Distinguished Women of BAMPFA: Celebrating 150 Years of Women at UC Berkeley

Photos of distinguished women of BAMPFA

Jacquelynn Baas
Museum Director, Curator, and Writer

Jacquelynn Baas was the first woman to serve as director of BAMPFA. She held that position from 1988 to 1999 and later served as interim director, from 2007 to 2008. Under her leadership, BAMPFA secured several significant federal grants and forged strong relationships with University departments; for instance, Baas taught a History of Art Department seminar on research and presentation of works of art. As a scholar, Baas is recognized as an expert on Asian philosophies and practices within modern art.

Jacquelynn Baas

Baas organized over thirty exhibitions for BAMPFA, including Berkeley Eye: Perspectives on the Collection (as adjunct curator, 2016–17), Transformation: The Art of Joan Brown (with the Oakland Museum of California, 1998–99), Sam Francis: 1994 Distinguished Alumnus Award Exhibition (1994), A Profile of the Seventeenth Century: Prints from Van Dyck's Iconography (1991), and The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty (1990).

Before coming to Berkeley, Baas served as assistant director at the University of Michigan Museum of Art and as chief curator and then director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, where she oversaw construction of a new museum designed by Charles W. Moore that opened in fall 1985.

Baas retired from BAMPFA in 1999 to devote herself to writing and consulting. From 1999 to 2005 she directed the arts consortium Awake: Art, Buddhism, and the Dimensions of Consciousness. She has also organized numerous notable exhibitions, including No Boundary: Duchamp, Cage, and Especially Fluxus (Gwangju Biennale, 2006) and Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life (Hood Museum, 2010-11), which received the International Art Critics Award for Excellence for Best Show in a University Gallery.

Her publications include the groundbreaking Marcel Duchamp and the Art of Life (MIT Press, 2019), Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life (University of Chicago Press, 2011), Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today (UC Press, 2005), and Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art (co-edited with Mary Jane Jacob, UC Press, 2004), as well as numerous exhibition catalogues and journal articles. Named director emerita in 1999, Baas is currently adjunct curator at BAMPFA.

Lucinda Barnes
Curator and Expert on Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann

BAMPFA curator emerita Lucinda Barnes, who joined the curatorial staff in 2001 and served as chief curator and director of programs and collections from 2004 to 2016, is one of the preeminent experts on the Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann. It was Hofmann's gift of forty-five of his iconic paintings to UC Berkeley that was the impetus for building an art museum on campus. Barnes has curated several acclaimed exhibitions of Hofmann's work, including most recently Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction (2019) at BAMPFA and Creation in Form and Color: Hans Hofmann (2016) at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany, and has written extensively on the artist.

portrait of Lucinda Barnes
Lucinda Barnes, photo: Sara Sackner

At BAMPFA, Barnes was valued for her steady leadership and vision. She supervised the full curatorial division—art, film, collections, and libraries—and led major collection, development, management, and conservation initiatives. She was also central to facilitating the growth of BAMPFA’s encyclopedic holdings of artworks and films. In 2015–16 Barnes oversaw the monumental task of moving BAMPFA’s collections and study centers from the Bancroft Way building to the current building on Center Street in downtown Berkeley.

Known for her expertise in modern and contemporary art and in the history of American art, Barnes curated or co-curated more than forty exhibitions at BAMPFA, including American Wonder: Folk Art from the Collection (2014), Rudolf de Crignis / MATRIX 245 (2013), Indeterminate Stillness: Looking at Whistler (2010), Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet (2009), Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection (2008), Joan Jonas: the Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things (2007), and Measure of Time (2006). Barnes also directed numerous major exhibitions that traveled to Berkeley, such as Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage (2011), James Castle: A Retrospective (2010), What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect (2010), and Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens (2005).

Prior to coming to Berkeley, Barnes was executive director of the Boise Art Museum, Idaho. She also served as curator of collections at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, and held senior curatorial posts at the Newport Harbor Art Museum (now the Orange County Museum of Art) and the University Art Museum, California State University Long Beach.

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Influential, Genre-Defying Artist and Writer

During her brief yet brilliant career, interdisciplinary artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951–1982) forged a distinctive body of work characterized by its meditative, unforgettable beauty, its innovative treatment of texts and images, and its ongoing, rigorous exploration of physical, cultural, and linguistic displacement.

portrait of Therea Hak Kyung Cha
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, photo: James Cha

Cha is closely associated with UC Berkeley, from which she received multiple degrees—a BA in comparative literature and a BA, MA, and MFA in art—and with BAMPFA, where she briefly worked while she was a student at Cal. The Cha family donated Cha's archive to the museum, which led to the founding of the Steven Leiber Conceptual Art Study Center; today, research requests to access the Cha archive outnumber by three-to-one all other requests combined. BAMPFA has organized numerous exhibitions of Cha's work, including a major retrospective, The Dream of the Audience: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951–1982), which traveled to seven cities, including Seoul, Korea; a 1990 MATRIX show; and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: Avant Dictee (2018). BAMPFA is honored to administer the annual Theresa Hak Kyung Cha Fellowship, which is awarded each year to three UC Berkeley students.

