Muse/News: Impressive SAM, Not Static, and Baltimore Queen

SAM News

“Art-loving families should visit the Seattle Art Museum” this summer, says Mark Sissons for Vancouver’s VITA Magazine, thanks to our “impressive” collection galleries and our summer exhibition Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, which opens this week on Thursday, June 20!

Nick Hilden for The Observer comes to town to discover “Where to See the Best Art in Seattle” and while at SAM finds that “the museum boasts an impressively eclectic range of works.” 

Via Nura Ahmed for South Seattle Emerald: “Tacoma Artist Anida Yoeu Ali Demands to Be Seen.”

Local News

Have you been keeping up with this season of Cascade PBS’s Black Arts Legacies? They’ve rolled out eight incredible profiles; earlier we shared the one of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, but you won’t want to miss the ones of DJ Riz Rollins, painter Moses Sun, glass artist Debra Moore, and more.

Sara Jean Green of The Seattle Times reports on the “long-promised Super Block” coming to the Central District that will feature a public art installation on the neighborhood’s history.

Via Rachel Gallaher for Seattle Magazine: “Tacoma Art Museum’s latest show reconsiders the meaning of Western American art.”

“The four curators are giving space to 17 contemporary artists whose work is often excluded in the context of collections like the Haub. ‘The art of the American West is not static,’ [curator Faith] Brower says. ‘There are many artists creating work that will further our understanding and deepen our connections to this iconic region.’”

Inter/National News

“I can act a fool, I can be delirious, I can give into anger, I can give into joy, into love”: Anthony Hudson AKA Carla Rossi interviews Jeffrey Gibson for BOMB Magazine. While you’re at it, rewatch this video of Carla’s visit to Like a Hammer (it’s our…52nd rewatch? But who’s counting?). 

Arun Kakar for Artsy with “The 10 Best Booths at Art Basel 2024,” including works by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith at Garth Greenan Gallery’s booth.

“How an Artist Became the Queen of Baltimore”: Aruna D’Souza of The New York Times spends the day in Baltimore with Joyce J. Scott on the occasion of her career retrospective, which is co-organized by BAM and SAM and travels to Seattle this fall.

“She sees her life as an artist as modeling for others another way of being and living,” said Catharina Manchanda, a curator at the Seattle Art Museum. “She has an incredibly strong conviction that every artwork has a role in bringing people together and offering people an opportunity to learn together, but she also models a whole new way of being an artist within a community. It’s not as much a career for her as a way of life.”

And Finally

“A Photographer Wins a Top Prize in an A.I. Competition for His Non-A.I. Image.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

SAM Celebrates Pride: The Talented Mr. Delafosse

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. Stay tuned for 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.

If you Google “Léon Delafosse,” you’ll get more information on John Singer Sargent’s portrait of the French composer and pianist—part of SAM’s collection since 2001—than on Delafosse’s life story: his early years of poverty, rise as a piano virtuoso and composer, and the eventual destruction of his promising career by powerful men.

Before the arrival of recordings, musicians who were not independently wealthy or well-connected needed patrons and made money by performing in the private salons of rich people. Delafosse made two famous gay friends who propelled his career in Paris: Count Robert de Montesquiou (a social snob and poet-poseur) and writer Marcel Proust. Each of these men acted as unofficial “agents” for Delafosse, promoting his talents to their powerful friends. It’s long been assumed Montesquiou, in addition to being Delafosse’s principal patron, was his lover, too, and that their fraught relationship is immortalized in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (with the bisexual violinist Charles Morel as Delafosse and the gay Baron de Charlus as Montesquiou).  

Gay sex was decriminalized in France in 1791, but men who loved other men emotionally and sexually remained (for the most part) quiet about their private lives. Men who were suspected to be homosexual, who had “feminine” voices or mannerisms, wore colorful and outlandish clothing,  engaged in non-traditional (unmanly) careers were described in code words such as “dandy,” “decadent,” “artistic” and “aesthete” (admittedly better than the alternatives of the time:“sodomite,” “invert,” and “pederast”!)

Montesquiou was easily bored and his temper was volcanic. When Delafosse made the inevitable mistake (unknown, but believed to be the fact he was more interested in music than in anything or anyone), their breakup was cataclysmic. Montesquiou and his accomplice, Proust, set out to destroy Delafosse’s reputation and have him barred from important musical salons all over Paris. They succeeded. Delafosse was devastated and hopeless as he became a laughingstock in the capital. 

Enter: John Singer Sargent.

Sargent (whose obsession with the male body is evident in his work) took a liking to the handsome Delafosse and in genuine friendship promoted his talents to influential Americans like arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner. Beginning in 1895, Sargent painted Delafosse (then in his early twenties) and gave him the portrait as a lavish gift. Delafosse kept the painting until the day he died.

Pride Month is a celebration of LGBTQ+ history and a time to ponder the world as it is. Community is fragile, and examining the story of Léon Delafosse presents a warning and a quandary. In Belle Époque France, anyone who did not fit easily into standard society, whose sexual identity or gender expression made them outsiders, had to examine and monitor their appearance, their every move, their every spoken or written word. Such nonstop, intense, and protective self-scrutiny must have been exhausting, infuriating. And seeing “yourself” in another man or woman who was like you must have been frightening and intimidating, and it often led to betrayals, based not just on what was held in common but what was different: money, class, looks, and the power that those things bestow.

When I examine Sargent’s image of Léon Delafosse with contemporary eyes and in the current worldwide political climate, I wonder: is Delafosse emerging from the darkness or receding into it? 

– Kevin Stant, SAM Docent

Kevin Stant has been a docent at SAM since 2002. Kevin’s next assignment will be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum; beginning August 31, he’ll give Saturday tours on the exhibition Meot: Korean Art from the Frank Bayley Collection.


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.

Image: Léon Delafosse, ca. 1895–98, John Singer Sargent, Born Florence, Italy, 1856; Died London, England, 1925, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 23 3/8 in. Given in honor of Trevor Fairbrother by Mr. and Mrs. Prentice Bloedel by exchange, and by Robert M. Arnold, Tom and Ann Barwick, Frank Bayley, Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Contemporary Art Council, Council of American Art, Jane and David R. Davis, Decorative Arts and Paintings Council, Robert B. Dootson, Mr. and Mrs. Barney A. Ebsworth, P. Raaze Garrison, Lyn and Gerald Grinstein, Helen and Max Gurvich, Marshall Hatch, John and Ann Hauberg, Richard and Betty Hedreen, Mary Ann and Henry James, Mrs. Janet W. Ketcham, Allan and Mary Kollar, Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom, Rufus and Pat Lumry, Byron R. Meyer, Ruth J. Nutt, Scotty Ray, Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Vance Salsbury, Herman and Faye Sarkowsky, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Scheumann, Seattle Art Museum Supporters, Jon and Mary Shirley, Joan and Harry Stonecipher, Dean and Mary Thornton, William and Ruth True, Volunteers Association, Ms. Susan Winokur and Mr. Paul Leach, The Virginia Wright Fund, Charlie and Barbara Wright, Howard Wright and Kate Janeway, Merrill Wright, and Mrs. T. Evans Wyckoff, 2001.17. Photo: Elizabeth Mann.

