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For Immediate Release

Contact: Barbara K. Laskin or Doug Stone
March 4, 2005
(651) 696-6203

Macalester Professor Don Celender Dies; Was Renowned Conceptual Artist

Donald D. Celender, a professor of art at Macalester for 40 years and an internationally renowned conceptual artist, died Wednesday, March 2, in his native Pittsburgh, Pa., after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 73.

Celender, the Edith M. Kelso Professor of Art, joined the Macalester faculty in 1964. He taught art history and chaired the Art Department at Macalester for many years. He was still teaching in January, the first week of the current semester, when his illness was discovered. Whenever he was asked if he had plans to retire, Celender would reply: "Never!"

He received a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon and a M.Ed. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. He produced a solo show at O.K. Harris Gallery in New York each year for more than 30 years. He had a solo show titled "Should Art Be Censored?" in the Eisenhower Hall at West Point Military Academy in November 2004.

Celender's exploration into public and private attitudes toward the arts often made use of surveys of various social, professional and educational groups, from architects and travel agents to police chiefs and race-car drivers. The actual responses of the participants, often humorous and surprising, were exhibited to generate conversation and new thinking about art.

In a 1989 article in Mpls.-St. Paul magazine, writer Claude Peck, who took Celender's "Principles of Art" course at Macalester, noted that Celender once proposed that a giant lumber company enclose all of New York City in a hand-painted plywood box. He also invited Spiro Agnew to collect political cartoons of himself, color and sign them and make them available to art museums throughout the country. "In addition to proposing gigantic, undoable art projects, he's asked people to write their epitaph or name their favorite work of art. He has quizzed museum guards on whether they carry guns and how they protect priceless art treasures. He has queried celebrities about how they'd like to be reincarnated and asked museum directors to dispatch snapshots of the backs of famous paintings," Peck wrote.

Ivan Karp, founder of the O.K. Harris Gallery, was quoted in the same article about Celender: "He's an innovator. His work is the only written material in the art world that is interesting and entertaining. He's a humorous sounding board for various ideas that are in circulation but have no formulation-he formulates them."

His work is in many major museum collections such as MoMA in NY, LACMA in Los Angeles and the Art Institute of Chicago. His Artball cards, modeled on bubble gum sports cards but featuring famous artists, appeared on the cover of Art in America magazine in 1976.

Celender is survived by his former wife, Ivy M. Celender, of St. Paul; daughter Catherine; sisters Norma DiPrimio and Teresa D'Amico; and brothers James and Joseph, all of Pittsburgh.

An Art History prize fund has been established in his name. Contributions can be sent to the Macalester Art Department. A funeral service is planned Saturday, March 5, in Pittsburgh. A memorial service on the Macalester campus is being planned in a few weeks. Some of his more well-known conceptual projects can be seen at:



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