In advance of the 98th ANNUAL deadline of June 15th, we asked jurors Dr. Kimberli Gant and Diana Gaston four questions.

Dr. Kimberli Gant 

You are a leader who has been working for equity, diversity and inclusion in the arts. What do you think are effective curatorial strategies for advancing art and artists in the wake of the repeated reckonings with systemic racism and social injustice? 

I think a strategy that can work is first – talking to artists. Artists are so incredible in being able to reflect, both visually and intellectually, what's happening in society. They oftentimes anticipate what's happening, or they are responding to what's happening. I appreciate the question about the systemic-ness of it, because, you know systemic-ness reflects that the issue is cyclical. These situations that we’re in, maybe they have different names, maybe they look slightly different, but they are the same issues that we are responding to and dealing with on a regular basis, sadly. When you think about art history, you realize that again, these same issues have come up again and again with their economic challenges, and challenges in society, gender and race. There are limits, I think, to what the art world can do, but it has, and continues to offer a creative option for people, to be an outlet for them. Starting there, and seeing what’s happening, what artists are creating, whether it’s visual, whether it is literary or musical, and then providing spaces and opportunities for those reactions to play out. Whether that’s a formal exhibition, a pop-up, or conversations with the creatives themselves, to say, “tell us what you’re seeing and what you’re responding to, connecting with and providing.” These strategies also remind people that the arts are an outlet. Maybe you are not able to create policy, but you can offer a mirror. You can offer another language in which to present the world as you see it, and perhaps that’s an opportunity for people to see different options for resolution.

There’s only so much we can do, but I had the amazing opportunity to hear Homi K. Bhabha speak, and he said this phrase: “what small acts of radical change can you input, can you offer?” I can, in myself, as one person, create small acts of radical change, and those radical acts may not seem revolutionary in the grand schema, but within the art world, within the museum society, within myself, I know that I have made an effort to do something that will hopefully be long-lasting beyond myself, beyond where I exist in that moment in time. And I think that is what feeds you when you’re in the trenches, and when you’re frustrated, and angry, and you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can say to yourself, “okay, well my light may not be blinding, but I’ve got some light, and I can slightly chip away at things.” It reminds me that I can only do what I can do, and to be proud of that.


As a curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, how do you regard printmaking and photography in current discourse – as for most of their histories they have been set apart from mainstream art conversations.

I think that print and photography are so important – they are part of the mainstream. However you decide the hierarchy of art practice, and I think those hierarchies are really considered very outdated now because so many artists are learning all different types of media, and they’re experimenting with them, working with them in new ways, and ultimately it is about “what am I trying to present to the audience, and I’ll use whatever tools in my arsenal to get me there.” I find that works on paper, drawing, printmaking and all of its facets, and photography to be critically important. I often will talk to collectors, especially those who are really just starting to get into collecting, to consider these mediums – because of the techniques, and the idea of multiplicity, they still allow for a lower price point in certain instances, and I say that’s a great way to start in collecting.


When reviewing a wide range of work for a competition like this, what do you take into consideration? Form? Process? Content? All of the above?

I always look for art that really makes me want to take a second look, things that make me say “Oh!” – things that draw me closer – that I want to step away and spend time with. When I have a visceral reaction to a work of art, that’s when I start to want to spend more time with it. So, that can come from a combination of things – from questions about images causing me to look closer and ask what are they? What mediums are they using? What’s the composition? How are they organized? So, it’s really a combination of all the ways in which a good image is created – from what it’s trying to convey to me in terms of content, or if it’s an abstract work, am I excited about the brush strokes, or the lines, or the shape and the color? So again, it’s a combination of everything, but ultimately when it's all put together, does it excite me and intrigue me?


What projects are you excited to be working on right now and/or in the coming months?

Right now, I’ve got a show that I’m very excited about, which we have on view right now: A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration, which is an incredible traveling show. Originally organized by the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art by curators Jessica Bell Brown and Ryan Dennis. We’re thrilled at the Brooklyn Museum to have it. It was my first time working with a project where it was all commissioned work – so, all brand-new work, including video, sculpture, mixed media, installation, painting, photography – pretty much every medium you can think of. It asks the artists to think about the legacy of the Great Migration. A lot of questions and very thoughtful ideas are brought up about the things that we are taught and know about that moment in history. But also, it is so much about what we don’t know, what we’re not taught. Many of the stories are about family and fragmentation of family, whether or not that story happened to the artist, or to other African, other Black families, but also just about what we’re living through now. We’re having so much more migration throughout the world because of environmental factors, economic factors, things that were very much part of what happened in the Great Migration. It’s another generation of it, in a more global expanse. It reminds you that there are so many linkages and synergies across time and the world about these ideas, that whether or not your family stories relate to this or to a different legacy of migration, you have that story in your family. Hopefully, it is encouraging our visitors to learn what they don’t know about their own stories within their families.

Diana Gaston

Your distinguished career includes deep experience in both, printmaking and photography, what do you find intriguing about current trends in these fields?

