Henry Behind the Scenes: Visiting the Eleanor Reed Collection Study Center

This is a guest blog post by Dawn Cerny, artist and Cornish Faculty, who recently visited the Henry’s Reed Collection Study Center with her students.

For most artists a trip to an art museum is a means to see and understand materials, scale, color, texture, and thinking in a way that is impossible to do from a reproduction. Yet, in most institutions, your ability to get close to the work can be mediated by vitrines, framing, and security devises that make it difficult to see a work.  Museums are a wonderful resource for studying the work of artist and the Study Center at the Henry is an incredibly helpful resource for getting closer to the work in order to understand how it is doing what it is doing.


Students getting an up-close view of artwork in the Reed Study Center

I can cruise through the online database for objects that relate to material, thematic, or technical subjects I am teaching in class, then send my requests to Rachael Faust (who is Assistant Curator of Collections and manages the Study Center) and show up with my class, a few weeks later, to get incredibly close to examples of what I am talking about in the classroom.

It’s one thing to see a photo of an Elsa Schiaparelli dress in a book; but when you are able to look at that same dress in person, you start to comprehend that even the buttons and hand-stitched beadwork are part of a larger narrative the garment is exploring. There is something to be said for looking at a Rembrandt drypoint with a magnifying glass and seeing where he too was using hesitant marks to try and figure out the form and composition.

The Study Center acts as a wonderful satellite classroom. Faust has a tremendous working relationship with the collection and she is committed to contextualizing the objects within time, medium, or landscape. Student questions are met with enthusiasm and curiosity—if Faust doesn’t have a ready answer she will help guide a student to the answer as best she can.

My students come away from our trips to the collection buzzing with ideas and the general feeling that they have witnessed a work of art behind the curtains of the institution. I think the Study Center also serves young artists by helping them begin to comprehend the amount of labor and education that goes into taking care of a work of art decade after decade—especially in relation to their own emerging practice. It is an important part of their education that they begin to comprehend the things that artist make are in relation with larger conversations and academic dialogs—and that what they do in their studio practices matter to other people and have larger consequences.

The Henry’s Eleanor Reed Collection Study Center is open to individuals and groups of 30 or less by advance appointment. Up to 20 objects from the collection may be requested for study per visit. Study Center hours are Tuesday–Friday from 9 am–5 pm. A limited number of evening appointments between 5-9 pm are available on Thursdays and Fridays. To make an appointment, contact Study Center staff at 206.616.9630 or contact collections@henryart.org.

Experience the 60′s

Life expenses 50 years ago compared to today:

1964 versus 2014

Numbers give you a reference point, but don’t share an experience.

Danny Lyon. Cal, Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

Danny Lyon. Cal, Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

The exhibition Danny Lyon: The Bikeriders brings the 60′s forward in time. A decade of self expression, rebels, hippies, and activists, Danny Lyon takes us deep into his 1960′s with the Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club. Lyon rode with the Hell’s Angels from 1963-67 and documented their lives from the inside with photographs in the style of what is now called “New Journalism.” Objectivity is not a byword for New Journalists, these cutting-edge writers and photographers — including writers Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion and Tom Wolfe — immersed themselves and participated in the life they documented.

Lyon’s first book, a photography collection titled The Bikeriders, was out of print for a decade and is now being reprinted with images from negatives he thought lost for 30 years. We invite you to visit the Henry and immerse yourself in his world (feel free to dress as your favorite character from the movie Easy Rider, which was inspired by Danny Lyon’s work).

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!

Maps and Memory: New VIEWPOINTS

Do you compare this map to one in your memory? Do you wish for a map to be a faithful reflection of the world? Or do you wonder to what relationships the map is faithful? When you look at The World From Memory, can you see yourself through your own questions? – Luke Bergmann, UW Assistant Professor, Department of Geography

VIEWPOINTS highlights select works from the Henry’s permanent collection and offers three perspectives on the work by University of Washington faculty members.

This iteration of VIEWPOINTS features the work of Emma Kay, a British artist. Kay incorporates various feats of memorization into her art. In the work on display, titled The World From Memory II, she draws a map of the world from memory complete with place names. Kay is interested in individual memory and how it processes maps, literature, religion, and the past – subjects she considers “the stuff of shared understanding.” Commenting on her work with maps, Kay states, “I quickly realized that we depend on maps as essential aids to memory precisely because they depict information that we can’t possibly hold in our heads.”

Kay’s work is displayed alongside the voices of UW faculty: Susan Joslyn, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology; Luke Bergmann, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography; and Deborah McCutchen, Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development, College of Education.

