The Power of Storytelling in Art Curation: Emerging Arts Leader Elizabeth Xiong Reflects

My first recreational adventure after settling in Seattle in 2021 was to SAM. As I had just recently decided to pursue a second degree in art history, I felt strangely comfortable throughout my visit. I left the museum that day filled with countless stories told through the installations, a growing curiosity for art curation, and a hope that I would be back soon.

And lucky for me, that desire came true. Working under the supervision of Theresa Papanikolas, SAM Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern over the last few months has allowed me to explore what curators do. As part of my role, I was tasked with research and writing supplementary information for the upcoming exhibition Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map. Opening Thursday, February 29 at SAM, the retrospective will survey five decades of Smith’s (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) work. My work focused on researching and creating an in-gallery display for the exhibition that highlights the artist’s relationship to Seattle.

My research began with sifting through existing scholarship and archival materials on Smith. The more I read, the more I came to understand her as a leading contemporary Native American artist who examines American life by engaging with powerful ideas of Indigenous memory, culture, and history. Although I compiled a hefty list of Seattle public art, exhibition, and curatorial projects she participated in, I felt that it lacked cohesion since the documents appeared separate from existing discussions of her work. How, then, could I organize them together in a display case?

I temporarily filed these questions away as I sifted through 150 newly acquired scans from Smith’s personal archives dating from 1996 to 1998. These digitized letters outlined years of correspondence regarding the West Seattle Cultural Trail, a public art project she created alongside local artists Donald Fels and Joe Fedderson (Okanogan and Arrow Lakes).

As I meticulously pieced together these lengthy conversations, I watched the project unfold from a front row seat. It gave me a glimpse into the public arts process, the intentionality required, and the communications exchanged between differing personalities. I thought back to the initial questions Theresa encouraged me to consider within my work: What is Smith’s presence in Seattle? How do we illustrate it? I then recalled an interview in which Smith was quoted as saying, “All of our stories, all of our origin stories come out of the land.” Her words led me to reevaluate the trail’s physical dependence on land and its goal to “share in the collective memory of the West Seattle community.” 

Suddenly, the collaborative storytelling throughout her oeuvre did not exclude what she accomplished in Seattle. From the trail, my project expanded outwards into three main themes for the display: her dedication to teaching, and the importance of language in her practice, and the role collaboration has played throughout her career. Regarding the retrospective, Smith says “in this long journey, it is step by step, hand over hand, something like climbing a rope.” Therefore, my goal became to guide visitors to see Seattle as a crucial strand in the rope she climbed.

To demonstrate Smith’s dedication to education, her correspondences with Donald Fels revealed their shared interest in involving local students in the project’s development. Smith was adamant that the trail give visibility to hidden stories, and the accompanying Voices of the Community booklet gave students the opportunity to share their perspectives through poetry. Her commitment to education also extends beyond the trail to her other public works, lectures, and children’s workbooks. Considering how her Olympic Junior College art teacher once told her “she could teach… but she shouldn’t count on being a painter,” she powerfully accomplished both. Therefore, when she said “I go out and teach… that’s what my life is about, my work is about,” it is important that our illustration of her presence in Seattle brilliantly reflects this.

That said, the trail allows other dimensions of teaching in her practice to be explored, such as writing. Countless letters between Smith and other Indigenous colleagues reveal that the Native stories told on the trail are intended to teach visitors, and that their accuracy was of the utmost importance.

This intricate combination of writing and collaboration is evident throughout her own curatorial practice, which first blossomed in Seattle. In each exhibition, she approached texts intentionally because writing inclusively “[showcases] the voices of Native artists.” As a curator, her exhibitions helped propel the trajectory of Native recognition in the arts, in turn increasing visibility for new artists. Altogether, her curatorial practice emphasizes that writing and “networking [are] as much for her artistic medium as paint and canvas.”

