In honor of Women’s History Month, Object of the
Week will highlight works by celebrated women artists in SAM’s permanent collection
throughout the month of March.
From across a gallery, Focus
No. 37 looks like the face of someone seen in passing. The person might
appear vaguely familiar, prompting the viewer to stop and focus. But the face
does not become any clearer after directing attention to the image, or moving
closer. Instead, it is the white threads that wind across the surface of the
portrait to form a neat braid that become more visible. The threads further
obscure an already out-of-focus photograph, making the individual’s age and
gender seem ambiguous.
This work is part of the Focus
series by artist Lin Tianmiao, who created multiple portraits of herself,
family members, and friends modified by her thread-winding technique. Her
artistic practice often involves materials associated with domestic labor and
the Chinese household during the 1960s and 70s. Reflecting on her personal
association with white cotton thread, Lin recalls the childhood chore of
unwinding old uniforms and gloves provided by state-owned “work units,” or danwei, and rewinding them into sweaters,
tablecloths, hats, and curtains for family use or to exchange with relatives
Speaking about the connection between her choice of materials and her own memories, Lin remarks, “When I look back at the materials I chose over the years and think about why I chose thread and other soft materials, I think it has to do with my personal experience. When I was a child, my [mom] sometimes asked me to help her with housework. It was actually like a form of corporal punishment in that it stamped a physical memory on me. When I came back [to China] from America and saw those kinds of materials again, I thought to myself: this is it, these are going to be my materials. It happened very naturally. Also, since I did a lot of housework when I was a child, it helped me acquire endurance and tenacity.” 2
While the thread in Focus
No. 37 does produce the effect of obscuring the photograph beneath, the
central braid humanizes an anonymous face by bringing to mind a familiar haptic
act. Just as Lin Tianmiao describes her memories of housework, the viewer might
think about their experiences braiding someone’s hair, having their own hair
braided, or someone they know with braided hair. In this way, the work raises
the question of how identity is formed. Individuals are not only defined by
their outward appearance, but also by their everyday actions and practices.
With President Carter’s announcement that the nation must mobilize its vast coal resources to solve the energy crisis, we are entering an era of potentially irreconcilable conflict between the pressures of energy and the pressures of environmental concern.
– John D. Spellman, Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture, 1979
We find ourselves in a critical and precarious moment: our impact on the environment has caused irreparable harm. With this in mind, it is incredible to look back nearly forty years ago, when the King County Arts Commission brought together a roster of internationally recognized artists to re-imagine post-industrial sites in King County, such as gravel pits, surface mines, and abandoned airstrips. The 1979 initiative and its attendant symposium—Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture—was a progressive city-backed project meant to envision earthworks as a tool for environmental recovery.
Among the group of accomplished artists—which included Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Mary Miss, and Herbert Bayer—was Beverly Pepper, who worked with the University of Washington to develop her proposal for Montlake Landfill, part of the University of Washington’s East Campus.  Measuring approximately 80 acres, the landfill site proposal contained two main elements: the first, rendered in the lower right-hand corner of the plan, a 100-foot circle of white-capped posts that would, over time, reveal changes in land levels and be a resource for University of Washington students; the second, an intervention into the landscape that would reveal (through a glass wall) decades of waste disposed at the site, as well as a layer of gravel to again indicate the earth’s movement over time.
While it is not the responsibility of artists to respond to political, social, or cultural events, it is often the case that artists are in the unique and privileged position to call attention to contemporary issues, respond to our increasingly complex world, and, most importantly, effect change. Though Pepper’s Montlake Landfill proposal never came to fruition (Robert Morris and Herbert Bayer’s plans were selected by the jury panel), it remains a radical gesture that will hopefully serve to inspire future artists, environmentalists, and civic leaders alike.
– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator
Images: Engineering Drawing for MontLake Landfill Proposal, 1979, Beverly Pepper, Collage of graphite on vellum, 30 1/4 x 54 3/4 in., King County Office of Cultural Resources, 98.3.47, Beverly Pepper. Cover of Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture catalogue, 1979.
