Calder Smartphone Tour: Fish

“I feel that the artist should go about his work simply, with great respect for his materials. Simplicity of equipment and an adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar or unknown are apt to result in a primitive and vigorous art. Somehow the primitive is usually much stronger than art in which technique and flourish abound.”

– Alexander Calder, À Propos of Measuring a Mobile

With sheet metal in short supply during World War II, Alexander Calder turned to working with bits of wood, shattered glass, ceramics, tins, and other discarded objects he collected on his farm in Roxbury, Connecticut. Between the 1940s and 1950s, he used these materials to make a dozen hanging fish. Their bodies were constructed of painted rods that were  interlaced with wires to mimic scales. In each of the resulting voids, he suspended shards of glass, porcelain, and other found materials that dazzled when hit by light.

Fishnoted as John Shirley’s favorite of Calder’s works in his collection—is considered to be the earliest example of the artist’s fish mobiles. 

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection is now on view at SAM! Scan the in-gallery QR code beside Fish on your next visit to SAM to access additional information about this work as part of the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Or, explore all 16 stops of the audio tour on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Fish, 1942

NARRATOR: Calder made a dozen hanging fish over the 1940s and 50s. This example, dating from 1942, seems to be the first of the group. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: One of the unusual things about this one compared to all the others is that there are a lot of bits of mirror; and we know about a mirror that was a bistro mirror that Calder had that got broken in a fire and he repurposed pieces of that. And you see them here: you see the kind of scraped away silvering on the glass in some of the pieces. So, this one really reflects a lot of light: doesn’t just transmute the light like a stained-glass window, like many of the fish, but actually transmutes and reflects at the same time. 

NARRATOR: Exhibition curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The lighting creates a shadow, actually a colorful shadow that’s also unexpected within the space, and this is something that gives you a new take on Calder, or even an extension of the sculpture itself, as sculpture as shadow.

NARRATOR: The use of a broken mirror may say something about the time this mobile was made. During the Second World War, Calder felt that sheet metal should be reserved for the war effort; instead, he turned to discarded materials. One useful source was a dump near his studio in Connecticut.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He dug out this mound and found many bits of colored glass and assortments of bits of metal and pieces that he started to incorporate as kind of enticing objects in sculpture. Clearly this Fish has some of those and other things. You can see that there’s a piece of Chinese porcelain and some other bits of pottery from sources unknown.

– 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.

Muse/News: Heroic Art, Eco-Feminist Trash, and Harlem at the Met

SAM News

Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence is now on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. For NW Asian Weekly, Kai Curry highlights Ali’s experiences bringing sculptural garments to life in real-world contexts.

“As a society, we don’t talk enough about the heroism of artists. Of what an artist like Ali risks in order to ask the hard questions—and to force the public to ask them as well. Strip searches, theft, violence…These interactions, though surreal, are real. They give the artist and the audience insight into who the artist is—but also into who we are.”

Via Karen Ho for ARTnews: “A Vast Gift of Calder Sculptures Could Change the Seattle Art Museum—and the Surrounding City—Forever.”

Kids at home? Yulia Fiala for Seattle’s Child has you covered with “21 fun things to do for midwinter break”—including a visit to Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection.

Local News

KING5 Evening interviews artist Juliana Kang Robinson about her special edition Seattle Kraken logo created for Lunar New Year. Robinson is a teaching artist with SAM, and you can also see her work on the crosswalk art at First and University.

Via Jadenne Radoc Cabahug for Crosscut: “From 2020 to now: 4 Seattle Black activists reflect on their work.”

In the latest edition of “Artists to Know,” The Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel profiles Marita Dingus and her sculptures made of discarded materials. Her work is in SAM’s collection.

“Saving these materials from the landfill isn’t just a means to a waste-reducing end: Dingus considers herself an environmental, feminist artist steeped in African American art traditions and a belief in ecological and racial justice.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Brian Boucher on a witty gesture rendered in an asparagus stalk by Édouard Manet. 

Via Holland Cotter of The New York Times: “The Met Aims to Get Harlem Right, the Second Time Around.”

“The museum isn’t framing the show as an institutional correction, though how can it be viewed otherwise? At the same time, it’s more than just that. It’s the start — or could be — in moving a still-neglected art history out of the wings and onto the main stage.”

And Finally

“The dog who deserves an Oscar.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Abbey Road, The Red Chador: Genesis I, Main St. & 102nd Ave, Bellevue, Washington, USA, 2021, Anida Yoeu Ali, Cambodian American, b. 1974, archival inkjet print, Image courtesy of the artist, © Studio Revolt, photo: Dylan Maddux.

Celebrate Black History Month With Five Artworks by Black Artists on View at SAM

Every February, the United States recognizes Black History Month with a specific theme. In 2024, the theme is African Americans and the Arts.

African American art is intricately woven with influences from Africa, the Caribbean, and the lived experiences of Black Americans. In celebration of the rich history of Black Americans in the arts, we’re reflecting on five artworks by historical and contemporary Black artists in the museum’s collection which visitors can currently see in our galleries. Plus, scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about a few ways you can celebrate Black History Month this February and all year long!


Mitchell’s Point Looking Down the Columbia, 1887
Grafton Tyler Brown

Grafton Tyler Brown (1841–1918) was one of only a few Black Americans who made a living as an artist before the 20th century, first as a topographic artist and a lithographer and later as a landscape painter. Brown’s parents were freedmen living in Pennsylvania, but Brown decided to move West for greater freedom and opportunities in the 1850s, as many African Americans did. In the 1880s and 1890s, Brown traveled around the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, painting and selling images of his surroundings. This serene scene of the Columbia River, titled Mitchell’s Point Looking Down the Columbia and on view in American Art: The Stories We Carry, depicts smooth, reflective water framed by rocky cliffs, rolling hills with patches of trees, and distant mountains. The few Native American figures situated in the foreground serve more as indications of the remote-ness of this place, rather than detailed observations of particular Indigenous peoples.

Gwendolyn Knight, 1934–35
Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage (1892–1962) studied sculpture in New York and Paris before opening her own art school in Harlem, New York in 1931. She was devoted to sharing her skills and resources with her students and mentored many young Black artists including Gwendolyn Knight, depicted here, and Knight’s husband Jacob Lawrence, both of whom would later live in Seattle. This portrait depicts Knight in her early twenties with careful attention paid to her facial features and gracefully pulled up hair. Savage gifted this portrait bust to Knight, which she kept until her death in 2005 and bequeathed to the Seattle Art Museum, allowing this rare and fragile plaster work to survive while many of Savage’s other works did not. You can learn more about this bust and Augusta Savage’s artistic career in this 2016 SAM Object of the Week blog post and take an up-close look at  its intricate sculpted details in American Art: The Stories We Carry.

Wounded Eagle No. 10, 1963
James Washington Jr.

James Washington Jr. (1908–2000) saw his animal sculptures as deeply symbolic and resonant with his spiritual beliefs. Born the son of a Baptist minister in Mississippi, he brought these beliefs with him when he moved to the Seattle area in 1941 for a job at the Bremerton Navy Yard. He felt that God was guiding him in his life and as an artist, calling him to create images that would communicate universality and truth about the world. His animal sculptures, such as Wounded Eagle No. 10 on view in Remember the Rain, showcase his close observations of the natural world, as well as his understanding of line, form, and medium. Washington was active in the arts community in the Northwest, taking classes at the University of Washington, exhibiting his work often, forming relationships with artists including Mark Tobey, Kenjiro Nomura, and George Tsutakawa, among many others, and starting a foundation for art scholarships.

In Case of Fire and In Case of Flood, 2014
Barbara Earl Thomas

In a striking and jarring confusion of black and white lines, Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas (born 1948) illustrates two related themes in this pair of linocut prints titled In Case of Fire and In Case of Flood on view in Remember the Rain. These scenes of people dealing with apocalyptic disasters—fire and flood—draw from Biblical sources, but also from folklore, literature, and Thomas’s own family history and experiences. Rather than creating scenes of pure fantasy, Thomas describes her work as chronicling real narratives from the past and our present day, compelled by the economic and racial inequity she witnesses. In a 2019 SAM Object of the Week blog post, Thomas was quoted as saying: “It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in the midst of the chaos.” Thomas was a student of Jacob Lawrence at the University of Washington, who himself was taught by Augusta Savage, exemplifying a legacy of socially engaged and community-oriented artists.

Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7, 1997
Glenn Ligon

Glenn Ligon’s (born 1960) Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7 renders a powerful text by civil rights activist and writer James Baldwin nearly invisible by stenciling the black type on a black background and coating it with coal dust. On view in SAM’s modern and contemporary art galleries, the work’s unclear presentation of Baldwin’s words leaves viewers searching and straining to read the message. Baldwin’s essay published in 1955 recounts his visit to a remote Swiss village where he is the first and only Black person that many of the townspeople had ever met. In Ligon’s painting, the sense of hypervisibility that Baldwin describes becomes camouflaged and concealed. Ligon often uses text in his works to question the power of language, modes of engaging with visual art, and the legacy of slavery and racial stereotypes.

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

Celebrate Black History Month in Seattle with these suggested events. 

February 1–29
Call to Conscience
Take a trip to the Columbia City Theater every Tuesday through Sunday this month to explore the Call to Conscience Black History Month Museum. Organized by Rainier Avenue Radio, the converted theater celebrates the achievements of the Pacific Northwest’s Black community with exhibitions about the Seattle Black Panther Party, the Black Heritage Society, the Hartsfield Family and Slave Quilt Collection, and more.

Sundays in February
Black Ice: An American Sitcom Improvised
Unexpected Productions Improv wants you to be a part of their live studio audience every Sunday this month as they perform an improvised television sitcom inspired by Norman Lear’s iconic 1970s sitcoms. And yes, they’ll be asking for crowd suggestions throughout the show.

February 15
Keynote Program with Dr. Doretha Williams
Our friends at the Northwest African American Museum are celebrating Black History Month with a keynote speech from Dr. Doretha Williams, Director of the Robert F. Smith Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History. In her speech, she’ll discuss the importance of Black family history in America and genealogy.

February 16–17
BE Great Celebration
Celebrate Black Excellence at this free two-day event in Occidental Square hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association. This soulful celebration will bring together Black culture, arts, music, and food with live performances by local musicians, a pop-up night market featuring Black artists and creatives, and more.

February 24–March 9
X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X
As Black History Month comes to a close, the Seattle Opera is tackling the story of Malcolm X’s life through a series of biographical vignettes. Scored by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis, the three-hour opera fuses elements of modernism, minimalism, and jazz to produce a riveting interpretation of one of history’s most misunderstood civil rights icons.

