CAA 2011: Student Report

[Two second-year graduate students in their last semester at AU—Emily McAlpine (Modern European) and Tiffany Meadows (Italian Renaissance)—went to the College Art Association conference in New York from Feb. 9 to 12.]

Image from conference.collegeart.org/2011

Image from conference.collegeart.org/2011

Fresh off the plane from our trip to Art Basel Miami Beach in December, we decided we should do our best to attend CAA in New York! Neither of us had been to CAA (and Tiffany had never been to NYC before), so we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. After registering at student rates, booking student rates at the hotel, buying our bus tickets (we’re all about student discounts and budget travel), we finally sat down to take a look at what we’d be attending. We were definitely overwhelmed by the amount of sessions and papers being given, but tentatively mapped out an itinerary for the four days. When we arrived, we caught the end of one session at the Hilton, and met up with a professor from Emily’s undergrad art history days. For the rest of Wednesday we played tourist, saw Times Square, and called it a night.

THURSDAY

Thursday morning both of us went to the Vasari session (in honor of his 500th birthday). Papers ranged from Daneila Galloppi’s restoration of Vasari’s own paintings; Mauro Di Vito’s paper on Vasari’s use of animal and nature symbolism and its magical functions; Karen Goodchild’s paper investigating Vasari’s rhetoric of the landscape; Alice Kramer’s work on the “Trattato,” and David Cast’s presentation on architecture’s representation in the Lives. The papers demonstrated nuanced approaches to Vasari’s painting and literary work. Tiffany’s thoughts: That there are many avenues to still conduct research for Vasari scholarship–we do need to take a fresh look at his Lives to investigate not only what he writes, but how he constructs his argument. Hidden in the Lives is a vast amount of possibilities which still need to be vetted.

For lunch, we met up with Dr. Garrard and we were joined by Betsy Damon, and talked about all sorts of things, from Betsy’s ongoing water projects to our own student thesis work.

After that, we went in to sit down for the feminism session, chaired by Dr. Broude and Griselda Pollock, set up in a self-described “mash-up” format, with a two-part panel discussion. The first part moderated by Dr. Broude was titled “Women, Museums, Curricula, Galleries, Markets” and the discussion started with questions of whether or not women-only shows are progress, or rather a ghettoizing of a particular group. In speaking order, we heard from Cornelia Butler, curator of drawings at MoMA; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev,the 2012 director for the Documenta show; Carol Duncan, prolific scholar and Professor Emeritus at Ramapo College in New Jersey; Catherine Morris, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum; and Katja Zigerlig, an AU alumna and Assistant Vice President of Art, Wine and Jewelry Insurance at Private Client Group, part of Chartis Insurance.

Topics discussed were:

  • How to define feminism (Cornelia Butler called it “the dismantling of hierarchies across culture”)
  • Whether or not projects should be organized according to sex, gender, ethnicity (Christov-Bakargiev doesn’t believe they should be and has never done so in her own curating)
  • The slow pace of museums versus the academic world
  • How to label women artists: Catherine Morris sees words like ‘feminist,’ ‘African,’ ‘queer’ as descriptive, a means of additional information rather than a qualifier… but what about the term “women artists?”
  • Relations of money, perceived taste and power, and quality in the art market

Griselda Pollock’s portion of the panel discussion was titled “Changing (the) Perspectives,” focused on a demonstration of how feminism has reached different parts of the world, and what response has been. The discussion featured Elsa Hsiang-Chun Chen from National Yang Ming University (unable to attend, but her portion was read by Pollock), Laura Malosetti-Costa at Universidad Nacional de San Martín and University of Buenos Aires, Charmaine Nelson from McGill University in Montreal, Joan Kee at the University of Michigan and Jenni Sorkin, from the Getty Research Institute. Each scholar provided a glimpse of their own view of both their country’s and institution’s engagement with feminism, art by women artists, and in their opinion, where the discourse currently stands. Charmaine Nelson, for example, stated that from the perspective of a black feminist in Canada, feminism as a whole is extremely behind in Canada, and there has been very little investigation into black women artists of Canada, since there is a tendency to gravitate toward American social/cultural history.

Thursday night, we went to the party held at Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art—an interesting atmosphere, a good time with friends, and seemed to end too soon.

At the Metropolitan Museum party

At the Metropolitan Museum party

Tiffany & Emily with Rutgers friends at the Met

Tiffany & Emily with Rutgers friends at the Met

FRIDAY

Friday morning, Tiffany headed off early for the first part of her Italian sessions–“Claiming Authorship: Artists, Patrons, and Strategies of Self-Promotion in Medieval and Early Modern Italy, Part I.” The session was hosted by the Italian Art Society with papers ranging from the Visconti’s iconography to Pope Paul V’s frescos in the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome. Paul H.D. Kaplan’s paper on Giorgione was especially interesting as demonstrated military influences in his works which reflect “George of Freecastle’s” biography.

Emily checked out the book fair (and shamelessly wrote down some titles to get via library loan) and then went to an exhibitor’s session, “The Role of Art Supplies in the Art Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Paris” focused on the paint shop of Sennelier in Paris. The shop’s namesake, the original Gustave Sennelier opened his shop in 1887, inventing and selling paint to artists—including many that we know today! His grandson, Dominique Sennelier, spoke at the session of his family history, and brought in several items to show the audience, and had an extensive slideshow of family photos, and photographs of the making of the paint through the generations up until modern production today. Watch a YouTube video of Dominique Sennelier below (talking in his store in Paris) to get a sense of what his talk at CAA was like!

