Glenn, Constance W. (Constance White)
Active in Long Beach, Calif.
Sound recordings: 2 sound cassettes (120 min.) : analog.
Transcript: 43 p.
Collection Summary: An interview of Constance Glenn conducted at the artist's office in Long Beach, Calif., 1990 Mar. 16, by Ruth Gurin Bowman, for the Archives of American Art, Women in the Arts in Southern California Oral History Project.
Biographical/Historical Note: Constance Glenn (1933- ) is a museum director from Long Beach, Calif.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators. Funding for this interview was provided by the Margery and Harry Kahn Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Communal Fund of New York.
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
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- Transcript available on the Archives of American Art's website.
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Also in the Archives
This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Constance Glenn, 1990 Mar. 16, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Interview with Connie Glenn
Conducted by Ruth Bowman
At the Artist's office in Long Beach, California
March 16, 1990
The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Connie Glenn on March 16, 1990. The interview took place in Long Beach, California , and was conducted by Ruth Bowman for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Tape 1, side A [30-minute tape sides]
RUTH BOWMAN: Today is Friday, March 16, 1990, and I am in the office at Cal State Long Beach of Connie Glenn, who is the director of the art gallery here and wears a number of other hats which she is going to tell us about in the course of this interview. This is an interview for the Archives of American Art, and Connie, as I have found out over the past sixteen years, has made an enormous impact on the history of American art by being a pioneer, by being, what would I say, an "original." Connie, when did your career in American art start-or your career in art? I shouldn't limit it to American.
CONNIE GLENN: Well, my background in art dates back to early education. I was
interested in art from the time I was in grade school. Career? You mean employment?
RUTH BOWMAN: I mean, what provoked your involvement? When did you notice that
art was going to be your career?
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, I probably was five or six.
RUTH BOWMAN: And you were in Kansas?
CONNIE GLENN: Yes. Well, at that time I thought I wanted to be an artist, and
I was an only child and I spent all my time drawing and reading and doing things
that were related to art, and I didn't know at that time that I didn't have
the wherewithal to be an artist. I presumed that [if] one studied drawing, one
became an artist. [laughing] And I went probably all through grade school and
high school thinking I was going to be an artist of some sort-or an architect.
I was very interested in architecture. I studied architecture and received a
BFA in Interior Design from the University of Kansas.
RUTH BOWMAN: In Lawrence?
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. And went to work immediately as a designer.
RUTH BOWMAN: In Kansas City?
CONNIE GLENN: Um hmm.
CONNIE GLENN: And got married at the same time, and went to Wichita Falls,
Texas, with Jack [Glenn-Ed.], when he was sent there as part of his college
commitment to the military, and then worked as a designer. And I also taught
design and had a freelance design business that basically provided design consultancies
to architects, color consultancies to architects.
RUTH BOWMAN: This was in the late fifties, early sixties?
CONNIE GLENN: This was 1955. And, let's see, I worked as a designer in Wichita
Falls the whole time that Jack was stationed there in the Air Force, and. .
. . [I] had had quite a bit of art history as a part of this original college
degree and, like all young marrieds, you know, we hung Picasso reproductions
on the walls and so forth, and I didn't really have much knowledge about what
collecting art meant.
RUTH BOWMAN: You had two museums, at least, though. You had the University
Museum. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: I didn't grow up with the museum.
RUTH BOWMAN: Oh, you didn't?
CONNIE GLENN: No, not in Topeka, Kansas.
RUTH BOWMAN: Uh huh.
CONNIE GLENN: Jack did grow up with the museum. And the museum at the university
at the time we were in college was. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: Was in a house.
CONNIE GLENN: Well, it was in an historic building. And it was a very traditional
affair with icons and artifacts and so forth so. So there wasn't a great involvement.
. . . Oh, I was in it, in that museum when I was in college, because I attended
classes that were held in the basement of it, but it wasn't, you know, anything
I was greatly involved in.
But Jack did grow up with the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, which is a very major museum, and he was taken there as a child and, you know, had child art classes there and all that stuff, so he had involvement with a museum much earlier than I did.
We were sent to Europe as a part of his military assignment. We were sent to live for brief periods in Wiesbaden, Germany, Tripoli, Libya, and London, for an assignment at base, military base, in a place called South [Riceliff, Reisliff], England. And when we were in Wiesbaden, we were sort of six hours' driving distance from all the major capitals in Europe and Jack taught classes in a time fashion that gave him long weekends because he taught a six o'clock Friday morning class, and when that six o'clock in the morning class was over, we were free until six o'clock on Monday morning. And we spent a lot of time in Paris. And out of a mutual interest in works of art, bought the first two works of art that we ever purchased-real works of art-from John Berggruen's father, Heinz Bergruen. We bought two Braque prints for forty-six dollars and fifty cents. Our annual monthly military salary at that time was three hundred dollars a month. [laughs] Although we were much better off in Europe because Jack was getting per diem pay. and I was along free as a wife so were spendthrift on three hundred dollars a month at that time. We had one child, who was at home with my mother and his mother. So we didn't have any expenses, and we were in Paris with what we thought was a munificent salary so we began buying art.
RUTH BOWMAN: Did you meet artists in Paris?
CONNIE GLENN: No, no, no.
RUTH BOWMAN: No, nothing like that.
CONNIE GLENN: My art history education ended with Picasso, in spite of the
fact that this was 1955 and the Abstract Expressionists were already very well
established in New York. It, art history was taught in such a way at that time
that it really didn't deal in any significant way with contemporary art at all.
It wasn't even an issue. And because my art history education had ended with
the School of Paris, that's all I knew to look at when I went to Paris. So.
. . .
RUTH BOWMAN: It wasn't so bad.
CONNIE GLENN: So we bought School of Paris prints. Jack was mustered out of
the military, and we went back to Kansas City where he was in his father's business,
and had another baby and I decided to. . . . I also worked as a freelance designer
in Kansas City again, and by then we had two little girls and I decided to go
back to the University of Kansas and get a graduate degree in art history. It
was perfectly clear to me that the design work wasn't satisfying, and I obviously
was not going to be an artist. [chuckles] And yet I needed involvement in the
arts and the answer seemed to be to go back to graduate school. And I applied
for and was accepted into the graduate art history program with the University
of Kansas, which I attended for about three weeks when I discovered that putting
my babies in nursery school and scheduling morning-they would only take them
in the morning-and I scheduled morning classes and if it snowed or rained, I
couldn't get back from Lawrence to Kansas City in time. . . . [laughs]
RUTH BOWMAN: That's a long haul.
CONNIE GLENN: . . . in time to pick the babies up at the nursery school before
the teachers had a stroke, and if one of my professors wanted to talk to me
after class, I had to say, "I'm sorry I have to go pick up my children."
And it. . . . Well, it only was really complicated in bad weather, but unfortunately
this was mid-winter in Kansas and it always snowed at the worst possible time,
and so I thought, "Well, this isn't going to work at all." And I decided
to wait until both kids were in kindergarten and I could attend a full day of,
or more of a full day of classes. So I waited till I think it was like nineteen
sixty. . . . Actually, I guess I didn't wait until they were. . . . I waited
until Caroline was three and Laurie was in kindergarten, and then I tried it
again --But this time I enrolled in the graduate art history program at the
University of Missouri in Kansas City, which was somewhat more convenient to
my house, being about eight blocks away. Which I loved. And I went to school
part time in that graduate program from about 1963 or '4 probably-I don't know;
I'd have to look it up-till I left Kansas City in 1969. I had at that time completed
the requirements for the graduate degree in art history, with the exception
of thesis and language requirement.
In the interim, we had moved across the street-roughly across the street, around the corner-from the Nelson Gallery and become very involved in the Nelson Gallery. And Jack was president of the younger group of the Friends of Art at the Nelson Gallery, and I was giving regular tours of the gallery. As a graduate student, I undertook a lot of projects at the gallery. I founded the first "off-premises" space in the Midwest, which was a small space that I talked the Nelson Gallery into funding in the J. C. Nichols shopping center known as the Country Club Plaza, and it was an empty space adjacent to a restaurant in the Country Club Plaza, and I went to the basement of the Nelson Gallery and assembled exhibitions from varieties of materials in the basement that no one cared about. [laughs]
RUTH BOWMAN: Who was the director [of the Nelson Gallery] at that time?
CONNIE GLENN: Larry Sickman.
RUTH BOWMAN: Larry Sickman?
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. A wonderful man. But my mentor and-because Larry wasn't
interested in contemporary art-my mentor and friend was Ted Coe, who was the
I also cataloged the Nelson Gallery's collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century American landscape paintings that had been in the basement for years, and, you know, it was a period when American painting was very unfashionable and about the only time anybody got them out and looked at them was when Hallmark Cards wanted to use a Grandma Moses on a Christmas Card. So as one graduate project, I cataloged and reattributed a number of those paintings.
And as another graduate student project, I did this off-premises gallery, with exhibitions of French nineteenth century academic sculpture which everybody thought was pretty bizarre, because I was showing things like [Antonio] Canovas, and [Dahlas] and so forth that no one had ever seen, let alone had any interest in. I thought they were kind of wonderful. I like French nineteenth century academic sculpture. I loved and. . . . To this day, I've always loved delving in things that are out of fashion and finding out why, perhaps discovering a new interest in things that are out of fashion. And I suppose that was partly why I was interested in the nineteenth century American landscapes and certainly why I was interested in the academic sculpture. The off-premises gallery didn't last too long. [laughing] I think we did three or four shows, and it became way too much of a nuisance in terms of transporting things.
RUTH BOWMAN: Staff time.
CONNIE GLENN: Yes. And it was also a fair amount of nuisance for me. I mean
it was just a plain lot of work.
RUTH BOWMAN: You weren't being paid. This was really graduate work.
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, no, this was graduate work.
We were buying odds and ends of works of art at the time, too. This was. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: Where?
CONNIE GLENN: From the Sales and Rental Gallery in the Nelson Gallery. We bought
things like a Walt Kuhn drawing. I had done a lot of research on the Armory
Show, and I had had long talks with Ted Coe about the Armory Show because Ted's
father, who was a trustee of the Cleveland Museum, [he, who] purchased from
the Armory Show, and there were works in their home that had come from the Armory
Show. And I supposed we purchased the Kuhn drawing as a result of my interest
in the Armory Show.