I came out of a museum-based background, art history was my major, but I feel like I really gained the most experience from a series of internships in print rooms where I was working with works on paper: prints, photographs, drawings. I came up through a course of study that emphasized the objects and first-hand exposure to that object. I’ve always thought of prints and photographs very much in the same breath, that’s really how I understand works on paper. I’ve brought my photo background along with my current work in print – I do see the two disciplines informing each other, so I was very excited to see how you combine the media in the ANNUAL call. In my current role at Tamarind I am seeing things in a different way, and experiencing the making of a print first-hand. Another layer of experience in learning about the history of print is to actually watch one being made – to watch a print being pulled, or watch an artist struggle with the matrix; and to be a witness to that collaborative process.

In terms of trends or new directions, I would say at Tamarind we’re experiencing more dimensionality in prints, in part because we’re working with artists such as sculptors who have a 3-dimensional way of thinking about the world and working. We’ve found some really ingenious ways to incorporate another dimension into what’s perceived as a very flat surface. I also think that there’s an exciting new direction in scholarship, with the very traditional form of art history taking a more expansive view of prints – really thinking of them as physical objects, and thinking of them not so much as illustrations, reproductions, or an image of something, but as an actual object. And I think that goes back throughout history looking at books as well. I would point to Jennifer Roberts’ Mellon Lectures that she did for the National Gallery in 2021; I think we were all enthralled with her thinking, and just how much dimensionality and breadth she brought to her study of prints, I found that really transformative in terms of how we think of prints and their potential. I would say the same of Julia Brian Wilson, who is a scholar and art historian at the University of California Berkley. She has written for us around Ellen Lesperance, a printmaker who worked at Tamarind, who also brought a kind of dimensionality and a photo reference to her image making. It was really exciting to hear how Brian Wilson dissected her work.

The third thing that I would mention in the terms of thinking about new directions is how much the digital image has impacted the way we see. It’s something that our masterprinter Valpuri Remling has articulated so eloquently – how the digital image and the computer screen have given us a level of precision and perfection, so that we’re looking at a generation of viewers and makers who will come to print differently. It’s taking a digital native and having them make something with their hands, or working artists who don’t draw, who do everything digitally, and we’ve found ways to work with them with really interesting outcomes. I think the digital influence, certainly on many levels: on the physical prints, the information, the speed of which we absorb images, has certainly been impacted by digital technology, but I think it has also affected the way we see.


When reviewing a wide range of work for a competition like this, what do you take into consideration? Form? Process? Content? All of the above?

It’s probably all three. I think a visual or aesthetic response is probably the most immediate, and probably how we all respond to images, whether we’re aware of it or not. And then the content, but also seeing if the work is coherent and makes sense together. There might be a clear narrative, maybe not an immediate message, but something that feels consistent from image to image. I think part of the challenge with this kind of jurying is responding to work in digital form, not in-person, and it is very difficult to really fully embrace an image without seeing the paper or scale, or having the ability to really scrutinize it in dimension. You have to rely on knowing that you’re translating the image, and imagining what it would look like in real life. I think that’s where the content comes in, knowing that it’s saying something.


What projects are you excited to be working on right now and/or in the coming months?

Tamarind recently celebrated its 60th anniversary as an institution. We are embarking on some really interesting projects to make our research and our history much more accessible. We’re taking a close look at our digital archive, and the documentation that we’re well known for, and figuring out ways to make it more accessible to researchers.

We’ve had the great privilege of working with a few artists here in New Mexico, on a series of small catalogs. We just published one with Maja Ruznic, who’s primarily known as a painter, but she has made a series of monotypes with us over the last few years that I think are really groundbreaking in terms of medium, how they hold color, and how they use the medium. We are also doing a series of annual residencies that are longer than usual. Our typical residencies are about 2 weeks, but we have one residency that allows us to have the artist here for a month. And those projects come with little catalogs, so we’re excited about those extended residencies.


As the Director of Tamarind, you are in the enviable position of carrying on the legacy of the expansive thinker and creator, June Wayne, while celebrating the vast possibilities of contemporary lithography. What in particular do you find noteworthy about lithography at this moment?

Tamarind is in a great moment of having a very dynamic masterprinter, Valpuri Remling, who trained here, and education director, Brandon Gunn, who is also a Tamarind masterprinter. Tamarind has really benefited over the last 60 years from having a very stable and long-term staff, we have had people stay in their position for a period of decades. Valpuri is working with a kind of whole new group of artists – she’s working with a number of international artists, and together they are bringing a very clean and bright aesthetic that sometimes defies what a lithograph can be. They find incredible delicacy or transparency, which I think is one of the hallmarks of lithography. But some of the prints that we are making – maybe it’s the way the artist approaches it, maybe it’s the color palette, maybe it’s the scale – but we are really calling attention to some of the intrinsic attributes of litho, but in a brighter way. W are making fewer prints, but we are making more complex prints. Ellen Lesperance is a good example of that, she worked with us for a month, and made three exquisite prints, very meticulous, very, very labor intensive, but in the end, very accessible and immediate.

The original interviews have been edited for length.

Return to the 98th ANNUAL Prospectus