Tag Archives: Michael Baxandall

In From Michigan: Ph.D. Candidates Katharine Raff & Pamela A.V. Stewart

University of Michigan Ph.D. Candidates Pamela A.V. Stewart & Katharine Raff at the CAA Conference. February 9, 2011. (Image Credit: Tempestt Hazel)

We all know about the sessions of the CAA Conference through the conference program–but what about the people filling the seats of the sessions? Who are they? In an effort to answer this question, I randomly asked welcoming faces sprinkled around the CAA to answer a few simple questions about themselves, what brings them to the conference and why they chose to pursue art history and scholarship. I will be conducting several of these interviews at random throughout the weekend.

Katharine Raff, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History of Art at University of Michigan and Fellow at Metropolitan Museum of Art, first year attending CAA Conference

Pamela A.V. Stewart, Ph.D. Candidate in the History of Art at University of Michigan, third year attending CAA Conference

Tempestt Hazel: What brings you to the CAA Conference and why do you think it is important to be here?

KR: For me, because I study ancient art there really aren’t as many sessions dealing with that, but my career path is to work in museums, so I’m here for more of the sessions dealing with issues concerning museums. And in general, what’s going on in the field at large. Sometimes you get so inside of your own discipline, it’s nice to know what else is going on with art and artists.

PS: [I came] for the exchange of ideas. There aren’t a lot of panels that are specifically in line with my interests but there are some fabulous papers that are coming up. It’s really good to keep up with what is going on in the field, who is giving papers, where their interests are and people who matter—having that dialogue and exchange.

TH: What sessions and events are you most excited about?

KR: The was the one this morning, Making Museums Matter, Art & Commerce: The Art Gallery In America—really dealing more with museums and with ancient Italian art. I’m excited to hear Lauren Hackworth Petersen for the Italian Art Society session [and her paper] Why Have There Been No Great Roman Artists? I really like her work and I’m excited to hear what she has to say.

PS: I saw the session [Are We Standing at a Digital Divide in Art Publishing?] this morning, which was pretty interesting. I’m about to go to—well, I’m split between Architecture, Space and Power in the Early Modern Ibero-American World and The Crisis in Art History. There’s also going to be a paper [presented] by one of my old mentors—Elizabeth ‘Buffy’ Easton. She is the most powerful curator in the world—that’s her superhero name that she gives herself. Buffy is all-powerful. [laughs]

TH: My final question is why art or why art history? What drew you to the field?

KR: Even as a child my parents always took me to museums and I started learning about things, why they were created, how they were used and how they function. A lot of what I do is social history oriented and there’s always been that wanting to know how things function and why—not just that it’s a painting on a wall. How was it really used? How did it function in its particular historical moment? I think that’s so important to understand. I think a lot of people, unless they study art history, they don’t always get that. They go to a museum and think, “Oh, that’s cool” but when they really start to study it they learn about the very complex background of what caused it to be created and how it functioned. So, that’s why [I chose] art history. I think it plays such an important role in the humanities. We need to push that.

PS: Art is how we see ourselves. This is the most basic kind of communication that we have. This is how we see the world, the image we construct of the world and the image we project onto the world. I think Michael Baxandall was right [when he spoke about] positing an artwork as a deposit of a social relationship—you can’t always get that from a text. An image is immediate, as Leonardo would say. That’s why painting is better than poetry! [laughs]

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