Double Exposure: Native photography is more than Edward Curtis, Seattle Art Museum, until September 9

The Seattle Art Museum presents Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson (June 14–September 9, 2018), featuring iconic early 20th-century photographs by American photographer Edward S. Curtis (1868–1952) alongside contemporary works— including photography, video, and installation—by indigenous artists Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, and Will Wilson. Held in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Curtis’s birth, the exhibition explores the legacy of his historic portraits of Native Americans from 21st-century perspectives, focusing attention on Native and First Nations voices.

Edward S. Curtis is one of the most well-known photographers of Native people and the American West. Establishing a photography studio in Seattle in 1891, he made his first portrait of a Native American in 1895 of Princess Angeline (Kikisoblu), daughter of Chief Seattle. In 1906, funded by financier JP Morgan, he embarked on a decades-long project to photograph and document Native Americans and their traditional lifeways, resulting in The North American Indian, 20 volumes published between 1907 and 1930.

Double Exposure features over 150 iconic photographs by Edward S. Curtis, including famed portraits of historical figures such as Chief Joseph, Geronimo, and Princess Angeline. On view are rarely seen examples of his photos across many media: sepia-toned photogravures, platinum prints, sliver gelatin prints, cyanotypes, and orotones (goldtones), a process perfected by Curtis. The exhibition also includes one of Curtis’s cameras, lantern slides he used in multimedia lectures promoting his project, audio field recordings of languages and songs made on wax cylinders, and a projection of his docu-drama feature length film made in British Columbia, In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914).

Geronimo. Photo by Edward Curtis

Geronimo. Photo by Edward Curtis

Threaded throughout the galleries of Curtis works are multimedia installations by three contemporary indigenous artists: Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, and Will Wilson. Their work provides a crucial framework for a critical reassessment and understanding of Curtis’s representations of Native peoples and the complex response that Natives and others have to those representations today.

In the exhibition, Dzawada̱’enuxw First Nations artist ̱ Marianne Nicolson creates an immersive, light-based installation about the significance of the Columbia River to First Nations people—traditionally a source of sustenance and spirituality—and the modern challenges resulting from the transfer from indigenous to colonial jurisdiction. Seminole and Choctaw filmmaker/artist Tracy Rector presents a new video work of “microstories” derived from the life experiences of Natives today who are creatively reinvigorating and adapting language and traditions. In addition, Rector’s installation creates a “Native space” for viewing the videos and related art works. Will Wilson, a Diné photographer who spent his formative years living in the Navajo Nation, presents large-scale images derived from tintypes he makes of Native sitters.

These works—featuring lawmakers, artists, educators, and more from the Washington area—purposefully reference Curtis’s 19th-century photographic processes. Using the augmented reality Layar app, Wilson activates the sitters, who perform dance, song, or spoken word about their ancestors depicted in the Curtis images. Wilson’s work offers an antidote to Curtis’s stoically posed portraits by showing the vibrancy of the contemporary Native experience.

“The historical significance of Curtis’s project is well-established,” says Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art. “In many cases, his photographs and texts provide important records of Native culture. However, it’s time for a reevaluation of his work. His methodology perpetuated the problematic myth of Native people as a ‘vanishing race.’ This exhibition reflects a collaboration among SAM, the artists, and an advisory committee comprising Native leaders to make space for a reckoning with Curtis’s legacy.”

Zuni young man. Photo by Edward Curtis.

Zuni young man. Photo by Edward Curtis.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Seattle Art Museum will publish a 40-page, full-color exhibition catalogue, also titled Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, Will Wilson. It will feature essays by Barbara Brotherton; Lydia Sigo, curator/archivist at the Suquamish Museum; and Christy Christodoulides, Curtis expert and proprietor of Duwamps Fine Art & Antique Appraisal.

About Seattle Art Museum

As the leading visual art institution in the Pacific Northwest, SAM draws on its global collections, powerful exhibitions, and dynamic programs to provide unique educational resources benefiting the Seattle region, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. SAM was founded in 1933 with a focus on Asian art. By the late 1980s the museum had outgrown its original home, and in 1991 a new 155,000-square-foot downtown building, designed by Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, opened to the public. The 1933 building was renovated and reopened as the Asian Art Museum in 1994. SAM’s desire to further serve its community was realized in 2007 with the opening of two stunning new facilities: the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park (designed by Weiss/Manfredi Architects)—a “museum without walls,” free and open to all—and the Allied Works Architecture designed 118,000-square-foot expansion of its main, downtown location, including 232,000 square feet of additional space built for future expansion. The Olympic Sculpture Park and SAM’s downtown expansion celebrated their tenth anniversary in 2017.

From a strong foundation of Asian art to noteworthy collections of African and Oceanic art, Northwest Coast Native American art, European and American art, and modern and contemporary art, the strength of SAM’s collection of approximately 25,000 objects lies in its diversity of media, cultures, and time periods.

Related Programs And Events

SAM presents programs for the public, families, and educators, as well as Art Beyond Sight tours and tours for the public in conjunction with the exhibition.

Details are subject to change; additional programs or events may be added. Up to-date information at visitsam.org/doubleexposure.

Double Exposure is part of a community-wide initiative revisiting the photographs of Edward S. Curtis and sparking conversations on Native identity, art, and culture that features exhibitions, lectures, and performances through the end of 2018. Find out more at beyondtheframe.org.

Fri Jun 22–Sat Sep 8

My Favorite Things Tours

Noon–12:30 pm, Seattle Art Museum

In a special edition of the recurring tour series, My Favorite Things, Indigenous community members, artists, and educators share their knowledge and perspectives in 30-minute tours every Friday and Saturday.

Sat Jun 23

Art Beyond Sight: Double Exposure

Experience the lasting photographs of Native Americans by Edward S. Curtis alongside artwork of contemporary Indigenous artists Marianne Nicolson, TracyRector, and Will Wilson. Docents will provide verbal descriptions of the differing perspectives represented in Double Exposure. Free for visitors with low or no-vision and their guests; advance registration is required.

Wed Jul 11

Through Her Eyes: Indigenous Shorts

7:30–9:30 pm, Seattle Art Museum

Experience a cinematic package of stories curated in partnership with Longhouse Media and Double Exposure artist Tracy Rector that highlights cutting-edge films by Native women directors.

Thu Jul 12–Thu Aug 30

Summer at SAM, Olympic Sculpture Park

SAM presents free programming at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Thursday evenings feature live music, art-making, performances, and food trucks.

Saturdays feature yoga led by 8 Limbs Yoga Centers, Zumba, and drop-in studios with local artists. In conjunction with Double Exposure, this year’s season centers Native and Indigenous artists and voices.

Presented by Delta Air Lines and Target.

Wed Aug 1–Fri Aug 3

Summer Institute for Educators: Indigenous Voices: Past, Present, Future

10:30 am–4:30 pm

Seattle Art Museum & Olympic Sculpture Park

During this three-day intensive institute, explore ideas around native perspective, voices, histories, and cultures. Participants will work with local artists and experts and create artwork examining representation, tradition, and identity. This workshop is open to educators of all levels and subjects.

Fri Aug 24

SAM Remix

8–11:59 pm, Olympic Sculpture Park

Get in on this night of eclectic performances, tours, dancing, creating, and exploring. Become part of Seattle’s creative community of artists, performers, and thinkers through this unique museum experience inspired by the outdoor sculptures at the Olympic Sculpture Park and exhibitions on view at the Seattle Art Museum.

Remix is sponsored by Delta Air Lines and Starbucks Coffee Company. Media sponsors are The Stranger and KEXP 90.3 FM.

                                                          – SAM