ArtSEA: Seattle Art Museum launches a new show dedicated to water
the Seattle Art Museum is a call that also sounds seasonal for the appreciation of nature – with an underlying message of urgency. The new show Our blue planet: global visions of water (March 18-May 30), is awash with works that cross time, place and medium. The idea for the exhibition originated as an “experiment in artistic activism”, when curators at SAM wanted to engage viewers in a critical conversation about climate change.
The exhibit opens with a Duwamish welcome, recorded by Chief Seattle’s descendant Ken Workman, who also spoke at the press tour I attended. “We are water people,” he said of the Duwamish, past and present. “We are at sea level…we know the smells of beaches.” Contemporary badges for canoe trips (woven by artist Suquamish Danielle Morsette) is included in this animated mix, along with Australian Aboriginal artist Djirrirra Wunungmurrapaintings of sacred waterways on eucalyptus bark.
The scope is vast, with works by 74 artists from 17 countries and seven Native American tribes, spanning from AD 619 to the current decade. In many cases, artists celebrate the power and beauty of bodies of water: Ansel Adams photograph of the Snake River; Utagawa Hiroshigethe whirlpool woodblock print from Naruto; Derrick Adams‘ cheerful painting of a swimmer on a giant rubber ducky float.
Other artists use their work to directly highlight the dangers of ignoring these precious resources: Claude Zervas‘Nooksack River Hail Light Sculpture; John Feodorov‘s Diné weaving painted in the image of an oil spill; and Ethiopian artist Aida Mulunehstriking photographs of colorfully dressed women carrying water through an arid landscape.