Cypher Space - the Museum of Art Blog

Transcendental Painters Group - 1/15/2015

Art underwent dramatic changes in the early 20th Century, and New Mexico artists played a major role in the metamorphosis. Artist Raymond Jonson founded a group in 1938, which called itself the Transcendental Painters Group.  Members included Jonson, Bill Lumpklins, Emil Bisstram, Ed Garman, Florence Miller Pierce, Horace Towner Pierce, Agnes Pelton, Stuart Walker, Dane Rudhyar, and Lawren Harris. Its approach to art was to create non-objective paintings - "abstractive" works -that broke away from traditional approaches, thus : "transcended" them. Thus TPG disbanded in 1942 largely because of the Second World War's plummeting effect upon its general enthusiasm. But the abstract approach to art has remained a vital influence in the field of art to the present day. The New Mexico Museum of Art is honored to own several works by these artists to continue their legacy.

 

Really Fun! Really Cool! Really Great! Ellen’s Kids Have the Last Word - 1/1/2015

On December 21st, the day of the New Mexico Museum of Art’s Annual Holiday Open House, featuring the Baumann Marionettes, Ellen Zieselman, who is retiring, stood on the museum’s steps one last time, encouraging everyone who passed by to come on in. “Hey, it’s free,” said she.

In a world where paintings and sculptures are routinely sold at auction by Sotheby’s or Christie’s for millions of dollars, a free afternoon spent at a state museum, where families can view art, see a puppet show, and make their own stick puppets is more than a bargain; it’s a treasure, a living legacy to be passed from one generation to the next.

Santa Fe is a city blessed with incomparable museums. What stands out about our museum, and the New Mexico Museum of Art is the people’s museum, are the institution’s open door traditions. Those democratic principles were fired into the first brick laid when the museum was built nearly one hundred years ago. The doors have remained open ever since: to artists, art lovers, tourists and to young people eager to learn.

During her career as Curator of Education, Ellen has worked tirelessly to train docents and introduce young people to art, which she defines as: “an expression of individual creativity.” It’s not been all sweat and heavy lifting, though. Ellen has a tremendous sense of humor and clearly enjoys what she’s doing.

Since she announced her coming retirement, there have been toasts, testimonials and tears among docents, staff and colleagues. Museum Director Mary Kershaw acknowledges that filling Ellen’s shoes will be a tough task. After all, Ellen owns eleven pairs of Converse Sneakers, her favorite footwear. Who but a centipede could fill that many shoes? On the other hand, that many shoes leave scores of footprints. Like petroglyphs, footprints can leave lasting impressions.

Just take a look at the kids Ellen has introduced to art over the past quarter century. She teaches young viewers to look inside themselves as they view a painting. She encourages them to freely express themselves as she asks: “What do you see?”

That question is a natural “gotcha,” creating a healthy bond while boosting self-esteem according to Kershaw. “Ellen empowers the students to look at art from where they are and that is one of the most powerful connections you can build. Ellen does that really, really well.”

Ellen hasn’t sat in her office, a box like space Pandora would covet, or remained in the temple. Over the years, she has taken her show on the road, visiting schools throughout the area.

“The work that we do in the schools where Ellen goes out and actually teaches art, art history and looking at pictures, is really inspiring for children,” Kershaw said. “Art should be inspiring and art should be for everyone.”

That’s exactly what Ellen does: she inspires, according to Lisa Nordstrum, a history teacher at Santa Fe Prep, where Ellen has worked with 7th and 10th grade students for the past two years.

The minute she walks into the classroom, the students realize that this visitor will not force them to sit through a snoring, boring lecture on art history, interesting only when the power point presentation fails.

“You notice Ellen the minute she comes in a room,” Nordstrum said. “The first thing I look at is her feet, her sneakers. What Converse color is she wearing today? That’s her signature. Those shoes represent who Ellen is. She’s vivacious and engaging with a bright personality.”