Much of her work as an artist stems from Cha's Korean American identity—born in Pusan, Korea, Cha emigrated to the United States with her family when she was twelve years old. Language became a focal point around which Cha came to articulate her experience of displacement. In her best-known work, the landmark prose/poem Dictee (Tanam Press, 1982), Cha specifically links her experience of exile, and its effects on her struggle to remember and to speak, with both Japan's attempted abolition of the Korean language and with the predicament of the female subject silenced by a patriarchal culture. Today Dictee is widely studied across the U.S. in courses on avant-garde writing, feminist literature, and Asian American literature.

Dictee's densely layered structure echoes the form of Cha's earlier video works, which include Mouth to Mouth, Vidéoème, and Re Dis Appearing; a 16mm film adapted to video, Permutations; the three-channel video Passages/Paysages; and the film/video installation EXILÉE.

In 1976 Cha studied at the Centre d'Etudes Americaine du Cinema in Paris. She moved to New York in 1980, where she taught video art at Elizabeth Seton College in Yonkers. From 1980 until her death in 1982, she was an editor and writer at Tanam Press in New York.

Cha's innovative work—much of which was created during her time as a student at Berkeley—continues to inspire writers, scholars, artists, and students in this country and around the world.

Edith R. Kramer
Curator and Champion of Avant-Garde Film and Film Preservation

A distinguished film curator and respected voice in the world of film archivists, Edith R. Kramer served as director and senior film curator of the Pacific Film Archive (PFA) from 1983 to 2005 and has been associated with BAMPFA since 1975, when she joined the staff as assistant film curator.

Edith R. Kramer

Kramer is known for her long commitment to film and arts education—as a nonprofit distributor at Canyon Cinema, where she was instrumental in the founding of San Francisco Cinematheque; as a film curator at SFMOMA; as a teacher at the University of Oregon, UC Davis, and the San Francisco Art Institute—but it is her long tenure at BAMPFA that represents her closest and deepest connection with the international community of film archives.

Kramer oversaw the expansion of the BAMPFA film collection and many important film preservation projects, and she encouraged the growth of the Film Library and Study Center, a vital resource for scholars and researchers. In 1989 she led BAMPFA's successful bid to be accepted as an associate member archive of FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives) and later its successful advancement to full member status.

Throughout her career, Kramer advocated for avant-garde cinema and living artists working in the medium of film. She has insisted on the importance of collecting, preserving, and screening their creations, and has labored to bring them a measure of well-deserved attention and respect. In her retirement, she has participated in various curatorial projects and acted as an advisor to film institutions such as BAMPFA, the George Eastman Museum, the Stanford Theatre, the Telluride Film Festival, and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

One of Kramer’s most significant contributions to the field has been her role as a mentor to generations of curators, archivists, film critics, historians, musicians for silent film, and graduate students. At Berkeley, one of her ongoing concerns was to contribute to film education on campus by aligning BAMPFA's public programming with academic courses. In 2003 the University of California, Berkeley, awarded Kramer The Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award. In 2018, at the Prague Congress, Kramer was voted in as an honorary member of FIAF. The recognition of Kramer’s extraordinary work in the arena of the world's film archives is a sign of how highly she is regarded by her international peer group.

Constance M. Lewallen
Curator and Authority on Conceptual Art

Constance M. Lewallen is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts in the art of the 1960s and 1970s, especially West Coast Conceptualism, and has spent her career championing Bay Area artists in particular. She first came to BAMPFA in 1980 as associate curator of the MATRIX program and later returned to serve as senior curator from 1998 through 2007.

portrait of Constance Lewallen
Constance M. Lewallen, photo: Nathaniel Dorsky

Among the many groundbreaking exhibitions she organized at BAMPFA are State of Mind: New California Art ca. 1970 (as adjunct curator, with Karen Moss, 2011), A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s (2007), Ant Farm 1968-1978 (with Steve Seid, 2004), Everything Matters: Paul Kos, a Retrospective (2003), Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951–1982) (2001), and Joe Brainard, A Retrospective (2001), all of which toured nationally or internationally and were accompanied by catalogues. Lewallen also curated Jay DeFeo: Selected Works 1952 to 1989 for the Goldie Paley Gallery at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, which received the 1997 AICA Award for Best Show in a Nonprofit Space.

As MATRIX curator, Lewallen organized nearly eighty exhibitions at a pace of twelve per year, showcasing local artists such as Robert Bechtle, Elmer Bischoff, Bruce Conner, Bill Fontana, Howard Fried, Rupert Garcia, Doug Hall, Jess, Paul Kos, and Tom Marioni, and bringing the work of important national and international artists to the Bay Area, many for the first time, including John Baldessari, Jean Michel Basquiat, Brian Eno, Hamish Fulton, Nan Goldin, Eva Hesse, Barbara Kruger, Alice Neel, Martin Puryear, and Nancy Spero.

Before coming to BAMPFA, Lewallen was cofounder and director of Foundation for Art Resources (FAR), Los Angeles, and she later served as coordinator for the Bay Area Consortium for the Visual Arts, project director of Capp Street Project: Art in the Urban Landscape, and associate director of Crown Point Press in San Francisco.

