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.