There was a saying in the. . . . The Sales and Rental Gallery in the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City was run by a couple of really wonderful people, who had both great knowledge and very fine taste, and the works of art that were brought there for potential purchase were quite unusual. And they did exhibitions from which you could purchase, and they did theme exhibitions. It was really a very unusual. . . .
You know, when you say Sales and Rental Gallery, it conjures up sort of Junior League ladies in proper shoes and proper length skirts gathering together properly attractive works of art that might be purchased by people who are not altogether that serious. This was a very serious operation by people who possessed very serious connoisseurship in Oriental art, in contemporary art and in American art. Three women who gave their time to the museum over the largest portion of their lives. They were really quite remarkable women. So, when there were shows-theme shows and special shows-in the Sales and Rental Gallery we would always go and often buy things. And this was about 1960, and the story went at that time if you spent over a hundred dollars on a work of art, you had a serious enough interest to begin to develop your skills and your acumen as collectors. And the Walt Kuhn drawing was over a hundred dollars. [laughs] And Ted Coe suggested at the time that we might look seriously at other kinds of works of art. At the same time, a gal named Susan Buckwalter settled in Kansas City. I think she was born and raised on the East Coast. I know that she grew up in the Lake George area not far from where [Jackson] Pollack was.
RUTH BOWMAN: You mean she . . . and David Smith?
CONNIE GLENN: In Lake George, New York. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: David Smith?
CONNIE GLENN: And Pollack.
RUTH BOWMAN: Oh really. Pollack was up there, too?
CONNIE GLENN: Apparently. If he didn't live there at least. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: She knew him.
CONNIE GLENN: . . . she knew him. She'd gone to school at a women's college
outside of St. Louis, and she married a Kansas [Citian, Cityan], which I presume
is how she ended up in Kansas City. She was the most vital, most wonderful,
one of the most special people I ever knew. She brought a very kind of New York
knowledge of current art to Kansas City, and she brought an absolutely indomitable
enthusiasm that was either the envy or the terror of a lot of people in Kansas
City depending on their attitude toward the arts.
I remember when she wanted the Nelson Gallery to buy a [Mark] Rothko through their Friends of Art purchase plan. She knew that at that time Rothko would be so controversial in Kansas City that if they were given any other choice they wouldn't buy one, so she brought out only three Rothkos to choose from. And the Nelson Gallery bought a Rothko. Sue suggested that she had friends involved in contemporary art that we might want to meet and learn from, and she also, in the course of this-and I don't know how long she'd been in Kansas City-but in the course of meeting her and getting acquainted with her and hearing about her interest in contemporary art, she prepared a small exhibition for this Sales and Rental Gallery that I was telling you about. And had the works brought out from New York and hung on the walls in the Sales and Rental Gallery, and Ted Coe wrote a small catalog for the exhibition. In other words, I'm still indicating that this gallery was treated very seriously. A catalog was published, and the show was one of the first six Pop Art exhibitions in America in museums. The first six Pop Art exhibitions took place between late fall/early winter 1962 and June 1963, and they were in museums spread throughout the country. And it was, I suppose, just sheer fate that one of them was in Kansas City, that it was done by Sue Buckwalter.
Unlike most people, particularly some of the most prominent critics who found Pop Art despicable and highly offensive, we loved it at first site. [laughs] I don't know why. Maybe because we didn't have any preconceived notions about what could or could not be the proper subject matter of art, maybe because it was simply the right time in our lives; I don't have any idea.
But the exhibition contained the earliest works by [Roy] Lichtenstein, [Andy.] Warhol, [Tom-] Wesselman, [James] Rosenquist, [Claes] Oldenburg, so forth, [James] Thiebaud. The exhibition lasted . . . some normal period of time, I don't know, six weeks or whatever, and Jack and I looked at it and looked at it and looked at it, and we sitting in our little house in Mission Hills, Kansas, with Walt Kuhn drawings and reproductions on our wall. And I remember really vividly, like the next to the last day of the exhibition, like it was a Friday or Saturday and the exhibition ended on Sunday, and like all good mid-Westerners, Jack was out mowing his lawn, and I remember going outside over the noisy lawnmower and saying to Jack that I thought we really better buy the big Warhol before it left town, because it was going to be much too large to have shipped back after it was gone. It was. . . . I think it was seventy-two inches square, which doesn't sound so big anymore but in the days of small drawings it was quite large. It might have been bigger than that. It was somewhere between seventy-two and eighty inches square.
RUTH BOWMAN: What was the subject.
CONNIE GLENN: It was the quite well known painting of Merce Cunningham dancing,
holding a chair on his back, repeated images. It's in the Warhol retrospective.
And it was twelve hundred dollars. So we went to the Nelson Gallery, and arranged
to buy it, and I suppose we probably paid for it on time. Virtually everything
we bought in those days, we sort of paid for a hundred dollars a month.
I remember bringing it home and hanging it on the dining room wall in the house we lived in, and people who valued the picture said, "Aren't you afraid your children will do something to it?" And I said, "Well of course not. Our children have not damaged things at our house." [chuckling] And people who didn't know what it was or had never encountered Pop Art before, which certainly included our relatives, were actually quite appalled by it. The classic was, I think, Jack's father's first confrontation with it where he came through the front door and stepped into the entrance hall and looked into the dining room and said, "Tar paper. I didn't know you were remodeling." And it was a very large, very black painting.
About the same time, Sue Buckwalter, who had curated this exhibition, said, "I have a friend coming through Kansas City that I want you to meet. And he's driving a van and he'll be coming to a motel close to downtown and he'll bring the van to the motel and we'll go down to the motel and meet him." So we did. The van was full of paintings that this person, yet unknown to us, was driving across country and stopping in various cities and showing people these paintings. The paintings were by Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, and Larry Rivers, and a variety of other artists. He had some small things too. He had a de Kooning.
The person driving the van turned out to be John Weber, who was at that time director of the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles. And John and Virginia Dwan, I suppose, had some sort of falling out, or something. I don't know what was going on, but at any rate something prompted John to set out on a cross-country trip with a whole van full of Pop Art paintings that he was showing to people in various cities across the country, and I guess he had been in Texas probably before.
RUTH BOWMAN: This is the Dwan Gallery in Westwood and. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: 10846 Lindbrook Drive in Westwood.
RUTH BOWMAN: 10846. [chuckles] Which then became other things.
CONNIE GLENN: Which was the Dwan Gallery, yeah.
RUTH BOWMAN: And then he. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Which became Flacks and. . . . You know the building; it's still
RUTH BOWMAN: Right. Virginia was then also living in New York at the. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: I don't know where. I never met Virginia. Our dealings with the
Dwan Gallery were all with John.
RUTH BOWMAN: Uh huh.
CONNIE GLENN: We looked at all the stuff that John unpacked from the van in
this strange motel. It looked a lot like a Motel 6 or something. [laughing]
And Jack told John that we thought we'd like to buy something from the things
that he was carrying in the van and, you know, could be pay on time and so forth.
And John said, "Well, what do you want to buy?" and Jack told him
that we wanted to buy a small and very beautiful de Kooning that he had and
John said, "No." And Jack said, "Well, why?" and he said,
"Because, you're young and you don't have a lot of money and you can't
possibly build a collection around the de Kooning drawing and you should be
buying artists of your own generation. You have the eye to support them and
you maybe will have the funds to support them, and you certainly won't be able
to have the funds to build an Abstract Expressionist collection of any distinction
RUTH BOWMAN: And this was in the year nineteen-sixty. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: This was about '63.
RUTH BOWMAN: Uh huh.
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. And so Jack said, "No." I mean, John Weber said,
"No. I won't sell you the de Kooning drawing." So we thought it over,
thought John's comments over at some length, and finally decided instead to
buy one of the very large Larry Rivers Confederate soldiers painting that, paintings
that he had with him in the truck. It was a really wonderful painting. By then
John was back in California, and Jack wrote to John and said we had decided
to buy the big Larry Rivers and could we pay for it on time? And John apparently
must have referred the request to purchase to Virginia, because Jack got a letter
from Virginia Dwan saying thank you very much for our offer to purchase the
painting, but she owed it to her artists to see that they were represented in
the larger and more important collections, in larger and more important cities
across the country. Which steamed Jack greatly! And he wrote her back a letter
saying, "Well, lots of luck in the sixteen bigger cities in America."
And we did, in fact, continue to do business with John, but never did any business with Virginia. And did purchase other paintings ultimately from the Dwan Gallery, but only through John. And not having been in Westwood at that time and not having seen the Dwan Gallery in the flesh, it was all, you know, pretty romantic to us. I mean John kept turning up all these wonderful things from which we might choose.
And of course, at the same time, we began going to New York and seeing the works in New York and meeting the artists. And the first person we obviously met in New York, quite normally, was Ivan Karp, and Ivan became a very close friend. And through Ivan, we met all of the artists, and many of the artists became very close friends.
We were probably not collectors who could have been uninvolved with the artists. It just wasn't our style. And our collection was probably the youngest prominent Pop Art collection in the country. There were a handful, less than a dozen people in America, collecting Pop Art at that time, most of them old enough to be our parents. And I would guess, I'm not aware of any other collection that was significant that was a young collection. Brooke and Dennis Hopper were buying at the time. And it's my impression that their collection probably was significant. So that's the only other, you know, sort of young collection that I can think of. The rest were, you know, Emily Tremaine. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: Now, did these artists. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: . . . Abrams-Mr. Abrams, Sr.
RUTH BOWMAN: Harry Abrams, yes.
CONNIE GLENN: Harry Abrams, Sr.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah. And did you include Jasper Johns or Rauschenberg in this?
CONNIE GLENN: No, we. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: No?
CONNIE GLENN: Hmmm. Johns and Rauschenberg were already in 1963 too expensive
for us. When we would go to Castelli Gallery, we would look, and occasionally
we were shown Johns or Rauschenberg, and it was perfectly clear that Leo [Castelli]
was sort of dealing with his customers and handling Johns and Rauschenberg and
so forth, and that Ivan [Karp.] was dealing with the younger customers and perhaps
the less, in some ways, the less expensive purchases or not the big spenders,
and we certainly weren't big spenders.