Lastly, Smith’s insistence on collectivity through collaboration is not limited to her immediate Native community. Her cooperation with other artists of color is a lesser known fact, despite her clear belief that “passion for our art and for one another,” commitment “to narrative work,” and a “strong sense of survival” bonds them together. Therefore, as part of this last theme, which explores Smith’s involvement with Asian Americans through the trail project, I hope to challenge this chronically overlooked detail. 

Numerous letters reveal Smith’s dedication to including Asian American voices in retelling the history of Alki Beach. She spent weeks researching, and gaining approval from local experts and friends to ensure that the communities would be “proud of what is there.” With these letters, I hope to underscore how the diverse experiences and relationships that influence her are not constrained by gallery walls. These strands of her personal history may not be immediately apparent on the surface of her artworks, but through her ties to the city we share, they come to life. 

As a result of my in-gallery contributions to Memory Map, I hope visitors leave SAM with a clear understanding of how Smith and her relationship to Seattle do not stand in isolation. Their interconnectedness leaves room for the viewer to contemplate how their presence in the exhibition’s galleries is also an act of collaboration and learning with Smith. Therefore, it is important that her voice rings throughout my work, such that the answer to her question “can I take these feelings and attach them to a passerby?” is an overwhelming yes. 

I went into this internship eager to peel back the mysterious layers of museum work, in order to discover what processes are involved in curating exhibitions. Sitting at my desk in the corner of SAM’s administrative offices, I was initially afraid that I would feel alone. However, that sentiment couldn’t have been further from the truth. As I uncovered the intentional collaborations that flowed through Smith’s storytelling, I realized the same started swirling into mine. Through this experience, I found myself learning how to research unfamiliar topics with courage, and approach art curation as a storyteller. This growth was only possible because of the incredible SAM staff, who I want to take the time to thank.

I truly started to see curatorial work as storytelling after my lunches with Museum Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, where he also encouraged me to use Smith’s own voice to frame my in-gallery display. It was after an insightful conversation with Catharina Manchanda, SAM Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, that compelled me to incorporate Smith’s involvement with other communities of color. I want to thank Carrie Dedon, SAM Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, for reminding me to courageously explore the intersections of my studies and extend a special thank you to my cubicle-mate, Danelle Jay, SAM Curatorial Print and Content Associate, for always lending a listening ear, and reminding me that our storytelling should relate to people. Most of all, I want to thank Theresa, for her indispensable expertise, patience, and genuine collaborative spirit that has made my SAM internship an incredible experience.

As my internship draws to a close, I look forward to seeing how my display comes to life when Memory Map opens at SAM this spring and urge you to visit the West Seattle Cultural Trail in the meantime. I am excited to take everything I have learned at SAM into my future endeavors, and am looking forward to where I next go.

– Elizabeth Xiong, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Curatorial

Photos: 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.

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.

In the Studio with SAM Gallery Artist Elizabeth Gahan

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

In the heart of Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood sits artist Elizabeth Gahan’s intimate art studio. There, hyper-saturated paintings of layered natural and built environments line the white walls. With translucent and fluid colors, crisp architectural lines, and dense textures of organic forms, Gahan’s paintings display the delicate relationship between cities and neighborhoods as ecosystems and the balance they need to thrive.

Gahan’s works are a puzzle as she develops the foreground and background separately before mashing them together. In the background, each work begins with recognizable urban imagery. To Gahan, these images serve as “a jumping off point for a creative conversation.” The images are then edited and manipulated through layers of artistic elements that effortlessly illustrate the intricacies of our natural environments. At this stage, the works look fluid and ephemeral, composed of bubbles that she said, “act as the first domino, impacting the rest of the painting.”

From these beautifully imagined atmospheric forms, Gahan adds the foreground: architectural elements drawn from existing environments. In her most recent series, the structural forms are inspired by buildings found in the Bay Area and Seattle. These added elements are familiar with their simplistic building block forms and clear lines that emphasize the geometry found in both nature and human-designed architecture. Plants, trees, and organic forms are layered atop these structures in a variety of media and textures, including acrylic gel and enamel.

