Strange Weather

Friday, April 28, 2023 3:01 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

Through summer, visitors to the Bellevue Art Museum have the opportunity to see an excellent selection of contemporary art from the collections of both Jordan Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. The artwork in “Strange Weather: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” covers five decades (1977-2020) of art history to review and discuss the areas where the body and environment often collide or intersect. Curated by Dr. Rachel Nelson and Professor Jennifer González of University of California Santa Cruz, the exhibition brings together some of the most important contemporary artists working today to discuss important topics such as trauma, capitalism, and our rapidly industrialized world, global intersections, and forced migration. Interestingly, Dr. Nelson also stated that climate change specifically was on the minds of the curators as they selected solely portraiture, landscape, and abstract artworks to convey these ideas to visitors.  

“Strange Weather” highlights many influential artists, many of whom create prints or multiples. It is sure to come as no surprise to those familiar with Jordan Schnitzer that the show includes numerous prints, works on paper, and multiples given the collector’s passion for this area. Even with a collection of over 20,000 artworks, prints remain a collecting focus for the collection. Three lithographs by Hung Liu provide an excellent example of the quality of the works on paper in the collection. Liu is primarily known for her powerful portraiture of often overlooked figures impacted by war and displacement, something the artist herself experienced firsthand. The works are made even more poignant due to the sad passing of the artist in 2021, the same year her solo exhibition opened at the National Portrait Gallery.

Nearby Liu’s “Official Portraits” are works by Wendy Red Star and Joe Feddersen. Visitors are sure to be delighted to see works by these two Pacific Northwest artists included in the exhibition alongside their peers from other regions of North America. Similar to Liu’s work, Red Star’s “Four Seasons” brings attention to the erasure and displacement of Indigenous people from their land. The photographs include a figure (the artist) surrounded by fake objects and the illusion of nature, without including the actual land itself. These images are a powerful example of the show’s thesis in action: a body that has been forcibly moved and a landscape that is continuously reaped for commercial benefit. In addition, the photographs reference the visual language utilized by Edward Curtis and his contemporaries to capture images of Indigenous people in inauthentic situations with objects or garments that would not be appropriate for that situation.

Prints and multiples certainly hold a special place in Jordan Schnitzer’s heart, but the exhibition includes many unique works as well. Leonardo Drew’s wall and floor installation comprised of wood, paint, and sand is impossible to ignore. The artwork is situated perpendicular to the title and introductory text wall and is a dynamic visual example of “strange weather.” The artwork has a frantic energy as the hundreds of pieces of wood appear to explode from the central core. The wall label connects the chaotic movement of the wood pieces to the frenzied destruction created by natural phenomena like a tornado or hurricane, but of course each piece is painstakingly created and placed by Drew, who is knownfor his multi-step process of aging materials. The installation reminds the viewer that nothing is forever, and even the structures we confidently build can be destroyed in a moment.

Adjacent to Drew’s installation is a powerful sculpture by Alison Saar that connects numerous themes included in the exhibition in one artwork. “Grow’d” synthesizes the impact of capitalism and industrialism on the human body by referencing the horrific reality of enslavement. But Saar’s figure is also presented as royalty and gazes over her subjects. It is as if the artist is asking, “How can this strong female figure use these tools as an act of defiance in the face of tremendous adversity?”

Saar’s question is just one that is posed by the exhibit, but there are countless others to be considered by the visitor. Guests can also see a selection of work by Glenn Ligon in a nearby gallery, also from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family foundation. In addition, check out the Community Education Gallery on the first floor by the museum store. The current exhibit is titled, “20 Under 20: Daydream” and was coordinated in collaboration with the Teen Arts Council.

Chloé Dye Sherpe

Chloé Dye Sherpe is a curator and art professional based in Washington State.

“Strange Weather” is on view Wednesday through Sunday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. through August 20 at Bellevue Arts Museum located at 510 Bellevue Way NE in Bellevue, Washington. For more information, visit

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