But occasionally we were shown works by Johns and Rauschenberg. We were shown the great Rauschenberg with the Titian image and would have loved to have had it.
RUTH BOWMAN: Umm.
CONNIE GLENN: But they were well beyond. . . . I mean, we were buying works of art in the, you know, like twelve-hundred-dollar range. And those things were in the multi-thousands, even at that time, four and five thousand. The most expensive work we bought in the Pop Art collecting period was a Lichtenstein, Femme del Joie, which had been offered to the museum in St. Louis because they. . . . It was after Picasso, after Delacroix, and they owned one of the works which it was after. I can't remember which one. And when it was turned down by the museum in St. Louis, we bought it, and to this day Jack and I can't agree on how much we paid for it. I say we paid four thousand dollars for it, and he says we paid six-over what was to have been at least probably a four-year period of payments. Probably a hundred dollars a month. I mean, at that point in time, we were paying Castelli Gallery a hundred dollars a month on I don't know how many things.
Tape 1, Side B
RUTH BOWMAN: So the Femme del Joie by Lichtenstein was being paid off over
CONNIE GLENN: At least. We never had it in the house. Oh, with the exception
of a couple of months. It was traveling in an exhibition of American painting
throughout Asia and Europe. And I suppose during the time that we owned it,
we had it in the house less than six months, unfortunately.
RUTH BOWMAN: Was that an Alan Solomon. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: No, it wasn't.
RUTH BOWMAN: No.
CONNIE GLENN: It was an exhibition that was done by the Museum of Modern Art
and it traveled. . . . I think it went to Tokyo and then it went to Australia.
. . . I can't remember the title of it, American Painting of the Sixties, or
some such thing. But it was a big exhibition. It was organized by the Museum
of Modern Art.
RUTH BOWMAN: The international . . . ?
CONNIE GLENN: Probably.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah.
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. And the painting was wanted for the show, and we lent quite
regularly, because we thought the artists were owed the exposure. And the painting
wasn't around our house very much. But if you were to see pictures of the house
in Kansas City, you would see a variety of Wesselmans, Lichtensteins, Warhols,
Thiebauds. We introduced Wayne to Kansas City, and, still, probably the largest
holdings of Wayne's work are in Kansas City, with the exception of Sacramento,
I would guess.
What really happened, I guess, was that. . . . By then we lived in a big old house near the Nelson Gallery-I mean a really big old house, that was like three-quarters of a block long and a Craftsman-style house, three stories and plenty of room to rattle around in. It had been first the house of the manse of the Bishop of Missouri, and then it had been a nursing home [chuckling], and we decided to reclaim it into a Craftsman masterpiece. And it was so close to the Nelson Gallery that it was very convenient, and it was across the street from Ted Coe's house, and Ted was very, very involved in contemporary art and doing really quite historic and important shows that I think have not received enough recognition. A show called Sound, Light, Silence and a show called The Magic Theater.
RUTH BOWMAN: Sound, Light, Silence?
CONNIE GLENN: Sound, Light, Silence was one of them, and The Magic Theater
was the other one. And what happened out of this proximity and our friendship
with Ted and our relationship with the Nelson Gallery was we just simply became
the stopping-off place for any artist who was traveling east to west, and I
don't think the whole time we lived in that house, we went two weeks without
a guest. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did Jack. I mean, it was a really important
part of our collecting to know and understand the artists and be an observant
[sic] at their emergence onto the national scene. I mean, I really enjoyed watching
the way they grew and changed-both personally and in their work. I don't think
either one of us were cut out to be distanced collectors. The friendships we
made at that time, among the artists who came to Kansas City and were traveling,
are still really important to us. They include Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein,
Marilyn and Ivan Karp-about whom I can tell you a really funny story. [chuckles]
RUTH BOWMAN: Do that.
CONNIE GLENN: Jim Rosenquist, Tom and Clare Wesselman, Wayne and Betty Jean
Thiebaud. . . . I suppose those are some of the, those are the closest friends.
RUTH BOWMAN: Marilyn Karp was at that time teaching at New York University?
CONNIE GLENN: Marilyn and Ivan weren't married when we first met Ivan.
RUTH BOWMAN: Uh huh.
CONNIE GLENN: And Ivan loved to come to Kansas City and we were, of course,
his best customers between California and New York. And he loved to organize
poker games so he would come to Kansas City and organize. . . . He's well know
for his penchant for poker; he plays in Las Vegas in professional situations.
And he would come to Kansas City and organize poker games, outrageous parties
and so forth.
Al Hansen used to cut up Hershey bars all over our bedrooms to make his famous [Fluxus] Hershey bar collages, and he invented happenings in Kansas City, and Malcom Morley used to lay in bed in my guestroom and demand that his eggs be so many minutes when I was trying to care for two babies who were on their way to school. And a lot of outrageous artist guests-mostly introduced by Ivan.
But one year, Ivan was coming to Kansas City, and we knew he was coming and we had made a date and gathered his poker friends and so forth, and we began to get all these silly postcards, which Ivan is very good at, from all across the country. Like, "We are in such and such a place and will be arriving on X date," and, "We are now in Des Moines and are still approaching," and "We are now in St. Louis and still approaching." We had no idea who "we" might be. I mean, we discussed, you know, whether he had a pet alligator that we would have to house in our most immediate bathtub or whether he'd acquired a canary. And "we" turned out to be Marilyn, and "we" were on our honeymoon and they were headed for Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, which is about the most ridiculous place on earth you could ever want to go for a honeymoon, but Ivan has strange ideas of romanticism. And he and Marilyn in fact did arrive and did visit and then proceeded to Cottonwood Falls for their honeymoon. To this day, I adore Marilyn. She is one of the most special people on earth. She is brilliant, a dear friend. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: You know, I've forgotten her maiden name.
CONNIE GLENN: [Gelfman-Carrera]. It's Marilyn Gelfman. She uses the name Marilyn
Gelfman now, and she is an artist-and a scholar. She had two Ph.D.s before she
was twenty-four. Beautiful.
RUTH BOWMAN: Wonderful sculpture.
CONNIE GLENN: Yes, yes. Really special person, and to this day I really treasure
both Marilyn and Ivan. Ivan is one of the world's funniest people.
RUTH BOWMAN: But he also collects folk art and pieces of buildings.
CONNIE GLENN: They collect folk art. . . . He founded the Anonymous Arts Recovery
Society, which was how they began to acquire the pieces of buildings. Many of
the pieces ended up in sculpture down in the Brooklyn Museum. I think some are
still in warehouses and basements in New York. But when he saw the wrecking
ball aimed at wonderful New York buildings, he used to get in his Jeep and go
around to the buildings and indicate that he was some sort of authorized professional
person and pick up the pieces and transport them in his Jeep to some unbeknownst
basement warehouse where he would store them, and then when the basement warehouse
got to full, he then transferred big chunks of them to the Brooklyn Museum.
I don't think the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society is still functioning, but certainly Ivan and Marilyn are still interested in architecture-and in preservation. They have a house in upstate New York. They are interested in folk art. They are interested in early American and naive painting. They still have in their collection, Pop Art. They have a wonderful loft near the gallery in New York, and some of the collection is in their loft and some is in the house in upstate New York. I suppose that's why we have remained very close friends over a very long period of time is because their interests are as crazy and diverse as ours are.
RUTH BOWMAN: Although not identical. [chuckles]
CONNIE GLENN: Not at all. No. Marilyn and I used to do a lot of antiquing together
over which Jack and Ivan had some patience, if not a great deal. And at certain
points in time, we were collecting the same things because we were both interested
in Americana and American advertising art, which was very closely related to
the Pop Artists that I. . . . And Marilyn was so smart that she could spot things
much more quickly than I, so I had this. . . . And Marilyn is short and I am
tall, so I had this agreement with Marilyn that I could have all the top shelves
and she could look under the tables when we went into the antique shops. [laughter]
RUTH BOWMAN: And we're still in the sixties?
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. We were collecting things like Coke trays and. . . . Like
at one time they and we had all the ever-manufactured Coke trays. Manhattan
glass, Vaseline glass, advertising images that were bizarre. Like we used to
have this sort of four-foot-tall, stocking-covered, naked, black figure of no
particular gender that used to stand on a shelf in our house in Kansas City,
and people would always come in and look at it and think it was some very strange
piece of sculpture, and it was in fact a Union underwear model from a department
store, from the mid-nineteenth century.
And we were interested in the correspondences between Americana and American advertising images and the images in Pop Art, which in very early Pop Art were in many cases derived from advertising art. We also lived in a Craftsman-style house that suited itself to the collecting of Americana. I mean, we have been through hundreds of collections. One of the collections at that time was Mission furniture, and we also collected Mission furniture on outings with Ted Coe, and often prided ourselves on not paying more than fifty cents at the Salvation Army for any given piece. And we had, together we had great Mission furniture. We left it all in Kansas City. I gave some of it to Ted, left the remainder of it there not realizing it would stock an entire antique shop in California.
Collecting for us. . . . And when I say we've had hundreds of collections, I mean it. And the question people always ask me is, "Don't you miss the things? Why don't you miss your Pop Art? Why don't you miss the Americana collection you had? Why don't you miss the Oriental rug collection you had? Why don't you miss the Mission furniture? Why don't you miss your photography collection?" I don't miss the things because I used them and assimilated them and they're all in my head, and I don't miss them because collecting for us is an exercise in acquiring knowledge and connoisseurship. And when you have sort of exhausted a particular field, the energy is to go on to learn about something new. I mean, collecting for us is learning, and I don't suppose any field is ever exhausted-that's probably not a good word-but you get to a point in collecting in a certain area where you've at least encompassed all you can encompass within your particular budget, and you want to go on and learn about something new. And it's the learning in collecting that's interesting to both of us, not the owning that's interesting. So the "miss," the object issue, isn't really even an issue with us.
RUTH BOWMAN: You've really disposed of collections as well as. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, we've disposed of lots of collections, in a variety of ways.