 The Montlake Landfill operated as a burn dump and, eventually, as landfill between the years 1926 and 1966. In 1971, the landfill was closed, and covered with two feet of clean soil. According to a report published by the University of Washington’s Environmental Health & Safety Department, “Municipal solid waste, primarily consisting of residential wastes, was disposed in the landfill. Some limited amounts of industrial waste that could be considered hazardous were also disposed at this location.” As for the location: “Although the exact limits of the Montlake Landfill are not definitively known, available documentation suggests that the landfill is generally bounded by Montlake Boulevard NE to the west; NE 45th Street to the north; Laurel Village and the Douglas Research Conservatory to the east; and Canal Road, the Intramural Activities Building, and Union Bay to the south.” For the entire report, please see: https://www.ehs.washington.edu/system/files/resources/montlake.pdf
The goal is for museums across the country to share information about women artists—their histories, birthdays, quotes, and more—using the hashtag #5womenartists to highlight works in their collections and exhibitions made by women.
The impetus for the project? According to the campaign’s press release:
“Through #5womenartists, the Women’s Museum hopes to help the public answer the question—without hesitation—‘Can you name five women artists?’” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “By calling attention to the inequity women artists face today as well as in the past, we hope to inspire conversation and awareness.”
We all know the artists that most people are able to list off automatically, right? The list usually goes a little something like…Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Lange, etc. And they are all fantastic women artists worthy of such recognition! But there’s so many more out there. Our goal at SAM is to share a wider range of women that may not be as well known, including women of color and more contemporary artists, all from our collection.
We’re going to share more than five women artists here, and here is the first: a collaboration by artists Dawn Cerny and Victoria Haven (under the group moniker DAFT KUNTZ) called SO GOOD IT COULD HAVE BEEN. The piece tends to speak for itself in terms of why we’re highlighting it first, and it was a comment made by a male colleague to the artists. How you choose to view it—as a compliment, or as a statement highlighting the fact that the art world still defines most achievements as defined by men—is up to you. But we love the work because it confronts the fact that there is a significant gender imbalance in the art world, (their representation, and exposure to them and their works) head-on.
Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, November 1, 1953
Let’s face it: women were not exactly free to challenge the system in the 1950s. Donna Reed was the ultimate hero for women of that decade; the perfect example of what a housewife and mother should be. Other examples of these women are found in the Seattle Times’ historic archives, where engagement announcements, sorority fundraisers, and art show reviews mix and mingle on the society pages. Advertisements proudly display the latest fashions and gadgets that can help the average housewife “wow” her family and friends with her ability to clean the house, cook a full meal, and still look like she just stepped out of a magazine (note: this usually involved a girdle).
Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, July 19, 1959
This decade has been picked apart in retrospect by television and film, but not many have explored the art and history of this time period better than Mona Lisa Smile. Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), an art history professor at Wellesley College in 1953, challenges her female students by asking them to reconsider everything they’ve ever been told about “the roles they were born to fill.”  Katherine Watson pushes them to think beyond marriage and the expectations of the time.
Frederick and Nelson advertisement, The Seattle Times, July 19, 1959
For those who have seen this film, you might remember the scene where Katherine Watson comes to class with slides featuring the latest advertisements for girdles and kitchen appliances. Women were expected to go to college to find a husband and receive their “M.R.S.” degrees, and clearly Ms. Watson had had enough of students disappearing from class to get married. In this particular scene, she asks:
“What will future scholars see when they study us? A portrait of women today? There you are ladies: the perfect likeness of a Wellesley graduate, Magna Cum Laude doing exactly what she was trained to do…I wonder if she recites Chaucer while she presses her husband’s shirts? Now you physics majors can calculate the mass and volume of every meat loaf you ever make!”
It is revealed in the film that Katherine’s mother was a part of the war effort and her independence from this time translated onto her daughter. Many women of the 1950s were influenced by World War II and the aftermath of it that changed America and the way people thought about gender roles in society. Women had been given a chance to be independent and made up a large portion of America’s work force while they held down the home front. However, much of this changed when the war ended and men returned from overseas.
The Bon Marché advertisement, The Seattle Times, November 13, 1950
But what does this have to do with the Seattle Art Museum and the artists that we have in our collection? A lot. Many of the female artists I have been researching over the last year worked in this decade and had difficulty breaking the barriers that society had created. Katherine Watson is a prime (Hollywood) example of what female artists were trying to do in the 1950s. However, we have two artists that are a little closer to home for us that were able to create a name for themselves. Ebba Rapp and Jean Cory Beall were both born in 1909 and were highly accomplished and well known in the art community.