Ellen’s also really fun and really cool, according to three of Nordstrum’s 7th grade history students. Sydney Manningham, Sylvia Carter-Smith and Emma Lawrence are all highly intelligent and poised young ladies who know exactly what they’re looking for in a teacher. After all, they’ve been observing teachers all of their lives. Ellen gets their stamp of approval.

“She talks in a way that we can understand. She makes art interesting and fun,” Sydney said. “Art is a visual, but you can have your own thoughts and opinions about it.”

Sylvia, who has also studied with Ellen in Hebrew School at Temple Beth Shalom, where Ellen is director of youth programs, agrees with her classmate. “Ellen has this presence. She’s real strong; she has this competence that makes you pay attention. She relates to children.”

Emma believes Ellen’s approach to teaching is what makes her cool. “Ellen brought a whole new idea about how we think about art. She brought in new ideas in a really fun way. I think that’s really special about her. Ellen’s a really great teacher.”

Ellen describes her teaching technique as problem solving. Because of her keen intelligence, she finds ways to support the curriculum and, better yet, expand it, Nordstrum says. “I’ve been teaching my students about primary sources this year. Ellen showed up with archival photographs and cameras. After we looked at the photographs, the kids went out with the cameras and created their own primary, in the moment, source.”

“Oh, that was so cool. Really cool,” Sydney, Sylvia and Emma said, speaking at the same time, while nodding in approval.

Ellen’s longstanding passion for art history, teaching and interacting with people, especially kids, is contagious. Nordstrum describes Ellen’s classroom presence as a one of kind experience. “Ellen is the first speaker who has come into my classroom, and the next day the kids have asked: ‘When is Ellen coming back?’ It isn’t: Is Ellen coming back. It’s WHEN is Ellen coming back,” Nordstrum said. “I think that speaks volumes right there.”

When asked what she considers her greatest achievements in her 25 years at the museum, Ellen first listed the book she wrote, The Hand-Carved Marionettes of Gustave Baumann, as a significant achievement. The puppets - Warts, Freckles and Miguelito - would surely agree.

But there’s another achievement in which Ellen takes pride. “Overall, I’d say what I find most gratifying is when I go to the supermarket or go into a coffee shop and there is a kid in his late teens or early twenties who says: ‘Oh, I remember you from the museum.’ That happens to me quite often. I would say I’m really very proud of the impact I feel I and the docents and this institution have made on the people of Santa Fe and New Mexico.”

Ellen Zieselman may have moved on but her rich legacy will remain in the museum’s many galleries. Ellen’s kids will return, retracing her footprints, all the while keeping the museum’s foundation solid and strong for the next hundred years. Their kids, no doubt, will follow.

Because art not only adds beauty to our lives as Ellen points out, art can teach us to take another look, a closer look, at someone else’s vision and point of view. That can only expand and enrich our lives in this crowded yet beautiful world.

A Hee-Haw For The Holidays by Miguelito - 12/15/14

The Museum of Art’s Annual Holiday Open House takes place on Sunday, December 21 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Gustave Baumann
Donkey (Miguelito)
Gift of Jane Baumann, 1978
 
I’ll be there. I hope to see you too because I need your help. Who am I? Why I’m Miguelito, the faithful burro. I’m a puppet. I belong to Juan and Rosina, his wife. We’re all puppets, part of the marionette family created by New Mexico artist Gustave Baumann. During the holiday season, we perform along with Freckles and Warts, duende twins, who make mischief while everyone else tries to make merry.
 
What do I mean by mischief? Well, one year, Freckles and Warts took me, Miguelito. While Rosina fretted, instead of baking biscochitos, Juan had to stop what he was doing and find me!
 
During this year’s puppet show – there will be two performances directed by Barbara Hatch – Warts will be on stage along with the rest of us, while Freckles hides in the museum. He was asked to hide, so children attending this year’s events could look for him on a Treasure Hunt.
 
