Sunday, July 21, 2013

Seattle sojourn

For the past week or so, I've been in Seattle attending a conference and seeing family (hence the reason for the lack of blogging last weekend).  While I was there, I had the opportunity to visit two Seattle museums, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and the Experience Music Project (EMP).

One of the things I noticed immediately is that art museums in Seattle are not open as much as the Smithsonian; one does get spoiled living in the DC area.  My only day to visit the SAM was on Sunday, and I fit in a trip around some conference activities.  The collection is heavy on modern art; in fact, they are the location for the part of the Vogel collection that was sent to Washington state.  In case you don't know about the Vogels, there were a husband and wife who lived in New York and collected modern art.  They had so many pieces, that when they donated their collection to the National Gallery in Washington, there wasn't room to house everything.  So each state got 50 pieces; the project is called "50 Pieces for 50 States."  What a great life list to compile - seeing Vogel collections everywhere you go...

The best thing I saw at SAM was a piece by Yinka Shonibare.  He's a Nigerian artist who, in my opinion, is a genius.  I saw a very large show of his art several years ago at the Smithsonian African Art Museum.  This was before I started blogging, so don't bother looking for my review.  Suffice it to say, it's the best thing I've seen in the four years I've been going to museums; I liked it so much, I went back and saw it again.

His art is difficult to describe, but I'll give it a try.  He takes headless mannequins and clothes them in Victorian clothing made out of batik fabric with wild designs.  These are arranged in tableaux - sometimes it's only one mannequin, other works include several.  The piece on display at SAM was of a Victorian family out for a promenade, and featured a father, mother, son and daughter.  His works challenge societal notions of identity; because the mannequins are headless, you can't tell what race they are supposed to be.  Also, although the style of the clothing is Western; the fabric is traditionally associated with Africa.  SAM also had a video of his which I enjoyed as well.  I felt I'd gotten my money's worth just with those two items, but the museum has much more on offer and is well worth a trip if you are ever in the Seattle area.

The EMP is at the Seattle Center, not far from downtown.  You can get there using the Monorail, which is great fun.  I'd been once before and spent most of a day going through the entire museum.  This time I was there for a reception associated with my conference, so admission was free.  Don't worry if you have to pay to get in, if you like music and its history, it's absolutely worth it.  They're showing two special exhibits at the moment: Women of Rock and Roll (which was here in DC before going to Seattle) and Jimi Hendrix in London.  Both are quite interesting and feature artifacts, as well as information.  Probably the best part of the permanent collection is the Guitar Gallery, which shows guitars from their beginnings to the present.  There are also booths in which you can mix recordings and play instruments; I guess that's the "Experience" part.  An excellent way to spend a day.

Verdict: Seattle: it's not just for coffee anymore!  There's lots for the museum goer to see and do in the Pacific Northwest.

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