Photos: Chloe Collyer & Jo Cosme. Mitchell’s Point Looking down the Columbia, 1887, Grafton Tyler Brown, oil on canvas, 18 x 30 in., Bruce Leven Acquisition Fund, 2020.26.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Untitled (Métaboles)

Alexander Calder shares a rich history with performance art. He projected many of his ideas onto the stage, collaborating with composers, actors, and choreographers, including Martha Graham, Virgil Thomson, John Butler, and Jean Vilar. Perhaps nowhere is the expansiveness of Calder’s vision more apparent than in these collaborations, in which the disciplines of music, dance, and sculpture expand our understanding of known experience. 

Calder was commissioned to create an artwork that would accompany Métaboles, a new ballet choreographed by Joseph Lazzini to music by Henri Dutilleux and produced by the Théâtre Français de la Danse. The result, Untitled (Métaboles), embodies Lazzini’s themes of variation and transformation. Its subtle movements echo the delicate movements of the figures onstage as it continually unfolds in space. The dynamic mobile made its public debut alongside the ballet’s premiere at the Odéon-Théâtre de France, Paris, in 1969. The ballet also featured costumes designed by Calder.

Calder’s interest in performance didn’t end there, however. In 1968, the year before Métaboles was realized, Calder premiered his own “ballet without dancers” known as Work in Progress at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome. The result is approximately 19 minutes long, with Calder-designed costumes, hanging and standing mobiles, stabiles, and painted backdrops, accompanied by electronic music by three composers.

Listen to the third stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower discuss how considerations of space and movement played influential roles in the artist’s creation of Untitled (Métaboles). You can explore all 16 stops on the audio tour via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code adjacent to select works in SAM’s galleries. Reserve your tickets to see Calder: In Motion at SAM to witness how this work ‘dances’ for yourself!

Untitled (Métaboles),1969

NARRATOR: This unusual work was made as a prop for a ballet, Métaboles, produced by Théâtre Français de la Danse, in 1969. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Here, he was invited by Joseph Lazzini, who was a choreographer, to collaborate and participate with this stage performance. And it’s a highly active work: the way the loops are connected makes it have a lot of movement. So, you could imagine it hung high above dancers and being quite free in its movement.

Calder often regarded his work in relation to choreography. I mean, his mobiles—the composition and the way they move—and if you think of them as multidimensional experiences—you begin to quickly relate them to music and dance and other arts. So, he kind of broke a lot of traditions in sculpting—what we think of traditionally as sculpting bronze and marble and clay—and he got rid of the mass, and then he introduced this activity of the sculpture responding to our space, responding to the room that we’re in or, in this case, in the theater.

NARRATOR: The work was made according to Calder’s initial model and assembly sketch.   

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Its qualities are extremely unusual because it was actually fabricated by set masters, so not made the way that Calder usually made his mobiles, at his foundry or in his studio with his hands himself. The fact that he could step away and allow others to introduce their aspects makes it really a collaborative thing.

– 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.

The Boys in the Boat: See UW Rower Robert Moch’s Vase Collection at SAM

Originally published in 2014, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown recounts the true story of how nine University of Washington rowers beat the odds to win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Following the December 2023 release of the story’s film adaptation, we thought we’d take this opportunity to share about one of the rowers’ special connection to the Seattle Art Museum.

While browsing through SAM’s European art galleries, you may spot the name Robert G. Moch. Known as Bob and Bobby to those who knew him, Moch led the University of Washington rowers to victory as the team’s coxswain. Following his retirement from rowing and an illustrious law career, he and his wife, LaVerne Moch, donated several pieces of 19th century French glass to the museum. 

These 10 vases, donated by the Moch family in 1995, were designed by well-known glass designer Émile Gallé (1846–1904) around the end of the 1800s and utilize the popular technique known as cameo glass. With their stylized floral patterns—like silhouettes layered atop the lighter glass—the artworks demonstrate the Art Nouveau style and the influence it derived from Japanese designs.

The 1936 Olympics in which Moch and his teammates competed were particularly notable as a result of increasing political tensions brought on by Adolf Hitler’s dictatorial rule. Although the city of Berlin had been chosen to host the Games before Hitler’s rise to power, he used the international attention of the Olympics  as a way to propagandize Germany’s superiority and bolster his fascist and racist beliefs. The Nazi Party intended to ban Black and Jewish athletes from competing, but decided against enforcing these restrictions after the US and other nations threatened to boycott the Games.

Some Jewish members of the US Olympic team, including Moch, described feeling tense as they competed in front of Hitler and other Nazi leaders. Moch had learned of his Jewish heritage shortly before making the voyage to Berlin. 

Despite the fraught political and social circumstances of 1936, the story of the “boys in the boat” is inspiring in itself. The rowing team was composed of young men attending a public university to seek a better life and financial stability amid the hardships of the Great Depression (1929–1939). They beat out other Ivy League collegiate teams to qualify for the games and launched a public fundraising campaign to travel to Berlin. During the actual race, the team faced horrible crosswinds, one of their rowers was dealing with a severe bronchial infection, and Moch missed the starting call. Yet, the rowers managed to steadily pull up from last to first place in a nail-biting finish.

In addition to rowing, the US brought home the gold in many other events, including Black athlete Jesse Owens’s historic four gold medals in track and field.

The release of Daniel James Brown’s book brought renewed attention to this epic moment in American history. In 2016, PBS produced the documentary The Boys of ‘36 and in December 2023, a film adaptation of the book directed by George Clooney was released with Luke Slattery portraying Moch.

Ten years after donating his vases to SAM, Moch passed away. While we don’t know much about how he and LaVerne collected these glass vases, the museum is grateful for their donation to SAM and to retain a piece of Moch’s legacy. Many of the vases the Moch family donated are now on view in SAM’s fourth-floor European art galleries through March 2024 and will return later in 2024 when the museum’s European art galleries reopen!

– Nicole Block, SAM Collections Associate

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette)

In 1975, Alexander Calder was commissioned to create a monumental sculpture for the nine-story atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The result, Mountains and Clouds, is a towering two-part composition that stands 51 feet tall.

Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette), the first artwork visitors encounter in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM, is a scale model—referred to as a maquette—of the stabile portion of Calder’s colossal sculpture. The artist began creating intermediate maquettes in the mid-1960s as part of the process of scaling up his colossal sculptures “to study the overlapping of the plates and the piercing of the holes.”

In November of the following year—just under a month after the opening of his highly-applauded retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art—the artist traveled to Washington, DC  to finalize the details of the project with the architect. That evening, Calder returned to New York City, where he unexpectedly died of a heart attack. The artist’s death led to several delays in the commission’s completion with the final installation eventually taking place in 1986. Today, the stabile portion of Mountains and Clouds remains on view in the Hart Senate Building while the mobile undergoes restoration.

As a stationary work accompanied by a hanging mobile, Mountains and Clouds is the only composition of its kind that Calder created. Learn more about Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette) and the sculpture it is paired with in SAM’s galleries, Femme Assise (1929), in the second stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion. Browse all sixteen stops in the tour via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to select artworks in the exhibition.

Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette), 1976

NARRATOR: In his later years, Calder focused primarily on large-scale public works. And of course, you can see one such work—The Eagle—here in Seattle in the museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

You’re looking at Mountains, a model for the “stabile” component of Calder’s massive 51-foot high work, Mountains and Clouds. A “stabile” is a stationary sculpture, in contrast to Calder’s moving sculptures, called “mobiles.” In the monumental work, the stabile is paired with a mobile, which hovers above it.

Calder made the full-sized sculpture for the Hart Senate Building in Washington, DC. It was one of his last projects before his death in 1976. The sculpture is made from sheet metal—one of Calder’s most favored materials.

KENNEDY YANKO: Metal is one of the most fascinating materials in the world. You know, it’s something that we are excavating from the ground. It’s coming from the earth…

NARRATOR: Kennedy Yanko is a painter and sculptor who works with metal.

KENNEDY YANKO: …and it carries what it’s known and what it’s experienced. It’s this amazing material that goes from a hard state to a liquid; and my relationship to this heavy, typically connoted as an industrial material is quite interesting because I watch it break like a twig. It actually becomes something that’s delicate to me.

NARRATOR: This late work is paired here with one of Calder’s earliest works, a wooden sculpture called Femme Assise, from 1929.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: I think that’s really informative and quite interesting to have them together: you get a sense of a trajectory.

NARRATOR: Alexander S. C. Rower is President of the Calder Foundation, and the grandson of the artist.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: And also, you get a sense of really the 20th century in terms of aesthetics, just in these two objects.

– 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.

Muse/News: Dragon Year, Gum Pete, and Art Gardens

SAM News

Julie Dodobara for ParentMap recommends “Lunar New Year Events for Seattle-Area Kids and Families in 2024,” including the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s celebration on Saturday, February 3. Ring in the Year of the Dragon with us!

While there, you could also take in the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s exciting new exhibition, Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence. In her new Seattle Magazine column, “Social in Seattle,” Linda Lowry highlights several area events that combined community and art, including the opening events with the artist. For UW Daily, Avery Cook writes how the Tacoma-based artist “blends art and activism to spark important conversations.”

“Vibrant images, breathtaking videography, and genuine artifacts from the performances are on display to demonstrate their influence and cultural significance.”

Seattle Museum Month kicks off this week, reports Emily Molina for 425 Magazine. During the month of February, Visit Seattle partners with area museums for half-off savings. Molina mentions Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at the Seattle Art Museum as one of the shows you can see during the month. And ICYMI: Christie’s includes the exhibition on their list of “the best exhibitions and openings of 2024: North America.”

Local News

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis celebrates five years of the weekly ArtSEA post (congrats!) with ideas for forest bathing in tree art, including the Enter the Forest show that opens this Wednesday at SAM Gallery.

Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times interviews actor and Seattle theater alum Lily Gladstone about her historic Oscar nomination

 The Seattle Times on oft-viral local artist Rudy Willingham’s latest project: “Sticky Pete Carroll mural honors the gum-chomping former Seahawks coach.”

“‘There was something about the gum I thought was so funny,’ Willingham said. ‘He always had gum in his mouth, running up the sidelines, it reminded me of a little kid. I loved how much he enjoyed the job and his childlike enthusiasm.’”

Inter/National News

Laurel Graeber for the New York Times on Artland: An Installation by Do Ho Suh and Children at the Brooklyn Museum, “an ever-expanding fantasy world designed and molded by children.”

ARTnews’ Alex Greenberger reviews Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980, now on view at the Walker Art Center.

Emily Steer for Artnet asks, “Are gardens the art of the future?”