When we stopped by her Georgetown studio for a visit in June, Gahan was in the process of experimenting with spray paint, an artistic medium new to the artist. This additional layer, she explained, serves to further blur the distinction between the natural and built environments emphasized across all of her paintings. No matter how many layers Gahan chooses to incorporate in a work, the final result always makes clear the interconnected nature of our urban ecosystems.

View a few of Elizabeth Gahan’s available artworks now on SAM Gallery’s featured sliding wall or online. Stay up to date on the artist’s upcoming projects at SAM Gallery—including an October 2023 exhibition featuring all new works—by following gallery manager Erik Bennion on Instagram at @atSAMGallery.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Specialist

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

In the Studio with SAM Gallery Artist Kalina Wińska

Brightly colored artworks draw in and engage visitors in Kalina Wińska’s art studios. She works in a sunny room in the Equinox Building in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood and focuses on larger installation projects in a studio in Capitol Hill. In each of these spaces, Kalina’s colorful artworks create imagined worlds that explore our rapidly changing climate.

Kalina begins by pouring brightly colored media and water on yupo paper on the floor of her studio. The free-flowing quality is essential, as the media dries naturally, leaving beautiful patterns. Kalina covers areas with blocks of flat color in gouache, creating a juxtaposition of organic forms and hard edges. Kalina then begins a labor intensive and time-consuming process of layering small handmade marks. Through this meditative process, the marks accumulate to create larger shapes that resemble clouds or imagined landforms.

In creating these imagined worlds, Wińska explores how climate change is impacting our weather and adding unpredictability. She works to make this invisible concept visible for viewers, through her swirls of color and obsessive layering of marks. The tiny marks began as concentric circles of targets and have evolved into the repeated chemical symbols for the greenhouse gases methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The symbols are repeated thousands of times within a single work, creating larger shapes that resemble clouds, toxicity, or pollution. Each work unfolds into something unpredictable, as Wińska allows the materials to speak for themselves and develop their own layers of meaning.

See artworks by Kalina Wińska in person or online at SAM Gallery. Her work will also be on view at Meta Open Arts and the San Juan Islands Museum of Art later this summer. Learn more about SAM Gallery on Instagram by following gallery manager Erik Bennion at @atSAMGallery.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Specialist

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

In the Studio with SAM Gallery Artist Joseph Steininger

Most visitors to Seattle artist Joseph Steininger’s Pioneer Square studio are mesmerized by his walls of spray paint. On one wall, the full cans are sorted by tone and color in an organized grid system. On the opposite wall, empty cans fill open spaces, surrounding completed works. Like Joseph’s artworks, the studio’s colors are vibrant and draw attention.

Steininger’s artistic process begin with a photograph. All of his paintings originate from photos he has taken in cities around the world. Many capture landscapes in Seattle and New York City, but others include scenes from cities such as London, Florence, and Portland. For his next big trip, Joseph plans to travel to and photograph Tokyo, Japan.

Once he has decided on a photograph, Steininger digitally designs stencils based on his selection. Each artwork typically requires 14–24 stencils. He digitally color matches the stencils, prints them, and cuts them by hand with an exacto knife. Cutting the stencils is time intensive, taking up an approximate 95% of time it takes to complete a single canvas. He spray paints the stencils on panels, one layer at a time, to build an image with depth and intricate detail.

Steininger’s work is inspired by street art culture and his background in printmaking. He began his art career as a relief printmaker and implements these methods across his artworks. His art often shows urban scenes, including graffiti, infrastructure like bridges and water towers, and rail yards or train stations. Up next for the artist? Commissions for the Washington State Convention Center and Avenue 55. Plus, he’ll be participating in the celebration of SAM Gallery’s 50th Anniversary in November 2023.

Check out his artwork in person or online now at SAM Gallery and discover more featured gallery art and artists by following @AtSAMGallery on Instagram.

