SAM Celebrates Pride: Between Rabbit and Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

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


Celebrate Pride Month in Seattle with these suggested events:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

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

SAM News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local News

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

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

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

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

Inter/National News

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

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

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

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

And Finally

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

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

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

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.

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.

Muse/News: Captivating at SAM, Art vs. Tech, and Poignant Flags

SAM News

“Why you should see Seattle Art Museum’s new Giacometti show”: Gayle Clemans for the Seattle Times on the “captivating” Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure, now on view at SAM.

“…Giacometti’s subject matter was actually the matter of subjectivity: How each one of us, as an individual, relates to the world around us and acts within it. For decades, Giacometti focused on rendering the human body in order to reveal—or discover—something about the human condition, very often his own.”

Robert Rutherford, Manager of Public Engagement, was interviewed on KING5 morning TV about Summer at SAM at the Olympic Sculpture Park. And our neighbors at South Sound Magazine also recommend the free, family-friendly series.

Hey, have you explored Visit Seattle’s most recent Official Visitors Guide? You can “flip” through (or request an actual physical copy) of this fantastic resource for both visitors and locals. SAM happenings across our three locations are well represented. 

Local News

That’s a wrap! This past weekend saw the return of the Seattle Art Fair. SAM director Amada Cruz is quoted in this Cultured preview and Crosscut’s Brangien Davis and Margo Vansynghel reported on the “sights and sounds” of the first day. Jas Keimig of The Stranger and Gayle Clemans for the Seattle Times both reported on the fair’s satellite event, Forest for the Trees. 

The Seattle Times’ Erik Lacitis on “the turbulent, poignant legacy of Peter Bevis”; the sculptor most associated with his doomed quest to save the Kalakala ferry has died at the age of 69.

In addition to the whirlwind tour of the Seattle Art Fair and winning a Rabkin Foundation Award, Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel also reported on the controversy surrounding a curatorial proposal put forward—and later taken back—by the Museum of Museums for a show featuring art solely by employees of Amazon or Microsoft. 

“The call for art and its cancellation have spawned so many responses and comments elsewhere on the social media app—both in support of and against—that it can be dizzying to track. The comments reveal the pain of a struggling art community, as well as deep fissures in how artists and art advocates think the sector should engage with criticism, tech and philanthropy.”

Inter/National News

“Turned the mundane into the monumental”: Pop artist Claes Oldenburg has died at the age of 93. SAM is proud to have many of his works in the collection

Tiffany Midge for the New Yorker on the “Indigenous gaze” of Apsáalooke artist Wendy Red Star. SAM will soon debut a new work by the artist in October as part of its reinstalled American art galleries, American Art: The Stories We Carry

Tlingit and Unangax̂ artist Nicholas Galanin is also creating a new work for American Art: The Stories We Carry that will debut in 2023 at SAM; here’s his recent New York gallery show reviewed by the New York Times

“‘I would stand up for that flag,’ an artist commented on a social media post featuring a photo of Nicholas Galanin’s ‘White Flag’ (2022), a sculpture with a polar bear rug mounted on a rough wooden staff. At a time when flags representing nations and political causes feel particularly fraught, ‘White Flag,’ in Galanin’s exhibition ‘It Flows Through’ at Peter Blum, feels poignant.”

And Finally

From the farm to the Tonight Show.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: American Themes, Fannie’s Debut, and Witnessing History

SAM News

There’s only three weeks left before we close the shutter on Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective, and a lot to look forward to in Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water, opening in March. But let’s look even further to October, when SAM will unveil its reinstalled American art galleries…

The project is guided by Theresa Papanikolas, Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, and it engages Indigenous artists Wendy Red Star and Nicholas Galanin as well as 11 paid advisors from the Seattle community. Papanikolas was interviewed for an article by Zachary Small for Artnet; in it, he explores several similar projects in the works across the country to reimagine the meanings of “American” art.

“‘Chronology is something that is imposed onto history,’ said Theresa Papanikolas, curator of American art at the Seattle Art Museum. ‘It gets to be a little deterministic.’ Papanikolas said that viewers can expect a very different kind of gallery experience. She is particularly excited for Red Star’s installation, which is still being completed but will ‘conjure ideas of portraiture, landscape, and Seattle’ while also ‘literally bringing Indigenous voices into the gallery.’”

Local News

Emily Benson for High Country News on Evergreen, a new anthology of Northwest writings that’s notably “grim” and “gloomy.”

Allison Williams for Seattle Met with a deep dive on two “strange” interpretive museums in the Columbia Gorge.

Gemma Alexander for the Seattle Times on “Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer,”  playwright Cheryl L. West’s one-woman show now playing at Seattle Rep.

“I believe stories come along to show you something. This one encouraged me on my courage journey. Who would have known that it would happen during a time when we were all really looking for hope, when we were looking for that sort of resilience of spirit?” asks West. “She was such an inspiring woman. So the show asks the question, ‘What can we do at this point?’”

Inter/National News

Alex Greenberger for ARTnews reports: Interscope Records, LACMA Team Up for Show of Artworks Inspired by Music.”

Kristian Vistrup Madsen for Artforum on the debut in Dresden of a newly conserved painting by Johannes Vermeer; Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window now includes a painting of Cupid where once was a white wall.

Jillian Steinhauer for the New York Times on Arrivals, now on view at New York’s Katonah Museum of Art, yet another exhibition that grapples with American myths.

“At its best, ‘Arrivals’ offers the feeling of witnessing arguments or conversations between artists across place and time — and it makes you understand the stakes of those conversations.”

And Finally

Crosscut’s Knute Berger and Stephen Hegg with a video story on the “dogs that helped shape PNW history.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Tim Aguero.

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