The Challenge of Trans*historicities

On Thursday, March 23rd, noon ET, l will discuss the challenge of putting trans*historicities into practice in our research and teaching as part of a session sponsored by the ECR (Early Career Researcher) French Nineteenth-Century Art Network.

In their 2018 TSQ article, “Trans, Time, and History,” Leah Devun and Zeb Tortorici think about the potential for transgender history if scholars were to employ historicity: an approach that considers the relationship between the past, present, and future. As a case study, I will reflect upon the successes and failures of my recent seminar Nonconforming Before Genderqueer at the Cooper Union, which largely focused on the eighteenth until the early-twentieth centuries.

Seminar on the Histories of Artist’s Books

During the spring 2023 semester, I will be teaching the seminar Histories of the Artist’s Book at Cooper Union. The course examines how and why artists have used the book format from the late-nineteenth century until the present.

It offers an in-depth look at select works and spends signifiant time with art by African American, Asian American and Latinx artists. The course examines the important role that women played in shaping the possibilities of the artist’s book during the period of second wave feminism. Eight class sessions will be held in special collections at libraries and at museums including: The Metropolitan Museum’s Watson Library, Morgan Library and Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Newark Public Library, New York Public Library Schwarzman Building, and NYU Special Collections. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a workshop held at the Center for Book Arts.


Nonconforming Before Genderqueer

I will be joining the faculty of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art as a part-time assistant professor this fall. During the upcoming semester I will be teaching a seminar entitled Nonconforming Before Genderqueer, which examines the history of transgender and intersex representation from the Middle Ages to the present in Europe and America.

The courses investigates how art and literature have been used to imagine alternatives to the gender binary, focusing on the period between 1750 and 1950. Students will make individual research appointments at the Morgan Library and Museum and class sessions will be held at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Newark Museum of Art. For more information, visit the full course description.

British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Teaching Prize

I am honored to announce that I have received this year’s Teaching Prize from the British Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies in recognition of my fall 2021 Macaulay Honors College seminar Reclaiming the Black Body in European Art.

The judges wrote that they felt that the class “was a pedagogically strong course which incorporated an impressive range of teaching setting, of assessment modes and styles, and which was also particularly interesting for the emphasis it placed on student reflection.” The Macaulay Honors College newsletter Macaulay Monday announced the award and profiled the course in an article, available here.

Reclaiming the Black Body in European Art

This fall I will be teaching the seminar Reclaiming the Black Body in European Art at at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College. The course examines scholarship on the depiction of African Europeans in art and literature, focusing on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries.

The class will examine how white Europeans depicted Black bodies as a way to define their own racial identity. We will also examine how artists of color from the United State traveled to Europe to seek training and created works that were radical because they argued for the humanity of the Black body. The course is designed for students majoring in all disciplines who seek to better understand how bodily imagery is racialized and historical strategies of resistance. Due to the pandemic the course is designated as hybrid: we will meet online with opportunities for in-person learning. Student will make individual research appointments at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and visit artworks independently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. More details about the course can be found here.

UPDATE 4/22/2022: My course received this year’s teaching prize from the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

I’m a PhD!

I’m very excited to announce that I passed my dissertation defense and will receive my doctorate in Art History with a certificate in women’s studies from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in June 2021!

My dissertation, The Painter and His Poets: Paul Gauguin and Interartistic Exchange, examines objects and texts that were given between Gauguin and his Symbolist literary contemporaries. For more details visit CUNY Academic Works.

Members of my dissertation committee include my adviser, Katherine Manthorne, Professor of Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center, Rose-Carol Washton Long, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center, Bettina Lerner, Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Ziva Amishai-Maisels, Professor of Art History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Time, Memory, and Impression: Framing Experience in the Later Nineteenth Century

In collaboration with art historian Nancy Locke (Penn State), I organized a panel for the 2018 Nineteenth-Century Studies Association conference, titled “Time, Memory, and Impression: Framing Experience in the Later Nineteenth Century.” Panelists included Lauren S. Weingarden (Florida State) on Baudelaire’s vision of Charles Meryon’s Eaux-fortes sur Paris (1850-4); Jeremy Melius (Tufts) on Walter Pater’s thinking about sensation during the 1860/70s and Andre Dombrowski (University of Pennsylvania) on the standardization of time and Monet’s landscapes. Nancy Locke was the panel’s respondent. The conference program is available here.