Step Into the Whirlpool of Yirrkala at SAM

Is paradise lost? Or is there a place on Earth that has been able to avoid climate catastrophes, species loss, homelessness, and menial jobs, and that constantly involves everyone in making art and ceremony? There is. For visions of a culture that has cared for the environment and every living species in it for millennia, and now creates art which invites us to consider alternative ways of navigating life on this planet, let’s turn to Yirrkala.

Yirrkala is a small town on the northeast edge of Australia, which is a central hub for the people who call themselves Yolngu and live on territories from the waters off the Blue Mud Bay in Arnhem Land. Their art gives form to a database of relationships and laws that govern the way humans interact with one another and with natural phenomena. Their signature is seen in intricate designs that arrived with the great culture heroes whose bodies were marked by patterns of water, salt, and foam that dried on their skin. For centuries, Yolngu have painted clan designs on bodies for ceremonies and on sacred objects.

More recently, Yolngu artists have painted on bark, incised metal, and developed media to provide outsiders with hints of how they see their world. Thirty examples of art from Yirrkala were selected from the nearly 100 in the collection formulated during visits to the Top End by Bob Kaplan and Margaret Levi. A cultural keynote of Yolngu culture is the law of sharing and not excluding any people or anything from the group. Kinship extends to all living beings they come in contact with: from birds and insects to snakes and crocodiles. Then there are the ancestral beings who may make their presence known in sparkling water, blazing fire, or the angry eyes of a shark.

Will Stubbs, a Yirrkala resident, has described a difference in what Yolngu art reflects upon. As he has written, “If you think of a time before television, when entertainment was not beamed from remote sources, you would have been grateful for a fully functioning ecosystem… In a fully enriched ecosystem, you cannot separate yourself from the environment: fish will literally fly past your face, snakes slither into your house, and insects crawl into your bed.”1 A visit to this gallery will surround you with messages from Yolngu who offer a long, sustained look at their territory and want us to know how extraordinary it is.

Yirrkala: Art From Australia’s Top End is now on view in SAM’s third floor galleries.

– Pam McClusky, SAM Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb Curator of African and Oceanic Art

This article first appeared in the February through May 2024 edition 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!

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

1 Will Stubs, Larrakitj: Kerry Stokes Collection (Australia: Fremantle Press, 2011), 40.

Muse/News: Essential Summer, Hooked on Clay, and Pointed Playful

SAM News

The Seattle Times staff recommends “8 essential things to do during summer in Seattle,” including a visit to the Olympic Sculpture Park, especially during Summer at SAM. The annual free series of performances, tours, and activities takes place every Thursday night and Saturday morning between July 11 and August 11.

In South Seattle Emerald’s “Arts in the South End: June 2024 Roundup,” Jas Keimig recommends an upcoming show at SAM. Jacob Lawrence: American Storyteller features 13 works on paper by the celebrated modern artist; it opens June 28.

Local News

Via Catalina Gaitán for The Seattle Times: “Seattle now has two of the largest outdoor murals in North America.”

Artists Anida Yoeu Ali and Kamari Bright were announced as the recipients of the 2024 Arts Innovator Award. Both artists will receive $25,000 to continue their practices. You can see Ali’s work at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence through July 7.

The June issue of University of Washington Magazine has a profile on artist Patti Warashina by writer Hannelore Suderman that reveals the ceramic artist’s original plan for her studies… click to find out just how lucky we are that she discovered clay. You can see examples in Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, which opens at SAM on Friday, June 21. 

“She loved the tactile experience of throwing clay on a wheel and was hooked on creating, pushing the limits of clay and taking inspiration from her classmates.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “A Major Restoration Breathes New Life Into Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Iconic Seasons.”

Holland Cotter of The New York Times recommends several shows to see in NYC galleries this month, including a solo show for Xenobia Bailey at Venus Over Manhattan. You can see the Seattle-born artist’s Afrofuturist fiber crochet work on view in Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, beginning Friday, June 21.

Art in America’s Andy Battaglia interviews Joyce J. Scott on the occasion of her retrospective, Walk a Mile in My Dreams, which debuted at the Baltimore Museum of Art and opens at SAM this fall.

“Time and again, Scott’s colorful creations stare down histories of racism, classism, and sexism with steely eyes and an impish grin. She takes a pointed and playful approach to bracing subject matter, the small-mindedness and absurdity of which she exposes as abhorrent and just plain dumb.”

And Finally

“Oh Happy Day” 30 years later.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Yellow Stalk With Stone

“Since the beginning of my work in abstract art, and even though it was not obvious at that time, I felt that there was no better model for me to work from than the Universe. Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, surrounded by vivid clouds and tides, currents of air, viscosities and fragrances—in their utmost variety and disparity.”

– Alexander Calder

Yellow Stalk with Stone is a prime example of Calder’s experimental approach to sculpture, embracing both the transcendent and the ordinary. During the artist’s lifetime, the artwork was exhibited globally with notable stops at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Brazil, and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Venezuela.

Despite its global adventures, the standing mobile highlights the important role of found objects in Calder’s oeuvre. Its titular stone—found by the artist on a walking meditation around his property in Roxbury, Connecticut—invites a dialogue between found, manipulated, and artificial materials in art.

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection closes Sunday, August 4 at SAM! Don’t miss your chance to see over 45 of the iconic American artist’s renowned works (including Yellow Stalk with Stone) and explore the exhibition’s free smartphone tour from the museum’s galleries. Plus, you can listen to all 16 stops of the tour on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Yellow Stalk with Stone, 1953

NARRATOR: Calder was a truly international artist. During his lifetime, this work was exhibited multiple times, including in Brazil, New York, and Venezuela. But the stone referred to in the title came from close to home; he picked it up near his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. 

The stone creates a dialogue with the man-made elements of the sculpture. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder’s process of creation and composition was very intuitive. It was in the moment. It was in the spirit of the moment. It wasn’t something that was planned. He didn’t make diagrammatic plans for creating his sculptures.

NARRATOR: It’s a way of working that resonates with artist Kennedy Yanko.  

KENNEDY YANKO: He’s clearly thinking in a way where he needs to explore something, where he needs to understand something in his own way, to his own hand. Maybe he was in the studio, and he just had the stone and just went and placed it on there or he had been thinking about it for a while and then placed it on there, and that moment, that decision is what transforms the piece into what you wanted it to be.

