Updated: Aug 14
Patrick Zentz, Windwheel from the cover of the catalogue of the exhibition Revered Earth.
As I am putting my curator's hat on for the first time in years, I would like to reflect on a word that has always intrigued me. If I put an etymological leash on the word, I am led to the Latin cūrātor (“one who has care of a thing, a manager, guardian, trustee”), from cūrāre (“to take care of”), from cūra (“care, heed, attention, anxiety, grief”).1
Curator is not to be confused with curate, a word describing an ecclesiastic role of the Middle Ages (curé in French to this day). In my view, however, being a curator has everything to do with care. Caring for the artist. Caring for the exhibition. Caring for the audience.2
It's not a matter of "cure of souls" as a curé might try to do, but rather bringing all three elements into a beautiful inspiring whole; also for me personally choosing or being led to a topic that speaks to my soul.
My love for working with artists began in the early eighties when I became the director of Modern Master Tapestries/Charles E. Slatkin Galleries. The fiber art masters I curated ranged from Sheila Hicks to Lenore Tawney, and the painter masters ranged from Robert Motherwell to Isamu Noguchi. However, it's the shows I curated on the side that mark my memory as pearls of a necklace shining with my spiritual yearnings: Transformative Art, the first term I used to describe an art (in various genres) which to me had an obvious spiritual connection (see #3 below, The Presence of Light at the Meadows Museum, both in 1983).
After I left the gallery, I was free to devote myself to my passions, the Earth and Spirituality. In 1990, I indulged in the former with Revered Earth, a traveling museum exhibition I co-curated with Robert Gaylor, founder/director of the Center for Contemporary Art of Santa Fe. It included Helen and Newton Harrison, Lenore Tawney, Alan Sonfist, Ana Mendieta, Betsy Damon, and more. Around the same time, The Meeting of Black Madonnas came into being at the Ethnographic Museum of Warsaw, Poland. Basically, knowing in the depth of my being that Spirit is oneness, my conviction was that an important step to realize this principle was to find commonality amidst seemingly separate notions or persons. In this case, the commonality was between The Black Madonna of Poland and The Virgin of Guadalupe (La Morenita, the Dark One) of Mexico and much of our Central-American-leaning world.4
As I have previously written in this column, to me, eco-art or environmental art is one aspect of the spiritual in art (my quest since 1979) or maybe an evolution of what has been known as "the spiritual in art." I am grateful to Patricia Watts, founder of ecoartspace for inviting me to help her curate the show Some Kind of Nature, to open on September 2nd from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the FOMA art space in Santa Fe. I also invite you to read my statement on ecoartspace.5
With the Earth in my heart,
1. To explore on Wiktionary, go to: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/curator
2. I have a special affection for number 3. According to the Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, it is "Multiplicity; creative power; growth; forward movement overcoming duality . . . "The Triad is the number of the whole . . ." (Aristotle).
3. Inspired by Dr. Jose Argüelles' Transformative Vision, published in 1975.
5. FOMA art space at 333 Montezuma Avenue, Santa Fe. ecoartspace has served as a platform for artists addressing environmental issues since 1999, see www.ecoartspace.org.