The Pop Art collection we sold largely in 1967, '8 and '9 to move to California
and found the Jack Glenn Gallery.
RUTH BOWMAN: The Jack Glenn Gallery was where?
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, it was in Corona del Mar. I'm trying to remember the address.
RUTH BOWMAN: Oh, that's all right.
CONNIE GLENN: I think the address will come back to me momentarily, but it
was on the Main Street in Corona del Mar, and it's now a surf shop and. . .
. The way you can find it if you're interested in ephemera is that Jack Glenn
Gallery is still sandblasted on the glass door in the surf shop. [laughing]
They haven't ever deigned to replace the door.
RUTH BOWMAN: Remind me to photograph it.
CONNIE GLENN: [laughs]
RUTH BOWMAN: So. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Ultimately, there were other Jack Glenn galleries.
RUTH BOWMAN: So you moved to Corona del Mar. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: We moved to. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: . . . in 1969?
CONNIE GLENN: We moved to Laguna in the winter of 1969-70. We had two girls
in the mid sixties, and Jack's business, which was his father's business, was
bowling shirts and sportwear [sic] manufacturing. Jack's father and his partners
invented bowling shirts in, shortly before World War II, and then they manufactured
military apparel during World War II, and after World War II, they went back
to bowling shirts. So when you see bowling balls in works of art, like the [Richard]
Artschwager, you know that they came from Jack's company. And when you see the
artists wearing bowling shirts that say things like "Green Street Dragons,"
which Steve Antonakos occasionally wears, you know they also came from the company.
But because of his work with King Louis, which was the name of the company, Jack traveled quite a bit, and the travel brought him to California, and we discovered Laguna Beach and we took. . . . Well, actually, we were coming to California and bringing the girls and wanted to go to the beach, and one of the King Louis dealers in California suggested that the community that we should go to was Laguna Beach because we were interested in art and it was an artists' colony.
RUTH BOWMAN: [laughs]
CONNIE GLENN: She wasn't making any distinctions about the kinds of art we
were interested in, and the kind of art that's thought of as being particular
to artists' colony. So she made us reservations at a place in Laguna Beach,
and I think two years in a row we went to Laguna and took the girls. And after
we went back the last summer, we just decided we wanted to live there. [laughs]
And, of course, Jack had no form of employment other than he'd always been in his father's business, and we were in our mid-thirties and, by the time we moved, also had a new seven-month-old baby. So we sold the Pop Art collection to move to California and found the gallery because Jack had decided by this time that he really wanted to spend his life dealing with art, not dealing with bowling shirts. Our families naturally thought we were crazy.
But it was a kind of interesting time in California. It was both a very difficult time-in terms of the audience for art-but it was a time when there were emerging collections and there were people who were incredible champions of the arts. I think Jack identified most closely with Nick Wilder, whom we both loved, and with Irving Blum.
Irving sort of was coming and going during that period. [laughs] I remember our first trip to California. . . . Everything we knew about California, we read in Artforum. And our first trip to California, our first two goals were to see the Ferus Gallery and to see the Dwan Gallery and we went immediately to the supposed location of the Ferus Gallery, and there was a sign on the door that said "Gone fishing." It was when Irving was in his brief period that was known as "Ferus Pace," and I guess the Ferus Pace situation had come unglued and Irving had gone fishing. So we didn't meet Irving on that trip. We did see the Dwan Gallery. The exhibition was Keith Sonnier. I do remember that. I was telling Keith the other day that I think that was my first visit to the Dwan Gallery after having done business with it by mail all these years.
The second visit we saw more galleries, and of course our children are used to being drug to art galleries and museums from the day they were born. So they just knew that was part of a trip to the beach.
RUTH BOWMAN: So, including Pasadena?
CONNIE GLENN: No, we never. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: You didn't go to Pasadena?
CONNIE GLENN: We never saw Pasadena at that. . . . Well, we did see the Pasadena
Museum of Modern Art before we moved to California because we were here for
the opening of the Warhol retrospective, which was just prior to our move to
California, and we were here for the opening because we had a painting in the
show. And I think maybe the Thiebaud retrospective at Pasadena also opened before
we moved to California, and we were there for that opening because we had works
in the show. It's. . . . The dates of those two exhibitions are a bit vague.
We came to California for Christmas 1969, went back to Kansas City and packed,
and were back in California by February 1, 1970. So we really lived here the
winter of '69-'70 and I'd have to look up the dates of both the Warhol exhibition
and the Thiebaud exhibition, but they were pretty close to being concurrent
so we were, yes, definitely aware of the museum in Pasadena.
RUTH BOWMAN: And at that time, who was the director?
CONNIE GLENN: Probably Jim Demetrion.
RUTH BOWMAN: Jim Demetrion?
CONNIE GLENN: I guess. Although . . . Walter Hopps was probably involved at
that time too. I don't know when Jim, I don't know the date when Jim Demetrion
left and Walter Hopps came.
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, these are easily checked.
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. I didn't know either of them at that time. I remember the
thing I was most excited about in terms of moving to California was I was aware
that Alan Solomon whose work I had then and still have the highest respect for,
was scheduled to teach a class at the University of California at Irvine that
spring semester, and that was why I was determined to be on the premises by
February 1 so I could be enrolled in Alan Solomon's class at Irvine for the
spring semester. I mean, that almost determined the date we arrived. And Alan
Solomon, as I was later told, went back to New York, I guess for the Christmas
holidays, contracted pneumonia and died over the holidays, and did not, of course,
arrive ever to teach that class.
RUTH BOWMAN: Mmm. That was the decade after I had worked with Alan as his curator
of modern art.
CONNIE GLENN: I thought everything he did was so special. I would have given
anything to have known him. Of all of the material that was written about Pop
Art, he was the best.
There were a couple of other people, Gene [________]. . . . Oh, God, now my total lapse of memory will set in. And then another critic whose first name was Gene [________] who went to the University of Kansas in. . . . [are there two people named Gene being referred to here?-Trans.]
RUTH BOWMAN: Two syllables.
CONNIE GLENN: Ah, I'll think about it later. John Coplans was involved with
Irvine to some degree at that time and was of course in. . . . He was in Pasadena
and also in the greater Los Angeles area writing for Artforum and editing Artforum.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah. Charlie [Charles] Cowles was the publisher of Artforum or
how did that work?
CONNIE GLENN: I think not yet at that earliest time. Later Charlie Cowles was.
But I think. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: He was a friend of Nick Wilder's, right?
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. Yes. I don't know at what time Charlie became. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, that documentation exists elsewhere.
CONNIE GLENN: . . . became the publisher of Artforum. I mean I was perfectly
well aware at the time that John Coplans was the editor of Artforum.
RUTH BOWMAN: And you were still functioning in 1970 as a collector and a student?
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. And I was helping Jack run the gallery. The gallery opened
in late May of 1970, and I had a seven-month old, two teenage daughters (or
a fifth grader and a junior high student), I was going to school and I was helping
him run the gallery.
RUTH BOWMAN: Um.
CONNIE GLENN: I ended up. . . . The Alan Solomon class didn't materialize,
and there is. . . . To this day-there was then and there is not now-a graduate
degree in art history at Irvine, and so what I was doing there was not pursuing
my degree any further but was just for my own edification. And I ended up in
a class that was being taught by Barbara Rose, and it was being taught by Barbara
because Frank had been brought out to teach at Irvine and wouldn't sign the
State of California loyalty oath, so Barbara taught instead and Frank. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: Frank?
CONNIE GLENN: Frank went back to New York I guess.
RUTH BOWMAN: Frank who?
CONNIE GLENN: Frank Stella.
RUTH BOWMAN: [laughing] Okay, thank you.
CONNIE GLENN: And Barbara commuted to teach the class. I remember that. The
class didn't seem to have any regular home, and it was kind of taught in an
office where people sat on bookshelves and the students brought their dogs and
we sort of had to fight the large-this was the sixties and this was very, sort
of, southern California hippie-you had to fight the large dogs for a seat on
the top of the bookshelf to hear what Barbara had to say in those days. I was
dissatisfied with. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: You were dissatisfied?
CONNIE GLENN: . . . not continuing to go to school, and I couldn't go to Irvine
because there was no degree. The only graduate degrees in art history in southern
California were at UCLA, USC, and Cal State Long Beach. And in the course of
founding the gallery, Jack and I met Gene Cooper who's a professor here who
encouraged me to enroll in the graduate program in art history in Long Beach.
And he thought it was a good program, thought I would like the program, and
it was much closer to me in terms of just plain old transportation problems
than either UCLA or USC. So I did enroll in the graduate program in art history
here at Long Beach. Since only six units of a master's degree are transferable
from one institution, I lost my complete master's degree at the University of
Missouri, except for six units. [groans] I have a fifty-four unit master's degree
which is sort of silly, but I enjoyed all the schooling.
RUTH BOWMAN: What was the. . . . Was the sculpture up when you arrived, that
sculpture around the campus?
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, yeah. Yes, because that was 1965.
RUTH BOWMAN: That sculpture symposium, here?
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah, that was, had long since come to pass. While I was taking
classes toward my sort of second master's degree here, I was also teaching twentieth-century
art for the twentieth-century art professor here, who was on sabbatical at that
time, and I was helping Jack run the gallery and Gene Cooper, who had encouraged
me to come here, came to me with two other faculty members and said, "You
would like to be the director of the art galleries here, wouldn't you?"
And I said, "No, I sure wouldn't." I said, "Great Scott, I've
got three small children, family art galleries, a degree to get, and I'm frantic.
I don't have time to worry about your art galleries." And they, the three
of them, who had been directing the art galleries as sort of a troika. . . .
There had never been a permanent director of the art galleries here. It had
been sort of a job that was passed back and forth among faculty members on a
kind of rotating basis. And they had apparently come to a decision in the art
department they were going to hire someone to take care of the problem permanently.
And Gene insisted that it was going to be me, and I insisted that it wasn't,
and he and Jack kept after me until I said, "Okay." Jack probably
wanted me out of his hair at the gallery. I am not a good commercial gallery
person. I can't sell anything. I only want to keep things. [laughs] So probably
Jack succeeded in getting me out of his hair at the gallery and back into a
university campus where I belonged. So I became director of the galleries here
before I got my master's degree. I became director of the galleries here in
fall of '73, and got my Master's degree in the spring of '74, and I have been
here ever since.
