convergence & connection in 40+ years of wayfinding in the art world


Part Two: 1992-2002 Part One: 1980-1991 Part Three: 2003-2017
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One of the highpoints of my work as a professional curator evolved from an idea I hatched with Governor Carruthers, a fan of western art, and his Officer of Cultural Affairs, Gary Morton, himself a successful working western artist, in response to sentiments expressed by western artists and others in the state that the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) had been neglecting their genre in favor of a heavy focus on contemporary art.

With their approval, I broached the topic with MFA Director, David Turner, and my colleague and friend, curator Sandra D’Emilio, and together we came up with a proposal modeled after a highly-successful annual exhibition and fundraiser at the Phoenix Art Museum – the centerpiece of which was a show and sale of works by members of the Cowboy Artists of America (several of whom resided in New Mexico at the time). We envisioned a similar exhibition and sale at the MFA for which D’Emilio and I would serve as curators, and which would be entitled A New Mexico Tradition: Southwestern Realism and ultimately feature the work of 17 artists, including such luminaries as Glenna Goodacre, Wilson Hurley, and Allan Houser, among others.

The governor hosted a dinner at the Governor’s Residence for prospective corporate sponsors at which we secured underwriting to cover the cost of the exhibition catalog, poster and associated event expenses from four corporate patrons, with additional support provided by the NM Department of Economic Development and Tourism and from galleries representing the featured artists. In addition, Marilyn Batts, the art coordinator at the Santa Fe Community College, was enlisted to assist with project management and to organize a concurrent show at the new SFCC campus featuring a selection of drawings and sketches by participating artists, and other collaborative programming. The Museum of New Mexico Foundation was the beneficiary and co-host of the opening event and sale, which would turn out to be at the time the largest single fundraising event the organization had ever held.

In recognition of the significance of this exhibition, David Turner stated in his exhibition catalog preface: “This exhibition of works by seventeen prominent artists working in this tradition is long overdue at the Museum of Fine Arts. As is too often the case, the state’s resident artists are better known outside their ‘hometown’” and noted that D’Emilio’s and my “final choices reflect a fair and informed curatorial point of view.” (Turner, et. al, 1990)

Exhibition video - concept and interviews by curators James Rutherford and Sandra D'Emilio  

The success of these efforts notwithstanding, the capstone for the project would come a year later when an entourage, including the new Governor Bruce King and wife Alice, myself, Turner, D’Emilio, and Batts, would travel to the opening of the show at the Taiwan Museum of Art in Taichung. This exhibition marked my first curatorial effort in a major museum setting; and the experience of working in collaboration with the artists and museum professionals on such a multi-faceted endeavor elevated me personally and professionally, and provided me with skillsets and insights that I am still unpacking and applying to this day. One of my regrets from this entire period is that I wish I had had the foresight to keep in touch with the many contacts I made during this project and others.

Continued on page 6 >>

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Click here to view Abstract, Acknowledgements, Dedication, and Bibliography

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James Rutherford  •  STUDIOPASSPORT  •  P.O. Box 1054  •  Santa Fe, NM 87504
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