Since leaving BAMPFA, Lewallen has continued to curate exhibitions focusing on California artists and the history of Conceptualism, most recently Stephen Kaltenbach The Beginning and the End (with Ted Mann) at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, UC Davis (2020), Terry Fox: Resonance (with Dena Beard) at multiple venues across San Francisco (2019), and Nothing to Sell: The Reese Palley Gallery (with Jordan Stein) at Cushion Works in San Francisco (2019). Lewallen is the author of Bruce Nauman: Spatial Encounters (with Dore Bowen, UC Press, 2019) and 500 Capp Street: David Ireland’s House (UC Press, 2015). She currently serves as adjunct curator at BAMPFA and editor at large for The Brooklyn Rail.

Rosie Lee Tompkins
Celebrated Textile Artist

Rosie Lee Tompkins (1936–2006) is widely considered to be among the most accomplished and inventive American quiltmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Her renown has grown to the point that her work is no longer considered solely within the context of quilt-making but is celebrated as one of the great American artistic achievements of our time. When Oakland-based collector Eli Leon made a historic bequest of nearly 3,000 quilts by African American artists to BAMPFA in 2019, the museum became the largest public repository of Tompkins’s art in the world. Approximately four hundred quilts, pieced tops, embroideries, wall hangings, and decorated objects form the trove of her work now available to the campus community for study and celebration.

Rosie Lee Tompkins

Rosie Lee Tompkins—a pseudonym adopted by Effie Mae Howard—was born in 1936 and grew up as one of fifteen half siblings in Gould, Arkansas. With limited educational opportunities, a declining agricultural economy (her family worked as sharecroppers), and faced with daily oppressions of the Jim Crow South, Tompkins summoned the determination to leave Arkansas. By 1958, she arrived in California’s East Bay and settled in Richmond, California, where she would remain for the remainder of her life. She worked as a practical nurse while raising five children and stepchildren; along the way, she recultivated her quilting practice, an art form she learned from her mother in her youth.

Tompkins believed that her artistry was a gift from God, and she often made quilts directed toward her own healing and spiritual life, as well as to honor members of her family. Often, her piecing employs traditional quilting methods inflected with innovative color combinations and improvisational patterning. At times, her works touch on contemporary, even political, themes—offering commercial textiles and clothing as source materials for investigations of social belonging, not unlike Pop artists’ turn to mass imagery. The quilts often reveal Tompkins's wry and subtle sense of humor, expressed through uncanny juxtapositions of imagery, embroidered witticisms, and a playful and irreverent use of material and color.

In 2020–21 BAMPFA organized Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective, the largest exhibition of her art to date, and offered audiences a more comprehensive look at the artist’s varied body of work. Future study and exhibition will reveal more about Tompkins's position an exceptional artist of the African diaspora, upending hierarchies of art, gender, and race.

Trinh T. Minh-ha
Pioneering Filmmaker and Theorist

Few artists or thinkers have created bodies of work as challenging, intellectually stimulating, or conceptually rich as Trinh T. Minh-ha, the renowned filmmaker, composer, and theorist. With an artistic practice that spans nearly four decades, she has made extensive and influential contributions to the fields of postcolonial and feminist studies. Trinh has taught at Harvard; Smith; Cornell; the National Conservatory of Music in Dakar, Senegal; Ochanomizu University in Tokyo; and Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. She retired in 2020 from UC Berkeley, where she was professor of gender and women's studies and of rhetoric.

Trinh T. Minh-ha

BAMPFA has a long history of presenting Trinh's films. Her works are part of the BAMPFA collection, where our film archivists have preserved two of Trinh's early 16mm films, Reassemblage (1982) and Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989). Trinh has produced eight films: the two aforementioned titles as well as Naked Spaces—Living is Round (1985), Shoot for the Contents (1991), A Tale of Love (1995), The Fourth Dimension (2001), Night Passage (2004), and Forgetting Vietnam (2015), which is both a reflection on Vietnam’s geography, history, legends, and myths and serves as an archeology of changing visual technologies. Her creative output also includes four large-scale multimedia installations—exhibited in San Francisco, Paris, Kyoto, Okinawa, and Guangzhou, China—and twelve books. She is now at work on a new feature-length film, What About China?

Trinh describes her films as “boundary events.” They challenge and blend traditional forms of documentary, experimental, and narrative filmmaking in a manner that defies and denies categorization. Her films engage deeply with themes of memory, conflict, culture, and women’s experiences and with issues of representation and documentation. Her aesthetic approach taps into the rich realms of affect, and is poetic and layered.

Trinh has been honored in over sixty retrospectives internationally including at Anthology Film Archives in New York, NTU Center for Contemporary Arts in Singapore, Caixa Cultural in Rio de Janeiro, and Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. She has received the American Film Institute's prestigious National Independent Filmmaker Maya Deren Award, Zagreb Subversive Festival’s Wild Dreamer Lifetime Achievement Award, and Cannes MIPDOC’s Trailblazers Award, as well as fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Film Institute, and The Japan Foundation.