Jean Cory Beall grew up drawing and painting and took this passion with her into higher education in Paris, Mexico, and Seattle. Her watercolors and mosaics were primarily created for private clients but she also began receiving public commissions for mosaic murals. Beall’s work was quickly recognized as something special and led her to accomplish an extraordinary amount, especially for a woman living and working in 1950s America. However, her career wasn’t easy to build. Beall created her own art and assisted her husband with design sketches for some of his Boeing products, while also taking care of their three children, Alan, Corey, and Barbara. Beall seemed to “do it all,” and was recognized many years by the Seattle Art Museum’s Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, winning an honorable mention in 1943 for her piece, “Boomtown.” Her work continues to hang in various museums and public buildings across the country, including the Federal Reserve Bank, the General Administration Building (Olympia, WA) and the Erco/Co. in Washington D.C.
Originally a painter like Beall, Ebba Rapp was an accomplished portrait artist by the time she reached high school, but in the 1930s she had an opportunity to study under the renowned sculptor, Alexander Archipenko. She began to incorporate sculpture into her work and her talent was eventually noticed outside of her local community when one of her pieces was included in the American Art Today exhibition at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Rapp was also an active member of the Women Painters of Washington, founded in 1935. Rapp joined this group of women in 1936 after commenting that the Seattle art community was “dominated and politically controlled by a clique” of men, and that women were “systematically excluded.” The Women Painters of Washington came together to “overcome the limitations they faced as women artists and to realize their artistic potential through fellowship.” This community was needed at a time when women were not afforded the resources and recognition that they wanted or deserved and it continues to support women and their artwork today.
Rapp, like Beall, had very a supportive husband who pushed her to share her work with the community. Rapp was incredibly humble; she often “turned commission invitations to others and was reluctant to enter her work in exhibitions.” Oftentimes her husband, John D. McLauchlan would enter work to shows on her behalf. A Seattle Times reporter noted in 1959, that Beall’s husband, Wellwood E. Beall, was “a person who believe[d] in letting wives have careers.” This was out of the ordinary for the time; a husband who supported his wife having a career instead of a hobby? Ludicrous! Both Mr. McLauchlan and Mr. Beall broke the mold of a 1950s husband by encouraging their wives to follow their passions.
Among other things, the opinions of men are something that Katherine Watson tries hard to counter in Mona Lisa Smile. Topher Grace’s character, Tommy, says it would be hard for his fiancée, Joan (Julia Stiles) to commute to and from law school and still get dinner on the table by five. These were the expectations that many held during that period. Finally, Katherine gets through to one of the girls. Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst) was Katherine Watson’s most staunch opponent, but by the end of the film she understands that even though Mona Lisa is smiling in Leonardo’s masterpiece, we do not know if she was actually happy. Like so many women of the time, Betty Warren wore a mask and pretended she was happy because she was doing what she was told she should be doing. Jean Cory Beall and Ebba Rapp may not have had easy journeys to begin their creative careers, but they proved that they could support their husbands and families while also breaking those social mores and being successful and driven women who opened the doors for generations of artists to come.
-Annika Firn, Curatorial Intern
 Mona Lisa Smile. Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures, Inc., California, USA, 2003.
 Fitzgerald, Annamary. “National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: General Administration Building,” United State Department of the Interior, National Park Service, July 1, 2006, p. 8.
 “1994 Distinguished Engineering Alumni/ae Award Recipients,” The University of Colorado, 1994.
 “Newcomers Win Prizes in Art Preview,” The Seattle Times, October 7, 1943, p. 26.
 “Assembly Names Five As Leaders in Fine Arts,” The Seattle Post Intelligencer, November 4, 1958, p. 12.
 John McLauchlan. Interview by Barbara Johns. Tape recording. Seattle, WA., 26 February, 1987.
 “History,” Women Painters of Washington, http://www.womenpainters.com/ABOUT/About.htm
 McLauchlan interview, 1987.
 “Mexican Muralist is Teacher,” The Seattle Times, August 23, 1959.
