Mellifluous Meditation in “the common S E N S E”

Today’s blog post is written by Erika VanHorne, UW senior and choir president of the UW Chorale. 

On the eve of “An Evening in the Galleries with the UW Chorale,” a special event that was held in conjunction with the Henry’s exhibition Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E, I was nervous. This experience was unprecedented for me as a collegiate choral singer – a deliberate inversion of my ossified conceptions of performance, space, and audience. Yet as the choir reverently filed into the gallery that whirred with otherworldly bullroarers, my sense of trepidation dissipated – replaced with a transfixed reverie.

Audience members expectantly dispersed themselves among the jumbled choristers – but my focus was directed at the machines that crescendoed in tandem with our voices. We moved next to the North gallery where canonical choral literature was sung among images of specimens printed on newsprint. The sheets which rippled softly as the audience quietly stepped around us and them. Next, the choir slowly dissolved and dispersed throughout the Henry – allowing singers to wander as individuals.

Photo credit: Robert Wade.
Photo credit: Robert Wade.

These improvisations took on a meditative nature – as I grasped for the names of the immured specimens through song, I induced an inner dialogue on the nature of human-derived taxonomies. In this time of independent song, a fellow chorister would occasionally sidle up next to me – intertwining a voice with mine in unexpected, sublime euphony. As the boundary between performer and gallery visitor also evaporated, I found another audience – the specimens themselves. Through lyrics, these creatures were anthropomorphized with an intimate sonic tactility – at once haunting and familiar.

Although I visited this exhibition at its opening, this event became an unexpectedly meaningful experience for me. Throughout my university experience, I have found that the most enriching experiences are those that transcend the false dichotomy within the arts and academic disciplines. In this interdisciplinary vein, artist Ann Hamilton and Dr. Giselle Wyers, director of the UW Chorale, crafted an evocative, organic experience through an unexpected fusion of song, art, material culture, and biology that challenged my boundaries as a singer and humanist.

The Week Ahead @ Henry

INCITE•INSIGHT lecture: Kristan Kennedy
Thursday, Feb 26, 7 – 9 PM
We invite you to participate in meaningful discussion on contemporary art with artist, curator, and educator Kristan Kennedy, who, in the past decade, has focused on commissioning work for international emerging artists in the form of solo projects and large-scale, site-specific installations.

The studio of Kristan Kennedy. Image courtesy of the artist.
The studio of Kristan Kennedy. Image courtesy of the artist.

ArtBreak: María Elena García
Thursday, Feb 26, 12:30 – 1 PM
Associate professor of UW’s Jackson School of International Studies and CHID program María Elena García will explore the common S E N S E in relation to life and death.

Photo courtesy of María Elena García.
Photo courtesy of María Elena García.

SAL U Lectures: Thinking Animals – Species, Power, and the Politics of Care in the World
Friday, Feb 27, 7 – 8:30 PM
Join Louisa Mackenzie, French and Italian Studies at the UW, in exploring both the seen and unseen human and animal connections that exist within the world.

Future History: The 2015 Henry Gala
Saturday, Feb 28, 6 – 11:59 PM
Tickets are going fast for the Henry’s annual gala! We’ll be offering a handful of unique auction experiences and a raise-the-paddle in support of the Henry. The Gala starts at 6pm and Future History Party starts at 9pm. Purchase your ticket now!

Future History: The 2015 Henry Gala
Future History: The 2015 Henry Gala.

The Week Ahead @ Henry

Ever done yoga in a museum? Now’s your chance.

ArtBreak: Video//Yoga
Thursday, Feb. 19, 12:30 – 1:30 PM
Engage your senses in this yoga class taught with video art lead by Julia Greenway, curator and teacher at Interstitial Theatre. Video//Yoga occurs the third Thursday of every month.

Julia Greenway leads Video//Yoga

Critical Issues in Contemporary Art Practice Lecture: Gareth Moore
Thursday, Feb. 19, 7 – 8:30 PM
Gareth Moore will speak about his practice and various projects. His work has been displayed worldwide, including San Francisco, Vancouver, and Berlin. This artist lecture series is held in conjunction with the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design and the Nebula Project.

Gareth Moore. A place, near the buried canal. 2011-2012. [Installation view. 2012. dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel.] Photo courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver
Gareth Moore. A place, near the buried canal. 2011-2012. [Installation view. 2012. dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel.] Photo courtesy of Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver
Bull Roarchestra with Stuart Dempster
Friday, Feb. 20, 7 – 9 PM
Renowned composer and UW School of Music Professor Emeritus Stuart Dempster and his specially assembled Bull Roarchestra will be performing pieces inspired by the sound and atmosphere created by the Field of Bullroarers in Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E.

ArtBreak with Julian Miller
Saturday, Feb. 21, 2:30 – 3 PM
University of Washington Museology graduate student Julian Miller will lead an exploration on the ideas of consumerism and its relation to the common S E N S E.

Graduate Student Happy Hour Recap!

Today’s blog post is written by Julian Miller, Henry Art Gallery’s Education and Program Assistant.

For those who missed it, our third annual Graduate Student Happy Hour was a blast!

We had a fabulous turn-out: over 1,100 people came and we were expecting 700 people. Although the beer ran out early, there was still plenty to do including art activities, a photo booth, a raffle and chance to munch on some delicious Bánh Mí sandwiches! If you were there, congratulations! You got to experience the fun! For those who were unable to make it, here are some photos from our photographer Chona Kasinger to recap:



The energy was high and we were stoked to have people who may not normally go to contemporary art museums in attendance. We even witnessed a statistical analysis of the probability in winning the raffle (you know who you are). If you’re around next year, make sure you come back again! We plan on having more beer, more food, and more activities!

