Seattle has some interesting museums that one can visit. On our 2021 visit to the city, we took advantage of some current exhibits.
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
The Seattle Art Museum has almost 25,000 works of art dating from antiquity to the present. On our 2021 visit to the museum, it was showcasing a Monet at Étretat Exhibit. The exhibit focused on Monet’s work while he resided at the seaside town of Étretat on the Normandy Coast. This excuse to stage an ever-popular Monet exhibit was a little misleading at it only showed ten of the artist’s works. That’s right, ten. The works were staged in conjunction with several works by Monet contemporary artists (Boudin, Courbet, and Corot) who painted images of the dramatic limestone cliffs and fishing boats of Étretat plus multiple panels describing Monet’s canvases, paints, techniques, and so forth. Although the exhibit does contain some wonderful works from the years between which Monet and his Impressionist cohorts first gained notoriety (in the 1870s) and the time in which Monet gained critical and popular acclaim with his series (grain stacks, poplar trees, Rouen Cathedral, etc,), it seems like a real stretch to stage an entire show around these works.
Its other exhibits include the elevator screen include the Chicago Stock Exchange as well as a seated figure from 600 and work from Dorothy Napangardi who was at the forefront of the contemporary Australian Aboriginal art movement.
Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, as it is better known, began as the Experience Music Project. Located in the Seattle Center area, it was Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s tribute to then contemporary music. It has since expanded to include subsequent music genres and other forms of culture, especially science fiction and horror movies, television, and video games. The museum is located in is divided into a number of permanent and temporary sections including:
- Classic Guitar Exhibit which includes guitars from music legends including Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, and many others; and an inverted, two-story guitar, drum and keyboard pyramid.
- Jimi Hendrix exhibit provides a brief history of his life, from his continual moves with his military family, his father’s giving him an electric guitar at age 16, his own service in the army, and his rapid road to stardom—which especially took off in London. It examines his grueling international travel schedule, his recording of more than 130 songs, and his performance of more than 300 concerts before his death at age 28. It also has some personal, introspective notes and artifacts that hint at the real man behind the cultural icon he became.
- Pearl Jam and Nirvana, two Seattle area groups, are celebrated in extensive galleries in a special section of the museum.
- Indie Games are discussed and visitors can play some of them in a special exhibit that examines the growing role of independent games over the last decade relative to the corporate games that traditionally dominated the electronic game market. It discusses the growing importance of sound and graphics in games and the expanding definition of games in portraying human emotions and experiences.
- Disney Hero and Villain Costumes is a special (additional fee) exhibit that displays and explains the art, creativity, and decisions that go into the design of iconic Disney costumes.
- The Sound and Vision Theater plays highlights of Seattle-area musicians and cultural heroes: Jimmy Hendrix’s (born in Seattle) performance at Woodstock included classics such as Foxy Lady, Fire, and the artist’s iconic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. A Nirvana (from nearby Aberdeen WA) Concert and highlights from the Supersonics (owned by Paul Allen) championship season were also all playing.
- Science Fiction Movies displayed weapons, robots, starships, and costumes from movies. It also contains overviews of examples and the importance of morphing, voices, set design, and painting of movies such as Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Blade Runner.
- The Horror Movies gallery displays monsters, deformed killers, zombies, and mutilated and dismembered body parts of victims from movies including Friday the 13th and Night of the Living Dead.
- The Hall of Fame gallery provides a brief tribute to sci-fi innovators: everyone from writers such as Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, and Rod Serling to directors like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Ridley Scott to John Williams who created the theme songs and scores for many of the most iconic sci-fi movies. It also honors TV series like Star Trek and X-Files and movies like The Matrix and Lord of the Rings.
- The Sound Lab, where visitors can record their own songs, was closed due to the pandemic.
It also had a large LGBTQ exhibit called “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement” that provides an abbreviated history of the discrimination that gays have faced. It talks about the fight for recognition, the increased openness around gay issues, and the fight for/setbacks around and gradual growth in gay rights—largely from the perspective of how they were addressed in the media. It explains the Stonewall Riots and the cultural transformation in how they were treated in the media and the openness in addressing issues in television (such as Ellen Degeneres and Will and Grace), movies (Brokeback Mountain and Philadelphia), and theater (Angels in America and Boys in the Band). It examines the growing acceptance and influence of gays in politics, from Eisenhower’s 1953 order to ban gays from government jobs, Herbert Hoover’s vendetta, and the growing influence of gay politicians from Harvey Milk to Barney Frank to Tammy Duckworth and Pete Buttigieg.