NARRATOR: Found objects have an important role in Calder’s work. José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: I really hope that visitors will walk through this exhibition and see Calder through an ecological lens. He was certainly resourceful—you’ll notice that there’s works that incorporate wood, rocks, bits of material, or discarded objects—but also the fact that Calder could make art from the most ordinary materials and make something so complex, yet so beautiful.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

TAG Talks: Disco, Dancing, and Bringing the Magic of Teen Night Out to Life

SAM’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) is an intensive internship program for high school-aged youth who are eager to learn about themselves and the world through art, and are excited to make SAM a fun and engaging space for teens. TAG members meet weekly from October to May to learn about the behind-the-scenes work of an art museum, lead engaging gallery tours, plan Teen Night Out, and so much more. TAG Talks is an ongoing SAM Blog series on SAM Blog that serves as a space for SAM’s teen leaders to express themselves and their love of art. Keep up with all TAG adventures by following @samteens on Instagram and stay tuned for more TAG Talks to come!

It’s a Friday night, and you’re bored out of your mind. The usual hangouts lack the frenzy, and your phone is out of new trends to show you. But wait! You suddenly remembered your friend telling you about the annual Teen Night Out at the Seattle Art Museum.

I joined SAM’s Teen Arts Group (TAG) in October 2023. Walking into my first meeting, it was already known that our adventures at SAM would culminate with Teen Night Out, just like every year. Seeing the excitement and anticipation that consumed last year’s attendees put pressure on us to plan and execute another engaging and fun event for Seattle’s teens. This being my first year in TAG, I wanted Teen Night Out 2024 to be memorable.

When it came to deciding the theme and decorations for the event, it was truly inspiring to hear the ideas of other TAG members. They demonstrated an immense passion for art, and shared their hopes for the museum. Theme ideas ranged from ballgowns, disco, glam rock, and nature. Until, finally, we hit Junkyard Disco. We all had ideas in mind that basically described vintage 70s fashion with a touch of sustainability. With a disco ball too, of course!

Leading up to the day of the event, TAG meetings covered creating decorations for the museum, whilst also leaving time for fun, practicing art with teaching artists. The decorations were my favorite part. Some of the decorations I made ranged from giant cardboard disco balls to a huge “SAM Records” music disk. Oh! And we can’t forget the giant van paper frame that was used as part of the event’s photobooth. During this time of cramming to finish creating decorations and planning, the best part of it all was bonding with other TAG members. Creating new decorations with the help of others while also complimenting and discussing posters made by others was truly the highlight of the process for me.

The minutes leading up to Teen Night Out were full of moving heavy packages of sparkling water and sneaking in some snacks along the way. Every TAG member had amazing, lavish disco outfits that truly matched the theme of the evening. What excited me most, however, was the sheer amount of disco balls, something I could’ve only dreamed of! Mere seconds before the doors opened, I created my own disco ball headband with the support of the tiny disco balls that filled countless buckets along the entrance of the museum. At exactly 7 pm, teens rushed in after the conclusion of the award ceremony of Seattle Public Schools’ Naramore Art Show on the museum’s lower level. I remember teens instantly running to the junkyard area we had in the front of the museum, taking all the tiny and large objects that soon transformed into original breathtaking creations.

Teen Night Out was a blur, but in the best way possible.

I remember creating many headbands and little gadgets that soon found a place on my bedroom bookshelf. In the middle of Teen Night Out, my friends and fellow TAG members Hamda and Samira alerted me to our new TAG audio guide, finally installed in American Art: The Stories We Carry. I remember jumping with joy after seeing our hard work in its full and final form for museum visitors to see and interact with for years to come.

To end off the night, students of the School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts (SANCA) gave an amazing performance, entirely powered by youth! It was refreshing to see an organization that willingly grants youth the power to form their own decisions, something I admire about SAM as well.

Looking back, Teen Night Out felt like a huge hangout for teens with different backgrounds, but all united through art. Art possesses a healing power that has followed me throughout my life, and it’s truly rewarding to see other teens express themselves through various artistic means. To all teens, Teen Night Out is one night a year, but may very well be the best night of your entire year. You are guaranteed to make friends, have fun, make some great art, and find yourself along the way!

– Ivy Liu (she/her), 15, First-Year Teen Arts Group Leader

Photos: Chloe Collyer & Cristina Cano-Calhoun.

Muse/News: Amiably Weird, Pride Art, and Creative Freedom

SAM News

Alex Greenberger of ARTnews recommends “44 Museum Shows to See This Summer,” including Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, which opens at the Seattle Art Museum on Friday, June 21. Can you dig it?

On view right now at SAM is Yirrkala: Art from Australia’s Top End, an exhibition of Australian Aboriginal paintings recommended in the May/June 2024 issue of Seattle magazine by Helen Lowenthal.

Artist Anida Yoeu Ali was interviewed for KUOW about “the fabulousness of being a Muslim woman” and her performance work, which is now on view in Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence at the Seattle Asian Art Museum through July 7.

Local News

For KNKX, two Garfield High students reflect on “what it’s really like to perform at the pinnacle of high school jazz”: the Essentially Ellington competition in New York. 

Here’s Brangien Davis of Cascade PBS on the opening of a delightful new brick-and-mortar bookstore in Pioneer Square, Long Bros. Fine & Rare Books.

Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times on “5 Seattle art shows to see during Pride month 2024.”

“The past, present and future of art is powerfully and inextricably linked with the creative contributions of LGBTQ+ artists who have used art for self-expression, advocacy and social critique.”

Inter/National News

Lance Esplund of the Wall Street Journal reviews the Norton Simon Museum’s exhibition, I Saw It: Francisco de Goya, Printmaker, with prints that include haunting allegorical scenes and brutal images of war.

Artnet’s Katie White interviews Pipilotti Rist at the artist’s “zany, kaleidoscopic, and creatively cluttered” Zurich studio on the occasion of her survey exhibition Doha’s Fire Station.

Via Gameli Hamelo for ARTnews: “When El Anatsui Isn’t Busy Being One of Africa’s Biggest Artists, He’s Collecting Vinyl.”

“Just like Fela, I believe that my career has proven that the audiences will always look to the artist to lead, to expand their experience with new presentations or renewals of old fare. When encountering objects, I think of what they can do and what has not been explored yet, and try to explore it. Freedom has a lot to do with it.”

And Finally

Kabosu, the dog behind the “doge” internet meme, has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Animated Coat Hanger

A material as humble and mundane as wire proved inspiring for Alexander Calder, who used it to create three-dimensional line drawings. During the late 1920s, he sculpted a range of wire acrobats, performers, animals, and portraits of famed figures of the day, including Fernand Léger, Josephine Baker, and Joan Miró.

