Henry Behind the Scenes: Camera Nipponica with Guest Curator Catherine Roche

This post is written by Catherine Roche, Guest Curator for Camera Nipponica: Photographs from Japan, 1880-1930.

Camera Nipponica is an unusual exhibition for a museum, as it features a collection of Japanese black and white portrait photography in which neither the photographers nor the sitters are known individuals. There are no bold names in the artist line, and no high ranking figures (as far as we can tell) in front of the lens. Rather, there are simply ordinary people—brides and grooms, fathers and sons, sisters and brothers—posing outdoors or in studio settings, commemorating a moment in time. Writer W.G. Sebald, who famously inserted caption-less photographs into his masterful and uncanny literary works, once said,

I’ve always collected stray photographs; there’s a great deal of memory in them.

Photographs are reservoirs of memory, and so-called “found” or vernacular photographs are partly so compelling because they resonate with memories to which we don’t have access. We are left only to speculate, on who the subjects were, what the occasion was, what they were thinking and feeling, and what has happened to them since.

Unknown photographer. Untitled portrait in Camera Nipponica: Photographs from Japan, 1880-1930

Unknown photographer. Untitled portrait. 1900/1920. Gelatin developing-out paper print. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Susan Tehon


There is one photograph in the exhibition that particularly intrigues me. It depicts two girls—sisters, most likely—wearing light, summertime yukata with checkerboard patterns and bold, abstract graphics. With raised paper fans and stylized gestures, the girls seem to be performing the Bon Odori, a sort of folk dance typically performed in the heat of August to welcome the spirits of the dead. Their masklike faces are painted with thick white makeup and bold crimson lips, yet the face paint cannot conceal their distinct personalities. There is an eerie, almost Diane Arbus-like quality to this photograph that makes it memorable. What is likely simply a studio portrait of two sisters in their festival best—in one sense the most ordinary of family photos—has somehow been made strange, and thus unforgettable.

The other photograph that I keep coming back to is a portrait of a handsome group of men seated before the wooden verandah of a Buddhist temple building in the shade of an evergreen tree. The men are wearing dark kimono and white straw boaters in a mash up of Meiji Japan and the Royal Regatta at Henley-on-Thames. An oval inset includes the portrait of a member of their group who for some reason was absent on “picture day.” Was he merely late, was he sick, or had he died? It is unusual details like these that make these “stray” photographs worth collecting, and recollecting.

Please join us for Camera Nipponica: Photographs from Japan, 1880–1930 before it closes on January 5, 2014.

The Week Ahead @ The Henry

All is quiet on campus as fall quarter draws to a close.

Molly’s Cafe will have reduced hours during winter break. Starting this Thursday and through December 22, the cafe will be open from 10 am – 2 pm. From December 23-Jan 1, Molly’s will be closed. Plan your alternative coffee route now!

Closing in Early January

The three exhibitions in our North Galleries close on January 5th. You only have a few more weeks to see the amazing black and white photography featured in The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker. Michael Upchurch of The Seattle Times said of this exhibition, “Metzker has fun throwing curveballs at your eye by shifting a photograph’s focal point to its outer margins or mischievously decontextualizing a subject so that it takes a moment to register what you’re looking at.”

Meztker installation image

Installation image of The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker. Photo credit: Mark Woods.


Brian Miller at the Seattle Weekly says of David Hartt: Stray Light, “The video conveys the anomie of modern office life, coupled with the sadness of a sagging industry. All the archives, file cabinets, and artifacts of traditional publishing are obsolete. Yet there’s a dusty, lingering optimism to the orange sofas and ’70s palette, to the test kitchen and cosmetics counter. Hartt even duplicated the crazy rug pattern—almost like that in The Shining—on the floor of the Henry’s small video gallery.”

Hartt installation image

Installation image of David Hartt: Stray Light. Photo credit: Mark Woods.


Camera Nipponica: Photographs from Japan 1880 – 1930 showcases examples of souvenir albumen prints and delicate glass lantern slides from the Meiji (1868–1912) and Taishō (1912–1926) eras. The exhibition also highlights a larger selection of vernacular portrait photography taken mostly by unknown Japanese photographers during the same time period.

