Muse/News: A Change at SAM, Looking and Learning, and Poem-Jars

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced a major initiative: a planned reinstallation of its American art galleries created in a shared-authorship model by SAM staff and curators, artists, and advisors from the Seattle community. Brendan Kiley of the Seattle Times announced the project, saying that “SAM is ready for a change.” Jasmyne Keimig of The Stranger and Nancy Kenney of The Art Newspaper joined the chorus, as did Artnet and Culture Type.

“‘We’re trying to decenter whiteness and show something that more truly reflects America and its history,’ [SAM curator Theresa] Papanikolas says. ‘The way the [American] galleries are organised now is a greatest-hits presentation very much focused on masterworks’…Largely left out of this ‘very canon-focused presentation,’ she says, are African Americans, the reality of slavery, the history of labour and the extraction of resources in the US. ‘We want to tell the stories of the hidden histories,’ the curator says.”

Also: Don’t miss Robyn Jordan’s comic published in the Stranger, The Particular Magic of In-Person Art,” which takes you to the recently reopened Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Local News

At 50 Pilchuck Glass School Is Still Hot,” reports Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne.

Jasmine J. Mahmoud for South Seattle Emerald on Dr. Quinton Morris’s new show for KING FM, “Unmute the Voices,” highlighting composers and musicians of color.

Gemma Alexander for the Seattle Times speaks with Val Thomas-Matson, the creator-producer of “Look, Listen and Learn,” the award-winning early-learning TV show for BIPOC audiences.

“Many places feel off-limits or unwelcoming to families of color, an effect of institutionalized racism that research has shown harms children’s development. ‘Look, Listen and Learn’ is presenting local cultural and learning resources that are welcoming to families of color.

‘I wanted to showcase for families some of the places where it is safe to explore, to look, listen and learn freely,’ said Thomas-Matson.”

Inter/National News

Katie White for Artnet with recommendations for “4 Unforgettable Land Art Road Trips,” just in time for summer.

Samanta Helou Hernandez for Hyperallergic with some visual inspiration: “The Hand-Painted Signs and Murals of Latinx LA.”

Jori Finkel for the New York Times on the poem-jars of artist and enslaved Black man David Drake.

“If you don’t pay attention to these objects, you are never going to adequately embrace the history of women artists, artists of color or enslaved artists, because you have to look at what they were ‘allowed’ to make,” [curator Timothy Burgard] said. “You have to look at pots, you have to look at quilts, you have to look at the beautiful ironwork on balconies in New Orleans.”

And Finally

A Brief History of Jojos.

– Rachel Eggers, Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Tim Aguero

Object of the Week: Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale)

Family, thresholds, and the mutually beneficial relationship between collecting and creating tell the story of Preston Singletary’s carved glass screen Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale).

Singletary was raised here in Seattle. His parents were artistic; his father painted and wrote poetry, and his mother wove textiles and crocheted. Their engagement with the arts encouraged Singletary to pursue art-making. As a young artist he studied with friend and mentor Dante Marioni at the renowned Pilchuck Glass School, where he would work with mentors Benjamin Moore and Lino Tagliapietra, among others. He joined and contributed to a studio glass movement driven by a close cohort of Pilchuck artists. He was also, intrinsically, part of a second family of artists, who were Native artists. On this side, Singletary lists Joe David, Robert Davidson, and Dempsey Bob as important influences. By the example and encouragement of Singletary’s Native peers, including Marvin Oliver, he was led to explore his ancestral history through his artistic practice, and he began incorporating Northwest Coast Native design into his work in 1987. In several ways SAM’s 2003 Keet Shagoon represents the culmination of that trajectory in Singletary’s career. It is a contemporary re-imagining of an interior house screen, one of the most important items of clan property, which served to display the clan’s heritage through images representing its ancestors and benefactors. The killer whale is Singletary’s family crest symbol.

Interior house screens held an important ceremonial role in Native life. In the cedar plank house, they separated the chief’s quarters from the rest of the living area and provided a portal through which he could make a dramatic entrance. The work’s form represents a threshold, and Singletary has also remarked on how the medium of glass can be “a threshold to the future for the cultural growth of Native people.” There’s more. In 2003, SAM exhibited 13 of Singletary’s works in the Native American Galleries in an exhibition called Preston Singletary: Threshold. In his artist statement Singletary explained the importance of the term for him, as he came to see himself standing at the nexus of ancient Northwest Coast Native traditions, his own world, and the future. Native art, with its roots in the physical world of cedar and pigment, and its spiritual significance, seemed to him a link between the earth and the cosmos. Finally, SAM’s purchase of Keet Shagoon memorialized another poignant moment of transition: the passing from life to death.

