Catherine Lord, 42, new chairman of the UC Irvine fine arts department, already has begun to shake up a low-profile corner of campus that hasn't been in the news since the early '70s. This fall, the former dean of the School of Art at Cal Arts in Valencia has revved up the UCI art gallery program with richly personal and political work by Carrie Mae Weems. Lord is particularly interested in the ways race, gender and sexual preference shape the meaning of contemporary art, a concern that carries over into her own teaching as well as the department's selection of visiting and permanent faculty.
"Schools are places where you can have arguments," she says. "You learn by seeing other people argue. . . . Students need to figure out how much they care, and what the price of caring is."
Marilu Knode, 32, came to Newport Harbor Art Museum in 1988 as a National Endowment for the Arts curatorial intern after working as a senior cataloguer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She was promoted to assistant curator the following year and has been on a quiet but steady upward track ever since. Although she is not (yet) the sort of curator who has an instinctive knack for selecting works of uniformly high quality and letting them "talk" to one another in the gallery, her flair for conceptual issues in contemporary art came through clearly in "Mapping Histories: The Third Newport Biennial," which she co-curated with former Newport Harbor associate curator (now Otis/Parsons Gallery director) Anne Ayres.
Simply by virtue of his high-level position, Bruce Guenther, 43, the new senior curator at Newport Harbor Art Museum, is someone to watch on the Orange County art scene. Known mainly for his support of Neo-Expressionist and Northwest artists, Guenther was curator of contemporary art at the Seattle Art Museum from 1979 to 1987, followed by four years as chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The buzz is that Guenther prefers painting to video and conceptual art and disdains "trendy" artists. It remains to be seen whether these tastes will somehow translate into independently conceived, insightful exhibits--or more routine, unadventurous fare that would diminish the museum's high standing in national art circles.