“Some artists, however, have taken these interests a step further, elevating the idea of gardening to an expansive, awe-inspiring effect. These artists combine ambitious organic or digital plants with music, poetry, and scientific collaboration.” 

And Finally

The Milwaukee Public Library is the best thing on social media right now.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Improving Your Museum Experience with Technology: Emerging Arts Leader Shuprima Guha Reflects

I’ve always enjoyed spending time in art museums. With ambling hallways and multiple rooms featuring a variety of historic and contemporary art, it’s the excitement of not knowing what I’ll discover next that first got me interested in working at one. I joined SAM with the intention of learning more about how different museum departments come together to facilitate ideas. Suffice to say, I checked off this goal during my first few weeks at SAM. 

As an interpretation intern, I learned how SAM uses technology and verbal descriptions to improve accessibility for different audiences at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Verbal descriptions explain a work of art in terms of its color, size, texture, and other features so that individuals with low or no vision can better experience the piece. I developed the skill of writing for auditory purposes in this process. Conducting research on the most inclusive ways to approach writing these descriptions—along with the continuous feedback provided from the rest of the verbal description team—helped me overcome this learning curve of shifting from writing for reading purposes to writing for listening purposes and led me to produce some of my best work. 

While conducting this work, I began to ask questions about the smartphones that museum visitors can check out while browsing the galleries—part of SAM’s effort to improve in-gallery accessibility. This led to important conversations about how we envision visitors interacting with these devices and what museums can do to support such interactions (thank you to the visitor experience team for their expertise). Beyond these tasks, I also helped in developing the interpretive elements of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including the touch cart, in-gallery guide, and the digital collage interactive.

The support I received from the museum’s staff, security, volunteers, and my fellow interns played a tremendous role in how I approached my work. Asking questions to people from different departments created a system of support in which I knew everyone at the museum was eager to help. From isolating digital elements of Hokusai prints with the design team to prototyping a touchscreen interactive with staff from multiple departments, I believe collaboration was essential to my time at SAM. Deciding which topics to research and conducting meetings related to the Hokusai interactive taught me about not only project management, but also about Japanese culture and history. In writing the guide the exhibition’s interpretive touch cart, I also became familiar with the materials used in Japanese woodblock printing—thank you Jessica and Sorrel for your help!

As I began my SAM internship, it was exciting to see all of the tasks that SAM’s staff had planned for me; there was so much to do and so little time! Prioritizing tasks was one of the most important skills I developed. Although each new day was filled with exciting events and meetings, I made important decisions on which ones I attended and which I did not to ensure I could independently complete my tasks within a timely manner. Another skill I learned through this internship was networking. I learned how to ask questions about different staff members’ experiences and took advantage of the opportunity to get to know new people in the office, kitchen, elevators, and galleries. These skills are something I will carry forward in my academic and professional life. 

This internship showed me the initiatives the museum takes in making art accessible to visitors— something that I am particularly passionate about. Knowing that so many people care about the same things gives me immense hope for the future of museums. From accompanying docent-led tours to conducting surveys in the galleries, I learned how to engage with the public and lead conversations about art. As someone who has always been a bit hesitant to voice my opinion in large groups, my newfound confidence and eagerness to speak in public is one of the most valuable lessons I learned at SAM.

None of this would have been possible without the support of my incredibly supportive and encouraging coworkers. I want to particularly thank my supervisor, SAM Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, whose creative ideas played an integral role in shaping my SAM experience. His optimism and sense of humor always made even the most challenging task feel simple. I want to thank everyone on the education team as well. Their excitement about the museum’s future shines through in everything they do. Lastly, I am grateful to everyone who I reached out to at various points in the last few months: thank you for making me feel like a part of the SAM community. I look forward to carrying these experiences into the next step of my career.

– Shuprima Guha, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Interpretation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Introduction to the SAM Exhibition

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection is now on view at SAM! As part of this SAM-exclusive exhibition, we’ve developed a free smartphone tour featuring additional insight on Calder’s life, legacy, and artistic career.

Composed of 15 stops, the tour includes interviews with collector Jon Shirley, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz, sculptor Kennedy Yanko, and Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower, as they share their educational and personal thoughts on artworks including Fish (1942), Toile d’araignée (1965), Bougainvillier (1947), Red Curly Tail (1970), and many more of the artist’s most iconic works.

Tune in to the tour’s introductory stop now to get acquainted with the artists, scholars, curators, and admirers who contributed to this auditory experience. Then, explore all 15 stops in the audio tour of Calder: In Motion by scanning the QR code next to select artworks in the exhibition or on your own time via our SoundCloud

Introducing Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection

JON SHIRLEY: My name is Jon Shirley, and I am pleased to share with you Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. The works of Alexander Calder that you will see in these galleries have been collected over the past 35 years first with my late wife Mary and now with my wife Kim. Over those years we have found that living with Calder’s work has been a beautiful and uplifting experience. 

Alexander Calder was a great artist whose father and grandfather were both sculptors. In Paris in the late 1920s Calder invented a new world of sculpture—first by using just wire and then by creating abstract works of sheet metal, wood, and wire that moved. As you will see, this collection spans Calder’s art career from the 1920s until his death in 1976. The audio guide will discuss many different works that I love so please take the time to listen and learn about Calder the man and his art.

My family and I sincerely hope that you will find this visit a dynamic experience and that you return to the Seattle Art Museum for many years as we present ongoing exhibitions related to Calder and the artists inspired by Calder.

NARRATOR: The exhibition attempts to capture something of how the works were displayed in the Shirleys’ home – setting up a unique dialogue across the decades. Joining us for this encounter will be exhibition curator José Diaz… 

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: My name is José Diaz.

NARRATOR: …painter and sculptor Kennedy Yanko…

KENNEDY YANKO: Hi! My name is Kennedy Yanko.

NARRATOR: …and Calder Foundation President—and grandson of the artist—Alexander S. C. Rower. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Hi, I’m Alexander Rower. Everyone calls me Sandy.

NARRATOR: I hope you’ll enjoy your tour.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Muse/News: Performance Art, Feminist Masks, and 2024 Must-Sees

SAM News

Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence opens this Thursday at the Seattle Asian Art Museum! The Seattle Times included the exhibition on its list of “most anticipated Seattle exhibits of 2024,” and Gayle Clemans interviewed the artist for a preview of the exhibition, which celebrates two of Ali’s performance-based works, The Buddhist Bug and The Red Chador.

“‘This humorous creature provides a lot of joy to people,’ Ali said in a recent interview. ‘It’s really beautiful to see how approachable this entity is, especially amongst children and families. ‘The Buddhist Bug’ has a way of softening people and eliciting curiosity.’”

And it’s the final week to see Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence. Here’s Allyson Levy for International Examiner on the hugely popular exhibition.

“Ukiyo-e was considered low-brow art due to the highly reproducible nature of woodblock prints, which reigned supreme during the movement. Woodblock prints allowed artists to create a high volume of prints that they could sell cheaply. Even so, the level of detail and sophistication of technique found in woodblock prints is awe-inspiring.”

Looking back: The Seattle Times included Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection on their list of “top Seattle-area arts and culture happenings of 2023.” Hot tip: The exhibition is on view through the summer—and it rewards repeat viewings.

Local News

Shin Yu Pai for University of Washington Magazine on Cheryll Leo-Gwin’s solo show, Larger Than Life, now on view at The Jack Straw Cultural Center, which “features large-scale colorful prints that use the Chinese coat as a recurring motif.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis welcomes 2024 with an overview of colorful shows on view at Seattle galleries.

Via Susan Platt for International Examiner: “Ceramicist Hanako O’Leary interweaves Shinto mythology with feminist ideology.”

“…We experience a powerful feminism that looks at women holding each other and life size masks transformed from historical traditions to suggest the many sides of strong women.”

Inter/National News

A New York Times interactive exploring “the very personal collections that seven artists left behind.”

Hyperallergic names “The Top 50 Exhibitions of 2023,” including the major retrospective of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith that debuted last year at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Your chance to see this groundbreaking exhibition is coming soon, when the exhibition opens at SAM on February 29.

Artnet names “12 Must-See U.S. Museum Shows in 2024,” including Joyce J. Scott, Walk a Mile in My Dreams, a retrospective that debuts at the Baltimore Museum of Art in March before heading to SAM this November. 

“‘Joyce J. Scott’s sophisticated and virtuosic use of a wide range of materials brings beauty and biting irony to bear on subjects ranging from the traumatic to the transcendental,’ the show’s co-curators, Cecilia Wichmann and Catharina Manchanda, said upon announcing the show last summer.”

And Finally

Weird cats of art history.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Live Performance of The Buddhist Bug at Wei-Ling Contemporary Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2019, Anida Yoeu Ali, Cambodian American, b. 1974, Image courtesy of the artist, photo: Nina Ikmal.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: The Mansion of the Plates

Katsushika Hokusai is renowned for his illustrations of popular Japanese ghost stories. In The Mansion of the Plates, the historic Japanese artist depicts the story of the maidservant Okiku, who was accused of breaking a precious porcelain plate that belonged to the master of the mansion in which she worked. She then either committed suicide by throwing herself into a well or was killed by her enraged master and thrown into the well.

It is said that Okiku’s ghost rises from the well night after night to count the mansion’s plates in a haunting moan: “One… two… three,” followed by a horrible shriek when her count comes up short. In Hokusai’s clever yet unusual version of the scene, the plates themselves rise from the well one after another, making up the snake-like neck of the ghostly head.

Learn more about Hokusai’s artistic interpretation of this supernatural tale from the curator of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Dr. Sarah Thompson and Tufts University Professor Susan Napier by tuning in to the seventh and final stop of the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Explore all seven stops on the tour by scanning the QR code adjacent to select artworks in SAM’s galleries or on your own time via our SoundCloud. Don’t miss your final chance to see Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence in Seattle before the exhibition closes at SAM this Sunday, January 21—get your tickets now!

The Mansion of the Plates, about 1831–32

SARAH THOMPSON: Professor Susan Napier teaches international literary and cultural studies at Tufts University. She is known for her comprehensive studies of Japanese comics and animated films, manga and anime, and the connections between present-day popular culture and the floating world of Hokusai’s time. She is especially interested in fantastic and supernatural images such as Hokusai’s ghost prints.

SUSAN NAPIER: What we have in front of us is, even by Hokusai’s unique and extraordinary standards, one of his most amazing prints. This is darker, stranger, and weirder than even his other ghost prints, which are also often pretty dark and strange and weird, ’cause we’re really trying to figure out: What are we seeing? What’s going on here? And we see this creature coming out of what looks like a wooden bucket. It’s actually a well. And it’s female. We can tell that by the hair, the long hair, and the fairly delicate features. But what is that on her neck—or is that her neck?

