Remembering Margaret Rose Vendryes, Creator of the African Diva Project 


On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Margaret Rose Vendryes, a respected Black queer artist, student, educator, and curator, died from acute breathing failure. She was once 67. I first turned into conscious about Margaret after I incorporated her paintings in my article, “40 superb black artists to look at in 2014.” After I got here throughout Margaret’s site I used to be attracted to her works in The African Diva Venture. The mixed-media sequence reimagines pictures of Black celebrities by means of including classical African mask. The ceremonial mask are historically worn by means of males, however Margaret positioned them basically on Black girls icons (e.g., Donna Summer season and Janet Jackson) along side gender-nonconforming celebrities reminiscent of RuPaul and Billy Porter. The sequence demanding situations notions of gender, race, sexuality, and tool whilst celebrating the ancestral legacy of those figures.

Quickly thereafter, I incorporated Margaret’s paintings in my traveling exhibition, i discovered god in myself: The fortieth Anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s for coloured ladies, and extra lately within the 2021 exhibition Styling: Black Expression, Rebel, and Pleasure Thru Style. Over time I realized extra about Margaret. She was once born on March 16, 1955, in Kingston, Jamaica; her circle of relatives later settled in Queens, New York. In 1997 she turned into the primary Black girl to earn a PhD in Artwork Historical past from Princeton College. John Wilmerding, her dissertation guide, recollects her being, “… one of the crucial multi-talented and a hit scholars to move thru Princeton’s graduate program.” He persevered by means of e-mail, “She made a vital mark as an artist. Her ebullient persona and raucous humorousness have been expressed in her colourful and exuberant figurative collages. She was once a persuasive and full of life lecturer and instructor and an indelible colleague, who can be neglected in lots of quarters.”

Margaret Rose Vendryes, Igbo Billy” (2020), from The African Diva Venture (courtesy the Property of Margaret Rose Vendryes)

In 2008 she revealed Barthé, A Existence in Sculpture, the definitive artwork historical past e book at the groundbreaking sculptor Richmond Barthé, and from 2015 to 2021, she served as chair of the Appearing and Advantageous Arts division and director of the Advantageous Arts Gallery at York Faculty. She additionally based the Southeast Queens Biennial and the Jamaica Summer season Artist Residency at York Faculty. Margaret served at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2022, and on June 1, 2022, she was once to start her new position as Dean of the College of the Museum of Advantageous Arts at Tufts College. 

In each and every position she held Margaret advocated for marginalized other people and celebrated the cultural contributions of the Black and queer communities, pushing for extra inclusivity and fairness in artwork establishments and for extra numerous everlasting collections. Regardless of her remarkable accomplishments and distinguished instructional and institutional positions her passing has been in large part, and unaccountably, lost sight of by means of a large number of artwork publications. But, because the testimonies under ascertain, she is immortalized within the hearts and minds of the ones she impacted throughout the artwork international. 

The next statements were edited for duration and readability. All are by means of e-mail correspondences with the creator, until differently famous. A studio discuss with with Margaret will also be watched right here.

Margaret Rose Vendryes at her studio portray (photograph courtesy Jacqueline Herranz Brooks)

Alyssa Nitchun, Govt Director, The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork

Margaret sat at the [Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art’s] Board Seek Committee that employed me. We naturally fell right into a rhythm the place I had Margaret on pace dial consulting her on my biggest demanding situations and celebrating even essentially the most mundane of triumphs. Margaret was once unflappable, possessing a nearly sage-like readability and a razor-sharp humorousness. Together with her spouse, Jacqueline [Herranz Brooks], Margaret incessantly got here out for all Leslie-Lohman gatherings; in combination they have been impeccably elegant and full of joie de vivre. 