 

Gustave Baumann
Freckles, Duendi
Gift of Jane Baumann, 1978
 
If you haven’t been to one of our performances before, you’ll need some clues if you want to find him. Freckles is a little guy with strings attached. He’s named after the freckles on his face. He looks just like his twin, Warts. How do you tell them apart? Look carefully.
 
Freckles also has a long wooden nose. He’s always sticking his nose into trouble. Maybe he should have been named Nosy. Because he’s a duende, or an elf, he has funny ears. Sharp ears like a Trekkie.
 
Freckles will be wearing his costume, his duende duds. It’s hard to get cool clothes in small sizes: you don’t want to wear doll’s clothes, but does Freckles have to dress like a lampshade? Lucky for me, I wear fur year round. Freckles also wears a hat that looks like an upside down funnel. See what I mean about mischief?
 
On the Treasure Hunt, you’ll have to look hard for Freckles. The museum is big, two stories! It’s packed full of art now, too. AND, Freckles and Warts know how to make themselves invisible. That’s right! Thin Air Twins! Poof! They vanish, but they always come back.
 
What do you do when you find Freckles? Martha Landry, the Museum’s Special Events Person, says the boy or girl who finds Freckles will win a prize. Collect your prize, receive your congratulations, then let me know where you found him.
 
Before my show biz career, I hauled wood from the mountains down to Burro Alley, so, yes, I could carry a grudge easily, and Freckles and Warts have played tricks on me. But that’s not what this is all about, besides I always forgive them. Underneath their lampshade jerseys, their wooden hearts are made of gold. Trust me; it’s puppet anatomy.
 
Anyway, as Miguelito, the faithful burro, I want to make sure Freckles didn’t make more mischief while he was playing Peek-A-Boo Puppet. The holidays are right around the corner. I want to take some time off. Kick up my heels. Let the reindeer do the heavy lifting from here on out. I want to have fun and plenty of it, and I want you to have plenty of fun, too. So listen. Make your ears as long as mine.
 
In addition to the two performances of Teatro Duende, Baumann’s Santa Marionette will be in the St. Francis Auditorium. He’ll sit in your lap. If you want your picture taken with Santa, bring your camera or your phone.
 
I usually give friends and family a Hee-Haw around the holidays, but if anyone needs holiday cards or special gifts, they’re available in the New Mexico Museum and the History Museum gift shops. The Gustave Baumann family not only put on puppet shows each year, Gus and his artist friends created fantastic holiday cards. There’s an exhibit of those cards at the History Museum. A holiday book, Gustave Baumann and Friends Artist Cards From Holidays Past, by Jean Moss and Thomas Leech, is available as well.
 
For a real treat, check out the videos (below) created by students at the Community College of Santa Fe. The filmmakers have produced a number of videos about us: The Baumann Marionettes. They’re on YouTube. They’re a hoot; guaranteed to make you kick up your heels.
 

Strike 1970 - 12/1/2014

Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin'
Four dead in Ohio
 
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
 
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?
 
- "Ohio" by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young
 
Neil Young wrote these lyrics in 1970 after seeing the now-famous photographs of the Kent State massacre in Life Magazine. The photos depicted Ohio National Guardsmen shooting four students at Kent State University who were protesting the US military's invasion of Cambodia during the Viet Nam War on May 4, 1970. The event spurred additional protests throughout the country within days.  
 
 
 
At the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, local anti-war activists called for a strike, and students took over the Student Union Building. On May 6, four anti-war protesters were stabbed by pro-war students, causing the regents to shut down the university and obtain a restraining order to vacate university buildings. When students ignored the order, police started arresting activists on May 8. Upon hearing false rumors that the protestors were armed, then-Governor David Cargo called the New Mexico National Guard.  The chaos escalated in several protestors being bayonetted by the National Gardsmen. Unlike at Kent State, no one at the UNM strike was killed. Yet the event is still felt deeply by those who were present.  
 