RUTH BOWMAN: Here at Cal State Long Beach, and at that time the galleries were
in the low buildings on the east side of the campus.
CONNIE GLENN: They were in, yeah, they were in the Fine Arts Complex, and [they,
there] were three separate spaces that were actually converted classrooms. And
it was first called the Art Galleries, and then it was called the Fine Art Galleries,
and then it was called the Art Museum and Galleries, and in the early part of
the eighties it was, especially when we began to focus on collecting, the name
was changed permanently to University Art Museum.
RUTH BOWMAN: For their art collections?
CONNIE GLENN: So we've been through a variety of titles. Yes, their art collections.
RUTH BOWMAN: Their art collections. Now these, the policy for. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: We didn't start collecting until 1979-80, however.
RUTH BOWMAN: I see.
CONNIE GLENN: So very young collections.
RUTH BOWMAN: So. . . . But the policy was set by the faculty group, or by you?
CONNIE GLENN: No. By me.
Tape 2, Side a
RUTH BOWMAN: So, you began as gallery director with a program that was already
in place, because you took over and there must have been some plans.
CONNIE GLENN: The faculty members had been curating exhibitions. And actually
I think some of them were quite distinguished. And it just depended from time
to time on who was curating the exhibitions and what their individual interests
and areas of expertise were, what might be in the galleries. I mean, in other
words, there was no overriding plan for the galleries or no sort of enduring
aesthetic or anything of that sort. It was kind of a catch-as-catch-can thing.
RUTH BOWMAN: Oh. Who, who were the. . . . Do you remember who the troika was.
CONNIE GLENN: Well, the most. . . . Oh, yeah, it was Gene Cooper, John Snedicor,
and John Lincoln. John Snedicor was on the crafts faculty here and is a brilliant
craftsperson. John Lincoln was in the studio faculty, an old friend who draws
so beautifully, and Gene Cooper's an art historian. And the three of them were,
that year at least, running the galleries together. I didn't have much history
of the galleries before that-although I know Don Dame had been director of the
galleries. He's a member of the studio faculty here.
RUTH BOWMAN: Don Dame?
CONNIE GLENN: Don Dame, D-a-m-e. There were two exhibitions that fall that
basically, I think, Gene Cooper-well, I know-Gene Cooper was responsible for.
One, he had gone to John Upton and asked John Upton to curate a photography
exhibition, and John actually. . . . I think he worked with John on more than
one occasion. There was. . . . The previous year, John had curated an exhibition
for Robert Heineken, which was quite amazing. Maybe it wasn't the previous year;
it might have been the previous semester. And then there was a three-part exhibition
for Robert Heineken, Minor White, and somebody else. I can't remember at the
moment but that John Upton also did. And Gene and John were friends, I think.
Then Gene himself had curated for the first fall that I was at the gallery a
small and quite wonderful exhibition for Wayne Thiebaud.
RUTH BOWMAN: Umm. [with interest]
CONNIE GLENN: Which was simply coincidental. I mean, Gene had no idea that
Wayne and Betty Jean and Jack and I were old friends. And I had no idea that
Gene had been making an exhibition for Wayne. It was a beautiful little exhibition.
Gene continues to do research on Wayne. He wrote the major exhibition catalog
for Wayne's work for an exhibition that traveled several years ago, and Gene
remains very close to Wayne and continues to both explore his work and write
about him. So, yes, there were exhibitions planned that did appear in the galleries
even after I became director.
The first exhibition that I curated was in the late fall/early winter of . . . it must have been '73. I don't know, it could have been '74. I'd have to look it up. And it was an exhibition called The Altered Print. And it was an exhibition about prints as they change through the course of the artists manipulations, whether they were accidents like Rauschenberg's print called Accident or. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: In Yugoslavia, that won the prize in Yugoslavia.
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah.
CONNIE GLENN: Or whether they were prints that had been altered in the course
of proofing and we could show the proofs, or prints that had perhaps been drawn
on, hand-colored, and so forth. And I liked that exhibition. I still like prints
to this day.
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, in terms, in terms of your view of museum education or the
uses of a museum, how does this fit in? I mean, the sequential thing? I mean,
how were these exhibitions used, here at Cal State Long Beach? Did you have
the artists come in? I mean. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, yeah. Whenever we could, we brought the artist. I, since
there was me and two part-time graduate students and a total cash budget of
five thousand dollars, it was perfectly clear immediately, that if, to me, if
we were going to do anything of any significance at all, we had to have some
money. And my graduate thesis was the catalog plus additional material for a
Tom Wesselman exhibition, which I wrote a grant along with Gene Cooper to the
National Endowment for the Arts, when the National Endowment was in its infancy,
to fund, and that's how we got started on just any kind of funding from the
outside at all, the first. . . . And we made it into a traveling exhibition,
which also raised some additional funds. And we were all just babes in the woods.
I mean, we had no idea what we were doing. I had never done anything of the
sort. I had no experience in doing anything of that sort, and it was just good
luck that we didn't get into a lot of trouble.
But we did manage to assemble the Wesselman exhibition. The catalog was published as my thesis. Tom came out here and spoke to students and so forth and the exhibition traveled throughout the United States in, from 1974 for a period of about eighteen months. It went back to the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, which gave me some pleasure.
And that started a process of finding ways, through grant writing and various other kinds of fund raising, to turn what small kinds of funds we could get from the University into enough money to do what I thought were exhibitions that made a difference, because I wasn't willing to do any other kind of exhibition. Exhibitions didn't cost anywhere near then what they cost now. I mean, you could do a really fine exhibition for four thousand dollars in those days.
RUTH BOWMAN: You know, Connie, I remember, I guess at this point, which was
approximately fifteen years ago, sixteen years ago, that. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Seventeen years ago.
RUTH BOWMAN: Seventeen years ago? That you told me that you loved to write,
that one of the things you found exciting to do was to write and you wish you
had more time to write. And I think this is an appropriate time to talk a little
bit about that, because after you'd written your thesis for the catalog, there
must have been a jumping off point for your additional writing and your interest
in writing about art, including things like mystery stories, is that right?
CONNIE GLENN: [laughs] Oh, I wrote several catalogs a year thereafter, and
for quite a while I was alone in the gallery programs and there wasn't anyone
other than me. So if there were going to be catalogs written, I wrote them.
We certainly didn't have the money to hire outside writers. I wrote a Lichtenstein
catalog. I did engage Arnold Glimcher's help in writing the Samaras catalog,
which we did together.
Obviously, what was happening was I was prevailing upon the contacts that I already had to make university exhibitions, and I was getting a lot of favors because this wasn't a well-known university and it certainly wasn't any big event on the artist's resume to have an exhibition here and there wasn't much money involved. The saving grace was the catalogs and the writing. I mean, the one thing that I think I offered the artists, in exchange for their willingness to participate here, was a decent catalog. And I think that's probably how the program here became known was through the catalogs. It was always my impression that the program was better known in New York that it was in Long Beach. [chuckling] It was, in fact, better known in New York that it was in Long Beach.
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, it does bring up an issue though, Connie, and that is your
relationship to the art world of twenty-five miles away-or wherever the L.A.
County Museum and the Pasadena Museum are in miles.
CONNIE GLENN: Right.
RUTH BOWMAN: But, I mean, this being a freeway society, it didn't take very
long for everyone in the L.A. area to know that what happened at Long Beach
was significant, while you were calling on old favors.
CONNIE GLENN: When I said I thought the program was better known in New York
than it was in Long Beach, what I meant was we never had a terribly significant
local audience. Certainly, the art people in California knew what was going
on here. I was a first-time art museum director, I was reasonably young and
incredibly naive, and I presumed that if you did programs of impeccable quality,
the audience would immediately follow thereafter. [laughs]
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, there is an art museum in Long Beach, too, so you had another
thing to measure yourself by.
CONNIE GLENN: Right. Probably my favorite period at that time, in concert with
the art museum in Long Beach, was when Jan Van Aldmann was here, and Jan was
a dreamer of big dreams and an outrageous character and a dear friend.
RUTH BOWMAN: And David Ross was here too, wasn't he?
CONNIE GLENN: David Ross was here. A number of my students worked with David
Ross in the video program. Kathy Huffman, who was one of the earliest, and Kathy's
graduate project was an exhibition with Bill Viola. And that was one of Bill's
earliest exhibitions and certainly Kathy's first foray into the arts. And both
Kathy and Bill have gone on to become quite well known. And, of course, the
program that David Ross founded at the Long Beach Museum of Art is still the
premier program in the country, I presume.
RUTH BOWMAN: And so you began teaching. You mentioned teaching. You began teaching
CONNIE GLENN: Well, there was no structure, there still is no structure, here,
to hire a museum director. What you do, what you did at that time was hire a
member of the faculty and then give them release time to do-or assigned time-to
do some assigned job. My assigned job was to be director of the University Art
Museum, which was called the Art Galleries. But I had to teach something and
they said, "What do you want to teach?" and I said, "I want to
teach museum studies." And they said, "Oh, a class?" and I said,
"No, I don't want to teach a class. I want to do something that has some
greater continuity and lasting value than just a class, so I think we'll just
do some sort of program in museum studies." So. . . . And nobody told me.
. . . Things were much looser and much more informal here then than they are
now, and nobody told me that you just couldn't go around founding programs and
tell people later. So I did.
Jane Bledsoe was in the first class and she was associate director here until two years ago. She was here fourteen years on the staff of the museum. She's the director of the Museum of Georgia at the University of Georgia in Athens now. There are people scattered all over the world who were in these classes. They were destined basically for graduate students, although there were undergraduate students in the classes, and they were very, very small classes and I taught them all. And they were tutorials, basically. And the classes, as part of the two-and-a-half years in the program, made exhibitions. And in the course of all of those years, I think some of the classes made very distinguished exhibitions.
