive yellow, blue, white, and black colors. He also replaced the stormtrooper’s helmet with a traditional conical hat, made out of maple wood that his ancestors in Alaska would have worn.3 Many of his ancestors were warriors, and when their territory was threatened they did not hesitate to defend themselves. When they entered battle, they wore slatted armor suits and hard wooden helmets carved with their crest, proudly representing their ancestral lineage. The hat on this helmet displays the Kwakwaka’wakw crest of the sisiyutł—the double-headed serpent. This symbol of the warrior reminds us of the dichotomies in life—good and evil, right and wrong—and puts a human face in the middle to teach us that we must choose where we stand.4

Everson’s stormtroopers tell a story to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples about the importance of a warrior spirit. The works speak to the histories of Indigenous resistance and defiance in opposition to colonizing forces, and the importance of remaining steadfast in the face of adaptation and change.5 Like Wilson’s CIPX series, Everson’s stormtroopers draw people in with its familiar figure and invite people to engage with an art form, perhaps unfamiliar to some, that ultimately fosters a new kind of cultural exchange.

Speaking of stormtroopers, don’t miss the premiere of The Mandalorian season two on October 30. Will we find out Baby Yoda’s origin? Are there more of them? I hope so, and I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween!

“I would like to see the baby.” – The Client, The Mandalorian

– Tina Lee, SAM Exhibitions and Publications Manager

Images: K’ómoks Imperial Stormtrooper (Andy Everson), Citizen of the K’ómoks First Nation, from the series Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange: dᶻidᶻəlalič, 2017, printed 2019, Will Wilson, archival pigment print
56 1/4 × 44 1/4 in., Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, 2019.26.2 © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Northern Warrior, 2015, Andy Everson, edition 99, giclée, image source: andyeverson.com. Image courtesy of Pixabay.
[1] Brotherton, Barbara. “New Archives of Indigenous Self-Representation.” In Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson, 22–26. Seattle Art Museum, 2018.
[2] The Huffington Post B.C. “Andy Everson’s Stormtrooper Acts as Modern First Nations Warrior.” Accessed October 27, 2020, https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/07/24/andy-everson-stormtrooper-first-nations_n_5618449.html
[3] Baluja, Tamara. “Star Wars characters get Indigenized by Comox First Nation artist.” Accessed October 27, 2020.https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/star-wars-indigenized-andy-everson-1.4463320
[4] Everson, Andy. “Northern Warrior.” Artwork by Andy Everson. Accessed October 27, 2020. http://www.andyeverson.com/2014/northern_warrior.html
[5] Avdeeff, Melissa. “Andy Everson: Resistance and Defiance in Indigenous Digital Art.” Accessed October 27, 2020. http://mediacommons.org/imr/content/andy-everson-resistance-and-defiance-indigenous-digital-art

Art is Not a Noun, It’s a Verb: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

“The real magic of Carpe Fin is in the space between the object and the observer.”

– Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Hear from the artist behind the 6 x 19–foot watercolor mural commissioned for SAM. Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas describes Carpe Fin as “Haida manga.” This unique approach developed by Yahgulanaas blends several artistic and cultural traditions, including Haida formline art, Japanese manga, Pop Art, and graphic novels.

Inspired by a traditional Haida oral story, the story is also linked to a 19th-century headdress in SAM’s collection carved by Yahgulanaas’s relative, Albert Edward Edenshaw. Carpe Fin calls attention to issues of environmental degradation and the rupture of the values that honor human-nature interdependence.

We asked SAM staff to reflect on the work and what stood out to them by answering which panel impacted them most. Have you seen the artwork at SAM or read the book? Read some reflections below and share your thoughts with us in the comments!

  • The very center panel—it’s more free form so it draws the eye. It’s the moment when Carpe realizes he’s been left behind on the island. His phases of expression and gesture really struck me.
  • The central panels—frames break down, creative topsy-turvy!
  • The third panel (upper center) for the transition from the human to the underwater world. The contrast of thick, thin, and detailed brushwork make it come alive.
  • The middle panels stand out because of the dynamic between the sea lions and humans. There’s a chaotic structure that reminds me of the circle of life, but it also shows an imbalance.
  • The central panel and how it just seems to come alive and break out of the typical comic book boxes/outlines; the overall image captivates your attention and makes you want to keep looking at the intricate, smaller details.
  • I was most impacted by the panel in which Carpe swims back wearing sewed-up seal skin. There is something about embodying the animal that he had been killing. I wonder how much the message of “you’re killing our women” would have sunk in without this physical experience or if he would have heard it in a different way?
  • I’m most impacted by the panel where the young boys kill a flicker. This senseless, purposeless killing of a living thing in a microcosm of the imbalance and lack of respect for the environment that has created dire circumstances for this community and communities across the globe. The energy that youth are bringing to climate activism lies in contrast to this detail and gives hope for the future. We all need to take responsibility and enact laws and regulations that will ensure the survival of future generations.
  • All of them together

If you value the ways SAM connects art to your life, consider making a donation or becoming a member today!

Images: Carpe Fin (details), 2018, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Haida, b. 1954, watercolor and ink on handmade Japanese paper, 6.5 x 19.7 ft., Seattle Art Museum, Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, McRae Foundation and Karen Jones, 2018.30, © Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.
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