The Body

The Body: Race & Gender in Modern and Contemporary Art

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This course charts past and present artistic mediations of racial, ethnic and gendered experiences throughout the world, using the rubric of the body. In the struggle to understand the relation between self and other, artists have critically engaged with the images that define our common sense of belonging, ranging from a rejection of stereotypes to their appropriations, from the discovery of alternative histories to the rewriting of dominant narratives, from the concepts of difference to theories of diversity. The ultimate goal of the course is to find ways of adequately imagining and imaging various identities today. We will discuss sociopolitical discourses, including essentialism, structuralism, postmodernism, and post-colonialism and we will question the validity of such concepts as diaspora, nationalism, transnationalism and identity in an era of global politics that celebrates the hybrid self. As part of the Public Speaking Program, students are trained and present public gallery talks at the Davis Museum at the end of the semester.

In an effort to break beyond the confines of the Wellesley College walls, we invest creative energy towards offering our ideas within a public forum vis-à-vis our class blog, Twitter and public gallery talks (see photos above). Everyone is required to have a Twitter account, as we follow each other’s posts throughout the semester.

At the Ruhlman Conference at Wellesley College in April 2015, Courtney Jackson, Zoé Schreiber, Anneliese Klein, and Sabrina Giglio presented “Reflections on Race and Gender in Contemporary Art” that highlighted their final projects in the course. The students chose to research objects created by artists of color in the Davis Museum, while a fourth created her own performance piece. Sabrina Giglio ’15 discussed her experiences interviewing John Woodrow Wilson, famous for his many renderings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was also a finalist for the Jacqueline Loewe Fowler ’47 Public Speaking Prize. Courtney Jackson ’15 explored Adrian Piper and her attempt to show viewers what it means to be a colored woman artist fighting to create subjective work and gain recognition in the art world through her oeuvre. Zoe Schreiber examined Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’ Sawdy, a mixed media assemblage in which the Kienholz includes the viewer to enable them to comment on the legacies of racial violence in post-Civil Rights Movement America. Last, Anneliese Klein ’15 addressed her 2014 original performance piece, “I Am The Alien Interloper.”

ARTH 316-Ruhlman

Some of our most exciting moments come when we have opportunities to speak with guests scholars in the classroom: Elena Creef, Irene Mata, and Sima Shakhsari all in the Women & Gender Studies Department at Wellesley College.

Through Skype, we spent time with Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor of African American and American Studies at UC Berkeley, in order to discuss her research on the images of the Black Panthers from her book, Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare. In the fall of 2014, Dr. Raiford spent part of the time in conversation with Marcia Chatelain, Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University. Dr. Chatelain initiated #FergusonSyllabus as a way for educators to share ideas on how to talk about Ferguson in their classrooms.

Lorraine O’Grady,  acclaimed artist and Wellesley alumna, class of 1955 spoke with us via Google Hangout. O’Grady recently donated her papers to the Wellesley College Archives. The students had an opportunity to pour over a small sample of her letters, photographs, and articles.

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Field Trips to Boston & New York City , February 2013 | Dartmouth University, Hanover, NH, October 2014

Another highlight included the Department of Art’s Dr. Ruth Morrris Bakwin Class of 1919 Lecture delivered by Andrea Fraser on “Institutional Critique” in February 2013 and Dr. Kellie Jones, “Crisscrossing the World: Los Angeles Artists and the Global Imagination, 1960-1980” in October 2014. Students had the opportunity to view Dr. Jones’ exhibition “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties” at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth prior to the lecture. Andrea Fraser is currently a Professor of New Genres in the Department of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles & Dr. Jones is Associate Professor in Art History and Archaeology and the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia University at Columbia University. 

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