Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 12:30 am | Fog/Mist 53º

 
 
 
 
Advice

A Tribute to Karen Sinsheimer, Santa Barbara Museum of Art Curator of Photography

The museum family is greatly saddened by the passing of the highly esteemed and beloved Karen Sinsheimer, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s curator of photography.

She was first hired as a consultant in July 1990 to organize the exhibition “From Watkins to Weston: 101 Years of California Photography,” in celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary.

Soon after, she became a permanent member of the staff as the first full-time curator of photography, and served in that position for the next 25 years. 

According to Larry J. Feinberg, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz director of the museum: “Through her keen intelligence, determination, and disarming charm, Karen almost single-handedly built the museum’s very important collection of photography and established an exhibition program that has earned the institution much respect and admiration from museums and collectors across the country.

“One could always see much of Karen, herself, in many of the photographs she acquired and the shows she produced. They were, in many cases, psychologically probing or manifested a scientist’s curiosity―and, more often than not, they evinced Karen’s gentle sense of humor.

“She accomplished a great deal and has left an enormous legacy.” 

During her tenure, Ms. Sinsheimer organized more than 120 exhibitions for the museum, many accompanied by a publication, and some that have traveled to national and international venues.

Among her major exhibitions were: Excursions Along the Nile: The Photographic Discovery of Ancient Egypt (1994); Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine (1998); First Seen: Portraits of the World’s Peoples (1840–1880) (2005); Garbo’s Garbos (2005); Made in Santa Barbara: Contemporary Photographs (2007); Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation (2008); Of Life and Loss: The Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky (2008); Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography (2010); and John Divola: As Far As I Could Get (2013). Most recently, she had been organizing the show Looking In, Looking Out: Contemporary Latin American Photography, which is scheduled to open in October of 2015.

In addition, during her time at SBMA, the photograph collection grew extensively to nearly 7,500 works. Ms. Sinsheimer built several areas of particular strength in the photographic collection, notably works from the 19th century, the Americas, and Western Pacific Rim, as well as important photojournalistic and documentary images, and many related to the sciences, especially astronomy, biology, and zoology.

A visionary curator, Ms. Sinsheimer was often a trendsetter, collecting the works of emerging artists and of photographic genres before they became widely recognized.

Thanks in part to significant gifts from collectors Yolanda and Arthur Steinman, Jane and Michael G. Wilson, and Howard Stein, who were impressed by Ms. Sinsheimer’s vast knowledge of and passion for photography, the museum’s collection has attained national stature.

Due to their profound respect for Ms. Sinsheimer and her kind and thoughtful support, hundreds of photographers, as well as art dealers and galleries representing them, have donated their works to the museum over the years.

In 2002, documentary photographer Pirkle Jones donated more than 90 of his prints. In recent weeks, the photographers Melanie Walker and Nancy Webber, among others, gifted their works to the Museum.

In 1998, Ms. Sinsheimer was responsible for helping to found PhotoFutures, the museum’s dynamic curatorial support group that is dedicated to building the SBMA’s photography collection and to promoting community interest in the collecting of photographs.

The group, comprised of some 45 members, has sponsored numerous exhibitions and lectures over the years and, recently, has made plans to establish an annual photography lecture, in honor of longtime member and former museum trustee Lorna Spencer Hedges.

To date, the group has funded 10 exhibitions and the acquisition of over 200 photographs.

Ms. Sinsheimer received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Redlands, and took graduate courses at UC Berkeley.

While married to photographer William Current, she and her husband received NEA and Graham Foundation grants to produce two traveling exhibitions, accompanied by publications, for the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ms. Sinsheimer was a board member of the Joy of Giving Something Foundation, since 2004.

She is survived by her husband, Robert L. Sinsheimer, Ph.D., chancellor emeritus and professor emeritus of molecular biology at UC Santa Cruz.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >