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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)


Photo: iocolor, Seattle



Ngilpirr Spider Snell

Australian Aboriginal, Wangkajunga people, Fitzroy Crossing, Kimberley, Western Australia, born 1930

Center stage in this painting is an azure blue roundel. It is known as jila, a cool desert spring, or “living water,” able to provide life-sustaining properties. Slithering beneath the surface of the jila is the potent snake spirit Kurtal. Ngilpirr Spider Snell is among an elite who communicates with Kurtal through songs and dances. Carrying clouds as headdresses, senior men perform at Kurtal’s waterhole to signal the commencement of the wet season. Kurtal responds by sending horseshoe-shaped clouds that are seen on the horizon. Their rain enriches the fields around the jila, which are seen here to be filled with the dense dotting of bush onions.

--Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, 2012
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
83 7/8 x 59 13/16 in. (213 x 152cm)
Gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan
Provenance: [Aboriginal & Pacific Art, Sydney, Australia]; Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, Seattle, Washington, 2005
Photo: iocolor, Seattle
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection, May 31 - Sept. 12, 2012 (Nashville, Tenessee, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, June 23 - Oct. 15, 2017; Madison, Wisconsin, Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Jan. 26 - Apr. 22, 2018; Austin, Texas, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, June 3 - Sept. 9, 2018; Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Audain Art Museum, Oct. 5, 2018 - Jan. 28, 2019). Text by Pamela McClusky, Wally Caruana, Lisa Graziose Corrin, and Stephen Gilchrist. Cat. no. 33, pp. 118-119, reproduced.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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