The class was known as a killer. I was known as an unremitting slave driver, whom everyone should be quite frightened of and think several times before enrolling in one of these awful classes. Because I just wasn't willing to present anything in the museum that didn't meet my professional standards. And I was under the illusion that I could turn students into professionals in a matter of a couple of semesters. And over the years, all of us who taught in that program often succeeded. I mean we had some very important exhibitions that traveled throughout the United States that were prepared by students. The Clarence White exhibition, I think, that Lucinda. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: Lucinda Barnes?
CONNIE GLENN: Lucinda Barnes taught the class that produced the Clarence White
exhibition, which was a simply marvelous exhibition. It was called Clarence
White and His Students. The whole title of the exhibition is A Collective Vision:
Clarence White and His Students.
Over the years, as I became more engrossed in the museum and the museum grew, I couldn't teach all the classes and other staff members of the museum began to teach classes in the program. I think, because nobody else had any grasp of what we were doing. I mean, it just wasn't a program that either a studio art professor or a studio historian or an art historian could walk into and know exactly what we were doing, because the classes were so terribly involved with the museum's day-to-day activities and the students were so very involved.
RUTH BOWMAN: But you were also involved with issues. I remember distinctly
a panel discussion-I have forgotten whether it was for College Art Association
or for American Association of Museums-a panel that you organized that had to
do with the uses of nonprint media in museums. It was some years back and. .
CONNIE GLENN: I don't know about that. [sounding puzzled]
RUTH BOWMAN: . . . and there were several major museum directors. I think one
of them was Tom Messer from the Guggenheim who said something like, "It'll
never work." Or. . . . Anyway, this was long before videos were done routinely-or
at least slideshows-were done routinely for exhibitions.
CONNIE GLENN: I don't remember any of that! Isn't that amazing!
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, one of the things that struck me about your museum program,
museum training program, was that you did, you were very ad hoc about the whole
thing, and if there was. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: [laughs]
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, I don't think this is necessarily bad, and I think that
something has to be said about Cal State Long Beach in this way and, you know,
not all universities were that loose or could be done contemporaneously, that
things could be shifted in order to deal with issues. And it seems to me, Connie,
that somewhere along the way your philosophy of "get it done and get it
done right now" probably was able to carry on in ways that it couldn't
be in an eastern or even in Kansas City.
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, of course. I was out on my own, alone, in a position as director
of the gallery, that placed me in a position where really people just didn't
pay much attention to what we were doing, and it was possible to invent a whole
lot of things before anybody said no.
RUTH BOWMAN: And then one day I woke up, and there was Connie Glenn, a member
of the Association of Art Museum Directors, which is probably an exclusive club
to this very day, and how did a, well, I guess. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Well, the association, the membership in the Association of Art
Museum Directors is largely dictated by size of budget. It's said to be the
hundred and twenty or thirty some [120 or 130-some] largest museums in America.
At that time, and this was I sus . . . about 1981, I would guess. At that time
the AAMD had what was called an associate membership, and it was a category
of membership that was used largely for people who were thought to be making
some contribution to the profession but were not in museums with large budgets.
And there were virtually no women in the AAMD, and Tom Garber and Lefty Adler
and, oh, I don't know, I don't remember who else, were insistent that in the
early 1980s there were going to be some women in the AAMD. And they put forward
the names of a few women that they wanted to propose for membership, and my
really vague memory is that when I entered the AAMD there were maybe six women.
And about the same time, Janet Kardon, Suzanne Delahunty, Lindal King from the
University Art Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, a couple
of other people came along. I mean, it was clearly an effort to bring women
into the fold.
I found the AAMD enormously interesting for the access that it gave me to information from colleagues I might not have had an opportunity to meet otherwise. I mean, I simply loved it. I mean, anybody who says they love going to committee meetings is crazy, but I did love it. And I learned a lot. The reason I continue to enjoy it today is because there's still an opportunity to learn. The meetings are held in, twice a year in different cities at different museums, with different museums as hosts, and often they are museums I would not have had an opportunity to see otherwise-accompanied by private collections that I would not have had an opportunity to see otherwise. And it's a great opportunity. I really, really value it. I value the friendship of the colleagues as well.
RUTH BOWMAN: It's confronting the issues, too, probably, that the entire field.
. . .
CONNIE GLENN: Yes, well, and everything is significantly more political now
than it was ten years ago. And it is, the AAMD is in forefront of confronting
a lot of issues in the arts.
RUTH BOWMAN: Which have to do with repatriation of cultural property, for instance?
Do you ever deal with that?
CONNIE GLENN: Umm. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: To a degree in. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: There are committees in the AAMD that do deal. . . . Everybody
serves on a committee or a variety of committees, and the committees are divided
up to deal with issues. And, yes, that is one of the issues that has been dealt
with over the years.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yours? Your committee assignments have been. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, I've been on the membership committee for the last several
years, and I have been on the education committee.
RUTH BOWMAN: What is that?
CONNIE GLENN: The committee that, that examines the nature of education for
RUTH BOWMAN: Training, really.
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah, looking at museum training. . . . What was I on before
I was on the education committee? I can't remember. The membership committee,
at the moment, is an appointment. The other committees you select to be on.
And the reason I. . . . I mean, it sounds silly when you could be addressing
life-threatening issues to be on the membership committee, but the reason I've
always been interested in the membership committee is doing whatever I can do
to provide access for people who might not normally be noticed by this group.
RUTH BOWMAN: Does that membership committee also address the issue of ethics,
CONNIE GLENN: There is a Museum Ethics Committee.
RUTH BOWMAN: Oh, that's a separate committee.
CONNIE GLENN: A separate committee.
RUTH BOWMAN: And something that obviously. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: There's a works of art committee. There's a committee that deals
with issues related directly to the care and handling of works of art, there's
an ethics committee. Oh, I'd have to get the book and read you the list of committees.
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, a lot of that has, is related to the training program that
you've run here. I mean, a lot of the. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Well, I don't think there are any issues addressed by the AAMD
that aren't related to a training program.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah.
CONNIE GLENN: Anything that has to do with activities in a museum. I suppose
the biggest shock to me was the fact that both my training-and probably early
on-the training I was giving my students didn't address the skill that we would
needs most [laughing] or the skills-plural-that we would need most, and those
are the skills of the politician.
RUTH BOWMAN: The skills of the politician, which given the range of your strong
emotional response, are going to be challenging probably for the rest of your
CONNIE GLENN: Probably.
RUTH BOWMAN: Because you'd rather, you'd rather do your work that be a politician.
CONNIE GLENN: Than be a politician. I think I have learned to be a reasonably
RUTH BOWMAN: Well. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: But I don't have-you're quite right-I don't have a lot of patience
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, there is another aspect which I think is not really discussed
too much in these Archives interviews, and that is the development issue, where
you have to raise funds constantly for your exhibitions and work with budget
committees and at a university level which don't necessarily relate directly
to the way in which exhibitions are organized. By that, I. . . . By that question,
I mean, when you do long-range planning for exhibitions, you may have to do
it two and three years in advance, whereas the university operates from year
CONNIE GLENN: Right.
RUTH BOWMAN: So you've had to develop techniques in the past seventeen years.
CONNIE GLENN: [sighs] In the seventies, universities all over the country were
on a financial upswing, and I think that climate was part and parcel of what
you say made it possible to kind of invent programs. In the eighties, all of
the universities in the country have been on a financial downswing, and budgets
have been cut throughout the country in all university systems, historically
each year through the eighties, which has provided for a different kind of long-range
planning and a different kind of thinking. A university art museum long-range
plan is only a piece of paper. It's not espoused by the administration of the
university, because a university art museum cannot grow independently of its
parent organization to any great degree. As funds become more and more scarce
for education, university dollars-that is state dollars in this case-that are
put into museum operations are viewed as dollars that could be spent in the
classroom. And the degree of competition is more severe each year, thus making
our fundraising on our premises more difficult each year. Right now, the university,
to all intents and purposes, really only provides our salaries and we raise
our program funds.
RUTH BOWMAN: But even the size of staff is restricted to some degree?
CONNIE GLENN: Absolutely. Oh! Restricted greatly, by budget restrictions.
RUTH BOWMAN: Which means you may have to use more students at one point than
you would. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Or that all of us may have to do three jobs instead of two.
RUTH BOWMAN: And yet you moved from the low buildings to the library building
in the eighties when all of this cutting back was going on, so there must have
been some maneuver or move that caused this wonderful move. At least, I think
they're elegant galleries.
CONNIE GLENN: And we're about to move again. [laughing]
RUTH BOWMAN: Yes?
CONNIE GLENN: The spaces in the Art Complex, Galleries A, B and C, the converted
classrooms, were never very good spaces for exhibitions and terribly limiting.
RUTH BOWMAN: Security problems, too.
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, security problems, and limiting in terms of their proximity
to each other. I mean they were greatly separated spaces. They were just half-baked
spaces, and it's really hard to sell an important artist that you'd like to
bring to this campus and make a part of the education on this campus on an exhibition
when you have to show off those spaces and say, "This is where we're going
to put your art." In addition, those spaces, which were converted classrooms,
all but one of them, one of them wasn't, were needed by the art department desperately
because the art department was expanding. This floor was a largely empty. .
. . This portion of this floor that we use at the present time, was a largely
empty, basically a simple study facility. There wasn't anything else up here.
And there had been some discussion going on for quite some time at the administrative
level on this campus, about what could we do with us until we could find a way
to make a permanent building for the museum. And one of the conversations had
always been, was there any space within the context of the university library.
. . . This library's built in such a way that there's also a sort of bridge-like
hole underneath it, and one of the conversations dealt with filling in that
hole. And it was an alternative that we finally decamped because we couldn't
find any freight access to get things down into the hole.
RUTH BOWMAN: Loading dock.
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah, well we don't have. . . . Yeah, well, library has a loading
dock and we use the loading dock, but it's not adequate. But this space was
viewed as providing double the exhibition space for us. The population at the
university and the library at that time was such that it didn't hamper the library
operations. It just seemed like a good idea for everyone, and so we were moved
over here and we now have ten thousand square feet, which is inadequate, but
much better than we had before-and galleries that although they are not in a
sort of more traditional museum situation, I think in their own way, are quite
beautiful. The ceiling's much too low, and that makes it very difficult for
certain exhibitions, and I would doubt that you would notice that the ceilings
are too low, because I painted them black so that no one would notice. They
disappear and you're not conscious that they're much too low. Jane Bledsoe designed
the walls, and the walls are really quite ingenious. We only have two permanent
walls. All the rest are movable, and they're reconfigured for every exhibition,
and they really are pretty copasetic spaces all in all.