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Specialist

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Object of the Week: The Studio

One of the most influential Black American artists of the 20th century, Jacob Lawrence spent the latter years of his life living and working in Seattle, serving as a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Art. In 1977, seven years after his move, Lawrence painted The Studio, depicting himself in the attic of his Seattle studio. The Studio narrates Lawrence’s artistic journey of growing up in Harlem, moving westward, and his subsequent artistic development. Outside the window, Harlem tenement buildings scatter the view, connecting his relationships between Seattle and New York. In a 2000 interview, Jacob Lawrence spoke about this painting:

Yes, that’s my studio here, in Seattle. Not in this apartment, but it’s Seattle. And this is what my studio looked like going up the steps. And my neighbor, our neighbor is an architect. And these buildings back here bring somewhat of the tenements of New York. In reality, this is an empty wall. So I decided to put that back, to use that as a sort of symbol of my thinking of the big city, of New York.1

Lawrence grew up in Harlem after his mother relocated the family there in 1930 when he was thirteen years old. Wanting to encourage her son’s creative expression, his mother enrolled him in an after-school arts program shortly after their arrival in New York. Due to financial hardships, Lawrence was unable to finish his high school education. Yet, he continued to take classes at the Harlem Art Workshop, where he was mentored by the painter Charles Alston.

Lawrence’s upbringing in Harlem was one of the most formative periods of his life, and he frequently referred to those memories and experiences in his work, regardless of his geographical location. He specialized in scenes from Black American life and culture, taking inspiration from the stories of elders within his communities and transferring them into his paintings.

While best known for his paintings of workers from various professions, The Studio offers a glimpse into his work as an artist and teacher as he welcomes the viewer into his own studio. Lawrence referred to his style of painting as “dynamic cubism,” inspired by the colors and shapes of Harlem. The Studio showcases his use of vivid colors, bold linear movements, and mastery of geometric form.

– Kari Karsten, SAM Emerging Museum Professional Curatorial Intern


1 Jackson Frost, Interview with Jacob Lawrence at his home in Seattle, April 2000, transcript, The Phillips Collection Archives, lawrencemigration.phillipscollection.org/sites/default/files/Jacob-Lawrence-2000-interview-transcript.pdf © The Phillips Collection.

Image: The Studio, 1977, Jacob Lawrence, Gouache on paper, 30 x 22 in., Overall h.: 37 3/8 in., Overall w.: 29 in., Partial gift of Gull Industries; John H. and Ann Hauberg; Links, Seattle; and gift by exchange from the Estate of Mark Tobey, 90.27 ©️ Jacob Lawrence.

Muse/News: Cunningham’s BFF, Nomura’s Moment, and Exiting 2021

SAM News

Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective is now on view at SAM! Jas Keimig of the Stranger falls for the friendship between Cunningham and sculptor Ruth Asawa, which is explored in the show via portraits and a dynamic installation of Asawa’s “floppy, organic” works.

Misha Berson wrote for Oregon ArtsWatch about the “many faces” of Imogen Cunningham on view in the exhibition, sharing some memories of spotting the artist herself out and about in San Francisco, too.

Seattle Met shares their picks for the best seafood in Seattle, including SAM’s favorite new friend, MARKET Seattle.

Local News

Patheresa Wells for South Seattle Emerald on the meanings of Kwanzaa and how to celebrate the holiday this year, including in-person or virtual events at Wa Na Wari and the Northwest African American Museum.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel looks back on “10 Seattle artworks that exemplify 2021.”

Jade Yamazaki Stewart on the much-deserved recognition of Seattle painter Kenjiro Nomura in a new book and an exhibition at the Cascadia Art Museum. (Hot tip: You can also see Nomura’s work on view at SAM in the collection installation Northwest Modernism!)

“But [Cascadia Art Museum curator David F.] Martin…said he’s had issues getting major museums to accept Nomura’s work, always getting the same response: that the paintings would better fit in a Japanese historical museum. This bothers Martin, who views Nomura as an American artist. ‘He was integrated in the art society here,” he says. “Why should I separate him by his ethnicity?’”

Inter/National News

The trailblazing thinker bell hooks passed away last week. Janelle Zara for Artnet celebrated hooks’ wide-ranging work, including her art criticism and how the writer was “instrumental in cracking open the white, western canon for Black artists.”