Near the center of Australia, out of a station named Utopia, a group of women have painted their way to fame. They are among the leading names in Australian Aboriginal art and many attribute their fluid use of acrylics to years of experience with painting bodies for ceremonies. One of the younger artists is Abie Loy, who began painting at the age of 22, and was mentored by the older generations. Each Utopia woman has developed her own style, but all rely on consistency and repetitive structure. Awelye is composed of rectangles that embody a multitude of minor variations. Loaded brushstrokes define the frameworks, while tiny white dots offset a black background. The artist credits ceremony as a source for inspiration, but one outsider’s reading of the accumulated surface is to see it as a vast array of windows onto another world.
While this is the final week to see Elles: SAM, many works by women artists remain on view at SAM within our permanent collection and special exhibition galleries. Paintings like Awelye can be seen at SAM as a result of a longtime and continuing commitment to great artists, regardless of whether they are men or women
Honoring her Salish heritage, Musqueam artist Susan Point carved red and yellow cedar to create a sculpture that expresses her cultural ancestry and a devotional attitude towards nature. Red cedar has always been considered the “tree of life” for First Peoples, which is the title the artist has also given this work. Valued by the Salish peoples, every part of the cedar tree is utilized to create houses, storage bins, clothing, canoes, mats, baskets, masks, paint brushes, and floats for nets, among other uses. Here, Point carves eight faces connected by root-like forms or waterways that reference a family tree and the importance of inherited histories that unite the Salish people.
Because of her high stature and the demand for her work, Susan Point rarely executes large labor-intensive carvings any longer and has turned to work other media. This piece, created specifically for the museum, is a large-scale carved and painted panel that retains the ethos of ancient Coast Salish forms yet, in the hands of this accomplished artist those forms and the content they carry are vibrantly contemporary. Susan has emerged as one of the most successful and sought-after Northwest Coast Native artists and she has been credited with single-handedly reviving the unique Salish style that has lain dormant for nearly 100 years. She is among only a handful of Native female artists working in the media of woodcarving.
The collecting impulse of museum directors, curators, and private collectors—an insatiable desire—are referenced and investigated in Gloria Bornstein’s installation Concupiscence. Created in 2002, for a solo exhibition at SAM, the title of the work expresses strong, sexual desire. In this case, Bornstein used for inspiration the stories and collections of SAM founding director Dr. Richard Fuller, and African art collector Katherine White. Bornstein used various source materials, specifically old taxonomy books from which she gathered images in order to create cast-porcelain objects of sexual organs of various organisms, including earthworms, barnacles, and flatworms. She then placed these anthropomorphic forms in a custom-made case in order to comment on traditional methods of museum display, and in so doing, she tamed and neutralized the physical and sexual presence of the objects.
Gloria Bornstein was born in New York in 1937. She has degrees in art and education, and in psychology. She lives and works in Seattle.
A contemporary Surrealist, Louise Bourgeois’ career stretched from the 1940s until 2010. Her lifelong fascination with myth, ritual, and totemic figures had its roots in French Surrealism, which reached a high point between the World Wars. In these Eye Benches, furniture takes the form of giant, observant eyes. Visitors encounter the disembodied eyes, which seem to follow their every movement around the Olympic Sculpture Park’s lower plaza, discovering that the enigmatic sculptural objects play a functional role: providing comfortable outdoor seating.
Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 in Paris. She entered university in 1932, intending to study mathematics, but turned to art the next year. She studied in art schools as well as apprenticing in artists’ studios in Montparnasse and Montmartre. She emigrated to New York in 1938, where she continued her studies, eventually having her first solo exhibition in 1945. She lived and worked in New York until her death in 2010.
Egyptian artist Ghada Amer is best known for works like Black Series: Couleurs Noires, where embroidered female nudes emerge seductively from zones of applied and dripping paint. Not readily apparent at first glance, her canvases draw inspiration from photography: The female forms in her work are drawn from pornography, traced onto an abstractly painted canvas, and then embroidered. She leaves the embroidery threads uncut, securing them to the canvas with gel; these trailing threads add an additional sense of “painterliness” to the image.
Amer’s work is inherently confrontational—not just in displaying to the viewer perhaps disturbing imagery, but playing with the dichotomies of pornography vs. art, abstraction vs. figure, and photography vs. painting.