These ‘drawings in space’ enthralled the international avant-garde for their projected shadows, captured voids, and challenged perceptions. His radical objects not only upended space through their transparent volumes, but also presented the reality of motion through vibrating wire lines and the inclusion of actual moving parts. As a result of these works, Calder was lauded as Le roi du fil de fer, or the king of wire.

Although intimate in size, Animated Coat Hanger speaks volumes about Calder’s ingenuity and resourcefulness with wire. The work’s title implies that a coat hanger was used to sculpt the profiled subject, but that is not the case. Perhaps the title is a nod to the artists from the Dada movement, who used the choice of selection to create readymades from preexisting common objects, such as hangers.

Tune in to the ninth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz and New York-based artist Kennedy Yanko share their perspectives on this simple yet surprising wire sculpture. Explore all 16 stops of the audio tour now via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select artworks on view.

Animated Coat Hanger, 1927

NARRATOR: Wire sculpture was Calder’s first great invention. He removed mass from sculpture and introduced transparency as well as gentle movement through vibration.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Animated Coat Hanger is really special to this exhibition.

NARRATOR: Curator José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: This particular work is from 1927 which is an example of one of the earliest works in the show. Calder had been so innovative with wire, so much so that we use the term drawing in space.

NARRATOR: Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: The fact that he would carry pliers in his pocket and just decide to start drawing is such a true thing to me, the idea of choosing a medium to represent drawing.  

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: But what’s really beautiful about it is the simplicity. You’ll notice the wooden base, which looks like it could have been a discarded material. You’ll notice the figurative aspect of it, sort of the profile of an individual.

KENNEDY YANKO: It’s surprising, and it’s intriguing, and somehow it’s barely there, but when you take a closer look at it, the sensibility, the delicacy, the gesture, the breasts, the face, how can a line have so much effect and so much life within it? So, I think that it’s just a gesture to like how powerful the way that the eyes can read something, and the way that the mind can fill the rest of the space. And I think with Calder’s work there’s always opportunity for that. He knows that the mind will always fill the blank spaces and always complete what needs to be there.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Circus-Themed Prints

Throughout the 1920s, Alexander Calder worked as an illustrator for the National Police Gazette. On one assignment, Calder was tasked with visiting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus life. The experience led to a newfound interest for the circus.

A series of seven lithographs on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM demonstrate Calder’s lifelong fascination with the circus. Originally drawn in 1931–32, the prints were published in New York in 1964 as part of an unbound portfolio reproducing the artist’s circus scenes. The portfolio, titled Calder’s Circus, includes a signature page by Cleve Gray and a reproduction of a letter from Joan Miró. Notably, the original line drawings were made during a time of transition for the artist: after his performative Cirque Calder (1926–31) and during his exploration of purely abstract forms—as well as voids and volumes—in his mobiles and stabiles.

On the eleventh stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz explains why Calder considered the circus to be a ‘highly sophisticated form of entertainment’ and shares details of the artist’s famous Cirque Calder. Listen at any time via our SoundCloud or, if you’re in SAM’s galleries, scan the QR codes next to select artworks on view to access the tour.

Group of Circus-Themed Prints, 1931–32, 1964

NARRATOR: These offset lithographs date from 1964; but they’re based on drawings that Calder made as a young man. 

During the 1920s, Calder took a job illustrating for the National Police Gazette. They sent him to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus scenes. The circus became a lifelong interest for Calder. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: During Calder’s youth, the circus was a great point of inspiration for him. This was a highly sophisticated form of entertainment. It had a global appeal. It included performative aspects—larger than life theatricality. It included actors, performers, and animals. And he illustrated this. He even went on to make his Cirque Calder, which was his own representation of a performative, sculptural circus that he himself was sort of the ringmaster of.  

NARRATOR: The Cirque Calder dates from after Calder’s move to Paris in 1926. It was a complex and unique body of art, and included tiny performers, animals and props such as he’d observed on his sketching trips to the circus. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Cirque Calder was a reenacted performative circus made of small figurines and design sets that mimic the circus. The Cirque Calder was something that was small enough to fit in one suitcase and eventually five, and Calder would perform the Cirque Calder across the Atlantic from Paris to New York. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

World-Renowned Artist Ai Weiwei Comes to SAM in 2025

Today, SAM made a major announcement: In 2025, the Seattle Art Museum will present the first US retrospective in over a decade of the work of Ai Weiwei. Titled Ai, Rebel: The Art and Activism of Ai Weiwei, it will explore over 100 works from across four decades, offering visitors from all over the world a rare opportunity to engage with the celebrated conceptual artist’s wide-ranging body of work. The exhibition will be on view at the Seattle Art Museum in downtown Seattle and is curated by FOONG Ping, SAM Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art. This also marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in Seattle.

The news arrived via a co-exclusive by ARTnews and The Seattle Times.

ARTnews highlighted the unique curatorial perspective that FOONG will take: “Unlike many curators who’ve worked with Ai, Foong does not specialize in contemporary art. She mainly works with age-old Chinese works presented by the museum, and she said this moved to her to explore the art history that guides Ai. ‘My intention is to find some language that might describe trends and patterns, the things that have stood the test of time, the things that he thought about in his first decade and are still with him decades on,’ she said.”

And in The Seattle Times, José Carlos Diaz, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, called this a “major moment” for the city: “Seattle is due for a major exhibition of his dynamic, large-scale work,” he said. “Ai is a global icon whose work resonates with so many types of audiences; this exhibition will make SAM a destination for locals and visitors alike who will want to engage with his work.”

Exhibitions of Ai Weiwei’s work have brought sold-out crowds around the world, so the museum anticipates high demand and is making preparations for the best visitor experience. To increase access, SAM planned an extended run of six months, beyond its usual exhibition timeframe. Timed ticketing will increase access to the museum and improve flow in the galleries. Ticket release dates will be announced in advance so that visitors can plan ahead. SAM members will have additional opportunities for access, including early access to reserve timeslots, member-only days, and member-exclusive events.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Gao Yuan / Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.

Muse/News: Peaceful Gestures, Art Response, and Ancient Labels

SAM News

Tune in: Anida Yoeu Ali was interviewed by Gregory Scruggs of Monocle Radio about her performance works now on view in Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Tip: Her segment starts about 31 minutes into the show.) You can see her as The Red Chador alongside her rainbow brigade on Saturday, June 1 across all three SAM sites!

“My gestures are the heart shake…and then sometimes I just bow to them as the Red Chador, just completely humble myself and offer a bow…that is always very well received and it sort of disarms a moment, too, when they see that I’m offering you a moment of reverence and a peaceful gesture.”

Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times was inspired by the aurora borealis to find more open-air beauty, including at the Olympic Sculpture Park: “Where to see free, outdoor art in the Seattle area in spring 2024.”

