Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

The colorful fashions on display at the Seattle Art Museum’s Yves Saint Laurent exhibit were an appreciated antidote to the November’s grayness (weather and spirit).  What an original and creative designer he was.  Many of his pieces are classics in the fashion world, but this retrospective look attests to his work as art as well.  The exhibit runs through January 8, 2017.

Evening gown from Paris collection, 1983

Evening gown from Paris collection, 1983

Pink ruffle cape over black sheath dress, 1977

Pink ruffle cape over black sheath dress, 1977


Design sketches and fabric swatches

Design sketches and fabric swatches

This is a wedding gown! From 1970.

This is a wedding gown! From 1970.



Fringed raffia coat, 1967

Fringed raffia coat, 1967

Art dress in homage to Tom Wassermann, 1966

Art dress in homage to Tom Wassermann, 1966

I loved the bodice which looked like a textured painting of poppies. Brilliant!

I loved the bodice which looked like a textured painting of poppies. Brilliant!


“The face is the soul of the body.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Culture and Value, translated by Peter Winch


I thoroughly enjoyed the Seattle Art Museum’s new exhibit, “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic.”  Wiley’s gigantic canvases depict portraits of people of color, whose oversized presence is dignified and regal.  Wiley paints realistic images in a world where abstraction seems more trendy and modern.  But he succeeds, I think, because he puts his models in settings you would normally see in classic, European paintings — and this twist is both humorous and thought-provoking.


There is something compelling about Wiley’s portraits.  He captures something of their soul in their stances and attitudes.



So much character is revealed in these portraits.

“I read the face, I saw and contemplated it to the point of losing myself in it.  How many faces to the face.  More than one.  Three, four, but always the only one, and the only one always more than one.”
— Helene Cixous, from “Coming to Writing,” in Coming to Writing and Other Essays, ed. Deborah Jenson



“To paint the same head over and over leads you to its unfamiliarity; eventually you get near the raw truth about it . . .”
— Frank Auerbach, from “The Art of Frank Auerbach”

“When you’re trying to make a portrait of somebody you know well, you have to forget and forget until what you see astonishes you.  Indeed, at the heart of any portrait which is alive, there is registered an absolute surprise surrounded by close intimacy.”
— John Berger, Understanding a Photograph



The exhibit includes some of Wiley’s stained glass and sculptures — he’s a multi-talented artist.



If you are in Seattle, the Kehinde Wiley exhibit is worth a visit.  It runs through May 8th at the Seattle Art Museum.

Echo by Jaume Plensa, Olympic Sculpture Park

Echo by Jaume Plensa, Olympic Sculpture Park

This 46-foot sculpted head called “Echo” by Jaume Plensa is the newest addition to Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park.  From a distance it made me laugh because it reminded me of the coneheads from Saturday Night Live. But up close, it looked more Buddha-like with its meditative expression, eyes closed.  Calming even in its immensity.






Thinking about heads reminded me of this poem:

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


“I have come to the hill to see the sun go down, to recover sanity, and to put myself again in relation with Nature.”
— Henry David Thoreau, from The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Vol. 6, June 5, 1857

Sunset over the Olympic Mountains from Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

Sunset over the Olympic Mountains from Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

It is a challenge for me to stay connected with Nature while living my day-to-day life in a big city.  Most often I am indoors under artificial light at sunset.  I have to make a special effort to be mindful of the setting sun and go outside at this time of the evening.

I did recently watch the sunset from Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle.  It is situated on the waterfront overlooking Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.  Ferries plied the water.  Seagulls frolicked in the air.  The only thing missing was clouds, which would have made the sunset more dramatic.  I must be a true Seattleite to be missing clouds!

“A sky without clouds is a meadow without flowers, a sea without sails.”
— Henry David Thoreau, from The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Vol. 6, June 24, 1840

Space Needle at sunset, viewed from Olympic Sculpture Park

Space Needle at sunset, viewed from Olympic Sculpture Park

Louise Bourgeois's sculpture, Father and Son

Louise Bourgeois’s sculpture, Father and Son



Sunset at the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park

Sunset at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park


Elles poster outside the Seattle Art Museum

Promotion sign for Elles Exhibitions in Seattle

Seattle arts organizations, culture groups, and businesses are in the midst of a regional celebration showcasing women artists.  The Seattle Art Museum’s Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris — on exhibit through January 2013 — is the primary catalyst for this interest.

I had an odd hour between appointments, so I stopped in to see Elles.  This rather whirlwind visit gave me an introduction to what is on view.  There is a lot to see, and I know I will be back.  I was pleased to see photography represented so strongly.  Some of the pieces, the contemporary video performances for example, were shocking and disturbing.  What does it take for a woman artist to get recognition?

I appreciated the thought-provoking posters by the Guerrilla Girls, such as one called “The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist,” a list that starts with “Working without the pressure of success.”  Or the poster that counts the number of women artists vs. the number of female nudes on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in NY.  They created this poster in 1989 and then updated it in 2005 and 2012 — progress for women is at a snail’s pace it seems.

I will be going back to give this show more attention and thought.  I am learning that I prefer exhibits that focus on one artist, or one period, rather than an all-encompassing exhibition like this one.  But Elles is worth another look.



