Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art
Welcome to The Hyde, Derin! What would you like our members to know about you?
I’m an art historian, curator, and teacher, with my areas of focus ranging from nineteenth-century French painting through contemporary art. Early in my career, I spent two distinctly superlative years in Paris, where minuscule cups of coffee fueled my dissertation on Napoleonic history painting (critical thinking about Napoleon was very fashionable among academics in the 1990s). But when I moved to New York’s Hudson Valley, I was drawn into the high-energy regional art scene, especially in Woodstock, whose cultural history long predates the legendary three-day concert of 1969. So what began as an academic trajectory studying European painting evolved into a curatorial career in contemporary art, which has a very different dynamic: working on a show concept with a living artist is like building art history from within. I’ve produced shows of both regional emerging artists and established names on the contemporary scene. And I’ll always love teaching art history; I’ve taught nineteenth- and twentieth-century art at Vassar College, Wesleyan University, and SUNY New Paltz.
Beyond the arts, I’ve been a technical rock climber for twenty-five years. I’ve climbed throughout the United States, Italy, France, and the UK, and did a three-week trek in Nepal’s Annapurna range. Being a “climbing art historian” scored me a dream workation high above the Grand Canal, constructing one of Mike and Doug Starn’s towering Big Bambú installations for the Venice Biennale. The Adirondacks are a magnet for climbers and Glens Falls is surrounded by destination climbing areas; I feel so privileged to be able to call this beautiful region home, and to work with the important modern collections at The Hyde.
What attracted you to serving The Hyde Collection as the first ever curator of modern and contemporary art?
I have always loved The Hyde for its place within the tradition of house museums like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—places where visitors experience not just great works of art, but also the domestic lives, tastes, and spirit of the devoted collectors who amassed those artworks. The recent Feibes & Schmitt gift includes major names like Jean Arp, Ellsworth Kelly, Grace Hartigan, and Sol LeWitt—an enormous feather in the Museum’s cap. Combined with the Murray and Sills Collections, this gift places The Hyde at the forefront of regional modern collections and that, for any curator, is a serious enticement. Being at the dawn of interpreting a new acquisition, and how that acquisition shapes the future growth of the Museum, is a really exciting opportunity for me.
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection? If so, why is it your favorite?
Right now, Sam Gilliam’s Asking (1972) is on my mind—though an official “favorite piece” will have to wait until I’ve developed a deeper knowledge of the collection, and will be apt to change from month to month! When Gilliam died this past summer, we lost a monumental innovator and mentor to so many artists. He is best known for his color-drenched, draped canvases suspended from ceilings or hooks rather than hung flat on a wall—these amounted to a radical fusion of painting and sculpture. His identity as an African American whose artistic career took hold during the Civil Rights movement speaks so much to the powerful impact artists of color have had on the history of art. Though Asking is more traditional in its stretched format, it shows Gilliam for the masterful colorist and improviser that he was, with such an evocative exploration of the canvas as a fabric surface. In the year Asking was painted, 1972, Gilliam was chosen to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale—the first African American artist to receive this distinction.