Installation image of Camera Nipponica. Photo credit: Mark Woods.

Installation image of Camera Nipponica. Photo credit: Mark Woods.

We hope to see you soon!

Henry Behind the Scenes: Portrait of the Staff as Artists

Do art museums attract artists as staff? Do you need an affinity for the arts to work at an art museum? Yes, and it helps.

The Henry staff artistic profile

A word cloud representing the staff of the Henry

Of the Henry’s 38 full-time staff, 26 percent are practicing artists. They identify as painters, illustrators, writers, actors, filmmakers, multimedia artists, photographers, or a combination of mediums.

Laura Kinney, a Gallery Service Representative who also works with our prep crew, works with various media including “painting, drawing, assemblage, bookbinding/bookarts, and eglomise (reverse glass).” She also occasionally works with video and dabbles in website design and coding.

Webster Crowell, also on prep crew, is a filmmaker and the creator of Rocketmen the Series which had a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign this summer.


Webster Crowell. Photo By Michael Doucett

When Dustin Engstrom, Executive Assistant to Director Sylvia Wolf, isn’t managing her packed schedule, he’s an actor and playwright.


Dustin Engstrom. Photo By David Wulzen

Four of us are non-practicing artists, meaning we were formally trained and have worked as artists in our respective creative fields, but no longer do. We are a musician, fiction writer, photographer, and sculptor.

Nearly 60 percent of our staff considers themselves to have an “artistic nature.” What’s that mean? It’s a wide-ranging field: arts and crafts, textiles, cooking, decorating, art history/critical theory, cinematography, photography, video, digital media, music, printmaking, art writing, drawing, illustrating, acting, gardening, and serving as an artistic liaison/interpreter.

One staff member, when we were discussing how practicing artists often need “day jobs” in the United States, responded passionately, “Being an artist is a professional occupation. We need to recognize the value it has. Creative content is America’s biggest export.”

At the Henry, we believe that originality and creative thought belong to us all: the working artist, the hobbyist, the supporter, and the audience. Our work at the museum inspires us to push past limits and imagine with more daring. What should we write, film, sculpt, or bake next?

The Week Ahead @ The Henry

It’s a quiet week at the Henry, programming-wise, but the art is ready for viewing!


Monday: Museum Closed

Tuesday: Galleries Closed

Wednesday: 11 am – 4 pm

At noon, take a break before the holiday craze and join us for a tour of Jason Dodge: What we have done. led by poet and UW Professor Amaranth Borsuk. 


Friday:  11 am – 9 pm

Saturday:  11 am – 4 pm

Sunday: 11 am – 4 pm


Monday: Museum Closed

Tuesday: 8 am – 4 pm

Wednesday: 8 am – 4 pm





Thanksgiving Week Event: Art Break Tour

Be Thankful for Art (we sure are)

Wondering how to entertain the family and the in-laws? Bring them to the Henry next Wednesday, November 27th at noon for an Art Break with Amaranth Borsuk, Assistant Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell. She will lead a tour and talk through Jason Dodge: What we have done.

Until then, enjoy this poem she shared with us.

Amaranth Borsuk, Assistant Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell

Amaranth Borsuk, Assistant Professor,
School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell

Borsuk Poem

Handiwork (Slope Editions, 2012)

The Week Ahead @ The Henry: Open House!


Last year's Fall Open House packed the gallery. Photo by Amelia Hooning

Last year’s Fall Open House packed the gallery.
Photo by Amelia Hooning

Join us for the best house party of the season this Friday, October 25th!

We’ll start the evening at 6 pm with a special cocktail hour for our Patrons and Contemporaries. At 7 pm, Henry members get in, followed by the general public at 8 pm. Bring a date, bring your friends, bring your circuit training shoes (seriously, we have quite the night planned for you).

We are going to have tours of our five fall exhibitions with Henry guides, Poetic Interventions with Tara Atkinson of APRIL, exhibition-inspired performances from Kate Wallich of The YC, and the aforementioned Circuit Training preview with artist Lacy Draper.

And what’s a party without cold beer from Pyramid Breweries (you get two free drink tickets with admission) and a food truck named NOSH (self-host) — not to mention the best beats around with music powered by KEXP!

Tickets HERE!