The panel investigated relations between conceptual structures and the experience of art in Western Europe during the second half of the 19th century. From the work of Michael Baxandall, art historians recognize that expectations around perception are historically contingent and affect artistic production. Writing on the art of the Renaissance, Baxandall argued that period viewers possessed skills once taken for granted and now lost, which painters once relied upon to convey meaning. The presenters used a variety of approaches to examine the interaction between artists, viewers and the schemata they used to perceive. For some, this involved examining the philosophical vistas that frame viewers’ standpoints, whereas for others, this meant investigating the cultural histories and technologies that shape the sense of their perceptual abilities. During the period under consideration, artists and their works intersected with a wide range of thinking about seeing. For example, at mid-century, Gustav Fechner’s Elemente der Psychophysik (1860) sought to quantify perception; however, by the end of the century, Henri Bergson’s Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (1889) claimed that perception was unquantifiable. Likewise, advances in industry resulted in increasing mechanization, dramatically altering Europeans’ conceptions of time and space. As the panelists argued, charting the different vistas of perception can give us a better sense of the possibilities and limits of experience during this period, enhancing our understanding of its artistic works.

Against Paragone: Alfred Jarry and Paul Gauguin

In 2018, I gave a talk at the annual College Art Association Conference in Los Angeles as part of a session organized by the Society of Paragone Studies. Entitled “Against Paragone: Alfred Jarry and Paul Gauguin,” I examined one of Jarry’s poems that he wrote after Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings, L’homme à la hache (1891), after seeing them in the fall of 1893. Jarry gave his poems to the artist and Gauguin placed the manuscript in an artist portfolio that is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The panel can be found here in the conference program.

Known today for his plays, novels, and prose, Alfred Jarry also wrote art criticism early in his career. In an 1894 essay for the Mercure de France, a central organ of the Symbolist movement, Jarry remarked upon the absurdity of his attempts to describe the work of Charles Filiger, which, he noted, added nothing. Around the same time, Jarry also turned his critical eye to the work of Gauguin, the subject of critic Albert Aurier’s famous essay, “Le Symbolisme en peinture”, published three years earlier. Instead of prose, Jarry chose to write poetry after Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings. This paper examined how Jarry drew upon Aurier’s critical legacy to write these poems, which were dedicated to Gauguin and given to the artist. In the early 1890s, Aurier theorized that a sympathetic relation between viewer and artwork was essential to aesthetic experience, and that poets were particularly well suited to offer insight onto visual works. Whereas artist-writer relations are often framed as competitions, in light of Aurier’s thinking, this paper uses a collaborative model. Taking a case study approach, I examined the interrelationships between Gauguin’s painting Man with an Axe (1891)and Jarry’s eponymous poem. Whereas the painting has been read largely in terms of Gauguin’s autobiography, Jarry’s poem offers new insight into the meanings of this opaque work. In addition, the pairing helps us think about how to view works by other Symbolists in a manner consistent with the thinking of Gauguin’s circle.

Inter-Arts Exchange as Modernist Method, circa 1900

For the 2018 College Art Association Annual Conference, I and art historian Juliet Bellow (American University) organized the panel “Inter-Arts Exchange as Modernist Method, circa 1900.” Panelists included Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen (Williams College), who spoke about Vaslav Nijinski’s ballet The Afternoon of a Faun (1912), Katherine Brion (New College), who discussed Maurice Denis’s History of Psyche (1908), and Juliet Bellow, who presented on Auguste Rodin and Loïe Fuller’s relationship and their shared interest in photographs from her book project, Rodin’s Dancers: Moving Toward the Limits of Sculpture.

During the fin de siècle, artists sought to forge novel relations between media, aiming to reinvent the art object as well as the processes of its making and consumption. A central point of reference for these endeavors, which freely crossed national borders, was Charles Baudelaire’s 1861 essay “Richard Wagner and Tannhäuser in Paris,” in which he defined a modern aesthetic originating in synaesthesia and the interrelationship between the arts. By 1900, Wagner’s concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork), disseminated through critical texts in several languages, proved influential upon a new generation of writers, painters, sculptors, and choreographers. Reformulating the concept of the paragone, premised upon a competition that implicitly enshrined the singularity of the artist’s vision, these artists embraced a synergistic model of creative practice—one commensurate with Baudelaire’s theory of correspondences among the arts.

This session asked how such inter-artistic exchange resulted in the emergence of new modernist languages around 1900. The papers examined how interactions between painters and poets, sculptors and dancers, fine and applied artists yielded new formal languages. Collaboration, however fraught, appealed as a means of overcoming artists’ alienation in the modern world, even if they disagreed over whether aesthetic unity might forge a broader social consensus. While grounded in the art of fin-de-siècle Europe, the papers offered broader methodological reflections on transpositions between the arts—from canvas to stage, from choreography to sculpture, from painting to applied arts and architecture—thereby challenging art history’s equation of an oeuvre with the work of a single artist.

Van Gogh Museum Research Grant

In 2017, I received the annual Van Gogh Museum Research grant. The grant is given to recent art history graduates in support of research towards publication. The museum awarded the grant to aid in my research on Paul Gauguin and Charles Morice’s collaboration on the artist’s travelogue Noa Noa. The award was announced by the Van Gogh Museum in its 2017 annual report and in an article by the CUNY Graduate Center.