The first Members Art History Lecture of 2013 will take place tomorrow (Wednesday), 16 January, at 7:00pm in the Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown.
Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art, will discuss Together Again: Nuxalk Faces of the Skywith her colleague Jennifer Kramer, Curator of Pacific Northwest Art, Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia.
Tonight SAM downtown is centering its lens on women in film with tours by local leaders in the film world and a special screening of Lynn Hershmann Leeson’s recent documentary !Women Art Revolution (2010, 83 mins) starting at 7:30 pm in Plestcheeff Auditorium.
!Women Art Revolution traces the impetus and organization of the Feminist Art Movement during the 1960’s through its rise from a subculture of women artists during the anti-war and civil rights era to its difficult acceptance into our cultural narrative. The film, for which Leeson collected footage and interviews for 40 years to create, discloses the Feminist Art Movement through interviews with artists such as Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann, Eleanor Antin, Judy Chicago, Rachel Rosenthal, and the Guerrilla Girls among others. The candid interviews describe how women artists took a cue from groups such as The Black Panthers to organize and speak out against cultural institutions for engaging in gender discrimination.
The film features an original soundtrack by Carrie Brownstein, guitarist of Washington Riot-Grrrl rockers Sleater-Kinney, whose roaring guitar riffs provide a very pertinent sonic landscape to the film. Sleater-Kinney, named after I5 off-ramp No. 108 in Lacey, Washington, declared an indefinite hiatus in 2006. You can check out Brownstein’s current group Wild Flag performing “Romance” live from Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop during KEXP’s broadcast at South by Southwest in 2011 here. The soundtrack also features songs by Janis Joplin, Laurie Anderson, The Gossip (Olympia natives), Erase Errata, and Tribe 8.
In addition to the screening of !Women Art Revolution SAM is hosting two My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Public Tours by local women working in the film world; Beth Barrett and Robin Held. As Programming Manager of the Seattle International Film Festival Beth Barrett will share her favorite works and, hopefully, have a couple of highly opinionated comments of her own to offer. Robin Held, Executive Director of Reel Grrls a local organization that empowers young women through creating film and digital media, will co-lead a tour of Elles with local dancer-choreographer Catherine Cabeen.
Toshiko Takaezu was one of America’s most successful artists using ceramics for sculptural ends. In her career, spanning the late-1940s until the 2010s, she moved beyond the functional pots and bowls traditionally thrown by ceramicists to explore forms, surfaces, and colors on purely aesthetic terms.
SAM’s collection includes thirteen works spanning Takaezu’s long career, including this large, standing sculpture. Strangely familiar to a viewer’s eye, Torso more closely reflects the proportions and scale of the human form than a jar, and is a significant example of Takaezu’s later achievements in clay.
With this week’s My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Public Tours at SAM Downtown two local athletes will be giving tours in conjunction with Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Katie Hultin, goal keeper for the Seattle Sounders, and Parisa Asgharzadeh, of the local Seattle Breakers Women Rugby Team, will each be taking the reins of tour guide beginning at 6:30 and 6:45 PM respectively. As athletes take over the galleries, the way physical activity is shared by athletes and artists alike came to mind.
In 1992, the Seattle Arts Commission installed what is arguably the city’s most iconic piece of public sculpture. Jonathan Borofsky’s Hamming Man is known by practically everyone who is familiar with SAM. Tourists passing by on Ride the Ducks tours take snapshots of the sculpture as they pass by on First Avenue, and fellow workers downtown can feel a silent bond with the steady swings of the hammer. Of his sculpture, Borofsky stated, “The Hammering Man is a worker. The Hammering Man celebrates the worker. He or she is the village craftsman.” The Hammering Man reminds us that whether we are laborers, artists, or athletes our physical efforts become rewarded when we work together toward, as Borofsky upholds, “a happier and more enlightened humanity.”
