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Lives: Biography and Autobiography in New Writing on American Art

Terra Symposium 2021 - Poster

Terra Symposium 2021 - Poster

Terra Foundation Symposium (online) - June 3, 2021

The symposium was delivered online using Webex Events. Watch the recording of the event here.

The origins of art history privileged the artist’s biography in the explanation and interpretation of artworks, but such narratives came to be rejected for their heroic and exclusionary narratives of the exceptionalism and isolated genius. In their place, questions of historical, social, and intellectual context took precedence, and the writing of an artist’s life came to seem conservative and unconnected to larger social, political, and aesthetic concerns. However, recent art historical scholarship has found a renewed interest in the details of the lives of artists as embedded in their social and artistic worlds, and these new approaches aim to create a more equitable and diverse narrative of art’s many histories. Biography and autobiography have come to be newly relevant as art history struggles with its legacies of exclusion based on race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability. This symposium will showcase some new biographical and autobiographical approaches to writing American art’s histories, with a view toward the ways in which the life experiences of artists and writers afford opportunities for counternarratives and new ways of understanding the diverse histories of American art. Lives: Biography and Autobiography in New Writing on American Art brings together scholars and curators who discuss the intertwinement and intersectionality of artists’ life experiences with the work they produced from them. Speakers include C. Ondine Chavoya, Joan Kee, Cyle Metzger, and Helen Molesworth.

This online symposium is sponsored by the Terra Foundation for American Art in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and is convened by its David J. Getsy, 2020-2021 Terra Foundation Professor of American Art.

Schedule (Central European Summer Time) (GMT+2)

16:00  Welcome and Introduction
David J. Getsy 
Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies

16:20  “Howardena Pindell’s Life of Japan”
Joan Kee
University of Michigan

16:50  Questions

17:10  “Multiples, Ephemera, and Mail Art Personae: Teddy Sandoval and the Butch Gardens School of Art”
C. Ondine Chavoya
Williams College

17:40  Questions

18:00  BREAK

18:20  “Cut and Sew: Transgender History and Catharsis in Greer Lankton’s Dolls”
Cyle Metzger
Smithsonian American Art Museum

18:50  Questions

19:10  “Figure/Ground circa 1997”
Helen Molesworth
Writer and Curator

19:40  Questions

20:00  Wrap up