“The installation is a stunning illustration of Serra’s belief that sculpture wasn’t meant to be passively viewed but felt by moving through it. Here, let the undulating steel waves, at once tender and imposing, wash over you.”

Summer season is upon us: For Fodor’s, Sydney Baker has “The Perfect 5-Day Seattle Itinerary”; Baker recommends CityPASS for all your attraction needs, including a downtown day that includes the Seattle Art Museum. And Amanda Teague for The Manual has “4 reasons why Seattle is Kayak’s No. 1 summer travel destination,” including a shout-out for SAM

Local News

The skies also inspired Cascade PBS’s Brangien Davis, who found “Northwest artists channel Northern lights in galleries from Ballard to Pioneer Square.” 

Via Jenn Ngeth for South Seattle Emerald: “Events Bloom All Over Seattle to Celebrate AA&NH/PI Heritage Month 2024.”

Via Nova Berger for Capitol Hill Seattle Blog: “Capitol Hill resident and poet Janée Baugher has received the Dorset Prize.”

“Museums changed that for Baugher. She writes in a literary style known as Ekphrastic poetry: a poetic response to the emotions a piece of art brings. Using language as a tool to bridge the visual and the verbal, allowing the poet to capture their response to the artwork in a way we can all understand.”

Inter/National News

Don’t miss this full celebratory series of the greatest short story writer ever via The New York Times: “Alice Munro, Nobel Laureate and Master of the Short Story, Dies at 92.”

Via Artdaily: “Gagosian opens the gallery’s first exhibition of works by Lauren Halsey.” The artist had her solo show at SAM in 2022 in honor of her 2021 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize. 

For the ones who read the labels: Richard Whiddington for Artnet on English archaeologist Leonard Woolley’s excavation of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur and what he found in 1925.

“The clue that indicated that Woolley had uncovered a Neo-Babylonian museum was the presence of artifact labels. Each object corresponded to a small clay cylinder that boasted inscriptions in four languages explaining the object, its context, and its history.”

And Finally

“A Few Words About That Ten-Million Dollar Serial Comma.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Going Mobile, Deep Roots, and Mother Wit

SAM News

“Hope you like mobiles!!” The Stranger’s Everout names SAM’s first-ever Calder Symposium one of “The Best Things To Do in Seattle This Month: May 2024.” With a talk by renowned Alexander Calder biographer Jed Perl on Friday evening and a day of tours, lectures, and screenings about Calder’s genius all day Saturday, you won’t want to miss it.

And save the date: SAM’s summer exhibition, Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, opens in just over a month. 425 Magazine mentioned it in their “This Week in A&E” spotlight. 

Local News

In her latest ArtSEA post, Cascade PBS’s Brangien Davis sees arts venues “putting on a good face”; some of her recommendations have passed but some are ongoing—don’t miss out!

Via Sarah Stackhouse for Seattle Magazine: “Rebuilding Re-Sole 206.”

“One Reel, former Bumbershoot producer, closing; its art paper survives”: Chase Hutchinson for The Seattle Times with an update on the 52-year-old nonprofit arts organization.

“In an email, Elisheba Johnson, One Reel’s board president, spoke of the organization’s ‘roots that are long and deep in the community. Almost every events/music employee in this region has worked at One Reel at some point of their career,’ Johnson said. ‘One Reel will be remembered as the incredible convener of arts and culture in Seattle for over 50 years.’

Inter/National News

Artnet rounds up the best looks inspired by art history at the Met Gala.

Via Ad Age: “Apple apologized Thursday for a new iPad Pro commercial that was met with fierce criticism from creatives for depicting an array of creative tools and objects—from a piano, to a camera, to cans of paint—being destroyed by an industrial crusher.”

Via Evan Nicole Brown for T: The New York Times Style Magazine: “Betye Saar Remains Guided by the Spirit.”

“Saar, who is 97, decides what to reach for based on something she has referred to over the years as “mother wit”: she feels when a wooden statue, antique doll or rusted dagger is calling to be used. Saar considers this selection process to be a sacred one.”

And Finally

“10 Times Artists Hid Themselves in Their Paintings.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

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.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Little Yellow Panel

Although it was never publicly exhibited in his lifetime, Little Yellow Panel exemplifies Alexander Calder’s desire to create “paintings in motion.” This exotic wall sculpture’s origin can actually be traced to a significant moment in Calder’s development that inspired him to experiment with movement: his visit to the studio of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in October 1930.

The artist recalled being impressed not by Mondrian’s paintings but by the environmental space of his studio: “Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.’” 

In the wake of his visit, Calder began to work in the abstract. Beginning the following year, he explored the frontal formality of painting in three dimensions but with actual motion—elements in oscillation—usually by way of simple motors. Eventually, he experimented more freely with the possibilities of movement, suspending elements to be activated by air within wood frames or in front of panels made of painted plywood. Little Yellow Panel showcases how Calder ingeniously blurred the lines between painting and sculpture to reflect a choreography of nonobjective imagery.

Supplement your visit to Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM and learn more about Little Yellow Panel by tuning in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Access it now on our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to select works on view when exploring the museum’s galleries.

Little Yellow Panel, ca. 1936

NARRATOR: Little Yellow Panel is part of a series of works from the mid-1930s that explored the concept of ‘paintings in motion.’ The work blurs the lines between painting and sculpture: viewed from the front, its various elements appear to be positioned against a defined yellow background. But these elements can be moved around—so the composition changes. Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: What I like about it is that it’s perfect. It’s a perfect piece. Where the colors show up: they’re placed perfectly with just the right amount of randomness. It’s ironic. It’s calling upon all these different things. It captures, you know, an entrance into a more minimal thought of color and form. And it also holds his curiosity. And this really feels kind of like a pivotal moment of clarity.

NARRATOR: This was an intense period of innovation for Calder. In 1930, he visited the Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian. Calder was excited by the way the older artist had arranged his studio: Mondrian had pinned rectangles of colored cardboard to the walls, as he experimented with different compositions. For Calder, the whole space became an installation.

Following this visit, he made his first wholly abstract compositions. It was also at this time that he invented the kinetic sculptures we know as mobiles. It was his friend the French artist Marcel Duchamp who suggested the term. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He suggested it because in French the word mobile: it refers not only to motion, but it also means your motivation or your motive—Calder’s motivation, Calder’s motions, Calder’s motives. It was like that. It was a pun.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

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: Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People)

In Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), images related to American colonization appear alongside newspaper headlines describing the dark reality of reservation life. Above, an array of cheap toys, souvenirs, and sports memorabilia—which speak to the commodification of Native American identity—are offered as gifts to white people in exchange for the return of stolen lands. Presented together, the large-scale mixed-media collage is illustrates the historical and contemporary inequities between the United States government and Native American communities.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith created this work in 1992 as a response to the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in North America. Part of the series The Quincentenary Non-Celebration, the work is one of the earliest ‘trade canoes’ Smith developed across her career.

