"Jacob Lawrence" & "Seeing Nature" at SAM

It still gets me: most famous paintings I see in person are smaller than I'd imagined. Human-scaled, in spite of their larger-than-life reputations.

I made sure not to miss "Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series" before it moves on from the Seattle Art Museum. I wasn't disappointed. Although the pieces outline an epic change, following the paintings and captions around the room makes the exhibit feel something like a bedtime story.

JL panels.jpg

And by "bedtime story," I'm thinking more "Grimm's Fairy Tales, original gory recipe" rather than "Grimm's Fairy Tales -- now with added Disney sweetness." Intimate, but sharp-edged. I could imagine living with these paintings.

I could also see myself living with a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe or Edouard Manet... but it's not the same. Which makes me wonder: what's it like to live in Paul Allen's house? Does he pass Manet's paintings of Venice canals on his way to get coffee from the kitchen?

At first I was going to skip "Seeing Nature." Few landscapes pull me in like portraiture or other narrative works that include the human figure. But I did find a few pieces I liked. Still, "Seeing Nature" makes me think more of the names involved -- and the guy who owns them -- than the works themselves. It's more a traditional museum experience of Western culture, the kind of thing that's Good for You.

I suppose big names (Jacob Lawrence, Paul Allen) were the reason I made time to see both exhibits. But once I arrive at a museum, I prefer a spectacle in which I can find something personal.