This week, Karin Campbell starts her post as the Phil Willson Curator of Contemporary Art at Joslyn Art Museum, the first time someone has held the post since 2004.

Campbell, the first Non-Spanish curator to hold this post, most recently worked as an independent curator for ESPAI 13 in Barcelona showcasing international emerging artists. She spent her graduate work at The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Hudson, New York, known for its research and exhibitions dedicated to practices from the 1960s to present day.

Her curating and programming experience, starting with graduate school to working as Curatorial Assistant for the Contemporary Art Department at Carnegie Museum of Art, makes her a prime candidate for the position at Joslyn where she is looking forward to getting her hands on Joslyn’s collection, working with the various departments and getting to know the local art scene, as well as curating some stellar shows.

“It’s critically important for museum curators to really understand what is happening immediately around them, perhaps particularly contemporary curators since we are tasked with understanding what is happening right now,” Campbell wrote in an email while packing up to move to Omaha.  “Who are the artists and other cultural producers working in the area?  What other arts venues and/or institutions are playing a role in the cultural life of a city. I’m looking forward to becoming integrated in this cadre of leaders, and helping to increase the Joslyn’s presence in the Omaha arts community, as well as on the national stage.”

As far as her immediate plans, she’ll be busy preparing for the Museum’s fall contemporary print exhibition. Then, she’ll focus on exploring Joslyn’s permanent collection to rethink how it can be presented in the galleries. Her specific interests are in art whose work is grounded in the social context and young artists who are getting back to the traditional media of painting.

“I find myself drawn to artistic practices/projects that leave space for the viewer and welcome different points of entry.  I think starting my career in the arts in museum education instilled in me a strong appreciation for what the viewing publics bring to the table…I’m also particularly interested in young artists who paint. It seems there has been a return to this medium recently, which fascinates me.”

Her “all-time favorite artist” whose working methodology and style continues to impact her practice as a curator has ties to the Midwest: Cuban-American Ana Medieta (1948-1985) who attended the University of Iowa for her BFA and the school’s experimental Intermedia Program and Center for New Performing Arts for her MFA.

Medieta’s provocative performance art, sculpture, painting and video work focused on themes including feminism, violence, life, death, place and belonging and the spiritual and physical connection to the earth. Perhaps her most known works were her “Silueta Series,” in performance, film and photography, using her body to create silhouettes in grass, sand and dirt. She also created silhouettes of fire and filmed them burning.

Campbell also counts Ohio-born artist Catherine Opie (documentary photographer), Chicago-born artist Christopher Wool (graphic painter) and Kansas-born Bruce Conner (mixed media) as her favorites, each of them breaking boundaries in their own way. Campbell is excited to get to know the movers-and-shakers in Omaha as well. If her favorite artists give any indication, Campbell will revive Omaha’s connection to contemporary art at Joslyn.

For more information on Joslyn Art Museum visit joslyn.org.


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