From the Director: Be Astonished

Stephanie Stebich on the Burning Man playa with Ursa Mater by artists Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson.

In her poem, "Sometimes," Mary Oliver writes, "Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be Astonished. Tell About it."

I'd like to offer those words and ideas in welcoming you to SAAM and the Renwick Gallery this spring. I think we're in for a season of astonishment, beginning with No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man. The exhibition opens at the Renwick on March 30. Like the Renwick's re-opening show WONDER, it is a complete takeover, filling the entire building with towering installations that will engage and enthrall visitors and continue the museum's dialogue of American craft and the truly spirited craft of making.

Why Burning Man? This magical event that rises out of the Nevada desert gives artists the freedom to dream big and create large-scale works with new technologies. Last September I was overwhelmed by the community of artists and "Burners" I met who come together annually to construct a city in the desert. In addition to the large-scale works in the museum, we are expanding the installations into the Renwick neighborhood, so keep an eye out.

In this spirit of reimagining familiar spaces in new ways, Do Ho Suh: Almost Home opens at SAAM on March 16 and features the artist's immersive, dreamlike artworks. A Korean-born artist who works in New York, London, and Seoul, Do Ho Suh creates diaphanous reinterpretations of spaces and ordinary household objects. Like many of the Burning Man artists, Suh investigates how people relate to space while adding the emotional layers of memory and what it means to call a place home.

Diane Arbus also allowed us to see the world form a new perspective, invoking astonishment in the everyday. Her photographs require careful looking as she reveals her subjects' unfolding lives. The exhibition Diane Arbus: a box of ten photographs, opening on April 6, presents the portfolio Arbus was working on at the end of her life. SAAM is honored to have one of the four sets completed and sold by Arbus and the only one that is now publicly held. These powerful images allow us to look through the legendary photographer's lens and provide us a glimpse into how she framed the world around her.

So, yes, in the words of Mary Oliver, pay attention and be astonished. And, last but not least, tell about it. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

#atSAAM #RenwickGallery