When Christian Waguespack assumed the role of curator of 20th century art at the New Mexico Museum of Art two years ago, he committed himself to giving attention to all aspects of the museum’s large and diverse collection.
“Carved & Cast: 20th Century New Mexican Sculpture,” an exhibit on display at the museum through the end of March, shines a spotlight on the carved and cast 3D work created a group of deceased and living New Mexico sculptors who were and continue to be inspired by the people of this state.
“The sculpture of New Mexico hasn’t gotten as much attention as the painting,” says Waguespack. “I specifically tried to put artists who don’t get much exposure in the exhibit.
“I looked at the work in the museum’s collection and found key themes in many of the pieces. It wasn’t deliberate on my part to seek out women sculptors, but I found some wonderful ones.”
Among the female sculptors whose work is on display is Agnes Sims (1910-1990), who was born in Pennsylvania and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.
Sims moved to Santa Fe in the late 1930s and became a contractor who purchased and renovated historic houses around town. She bought property on Canyon Road and built houses for herself and her long-time partner, Mary Louis Aswell.
Rock art from the Galisteo Basin south of Santa Fe became the primary artistic inspiration for Sims’s paintings and cedar animal sculptures. She recorded 3000 petroglyphs in drawings and thousands in photographs. Unlike her drawings of petroglyphs, her paintings and sculpture are interpretations of what she saw.
Another female sculptor whose works are in the exhibit is Una Hanbury (1904-1990), who is best known for her bronze portraits.
Born in England and a graduate of London’s Polytechnic School of Art, Hanbury moved to Washington D.C. in 1944 to work for the British Embassy. She resumed her art career in the mid 1960s and had one-person exhibitions at the Folger Shakespeare Library and National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.
After creating a bust of Georgia O’Keeffe during a visit to New Mexico in 1970, Hanbury decided to move to Santa Fe and stayed in town until her death in 1990. Her bust of O’Keeffe, which according to Waguespack was not liked by O’Keeffe, is in the show.
“I’m the first curator to put this bust on exhibit,” explains Waguespack, who also displayed it in a museum show two years ago.
Among the other sculptors whose work is on exhibit are Patrocinio Barela, Eugenie Shonnard, Fritz Scholder, Michael Naranjo, Bruce Naumann, Raymond Lopez and Luis Tapia.
Be sure to check out the museum’s two sculpture gardens, which Waguespack has incorporated into the show.