A group of graduate art students formed the Visual Coalition to photographically document the UNM strike. One of these students, Paige Pinnell, donated several of these photographs to the museum, currently in the exhibition Hunting + Gathering. The photographs are all untitiled and the photographer is unknown, forcing the viewer to focus on the subject.
 

Miguel Covarrubias - 11/15/2014

Today's guest entry was written by Cuauhtemoc Murphy, an artist and educator from Texas whose work can be found here.

The New Mexico Museum of Art  collection includes international art that links the core collection to the West, the Americas, and the World. Miguel Covarrubias is a perfect example of an artist that does just that. The museum has only a handful of his large body of work, but what they do have is worth making a trip out to see them.

Like many others, I did not know of his work-- yet he was creating art during the second half of the great Diego Rivera's career, and for that matter they both died the same year, 1957.

Miguel Covarrubias was born 1904 in Mexico City and was an author, painter, caricaturist, staff cartoonist for Vanity Fair magazine, and professor of art history at the National School of Anthropology in Mexico City. The New Mexico Museum of Art has the following books: The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans (1925), Negro Drawings (1927), Island of Bali (1937), The Eagle, the Jaguar, and the Serpent: Indian Art of the Americas: North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States (1954), Miguel Covarrubias Caricatures (1985), and a lithograph in their collection.

Miguel Covarrubias
Mexican Street Scene, n.d.
Lithograph on white wove paper
Gift of Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1965
1851.23G

The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans (1925) has many of the drawings that were originally published in Vanity Fair magazine, while Covarrubias was a staff cartoonist.

The book features several dozen black-and-white caricatures of famous Americans (mostly New York-based but also Hollywood). Personalities from the 1920s such as the likes of Clark Gable, Alexander Woollcott, Shirley Temple, Paul Whiteman, and many others were portrayed in caricatures that ranged from art-deco to surrealistic. This book really showcases his eye of the 20s and brings to light his entertaining style. I can't state that he pioneered that style, but of the examples I found it was and still is the hallmark of that period-- when I think of clubs that may have had caricatures lining their walls.

Another book that stood out from the museum's collection is Covarrubias's Island of Bali (1937). This has come to be regarded as a classic work on the Balinese people and their civilization. From all that I read regarding the book it is an extremely thorough account of Balinese life.
The Eagle, the Jaguar, and the Serpent : Indian Art of the Americas: North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States (1954) is a book that is also in the Stanford University's collection.

This is one that I personally want to see more of because of the quality of the illustrations. Just from my limited contact with Rebecca Potance, the museum's Librarian/Archivist/Webmaster, and surfing the museums site I want to make a trip to the New Mexico Museum of Art.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum down the street from The New Mexico Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition about Covarrubias until January 18, 2015 Their webpage summarizes his connection to New Mexico and American Modernism : http://www.okeeffemuseum.org/current-exhibition.html.

I Approve This Message - 11/1/2014

 
'Tis the season, the silly season. The days are crisp; fall leaves are bursting with color, and the airwaves are jammed with junk. During the silly season, political advertising saturates radio and TV stations as politicians and wannabes try to persuade us to elect them instead of their opponents.
 
“He’s dirty. She’s negative. I’m experienced. He’s bought and paid for.”
 
By whom?
 
“The Committee for Sustainable Mediocrity, Clay Foote, chairman.”
 
If we keep watching, sooner or later we witness the media perform a righteous fact check on the candidate’s advertising. Fudging will be exposed. White lies will be uncovered, and an outright exaggeration or two will be reported. Then we’ll see several stories on the effects of negative advertising on the American electorate. Congress is held in low esteem! Imagine that.  
 
Lately, when the campaign season approaches, I find myself fantasizing about ways to end this madness, this noise pollution created by political advertising. One solution comes to mind.
 