In fact, they are ceramic plates. They’re dishes. It’s a very famous story. It’s about a young girl, a serving girl named Okiku, and she served in the mansion of a very prominent samurai. At least that’s how the story goes, the most popular version. And this samurai, her master, made advances to her, which she steadfastly rejected. And he did it again, and she still rejected him. And he grew angrier and angrier. So, at one point he decides he’s really going to teach her a lesson, and he breaks one of a set of ten ceremonial, very beautiful, very valuable plates that the mansion owns. And this is actually a major crime in that era. And she could have been punished by death for breaking a plate. He accuses her of having broken the plate. She denies it, says she didn’t do it; he says, “Well, I’m sorry. If you don’t give in to me, I’m going to tell everyone that you broke the plate, and you’re going to be put to death.” So there are two versions of what happens next. One is that she is so upset and traumatized by the whole thing that she plunges into a well in the mansion’s garden and dies. The other one is that he actually throws her into the well in a rage and essentially murders her.

Well, it’s really the most eerie and unique part of this. Apparently after the girl had died, people began hearing strange sounds from the well. And they would come out and they’d hear a girl’s voice counting, and she would be counting, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.” And you are kind of waiting for her to say ten. And instead of saying ten she gives out this terrible hideous scream. And (laughs) I love stories like that because—Japanese literature and folklore is full of stories of ghosts, and particularly ghostly women. Really, Japanese ghosts tend to be female on the whole. But this one is such an interesting story in that she’s not just revenging herself, which she probably is by haunting the well, but also kind of imploring and asking to be noticed and to be—for people to understand what has happened to her.

This ghost story, the whole story of the plates, is still referred to in modern Japanese popular culture. And you see a—there’s an episode of a very popular anime series called Maison Ikkoku, in which one of the characters dresses up as Okiku and hides in a well one night and ends up not being able to get out and has a lot of misadventures. I think it’s sort of like a Halloween festival kind of thing. But it’s generally comic and quite funny. But if you want a really scary vision that was inspired by this Hokusai image of the plate mansion, you have to look at the very, very popular and very scary Japanese horror film Ringu, or The Ring. Because if you’ve seen it, you’ll probably never forget one of the most important and terrifying images of a young girl with long black hair covering her face, and she’s coming very slowly, climbing out of a well towards you. And it is really a riveting and terrifying scene. And it is absolutely kind of an homage to Hokusai’s picture of the plate mansion.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: The Mansion of the Plates (Sara yashiki), from the series One Hundred Ghost Stories (Hyaku monogatari), about 1831–32 (Tenpо̄ 2–3), Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849, woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: White Cyclamen I

As a founding member of the 1970s Pattern and Decoration movement, American artist Robert Kushner favors geometric and floral patterns within his work. Like many of the artists in this movement, Kushner resisted conforming to the minimal compositions that dominated American artistic conventions at the time, opting instead to look beyond the nation’s borders for artistic inspiration. 

His 1999 painting, White Cyclamen I, on view as part of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at SAM, features aesthetic resonances from Islamic tile work, Iranian carpets, and Japanese ceramics and woodblock prints. As part of the free smartphone tour of the ongoing SAM exhibition, Kendall DeBoer, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, spoke directly with the artist about how the work of historic Japanese artists, including Katsushika Hokusai, influenced the creation of this work and many others across Kushner’s oeuvre.

Tune in to this recording blick clicking the link above or by scanning the QR code adjacent to this artwork in the exhibition’s galleries. Listen to all seven stops of the audio tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence via our SoundCloud. The exhibition closes later this month on Sunday, January 21. Don’t miss out—reserve your tickets to see it at SAM before it’s too late!

White Cyclamen I, 1999

KENDALL DEBOER: In the mid-1970s and 1980s, the Pattern and Decoration movement in the United States declared independence from the reigning Western aesthetics of masculinist Minimalism and defied Modernism’s rejection of ornamentation. Reveling in beauty and looking to global influences, Robert Kushner is considered one of the founders of this significant movement in American art. His colorful, blossoming, exuberant, sparkling canvases incorporate transhistorical points of aesthetic reference, including but not limited to Japanese woodblock prints. The magnified florals, like White Cyclamen I, pay homage in particular to Hokusai’s large flower prints.

While working on this exhibition, we were in touch with the artist directly. Thinking about Hokusai and his relevance to contemporary artists, Robert shared the following thoughts, which I will read on his behalf:

“When I look at the flower compositions of Hokusai, and indeed other Japanese masters, I am always drawn to the precision of line, the exactness of observation of the plant forms, and the grace with which they inhabit an open indeterminate flat space. Even more inspiring to me is the intentional and skillful flattening of the drawn lines. A single thin line can enclose the form of a flower’s petal or leaves, allowing the flat, unshaded white paper behind to create a three-dimensional volume. In my own paintings, such as White Cyclamen I, I try to paint with my own version of this manner of engaged, enlivened, observed, accurate, delicate, bold lines. Looking one way, the curving whiplash lines of my cyclamen and its leaves are scattered shapes on the colored surface behind them. But then, there is a magical moment when those lines coalesce into the volumetric form of the living flower that is before me. This is a wonderful lesson to be offered by Hokusai, a Japanese painter and printmaker from two hundred years ago.”

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: White Cyclamen I (detail), 1999, Robert Kushner, American born 1949, oil, acrylic, and gold leaf on panel, Courtesy of the artist and D.C. Moore Gallery, New York, NY.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: Chemical Falls

Katsushika Hokusai’s influence knows no bounds. Nearly four centuries after his death, the Japanese master and his woodblock prints continue to inspire the work and practice of contemporary artists. One such artist is Merion Estes.

With strong ties to early Los Angeles feminist art spaces and a pioneering role in the Pattern and Decoration movement, Merion Estes typically depicts landscapes and seascapes. She combines found imagery from printed fabrics with collaged materials and spray paint to build up lively texture and vivid color, often with a political tone. In Chemical Falls, on view in Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at SAM, Estes blends visual pleasure with the horror of environmental crises, specifically citing Hokusai as an influence on her ongoing treatment of natural scenes.

Learn more about this 2016 work from Kendall DeBoer, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, by tuning in to the fifth stop of the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Explore all seven stops on the tour by scanning the QR code adjacent to select artworks in SAM’s galleries or on your own time via SoundCloud. Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence closes on Sunday, January 21. Reserve your tickets to see Estes’s work, alongside more than 300 artworks by Hokusai and his contemporaries, now!

Chemical Falls, 2016

KENDALL DEBOER: Chemical Falls by Merion Estes is a more recent example of a theme the artist has frequently visited throughout her over fifty years of art making: beautiful landscapes and environmental degradation. As is her process for many of her artworks, Estes created Chemical Falls by combining collage elements with a section of found, printed, mass-produced fabric, which she then spray painted in high-keyed and striking colors. Building up layers of pigment and texture, Estes presents us with a breathtaking waterfall that is as alluring as it is otherworldly—and laced with the sinister specter of polluted waters.

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1938, Estes received her BFA in 1970 at the University of New Mexico. She then quickly earned her MFA in 1972 at the University of Boulder Colorado before moving to Los Angeles, California. In LA, Estes would become a key figure in early feminist arts organizations like Womanspace and Double X. She was also part of the Pattern and Decoration movement in the United States, which often intersected with feminist art concerns. Pattern and Decoration artists rejected the austerity of Minimalism and Conceptualism, which they felt relied on sexist and racist assumptions, in favor of championing ornament, aesthetic beauty, and artistic production traditionally categorized as “women’s work,” like fiber arts. These interests persist in Chemical Falls, with its fabric basis, layers of patterned land masses, and geometric striations of water.

Many pattern and decoration artists felt the European canon of Western art history was too narrow in scope and therefore looked elsewhere for artistic precedents. Quite a few of these artists found inspiration in Japanese prints, including Estes, who has looked to Hokusai as an ongoing influence throughout her career. The intense verticality and perspectival view of Chemical Falls feels in direct conversation with Hokusai’s series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces. Comparing Chemical Falls to Hokusai’s work The Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaidō Road from 1832 reveals similar treatment of linear falls pouring between curving, earthy cliffs dotted with sprigs of green vegetation. Each work features a circular form near the top of its composition, perhaps a source for the waterfalls. These parallels show the continued relevance of Hokusai in Estes’s work.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Chemical Falls, 2016, Merion Estes, American, born 1938, printed fabric and spray paint on canvas, courtesy of the artist.

Envisioning My Future in Arts Education: Emerging Arts Leader Zakaria Sadak Reflects

If you had asked me about my career plans a year or two ago, I would not have guessed that working at the Seattle Art Museum was in my future. It wasn’t until my first year of college when the histories, values, and principles embedded in my surroundings captured my full attention and academic interest. It left me with no choice but to abandon my math and economics studies in favor of art history. Combined with my latent interest in Korea, as fostered by a childhood richly patterned with Korean objects and visual culture, I chose to pursue a career in museums to further learn and digest my history through the lens of Korean art history.

It is with this background that I entered the Seattle Art Museum for the first time this past January. Though I grew up in various parts of Washington, visiting the Seattle Art Museum had always evaded me. I came to SAM with an interest in art history and connecting students to art, so my work within the institution’s education department creating educator and student materials was particularly relevant. Through all of this work, my supervisor SAM Manager of School & Educator Programs Yaoyao Liu’s mentorship and guidance was crucial.

Aside from putting up with my many (many) questions as I became acquainted with everything, Yaoyao and other colleagues in the education division were the resident experts who helped me get through it all and eventually join them as a staff member. Though general visitors may not be impacted by my work, I want to plug the SAM educator and student offerings. My work creating art activities and in-gallery materials with the exhibition Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth and the traveling exhibition Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will be available for students to work on in their classrooms and at home, as well as the numerous offerings created by colleagues.

A notable highlight of my internship was my work with Korean objects from SAM’s collection, on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. In March, I offered a presentation to museum staff and the public on a four-panel chaekgeori screen and wooden chest as furnishings in Joseon homes. Through research on these objects, I grew to value the ambiguity of the objects a museum sees come through its doors. That is to say, my research of these objects through the Emerging Arts Leader Internship afforded me the opportunity to break up the polished object lists that neatly fit into textbooks, coursework, and curriculums with objects I might not otherwise encounter.

The Seattle Art Museum is a space to thoughtfully learn about and digest information on a diverse collection of culturally significant artworks. I began my internship at SAM with a limited understanding of museums and am leaving with a clear vision for my future in the museum field and art history. With a two-pronged goal of further understanding Korea’s art history and bridging the gap between esoteric arts research and the public, I can’t help but be sad that I am leaving the work at SAM so soon. As a visitor, intern, and staff member, I certainly have been able to explore where my interest in historical Korean art and I might fit in a museum.