Luminous Gate

December 7, 2011

Museum patron contemplates the Gate

This post shares my favorite artwork from the Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit, Luminous: The Art of Asia.  The “Gate” by Do Ho Suh, featured a doorway and a repeated montage of photographic images projected on its silk walls.  There is something alluring about doorways and thresholds.  I felt like I was participating in the artist’s vision by walking through the door.  The projections provided a cyclical change of atmosphere — from a relatively blank start, to a bucolic forest scene, and then the arrival of a flock of birds.  As the images proliferated, and the screen became almost black, with sinister overtones, before receding to the calm starting point.  It is a spectacular installation!

Gate: a tree branches

Gate: branching continues, now on both sides

Gate: enter a deer

Gate: deer, startled

Gate: flock of birds

Gate: the flock swoops down

Gate: rushing

Gate: darkened by birds

Deer and Reindeer

December 6, 2011

Today’s post features another of my favorite pieces from the Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit, Luminous: The Art of Asia.  I suppose I have reindeer on the brain, but I was especially captivated by the vital images of deer on “Poem Scroll with Deer.”  Despite his economy with line and spare strokes, Japanese painter Tawaraya Sotatsu captures the life and beauty of these deer.  I also love the combination of words and art — the calligraphy is an integral part of this piece.  The Seattle Art Museum owns half of the 72-foot scroll.  How fortunate we are to have this great art in Seattle!

Calligraphic line of deer in flight

The repeated images make a lovely patterned design.

Image from Poem Scroll with Deer

Detail of scroll, feeding herd of deer

Japanese dragonfly scroll by Kinoshita Itsuun and Ichikawa Beian

Last week after work I took advantage of the Seattle Art Museum’s “First Thursdays” free admission and treated myself to its current exhibit, Luminous: The Art of Asia.  I found the exhibit to be a serene, but inspiring, oasis during this busiest of holiday shopping seasons.

Quiet gallery on Thursday evening at the Seattle Art Museum

I will be featuring a few of my favorite pieces in the next couple of days.  Today I wanted to showcase this lovely Dragonfly scroll, one of a pair from the Japanese Edo period (the other one featured butterflies).  I can understand why so many Western artists have been inspired by Japanese drawings and paintings.  These dragonflies are exquisite!

The Dragonfly
by Louise Bogan

You are made of almost nothing
But of enough
To be great eyes
And diaphanous double vans;
To be ceaseless movement,
Unending hunger
Grappling love.

Link between water and air,
Earth repels you.
Light touches you only to shift into iridescence
Upon your body and wings.

Twice-born, predator,
You split into the heat.
Swift beyond calculation or capture
You dart into the shadow
Which consumes you.

You rocket into the day.
But at last, when the wind flattens the grasses,
For you, the design and purpose stop.

And you fall
With the other husks of summer.

(You can listen to Bogan reciting this poem at this link.)

Outside the Seattle Art Museum a few minutes before opening

We are very fortunate to have a rare opportunity to see over 100 of Picasso’s works of art without the cost of an expensive airplane ticket.  The Seattle Art Museum is currently exhibiting Picasso’s art from the collection of the Musee National Picasso in Paris, which is undergoing renovation right now.  I went to see it this week.  The ticket price includes an audio tour, which I found helpful in learning about Picasso’s career.

One of my favorite pieces was a painting called The Farm Woman, 1938.  I loved the simple, yet evocative, sketches of a rooster, hen, and chicks on the edges of the painting.  Picasso is a genius at making a few lines so very expressive.

Here is a reproduction of The Farm Woman in the exhibit catalog.

Detail of the rooster from The Farm Woman

Seattle street scene: Picasso mural near Pioneer Square

Fancy-Free Thursday

April 2, 2010

Yesterday was the first Thursday of the month, and my friend Carol and I took advantage of  free admission to the Seattle Art Museum and other offerings in downtown Seattle. 

Our bus got us downtown half an hour before the Art Museum opened, so we indulged in lattes at Fran’s Chocolates across the street.  We were treated to two complimentary chocolates.  What a great start to the day! 

Latte and complimentary chocolates at Fran's Chocolates

Carol and I had already seen the Calder Exhibit, but we enjoyed an encore visit.  We were again delighted by the paintings, sculptures, mobiles and jewelry.  We took a quick walk through some of the permanent exhibits as well.

Some/One sculpture by Do-Ho Suh, a robe constructed of 40,000 dog tags

 Carol and I then took a bus to Pioneer Square in the ride-free zone to enjoy free pizzas at Pizzeria Napoletana, which was celebrating its grand opening.  We waited in line for 30 minutes, and were treated to a free coffee from Cafe Vita while we waited.  The pizzas were delicious!

Crew assembles and cooks individual pizzas for a never-ending line of customers

My free pizza from Pizzeria Napoletana

 I then made my way by bus to the Seattle Asian Art Museum to see a new exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints.  Another exceptional exhibit and well worth a visit even for paying customers.

Woman Sewing while Man Watches by Eishosai Choki, the exterior sign for the current exhibit