Force office seekers to submit a headshot – selfies acceptable - resume, and the answers to five questions concerning the issues, not the state of their opponent’s laundry. The candidate’s materials will be submitted to a panel of editorial cartoonists. Each member of this panel will be an artist capable of extracting the essence of an individual or an issue using one of the most enduring forms of artistic expression – the caricature.
 
In my fantasy world, one caricature will be created from each candidate’s material. Voters will be allowed to study the results, even request copies. After all many caricatures or political cartoons, the terms are often interchangeable, are ripped out of the newspaper or printed off the internet, and saved. Secure behind a magnet on the refrigerator door, these cartoons remind voters that politicians and baloney have much in common.
 
Why caricature?
 
According to Victor S. Navasky, the former editor and publisher of The Nation, and the author of The Art of Controversy, Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power, caricature has different meanings for different artists.
 
“But for Leonardo da Vinci, whom many consider to have invented the form, caricature is an extrapolation of realism taken to its logical extreme…Moving beyond Universal Beauty, Realism searches in the particular for an image of secular truth.’”
Secular truth, huh? Would that make today’s fact checkers happy?
 
Navasky goes on to say that the word caricature, derived from the Italian caricare, means to load as in vessel or a weapon. 
 
“Artists capable of brilliant caricatures force us to focus on what we might otherwise miss,” Navasky adds. This is accomplished by taking a distinctive feature and exaggerating it, literally overloading it.
 
Sixteenth century Italian Baroque painter Annibale Carracci (1560 – 1609), who also produced caricatures, clarified the differences between the classical artist and the caricaturist. In referring to da Vinci’s caricatures, Carracci says: “Both see the lasting truth beneath the surface of mere outward appearance. Both try to help nature accomplish its plan. The one may strive to visualize the perfect form and to realize it in his work, the other to grasp deformity, and thus reveal the very essence of a personality. A good caricature, like every work of art, is more true to life than reality itself.”
 
As Navasky puts it: a caricature seeks that perfect deformity. Finding it is high ambition.
 
As caricature developed throughout Europe caricaturists added visual metaphors, personification, and allegory. The content of the art expanded from behavior to social situations to politics. At least one scholar credits Martin Luther, who took aim at the Catholic Church, with creating the first political cartoons. 
 
The first cartoon in America was published by Benjamin Franklin. But it wasn’t until the 1870’s that caricature became popular.  Thomas Nast’s caricatures brought down Boss Tweed, head of Tammany Hall, the corrupt Democratic machine in New York. Nast, by the way, is credited with creating the donkey and elephant symbols still used by the Democratic and Republican parties.   
 
Out of all of the editorial cartoonists working today, I’d select Pat Oliphant, considered by many to be the dean of American editorial cartoonists, to chair my panel of political cartoonists. Punk, Oliphant’s wise cracking penguin, whose witticisms are found at the corner of Oliphant’s cartoon panels, would be on the panel as well. Look at Oliphant’s Billy the Kid, in the permanent collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art, and you’ll see why I selected Oliphant.
Patrick Oliphant
Billy the Kid, 1999
Etching
Museum purchase with funds from Phyllis Sloane, 2008
 
Whether you’re a fan or critic of the former President, the viewer immediately recognizes the cartoon’s symbols. In other words, we see what Oliphant sees. A man who plainly done himself in, an aw shucks outlaw who failed to outrun Sherriff Ken Starr’s posse, because he shot himself in the foot.  Yes, there was a right wing conspiracy, or so they say, and an intern, she’s back by the way, and a cigar, but Clinton held the smoking gun. In Oliphant’s rendition, Clinton’s gun is conveniently located where Adam attached the first known fig leaf. That brilliant detail gives the caricature the power of a bullet fired at point blank range.
 
“Bulls eye,” Punk might say.
 
Oliphant lives in Santa Fe, but I reached him by phone back East. When a new president takes office, Oliphant tells me, the cartoonist and his audience engage in a conspiracy. “We’ll be watching this man. It takes three or four months to get an idea of what a person is like,” he says. “It evolves as you get exposure to the person.”
 