By no means will this exploration end with my time as an intern at the Seattle Art Museum. I am thankful for the support of everyone at the museum both throughout the internship and ongoing as I resume studies in Chicago and begin my next role at the Smart Museum of Art. I want to offer a final thanks to Yaoyao, everyone in the education division, SAM Human Resources & Intern Programs Coordinator Samuel Howes, and my fellow interns for creating the bright, welcoming, and uplifting environment at SAM.

– Zakaria Sadak, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in School & Educator Programs

Photos: Natali Wiseman & Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Cora’s Take, Arts Funding, and Guide Dog Art

SAM News

“The shadows look like airplanes!” That’s 7-year-old art critic Cora Hunter on Alexander Calder’s Little Yellow Panel (1936). Read all her impressions in Elizabeth Hunter’s “mother-daughter review” of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. Hunter also features insights from Jose Carlos Diaz, exhibition curator and Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, and Anna Allegro, Associate Director of Education.

In their “Things to Do” list, Seattle Met highlights Printing in the PNW at SAM Gallery, which features local printmakers as a companion show to the museum’s exhibition of Japanese prints, Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence.

And speaking of SAM Gallery: It got a shoutout from curator Jeremy Buben in “How to give art as a holiday gift in Seattle,” an article by Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times. 

“‘For $100, you can rent an artwork at SAM Gallery [the art sales and rental gallery of the Seattle Art Museum] for three months,’ he said. ‘Perhaps this is the nudge your friends need to start getting excited about art; plus, it’ll get them involved in picking something out to temporarily live with.’”

Local News

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis shines a light on “10 photo shows that bring light to Seattle’s dark days.”

Did you see The Stranger’s Keep Warm guide? It’s got tips, recipes, interviews and more.

“King County OKs sales tax increase for ‘transformative’ cultural funding.” The Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel reports on the council’s approval of “Doors Open,” a new levy.

“…the Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved a new levy that will provide hundreds of millions in funding to arts, heritage, science and historical preservation nonprofits over the next seven years.”

Inter/National News

“Unsung Women Fashion Designers Finally Get to Strut at the Met”: Artnet’s Raquel Laneri on the Women Dressing Women exhibition.

Maximilíano Durón of ARTnews on “the best booths at Art Basel Miami Beach.”

Via Hilarie M. Sheet for The New York Times: “Her Guide Dog Inspired Her Art. Now the Lab Stars in a Museum Show.”

“It celebrates her 13-year-old guide dog, London, and their mutual dependency. ‘I protect her and she protects me,’ [artist Emilie] Gossiaux said. On a more universal scale, her art seems to remove barriers between animals and the rest of the natural world.”

And Finally

Via AP: “Photographs capture humpback whale’s Seattle visit.” As the whales breached Elliott Bay waters, we spy The Eagle and the Olympic Sculpture Park in the background!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

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

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: Under the Wave off Kanagawa

If there’s one work by Katsushika Hokusai you’ve definitely seen before, it’s Under the Wave off Kanagawa. More commonly referred to as the Great Wave, this iconic woodblock print has been cited everywhere from book covers to Lego sets, anime, and even an emoji (🌊). To offer a closer look at this infamous print, Dr. Sarah Thompson, Curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, called in an expert: Dr. Christine Guth.

On the fourth stop of the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at SAM, Dr. Guth, author of Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon, explains how this work became a global icon. Put plainly, the Great Wave’s strength is in its broad applicability across time and space.

Many first time viewers of the original print find themselves surprised by its small size, she explains, as the work has been reprinted an infinite number of times in various proportions, skewing our perception of its original size. However, with its commanding depiction of a wave, it’s been interpreted a multitude of ways, including as an expression of the powerful force of nature.

Listen to the recording now for Dr. Guth’s full discussion of the Great Wave. All seven stops on the free audio tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence can be accessed via QR code in SAM’s galleries or on our SoundCloud. The exhibition closes in just over a month—get your tickets to see it before it’s too late!

Under the Wave off Kanagawa, about 1830–31

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: Dr. Christine Guth is one of the most distinguished scholars of Japanese art in the English-speaking world. Her book Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon was a huge help to me in planning this show, and I am delighted that she has agreed to tell us more about it in person.

DR. CHRISTINE GUTH: So, maybe this is the first time you’ve looked at this print in the original. And when you see it in reproductions you have the impression that it’s a huge work of art, but it’s very small. And it wasn’t intended as a unique work of art, but was printed many, many times. There were probably about 3,000 impressions made during Hokusai’s lifetime. It had a huge impact on Hokusai’s contemporaries, but they would’ve looked at it very differently than we do today. For instance, as you look at the print today, probably the first thing you notice is the giant cresting wave with its rather menacing claw-like extensions.

And then, you see the tiny Mount Fuji in the background. Now, certainly Hokusai’s Japanese contemporaries would have seen that as well, but they may have paid more attention than we do to the boats cutting through the waves, because Hokusai intended this image to represent a particular moment in time and place. And what it suggests is boats carrying the first catch of bonito of the season from the fish market in Osaka to Edo, because fresh sashimi made from bonito was a real delicacy.

One of the distinguishing qualities of the series of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji is not only that it shows the mountain from many different vantage points, but it captures it at different seasons and different points in the day. And I think that this print evokes that in the sense that the first catch was usually in the fourth month. That would be May today. So, there’s a very strong seasonal quality to the series. Today when people look at this print, some people see it as threatening and some people see it as an expression of the force of nature. And in fact, that was used very often after the terrible tsunami in Japan in 2011. And one of the great strengths of this print is the way it can speak to so many people across time and space. That’s what’s made this a global icon.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa-oki nami-ura), also known as the Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830–31 (Tenpō 1–2), Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849, woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, Photograph ©️ Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Muse/News: Interesting Pictures, Ritual Objects, and Girls in Windows

SAM News

Here’s Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times with arts recommendations for December, including Elizabeth Malaska: All Be Your Mirror. The solo show features tour-de-force paintings by the 2022 winner of SAM’s annual prize for Northwest artists, the Betty Bowen Award.

“Malaska’s brushwork is at once vigorous, detailed and patterned, then loose and almost abstract or even droopy and distorted. The result is beautiful, unsettling and varied — and paints a much more interesting picture.”

“A theatrical new Calder exhibition staged in Seattle”: Don’t miss Elena Goukassian’s take for The Art Newspaper on Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. She highlights the thoughtful curatorial choice to “frame his works as a delightfully subtle kind of performance.” ) She also mentions the playlist drawn from Calder’s own record collection.)

“These are all displayed in a newly configured gallery that features individual “stages” for the larger works, vitrines for the smaller ones and “overlook” balcony views—all with an eye towards spotlighting their theatrical nature.”

For the subscriber-only Airmail, Osman Can Yerebakan interviews the Shirleys and relays the story of the first time they heard Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong make a sound. (Are you patient enough to wait to hear it in the galleries?)

ICYMI! “Legendary Children Brought the House Down”: Jas Keimig and Susan Fried capture the magic for South Seattle Emerald.

Local News

It’s dark. Seattle Met helps with “Where to See Holiday Lights in Seattle.”

For her weekly ArtSEA post, Crosscut Brangien Davis features “art, film, and food to honor Native American Heritage Month.”

“Chehalis artist explores cultural appropriation of Native regalia”: Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times on Selena Kearney: object/ritual, now on view at Solas Gallery.

“After shifting to a more conceptual art practice, Kearney has thought carefully about how much information to reveal in an image and how much to conceal. In this series, all of the photographs are taken in crisp detail with vivid color, as if they are beautiful documents of cheap, often offensive cultural relics.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “5 Massive Pop Culture Moments From 2023 That Remind Us of Renaissance Paintings.”

Via Artdaily: The first New York solo exhibition for Natalie Ball—featuring never-before-seen works—just opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Ball was the winner of SAM’s 2018 Betty Bowen Award and her work is now on view at SAM. 

David Segal for The New York Times on Girls in the Windows (1960) by Ormond Gigli, a photograph that people keep buying and buying.

“He’s working without an assignment because he wants to memorialize those buildings, which stand directly across the street from his home studio. What he doesn’t know is that the image will become one of the most collected photographs in the history of the medium.”

And Finally

Another video from the Calder Foundation archives: The first performance of Work in Progress at Teatro dell’Opera, 1967–68.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans

On the third stop on the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition curator and Curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Dr. Sarah Thompson is joined by Michiko Adachi, Bettina Burr Associate Conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for a conversation on Katsushika Hokusai’s unintentionally collaborative Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans.

This collection of sketches, although believed to be mostly drawn by Hokusai, was passed between many of the artist’s students and peers, with each contributing new drawings. Learn more about this album and its contents by tuning in to the audio recording above. Then, explore all seven stops on the exhibition’s free smartphone tour on our SoundCloud or by visiting the exhibition in-person at the Seattle Art Museum. Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence closes Sunday, January 21, 2024. Reserve your tickets to see it now in the heart of downtown Seattle!

Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans, about 1830s–40s

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: The Asian Conservation Studio at the MFA are the people who clean and repair the art objects so that they appear at their very best in exhibitions, and who make sure that they are always stored and exhibited in the safest possible conditions. Michiko Adachi, who handles works on paper, will tell you more about an especially interesting object that she has treated.

MICHIKO ADACHI: This book with sketches and preparatory drawings is part of the Hokusai school drawing collection. The collection was believed to have been purchased by William S. Bigelow when he was living in Japan in the 1880s, from Hokusen, who had been a pupil of Hokusai.

These books are immensely fun to look through as each page holds something entirely different, from a more finished drawing, to design work, to even just a small sketch of a mouse. They were probably drawn or added throughout the years by multiple students and artists as drawings were often passed along. For this book, it is thought that a large percentage of the drawings were drawn by Hokusai himself.

These drawings are usually drawn on a thin, translucent paper in black ink, cut and pasted onto a thicker paper bound in a book format. Often you can see the artist making an outline in lighter gray ink before the final sketch, or red ink to place a grid or to make corrections. Artists also made corrections in their drawings by pasting another sheet of paper onto the desired area. The original drawing is usually still visible because the paper is translucent and often not completely pasted down, giving you a glimpse into the artistic process. You can see one of these corrections in the rectangular design work in the bottom right of this book. On the right-hand side, there are three animals surrounding two figures. The artist had initially drawn a circular pattern on the body of the animals, but later decided to change this by pasting a piece of paper on top and then drawing the animals again without the pattern on its body. If you look closely the circular pattern is still visible through the pasted paper.

