[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.]
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 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.
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 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.