We’re co-dependent. The artist depends on the viewer to make the correct connection, Navasky says. Once that happens drawing expresses what words cannot say. A brilliant cartoon can be read in a second, something Martin Luther realized when he circulated his caricatures among the illiterate in Europe, who had not yet learned to read. Many of Boss Tweed’s constituents couldn’t read either, but they could see.
 
“Stop them damn pictures,” Tweed cried, referring to Nast’s cartoons.
“When the caricature has artistic depth, the outrage is more keenly felt,” Navasky writes. “The more powerful the caricature, the more outraged the protest.”
 
Indeed, the French King Louis Philippe, the same monarch who ordered caricaturist Honore Daumier jailed, described caricature as an act of violence. All Daumier did was liken a body to a pear. Pears are normally thought of as fruit not weapons. Someone could have been beaned by a pear, so I fact checked. Google has no record of “pearacide” in the search engine, and I was feeling lucky.   
 
Pat Oliphant doesn’t appear violent either. I recall attending an opening at the Gerald Peters Gallery in May of 2013. Oliphant’s show featured selections from a sabbatical in Rome. Sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and monotypes were included in this accomplished artist’s exhibit. Despite the crowd, it didn’t long before I located the impish, white-haired man, glee evident in his eyes, drawing on a huge piece of paper hung on the gallery wall. No sign of Punk, though.
 
Oliphant brought Punk with him when he moved from Australia, where he was born, to the United States in 1964. He took a job with the Denver Post. By 1967, Oliphant had won a Pulitzer Prize for an editorial cartoon concerning peace efforts during the Vietnam War. Since then he’s won numerous awards. His work is in the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the LBJ Library, many museums, including ours, and he’s had numerous exhibits.
 
When I asked him about his cartoons depicting war, many of which are chilling, Oliphant says: “War is never a pleasant subject. The cartoon is not a joke. The humor is a vehicle to carry that observation.”  
 
In an earlier interview with The Atlantic, Oliphant says that humor induces people to look at things they wouldn’t want to think about without humor.
 
That humor is also what makes Oliphant’s political caricatures so powerful, but there are other elements as well. Wendy Wick Reaves, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian, recommends keeping three elements in mind when you glance through any collection of Oliphant’s work. “Consider his draftsmanship, imagination, and verbal wit and how forcefully they can work together,” she writes in the afterword to Oliphant’s book, Leadership: Oliphant Cartoons & Sculpture from the Bush Years. Wick Reaves also describes Oliphant’s work as magical, more to the point for me.
 
As I wandered through Gerald Peter’s Gallery observing Oliphant’s caricatures and sculpture, I was amazed at what he was able to do to Dick Cheney with a few deft strokes. In Oliphant’s hand, a pen is a weapon of precise destruction.
 
With a shotgun in one hand, the same one used to accidentally shoot his hunting partner; Cheney leads a horse wearing blinders. America? Absolutely. On top of the stead is a tiny rider, the size of a jockey, wearing a jester’s cap. George W. Bush clings to the horse’s mane, while Cheney, his other hand gripping the horse’s halter, rolls his eyes. That telling detail, tiny considering all of the other components in the piece, says it all. Contemptuous, arrogant, and in charge.  
 
How did you do that? I ask Oliphant when we talked on the phone. Get Cheney exactly right? Find the perfect deformity?
 
“Dick Cheney was a gift really,” Oliphant says. “I never liked him.”
 
In my mind’s eye I see Punk. I hear him too. “A non-returnable gift,” the penguin says. “So forget the receipt.”
 
In your sixty year career, have you changed the electorate I ask, recalling that Thomas Nast’s cartoons were instrumental in bringing down Tammany Hall?
 