As a trustee and queer artist and educator, Margaret embodied the trajectory and expansion of Leslie-Lohman. Her interest for the humanities, experience, and love of our neighborhood have been vital in shaping Leslie-Lohman into the queer, numerous, responsive, engaged establishment that it's lately. From our artist fellowship program to the artists we acquire and show off, Margaret’s imaginative and prescient created a extra numerous and rigorous recent artwork museum dedicated to lately’s LGBTQIA+ artists. Margaret’s legacy will live to tell the tale abundantly within the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork’s persevered expansion and expansive imaginative and prescient. 

Tammi Lawson, Curator, Artwork and Artifacts Department, Schomburg Heart for Analysis in Black Tradition

I met Margaret 25 years in the past as a patron the use of the collections on the Schomburg Heart for Analysis in Black Tradition, whilst she was once running on her dissertation, Illustration of the New Negro: The Black Frame as Metaphor in Fashionable American Artwork and Literature. She was once in particular occupied with having access to the bevy of works and knowledge we have now on sculptor Richmond Barthé. Margaret spent many months devouring correspondence in his archive, studying his artist document and learning his sculptures. Margaret’s stellar analysis on Barthé [assisted by a yearlong Schomburg Scholar in Residence fellowship] ended in writing a seminal biography, solidifying her because the Barthé student. 

We persevered our skilled dating whilst she turned into a professor …. Her scholars beloved and revered Margaret as a result of she knew what she was once speaking about as she generously shared her wisdom. 

After I went to graduate faculty, I known as upon Margaret to put in writing a letter of advice and she or he did so with pleasure and exuberance. Margaret was once as stunning in spirit as she was once in appears to be like, and had a really perfect smile to move along side a hearty chuckle. She simply had a can-do angle and she or he sought after the most productive for everybody. She signed off on her emails to me: “All Just right Issues, M.”

Margaret Rose Vendryes and Jacqueline Herranz Brooks at Lifeless Horse Bay, 2015 (photograph courtesy Jacqueline Herranz Brooks)

Jacqueline Herranz Brooks, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Town College of New York (CUNY)

I met Margaret in 2003 when I used to be about to graduate with my BA at CUNY and took her writing-intensive elegance on recent American artwork. That 12 months, I had the chance to experience her no longer handiest as an electrifying vital lecturer and useful editor, but additionally as a curator of the exhibition Girls on Most sensible: Breaking Obstacles, Resisting Limits! In 2004, we coincided at the Heart for LGBTQ Research (CLAGS) convention the place I understood Margaret’s tackle tough subjects regarding race principle, queer aesthetics, and the boundaries of authenticity. Our first collaboration was once 10 years later, in 2014. Margaret curated my display on the Advantageous Arts Gallery at York Faculty, titled Maldita Pared: Fotografía y texto de Cuba, and we did an interview for the World Evaluation of African American Artwork (IRAAA) …. Margaret was once beneficiant together with her time, house, wisdom, and assets. I learn bell hooks’s paintings from Margaret’s library, and due to our conversations and gallery visits I realized about Black girls artists running in abstraction and artists of colour making conceptual artwork. 

Margaret was once recreation. In 2014, “Punu Janelle,” her then lately completed portray of Janelle Monae from her sequence The African Diva Venture was once incorporated within the exhibition Bridging Barriers: Redefining Diaspora. Margaret was once involved in regards to the transport prices, and I steered we use the subway to move her portray from Queens to the Postcrypt Artwork Gallery at Columbia College. Day after today, Margaret was once wearing black, dressed in a couple of hand-painted spectator sneakers and fuchsia gloves, in a position to take the journey into the vital efficiency realm

It was once deliciously comforting residing with Margaret. She knew all of the songs and dances to them neatly. We shared non secular practices and argued about ideological ideals. She was once artful, passionate, and arduous. Once we started our romantic dating in 2010, we have been nonetheless in love, and were given married on July 31, 2020, within the courtyard of the similar development I now reside in. I leave out Margaret in her horny bodily shape. Margaret was once a really perfect lover. 