These three faculty members were specifically selected to respond to Kay’s artwork based on their research and teaching interests. We believe multiple voices can help expand our understanding of a work of art, cast a new light on overlooked details, and open our minds to new ideas.

Professor Joslyn teaches several Psychology classes focused on memory, including: PSYCH 462 Human Memory, PSYCH 568 Cognitive Approaches to Human Memory, and PSYCH 545: Advances in Cognition/Perception with a specific focus on Working Memory.

Professor Bergmann has a research interest in critical geovisualization as well as teaches GEOG 560: Principles of GIS Mapping. Geog 560 focuses on the origins, development, and methods of cartographic mapping. The course covers the principles of data representation and map design for thematic mapping and spatial analysis.

Professor McCutchen’s research focuses on cognitive processes underlying reading and writing ability. Central to her research is the question, “How are complex systems of knowledge used during reading and writing?”

VIEWPOINTS is a rotating series that presents new combinations of artworks and voices, emphasizing how works from the collection can inspire and provoke new dialogues and thoughts. Emma Kay’s artwork and accompanying faculty viewpoints will be on display on the Henry’s Mezzanine through March 2, 2014. Come and read each faculty response to the work and then form your own.

“Cycle of the Sun” Sets

Located on the exterior of the Henry, Cycle of the Sun was created by celebrated Northwest artist Richard (Dick) Elliott as part of our Studio 89 program that commissioned artists to create new works. Elliott originally made nine reflector paintings for the nine sculpture alcoves on the museum’s exterior. Using over 21,000 reflectors, he intended his paintings to react to the way light changes daily and with the seasons (Though Elliott called his works “paintings,” they are actually assemblages of the plastic safety reflectors normally found on bicycles, cars, and trucks).

Cycle of the Sun first went on display on September 23, 1989 to coincide with the Fall Equinox and remained on view one full year. To honor Elliott, who passed away in November 2008, the paintings were reinstalled in April 2010. This October, the Henry will deinstall these works and return them to storage.

An exterior alcove of the Henry featuring Elliott's "Cycle of the Sun."

An exterior alcove of the Henry featuring Elliott’s “Cycle of the Sun.”

In addition to Cycle of the Sun, the Henry also has two prints by Elliott titled Defining Full View. To create these works, Elliott used a computer to help him generate 360 different symbols. The work was printed once in black-and-white and once in color in an effort to explore how patterns can become a kind of language in art and design.

Do you ride the Sound Transit light rail? If so, you might have seen Sound of Light on the Hudson Street wall running nearly two blocks along Martin Luther King Way. This striking series of reflector paintings was awarded the Americans for the Arts Recognition for Innovation in Public Art.  You can see another work Eyes on the World at SeaTac International Airport, arranged in a pattern inspired by baskets of the Columbia Plateau.

To learn more about Cycle of the Sun, check out this video about the work featuring the Henry’s former Associate Curator, Sara Krajewski.

The Week Ahead @ the Henry

Hello first whole week of summer!

This week we say goodbye to the annual MFA + MDes Thesis Exhibition and began prepping the Stroum Gallery for the July 13 opening of The Ghost of Architecture.

In the meantime, Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque continues to surprise viewers with its intensity and incredible detail.

Laffoley exhibition

Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque is on view through September 15.                        (Photo credit: R.J. Sánchez)



Upstairs, Industrial Effects and Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty draws visitors daily through our North Galleries, the original structure of the Henry.

The big event this week? The official Bike Friday kick-off! Join us for an evening of workshops and demos, live music, and a variety of cycle-friendly arts activities.

  • Workshops and demos from Cascade Bicycle Club, 20/20 Cycle, and The Bikery
  • Free tune ups and diagnostics from Back Alley Bike Repair (first come, first served: sign up HERE!)
  • Bike-friendly brews and tasty treats from Peddler Brewing Company and Bikelava
  • Live music from Seattle bands Punishment and Pitschouse
  • Class up your bike style with fashion forward activities brought to you by Iva Jean and Hub and Bespoke
  • Door prizes from Bicycle Alliance, Gregg’s Cycles, Hub and Bespoke, and MORE!

Now through September 20, the Henry is offering complementary admission on Fridays to cyclists.

The Week Ahead @ the Henry

Here’s what’s happening this week at the Henry!

Wednesday, May 22th
12-12:30 - Student-Led Tour: Join a Henry Student Exhibition Guide for a 30-minute tour. All tours meet in the museum lobby.