Tune in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map to hear contemporary Native American artist Jeffrey Gibson further explore the themes and significance of Smith’s trade canoe. All 19 stops of the exhibition’s are available via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR codes next to select artworks on view. Memory Map closes Sunday, May 12—reserve your tickets to see it now at the Seattle Art Museum before it’s gone!

Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), 1992

NARRATOR: This is one of Smith’s earliest “Trade Canoes.” From the beginning, she drew on the importance of canoes to Native peoples in order to make complex statements about their experience of American history. 

JEFFREY GIBSON: I think for Indigenous people, it is mobility. It is the ability to be able to travel. 

My name is Jeffrey Gibson. I’m an artist. I live in the Hudson Valley, and I’m a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and half Cherokee.

What’s interesting about this painting is we don’t know the direction. All the directions are removed. There is no front end of the canoe versus the back end of the canoe. It’s empty and it’s in a chaotic world that that version of the canoe doesn’t really make sense.

All of the kind of text and imagery that she’s put here are the things that have robbed us of knowing the Indigenous definition of a canoe. And I think putting the trash on the string above the painting, those are also just those images and those texts brought into object form, mass-produced all over the world, cheap and plentiful.

This painting of the canoe down below and all of the text and imagery that surrounds it speaks in the same way of this kind of difficult, challenging world for Indigenous people to find and navigate who they are as contemporary people, who they are as traditional people, who they are in relationship to their communities and their families. And then you hang this… I’m going to use the word trash, and I don’t mean that, but I mean it sort of like this very much throwaway culture…this kitsch and camp racist memorabilia hanging above it on the string. I think it’s sort of the audacity of this painting that makes it really successful.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), 1992, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, oil, paper, newspaper, and fabric on canvas with thirty-one found objects on a chain, four parts: 86 × 170 in. overall, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; museum purchase in memory of Trinkett Clark, Curator of American and Contemporary Art, Fabricated by Andy Ambrose, © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Photos

By the 1950s, Alexander Calder had established himself as an internationally renowned artist. Although the public perceived him as a social butterfly, he preferred to work in his Roxbury, Connecticut studio alone and in silence. Few outsiders were granted access to the artist’s workspace. Among them, however, was acclaimed photojournalist and filmmaker Gordon Parks.

Parks visited Calder in his home and studio in 1952 on assignment for Life magazine. That year, Calder represented the United States at the 26th Venice Biennale, an international exposition that highlights global artistic achievements. This photograph, featuring a mobile now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is one of several images that were taken by Parks for the August 25, 1952, issue of the magazine. The accompanying story celebrated Calder’s winning of the biennale’s grand prize for sculpture.

Learn more about this work and two other photographs of Calder in his studio by tuning in to the seventh stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. The full tour is available to explore on your own time via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select works in the exhibition.

Group of Photos: Calder Installing Gamma (1947), Alexander Calder, Roxbury Ct. (1957), and Alexander Calder (1952)

NARRATOR: These three photographs offer an intimate glimpse of Calder at work. 

Let’s focus on the image to the far right of the group. It was taken by the important photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks in 1952. That year, Calder had been selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Venice Biennale is sort of the Olympics of the art world where artists are chosen to represent their countries, and Calder actually won the Grand Prize that year.

This photo was taken for the August 25, 1952, issue of Life magazine and features Calder not installing an exhibition at the Venice Biennale but actually in his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. This was a very private space, and for Life magazine—or really the American public—to see the artist behind the scenes would have been really captivating at the time.

NARRATOR: For artist Kennedy Yanko, the photographs offer a different perspective on the work.

KENNEDY YANKO: When you typically see Calder’s work, you’re looking up and you’re looking around. So your entire physical gesture and exploration of it changes. But you can see here how different it is when he’s so close to it and how he’s experienced it in the making. He’s living within the work, and he’s living within the sculpture, and I think that that’s what allowed all of these monumental sculptures to kind of continue to carry us. That sense of life and that sense of curiosity is how deeply immersed and present he was inside of the pieces.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Memory Map Smartphone Tour: The Vanishing American

In Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s striking abstract painting The Vanishing American (1994), a series of Native figures dressed in traditional clothing are surrounded by marks and newspaper clippings with headlines including ‘Support the Tribal Dollar,’ ‘Best if Used by 2000,’ and ‘Built-in Upgradability.’ Clustered together, the figures stand in defensive positions.

This work represents the making of a comeback. Not only the comeback of a person or community of people, but also the return of a mentality that has been erased by contemporary society’s monoculture. Learn more about the significance behind The Vanishing American directly from the artist by tuning in to the free smartphone tour of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map at SAM. Originally produced by the Whitney Museum of Art, all nineteen stops of the audio tour are accessible by scanning the QR codes throughout the exhibition’s galleries or on your own time via our SoundCloud.

The Vanishing American, 1994

NARRATOR: Smith called this painting The Vanishing American. It mixes brushy abstraction with headlines clipped from newspapers. In the upper right, one reads “What Americans,” pointing loosely to the painting’s ironic explorations of identity. 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: See there’s always this thing about “the vanishing Native American.” The vanishing American Indian. And we’ve been hit with that all of our lives. That, “oh you guys are so watered down.” “Oh you guys are so mixed blood, you don’t know who you are.” “Oh you’re so bastardized, you have no culture left.”

NARRATOR: Smith said she was inspired to make the painting after a community meal during medicine lodge ceremonies on the lands of the Blackfeet Nation, near her childhood home. 

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH: And then when everybody would gather to eat, people would start talking about, “And, you know, the white people are just going to do themselves in with all their poisons and all the pesticides and everything that they’re using on our food. And so they’re just going to be the vanishing white men.” And then everybody would laugh.

So, I came back into the studio, and here I found this sign called built-in upgradability out of some New York Times or some ad or something. And I said, yeah, that really fits what the elders are saying, that we’re going to make it through this. Built-in upgradability, that’s what we have. We’ve been here for thousands and thousands of years. They just got here yesterday. They keep pretending like, oh, we just got here before them. Well, that’s not true. We’ve been here since the creation time. So the making of a comeback.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

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.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong

“You have weight, form, size, color, motion and then you have noise.”

– Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder’s mobiles are recognized for their subtle movements, but their innovative use of sound is lesser known. Of over 22,000 artworks attributed to Calder, scholars have identified dozens of sound-producing mobiles. Beginning in the 1930s, Calder used sound in his abstract objects as a means to enhance ‘disparity’ within a composition. His most recognizable sonorous objects feature gongs, which he developed in earnest in the 1940s and 1950s.

