by Erin Hanas
In 1993 the Duke Museum of Art purchased Angela Bourodimos’ All Access Fountain (1991) and included it that year in “SoHo at Duke IV,” one in a series of student-curated exhibitions. All Access Fountain will be back on display this semester as part of “Exposing the Gaze: Gender and Sexuality in Art,” in another student-curated exhibition organized by Professor Kimberly Lamm’s fall 2012 class “Gender, Sexuality, and the Image.” Because the work is a bit complicated to install—consisting of an assemblage of a photograph of Madonna under resin, Barbie, Ken, Midge, and Allen dolls, and a urinal painted with lipstick and makeup—it has not been on view for some time.
It’s always fun to feature a work that has been in storage for a while. We quickly found out, however, that the Nasher Museum had little information on the artist. Where was Angela Bourodimos born? We needed an answer for the wall label text. This seemingly simple question led to a team effort in trying to track down more information about the artist.
A few people found a website that said Angela Bourodimos was involved in a medical malpractice suit. Tragic complications from surgery had left her in a coma in 1997 and she died in 2009. But was this the same Angela Bourodimos we were looking for? We weren’t sure because the birthdate in the legal case did not match the date we had in our files.
I finally stumbled upon a May/June 2010 newsletter for the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George in Piscataway, NJ, which included a note of thanks from the family of Angela Bourodimos for everyone’s support after Angela’s death. I decided to contact the church to see if this was the artist and to see if someone there could tell me more information about her.
Not long after, I received a telephone message that Eleni Bourodimos, Angela’s mother, was trying to reach me. The church had let her know that someone was interested in learning more about her daughter, the artist.
Eleni spoke to me about her daughter and told me the information we needed for our wall label: Angela was born in Athens, Greece in 1957. Sadly, Angela was the woman in the malpractice suit that we had come across earlier. But Eleni did not dwell on her passing, although she greatly misses her daughter. Instead, she told me about Angela’s life. The family emigrated to the U.S. in August 1961 because Angela’s father had a scholarship to attend MIT. After earning his MA and PhD in engineering, he became a professor at Rutgers, where he remained for the rest of his career. The children—Angela, her older brother, Lampros, and her younger sister, Sonia—attended public school and the Greek school. Lampros later earned a PhD in engineering and Sonia earned a master’s in social work; Angela followed her love of art. She first studied art history at Rutgers and then went to Hunter College for her master’s and attended some classes at NYU while also embarking on her career as an artist. Before Eleni and I said goodbye, she very proudly told me that, after watching each of her children graduate, she decided at the age of 39 to become a college student and earned a degree in psychology from Rutgers.
Sometimes one short question can lead to a wealth of information.
Photo by J Caldwell