This week’s My Favorite Things tours made me think of the Hammering Man not only for the relationship of physical activity that artists and athletes both share, but because of an anecdote I remember as an undergraduate student in Art History at the University of Washington. In one of my early survey of Western Art classes, we were given a writing assignment on a piece of public sculpture. Borofsky’s Hammering Man was one of the works we could choose to write about, and the TA for this class, who was very knowledgeable with Seattle’s offering of public sculpture, had her own highly opinionated critique of the monumental laborer on SAM’s First Avenue doorstep. It was her view that the gender of the sculpture was a woman rather than a man, and that this is an observable, if not subtle, fact that could be seen in a curve just below the stationary arm of the sculpture. Although I didn’t quite agree, the point she made is significant for alluding to the tendency to see the Hammering Man as a man, rather than a woman, or a figure that is inclusive of more than one gender representing a diverse population. The oversight is unfortunate yes, but my TA’s slightly tongue-in-cheek claim reminded us of the activity and achievements of women artists, athletes, and laborers.
Our tour guides this week will undoubtedly have some interesting points about their own experiences with the art on view in the Elles exhibitions, and I’m excited to hear how they feel about some of the works on display. I feel that artists and athletes alike are working toward similar outcomes in their craft. After the countless hours of training one’s body to perform at the highest level of physical activity the ability to carry out the actions and designs of the game exist for the sublime moment when we finally capture a win. Shutouts and upsets are going to happen, but whether it’s the art of the game, or art for itself, it is the physical elation of that eventual success that we work so hard to create.
Considered a wealth item, and often given as a gift to friends or relatives, finely woven baskets like this are rarely associated with a known weaver. This basket, however, comes from the hand of Susan Wawatkin Bedal, the last traditional basket maker of the Sauk-Suiattle tribe from the Darrington, Washington area.
Susan Bedal possessed an intimate knowledge of the gathering and preparation of natural materials from the prairie and forests of the North Cascades, which she crafted into masterful works. Visual balance is achieved through the attention given to the placement and disposition of the designs on the field of the baskets. The accent designs have descriptive names that refer to the natural features of the artist’s world, such as butterfly (inverted triangles), clouds (staggered rows of alternating colors), and snake or trail (ladder step design). Such designs are owned by individuals and families and passed down through the generations.
Due to the holidays, SAMart will be on vacation for the next two weeks. Happy holidays, and a wonderful new year, to all of SAMart’s readers.
Without much exaggeration Eleanor Antin could be called the King of conceptual and performance art. Working mainly in film, video, and performance Antin is often cited as one of the first artists to reintroduce autobiography, confession and performance to the art world during the 60’s and 70’s. In 1972 Antin created her male alter-ego with the photographic and video series “The King of Solana Beach,” in which an apprehensive king is shown reconstructing his own past by collecting pieces of his broken kingdom. Her video “The King” (1972) stands as a journal entry of the King’s evolving identity as well as showing Antin’s striking transformation from her male persona to own herself, andis on view in the exhibition Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
For Antin art is not necessarily an object or something that can be historically defined, but something close to her own individuality, or a memoir of history retold in her own words.
Early on in her career Antin made her name as a conceptual artist by creating works that successfully diverted traditional means of art making and artist representation. For instance her work 100 Boots (1971) used the US Postal Service to distribute photographs of 100 boots Antin had placed in various Southern California locations. The scenes were printed onto postcards and sent to artists, writers, dancers, art institutions and libraries at 3 to 5 week time intervals to create a puzzling visual narrative. The boots became travelers and characters in a two and a half year journey that finally culminated in a solo exhibition at the Modern Museum of Art in New York in May of 1973.
Her recent photographic series attempts to re-enact and modernize historical narratives by placing them under the context of contemporary American life.Helen’s Odyssey (2007), inspired by the Greek legend Helen of Troy, recasts Helen as two individual roles to exemplify polar sides of her personality. Antin shows both Helens in various scenes reacting differently to scenarios based on the Greek myths of Homer, who the beautiful and vengeful Helen eventually murders. History is here recast to portray the two Helen’s as contemporary versions of their ancient characters carrying large totes and wearing thick rimmed sunglasses.
Her recent memoir, titled Conversations with Stalin: Confessions of a Red Diaper Baby (2010), is a black comedy detailing Antin’s life growing up in New York in a family of first generation Jewish, communist immigrants in the age of Stalin. Join Antin for a performative reading of her new book this Saturday at Seattle Art Museum.
