On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Margaret Rose Vendryes, a revered Black queer artist, scholar, educator, and curator, died from acute respiratory failure. She was 67. I first turned conscious of Margaret once I included her work in my article, “40 superb black artists to look at in 2014.” Once I got here throughout Margaret’s web site I used to be drawn to her works in The African Diva Venture. The mixed-media collection reimagines photographs of Black celebrities by including classical African masks. The ceremonial masks are historically worn by males, however Margaret positioned them primarily on Black ladies icons (e.g., Donna Summer time and Janet Jackson) together with gender-nonconforming celebrities similar to RuPaul and Billy Porter. The collection challenges notions of gender, race, sexuality, and energy whereas celebrating the ancestral legacy of those figures.
Quickly thereafter, I included Margaret’s work in my touring exhibition, i discovered god in myself: The fortieth Anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s for coloured women, and extra just lately within the 2021 exhibition Styling: Black Expression, Insurrection, and Pleasure By way of Trend. Over time I discovered extra about Margaret. She was born on March 16, 1955, in Kingston, Jamaica; her household later settled in Queens, New York. In 1997 she turned the primary Black lady to earn a PhD in Artwork Historical past from Princeton College. John Wilmerding, her dissertation advisor, remembers her being, “… some of the multi-talented and profitable college students to undergo Princeton’s graduate program.” He continued through e-mail, “She made a major mark as an artist. Her ebullient character and raucous humorousness had been expressed in her colourful and exuberant figurative collages. She was a persuasive and energetic lecturer and instructor and an indelible colleague, who might be missed in lots of quarters.”
In 2008 she revealed Barthé, A Life in Sculpture, the definitive artwork historical past e-book on the groundbreaking sculptor Richmond Barthé, and from 2015 to 2021, she served as chair of the Performing and Wonderful Arts division and director of the Wonderful Arts Gallery at York School. She additionally based the Southeast Queens Biennial and the Jamaica Summer time Artist Residency at York School. Margaret served on the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2022, and on June 1, 2022, she was to start her new function as Dean of the Faculty of the Museum of Wonderful Arts at Tufts College.
In each function she held Margaret advocated for marginalized folks and celebrated the cultural contributions of the Black and queer communities, pushing for extra inclusivity and fairness in artwork establishments and for extra various everlasting collections. Regardless of her excellent accomplishments and distinguished educational and institutional positions her passing has been largely, and unaccountably, neglected by quite a few artwork publications. But, because the testimonies under verify, she is immortalized within the hearts and minds of these she impacted inside the artwork world.
The next statements have been edited for size and readability. All are through e-mail correspondences with the creator, except in any other case famous. A studio go to with Margaret will be watched right here.
Alyssa Nitchun, Govt Director, The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork
Margaret sat on the [Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art’s] Board Search Committee that employed me. We naturally fell right into a rhythm the place I had Margaret on velocity dial consulting her on my biggest challenges and celebrating even probably the most mundane of triumphs. Margaret was unflappable, possessing an nearly sage-like readability and a razor-sharp humorousness. Alongside along with her spouse, Jacqueline [Herranz Brooks], Margaret often got here out for all Leslie-Lohman gatherings; collectively they had been impeccably stylish and full of joie de vivre.
As a trustee and queer artist and educator, Margaret embodied the trajectory and development of Leslie-Lohman. Her ardour for the humanities, experience, and love of our group had been crucial in shaping Leslie-Lohman into the queer, various, responsive, engaged establishment that it’s as we speak. From our artist fellowship program to the artists we accumulate and exhibit, Margaret’s imaginative and prescient created a extra various and rigorous modern artwork museum dedicated to as we speak’s LGBTQIA+ artists. Margaret’s legacy will stay on abundantly within the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork’s continued development and expansive imaginative and prescient.
Tammi Lawson, Curator, Artwork and Artifacts Division, Schomburg Heart for Analysis in Black Tradition
I met Margaret 25 years in the past as a patron utilizing the collections on the Schomburg Heart for Analysis in Black Tradition, whereas she was engaged on her dissertation, Illustration of the New Negro: The Black Physique as Metaphor in Fashionable American Artwork and Literature. She was significantly serious about accessing the bevy of works and knowledge now we have on sculptor Richmond Barthé. Margaret spent many months devouring correspondence in his archive, studying his artist file and learning his sculptures. Margaret’s stellar analysis on Barthé [assisted by a yearlong Schomburg Scholar in Residence fellowship] resulted in writing a seminal biography, solidifying her because the Barthé scholar.
We continued our skilled relationship at the same time as she turned a professor …. Her college students beloved and revered Margaret as a result of she knew what she was speaking about as she generously shared her data.
Once I went to graduate college, I known as upon Margaret to write down a letter of advice and she or he did so with pleasure and enthusiasm. Margaret was as lovely in spirit as she was in appears to be like, and had a terrific smile to associate with a hearty chuckle. She simply had a can-do perspective and she or he wished the perfect for everybody. She signed off on her emails to me: “All Good Issues, M.”
