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Marlene Park, 1931-2010


Marlene Park, 1931-2010



Marlene Park, an art historian who documented New Deal art and worked to preserve public art in America died on July 10 in Santa Cruz, California. She was 78 years old.


The cause was breast cancer, said her husband, William Park.


Though she began her career as a medievalist, earning her doctorate under Meyer Schapiro at Columbia, once she began teaching at John Jay College, of the City University of New York, she shifted her scholarly interests to American art between the two World Wars. With her colleague Gerald E. Markowitz, she published New Deal for Art, 1977, followed by Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal, 1984, the standard work on the art created for New Deal post offices. In the 1980s she was President of the Public Art Preservation Committee, an organization which identified and attempted to preserve endangered works of public art, such as the murals in the Rincon Annex in San Francisco. At the Graduate Center of The City University of New York, she taught courses in the Federal Arts Projects and women's sculpture and published studies of Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Blanche Lazzell, and images of lynching in American art. Her photography was featured in shows at Sarah Lawrence College and the Santa Cruz Art League and may be seen on her web site <>.


Marlene Park was born in Los Angeles on December 1, 1931. Her father, Warren Shobert, then a lawyer for Paramount, claimed that on the set of one of her movies Marlene Dietrich asked him to name his daughter after her. Ms. Park graduated from UCLA in 1949, majoring in merchandizing. But while working in New York, she took a course in art history at Columbia's School of General Studies which changed the course of her life. Her doctoral study of the ivory "Crucifix of Fernando and Sancha," 1963, now in the Archeological Museum in Madrid, and her subsequent article about it, solved the problem of its artistic origins in favor of France and the Channel School of illumination. While working as a researcher for Julius Held on a catalogue for the Museum of Art, Ponce Puerto Rico, she discovered a then unknown preparatory sketch for Gainsborough's "Upland Valley with Shepherd, Sheep and Cattle."


After short stints as an adjunct at Hunter and Lehman Colleges, she was given a full time position at John Jay, the first art historian in the then new college. She taught there and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York until her retirement in 2000.


In 1958, while still a graduate student, she married William J. Park, also a graduate student, who later became a Sarah Lawrence professor. She is survived by her husband, two children, Catharine of Bronxville, NY and William T. of Santa Cruz, CA, two step sons, Jonathan of Guilford, CT and Geoffrey of Portland, OR, and nine grandchildren.


A Memorial Mass will be held at Holy Cross Church, 126 High Street on Wednesday, July 28th at 11:00 a.m.


Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on July 25, 2010


This obituary was exerpted from the website of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, dated August 7, 2010.


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