My research focuses on the American poets Marianne Craig Moore (1887–1972) and Wallace Stevens (1879–1955), the American assemblage artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), and the Canadian poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979). The project examines the nature of influence, exploring how creative relationships are formed, organized, and maintained. The anthropological theory of the gift economy provides a structure that can demonstrate how individuals manage the exchange of ideas and influence, and establish independence from mentors and antecedents. This approach repositions the artwork, the practitioner, the critic, and the public in a non-hierarchical, cyclical and continuous relation to one another. Through the analysis of archive materials, letters and gifts, and the practical criticism of achieved artworks and poems, the thesis will demonstrate how gift exchange contributes to every aspect of the creative process, from an artwork’s composition to the developing relationship between a poet and her mentors and public. Relevant chapters examine the shifts and exchanges achieved in the poetry of Marianne Moore between found objects, texts, and poems; Joseph Cornell’s subversion of the commercial construction of the art market by his substitution of ritualised gift exchange; the effects of a breakdown in the gift economy as demonstrated in the mentorship relationship between Bishop and Moore; the disruptions and intersections which occur as objects and texts leave the gift economy and enter the market; and the delicate web of influence and disagreement between Marianne Moore and Wallace Stevens.
Siofra was a Visiting Fellow at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California in 2013, and completed a 2012 graduate internship at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. In 2011 she received a Junior Fellowship from the Terra Foundation for American Art, and was selected to participate in the Fulbright Summer Institute at NYU in 2010. She graduated with a first in English from Oxford University, and received her MA from University College London.