Jacqueline Herranz Brooks, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Metropolis College of New York (CUNY)
I met Margaret in 2003 once I was about to graduate with my BA at CUNY and took her writing-intensive class on modern American artwork. That yr, I had the chance to take pleasure in her not solely as an electrifying crucial lecturer and useful editor, but additionally as a curator of the exhibition Girls on Prime: Breaking Limitations, Resisting Limits! In 2004, we coincided on the Heart for LGBTQ Research (CLAGS) convention the place I understood Margaret’s tackle tough matters regarding race idea, queer aesthetics, and the boundaries of authenticity. Our first collaboration was 10 years later, in 2014. Margaret curated my present on the Wonderful Arts Gallery at York School, titled Maldita Pared: Fotografía y texto de Cuba, and we did an interview for the Worldwide Assessment of African American Artwork (IRAAA) …. Margaret was beneficiant along with her time, area, data, and assets. I learn bell hooks’s work from Margaret’s library, and due to our conversations and gallery visits I discovered about Black ladies artists working in abstraction and artists of coloration making conceptual artwork.
Margaret was sport. In 2014, “Punu Janelle,” her then just lately completed portray of Janelle Monae from her collection The African Diva Venture was included within the exhibition Bridging Boundaries: Redefining Diaspora. Margaret was involved concerning the delivery prices, and I advised we use the subway to move her portray from Queens to the Postcrypt Artwork Gallery at Columbia College. The following day, Margaret was wearing black, sporting a pair of hand-painted spectator sneakers and fuchsia gloves, able to take the journey into the crucial efficiency realm.
It was deliciously comforting residing with Margaret. She knew all of the songs and dances to them nicely. We shared religious practices and argued about ideological beliefs. She was intelligent, passionate, and laborious. After we started our romantic relationship in 2010, we had been nonetheless in love, and bought married on July 31, 2020, within the courtyard of the identical constructing I now stay in. I miss Margaret in her attractive bodily type. Margaret was a terrific lover.
She was additionally a hybrid experimenter who created a class for herself as an artist-historian. Final yr she created a brand new physique of labor utilizing her images and her stream-of-consciousness reflections on what it means to rework a private, intimate archive into one thing public containing new language. It’s tough to border her legacy. However it’s stimulating to consider the scope of her work that can proceed to astound. Margaret was trustworthy, coherent, and dedicated to advocate for change.
Roger C. Tucker III, Founder, Tucker Up to date Artwork
Margaret got here into my life by means of my oldest daughter, Ara, throughout her pupil days at Princeton. She shared that her professor confirmed one among my images in school. Margaret was the professor. Quick ahead to 2011: Ara knowledgeable me that Margaret wished to formally launch her high quality artwork profession and advised that we get collectively. My artwork advisory agency, Tucker Up to date Artwork, represented her and mounted her first New York Metropolis exhibition, 33 ⅓: Pushing the Needle, that includes her iconic The African Diva Venture work. This started a partnership that lasted a decade as we mounted further exhibitions throughout the nation, revealed two catalogues, filmed video interviews, and introduced stay artwork talks.
Margaret and I turned shut associates. I may textual content her at 6:00 am a couple of film I’d simply seen and she or he’d often textual content again in 5 minutes along with her tackle that film or suggest I try one thing equally as fascinating. We bonded over artwork, books, music, motion pictures, structure, and inside design. The breadth and depth of her pursuits, passions, and expertise impressed all of us to study and do extra.
The composition and combined media of her work referenced strategies throughout all the millennia of artwork historical past. Margaret’s exceptional impression in academia and artwork will be loved by means of her work, is documented in her writing, and is witnessed within the college students and artists she taught and mentored over a long time.
Margaret was sensible, fearless, humorous, and indefatigable. Her presents of time, treasure, and expertise to college students, artists, academicians, and artwork establishments might be sorely missed. Above all, her African Diva work stay the residing legacy that I’ll keep in mind fondly once I take into consideration my good pal, Margaret Rose Vendryes.
Dréya St. Clair Thompson, interdisciplinary artist, speaker, variety champion, and founding father of #TransIsWorthy (as advised to the creator)
I met Margaret in 2014 at an occasion I produced. I used to be at a crossroads in my skilled life. I had put a tender pause on my creative life to concentrate on nonprofit fundraising and growth areas. At that occasion I mentioned my expertise as a gender-nonconforming immigrant from Jamaica and, her being Jamaican-born, she recognized with me as a queer Black lady and artist. Quickly thereafter she turned my mentor. She challenged me to grow to be extra rigorous in my follow and to delve deeper into the underpinnings of my paintings.
Ultimately she turned my first artwork patron when she purchased the piece “Empire” (co-created with Tavet Gillson). Margaret then donated the paintings to the everlasting assortment on the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork and secured me a spot on the Museum’s board.
Whereas I used to be on the board with Margaret, I witnessed as she pressed what it means to be inclusive in an area that was traditionally dominated by White males. She advocated for methods to ask folks of deprived backgrounds onto a board and to contribute in methods past the monetary, since she understood that was not possible for some folks. She pushed for folks to know you could’t simply invite Black trans folks on a board with out understanding the systemic points that group grapples with and the way they would slot in on a board. Constructing group within the arts as a Black queer individual is just not simple. However she had a manner of constructing group and an area for others. Earlier than variety, fairness, and inclusion initiatives had been a pattern she was already doing this work.
I’m lucky to have recognized Margaret. Now, once I take a look at her work in my dwelling, I really feel her presence persevering with to mentor me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.