“Our Blue Planet”

“Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water” runs until May 30, 2022; in other words, go right away!

Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, Seattle, WA 98101; 206.654.3100, Hours: 10am–5pm, Wednesday–Sunday


Tickets: Adult $29.99, Senior (65+) $27.99, Military (with ID) $27.99, Student (with ID) $19.99, Teen (15-18) $19.99, Child (14 and under) Free

Tuan Andrew Nguyen, “The Arrival of The Boat People,” 2020, pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, 27 x 48 in. © Tuan Andrew Nguyen 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York, still from video.
Tuan Andrew Nguyen, “The Arrival of The Boat People,” 2020, pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, 27 x 48 in. © Tuan Andrew Nguyen 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York, still from video.

Last month I introduced you to “Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water” at the Seattle Art Museum including almost one hundred art works from all over the globe in textiles, embroidery, ceramics, painting, photography, video, and much more. It encompasses mythology, ritual, law, and science fiction.


I was able to discuss only five of the ten themes of the exhibition in April. So now I will touch on the second five themes:


“Future Waters Through the Eyes of Women and Children” has some of the most provocative imagery in the exhibition. Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s video “The Boat People” imagines a future world in which children collect the detritus of what we have left behind and create rituals with them.


Also, in this segment a still and a film by Ethiopian Aida Muluneh, reenacts the process of getting water for survival in Dallol, northern Ethiopia, one of the hottest and driest places on Earth. As Muluneh explained: “While travelling across Ethiopia for my work, I often encounter streams of women traveling on foot and carrying heavy burdens of water… women spend a great deal of time fetching water for the household.”


“Where Water is Law in Northern Australia” highlights four works on found aluminum by well-known aboriginal artists, a dramatic departure from traditional eucalyptus, also included nearby. The abstract patterns refer to law, ritual, myth, ancestral power, clan designs, and, of course, the patterns of water.


“Sea Creatures that are Honored and Endangered” includes a bronze turtle called Dadu Minaral (turtle), 2007 by Dennis Nona from the Torres Straits. Here it is impaled on poles, referring to an historic initiation rite, but today the Torres Straits indigenous peoples are pioneering ecological partnerships to preserve this huge marine ecosystem.


“Tragic Memories of Global Trade” features a dramatic re-installation of Marita Dingus’s intense homage to the slave trade—200 Women of African Descent and 400 Men of African Descent. The artist created each headless body over year and a half as a meditation on the atrocities of slavery. The work has been reinstalled to correspond to the diagram of The Brooks, a slave ship on the late 18th century.

“Mythic Vision from Water’s Creation to Regulation” includes Raghu Rai’s two haunting images of flute players playing on the banks of the Ganges at Viranasi, the site of cremation rituals.


John Feodorov, “Desecration #2,” 2017, acrylic, graphite, and conté on wool rug,  50 1/4 x 44 1/4 in. Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund,  2020.2.2 © Artist or Artist's Estate.
John Feodorov, “Desecration #2,” 2017, acrylic, graphite, and conté on wool rug, 50 1/4 x 44 1/4 in. Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, 2020.2.2 © Artist or Artist's Estate.

“Desecration of Our Troubled Waters” features another Indian River, the Yamuna. It surrounds Delhi, but is entirely blocked from view. We see the artist Atul Bhalla immersing his head gradually in the toxic waters.


John Feodorov’s Desecration no. 2, represents pipelines spilling pollution on native lands. Master Weaver Tyra Preston created special white Navaho rugs for the artist on which he painted with some trepidation, given the rugs’ powerful importance as metaphor of land and culture.

At the Wing Luke opening “We Are Changing the Tide: Community Power for Environmental Justice,” Pamela Bond Sea Monster and Donald “Duck” Long Soldier. People of Land Council  www.yehow.org. Photograph used with permission.
At the Wing Luke opening “We Are Changing the Tide: Community Power for Environmental Justice,” Pamela Bond Sea Monster and Donald “Duck” Long Soldier. People of Land Council www.yehow.org. Photograph used with permission.

“We are Changing the Tide: Community Power for Environmental Justice” through Feb 19, 2023.

Wing Luke Museum, 719 S. King St. 98104, 206.623.5124, Hours: Thurs.-Sun 10-5pm

Tickets: Adult $17.00, Senior (62+) $15.00, Student (with ID) $12.50, Youth 5-12 $10.00


To see more resistance to degradation, go to “We are Changing the Tide: Community Power for Environmental Justice” at the Wing Museum. As they explain:


“Communities of color exist at ground zero in the fight for environmental justice. These communities, especially those of Black, Indigenous, and migrant populations worldwide, bear the highest burden from the negative effects of climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and exploitative industries.”


The display includes photographs, videos, and texts featuring activists saving the ecosystems in which we all live. We heard from the Oahu Water Protectors in Hawaii protesting against the US Navy Base at Pearl Harbor spilling massive pollution into the sea. Locally, Maria Batayoli called attention to the poor air quality on Beacon Hill in Seattle leading to 40,000 cases of respiratory illness from fine particles and the fact that expanded flights at SeaTac will increase the noise as well as the pollution. Also nearby are members of the Quinault nation resisting flooding.


These are people who are truly making a difference.


The exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum also raises up people who are resisting climate crises. You will see that most clearly if you scan the QR codes in the exhibition. The short videos tell us of the resistance by people such as Toya LaRuby Frazier.


Climate crisis is real as we read in the newspaper every day. I am so glad that museums and artists and activists are collectively addressing it. Spend time with these two shows, and get involved in some way yourself, even if it is only to avoid plastic packaging as much as possible. Try to do three actions each day.


~Susan Platt, PhD www.artandpoliticsnow.com