Following its creation in 1948, Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong hung in the artist’s Roxbury studio, where incoming winds from the Connecticut countryside would ‘compose’ an unpredictable musical backdrop as he worked. A glimpse into this experience is offered in the Herbert Matter film Works of Calder (1950), with music by John Cage, in which elements of Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong slice through space. In the following decade, the mobile was presented as part of Philadelphia Collects 20th Century at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before being acquired by the Shirley family in 1999.

Sound objects like Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong express the possibilities that Marcel Duchamp recognized in Calder’s mobiles in 1949: “The symphony is complete when color and sound join in and call on all our senses to follow the unwritten score. Pure joie de vivre. The art of Calder is the sublimation of a tree in the wind.”

Find out if you can hear the subtle ‘ding’ of Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong by visiting Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. Until then, you can learn more about this work from SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz and Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower by tuning in to the eighth stop on the exhibition’s free smartphone tour via our SoundCloud.

Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong, 1948

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: One of the joys about Calder’s work is that one must be prepared for the unexpected…

NARRATOR: José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: … whether you visit the exhibition and you see objects moving—or if you hear sounds. And so this is a wonderful example of one of Calder’s works that actually contains sound.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: This particular work is one of my favorite works in the Shirley Collection.

NARRATOR: Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Every object has an extraordinary shape except for the white disc—which, the white disc has the kind of purpose of being almost a rudder to drive the hammer, which is this red coil that strikes the gong. Even just people circumnavigating a gallery will activate the mobile, and it will occasionally give a little bright, you know, ‘ding.’

NARRATOR: Calder’s use of sound can be related to his love of music. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder was quite obsessed with music. He loved to dance. He was a famous dancer actually. If he was at a party, he would dance with a partner and then wear them out completely and then choose another partner and wear that person out completely. Which I witnessed as a young boy, of course, but much more famously was in the ‘20s and the ‘30s and ‘40s when he was out doing such things, you know.

NARRATOR: Here, the musical vibration is a way of drawing us into the work.  

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: There is a possibility it may never make sound during its presentation at the Seattle Art Museum, but the moment of surprise awaits.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

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.

Connecting Art to Life in Every Way: Accessibility Updates from SAM

“This bronze sculpture of a seaweed stalk sits on a freestanding pedestal a few feet off the ground. The overall shape is abstracted, made of rounded, wavy, leaf-like shapes. The surface color is a dark, chocolatey brown that blends with lighter patches of deep caramel. As you move around the sculpture, the color shifts as light reflects off the patina from different angles.”

This is an excerpt from the verbal description for the collection work Mo (Seaweed) (1977) by George Tsutakawa. These detailed audio explanations bring artworks to life for visitors with low or no vision and are available for smartphones via QR codes.

With the guidance of an accessibility trainer and contributions from community members—including SAM Visitor Experience Representative Derek Bourcier and former SAM docent Donnie Wilburn—we’ve revamped our production of verbal descriptions. In addition to creating them for many artworks in special exhibitions, such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map and Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, we are also working to create them for collection galleries such as American Art: The Stories We Carry at the Seattle Art Museum and Boundless: Stories of Asian Art at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

“We want our verbal descriptions to meet the needs of the people they’re serving,” says Ramzy Lakos, SAM Museum Educator for Digital Learning, who leads their development. “The goal is to have one for every artwork on view. We get a little closer to achieving that every year.”

In addition to verbal descriptions, the museum offers large-print copies of the object labels for select exhibitions as well as transcripts of all smartphone tours. SAM also offers ASL interpretation upon request. At Coat Check, visitors can borrow baby carriers and strollers, canes, stools, wheelchairs, disposable magnifying glasses, earplugs, large-print maps, colorblind glasses, a text telephone device, and Android phones with headphones for accessing online audio tours and descriptions.

“It’s all about progress,” says SAM Visitor Experience Manager Chelsea Leingang. “It’s about acknowledging that SAM can do better and actively working to make the artwork in our galleries more accessible to visitors.”

Check out visitsam.org/accessibility or call us at 206.654.3210 for more information about our accessibility options, to request accommodations, or obtain a large-print version of SAM magazine.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

This article first appeared in the February through May 2024 edition 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!

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Case of Small Mobiles

It is often assumed that Alexander Calder began experimenting with scale by making small, intimate sculptures before eventually scaling up to monumental commissions, such as The Eagle (1970), on view at the Olympic Sculpture Park. This assumption, however, is incorrect.

Calder’s understanding of scale began in his childhood when he observed his father managing sculpture projects (including the enlargement of monuments from models) for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Throughout his career, Calder worked in all sizes and scales, with a non-linear progression that was daring and fluid. Some of his small-scale works were made as maquettes for colossal objects. Others, including this collection of standing mobiles, were of a different breed, with many being constructed as gifts for family and friends.

In the sixth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz compares the artistry between Calder’s monumental and miniature sculptures. Tune in to this recording and many more via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR codes next to select works in the exhibition’s galleries.

Haven’t visited Calder: In Motion yet? Check out visitsam.org/tickets to plan your next visit to SAM and get an up-close look at the intricate details of Alexander Calder’s tiniest sculptures.

Case of Small Mobiles: Untitled (1952), Black, White, Yellow and Brass on Red (1959), Untitled (1947), Two White Dots (1973)

NARRATOR: We often associate Calder with monumental sculpture. But he also worked on a small, delicate scale throughout his career. This case displays a grouping of some of Calder’s small-scale works. Calder was known for making works like these as gifts. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: There’s a famous story of Calder making small works encased in a cigar box for his wife, and so his wife, Louisa, can travel with these. She can display them as she saw fit. She can curate them within her own setting. But it’s also the small works’ complexity.

So, if you look at this case, you’ll notice that the small mobiles are just as detailed. You’ll notice that they’re balanced. You’ll notice that the use of metal is done with such delicacy that it has just as much attention as Calder would focus on for his larger-scaled works. You also can get a sense of the colors. The palettes are very similar to Calder’s larger scaled works. You’ll notice shapes that are similar to other large-scale works. But it’s often because Calder is working within an aesthetic that can really work within scale. And Calder was very conscious when he played with scale because it allowed him to also explore the way that these stabiles and mobiles could function in a setting, regardless of how big they are.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 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.

In the Studio with SAM Gallery Artist Nichole DeMent

In the Studio highlights the private workspaces of local artists represented by SAM Gallery. For more than fifty years, SAM Gallery has supported artists from across the Pacific Northwest and provided private and corporate clients with a wide range of services, from purchasing their first work of art to building extensive collections. To browse a featured artist’s entire catalogue of artwork available for rent or purchase, visit SAM Gallery on the lower level of the Seattle Art Museum.