A grant from the Toshiba International Foundation allowed for the conservation and imaging of a select group of Hokusai school drawings, such as this book, enabling us to share this small but special collection. You can flip through this book on the screen located next to the book.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Album of Miscellaneous Sketches Including Designs for Artisans, about 1830s–40s, Artist unknown, Japanese, ink on paper, mounted in paperbound album, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The Multitudes of Museum Work: Emerging Arts Leader Aranya Kitnikone Reflects

“What do you want to be when you’re older?” Time and time again, I’ve asked myself this question.

From a young age, I developed an affinity towards the arts from my older sister, who was an artist. As my role model, they influenced my passion and professional interest for the arts. However, as a first-generation Asian American, I’ve often had to confront the stigma that comes with pursuing a career in the arts and humanities over a more ‘lucrative’ or stable field like medicine or business. In my own family, this sentiment proved especially true; it was considered a waste of time to study the arts. This mindset naturally impacted the decisions I made regarding my own future.

While I love making art and consider myself a passionate and creative person, the negative opinion of my family and colleagues pushed me away from pursuing a career arts. In entering college, I decided to pursue Human Resources and Education (the idea of working adjacent to art had never really crossed my mind). It was only when I discovered an internship in the Seattle Art Museum’s Human Resources department that my passion for creative work was reignited. It served as an opportunity to combine my desire to work in the arts with my desire to pursue a broader career that might be seen as more ‘stable’ to my family (and admittedly, myself).

At SAM, I was encouraged to connect with other creatives to find out what goes on behind the scenes at an arts institution. I was able to schedule one-on-one meetings with staff across different departments of the museum, connect with other interns, and learn more about what museum work really is. I was most excited to meet the people behind the execution of the galleries and to see exhibitions go from the planning stage to the presentation stage. I especially want to highlight my meeting with Jenni Beetem, a fellow Emerging Arts Leaders in conservation, in which I learned about the preservation of yak milk from the Mongol Empire and the fundamentals of art conservation.

Working alongside the Human Resources team was also an invaluable experience. Ellie Vazquez, SAM Human Resources Specialist and my program supervisor, helped me to better understand what equity looks like in a museum setting and how it is practiced throughout recruitment and hiring processes. Throughout my project work, I was able to observe the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices currently in place at SAM, and was tasked with co-editing our Equitable Hiring Guide and hosting a gallery tour of American Art: The Stories We Carry that highlighted the topics of HR and DEI. In that tour, I spoke of how DEI and collaboration have shaped gallery spaces at SAM and beyond, as well as the importance of reflecting the diversity of local communities within museum staff and projects.

In my role as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Human Resources, I created training videos and resources for SAM’s internal staff. Sitting in on staff meetings and having one-on-ones with my supervisor helped me gain a greater understanding of what I wanted my role in (or out of) HR to be. As I performed research on staff benefits—which, admittedly, wasn’t the most exciting aspect of my role—I enjoyed knowing that I could assist someone to understand their workplace better. So, while Human Resources did not start off as a passion, I did find joy in the principles, the learning opportunities, and especially the collaboration and connection fostered in this space. While my work may not have been directly involved in the operations of the public-facing museum space, the opportunity to connect with others behind the scenes will always be a highlight for me.

My time at SAM has been a transformative experience. I have met people from all different walks of life and have been fortunate enough to see the passion that goes into running this museum firsthand. When I first came to SAM, I held all sorts of preconceived notions on what it would be like to work in a museum. In my mind, a degree of privilege and higher education was needed to work in an institution such as this and I thought myself to be a terribly under qualified outsider. The Emerging Arts Leader program does an amazing job of combating these notions, allowing those from different walks of life to participate in, and contribute to, museum spaces. It has given me a greater understanding and respect for these institutions especially as SAM continues to grow and reflect the values of Seattle’s ever-evolving community. In leaving SAM, it’s clear that this institution is the product of a community-wide effort from the visitors, the volunteers, and the staff. Being here has allowed me to shift my idea of museums from being an institution of privilege to a space made for communities.

Finally, I would like to thank the specific individuals who helped me during my time here. I would like to thank my supervisor, Ellie, for all her support and guidance. I would like to thank the rest of our Human Resources team, Kathleen Maki and Andrew Young, and especially our internship coordinator, Sam Howes, for facilitating the internship process and creating a support system for us. I would also like to thank my fellow interns Elizabeth Xiong, Teagan Nathe, Jenni Beetem, Zak Sadak, Rebecca Wong, and Jo Cosme—this experience has been an unforgettable one especially because of the other amazing interns I have met during my time here. While I am now at the end of my time here as an intern, it in no way means the end of my relationship with SAM and its community.

– Aranya Kitnikone, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Human Resources

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Sam Howes.

Muse/News: Spotting Calder, The Other Curtis, and Smith’s Curation

SAM News

“Seattle Art Museum Becomes the Alexander Calder Destination with Shirley Family Collection”: Chadd Scott of Forbes tells you everything you need to know about Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection and the future of Calder exploration at SAM.

“By any standard, Calder is an essential. He’s one of the few artists who most people have seen, even if they don’t know it, or his name. They’ve seen his work on the street or in a museum or in a book or on TV. And once introduced, they’ll never forget it–‘oh, that’s a Calder!’”

Ann Binlot of Galerie highlighted the journey of Jon Shirley’s collecting of Calders.

“‘He created a whole new art form,’ said the collector. ‘He created sculpture that’s open to hang in space and incidentally move. There’s just something about how my brain works that I really enjoyed being with the works.’”

José Carlos Diaz, exhibition curator and Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, appeared on New Day NW to fill host Amity Addrisi in on this exciting moment at SAM when you can see both Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence and Calder: In Motion.

And at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, you’ve got just two weeks left to see Renegade Edo and Paris! Here’s Bob Knetzger for Boing Boing’s take on the prints exhibition.

“It’s a real treat to get to see up close the amazingly precise and exquisitely small Japanese woodcuts—and have them right next to the GIANT lithographed posters advertising Parisian shows and entertainers.”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Tat Bellamy-Walker—along with videographers Kevin Clark & Lauren Frohne—sits in on a rehearsal of the Jafra Dabke Team, a Seattle-based Palestinian dance group, who performed at LANGSTON this weekend as part of a cultural education and community event. 

“Ties that bind”: Shannon M. Lieberman for Oregon ArtsWatch on a new gallery show of works by Omak, Washington-based Joe Feddersen.

Knute Berger and Stephen Hegg revisit an earlier Mossback Northwest episode, “The Other Curtis Brother,” examining the regional photographer Asahel Curtis. It turns out that the episode generated many new Curtis finds from the public, which the Washington State Historical Society is working to digitize. 

“The digitization is going well but slowly, Berger reports: ‘They can do about a hundred images a day.’ But amazing discoveries are being made already: ‘They’re finding everything from news photos [to] promotional photos of landscapes, pictures of all kinds of people in all walks of life.’”

Inter/National News

Via Brian Boucher of Artnet: “Help! 7 Times People Got Trapped Inside Artworks—Whether by Choice or by Accident.”

“Meet the African Artists Driving a Cultural Renaissance”: Dive into this New York Times multimedia project by Abdi Latif Dahir and Veronica Chambers, part of a larger series on “how Africa’s youth boom is changing the continent, and beyond.”

ARTnews’ Alex Greenberger on the National Gallery of Art’s exhibition of contemporary Native art, “organized with grace” by the artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. (Hot tip: you can see Smith’s dazzling retrospective at SAM next spring!)

“[The exhibition] proves that Native American artists cannot be pigeonholed into one aesthetic—or even one medium—and that their output has taken up the painful remnants of colonialism via a range of subjects. Smith’s exhibition also demonstrates that the struggle for land rights continues to impact not just the objects these artists make, but their outlook on the world as well.”

And Finally

Still digging in the archives thanks to the Calder Foundation: “Sculpture and Constructions, 1944 by Herbert Matter.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

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

A Monumental Gift Goes On View: Inside Calder: In Motion at SAM

“How can art be realized? Out of volumes, motion, spaces bounded by the great space, the universe.”

– Alexander Calder

This November, SAM begins a long-term commitment to Alexander Calder, the American artist celebrated for revolutionizing sculpture with his renowned mobiles and stabiles. Earlier this year, SAM announced the incredible gift of more than 45 seminal Calder artworks by longtime supporters Jon and Kim Shirley. Their magnificent collection—one of the most important private holdings of Calder’s art—is the result of 35 years of thoughtful collecting. 

Now on view at SAM, Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection thematically highlights pieces from every decade of Calder’s career, dating from the 1920s to the 1970s. The exhibition also includes examples of Calder’s works on paper and an oil painting, among other media, representing the expansiveness of his oeuvre. Sections devoted to his artistic experimentation, natural forces and dynamics, and the artist’s lasting contribution to modern art are also featured.

“As truly serious art must follow the greater laws, and not only appearances, I try to put all the elements in motion in my mobile sculptures. It is a matter of harmonizing these movements, thus arriving at a new possibility of beauty.”

– Alexander Calder

To accentuate the artist’s exploration of height, scale, and movement, the exhibition is installed in the museum’s double-height galleries—a unique space for large-scale works with several overlooks from the floor above. The exhibition design captures a sense of movement, with an S-shaped, curved wall that wraps around the iconic 22-foot-tall sculpture Red Curly Tail (1970) and divides the galleries into a series of vignettes illuminating the exhibition’s themes and highlighting the lyricism of Calder’s creations.

Elsewhere on view are the oil painting The Yellow Disc (1958), a medium that Calder engaged with throughout his career but is not nearly as well known as his sculpture; Untitled (Métaboles) (1969), a mobile the artist created as part of a stage set for a ballet; and Fish (1942). The latter, a significant work from a rare series of mobiles created during and after World War II when metal was scarce, is made of wire framing and found materials.

The central gallery traces Calder’s career, highlighting his achievements across the miniature and the monumental. The expansive Toile d’araignée (1965), an airy, monochromatic mobile hovers over several artworks, including the masterful standing mobile Bougainvillier (1947).

“That others grasp what I have in mind seems unessential, at least as long as they have something else in theirs.”

– Alexander Calder

The final gallery considers the artist’s legacy, with works that demonstrate Calder’s accomplishments throughout his most productive decades and his impact on the evolution of modern art. It includes Untitled (1936), Little Yellow Panel (ca. 1936), Jonah and the Whale (ca. 1940), Untitled (ca. 1942), Constellation with Red Knife (1943), Yellow Stalk with Stone (1953), and Squarish (1970). This gallery also serves as a bridge into the museum’s modern and contemporary galleries.