Grad Night Photobooth.
Grad Night Photobooth.

Don’t forget, the Henry is always free for University of Washington students!

The Week Ahead @ Henry

Welcome to February at the Henry! It’s a short month, but PACKED with events and programs. Here’s what’s happening this week:

Exhibition Orientations for University Faculty and Educators
Wednesday, Feb 4, 4 – 6 PM
Come discuss the central concepts in Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E and discover ways to incorporate the exhibition into your teaching curriculum. This event is open to K-12 educators and faculty from any discipline.

Ann Hamilton Opening Day. Photo credit: Dan Bennett
Ann Hamilton Opening Day. Photo credit: Dan Bennett.

ArtBreak with Haruko Crow Nishimura & Joshua Kohl of Degenerate Art Ensemble
Thursday, Feb 5, 6 – 6:30 PM
Gain a new perspective about the common S E N S E by joining co-founders and co-directors of Degenerate Art Ensemble, Haruko Crow Nishimura & Joshua Kohl. Combining music, theater, and dance, their punk-symphonic style performances challenge the perception of art and reality.

 ArtBreak with Emily Zimmerman
Friday, Feb 6, 2:30 – 3 PM
Join the Henry’s brand new Associate Curator of Programs, Emily Zimmerman, as she leads discussion on the skins and various other materials used in relation to the common S E N S E.

ArtVenture: Imagining Animals, Drawing by Sounds
Sunday, Feb 8, 2 – 3:30 PM
Bring the whole family to explore music in the common S E N S E with Emily Doolittle, Associate Professor of Composition and Theory at Cornish College of the Arts.


Past ArtVenture. Photo courtesy of the Henry.
A recent ArtVenture! Photo courtesy the Henry.

The Week Ahead @ Henry

You know, we say the more events in a week, the better!

Critical Issues in Contemporary Art Practice Lecture: Fabian Marti
Thursday, Jan 29, 7 – 8:30 PM
Come listen to Fabian Marti, founder of  several quasi-institutions and an artist with multiple world-wide exhibitions, provide his insight on contemporary art. This lecture series is held in conjunction with The University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design and the Nebula Project.

ArtBreak with the Nile Project
Thursday, Jan 29, 12:30 – 1 PM
Witness co-founders of the Nile Project, Mina Girgis (Egyptian ethnomusicologist) and Meklit Hadero (Ethiopian-American singer), play an offering to the animals in the common S E N S E.

Photo courtesy of the Nile Project.
Photo courtesy of the Nile Project.

Object Narratives: Fur and Fashion
Thursday, Jan 29, 7 – 8:30 PM
As part of the series that explores the historical and cultural context of objects in the common S E N S E, join Clara Berg, Museum of History & Industry’s Costumes and Textiles Collections Specialist, for a lesson about the local history of fashionable fur.

Ann Hamilton Opening Day. Photo credit: Dan Bennett
Ann Hamilton Opening Day. Photo credit: Dan Bennett

SAL U Lectures: Thinking Animals–Species, Power, and the Politics of Care in the World
Friday, Jan 30, 7 – 8:30 PM
The first lecture of this five-part Seattle Arts & Lectures course on human and animal connections will be led by Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

ArtBreak with Brian Carter
Saturday, Jan 31, 2:30 – 3 PM
Join Brian Carter, Manager of Exhibit Experiences at the Burke Museum, as he shares with us his point of view on the common S E N S E.

Photo courtesy of Brian Carter.
Photo courtesy of Brian Carter.

Object Narratives: Fur and Fashion

This week’s blog post is a preview of “Object Narratives: Fur and Fashion” coming up on January 29th. Clara Berg, Collections Specialist for Costumes and Textiles at MOHAI is our speaker and the author of today’s post.

Clara Berg. Photo credit: Kathleen Knies / MOHAI.
Clara Berg. Photo credit: Kathleen Knies / MOHAI.

I love the deeply personal nature of clothing. Clothing has an intimate, sensory relationship with the body, and every object has an intriguing history.

Ann Hamilton’s exhibition the common S E N S E includes more than forty garments from the collections of the Henry Art Gallery and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. The garments are made from animal materials: fur, feathers, skins, guts. Depending on the piece and your sensibilities, you may find the idea of wearing the clothing repulsive or enticing. You may be passionately opposed to any kind of animal suffering, and recoil at the idea of wearing their skins on your body. Or you may find the materials interesting and inviting, and wish to experience their luxurious textures against your skin. Either way, there is something visceral about viewing these garments.

Clothing is also personal because it is full of stories. There is the story of the material itself—where it came from and how it was manipulated and changed. Then there is the story of how a garment was pieced together and shaped. Something hand-stitched takes hours of care and precision, but even the most industrialized clothing factory still requires human labor. You can’t put a bolt of fabric in a machine and have it spit out a pile of shirts. Human hands put pattern pieces together, guide sections through the sewing machines, and clip loose threads. Commercial garments also have the story of the seller—the person or people running a business which builds relationships with clients and promotes a certain aesthetic or lifestyle. Finally you have the wearer (or perhaps a succession of wearers) who take the garment out into the world—wearing it in daily life or only for special occasions.

If you are interested in learning more about the stories of the garments on display in the common S E N S E (and others from the Henry collection which are usually in storage) I’ll be giving a program on January 29th about the history of fur and fashion in Seattle. Who were the people and businesses involved in the industry here? Who were the clients who bought furs and where did they wear them? What did fur mean to the people of Seattle? I’ll talk about those histories, take a close look at some garments in the Reed Collection Study Center, and then tour the garments in the exhibition. For me, learning those historical stories increases that visceral experience of the garments. In addition to your own feelings about the materials and style of the garments, you can add a connection to the people who created, touched, and cared for the objects in the past.