The exhibit had videos and news clips that documented:
- The treating of homosexuality as a sickness;
- The ignoring of the AIDS epidemic and the homophobic rant by figures including Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell;
- The pioneering work of Glide Memorial Church reverends Ted McIlvenna and Cecil Williams the Episcopalian church’s ordination of the first openly gay bishop;
- The U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing gay marriage and ensuring that gay couples have the same rights as straights;
- The growing willingness of sports organizations (NCAA and NBA), corporations Apple and Google) and execs (Tim Cook of Apple) to speak out and even boycott states and entities that overtly discriminate.
But for all the progress, the setbacks continue to come, such as the increased violence against gays (murders of LGBTQ people reached a 20 year high in 2017) and how some states continue to do all in their power to limit rights, such as in forcing transgender people to use their birth bathrooms.
Overall, it was a very informative documentation of the struggle of LGBTQ.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass is also located in the Seattle Center area. We have seen and written about many pieces and installations of Dale Chihuly’s glass art. He has works in over 200 museums and has staged special exhibits worldwide.
The extensive galleries and displays provide an overview of Chihuly’s background from his education, his Fulbright Fellowship, and cofounding of the Pilchuck Glass School. Multiple galleries are dedicated to each of his many and continually evolving and expanding glass art series, from his cylinders and vases, to seaforms, Persians and macchia to his Ikebana, chandeliers, towers, and more. The galleries, docent talks, and a number of short films explain the inspiration for each of these series (often from nature and native art), how they are developed, and how individual pieces of handblown glass are assembled into complex objects and installations. Some of these installations, such as his ceilings, contain well over 1,000 individual pieces.
Although Chihuly used to do his own gaffing (creating his own pieces by repeatedly heating and blowing individual pieces), his loss of vision in one eye and a shoulder dislocation led him to step back from gaffing in favor of designing concepts for pieces and installations. He creates his own drawings and guides individual artists and especially multiple teams of artists to create pieces and installations in accordance with his vision. The exhibition begins with a marvelous installation that contains dozens of transparent pieces, some of which are laying on the surface, others of which are suspended, that look like ice crystals.
Other galleries are dedicated to pieces such as:
- Cylinders. Navajo textile designs and baskets, and Indian grass baskets served as his initial break from symmetry.
- Chandeliers. Multiple pieces of individually blown glass pieces are combined into complex installations that hang from ceilings or specially designed support structures.
- Towers are inverted versions of his ubiquitous chandeliers that are too large and heavy to be suspended from ceilings.
- Ceilings which consist of 1,200 to 1,500 figures from his Persian series overlap and are nested among each other are above one’s head.
- Mille Fiori are gardens of various shapes and colors of blown glass pieces that Chihuly combines from many different series.
- Ikebana combined dozens of multi-colored floats that are arranged in and around glass versions of traditional Japanese fishing boats.
- Drawings all of which are spontaneous and freeform are displayed. Some of them are intended as pieces of art in and of themselves and others serve as inspirations for individual pieces or objects that are to be created by others.
- Macchia Forest contains freeform creations that combine multiple colors. Hot blown tubes are repeatedly rolled in shards of colored glass and a complimentary colored interior layer that is separated by a layer of white glass is added (that is inspired by the richness of color from viewing blown glass against a background of cloud). A lip of a contrasting color is then applied.
- Glass houses are large clear glass pavilions that contain large, suspended installations of Persians. The one in this show looked like trees at peak color in a New England forest.
- An outside garden area contained installations. Dozens of pieces of different colored glass in the shapes of vines, bulbs, flowers, balls, and other organic shapes are interspersed through a garden to appear as part of it.
- A chandelier walkway contains several Persian chandeliers of different colors are arranged in a row.
The complex also has a hot shop where invited artists create their own pieces in front of audiences, a café whose wall is lined with Chihuly drawings and whose ceiling is interestingly hung with accordions that are half open. The complex also has a theater in which videos show Chihuly explaining how he creates different series and especially, how he designs and creates and guides local teams in the creation of multiple, large-scale implementations, such as those he created in Venice, Jerusalem, and Dublin. And of course, it also has a shop where you can buy pieces of Chihuly glass objects and drawings as well as Chihuly versions of standard tourist fare, such as teeshirts and mugs.
If you like blown glass, it is well worth a visit.