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Raul de Nieves

From Raúl de Nieves exhibit "A window to see, a spirit star chiming in the wind of wonder." Photo courtesy Henry Art Gallery Instagram

Mother-daughter review: Raúl de Nieves at the Henry

The "Stained glass" windows are an eye-opening art experience with kids

My daughter Cora is seven years old. She is an avid tree-climber and explorer, a kid at home outdoors. She is also an art lover, capable of enjoying and interpreting complex artworks and exhibitions. She is my co-critic for this review. 


Try to visit the Raúl de Nieves exhibit “A window to see, a spirit star chiming in the wind of wonder. . . at the Henry Art Gallery on a sunny day. It may seem blasphemous to suggest spending any part of such a day indoors, but this site-specific installation at the Henry on display through August 2024 uses our rare Seattle sunlight so spectacularly, you’ll quickly forget you were supposed to be outside. 

Raúl De Nieves is a Mexican-American multidisciplinary artist who has shown at museums and galleries worldwide, including at the Whitney Biennial, the MoMA, and the Institute for Contemporary Art Boston.

According to Henry Curator Nina Bozicnik, when De Nieves visited a year and a half ago, he was immediately taken by the enormous skylights in the lower gallery. 


See Raúl de Nieves exhibit “A window to see, a spirit star chiming in the wind of wonder. . . through August 2024. Cost: The Henry Art Gallery is FREE, donation are suggested.


Keen to engage this architectural feature, de Nieves developed 21 “stained glass” panels — created from acetate and tape — beneath each of the three skylight bays that span the gallery. De Nieves has used the acetate and tape technique before, but “the Henry installation expands upon these previous projects and takes the technique to new heights, literally,” says Bozicnik. 

“We were delighted by the idea of the ‘stained glass’ panels and the way they would create an immersive experience in the space and track the changing natural light filtered from outside the gallery.”

Reviewer Elizabeth Hunter-Keller and her daughter Cora take their spot on the carpeted floor for a better view of Raúl de Nieves exhibit “A window to see, a spirit star chiming in the wind of wonder.” Photo courtesy the author.

The space

Newly constructed and upholstered benches, their backs tilted skyward, dot the gallery floor recently covered with more than 3,000 pounds of carpeting. The deep-seated benches and cozy floor invite the viewer to lean back, lie down, and look up. Despite the cavernous space and colossal artworks, the room felt warm. A poem by the artist wraps around the gallery’s sunny yellow walls. 

Above, the glow of the colorful panels shifts with the changing sunlight. “A window to see” offers a welcome departure from conventional art exhibitions’ cold floors and white walls. It’s a very inviting space for small children to enjoy big art. We were momentarily disturbed by the volume of the soundscape emanating from one corner, but it receded to background noise as we moved around the space. 

Raul de Nieves

Cora checks out the beads at the Raúl de Nieves exhibit at Henry Art Gallery. Photo courtesy the author.

The art: terrestrial

First, spend some time with de Nieves’ delightfully disquieting beaded sculptures: “Celebration (mother),” “The Gift,” and “The Death’s of Everyday.”  

“Celebration (mother)” is a table covered with beads and strewn with refuse. Cora delighted in some of the more recognizable cast-off items: a smushed lipstick here, an empty can of soda there, name tags, coffee cups, broken jewelry, a broken iPhone. But slowly, the hills and valleys of this tabletop landscape reveal a human figure—misshapen, broken apart, mummified by glittering color and cheeky trash. 

At the other end of the gallery, another broken beaded figure is held upright by steel bars; unlike the figure in “The Deaths of Everyday,” peacefully melting back into (or emerging from) the earth, this “The Death’s of Everyday” is propped up and held together by a steel cage. 

The most imposing of de Nieves’ sculptures, “The Gift,” will tower over most viewers, so get ready to give your kid a boost for a better look. “The Gift” is a god-like figure draped in red ribbons with a melted, sinking face that is equally creepy and glorious, like “a paper-mâché and plastic bead project designed by a mad genius,” said Cora. 

For children, I think the glittering beads, ribbons, and castoff materials will offset the creepiness of the sculptures. The texture of the sculptures can prove tempting for children to touch, so the Henry offers a small concession: Tupperware boxes of beads and bits that had fallen off the sculpture during installation. We suggest carrying a box around with you while you explore.

Raul de Nieves

Taking up space to enjoy the “stained glass” drawings of artist Raúl de Nieves. Photo courtesy of the author.

The art: celestial

Next, ask your child to find a comfortable place to enjoy the exhibition’s main attraction: the magnificent ceiling. Cora says de Nieves’ enormous panels “look like portals into a different world.” 

The first, (“Murmurs of water as it has carved the faces of the mountain / NO ONE KNOWS / those traveling across the plains, he has two names: one is One”) is a series of mythic portraits: ancient sea-gods, demons, human-animal hybrids, and skeletons rendered in vibrant color. We particularly enjoyed identifying the portraits’ various animal features. Cora’s favorite was “those traveling across the plains, he has two names: one is One.”