New York Times critics Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith offer their Best Art Exhibitions of 2021.”

“Exit this year through the museum gift shop,” says the New Yorker’s Rachel Syme in her detailed list of recommendations, including the “thank you” tote from SAM Shop, which is open during museum hours and online for holiday needs!

“Although each shop shares its sensibility—and its profits—with the larger institution it is attached to, many of the smaller and funkier museum shops stuff their shelves with eccentric trinkets that echo the museum’s aesthetic more in spirit than in substance.”

And Finally

The story behind Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1952, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, sepia toned gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 × 7 1/2 in., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier, 2006.114.1, Photo: Randy Dodson, © 2021 The Imogen Cunningham Trust.

Object of the Week: Liminal Objects #5

Computer-generated liminal spaces and objects are familiar to video gamers—and maybe more so to those who are just not very good at video games, flailing halfway between a corner, or punching through a character that is more background than plot. These virtually possible in-between spaces become perceptible at the moment a player engages with the limits of a game’s designed environment. In Seattle-based artist Gary Hill’s video installation series Liminal Objects, however, it is within the absence of a designed environment where the computer-generated objects themselves interact, and with disregard for each other’s limits.

Each work in the series shows two black-and-white unrelated computer-generated objects on a 14-inch Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor that has had its housing removed. One object is still, while the other moves back-and-forth and around, indiscriminately slicing the stationary object. In Liminal Objects #5 (1996), it is a stationary tree and a swinging chandelier. Through these shadowless animations, “Hill has avoided the spectacle of computer art and instead embraced the simple fact that the ‘program’ doesn’t care if objects penetrate each other’s solidity.”1 It’s a bit absurd, and in the case of #5, perhaps a touch romantic.

Placing the work among other video art and time-based media of its era, Liminal Objects’ sculptural presence stands out. During the 1990s, contemporary art saw a “cinematic turn,” with a proliferation of large-scale video projection within the gallery space. Video art “forged a link with cinema and its giganticism” as projected images began to engulf entire walls.2 This was a departure from the previous decade, where CRT monitors—the small boxy televisions so different from today’s large flat LCD screens—were the norm (and sometimes only option) for displaying video art. But in the 1990s, many artists sought to loosen video from default connections to sculpture and the domestic in favor of the more immersive experiences that newer technologies could support.

Hill’s Liminal Objects series doubles down on the sculptural qualities of the CRT monitor while also disengaging it from connotations with the domestic: first, by removing the monitor from its casing, thereby “exposing the circuit boards and cathode tubes, and rendering them dangerous and vulnerable sculptural objects;”3 and second, as in Liminal Objects #5, by placing the monitor vertically atop its small steel table. All of these works would originally use laser disc to play the video loops, a common format for video art at the time due to laser disc’s accuracy for synchronization and potential higher quality as compared to tape-based formats.

Engaged in a silent loop, the tree and chandelier of #5 act as ghost-like semaphores: “a compositional practice of electronic linguistics.”4 But in thinking through the considerable questions for how to continue to display such time-based artworks in the future, another riff on ‘liminal’ comes to mind. “[L]iminal or borderline states are anywhere that something is about to undergo a phase transition or turn into something else.”5 As we all know, formats will become obsolete and technology will fail (just look to your smart phone). CRT monitors are not as easily sourced today and the laser disc has long been eclipsed by the digital file.

That time-based artworks can potentially inhabit future hardware, software, and display mechanisms without losing their inherent meaning, highlights a certain liminality too. How will artists like Hill and tomorrow’s conservators imagine the “phase transition” of these works into the future?  

– Mia Ferm, SAM Project Manager, Historic Media Collection


1 Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Gary Hill: Selected Works and Catalogue Raisonné (Cologne: DuMont, 2002): p. 196.

2 Laurenson, Pip, “Developing Strategies for the Conservation of Installations Incorporating Time-Based Media with Reference to Gary Hill’s Between Cinema and a Hard Place,Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2001, pp. 259-266: p. 261.