Tape 2, Side B
RUTH BOWMAN: So. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: And we've been really quite happy in these spaces. In the mid-eighties,
the president approached Peter Eisenman to design a permanent building for the
museum. And that building proceeded through the end of the pre-schematic stage.
It was published in Progressive Architecture and won a variety of awards and
different kinds of attention. And it was designed at about the same time that
Peter was designing the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts in Ohio. The building
exists in plans and models at this time, and did not proceed beyond the pre-schematic
stage that it was concluded with Peter because of a change of administration
at the university.
RUTH BOWMAN: Did you choose Peter Eisenman?
CONNIE GLENN: No, I didn't. The president chose Peter. I liked working with
Peter, an enormously intelligent person. The museum that he designed was both
an amazing object-a work of art, an idiosyncratic complex that might or might
not ever have been able to house a work of art. I suspect that we were at the
stage when Peter and I would have locked horns once and for all over. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: You don't strike me as deconstructivist.
CONNIE GLENN: [laughs] Oh, no, I'm not. Although I was thoroughly fascinated
with the process that produced Peter's design. It's almost as if, in Peter's
case, the process is the design. And it was quite a remarkable thing to watch.
The building, the proposed building that resulted from this process, was an
astonishing object unto itself. I don't think at the stage that it was left
that would, it would have in any way been hospitable to works of art. And at
the stage that the project was put on hold, it was my job to get back together
with Peter and get what I needed for the works of art out of Peter's design.
And I think we could have probably remained friendly through the process. I
hope so. [laughs]
RUTH BOWMAN: But that's still on hold obviously?
CONNIE GLENN: It is still on hold.
RUTH BOWMAN: And the. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: The pre-schematics exist, the model exists, and whether the building
will ever be built, I don't know. I mean, Long Beach is famous for its unbuilt
architecture. The other building being the I.M. Pei Building that was commissioned.
. . .
RUTH BOWMAN: For the Long Beach Art Museum.
CONNIE GLENN: For the Long Beach Art Museum during Jan Van Aldman's tenure
here. And so now. . . . Our two most famous unbuilt buildings are the I.M. Pei
Museum and the Peter Eisenman Museum.
RUTH BOWMAN: But that speaks two ways for Long Beach. At least they got started.
CONNIE GLENN: [laughs] Yes. It's better than not doing anything at all, I guess.
In both instances, the case of the Pei Building and the Eisenman Building, money
was clearly a factor.
RUTH BOWMAN: Um hmm. Eight million dollars.
CONNIE GLENN: Both. . . . Oh, much more than that. Both designs came in at
way, way over the requested estimated figure. You'd have to look up the figures,
but my memory indicates that in the Pei case, Pei was asked to look at a structure
around seven million dollars and the figures came in at fourteen million. In
Peter's case, he was asked to look at a structure around seven million dollars,
and at one time the figure was as high as twenty-four million. Peter didn't
design the building; he designed a fifteen-acre piece of property, which included
a gold lake, and a sitting of a Greene and Greene house, and rather elaborate
bridges and accesses and so forth. And at the stage we left it, one of the considerations
was to go back to Peter and ask him instead of the discreet fifteen-acre property,
was there any way to go back and attack this step by step in, in smaller increments
that would be closer to the university's envisioned expenditure.
RUTH BOWMAN: [chuckles] How many students do you have here?
CONNIE GLENN: About thirty-three or -four thousand.
RUTH BOWMAN: And how does. . . . I'm not really changing the subject. How does
the gallery serve them as a mass, would you say?
CONNIE GLENN: I think you would get a different answer from anybody you ask.
I mean, the intent of the gallery is to be part and parcel of everybody's higher
education. I'm not particularly concerned about art history and studio students
alone. I mean, clearly, the gallery is expected to be a part of their education.
I'm more concerned about influencing the next generation of engineers and nurses
and so forth. I think if we are not part and parcel of higher education that
there's something quite important lacking. That, by the way, is a personal opinion
that's not held by everyone on this campus. [said with a smile]
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, Connie, but that does bring us to the exhibition schedule
and the range of kinds of programs. I've seen a large number of photography
exhibits here over the years. Now there. . . . Is this because you're wanting
to reach. . . ? I shouldn't even ask you.
CONNIE GLENN: I can't do anything that's beyond. . . . I mean, this has always
been a very small staff, and I've been both curator and director until I was
able to hire a curator. Lucinda was the first hired curator. And we can't do
anything beyond our own areas of expertise and our own areas of very special
concern and interest. And I would be kidding you if I said our exhibitions reflect
much of anything else. I mean, on rare occasions, we have been able to hire
outside professionals to do exhibitions in areas where the staff does not have
expertise, but on the whole what you're seeing in the exhibition schedule is
a reflection of the expertise and interests of people who work here. We are
largely contemporary art historians. I have always had a major interest in photography
and [have] collected photography.
RUTH BOWMAN: I remember a time you were out in the cellars of the Huntington.
. . .
CONNIE GLENN: [chuckling] With Leland Rice.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah, well, tell us a little about that. I think that's interesting.
CONNIE GLENN: I was reading a book about Frances Benjamin Johnston, and I love
to read footnotes. And I was reading the catalog of the Museum of Modern Art
show that was produced as a result of Lincoln [Kirsten, Kierstin] finding a
Frances Benjamin Johnston portfolio in an antique shop, I think in Washington,
D.C. And he gave the portfolio to the Museum of Modern Art and wrote a catalog
and there was an exhibition. And I was reading that exhibition catalog and I
was reading the footnotes, and there was a footnote that indicated that the
Huntington Library owned Frances Benjamin Johnston material. So I thought, "Well,
it's right around the corner. Let's go see what they have." In fact, Frances
Benjamin Johnston, who was the first prominent woman American photographer and
was a press photographer to five administrations at turn-of-the-century America,
had come upon hard times in about 1924, and she wrote to Mr. [Henry E.] Huntington
and offered to sell him her whole life's work of art, which was her glass-plate
negatives, at the time, which the Huntington Library did buy. And there is a
very large storehouse of Frances Benjamin Johnston glass-plate negatives with,
plus a few prints and so forth in the basement of the Huntington Library. And
Leland and I were allowed to go down to the basement and work with them. Leland
has been quite a mentor in the area of photography. He's, in addition to. .
RUTH BOWMAN: Leland. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Leland Rice. In addition. . . . He and Lee Whitkin. But in addition
to being a photographer, Leland is a fine teacher, a fine scholar, and a wonderful
connoisseur. And I proposed to Leland [laughing] that we go through these glass-plate
negatives in the basement of the Huntington Library and have prints made from
them because in many cases prints didn't exist. The prints that exist were in
the Frances Benjamin Johnston estate or in the Library of Congress. And both
Leland and I had been to the Library of Congress and looked at what was there,
but there was material in the Huntington Library that was not represented in
the Library of Congress. So we chose negatives from the glass plates in the
Huntington Library, and they were printed by a technician. The photographs themselves
were printed by a technician in the Huntington Library under the Huntington
Library's supervision, Alan Jutzi's supervision.
RUTH BOWMAN: Alan?
CONNIE GLENN: Alan Jutzi, who is the Curator of Photography at the Huntington
Library. Printed under Alan's supervision and to the Huntington Library's specifications.
And that exhibition, which is, oh!, eons old, is still out touring, actually.
It's called Frances Benjamin Johnston: Women of Class and Station. And I've
been accused of picking a very sexist title, but Leland and I were looking for
a way to find a body of material within Frances Benjamin Johnston's work that
we thought was particularly sensitive, and when we looked at all of her portraits
of the turn of the century administrations, we thought her work with women was
more sensitive than her work with the presidents and the admirals and so forth.
She was with Admiral Dewey, among other things. She was the only woman allowed
on the boat and so forth. But we really thought that her portraits of women
did two things: that they provided a more sensitive view of turn-of-the-century
America, and that they were interesting historically in terms of room settings,
costumes, and so forth, because the men were photographed largely in their offices,
and the women were photographed largely at home. So we got more mileage for
our energy in a way in choosing the more sensitive photographs of women and
at the same time having an opportunity to explore turn-of-the-century Washington
through the environments. So it really wasn't meant to be sexist. I really loved
that exhibition. That was a lot of fun to work on. And I've worked on a lot
of exhibitions with Leland. We, together we did a retrospective for [Frederick
Summer], which I could not possibly have done without Leland. Only Leland has
the patience to work with Fred.
RUTH BOWMAN: Did Summer come here?
CONNIE GLENN: Um hmm.
RUTH BOWMAN: He did? Is he. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: That's largely been a part of the bargain in most of our major
exhibitions. I really think it's important for our staff, the students, the
faculty to have that opportunity to be around the artist. Lorna Simpson was
just here, and she is a young black photographer born in Brooklyn. She attended
the University of California at San Diego, and she's making quite a splash in
the New York art world right now, but she wasn't. When we selected her work
to show, it was just that Lucinda loved the work and I loved the work. And while
Lorna was here, she received a twenty-thousand dollar Tiffany Fellowship. She
was one of the nine young artists selected to represent America at Aperto at
the Biennale in Venice this May. And she was selected for A.V.A., Awards in
the Visual Arts. And the aura of excitement around her exhibition and around
her presence here was a light in the students' eyes. It's just different when
the students talk to the artist, one on one. And it's different when they see
things happening in the artist's life. And it's different when they're able
to feel the electricity that the artist brings to the room that no curator or
historian brings to the room.
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, I remember a Japanese print show where all the artists were
CONNIE GLENN: [laughs] Yeah, we do do a few things with dead artists, especially
when I get tired. I have a pin that says "Dead Dutch Only," that was
given to me after a particularly grueling exhibition with a living artist. When
I get really tired, I wear the "Dead Dutch Only" pin.