Seattle Art Museum
“Conversations with Stalin” by Eleanor Antin
December 1, 2012
Nordstrom Lecture Hall
Ryan Peterson, Program Assistant
Eleanor Antin, “The King,” 1972. Video (black and white, silent), TRT: 52 min. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.
A wedding is the moment for defining feminine beauty in many cultures. Among Maasai women, a bride is given all the ornaments she needs to begin her new life. The art in this case was created by Maasai women from the Merrueshi community of the Kaputiei section of Kenya. Their intent was to demonstrate how a bride’s costume is a personalized collection of beadwork, stories and wishes for the future. Each is composed of cowhide, glass beads, wire and plastic dividers.
One aspect of Maasai aesthetics is immediately evident. Colors-and their order of placement-are carefully controlled, both due to their meaning and to the need for balance in the interaction of opposites. Certain colors are designated as strong or weak and must not be placed side by side. Nothing is meant to be continuous or unbroken, because mixture is a fact of life and needs to be recognized in the patterns.
Over necklace (Ololuaa), Naramat ene Mure (Maasai, Merrueshi community, Kaputiei section, Kenya), leather, glass beads, aluminum dangles, 16 x 6 3/4 x 1/8 in., General Acquisition Fund, 2000.12.11. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.
In 1962, in the Fine Arts Pavilion of the World’s Fair, women were nearly invisible. In Masterpieces of Art, Art Since 1950: American and Art Since 1950: International, of the 199 European and American artists represented, only seven were women. The story was entirely different in Northwest Art Today – Adventures in Art. In this show of regional artists, ten out of 86 artists were women. One of these women was Kathleen Gemberling Adkison (Kathleen Gemberling in 1962).
A Spokane artist with wide-ranging interests, Gemberling Adkison was emblematic of the Northwest arts scene in the early 1960s. Known for her dreamy snippets of landscape, as if seen through our famous mist of rain, she was originally a student of Mark Tobey’s. Living in an area more accepting of women artists was a boon for Gemberling Adkison’s career. She, and her female peers, did not have to struggle in obscurity like many women artists in New York and other cities—in Seattle, women were fully accepted participants in the arts scene.
Her painting included in Northwest Art Today was a departure from her early work, and this increase in attention prompted her to an equal increase in ambition. Like Seattle itself, Kathleen Gemberling Adkison used the World’s Fair to process new styles, artists and philosophies.
Gemberling Adkison visited the Fair regularly, relishing her first in-person exposure to work by Hans Hofmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Sam Francis, and others. Her work from 1962 onward was visibly informed by the aesthetics, process and visual language of abstract expressionism— the exposure provided by the World’s Fair laid a path to a new style for this artist, who was liberated from her earlier, literal interpretations of nature. Her mature, abstract canvases (such as Verdant Winter)provide layers of reference, from moss and granite, to Hofmann and Frankenthaler.
The World’s Fair left the city of Seattle, its artists and its arts institutions forever changed. It heralded a new era in the arts and culture of this city. The Seattle Art Museum is proud to have taken part in the Fair, and is pleased to have used SAMart this past month to present a look back (and forward).
The daughter of a prominent Chinese figure painter, Lu Wujiu instead chose to work in the United States, and to focus her practice on abstraction-based visual language. Lu has been praised for her ability, “to see the analogies between traditional Chinese attitudes and the vigour of contemporary western abstract expressionism” (Professor Reverend Harrie Vanderstappen, University of Chicago).
This series is inspired by a 26-verse poem written in the mid-17th century, wherein the poet reflects on life’s meaning during the dynastic change from Ming to Qing. The poem begins with the beauty of Lake Yuan (in modern day Zhejiang province in southeastern China), in spring, as the poet passed by a mansion where he stayed with a friend ten years before. This mansion now belonged to someone else, just as the Manchus now had control over China, allowing the poet to lament the sufferings in this world which were beyond one’s control.
Echoing 17th-century woodblock illustrations of epic novels, these 26 images are by turns semi-representational, emotional, and referential. As such, the paintings focus on providing a pictorial homage to the deep sentiments of the poem, rather than treating it as an historical narrative.
Members Art History Lecture Series: Josh Yiu
June 20, 2012
Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown
Josh Yiu, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, speaks on SAM’s Chinese art collection, including this recent acquisition.