Yéil X’eenh (Raven Screen), ca. 1810, attributed to Kadyisdu.axch’.

Yéil X’eenh (Raven Screen), ca. 1810, attributed to Kadyisdu.axch’.

John H. Hauberg (1916-2002) was a successful businessman in forest resource management and lumber, a Native arts enthusiast, and an astute collector who worked directly with Native owners, dealers, and auctioneers to form an exceptional private collection. Hauberg’s generous gifts to SAM over the years 1983–1991 built the foundation of the museum’s notable Native American art collection. Acquiring Keet Shagoon in honor of Hauberg, a year after his passing, was a fitting choice. The Pilchuck Glass School, at which artist Preston Singletary had learned his craft, had been funded by Hauberg and his first wife, Anne Gould Hauberg in 1971; and SAM’s famous Raven Screen, which had directly inspired Singletary to produce Keet Shagoon before his 2003 show at SAM, had been donated by Hauberg in 1979. SAM wouldn’t have Keet Shagoon—and we all wouldn’t be able to enjoy it—without both of their contributions.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Images: Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale), 2003, Preston Singletary (Tlingit, born 1963), fused and sand carved glass, 72 x 92 x 3/8 in. Seattle Art Museum, 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, Photo: Susan Cole. Yéil X’eenh (Raven Screen), ca. 1810, attributed to Kadyisdu.axch’ (Tlingit, Kiks.adi clan, active late 18th-early 19th century), spruce, paint, 105 3/4 x 129 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of John H. Hauberg, 79.98, Photo: Paul Macapia.

Object of the Week: Crystal Math

Don’t do this, but. . . If you were to bring a stack of Marvel comics to the Seattle Art Museum, ride the escalator to the third floor, take a left turn, pass the video installation, and look up at the wall to your left, you’d find installed on that wall a custom-built box that fits your comics perfectly. However, it’s sideways, and it’s a museum artwork.

The piece you’d be looking at is sardonically called Crystal Math. It visualizes a collaborative effort between brothers Oscar Tuazon and Eli Hansen. As brothers do, they’ve worked together on projects since their childhoods and this piece represents the particular interests of Tuazon in architecture and Hansen in glass art. Their collaborative art takes on traditional views that separate “high” and “low” art forms into different contexts. Crystal Math thoughtfully, playfully mingles them all.

The humble material of plywood, simply arranged into a box, contrasts the precious blown glass, artfully made. The cerebral architectural theory that informs the glass geodesic domes, which are references to the visionary Buckminster Fuller, contrasts the world referenced by the pipe-like spout on the upper dome, recalling drug paraphernalia. Then there’s the fact that Tuazon and Hansen have incorporated a box fashioned by their father for holding their comic books into an art installation on the wall of a major museum. Thinking about this piece in terms of high or low art forms, fine art or craft, really leads us nowhere; thinking about it as a creative act brings us to all kinds of fun readings.

Tuazon, who won the Betty Bowen Award in 2007, is a local artist with international appeal. He and his brother were born on the Port Madison reservation on the Kitsap Peninsula, just East of Poulsbo and North of Bainbridge Island, and they attended high school in Port Townsend. Tuazon studied at Cooper Union in New York and also completed the Independent Study Program through the Whitney Museum of American Art before moving back to the Northwest and working in Tacoma. He moved to Paris, a biographical detail that reflects his many connections abroad, and has now settled in Los Angeles. Tuazon has exhibited work in Zurich, Brussels, Berlin, Geneva, Rome, Oslo, Paris, and Tokyo, as well as in New York and LA.

Both Tuazon and Hansen participated in the residency program at Pilchuck Glass School, and right now Crystal Math joins works by other Pilchuck students, most notably Dale Chihuly, in SAM’s galleries. It also offers a point of connection to Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb. Not only does Graphic Masters feature the art of a legend in comics, R. Crumb, who I’m sure would be pleased to hear of Tuazon’s and Hansen’s comic book box, but it also juxtaposes work that many would consider traditional with Crumb’s notably anti-traditional illustrations. Plywood and print works, Picasso and pipes—they’re all coming together at SAM!

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

IMAGE: Crystal Math, 2007, Oscar Tuazon (American, b. 1975) and Eli Hansen (American, b. 1979), blown, cut, assembled glass and plywood, 36 x 30 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Merrill Wright, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.69, © Oscar Tuazon and Eli Hansen, Photo: Natali Wiseman.