For the later afternoon session, Emily was off to “The Contemporary ‘Querelle’ of the Ancients and Moderns, Part I,” listening to talks on Manet, Seurat and the arts of antiquity. At the same time, Tiffany went to “Our Demons,” a mysteriously titled Centennial session that focused on the different “demons” artists and art historians face in their work. Papers ranged from Dallas Denery’s biblical reading of the first “demon” and God’s ability to lie, Roy Crosse’s presentation on his battle with the “Cancer demon,” to Mary Patten’s work on the “Terrorist demon.” The panelists demonstrated how “demons” take many forms but become a part of art as subject or theme.

Right after our talks, we went upstairs to mingle at the AU reception. Most of our professors were there, as was VRC curator Kathe Albrecht, several alums, current students (that’s us) and even a prospective student! That was followed by a fantastic dinner to celebrate the success of our first annual Feminist Art History Conference (remember, call for papers is open for the second one!) We ate around the corner at Serafina, where everyone talked further, caught up and reflected quite a bit on the feminism session from the previous day.

SATURDAY

Saturday we split ways for part of the day once again—Tiffany grabbed brunch with an old friend before heading to a session held by the Asian American Women’s Art Association, “Under Construction: Building a New Context for Asian American Art History.” This was a hidden gem in the crowded assortment of CAA Sessions. Panelists included Mark Johnson, Cynthia Tom, Susette Min, Margo Machida and discussant Moira Roth. One of the most thought-provoking comments was made by Susette Min, as she challenged the audience to focus not on what Asian American art is, but what it does. Margo Machida’s presentation really questioned the role of the Diaspora in Asian American art and art history. Machida imparted the audience to investigate the contemporary “cosmopolitanism” and “domestic multiculturalism.”

Emily spent most of her morning at the MoMA. She got to see an early preview of the Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 show, got lost in the Abstract Expressionist: New York show, checked out the show of women photographers (since it was a topic of discussion in the feminism session on Thursday), and all-too-briefly reconnected with her favorites in the permanent collection. Tiffany continued with the second part of her Italian session from Thursday, and before we knew it, we had to head to Penn Station to catch our bus back to DC.

All in all, we had a great time and are hoping to attend next year in LA! Anyone want to join?

Oh, and can’t forget some of our most memorable “celebrity” sightings (aside from our own great professors): James Saslow, Griselda Pollock, William Wallace, Tamar Garb, Carol Duncan, Alexander Nagel, Richard Brilliant, and probably many more with blocked/absent nametags.

Second Annual Feminist Art History Conference

The Second Annual Feminist Art History Conference is already in the works.  It will be held on Friday and Saturday on November 4th and 5th.  The keynote address will be given Friday evening by Dr. Mary Sheriff, a professor of Art History at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  The conference is free and open to the public.  All of the sessions and the keynote will be held on AU’s campus.  On Saturday there will be a special panel on feminist art and museums.  On Sunday there will be a tour of the Gertrude Stein exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, led by curator Wanda Corn.

The call for papers is now open.  If interested, please submit a one-page single-spaced proposal on any topic of feminist interest in art history and/or visual studies with a 2-page curriculum vita by May 15, 2011.  Accepted proposals will be notified by June 15, 2011.  Please email proposals and CVs to:

  • bellow@american.edu
  • nbroude@american.edu
  • butler@american.edu
  • mgarrar@american.edu
  • kunimoto@american.edu
  • hlanga@american.edu

Google Art Project: An New Art Viewing Experience

On Tuesday Google unveiled an astounding new venture for enjoying art.  Called Google Art Project, it is a website that allows viewers to explore some of the most famous museums in the world, all from the comfort of their own homes.  Using a similar format as street view on Google Maps, users can navigate through the halls of seventeen different art institutions.  The featured museums include the Freer Gallery of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery in London, and the State Hermitage Museum.  All of the photographs must have been taken after hours, as no museum goers are visible.  The website visitor therefore gets the experience of being alone in the some of the most tourist-heavy museums in the world, a rare experience indeed.  While the walkthrough feature is impressive, the paintings on the walls appear a bit blurry.  The website also has an art viewer feature that allows visitors to zoom in masterpieces from the museums.  Google used a “gigapixel” process to stitch together multiple high-resolution images.  According to Amit Sood, the leader of the Google Art Project, there are on average seven billion pixels per high resolution image.  That is a thousand times more pixels than the average digital camera.  Another interesting feature is “Create an Artwork Collection”.   This allows users to save images and build their own personalized collection.  Comments can be added to the paintings, and then shared with others.  This feature could prove to be both a fun interactive and a useful tool for the classroom.

A close up of a high resolution image of Starry Night. The image is so high quality that the canvas is visible.

Another close up of Starry Night

This fascinating new website raises many questions.  While the Google Art Project is a great alternative for those who can’t afford to travel, can the virtual experience replace actually visiting the museum? Will the Google Art Project cut down on museum visiting numbers, or will it inspire more people to come and see the art in person?  Will museums lose important sources of revenue if high quality images can be easily obtained for free from the Google Art Project, instead of purchased from the institution?  Will having access to extremely high resolution images prove to be a valuable tool for art historians?

As this feature was just unveiled on Tuesday, it remains to be seen what affect it will have on the art world, both scholarly and popular.  Regardless, it can’t be denied that the Google Art Project will make the art of some of the most renowned art collections in the world widely available to the general public.  To judge for yourself click here- http://www.googleartproject.com/