She was once additionally a hybrid experimenter who created a class for herself as an artist-historian. Ultimate 12 months she created a brand new frame of labor the use of her images and her stream-of-consciousness reflections on what it approach to grow to be 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 paintings that may proceed to astound. Margaret was once truthful, coherent, and dedicated to recommend for alternate.

Margaret Rose Vendryes, “Igbo Grace” (2010), from The African Diva Venture, oil and chilly wax on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, Phillip Hales assortment (courtesy the Property of Margaret Rose Vendryes)

Roger C. Tucker III, Founder, Tucker Recent Artwork

Margaret got here into my existence thru my oldest daughter, Ara, right through her scholar days at Princeton. She shared that her professor confirmed certainly one of my pictures at school. Margaret was once the professor. Rapid ahead to 2011: Ara knowledgeable me that Margaret sought after to officially release her positive artwork profession and steered that we get in combination. My artwork advisory company, Tucker Recent Artwork, represented her and fastened her first New York Town exhibition, 33 ⅓: Pushing the Needle, that includes her iconic The African Diva Venture artwork. This started a partnership that lasted a decade as we fastened further exhibitions around the nation, revealed two catalogues, filmed video interviews, and offered reside artwork talks.

Margaret and I turned into shut pals. I may just textual content her at 6:00 am a couple of film I’d simply observed and she or he’d generally textual content again in 5 mins together with her tackle that film or counsel I take a look at one thing similarly as fascinating. We bonded over artwork, books, tune, films, structure, and inside design. The breadth and intensity of her pursuits, passions, and talents impressed all folks to be told and do extra. 

The composition and combined media of her artwork referenced tactics throughout all the millennia of artwork historical past. Margaret’s outstanding have an effect on in academia and artwork will also be loved thru her artwork, is documented in her writing, and is witnessed within the scholars and artists she taught and mentored over many years.

Margaret was once sensible, fearless, humorous, and indefatigable. Her presents of time, treasure, and skill to scholars, artists, academicians, and artwork establishments can be sorely neglected. Above all, her African Diva artwork stay the residing legacy that I can be mindful fondly after I consider my just right pal, Margaret Rose Vendryes.

Margaret Rose Vendryes, “Sowei RuPaul” (2012), from The African Diva Venture, oil and chilly wax on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Artwork Assortment (courtesy the Property of Margaret Rose Vendryes)

Dréya St. Clair Thompson, interdisciplinary artist, speaker, variety champion, and founding father of #TransIsWorthy (as informed to the creator)

I met Margaret in 2014 at an match I produced. I used to be at a crossroads in my skilled existence. I had put a comfortable pause on my inventive existence to concentrate on nonprofit fundraising and building areas. At that match I mentioned my revel in as a gender-nonconforming immigrant from Jamaica and, her being Jamaican-born, she known with me as a queer Black girl and artist. Quickly thereafter she turned into my mentor. She challenged me to turn out to be extra rigorous in my observe and to delve deeper into the underpinnings of my paintings.

Sooner or later she turned into 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 place at the Museum’s board. 

Whilst I used to be at the board with Margaret, I witnessed as she pressed what it approach to be inclusive in an area that was once traditionally ruled by means of White men. She advocated for tactics to ask other people of deprived backgrounds onto a board and to give a contribution in tactics past the monetary, since she understood that was once no longer possible for some other people. She driven for other people to remember that you'll’t simply invite Black trans other people on a board with out figuring out the systemic problems that neighborhood grapples with and the way they would slot in on a board. Development neighborhood within the arts as a Black queer individual isn't simple. However she had some way of creating neighborhood and an area for others. Sooner than variety, fairness, and inclusion projects have been a development she was once already doing this paintings.

I'm lucky to have identified Margaret. Now, after I take a look at her paintings in my house, I think her presence proceeding to mentor me, and for that I'm without end thankful. 

Margaret Rose Vendryes running on “Punu Supremes” at Hampton Courtroom, 2022 (photograph courtesy Jacqueline Herranz Brooks)