The sun shines into Nichole DeMent’s beautiful West Seattle studio on the winter day of our visit. DeMent has spent eleven years in this space, creating mixed media encaustic works. Her encaustic artworks are characterized by their intricate layers, producing depth and complexity.

“I really fell in love with layers because life is complicated,” she said. “Layers portray my understanding of the world in a way that I hope helps bring peace.”

Nearly three decades later, DeMent’s process still begins with photography. When she is taking photographs, there are instances when she has a clear plan and others when she is open to wherever her intuitive process leads. She most commonly photographs people, animals, and botanicals.

After printing her photographs, she fuses them to wood panels using the basic ingredients of the encaustic medium: beeswax, resin, and pigment. She then brushes layers of the encaustic over her photographs, incorporating layers of organic materials including rust, tea, and mica flakes. Once there are enough layers of encaustic, she affects the layers using heated carving tools, creating texture and movement. She wants the surface to “have its own history with scars that are representative of the image and very organic.” 

One artwork that illustrates her multi-layered process is part of a series titled Inner Sanctum of Pech Merle (25,000 BCE). Hanging on her studio wall, this large-scale work depicts a horse in profile, in the midst of a step forward. DeMent took the photo of the horse on a colleague’s farm in Snohomish, WA. When the owner let all of the horses out, DeMent took photos while standing in the center of the field. The horse depicted in this work, she said, ran straight toward her before turning to its side to avoid colliding. DeMent views the horse as a strong, powerful, and beautiful animal who carries others when needed.

In closely examining this artwork, its intricate details and layers begin to reveal themselves. The complex artwork’s deeper layers incorporate pages from books embedded in the wax. Meanwhile, sepia drawings inspired by prehistoric cave paintings are set amongst the layers. DeMent studied prehistoric art and architecture in college, visiting many caves during travels abroad. She brings the inspiration from ancient paintings of spotted horses seen in Pech Merle, a prehistoric art site in France into this work. These subtle details, she said, “leave little treasures for the attentive viewer.”

View Nichole DeMent’s available artworks at SAM Gallery on the featured sliding wall or online. Stay updated on all that’s happening at SAM Gallery by following us on Instagram at @atSAMGallery.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Specialist

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Surreal Dreams, Found Imagery, and Women Artists

SAM News

“Jaune Quick-To-See Smith’s vision of America celebrated in Seattle Art Museum retrospective”: Saint Bryan of KING5 Evening spoke with the groundbreaking artist as her landmark show opens at SAM.

For her latest ArtSEA post, Brangien Davis of Crosscut—soon to be known as Cascade PBS—features local women artists as we welcome Women’s History Month. She shared impressions from her first look at Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map.

“At the press preview, decked out in all-black clothing and Doc Marten boots, Smith shared her many Seattle connections…‘Being here at Seattle Art Museum is a surrealistic dream for me,’ she said. ‘I keep pinching myself.’”

The exhibition is also on The Stranger’s list of “Best Things to Do in Seattle This Month.”

Nick Ng of My Edmonds News spoke with artist Andy Eccleshall about Luminosity, his new show at SAM Gallery. Erik Bennion, SAM Gallery Manager, was interviewed for the story. 

“His use of light and eye for composition is what really struck me. He is an incredible painter, depicting the Northwest in a fabulous way. What more could you ask for?”

Local News

For South Seattle Emerald, Jas Keimig has your “Arts in the South End” round-up for happenings in March.

Art Beat, the blog of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, shares information on DREAM TEMPLE (for Octavia), a new exhibition opening March 7 at ARTS at King Street Station.

Via Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times: “At Seattle’s Henry Art Gallery, a powerful exhibit by Hank Willis Thomas.”

“Trained as a photographer, Thomas now uses found imagery (particularly old ads), textiles, sculpture, video and photographic works, and collaborative practices — whatever it takes to get us to look closely and think deeply.”

Inter/National News

“We are not letting the horror be forgotten”: Stephen Smith for The Art Newspaper on the opening of the Museum of Civilian Voices in Kyiv, Ukraine.

ARTnews finds the angle: “Sad Oompa Loompa from Viral Wonka Experience Draws Comparisons to Manet Painting.”

Artnet’s Jo Lawson-Tancred on the launch of “Museums with Men,” a series of audio guides for US and UK museums from art historian and podcaster Katy Hessel.

“Hessel’s voice will expertly navigate audiences towards works by underrepresented artists that might be otherwise lost in a sea of Old Masters and macho modernists.”

And Finally

“It turns out California’s famed burger chain has some Washington in its secret sauce.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Red Curly Tail

In 1933, Alexander Calder and his wife, Louisa, relocated to the United States from Paris, France, and purchased a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. The property was large enough to allow the artist to work on an elevated scale and an old icehouse was transformed into his new studio. 

The following summer, Calder completed his first collection of outdoor works, which ranged in height from five to nine feet. Working larger proved to be expensive and experimental for the artist, so he began making models—or maquettes—in 1936 from which he could enlarge his final sculpture. 

The last two decades of Calder’s life were very successful, and he received multiple high-profile commissions for outdoor sculptures. Red Curly Tail, previously displayed on the lawn of the Shirley family home is a standing mobile that evokes a sense of wonder. Other significant works Calder created during this period include El Sol Rojo for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and The Eagle (1971), now on view at the Olympic Sculpture Park on Seattle’s waterfront.

Tune in to the fifth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz discuss the large size of Red Curly Tail and Calder’s lifelong fascination with scale. All 16 stops of the audio tour are available on our SoundCloud or via the QR codes adjacent to select works in the exhibition’s galleries. Get your tickets to experience all twelve feet of this monumental sculpture at SAM today!

Red Curly Tail, 1970

NARRATOR: Calder had started working on large outdoor sculptures in the 1930s, after he and his wife Louisa moved from Paris to a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. Red Curly Tail dates from 1970—the last decade of his life. It’s essentially a stabile with a mobile element on top, known as a standing mobile. Curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Red Curly Tail is a work that originally would have been shown outdoors, but it also has the… I guess the ambiguity or the ability to be shown inside as a freestanding sculpture without a natural environment around it but actually within other Calder works in this exhibition.

This particular work sort of peeks at you, and you have to approach it, and as you approach it you notice its bold red base. You notice the mobile aspects on top. It’s got this anthropomorphic tail that sort of hints at its quality of being something from nature, but it’s completely abstract as well.

It does give you a sense of scale because when you look at it, you have to also look left, right, and look above and realize, wow, I’m face to face with one of Calder’s outdoor works that actually plays with the sense of scale, especially when a human approaches it. It does take the subtlest air movements to make a Calder mobile move or to sway. However, the outdoor works would require massive gusts of wind. I don’t expect it to shuffle much, but I do think that you’ll always see it in a different way, and that’s really one of the incredible things about this exhibition.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

SAMBlog