“I’ve never drawn a cartoon to change people’s prejudices in one way or the other,” Oliphant says. Besides, nothing much changes, really. “All we do is change the faces every four or eight years.”
There is no such thing as a balanced or fair caricature, but balance is not what we’re seeking. We’re looking for essence, truth according to Leonardo da Vinci, and we’re getting a laugh along the way, more often than not a good laugh from gifted artists such as Pat Oliphant.
 
We’re electing human beings, and they’re flawed. Perhaps all we can do is laugh. That’s a message I can approve.
 
Pat Oliphant’s Billy the Kid is included in the Museum of Art’s Hunting + Gathering exhibition which opens November 7th.  

A New Mexico Tradition : Southwestern Realism - 10/15/2014

In 1990, this museum set out to tell the story of contemporary New Mexican artists working in the realist tradition.  The result was an exhibition called A New Mexico Tradition : Southwestern Realism.  The exhibition may be over, but its legacy remains with the catalog and the following video which we have digitized for your viewing pleasure.   

A Winning Ticket - 10/1/2014

Today's guest blog post comes from Sara Ford, a Santa Fe resident and member of the museum's docent program.

                       

Visitors to the Museum’s recent Family Day that included a behind the scenes tour of the facility were treated to a bonus – an introduction to the museum’s newest curator. Carmen Vendelin, Curator of Art, greeted visitors on the first stop of the basement tour – the acquisition center, where the museum’s extensive collection of art and photographs is stored, preserved, registered and catalogued. Carmen was joined by Kate Ware, Curator of Photography. Carmen appeared quite at home as the two curators handled their portion of the tour like Wimbledon doubles partners confident that when the rally ended, they’d score their points.

Prior to moving to Santa Fe, Carmen served as Curator of Art at La Salle University Art Museum in Philadelphia, but she’s no stranger to the American West. Indeed, she’s a native. Carmen grew up in Idaho, where her mother encouraged her interest in creativity and art. As she matriculated, Carmen discovered that she had other interests and talents as well, ideal skills for an art historian. “I really enjoy scholarship, and I really enjoy writing,” she said.

Carmen earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in art history from the University of Washington before she headed east. She earned her Master’s in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Criticism and Theory from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From there, Carmen headed to New Jersey, where she completed her doctoral candidacy at Rutgers.

Over the years, Carmen has acquired 13 years of museum experience, ten of those curatorial, at such institutions as the Newark Museum, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as her recent post in Philadelphia.

But the time had come to make a change. “I was really tired of dealing with a lot of aspects of the big city. I realized that I missed the landscape out west. That was really important to me,” Carmen said. “I was very excited to come to Santa Fe because it’s such an art mecca, and it’s such a beautiful place. I felt like I won the lottery.”

Carmen’s area of specialization is 19th and 20th century American and European art with a particular emphasis on the years between 1870 and World War II. At the New Mexico Museum of Art, she’ll be working mainly with collections prior to 1955.
Hunting + Gathering, which opens November 7th, will be Carmen’s first curatorial effort. The exhibit will present a sampling of artworks that have entered the Museum’s collection since 2010. Nearly two hundred works of art in a variety of media, including painting, photography, sculpture, prints and ceramics will be included. Among the artists featured are: Richard Diebenkorn, Sol LeWitt, Robert Motherwell, and Imogen Cunningham.

Carmen is enthusiastic about the theme as well as the variety. “It’s a great way for me to get to know the art that has come in over the last four-and-a-half years. It’s an opportunity to do things creatively. Showing art work that you wouldn’t otherwise put together. Different mediums, differing time periods, different kinds of subject matter,” she said.

A number of other exhibits, already planned, will follow, leaving Carmen with fulfilling days. In addition to spending time her adult daughter, who moved to Santa Fe, also, Carmen enjoys film. She also plans to learn more about the area. “I like to be out in beautiful natural spaces. I have a list of places I’d like to see,” she said. “There’s no lack of places to go around here.”