The Shirley family’s generous gift will also inspire public programs exploring Calder’s artistic practice. Events are planned for both the Seattle Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park and will include talks, tours, performances, art-making workshops, and a family-friendly festival—stay tuned for more details!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

This article first appeared in the October 2023 through January 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!

Image: Bougainvillier, 1947, Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, sheet metal, rod, wire, lead, and paint, 78 x 82 x 54 in., Promised gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Nicholas Shirley.

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

SAM News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local News

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

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

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

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

Inter/National News

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

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

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

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

And Finally

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

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

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

In the Studio with SAM Gallery Artist Joe Max Emminger

In the Studio highlights the private workspaces of local artists represented by SAM Gallery. For 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.

You can find artist Joe Max Emminger painting in his studio in Magnuson Park every day. His studio is located in Building 30 in the park’s campus. This building lives a new life as SPACE (Sand Point Arts and Cultural Exchange), after its construction in the 1930s for the Navy administration. The commander of the base once visited Emminger, who now paints in his previous office.  

Sunlight enters the studio through large windows, shining onto Emminger’s wall where he has mixed, tested, and blended paint for the last seven to eight years. He considers the wall a big palette, where he can mix paint while he’s working on paintings that are attached to the wall. He works close to the paintings, believing that “creating things is a messy business, it leaves the debris of creation behind.” The large painted wall contains hundreds of patches of bright colors in splotches, circles, shapes, and drips. It serves as a beautiful archive of Emminger’s artworks and process. 

Emminger’s artworks are based on things he sees, things he cares about, and stories in his head. Each painting has a story with characters that show up. He puts the characters into paintings, then creates new characters to add in and expand the story he wants to tell. He “starts throwing some color at the work, adds it, and adds more until it makes some sense.” He says his process is like moving furniture, a continuous cycle of balancing colors to bring something new to life. Many of his artworks include recurring characters, cats, birds, butterflies, and familiar sites from around Seattle such as Pike Place Market or Gasworks Park.

View Joe Max Emminger’s available artworks at SAM Gallery on the featured sliding wall, in the 50th Anniversary Show at SAM Gallery this November, or online. Stay updated on all that’s happening at SAM Gallery by following us Instagram at @SAMGallery.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Specialist

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime

In The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime, Katsushika Hokusai depicts a famous scene from classical Japanese literature with a modern twist. While the narrative of the 12th-century story remains the same—the young samurai Minamoto no Yoshitsune hears Princess Jōruri-hime playing the koto and duets with her on his flute, jumpstarting a passionate love affair—the costumes worn by some of the characters reflect the fashion and style of the 18th century.

While under the tutelage of Kasukawa Shunshō in the 1780s, Hokusai designed many of these works, known as perspective prints, which incorporate exaggerated versions of the Western-style vanishing point perspective within elegant settings. In the second stop on the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition curator Dr. Sarah Thompson discusses where Hokusai likely learned this artistic technique and points out how he achieved this perspective in this work. 

Tune in to this audio recording now on our SoundCloud to learn more about The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime or by scanning the QR code accompanying the artwork in the exhibition’s galleries. Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence is now on view through Sunday, January 21, 2024 at the Seattle Art Museum—get your tickets now!

The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jōruri-hime, late 1780s

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: Let’s take a close look at an early work by Hokusai, a color print with the signature “Shunro” that he used in the 1780s when he was a student of Katsukawa Shunshō.

The scene is a modernized parody version of a famous story from classical Japanese literature, in which a young samurai, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, hears the sound of a lady named Jōruri-hime playing the koto at night. He stands at her garden gate and plays a duet with her on his flute, and this is the beginning of a passionate love affair. In the print, the flute player wears the costume of the 12th century when the story is set, but the lady and her attendants wear modern 18th-century clothes. When Hokusai was in his twenties he designed many works of this type, called perspective prints because they use an exaggerated version of Western-style vanishing point perspective. He probably learned this technique by looking at artists such as Utagawa Toyoharu and Shiba Kōkan, whose work you can see hanging nearby; and he combined it with the things that he had learned from his own teacher, Shunshō: drawing elegant figures in various poses and arranging them in an attractive setting.

In this picture, Hokusai uses two different systems of perspective to give the effect he wants. The building in the left half of the picture is drawn with converging lines that recede toward a distant vanishing point to give the impression of a very large, spacious interior. But in the garden scene to the right, Hokusai uses a traditional Asian perspective, with a high horizon line and distant objects placed higher in the picture, as you can see in, for example, the large painted screens by Shunshō also in this exhibition. For Japanese artists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Western perspective was an attractive and effective drawing technique, but was not necessarily the only option. In the famous landscape prints that Hokusai designed almost 50 years later, in the 1830s, he uses Western perspective most of the time but still feels free to alter it occasionally for a special effect.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: The Story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Jо̄ruri-hime (Genji jū̄nidan no zu), from the series Perspective Pictures (Uki e), 1780s (Tenmei era), Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849, woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Muse/News: Hokusai’s Fame, Culture Streetcars, and Caravaggio’s Cardsharps

SAM News

José Carlos Diaz, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, was interviewed for KING5’s Evening Magazine about Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which is now on view at SAM.

“Hokusai’s probably an artist you’ve always known. You know him for the Great Wave, but he’s also one of the most famous artists of all time.This exhibition has almost 300 works that represent the artists Katsushika Hokusai, but also his peers, his pupils, his rivals, and also the influence he had on Europe as well as contemporary culture today.”

On Saturday, the Seattle Asian Art Museum hosted the Diwali Family Festival. KING5 News’ Angeli Kakade previewed the event on Friday’s broadcast, and Nicole Henao, SAM Manager of Teen & Family Programs, appeared on the Saturday morning news to share all the details (did you catch it?). 

Jas Keimig for South Seattle Emerald with recommendations for arts events in November, including Legendary Children on November 17 at the Olympic Sculpture Park. This celebration of queer and trans BIPOC communities is produced with many partners.

Local News

“At this Green Lake dive bar, karaoke is a cathartic, unifying experience”: Nathalie Graham for the Seattle Times with a moving read. 

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis gets you ready for the Big Dark in her latest ArtSEA post, including an update on the just-christened SIFF Cinema Downtown’s opening date. 

Joshua McNichols and Mike Davis on the proposal for a streetcar line through downtown Seattle that would connect cultural institutions

“Putting the streetcar line at the center of this arts renaissance is not just a gimmick. It turns out there’s a strong correlation between the presence of the arts downtown and transportation, whether it’s streetcars or single occupancy vehicles.”

Inter/National News

Claire Selvin for ARTnews on the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new show on Ruth Asawa that focuses on her works on paper. 

“Collectors Marilyn and Larry Fields make ‘landmark gift’ of 79 works to MCA Chicago”: Ruth Loepz for The Art Newspaper reports on a gift of art “predominantly by woman-identifying and BIPOC artists.”

“There’s Much More to Caravaggio’s ‘The Cardsharps’ Than Vice”: Katie White of Artnet takes another look at the masterpiece, now on view in Chicago.

“The painting is mischievous, the older conman’s face comical in expression, and we feel ourselves rooting, with a bit of a smile, for the bad guys.”

And Finally

Let’s dive into the Calder Foundation archives: “Works of Calder, 1950 by Herbert Matter.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Five Decades of Supporting Local Artists: SAM Gallery Celebrates 50 Years

This November, SAM Gallery is celebrating 50 years of supporting local artists and building relationships with local collectors. When the program began in 1973, SAM Gallery was managed by former volunteer Jackie Macrae and a team of 25 dedicated SAM docents. Through a great deal of research, many volunteer hours, and a $1,000 loan from the Macrae family, the gallery officially opened its doors to the public. Five decades later, SAM Gallery is staffed by a full-time manager devoted to art sales and rentals and several part-time employees, with additional support from the museum’s Associate Director for Retail Operations and SAM Shop team members.

Visitors browse available artworks at SAM Gallery Rentaloft in 1976, photo: Paul Marshall Macapia.

At its founding, SAM Gallery was known as the Seattle Art Museum Rentaloft and was located in the Modern Art Pavilion at the Seattle Center. In 2004, it was renamed SAM Gallery and moved to 1220 Third Avenue, a block east of the Seattle Art Museum. When the expanded Seattle Art Museum opened in the heart of Seattle in 2007, SAM Gallery moved to its current location on the lower level of the museum, within the SAM Shop space on First Avenue.

In 1973, SAM Gallery supported 86 artists and carried paintings, sculptures, constructions, photography, and conceptual art. Today, SAM Gallery supports over 50 artists from across the Pacific Northwest. The gallery carries paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, drawings, and mixed-media works, all of which are available for rental or purchase.

Many things have changed in the five decades since SAM Gallery was founded, but its mission has remained the same: to support local artists by increasing their exposure and finding audiences for their work. SAM Gallery continues to work with corporate and private clients to help them connect with local artists and build their private art collections. SAM members are able to rent any artwork before making a purchase that directly supports the local artists who live and work in our community. Join us in celebrating SAM Gallery’s 50th anniversary at our Anniversary Party this Saturday, November 4 and Artist Reception on Saturday, November 18. We hope to see you there!

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Specialist

Photo: Courtesy © Seattle Art Museum, photo: Paul Marshall Macapia, 1976, archive image.

Artist Fulgencio Lazo’s Tapete Commemorates Migrant Children

Every year, artist Fulgencio Lazo designs a tapete for SAM in celebration of El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). José Carlos Diaz, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, explores the theme of this year’s tapete and finds connections to an artwork on view in American Art: The Stories We Carry. The tapete is on view in SAM’s Brotman Forum, free and open to the public, through Sunday, November 5.

For SAM’s 29th annual celebration of Día de los Muertos, Seattle-based Oaxacan artist Fulgencio Lazo returns to commemorate innocent youth displaced or lost through extreme circumstances and violence. Acclaimed for his works on paper and paintings, here Lazo expands his visual narratives, often representing fact with folklore, through a short-term sculptural installation and a traditional Oaxacan-style tapete, a colorful “rug” made with sand, pigments, and mixed media.

Lazo dedicates this year’s installation to “the growing number of migrant children who have died as they have embarked on dangerous journeys from their homelands.” He adds, “Thousands of young people have increasingly risked their lives fleeing violence, war, climate change, and extreme poverty.”

On the third floor, visitors can view Diego Rivera’s Sleep (1932), which depicts huddled individuals sleeping, their children, also fatigued, collapsed against them. In a collective moment of peaceful repose, they are temporarily free from the difficulties of daily survival for immigrants. Part of the museum’s founding collection, Rivera’s print thematically links across the decades to Lazo’s installation.

