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Seattle is More Dynamic all the Time!

Exciting exhibitions are coming to both Seattle and Tacoma this summer.

I will begin with the Frye Art Museum and “Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem.” (May 22–August 15). The Studio Museum has long been a nationally recognized anchor of culture of the African diaspora, led by a succession of dynamic curators and directors. Their permanent collection features benchmark artists from the last fifty years including people such as Faith Ringgold and Alma Thomas (a pioneering abstract artist from DC). The eighty artists in the exhibition are a who’s who of artists of African descent.

Kenyan American Wangechi Mutu, one of the artists in the Studio Museum/Frye exhibition, created the larger-than-life bronze sculpture “The Seated IV” for a Metropolitan Museum of Art commission to temporarily fill empty niches on the façade. Amazingly it now stands on the UW campus in front of the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health on Stevens Way just east of 15th Ave.

Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, Born Nairobi 1972), The NewOnes, will free Us: The Seated IV, 2019, Bronze 80 ½, x 33 3/8 x 36 ¾, (detail) in front of the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health on Stevens Way just east of 15th ave. Collection University of Washington, Gift of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Photograph: Susan Platt

The queenly figure clothed in coils sits regally on a base. The large disc on her forehead, inspired by the lip plates worn by elite women of the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia, reflects and receives light and energy from the sun. SAM Curator Pam McCluskey called it “a perfect monument to the African DNA of our species on the planet, and how we need to balance our human instincts with celestial insights...” In its original setting, in the neoclassical niches on the façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mutu redefined the burdened caryatid that held up a building. Now these women (we got one of four) are independent and in the world on their own terms.

The Wing Luke Museum features Gerard Tsutakawa’s sculpture “Stories Shaped in Bronze,” starting on June 11. (He is the son of George Tsutakawa). We see many of Gerard’s public art works in Seattle. My personal favorite is Urban Peace Circle Memorial, 1994 in the I-90 lid park that I wrote about last spring. It is dedicated to children killed by gun violence. The Wing also takes on the impact of Covid-19 on the Asian community in “Community Spread How We Faced a Pandemic.” With anti-Asian violence escalating every day, this timely exhibition looks back at the roots of the disturbing wave of anger since the beginning of the pandemic.

The just-released graphic novel We Hereby Refuse, by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura, illustrated by Ross Ishikawa partners with a new permanent exhibition at the Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma “Remembrance, the Legacy of Executive Order 1066 in Washington State,” that opens on June 17. It explores the “intergenerational impacts and legacy of the incarceration of people of Japanese ethnicity during WWII as a result of Executive Order 9066.”

Washington State Historical Society Museum also has initiated an exhibition on a groundbreaking topic!

“Crossing Boundaries, Portraits of a Transgender West,” (May 29–December 12) explores the idea of moving west to free oneself from prior identities. While the term “transgender” did not exist until recently, curator Peter Boag author of Re-Dressing America’s Frontier Past, explores the ways in which people freed themselves from gender norms as they went West. The exhibition explores the narratives of people who came into the public eye in newspapers between 1860 and 1940 with the themes “visibility, identity, acceptance, and history.” Peter Boag will give an online presentation on June 10.

Perfect for the summer, the Seattle Art Museum exhibition “Monet at Ètretat” (July 1–October 17), features eleven paintings by Monet built around the museum’s only Monet Fishing Boats at Ètretat. Monet is a seductive painter, no question about that, and his Ètretat paintings featuring the famous chalk cliffs draw us in with their magic. The show also includes work by his contemporaries, videos, postcards and more.

I wish I had more space to write about Seattle’s exciting creative events in literature, poetry, dance, opera, and film (for example the opera Flight filmed at the Museum of Flight!!). Pay attention to an edgy series of events called “Murmurations: A Seattle-Wide Arts Collaboration,” going on all summer. Some are already online, such as the radical trans everything Sadiqua Imam’s moving interpretation in the Frye Exhibition of Anastacia-Reneé’s (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts. Anastacia-Reneé is Seattle’s current Civic Poet—you can also see her performing online.

An upside of the pandemic has been the online interviews with individual performers that supplemented streamed performances. Now we know them as people, not just as distant musical geniuses. I particularly like the chamber music group Byron Schenkman and Friends for that reason.

Finally, it was a thrill to go to Pike Place Market last Sunday and see real people having fun, poets performing (we heard Raven Saint Reeves), and Rick Williams, Eagle Son, an eighth generation descendent of the famous Williams Family, carving totems. I bought a small totem, and he gave me a bag of cedar carvings. Take a look at their excellent website at Williams Family Carvers ( to learn more and buy your very own artwork.

~Susan Platt, Ph.D.


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