Welcome to Santa Fe, Carmen. It is a winning ticket.

New Additions to the Library - 9/15/2014

In November, this museum will be doing an entire exhibtion on artworks we have acquired in the past 4 years for the permanent collection. We have also added to the library and archives collections during this time. Building library and archival collections is a similar process to building an art collection.  In fact, sometimes books and archival materials are donated to the museum together as one collection. Throughout the museum's history we have always relied on donations from the community to build a research collection. Some of the largest collections of books have come from artists themselves. For example, local artist Vivian Sloan Fiske, gave us approximately 900 items on art-related subject matter (about half of them books) after she died in 1978.
 
 
Earlier this year, the museum was offered about 800 items about photography from a man named Dennis Cormier. Of those, we kept about 170.  Many of the books donated were rare and/or signed by the author. Some of the highlight of this donation include:
 
  • Children of War, Children of Peace : Photographs by Robert Capa
  • Lee Friedlander : Sticks & Stones
  • Photographs by Allen Ginsberg
  • William Eggleston's For Now
  • Proud Flesh by Sally Mann
  • Joel-Peter Witkin's Enfer ou Ciel
  • Perfect Documents: Walker Evans and African Art, 1935
  • The Hyena and Other Men by Pieter Hugo
  • The Architect's Brother by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison
  • Koudelka Gypsies
  • On This Earth, A Shadow Falls by Nick Brandt
The list reads like a who's who of 20th and 21st century photographers. All of the books, catalogs and journals Mr. Cormier donated are listed in the library's catalog, SALSA. Cormier also donated a number of photographs to the museum over the years, a few of those will be on view in Hunting + Gathering : New Additions to the Museum’s Collection.

Happy Labor Day - 9/1/2014

Today's guest blog post comes from Tia Harvey of Seattle. Tia is a recent graduate of the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in Art History.
 
Have you ever noticed murals that decorate post offices, schools, and other public buildings? Most of the murals depict skilled workers such as farmers in wheat fields, men working on railroads, lumber mill workers, or workers on construction sites. Paintings like Tom Lea’s, Employment in Public Works can be found anywhere throughout the United States. This phenomenon is not a coincidence. At the start of the Great Depression, October 29, 1929 (or better known as Black Friday) the American stock market crumbled, leaving many without a job. By 1932, at least one-quarter of the workforce had lost their job. When newly elected Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 he sought to stabilize the economy and provide jobs to the suffering in a series of federal programs called the New Deal; in turn giving us one of the most successful programs our nation has seen, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). One way the WPA provided jobs to Americans was through art.
 
 
Tom Lea
Employment in Public Works, 1934
On long term loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
2835.23P
 
The WPA Federal Arts Program (FAP) provided over 3,000 jobs in just 4 months and over 15,000 pieces of art ranging from murals to sculptures in government buildings. Many famous artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko were part of the FAP whom were provided a means of living during desolate times and according to painter Stuart Davis, artists employed during this period had possessed “a new orientation and a new hope and purpose based on a new sense of social responsibility.”
  
 
Carl Morris
Lumber Mill and Agriculture at Eugene Post Office, 1942
Oregon State Archives
 
To me, the Federal Arts Program helped provide Americans with solidarity of their economically crumbling country in two major ways. First is solidarity of the government. As experts on New Deal Art, Marlene Park and Gerald E Markowitz speculate in their book, Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal, the government’s interjection of public art establishes the presence of the government in our everyday lives. Secondly is the glorification of workers. Depictions of workers are often of a group of strong, unyielding men undaunted by the days work.
 
 
Carl Mydans
CCC (Civilivan Conservation Corps) boys working, Prince George’s Country, Maryland, Nov 1935
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
 
FAP artists sought to paint everyday life. The handwork and hard work of individuals resonates in all of us regardless of class. The art of this time serves as a reminder of how our nation was started and how it recovered from the one of the worst economic downturns in history.

 



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