When not traveling to New York, Miami or other hotbeds of contemporary, Dr. Matthew McLendon, teaches at New College of Florida as well as The Florida State University, and arranges amazing exhibitions in the The Ringling Searing Wing. Fresh off the heels of a working trip to Miami for Art Basel (insert jealousy here), we’re grateful he was able to take a couple minutes out of his busy schedule to hang out with us.
• Name: Matthew McLendon
• Title: Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
• Hometown: East Palatka, Florida
• Education: TWO Bachelors of Arts in Art History and Music from The Florida State University. Master and Doctorate in the History of Art both attained at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London
Inside The Ringling: Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. That’s a mouthful. Can you sum up what that entails… in 40 words or less?
MM: My job involves caring for artists and the work that they have created, and bringing their visions to our audiences so that they might have a better understanding of themselves and their world.
ITR: [Note: only 33 words –Dr. McLendon is efficient!]
What’s a typical day like for you at The Ringling?
MM: There is no “typical” day at The Ringling!
ITR: [The man speaks the truth]
Alright – let’s say that in the course of one of these typically atypical days, you’re at your wits end – creatively or otherwise. Where on the Estate do you go to escape?
MM: Well, it’s Florida – so if it’s not too hot, definitely the Ca’ d’Zan Terrace.
ITR: Are you a coffee drinker? We picture you there with a coffee.
MM: YES. [Laughs] And if it’s too hot for the Terrace, I love to take some time out in our two Contemporary Galleries, or the Rubens Gallery.
ITR: It’s interesting you didn’t mention the Turrell Skyspace… [which McLendon was instrumental in bringing to The Ringling in 2009]
MM: Oh, YEAH, definitely the Turrell. It’s so quiet. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to reveal my favorite hiding spot.
ITR: You’ve lived in Sarasota, what, four years now? Where are some of your favorite haunts in town?
MM: I love the bar at Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, if I want quiet. If I’m in a rowdy mood, it’s definitely the Bahi Hut.
ITR: Ha! Who doesn’t secretly love the Bahi Hut?! Do you start or end your night there?
MM: Definitely end the night there. At sunset it’s a different crowd.
ITR: What would be the “Top Played” Artist on your iPod right now?
MM: Hmmm… Shirley Horn.
ITR: Interesting choice. What is it about her music that speaks to you?
MM: She relaxes me.
ITR: Can you name any artists that currently inspire you?
MM: Well, R. Luke DuBois for sure right now! It’s all-Luke, all-the-time.
ITR: [That sounds like an awesome TV network! For the record, MM is launching Luke’s first solo museum exhibition at The Ringling in January.]
ITR: Okay, that’s a given! How about anyone else, maybe someone Luke mentors – or an artist inspiring your future projects?
MM: I’m also working with Jill Sigman right now. I’m currently writing a chapter in her book – and she’s an artist I’m including in next year’s upcoming exhibition here.
ITR: Are you a breakfast eater? If so, what’s your favorite breakfast food?
MM: My FAVORITE is French Toast. But normally I try to eat eggs or have a berry smoothie.
ITR: If there was a movie about your life, which actor would play you?
MM: Which actor would I WANT to play me? Hmmm… Zachary Quinto or Jake Gyllenhaal. But I imagine there aren’t many red-headed actors.
ITR: Yeah, we can think of Jesse Tyler Ferguson… and that’s it.
ITR: Now if you could take any one in the world – past, present, factual, fictional – to dinner, who would it be?
MM: Oh boy… well, I’m a great admirer of this person, whom I’ve always wanted to meet: Dolly Parton. And she’d be FUN at dinner.
ITR: True! So is there anything else our dear readers should (or shouldn’t!) know about you, Dr. McLendon?
MM: Even though I live in south Florida, I’m guilty of constantly buying winter coats. I probably have about 5.
ITR: Do you have a favorite?
MM: Definitely my Michael Kors military-style double-breasted coat in charcoal grey.
ITR: Sounds fabulous. Thanks for your time – it was fun hanging out!