3 Laurenson, Pip, “Developing Strategies for the Conservation of Installations Incorporating Time-Based Media with Reference to Gary Hill’s Between Cinema and a Hard Place,Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2001, pp. 259-266: p. 261.

4 Quasha, George, An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2009): p. 90.

5 Quasha, George, An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2009): p. 219.

Image: Liminal Objects, No. 5, 1996, Gary Hill, Monitor mounted on metal stand, digital disc player, and recorded video laser disc, 48 1/2 x 16 x 16 in., Purchased in honor of Shirley and Donald Young with funds from the Collectors’ Forum and the Mark Tobey Estate Fund, 98.51 © Gary Hill (1996).

Sea Change at SAM Gallery

Learn a little about one of the newest artists to join the SAM Gallery roster. Anne Marie Nequette‘s work will be on view in SAM Gallery from January –February 1 in the show New Art, New Artists 2020!

Nequette approaches her work from a background in sculpture, installation, and architecture. Her current body of work, Sea Change, focuses on the rapidly increasing displacement of people in coastal cities worldwide that are considered at high risk. She thinks about all of the people who live at the sea’s edge, and how water levels are now expected to rise, and where will those millions of people go? and how? She has long been concerned about “where we humans are headed regarding climate change, from forest fires to coastal flooding, from collapse of agricultural lands and practices to collapse of necessary species, oceans, and safe drinking water, etc. The power of water is something that many people underestimate, and only those who have survived a flood or hurricane have some idea of what that might be like.”

The idea and the initial list of cities for Sea Change came from an article in The Guardian in 2017.[1] It included interactive maps of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, The Hague, and Alexandria that showed the grave danger these cities face, given their high population numbers (Shanghai at 34.8 million in 2015) and/or precious agricultural land (Alexandria and the Nile Delta). She works abstractly, primarily in paint and collage. If she has been to the city depicted, she relies on her experience to create a color and texture palette from paper on which she draws and paints. If she has not been to the city, she reads about the city and travels via Google image, and Google satellite maps looking at the city from above as well as from the street, to get a feel for what it is like. As she works, she imagines a city that has become inundated, though not completely underwater.  Each of these works is titled with the population figures from governmental sources for the metropolitan areas and the works are named for the people, their cities, and the year the population number was last updated, i.e., ‘Shanghai, China, 39.4 million in 2015’.

– Pamela Jaynes SAM Gallery Coordinator 

[1] The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming, (Friday, November 3, 2017) Josh Holder, Niko Kommenda and Jonathan Watts (updated May 28, 2018). 
Bangkok, Thailand, 14.6 million in 2010, Anne Marie Nequette, Collage on canvas. Keihanshin (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), Japan, 19.3 million in 2010, Anne Marie Nequette, Collage on canvas.

Mapping the Pacific Northwest

Check out the October SAM Gallery show, Mapping the Grid before it closes October 31! Nina Tichava is one of four artists featured, all of whose work responds to maps, grids, and geometry. Tichava uses painting and printmaking techniques, to interweave drawing and collage with a variety of media, including paint, charcoal, ink, tape, ballpoint pen, canvas, and metal. She is a process painter, who creates paintings without a set plan or narrative.

In the works from her Mapping Series at SAM Gallery, Nina says “I was able to source nautical maps of the Pacific Northwest sound, and I had two large, vintage maps of Washington State in my studio. I’m a constant and compulsive collector of vintage maps, papers, postcards, wallpaper, photographs, posters . . . it goes on and on. I’m always searching thrift stores, garage sales and vintage shops, especially when traveling. I also hunt for materials on eBay, mainly when I’m looking for something specific.” Many of the maps in her work at SAM Gallery feature Pacific Northwest locations, such as downtown Seattle, Gray’s Harbor, and the Hood River. As an environmentalist and conservationist, Tichava is also working to help protect the locations shown in her maps. Tichava sells works on her website to support environmental charities, such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. She was raised by hippy parents in rural New Mexico and Northern California and spent most of her adult life on the West Coast, where awareness of things like water conservation, clean air, and environmental impact are part of the culture and prioritized. She believes that “as climate change intensifies, and everyone is thinking about how to handle the complexities, I feel like it’s a small but tangible way I can participate and contribute to a solution.” 

