Profile: Margaret Rose Vendryes (1955-)

Margaret Rose Vendryes is a visual artist, curator, and art historian based in New York.

Early life and education

Vendryes began her studies in costume design before moving to fine art and earning a Bachelor’s degree at Amherst College, graduating in 1984. She went on to earn her MA in Art History in 1992 from Tulane University and her PhD from Princeton University in 1997 where she focused on African American art history.


Vendryes is Chair of the Department of Performing and Fine Arts and Director of the Fine Arts Gallery at York College in New York where she began working in 2000.

From 2000 till 2001 she worked as visiting lecturer for Art & Archaeology and African American Studies at Princeton University. She also worked as associate professor for Modern American and Contemporary Art at City University of New York from 2002 till 2007.

She has warned against what she calls “the race-centered approach” to interpreting artwork, the practice of reading the influence of an artist’s race into their artwork, as she believed it could limit the interpretation and context of the work and minimize the assessment of their impact on the larger art movements.

In 2009 Vendryes worked as lecturer for African Art at Boston University in Massachusetts.

From 2011 to 2013 she was a lecturer for African & African American Art at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

In 2013 Vendryes returned as Distinguished Lecturer in Fine Arts and Director of the York College Fine Arts Gallery at York College, CUNY.

In 2015 she gave the opening lecture for The Visual Blues, an exhibition with work from the Harlem Renaissance at the Jepson Center for the Arts.


In 2005 Vendryes began a series of multi-media works within her The African Diva Project, with oil and cold wax on canvas, and more recently, embedded African masks. The series began with a portrait of Donna Summer inspired by her Four Seasons of Love album cover. The imagery juxtaposes and combines portraits of Western pop culture icons with traditional African masks. Because these masks are traditionally worn only by men, she has noted her exploration of power, race, gender and beauty through these works.

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