RUTH BOWMAN: So the Japanese prints, you did bring in a very exciting curator.
. . .
CONNIE GLENN: We didn't do that alone, though, and would not have had the expertise
to have done that alone. That was the result of a professor here on campus who
was involved with that curator and who was involved with Japanese prints, and
he brought the idea of the show to us and brought the idea of engaging that
particular curator to us. That's not expertise that we had on the staff. It
was a wonderful show, and I loved it. And we made a film of the process of making
that show [laughs], which you worked on and which is still being circulated
to museums and museum studies programs throughout the country who are interested
in quote/unquote "how to make an exhibition." That film is still in
demand, interestingly enough.
RUTH BOWMAN: And there you had a graduate student who was the producer, I guess
she was, or the co-producer of the video.
CONNIE GLENN: Yes. Deedee Recton.
RUTH BOWMAN: So that was part of her. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: That was part of her. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: . . . academic work.
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah, that was part of her "for credit" museum studies
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah. Well, that. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: I just don't believe in busy work for students in museum studies.
I mean, I think they should be working on real-world projects, and everything
that is assigned to them is something that deals with real situations and real
products. There are no sort of fictional assignments handed out to these students.
We are all too busy to deal with fiction, and they have to learn to deal with
fact very quickly.
RUTH BOWMAN: I have lots of questions and issues that I think of because I
think that my time in California has coincided with your rise professionally.
CONNIE GLENN: That's true. We've been here together.
RUTH BOWMAN: Right. But in particular I remember that all along the way you
had a personal commitment to the decorative arts or to design, and I remember
coming to visit you at a house sort of tucked away on an island in which I walked
into a French, a Parisian apartment.
CONNIE GLENN: [laughs]
RUTH BOWMAN: And I think it's worth talking about, because you live out these
interests of yours in a very material way.
CONNIE GLENN: [laughing] It's true. I think I'm living in my forty-fifth house.
It could be forty-sixth. I lost count somewhere a couple of years ago. But I
get very nervous if I can't change my environment with some degree of regularity,
and Jack has learned to put up with that over the years, because he had only
lived in two houses when he met me. Building an environment in a house is the
same as collecting. You learn through the process of creating or recreating
whatever environment you're working on. I've created, you know, a Craftsman
style house, as you say, an 1860 Parisian apartment, a post. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: In some country. [laughs]
CONNIE GLENN: Yeah. . . . a post-modern environment peopled with works by new
Spanish designers, when I got interested in Spanish design. . . . It's just
another way of learning.
RUTH BOWMAN: You build a house. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Plus we both care terribly about how our environment looks.
RUTH BOWMAN: But, but, but. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: I mean, we simply wouldn't be able to live in your quote/unquote
"normal house." And it doesn't have to do with decorating or. . .
. We've never lived in anything fancy. It doesn't have to do with anything elaborate.
It has to do with being particular about what we focus our eyes on.
RUTH BOWMAN: But it's interesting to me that once you built a house that had
total view, and once you lived in a house with absolutely no view.
CONNIE GLENN: Well, the house with no view was a retreat from the house with
total view, because the house with total view was a disaster.
RUTH BOWMAN: In what way?
CONNIE GLENN: So the house with no view was a very specific form of retreat.
RUTH BOWMAN: But the house with a total view was a gorgeous house.
CONNIE GLENN: It was a gorgeous house, but it was full of physical, political,
everything disasters. The City of Laguna Beach tried to turn it into a museum
for the seals and a museum for the American Indian. It was sitting on a midden.
They attempted to do everything they could to confiscate the property, both
during the time the house was under construction and after we moved in. We had
no idea. We were new to California. We had no idea it was a sensitive piece
of property. We just wanted to build a house. And it was leasehold property,
and there were seven lots involved, and it was leasehold property that belonged
to an old California family, and they themselves intended eventually to build
on the property but the property became so controversial that there were demonstrations
on the property, people drove their cars over the cliff, a young man committed
suicide on the property, and his mother came once a month to hang a wreath on
our house. It was just a terrible place to raise small children. One of our
children was forced into a bathroom by an intruder on the property. Our house
was burglarized. It became a day-to-day living nightmare.
RUTH BOWMAN: So you made. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: There wasn't a Wednesday night in two and a half years that we
did not have to attend the Laguna Beach City Council meetings to protect some
further condemnation of the property, and we got to the point where none of
us could stand it anymore, and we just put the house on the market and moved
out as quickly as possible.
RUTH BOWMAN: And it sits there to this very day.
CONNIE GLENN: Um hmm.
RUTH BOWMAN: Visible to everybody.
CONNIE GLENN: Although it didn't have a happy history after we moved out either.
RUTH BOWMAN: Either. So you moved to a. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: It's a cursed house I think.
RUTH BOWMAN: You moved to an 1860 Parisian apartment on an island. [laughs]
CONNIE GLENN: Well, actually we moved to a cottage on Lido, which had no distinctive
architectural features whatsoever. [chuckling] So we set about to make it distinctive
in its own way on the inside. And it was built around a court and had no windows
on the street at all, which was exactly the situation Jack wanted to be in following
the Laguna Beach debacle. He. . . . It was really a form of hiding. It [the
new house] soon began to make me very nervous, because I love a sort of participation
in street-front activity-not the kind we had in Laguna, but at least a feeling
of being part of the outside world, and the, the closed nature of that house
made me nervous very quickly. Although I'm nervous in anything I've lived in
over two and a half years. My history is. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: I've finally got it, Connie. You make exhibitions you live in
as well as exhibitions you work in.
CONNIE GLENN: Well, actually, I guess that's true. I never thought about that.
That must be what I'm doing. [laughing] Yeah. Sure. Why not.
RUTH BOWMAN: That's very interesting because we all. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Because when I finish a house, I have to move. There's nothing
else to do. I'm, you know, I'm bored with it.
RUTH BOWMAN: Getting back to. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: So it's like finishing an exhibition and going on. . . . You're
quite right. I never. . . . I'll have to tell Jack that. It does explain my
peculiarities to some degree, because he's, he's been very patient with my need
to move, but I need to move again. We've lived in our current house two and
a half years and I'm getting real nervous again.
RUTH BOWMAN: That's a long exhibition, I agree. Now getting back to, to what
you show in this gallery-other than historic photographs and avant-garde photographs
and drawings and prints [and, in] process-you've also shown exhibitions that,
before anyone. Like the Germans. Didn't you show Germans earlier and Italians
CONNIE GLENN: The stated mission is to show works of art that would not otherwise
be seen in the greater Los Angeles area. I stated that mission because I think
it's wasteful of resources, particularly on a university campus where resources
are very tight, to show works of art that students have access to otherwise.
And if students are strong and energetic and the artist has representation in
the greater Los Angeles area, they can go see the work. So we bring art here
that, from our point of view, just couldn't be a part of this educational process
otherwise. If we don't do it, it won't arrive here. That policy has resulted
in artists being shown here very early in their careers and often before they
became famous, and sometimes it takes us so long to get the exhibition together,
they're famous by the time we're through organizing the exhibition. We deal
with contemporary art largely out of the interests and expertise of the staff
and also out of budget constrictions. I mean, there's no possible way that we
could show paintings of the School of Paris here, just in terms of the insurance
and space requirements alone. So contemporary art is what happens to most college
and university galleries. Also because students ought to be a part of their
own time. Students shouldn't have to read in art magazines about what's driving
the creative engine of their own era. They ought to be able to see it. So I
think this is another reason that university galleries often end up contemporary
galleries rather than traditional. . . .
RUTH BOWMAN: But having artists in residence here, as you do sometimes. Do
you link in with them?
CONNIE GLENN: Sure. And sometimes there are artists in residence that the museum
has brought here, and sometimes there are artists in residence that the art
department has brought here. But this policy of seeing to it that we show material
that simply wouldn't come to the region otherwise, meant that, for instance,
in cooperation with UAM [University Art Museum] Berkeley, we showed Francesca
[Comeni] first in this country. We showed Donald Sultan and Elizabeth Murray
before they had been shown
in California, and those shows were really followed closely by large shows at MOCA. And I don't know how all that happens. I mean, maybe we're all just looking at the same thing at the same time. But it's perfectly clear to me, over a long history of these exhibitions, that because we show these younger artists in sort of timely, quick-and-dirty situations that that allows us in some ways to bring things here before they come here in more complex, larger, retrospective exhibitions that take longer to organize. And I've always felt like our programs have been a really good foil, particularly for MOCAs, because the area has the opportunity to see the artist in some sort of minor way here, and then they go off in a year, or eighteen months, or two years, to some major exhibition at MOCA and at least it's not a first time around. At least there's been some exposure. And that sort of continues to happen, and I think it's kind of an interesting relationship.
RUTH BOWMAN: Yes, well, currently, of course, there's. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: I mean this is Lorna's first museum exhibition. And in the Italian
exhibition that's up now , there are three artists that are reasonably well
known in this country, and the remainder have not had any exposure in this country
to speak of at all. So maybe these other Italian artists are going to turn up
in galleries in L.A. and in shows in L.A., and that suits me fine. I mean, that's
the way I like it. I like offering an initial exposure that gets built upon,
you know, where the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.
RUTH BOWMAN: You know, one of the things we haven't focused on is the recognition
of you and what you've done generally. And you've been, you've won awards, you've
had a lot of recognition, and your, your half-inch-thick resume attests to that.
But in terms of the way you cast your education program, you do things in the
community, don't you?
CONNIE GLENN: Sure.
RUTH BOWMAN: I mean not just the videotape that may or may not have been broadcast
on KOCE or. . . .
CONNIE GLENN: Oh, Paint Box Pioneers?
RUTH BOWMAN: Yeah.
CONNIE GLENN: The one that, yeah, we were working with KCET on. No, I've always
been involved in the community. It gets harder and harder as this particular
job becomes more and more time consuming.
RUTH BOWMAN: Well, I'm going to take a break after two hours and thank you
at this point and we'll come back. Thank you.
CONNIE GLENN: I'm also less patient with the community and more chary of how I spend my time. [laughs]
END OF INTERVIEW
This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Constance Glenn, 1990 Mar. 16, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.