Friday, November 6, 2009

CAA 2010: To go, or not to go...

Every February, the College Art Association (CAA) holds its annual conference. It used to be in various cities across the country, but now they rotate between Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. In February, it will be in Chicago, and I'm trying to decide whether or not I should go. CAA is the largest of the professional organizations dedicated to the study of art history and the making of art, offering everything from grants to professional support and publishing opportunities. To deliver a paper at one is seen as an important part of art historical discourse. I've been fortunate to have done so twice already: the first in 2002 in Philadelphia (“The Male Pre-Raphaelite ‘Stunner’: Nudity and Homosexual Identity in the Work of Simeon Solomon"), and another in 2007 in New York (“The Homoerotics of Bacchus: John Gibson and Simeon Solomon in Victorian Rome"). I've never been to Chicago before, and it's an American city I've been wanting to visit, but do I want to go to the "Windy City" in February? How much will I get out of the experience if I'm stuck indoors the whole time? I was hoping a couple of friends were planning to go, but so far no one seems interested. CAA released this week the list of sessions and paper titles that will be presented, so I thought I would highlight just a few that jump out at me for different reasons. Alas, my dilemma remains: To go, or not to go, that is the question.

** The session "Old Women, Witches, and Old Wives" has papers from one on a Baroque portrait by Frans Hals of the painter Judith Leyster, to another on the contemporary artist Louise Nevelson. You have to love the idea of work that focuses on the image of the crone!
** Elizabeth Siegel, Art Institute of Chicago, is doing a paper on Victorian photocollage, the often hilarious, Monty Python-like version of scrapbooks that Victorian women did, merging cut photographs with watercolors and drawings. Her paper probably relates to her exhibition coming to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in February called Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage, which I am looking forward to seeing.
** My friend Mark Pompelia, Rice University, is co-moderating a panel session sponsored by the Visual Resources Association entitled "Academic Image Collections in Transition: Saving the Baby while Repurposing the Bath Water" that relates to how universities are morphing their slide collections into digital image collections.
** The Queer Caucus for Art is sponsoring two panel sessions. The first one, "How is 'Queer' Art Relational?", is about...well, to be honest with you, I have no idea what it's about. This is a good example of when queer theory goes to a place that is beyond anything I can understand. The other session, "Desire Is Queer!", interests me more. There are five papers on that session, including one on censorship and Paul Cadmus's provocative 1933 painting The Fleet's In! presented by Anthony J. Morris, Case Western Reserve University.
** Sally Webster, one of my professors who recently retired, is moderating a great panel session entitled "Moguls, Mansions, and Museums: Art and Culture in America’s First 'Gilded Age'." Among the presenters is Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Seton Hall University, whose paper is entitled "Boom (and Bust) of Artistic Reputations: Collecting Contemporary European Art in Gilded Age America."
** I'm fascinated by the area of Otherness, in particular when work juxtaposes race, religion, and sexuality. The sessions "Texting and Imaging the Oriental Body" and "Aesthetic Culture in British India: The Amateur Arts of Brush, Pencil, and Camera in the Colonial Periphery" both have some promising papers.
** Finally, Patricia Mainardi, my advisor, is co-moderating two panel sessions on "Comics in Art History," part of her interest in exploring the history of comics as a new aspect of popular culture in the 19th century.


Sherman Clarke said...

I say "go." CAA is such a fine combination of sessions you expect to enjoy and ones you'd never imagine yourself enjoying. The sessions you've pointed out all sound worth it. And Chicago is indeed a wonderful city. There's the new Piano wing of the Art Institute on top of the rest of the building and collection. They've even got a Bouts "Mater dolorosa" that will knock your socks off; well, it knocks my socks off but I'm a Northern Renaissance lover.

bklynbiblio said...

Sherman, thanks for your input. I'm still thinking about it, so we'll see...