Sneak Peek

Check out the videos from Vortexhibition Polyphonica!  Below is just one of ten different videos shot right here at the Henry of staff members talking about their favorite piece in the show.  You can see them now on www.vimeo.com.  Doing my practicum for the UW Museum Studies course, I have been working here with Communications and Outreach extraordinaire Betsey Brock and with her help, I produced these videos to support and promote this awesome show.  Soon these videos will be a part of the Vortexhibition Polyphonica website and you can view them there also.  What a fun project and what a nice staff.  Thank you all.

Jim Rittiman lies down next to “Bigfoot (Sasquatch) Skeleton” by Clayton George Bailey and tells us why he likes it so much. This is a large piece on the floor in Vortexhibition Polyphonica at Henry Art Gallery.

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Flower Powder

Last week, while looking at the beautifully embroidered Lotus Shoes in Vortexhibition Polyphonica, I had the pleasure of talking with Henry’s Curator of Collections, Judy Sourakli, who told me some strange and cool things about these small wonders.  These are the shoes that were made for women with bound feet.  Yes, the painful disfiguring cruel practice where young girls’ feet were bound with yards of cloth to stop them from growing so that they would achieve the extraordinarily tiny lotus foot.  Weird and curious.  Their toes and bones break over time with binding and the foot sort of ends up resembling a hoof.  BUT, the cool fact I learned, was about the shoes themselves, and particularly the heel of the more exquisite and expensive Lotus Shoes.  There was a hidden built-in chamber inside the heel that contained a fine white powder.  Then on the bottom of the heel was a stencil, usually a lotus flower, which was a symbol for summer, purity, and fruitfulness.  Then each time the woman wearing the shoe took a small painful step, a subtle fine white stencil was left on the ground behind her.  So very delicate.  Along with the stencil on the heel, the bottom of the shoes were often times embroidered.  Since upper-class, Lotus Shoe-wearing women spent their days sitting with their feet up, it was important that the bottom of the shoes be just as attractive as the sides.  A strange custom with a long history and a fascinating story indeed.

Search these shoes and others in the Henry Collections here.

COMING SOON: Videos from Vortexhibition Polyphonica

As a Museum Studies student at the UW, I have been working on a practicum project here at the Henry that involves shooting video of staff members with their favorite piece in Vortexhibition Polyphonica.  I asked people why they chose what they did and that’s what we get to see on the videos!  Some people prefer not to be filmed, but still have a lot to say, so the following is what I learned from Hannah Hong.  Her favorite piece(s) in the show are So Salty Too and Wide as the Milky Way both by Collier Schorr.

“I love these pieces, I don’t love them because they’re something positive about the world, rather, they’re more about an underbelly of angst and implied violence that exists and is addressed oh-so-subtly by Collier Schorr,” explains Hannah Hong.

These two sculptural pieces, that resemble little girls’ dresses, are hung fairly high on the wall together, side-by-side. Hannah continues, “I like these pieces because it takes a while to get it, to understand it. At first you think, oh here are some little girls’ dresses, and it seems creepy to be looking up into them. But they are intentionally placed at that height to be looked into.  And you’re thinking, it’s kind of weird that I’m looking up a little girl’s dress, is this wrong?  And then you read all the texts and the ideas that are placed inside the dress, and you think, oh, so this IS what the artist intended, for it to be creepy, weird, and wrong to look at the work.”

There is scribbling and writing inside the pieces that you can see only as you get close and look up into them. “The voice that is used in the writing is sometimes innocent, sometimes accusatory and angry, but it does both these voices and seems to shift back and forth. Unless you get up in there to read it all, you don’t get the idea of sex and violence,” says Hannah.  From a distance, they might look innocent being little dresses, painted a pale color, blowing in the wind maybe. But instead of blowing in the wind the hems of the dresses are actually being pulled up. Hannah exclaims, “There is so much to see in these pieces. Even if you walk away and come back you always see something different.”

Hannah on So Salty Too
“I love the fact that in one spot it says MONSTER you are bad scribbled over the top of other text saying Such a sweet, pretty, salty good little girl and an arrow to a cut-out of a woman’s chest, on which sicko has been written. This is hard to decipher so you have to spend time reading the piece, craning your neck, contorting your body to be able to read it.”

Hannah on Wide as the Milky Way
“There is written She wouldn’t have you any other way in red, bold, steady letters, and an arrow that points in the direction of a bent set of legs, knees bent, slightly open, without a body. Next to this is written she used to think there was someone else underneath her skin.”

Looking up into the art, Hannah smiles, “I like that the artist has pulled this twisted joke on us as viewers, activating our sense of morality and causing us to question ourselves.”

Wow.

Installation View of I Myself Have Seen It: Photography & Kiki Smith. Photo by Richard Nichol.

The Kiki Smith show I Myself Have Seen It: Photography and Kiki Smith, is a must-see. It is beautiful. I could not quit thinking about it for days after seeing it. The art, the photographs, the sculpture, it’s all fabulous. The thing that most impressed and completely floored me is the way the photographs are hung. The way the show is presented. When I walked in and looked around the first gallery, I was blown away. It is amazing. The style in which it is hung compliments the way the art is cropped and framed so completely. From the Sirens perched up near the ceiling on the molding – to the row of small photos along the baseboard. There is a LOT to look at and take in, but again, the way it is presented and the way the pictures are hung, the rooms, the light, the beauty – the whole experience allows you the space to absorb and feel what this show is about. I love the photographs – but there is so much more than photos here. I look forward to seeing and staring at it all again.

Have you seen Milton Rogovin’s photos yet?

Hi, Amy Chinn here.  I wanted to share how moved I am by one of the exhibitions upstairs.

Sugar from Lower West Side series, Buffalo, NY. 1973 Gelatin silver print Henry Art Gallery, extended loan as promised gift from Dr. Michael Kaplan, M.D."

The photos are beautiful. They really are. Right off the lobby, to get to the Skypace and galleries, you have to walk through the room where Happy 100th Birthday, Milton Rogovin! is showing. Visitors stop in their tracks to walk around this small room and study the powerful, quiet, amazing photographs of people who Rogovin has captured. This optometrist-turned-full-time-photographer, who turned 100 years old in December, has the ability to tell a story with a photograph, a story I wanted to know more about. The people in the photos are immigrants, factory workers, miners, single moms, elderly, families captured in their work place and in their home. People you might not look twice at if you would have passed them on the street in the 1970s (when the photos were taken) are presented here in a way that is so unique and respectful. Also in the room there is a video quietly playing of Rogovin and his wife Anne in his studio, talking about his work and the people he chose to photograph. He called them the “forgotten ones.”  These images stay with you. A great exhibit!