The center panel, “sails for life in the foliage of the light, appearances with disappearances in the dark sky,” is an abstract rainbow of small, vibrantly colored squares illuminating the room and changing as the sun shifts in the sky. From far away, the tiny squares blend into a perfect rainbow; when lying underneath, Cora and I could see each individual acetate color.  

The pieces in the third panel, “in reality, a glimpse of infinity, in the palm of space, our roots incandescent, horses made of paper,” are narrative. Their titles include: “in reality, a glimpse of infinity, in the palm of space, our roots incandescent, horses made of paper.” The six panels tell a story, but only part of the story. Spend some time with your child filling in the narrative, perhaps even gazing from flat on the floor. Knights and swords, angels and demons, kings, queens, animals, and mythic beasts: panels perfectly ripe for a child’s imagination at any age.

For us, the panels sparked a conversation about what happens after death. We sat under “those traveling across the plains” and discussed how different cultures have different ideas about the spirit world, the afterlife, and magic. I tied in the concept of using recycled materials in artwork, giving them new life and purpose after their first had seemingly ended. It was impossible to feel morose under all that joyful color, so our conversation never felt too big or sad. 

The splendor of the panels and the sparkle of the beads displayed in a room made the experience of this exhibition comfortable and cozy—it’s an excellent gateway for kids to start thinking about art and enjoying it without feeling overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel small here. We all do. 

Raúl de Nieves

Raúl de Nieves, Murmurs of water as it has carved the faces of the mountain / NO ONE KNOWS / those traveling across the plains, he has two names: one is One [detail], 2023. Acetate panels on wooden frames. Courtesy of the Artist and Company Gallery, New York.

Plan your perfectly spooky visit

As we approach Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos, “A window to see, a spirit star chiming in the wind of wonder. . .” can provide not only a deeply fulfilling art experience but a fun way to celebrate the season that goes beyond costumes and candy.

Getting there: The Henry Art Gallery is at the intersection of NE Campus Parkway and 15th Avenue NE. 

Parking: On weekends, the garage directly beneath the museum is free, but it can be pricey on weekdays. Several bus lines, including the 255, 271, 372, 48, 70, and 452, stop at or near the Henry, and it is about a 15-minute walk straight through campus from the University District Light Rail station. 

Fuel: The café has a wide variety of baked goods and sandwiches in case your little one needs a snack, but be aware the hours do not match the museum’s. 

Dates: Raúl de Nieves exhibit “A window to see, a spirit star chiming in the wind of wonder. . . is on display now through August 2024.

Cost: The Henry Art Gallery is free, but they suggest you donate what you can, and they will take cash and cards.

Get them ready: Behavioral expectations vary, but prepare your child ahead of time. No running, shouting, or horseplay, but you don’t have to be still and silent. Feel free to chat, laugh, lie down, and climb the benches. Explain that touching the art can damage it and offer an alternative, like the Tupperware beads or a fidget. 

Discussing the show with your child

To fully experience this artwork, we consulted the Henry Programs team for ideas on engaging children ages 4 to 10. Here’s what they had to say: 

  • Five senses exploration — Find a comfortable place to sit or stand on the carpet. Look around. What are five things you can see, four you can hear, three you can touch or want to touch, two you can smell, and one you want to taste? Remember that the sculptures on view cannot be touched, but you can explore materials on display using the touch kits in the gallery and your imagination. 
  • Practice reading and explore poetry — Walk around the space reading the poetic stanzas on the walls—practice reading and identifying recognizable words and letters. Bring a writing journal and grab a Henry pencil from the Welcome Desk – what is your poetic response to the poetry on the walls and the art on view?
  • Walking meditation  — Start at one of the entrances to the gallery and walk silently on the wood floor around the space until you return to the same entrance. Take three deep breaths together to mark the beginning and three deep breaths to mark the end.
  • Draw and sketch — Bring your sketchbook and pencil (only pencils are allowed in galleries), find a place to sit, look around, and draw! 
  • Count, shapes, and form — Count the number of “stained glass” panels, poetic stanzas, and sculptures. Guess how many beads are in “Celebration.” Identify two-dimensional geometric shapes and how they come together to form three-dimensional shapes.
  • Be a fly on the wall — Flies and their symbolism play a part in this exhibit. How many flies can you count? What do you think of when a fly lands on you? Why do you believe the artist put so many flies in the exhibit? 
  • Explore myth and story — Recline or lie on the carpeted seating and floor and observe the “stained glass” panels. What stories do the panels tell you? Who are the characters? Are there any mythological references or figures you recognize or are curious about? What are some common themes in the panels and the poetry? What story do you want to tell? Make a character list of all the players.

More at Seattle’s Child:

The lore behind WA’s spookiest historic haunts

6 Seattle-area events to celebrate Dia de los Muertos


About the Author

Elizabeth Hunter-Keller with Cora Hunter-Keller