Thursday, May 23rd
7-8:30 – Collection in Focus: Off with the Corset. Join Kimberly Hereford, UW Art History PhD candidate, for a discussion about the key characteristics of Aesthetic attire while examining a selection of garments from the Henry’s extensive costume collection. Please RSVP by Tuesday, May 21 to contact-collections@henryart.org.

Friday, May 24th
7-9 pm - May Openings: Sanctum & the 2013 UW School of Art MFA + MDes Exhibiton. Join the artists, their friends, and families for a reception at the Henry to celebrate the opening of Sanctum and the 2013 UW School of Art Master of Fine Arts and Master of Design exhibition. Please note: The preview (5-7 pm) is limited to students, faculty, and their guests. At 7 pm, the reception opens to the public.

Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty is open through Sept 1 (Photo credit: R.J. Sanchez)

Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty is open through Sept 1 (Photo credit: R.J. Sanchez)

Aesthetic Dress: The Scandal!

Gertrude Käsebier. The Picture Book. 1903. Photogravure. Henry Art Gallery, Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company, 97.249.

Gertrude Käsebier. The Picture Book. 1903. Photogravure. Henry Art Gallery, Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company, 97.249.


Today’s post is written by Kimberly Hereford, a PhD candidate in art history at the UW.

Just what is Aesthetic fashion and how was it different than everyday Victorian dress? In the day, Aesthetic dress was daring and existed outside the framework of etiquette and correct Victorian society. Though deemed scandalous and unfashionable by the public at large, initially a small group of avant-garde women dared to wear these gowns in public. 

On Thursday, May 23 I hope you will join me in the museum’s Reed Collection Study Center for “Off with the Corset!” to view a select group of objects from the Henry’s permanent collection and to discuss how Aesthetic dress differed from more conventional and acceptable woman fashion.

By looking at objects from the Henry Art Gallery’s permanent collection, we will explore what constituted “unfashionable” versus “ideal” Victorian standard of beauty, themes evident in the museum’s current exhibition Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty.

The Aesthetic dress movement grew out of the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, which also influenced the Arts and Craft movement in England. “Truth to nature and beauty in all things,” was the guiding principle of Aestheticism, a Victorian art movement designed to counter the Industrial Revolution by rejecting conformity and materialism. The adherents to Aesthetic fashion believed that clothing should not distort the natural form of the female body, but rather should be in harmony with natural and individual characteristics with the wearer, and above all, allow ease of movement. The greatest outrage for the adherents to the Aesthetic movement was the tight lacing of the corset and the bulges caused with stiff bustles.

There are two excellent examples of Aesthetic dresses in the Henry’s collection, a hand-sewn blouse and a light blue silk dress from Liberty & Co. Each piece contains detailed smocking, a hallmark of Aesthetic fashion.  Rather than harsh aniline dyes, these dresses were often made using “natural” dyes and would have been worn without a petticoat or bustle. The total effect, would have seemed droopy, limp, and even “sloppy” – the antithesis of everyday fashionable attire

By 1884, a shift occurred and Aesthetic dresses could be procured by the everyday Victorian woman from Liberty & Co. in London, which was deemed the “chosen resort” for the followers of this movement. The Liberty silks and its distinctive floral motif became associated and trademarks of the Aesthetic dress and instantly recognizable.  

My talk on the 23rd will also focus on these daring and fashion-forward women who were the first to cause a stir with their unusual style. Although Aesthetic dresses such as those in the Henry’s collection, would have been initially perceived as eccentric and “out of fashion,” we will also consider how, as the century progressed, this style not only became acceptable, but eventually influenced dress designers and continues to linger even today.



Guest Blog from Rebecca Migdal, Summer Intern

Throughout the year, the Henry offers a variety of student internships in different departments. Find current opportunities here. This past summer, Rebecca Migdal, a Lois F. McNeil Fellow and  graduate student in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware, interned in the collections department under our Curator of Collections, Judy Sourakli. She recently blogged a reflection of her internship at the Henry on the University of Delaware’s Museum Studies in Motion blog. Here is an excerpt:

“Hands-on access also developed my visual vocabulary for late 19th and early 20th century clothing, the various issues with their conditions, their storage requirements, and other special needs. Throughout the internship, I contributed to other collections management functions, too. I helped research selections from the historic dress collection so we could more precisely date costume pieces. I also learned about the Mimsy XG database and the preparation and organization of digital images for both internal and external use. Learning a little about the Henry’s methods for condition reporting, storing flat textiles, and its accession process was also a focus during the summer.”

Read the rest of the post here!