While Rivera depicts unharmed Latin American bodies, including children, Lazo conceptualizes their demise. He notes, “We will honor and remember these young lives, cut short in their quests for brighter futures.” The installation’s central sculpture depicts stylized skeletons, representing deceased children and reflecting the increasing global statistics of lives lost. These mourned figures are accompanied by elements traditionally associated with childhood: toys, bicycles, and sweets.

– José Carlos Diaz, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art

Images: Photo by Chloe Collyer. Sleep, 1932, Diego Rivera, Mexican, 1886-1957, lithograph, matted: 20″ x 24″, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 44.619. 

Muse/News: Spooky SAM, Haunted Seattle, and Macabre Prints

SAM News

“A ghosthunter’s guide to the Seattle Art Museum”: Just in time for Halloween, Crosscut’s Brangien Davis finds the scary scenes of the legendary Hokusai, now on view in Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

SAM is the best! But don’t take our word for it: Seattle magazine’s readers said so in the just-announced annual spotlight on the best of the city.

Local News

Via Seattle Met’s Eric Nusbaum: “Nancy Pearl Shares Her Favorite Seattle Spots,” including a mention of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, SAM’s original home in Volunteer Park.

“Authentic, embodied, and fly as hell”: Jas Keimig for South Seattle Emerald on Shabazz Palaces’ new album. 

“5 allegedly haunted and spooky Seattle spots to visit”: Sarah-Mae McCullough of the Seattle Times goes ghosthunting. 

“Later in the night when I’m alone, I definitely don’t go downstairs to use the restroom,” [Merchant’s Cafe and Saloon staffer Naget] Atouani said. “I keep the lights on until the last minute.”

Inter/National News

Via Olivia McEwan for Hyperallergic: “Frans Hals, a Dutch Golden Age Rebel.”

Chen & Lampert present another “hard choices” quiz for Art in America: “Should You Become a Performance Artist?”

Artnet on a “macabre collection of spooky art heads” from the late print dealer Richard Harris heading to auction.

“Harris began assembling his trove around 2001, with an especial focus on symbolic representations of death. As he once put it: ‘I think that everyone ought—not to be obsessed by fact of death, but be aware of the fact that dying is a part of living.’”

And Finally

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

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Hokusai Smartphone Tour: Fine Wind, Clear Weather

You may know Katsushika Hokusai for being the creator of the infamous woodblock print The Great Wave—officially titled The Great Wave off Kanagawa (about 1830–31)—but what other artworks of his do you know? In the introductory stop on the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influencefrom the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition curator Dr. Sarah Thompson offers insight on another of Hokusai’s most recognizable woodblock prints: Fine Wind, Clear Weather (1830).

The audio recording begins with a brief introduction from Dr. Thompson, Curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, about the exhibition and the many artworks on view that derive inspiration directly from The Great Wave. Dr. Thompson then introduces Kendall DeBoer, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who collaborated with Dr. Thompson in curating this exhibition and the contemporary artworks that are featured within it.

Dr. Thompson then turns her attention to Fine Wind, Clear Weather. More commonly referred to as Red Fuji, the print comes from the same series of prints as The Great Wave, called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. As the title makes evident, Red Fuji depicts the sacred Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan admired for its beautiful symmetrical shape. Although not as universally recognized as The Great Wave, Red Fuji has served as inspiration for other artists looking to capture the mountain’s picturesque views. Among the artworks inspired by this print on view elsewhere in the galleries, points out Dr. Thompson, are Yoshitomo Nara’s 1999 parody print White Fujiyama Ski Gelände and Toyota Hokkei’s 19th-century print Mount Fuji

Hear more from Dr. Sarah Thompson, Kendall DeBoer, and other artists and scholars as part of the free smartphone tour of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence now on our SoundCloud. Or, if you’re in SAM’s galleries, scan the QR code accompanying select artworks to be routed directly to each stop on the audio tour. The exhibition is on view at SAM’s downtown location through Sunday, January 21, 2024—reserve your tickets now to see Red Fuji and so much more!

Fine Wind, Clear Weather, 1830

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: Hello, and welcome to the exhibition “Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence.” I’m Sarah Thompson, the curator in charge of Japanese prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In this show, we’ll be focusing on the most famous and influential of all Japanese artists: the painter, book illustrator, and print designer Katsushika Hokusai. Even if his name is new to you, you probably already know his most famous work, the woodblock print that has been given the nickname the Great Wave and has become one of the best-known visual images in the world. You will see a number of works based on it in this show, which looks at Hokusai in terms of the many other artists that he interacted with, both directly and indirectly. The works in the exhibition include about one-third by Hokusai himself; about one-third by other artists in Japan during his lifetime, from 1760 to 1849; and about one-third by other artists around the world, from the 1850s right up to the present, who learned about Hokusai’s work later on and found inspiration for their own work in it.

For works of contemporary art related to Hokusai, I’m lucky to have the help of my colleague Kendall DeBoer of our Contemporary Art department, and I’ll ask her to introduce herself now.

KENDALL DEBOER: Hi, I’m Kendall DeBoer, and I’m a curatorial assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art here at the MFA Boston. I specialize in contemporary craft and unconventional materials, and I’ve been delighted to work alongside Sarah on this show as a collaborator, bringing in contemporary artworks influenced by Hokusai. You’ll be hearing from me later on in this tour.

DR. SARAH THOMPSON: Now I’d like to look at one of Hokusai’s most famous images after the Great Wave, the woodblock print that has been nicknamed the Red Fuji. It’s from the same series of prints as the Wave—which you will see later in the show—called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and published in the early 1830s, when Hokusai was already in his seventies. These prints were commercial products, mass produced, and sold in stores. Hokusai did the drawings, and other people then carved the wooden printing blocks—one for each color—and did the printing. Hokusai’s Fuji series was a huge, best-selling success, and it made landscape a major subject in Japanese printmaking for the first time.

Sacred Mount Fuji was an ideal choice of subject for this breakthrough print series, because it is the tallest mountain in Japan and it has a beautiful symmetrical shape that has attracted artists for centuries. The real title of this print, written in the upper left corner along with the series title, is actually Fine Wind, Clear Weather. It’s probably early morning, and the mountain—which appears in different colors in different weather conditions—looks reddish in the dawn sunlight.

Hanging near Red Fuji is a print made in 1999 by the well-known contemporary Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, who created a humorous parody showing Mount Fuji as a ski slope by painting over a reproduction of the famous print and then using color xerox to make limited-edition prints of his painting. Also nearby is a 19th- century print by Hokusai’s most successful student, Hokkei, who specialized in designs for privately commissioned prints, known as surimono. This image, from a series of three prints showing lucky things to dream about at new year, looks similar to some of the prints in Hokusai’s Fuji series, but it was probably made a little earlier, in the 1820s. Since Hokusai designed the Fuji prints late in life, many of his students, such as Hokkei, were already successful artists in their own right by that time. So, did Hokkei base his work on an earlier design by his teacher Hokusai? Could Hokusai have been inspired by the work of his own former student? Were both of them looking at depictions of Fuji by earlier artists? Or were they both looking at the mountain itself? There are many possible kinds of relationships between works of art, so keep these ideas in mind as you look at other comparisons throughout the show.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Fine Wind, Clear Weather (Gaifū kaisei), also known as Red Fuji, from the series Thirty six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830–31 (Tenpō 1–2), Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849, woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Nellie Parney Carter Collection—Bequest of Nellie Parney Carter, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Meet the 2023 Betty Bowen Award Winner: Tariqa Waters

The Seattle Art Museum and the Betty Bowen Committee are proud to announce Seattle artist Tariqa Waters as the winner of the 2023 Betty Bowen Award! The juried award comes with an unrestricted cash award of $15,000 and a solo exhibition at SAM. This year’s committee included Gary Glant (Chair), Mike Hess, Mark Levine, Sangram Majumdar, Catharina Manchanda, Llewelyn Pritchard, Greg Robinson, Norie Sato, Anthony White, and Merrill Wright.

Tariqa Waters’s innovative practice encompasses mixed-media tableaus, paintings, photographs, film, and immersive installations that push the aesthetics of commercial advertising into surreal, otherworldly territory. It is at the juncture with product advertising that Waters interrogates the importance of styling and beauty, especially its significance for Black women. Her work will be featured at the Seattle Art Museum in a solo exhibition in 2024, with dates to be announced.

Solo exhibitions of Waters’s work have been shown in Seattle at the Hedreen Gallery, the Northwest African American Museum, and the Museum of Museums (MoM). She has been awarded multiple prizes and grants, including the Conductive Garboil Grant, the Artist Trust Fellowship Award, the Neddy Artist Award, and the Artist Trust Arts Innovator Award. Waters is a two-time finalist for the Betty Bowen Award, winning the Kayla Skinner Special Recognition Award in 2020 and the Gary Glant Special Recognition Award in 2021. She was named one of Seattle’s Most Influential People in 2023 by Seattle Magazine.

Samantha Wall won the Kayla Skinner Special Recognition Award and Mary Ann Peters won the Gary Glant Special Recognition Award, in the amount of $2,500 each. Finalists Derek Franklin, Lisa Liedgren Alexandersson, and Ido (Lisa) Radon will each receive Special Commendation Awards in the amount of $1,250, awarded annually since 2020. The six finalists were chosen from a pool of 414 applicants from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to compete for the $23,750 in awards.

Founded in 1977 to continue the legacy of local arts advocate and supporter Betty Bowen, the annual award honors a Northwest artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work. Betty Bowen (1918–1977) was a Washington native and enthusiastic supporter of Northwest artists. Her friends established the annual Betty Bowen Award as a celebration of her life and to honor and continue her efforts to provide financial support to the artists of the region. Since 1977, SAM has hosted the yearly grant application process by which the selection committee chooses one artist from the Northwest to receive an unrestricted cash award, eligible to visual artists living and working in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

“This award serves as a testament to the countless hours, sleepless nights, and relentless dedication that I have poured into my craft,” says Waters. “It is a validation of the risks I have taken, the boundaries I have pushed, and the artistic growth I have experienced along the way. As an artist, it is not always easy to navigate the complexities of the creative process, but this recognition affirms that my work has resonated with others and has made a meaningful impact.”

The 2022 winner was Portland artist Elizabeth Malaska. Her solo exhibition, All Be Your Mirror, debuts at the Seattle Art Museum November 17, 2023–June 16, 2024. Learn more about Waters and all of the 2023 Betty Bowen finalists here.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Images: Tariqa Waters by Alex Cayley. Samantha Wall by Stephen Slappe. Mary Ann Peters by Amanda Smart.

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