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.

ArtBreak Reflection: Angela Mele on representational drawing

Today’s blog post is a summary of a recent ArtBreak written by the artist who led the session, Angela Mele, a scientific illustrator for under-appreciated species.

Being a fan of Ann Hamilton’s work, and of post-Civil War promotional paintings of railroads and Western landscapes, I decided to try to work out a connection between the two at the ArtBreak session I led two Saturdays ago. Every time I visit the common S E N S E, I think about duality in ‘the sense of touch.’ Touch often implies a benign and loving gesture, yet can also result in taking, holding, owning—as with fur turned to coats, turned to museum objects, and as with the first drawing made of a useful plant turned to exhausted agricultural space.

The ArtBreak attendees were apparently inspired enough by the rather somber connection I drew between scientific illustration and Western expansion to obligingly draw seal intestines and fur coats: none too simple a task. The variation in approaches to drawing the objects in the bassinets was totally exciting (for me, anyway) and hopefully, the “assignment” spurred a unique way of looking at the objects, especially for first-time viewers.

Angela Mele. Lichens of North Florida [detail].
Angela Mele. Lichens of North Florida [detail].
During the exhibition’s opening night I was a reader/scribe, but I soon found myself drawing the luminous sealskin infant parka in front of me instead of reading to it. I figured Ann would be just as happy with that form of documentation, and through careful observation of the crinkled material, I found a sense of wonder and compassion for the object’s history and origins.

I hoped for the ArtBreak participants to find some enjoyable semblance of that experience. Representational drawing, like writing by hand, has become an obscure way of describing the world around us. These days, a drawing or painting of a place can hardly convince us to pack up and head across the country. Yet the deliberate sense of touch required for this kind of drawing–hand on pencil and paper, of eyes closely trained on the subject—makes it an enduringly powerful, intimate, and potentially genuine form of documentation.

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: 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!

Henry Behind the Scenes: Museum Education & the UW Community

This morning, the Henry welcomed students from the UW Bothell campus for a tour of our external art installation Sanctum.

Courtesy of the Henry
Museum Education Coordinator Feney Perez gives a talk on Sanctum to UW Bothell students.

Museum Education Coordinator Feney Perez led the tour and discussion about Sanctum for UW Bothell School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Science Professor Carrie Bodle’s course BISIA 374: Video Art.

Courtesy of the Henry
Feney explains the how Sanctum was installed inside the museum’s front entrance.

“Part of the course asks these students to examine new art forms and new art experiences in relationship to body and electric technology,” Feney explained. “Sanctum was a perfect opportunity to tie in these questions alongside a larger discussion about building a narrative, developing processes from concept to completion.”

Sanctum employs surveillance systems to generate cinematic narratives with social media content that matches the demographic profile of passers-by. The artists James Coupe and Juan Pampin are both associate professors in UW’s DXARTS program, an interdisciplinary degree-granting center designed to support the emergence of a new generation of hybrid artists. The installation opened this past May.

Courtesy of the Henry
A view of the students from behind a Sanctum monitor

Following their visit to the Henry, the UW Bothell students will develop and create their own media-based project for class.

“By unpacking the art themes that are central to Sanctum, we also discussed the install and the proposal processes that began back in 2010,” said Feney. “This gives [the students] a professional development perspective, along with inspiration for their own research and representation of new ideas.”


Would you like to bring your class or group for a tour of the Henry? We offer guided tours for groups of all ages. Please contact Feney Perez at or by visiting our online application

Public drop-in tours are held every first Thursday at 7 pm and every Saturday at 2 pm.  Join us!

SANCTUM readies for a May Opening


“In an era of status updates, tweets, and check-ins, the geography of public, shared spaces needs to be reconsidered, along with our expectations of privacy in them.”
James Coupe and Juan Pampin

Have you noticed all of the changes on the façade of the Henry? We are currently installing an interactive art piece, Sanctum, created by artists James Coupe and Juan Pampin. Coupe and Pampin were chosen in 2010 from 91 applications who answered an open international call, soliciting proposals for a site-specific project to transform the façade of the museum’s main entrance and to engage the UW population and the many visitors who pass by the Henry every day.

Sanctum, which officially opens May 4th, seeks to investigate the narrative potential of social media while raising important and provocative questions about the conflicting imperatives emerging in our culture as we promote and embrace ever-more-intrusive electronic media, while still cherishing traditional notions of privacy.

From those who choose to participate in the project, Sanctum will actively gather information via sophisticated surveillance and profiling technology and match it with data drawn from social media sites to shape original plausible and implausible fictional narratives.

To learn more about the project and to contribute with narrative content, please enter here. You can also opt in by scanning the QR codes are posted on signage outside the museum.

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Artist Lecture: Paul Laffoley

Paul Laffoley. THE KALI-YUGA: THE END OF THE UNIVERSE AT 424826 A.D. (The Cosmos Falls in the Chaos as the Shakti Orohoros Leads to the Elimination of all Value Systems by Spectrum Analysis). 1965. Oil, acrylic, and vinyl lettering on canvas. Courtesy of Kent Fine Art, New York.

Paul Laffoley, founder of the Boston Visionary Cell and Henry exhibiting artist, offers an intense, deep, and mesmerizing conversation this Saturday from 1-4 pm at the Henry.

His discussion will traverse the conceptual overlap between art history, architecture, classical literature, natural and occult sciences, and science fiction in contemporary painting – and we are sure, more.

As the lecture is long, we invite attendees to get up and stretch as needed. There will be refreshments in the Education Studio.

If you are attending the Open House this Friday, you can gain early access to Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque, his first solo exhibition on the West Coast.

Artist Lecture: Paul Laffoley
Saturday, April 6th
1:00 – 4:00 PM
Henry Auditorium