On top of the maps, Tichava applies numerous overlapping layers of stripes, painstakingly painted with a brush and individually applied strips of tape. “Reproduction and repetition being central themes, my paintings are responses to things mass-produced and processed to an ideal. My paintings are, by nature, imprecise and hand-made objects. Perfection is unattainable therefore each piece is unique—it is this inherent quality that continues to engage me in painting.” The Mapping Series was developed in collaboration with SAM Gallery and for many years was exclusive to the gallery. The idea came from a design project Tichava began in South Lake Union, and grew from there, encouraged by Jody Bento and the many collectors who have supported this series for years. See it for yourself!

– Pamela Jaynes, SAM Gallery Coordinator

Image credit: Edward Tichava

The Masks We Wear / The Ghosts We Share

Artist Sam Vernon’s stunning black-and-white graphics just took over the PACCAR Pavilion of the Olympic Sculpture Park. The installation, How Ghosts Sleep: Seattle, is a prelude to Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which opens June 18 at the Seattle Art Museum.

Her project for the sculpture park’s pavilion began with a visit to see the Seattle Art Museum’s collection of African masks and the Art Deco architecture of the Asian Art Museum. Afterwards, she mixed in designs from textiles and inspiration from formal studies of leaves, trees, flowers, and animals; which she fit into a frame of bold, abstract shapes.

sam-vernon-osp-3

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And all that’s before you get to the ghosts. Her wallpaper covers the interior of the pavilion and fabric canopies hover overhead, filling your eyes with visions of hidden characters who emerge from and then disappear into the walls and ceiling. Vernon has digitally combined photocopied drawings of ghost characters with a hand-drawn/collaged pattern of disembodied figures so that the ghosts are no longer visible—they’re masked. If it sounds layered, it is.

It’s a heady, expressive environment that Vernon hopes will “allow spectators to live in the world of the work rather than next to the work…”

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When I met Sam, she was just coming from the sculpture park with Loide Marwanga, the graphic designer who worked with her on the installation. They had just spent their first day in Seattle overseeing the installation of Vernon’s wallpapers and canopies.

Even though it was the end of the day, Vernon was full of energy and enthusiasm (maybe her super cool black-and-white Nike sneakers helped her keep her pep). She said she couldn’t wait to see it all come together.

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What’s it been like working on this installation, working with SAM, working with SAM curator Pam McClusky and consultant curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi?

From the project’s conception, I wanted to create an installation to highlight the stunning architecture of the space, stimulate the imaginations of all who enjoy the park and explore the proposition of disguise as a drawing technology. It’s been an honor to work with Pam and Erika—they’re innovative, open, and willing to deeply engage in the critical aspects of my work and practice. Bringing this project to fruition is truly a team effort and I can’t thank them enough for their scholarship, insight, and thoughtfulness.

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What speaks to you about the exhibition of Disguise: Masks and Global African Art as a whole? What are you excited about?

I’m drawn to the way in which Pam and Erika have developed a challenging exhibition by including a diverse group of artists working in different parts of the world. We have varied conceptual ideas and unique subjective approaches addressing the past, present and future of disguise as it relates to the museum’s collection and contemporary media.

It’s exciting to be included in an international dialogue about this complex reality—it offers significant links between us and our perceptions of space and time. In this way the exhibition generates important questions about connectivity instead of converging answers for fluent coherence.

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What do you think about the Olympic Sculpture Park? When you first saw the site, what did you think?

The Olympic Sculpture Park is breathtaking! I was immediately drawn to the views of the water and the works of one of my favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois.

sam-vernon-osp-2Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Follow Sam on Facebook and Instagram to see pictures of her time in Seattle & the art that’s drawn her eye while she’s been here.

Words: Maggie Hess
Photos: Natali Wiseman

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