The Week Ahead @ The Henry

You can feel the energy ramping up around us, as the UW campus readies for students to return for a new academic year. The official first day of school is September 25th, and to orient and prepare students for college life, the UW is throwing “Dawg Daze,” ten days of fun and informative events and workshops all over campus.

At the Henry, we are holding our special Dawg Daze event, the Fall Fête, on Friday, September 20th from 6-8 pm. New and returning UW students are invited to the Henry for an evening of live music, dancing, food, and activities inspired by our current exhibitions. Walk through the museum’s galleries, explore the Study Center, and sample delicious food from Molly’s Cafe. It’s FREE and we’re going to have root beer floats (also free).


Hope the good weather continues this week as we are planning to hold Thursday’s Mindfulness Meditation session in the James Turrell Skyspace. You can gaze through the aperture and let your mind take you wherever it wants to go. Please check in at the front desk; the meditation begins at 12:30.

Upcoming Artist Lectures

Besides the David Hartt artist lecture on September 19th, the UW School of Art Faculty Lecture Series begins on September 26th. The two best things about this series (besides the content, of course)? It’s FREE and open to the public! But you have to reserve a seat, so get moving and lock in your ticket for the first lecture by Kristine Matthews, Assistant Professor of Visual Communications Design, now!

Camera Nipponica is open!

Camera Nipponica: Photographs from Japan, 1880–1930 includes examples of souvenir albumen prints and delicate glass lantern slides from the Meiji (1868–1912) and Taishō (1912–1926) eras. The exhibition also highlights a larger selection of vernacular portrait photography taken mostly by unknown Japanese photographers during the same time period. Guest Curator Catherine Roche will be speaking on “Prints and Photographs of Meiji Japan” on December 5th.

Camera Nipponica

Installation view of Camera Nipponica. Image: Henry Art Gallery

What Happened Yesterday at the Henry: ArtVENTURE!

Artist Carolina Silva led a tour through Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauhauroque and then encourage them to create their own a large scale art piece to celebrates our own personal narrative with the physical world. If you have kids or may sometime need to entertain kids, join us the second Sunday of the month at 2 pm for an ArtVENTURE at the Henry.

Girl at ArtVENTURE

A young guest creates her own art during her ArtVENTURE. Image: Henry Art Gallery.

The Week Ahead @ The Henry

Just two weeks left to see Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty! This long-running exhibition, guest curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D., Henry Visiting Fellow and Chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, closes September 1. If you haven’t seen the show yet or want to revisit some of your favorites, now’s the time. Do you have a piece you can’t stop thinking about? Cindy Sherman? Diane Arbus? Nic Nicosia? Carrie Mae Weems?

photo credit: R.J. Sanchez

photo credit: Mark Woods

Also ending September 1 is Industrial Effects: Photographs from the Henry Art Gallery Collection. Organized by Director Sylvia Wolf, this exhibition offers a sampling of photographs that surveys changing attitudes towards industry from the 19th century until now, in works by Berenice Abbott, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Edward Burtynsky, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Lewis Hine, Alfred Stieglitz, and Catherine Wagner, among others.

Catherine F. Wagner. Genetically Engineered Tomatoes. 1994. Gelatin silver print. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Burt and Jane Berman, 2001.219.

Catherine F. Wagner. Genetically Engineered Tomatoes. 1994. Gelatin silver print. Henry Art Gallery, gift of Burt and Jane Berman, 2001.219.

Coming up this week:

Join us for a Faculty Focus tour this Wednesday at noon with Louisa Iarocci, Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture. Professor Iarocci. a licensed architect who has worked in Toronto, New York, St. Louis, and Boston, will lead guests through The Ghost of Architecture: Recent and Promised Gifts.

Guy Ben-Ner. Stealing Beauty . 2007. Single-channel DVD (color, sound); 17:40 minutes. Promised gift of William and Ruth True.

Guy Ben-Ner. Stealing Beauty [video still]. 2007. Single-channel DVD (color, sound); 17:40 minutes. Promised gift of William and Ruth True.


Learn how to make music with your bike at our Rubber & Tin event on Friday at 6 pm with composers and sound artists Nat Evans and Chris Kallmyer. Did you read Nat’s blog post all about Rubber & Tin in Hankblog last week? More info here. Hope you can join us for this unique Bike Friday experience (and cross your fingers we get good weather that night!).


Rubber & Tin: Creating Sound Devices for your Bicycles

This post is reprinted with permission from Nat Evans on natevansmusic.com. It has been edited slightly from the original.

bike flute

The bicycle instrument workshop and group ride Rubber & Tin is the first event in a series called “House Guests,” and will take place on Friday, August 23rd at Henry Art Gallery. Composers and sound artists Nat Evans and Chris Kallmyer will be creating sound works around everyday household tasks like cooking, gardening, cleaning, biking, and walking. These works will take place in the coming months in and around Seattle for small audiences of 10 to 100 people. In the fall, they’ll lead an expedition into the North Cascades to hunt for chanterelle mushrooms. When the mushrooms are found, a soup utilizing the foraged bounty will be made. Sound and musical works will accompany the soup-making as the participants observe and eat together.

These experiments in converting everyday activities into sonic and community-based events have been an ongoing dialogue of ideas and trial and error–  each artist bringing their own set of interests, skills, and ideas to re-shape the context through collaboration. For Rubber & Tin the flow of ideas for the group ride took a circular path.

Evans and Kallmyer initially conceived of the concept as a group experiential event and then moved on to prototyping instruments that participants could make and affix to their bikes. Some things came easily – jangly recycled items were easy enough for Nat to alter his bike, but making bells from old sink parts proved too troublesome and impractical to do with a group of people. Similarly, Chris made a Bike Flute, which has an excellent sound, but required the cyclist to travel exceedingly fast! Eventually, at the suggestion of Chris, they settled upon a few different categories of sound-devices.

spoke jangles

Category 1: Traditional
Baseball cards and clothes pins have been quintessential tools for kids interested in altering the sonic nature of their bicycles since the mid-20th century, and will be available for decoration and sonic alteration.

Category 2: Experimental
A myriad of different recycled and re-purposed metallic items will be available to create some different, basic sounds that are powered by their bicycle being in motion. Though some examples will be available, Nat and Chris are making this category one of potential – the potential for people to innovate given the right tools and materials.

Category 3: Kazoos
People will have them. We’ll use kazoos for different sound-based investigations along the route, and other sounding devices will be utilized by participants as well. These devices may or may not be cued by the appearance of bubbles.

After these categories were established the artists came back to the experiential aspect of the event – further fleshing out their concept with movement-and-mindfulness-derived group exercises to help shape the flow, perception and energy of the experience of Rubber & Tin. By re-contextualizing these every-day experiences, a greater sense of place and community is engendered, sounds and music are heard in new ways, and people are brought back to the moment.

Please join Nat Evans and Chris Kallmyer at 6 pm on Friday, August 23rd at the Henry for Rubber & Tin.  This event is FREE with museum admission and FREE to cyclists. Watch for other “House Guests” events in coming months!

For more information, please see the Henry website.

The Week Ahead @ The Henry

Warm August afternoons are perfect for a stroll through the Henry and then relaxing with a leisurely cup of coffee and a cookie from Molly’s Cafe in our courtyard.

We invite you to come see the art and then daydream about it for a bit. Take in Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque if you really want to get your subconscious going!

Paul Laffoley. UTOPIA: TIME CAST AS A VOYAGE-HISTORY. 1974. Oil, acrylic, and vinyl lettering on canvas. Collection of Lawrence B. Benenson. Courtesy of Kent Fine Art, New York.

Paul Laffoley. UTOPIA: TIME CAST AS A VOYAGE-HISTORY. 1974. Oil, acrylic, and vinyl lettering on canvas. Collection of Lawrence B. Benenson. Courtesy of Kent Fine Art, New York.


Friday, August 16, 4:00 – 6:00 pm: Down Time Workshop — Energy Freedom Technique with Alina Frank

Tap your way  (on yourself, not with shoes) to releasing your negative emotions. Identify your own personal prime meridian and heal yourself. This demonstration is part of Down Time. Inspired by do-it-yourself culture and the wealth of how-to resources on the internet, Down Time is an eight-week presentation that explores free-choice learning and the pursuit of entertainment in our “down” time.