Department of Art History and Art Conservation Graduate Theses

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    In and Out of Feminism: The Experimental Writings of Lee Lozano and Lucy Lippard
    Cloutier-Trepanier, Beatrice; Art History; Kennedy, Jen
    My dissertation, “In and Out of Feminism: The Experimental Writings of Lee Lozano and Lucy Lippard,” examines the experimental writings of artist Lee Lozano (American, 1930-1999) and writer, art critic, curator and activist Lucy R. Lippard (American, 1937-). Guided by the layered connectedness of their writing of the 1960s and 1970s, I argue that these women’s words created and occupied a malleable interstice within their practices and conventional art discourses – an alternative space in which their work was at once autobiography, theory, fiction, criticism, conceptual art, and life/work. The dialogue I establish between Lozano’s Private Books (1968-1972) and many conceptual Pieces, and Lippard’s novel I See/You Mean (1979) and numerous other unpublished works of fiction, supports an analysis of the feminist labour that constitutes, drives, and sometimes complicates these marginal forms and early examples of autotheory, a self-aware feminist writing strategy for thinking and feeling from liminal spaces; a subjective way of working that is personal, conceptual, theoretical, critical. (Lauren Fournier, 2021) Articulated around close reading and recent archival finds, this research refocuses and revalues anecdotes, gossip, citations, and footnotes, both as legitimate historical evidence and theoretical framework. Haunting conventional and acceptable forms of feminisms, it mobilizes contemporary queer feminist methodologies and theories, namely shadow feminism (Judith Halberstam, 2011) and the figures of the wilful subject and feminist killjoy (Sara Ahmed, 2010, 2014, 2017, 2023) to push against normative relationalities established between Lozano and Lippard and to question the histories, knowledge and ways of knowing that have cast Lippard as feminism, and Lozano as the (constitutive) ‘outside’ of/to feminism. Destabilizing and introducing friction against accepted narratives of second-wave feminism in the arts, this research simultaneously expands understandings of Lippard and Lozano's respective experiments in writing and contributes to the history of feminist praxis and genealogies of feminist writing, critical, and performative methodologies as they emerged within and against conceptualism in the 1960s and 1970s.
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    Once Upon a Queer Time: A Study of Reparative and Speculative Histories in the Work of 2SLGBTQ+ Contemporary Artists
    Flavelle, Genevieve L.; Art History; Kennedy , Jen
    In this portfolio dissertation I attend to the ways in which artists have navigated the various challenges of doing 2SLGBTQ+ history through creative practice. I focus on the archive (both tangible and conceptual) as an important intervention site for queer and trans artists seeking to expand how 2SLGBTQ+ histories are depicted. Through a series of case studies on contemporary artworks, I ask: What are the specific strategies that queer and trans artists have used to interrogate gaps in archives? And, relatedly, what strategies have these artists used to address some of the broader methodological challenges of researching and (re)presenting 2SLGBTQ+ histories? I argue that artists’ adoption of historiographic strategies may effectively bypass methodological challenges and present alternative models for gaining insight into queer and trans histories. Within the context of the broad archival turn in cultural theory and the archival turn in contemporary art, the four essays in this dissertation loosely chart the period from the mid-1990s to the present, during which queer and trans artists in North America have continuously been working with the concept, spaces, and materials of archives. Three of four essays focus on American artists, while one focuses on Canadian artists. The artworks engage with a range of historical periods and contexts, from the turn of the twentieth century to as recently as 2008. I attend to a series of interrelated but distinct methodological questions across the case studies, including: What kinds of materials can constitute a queer archive? What might constitute queer forms of historical evidence? And, what happens if we take speculative narratives seriously as a historical mode? Drawing on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concept of reparative reading (2003) I describe the artists examined in this dissertation as reparative in their approach. What this looks like is varied; some of the artists moonlight as archivists or historians, others engage magical realism and/or speculative fiction as historical methodologies, and still others seek to reactivate the past in the present. Across the case studies, I focus on speculative fiction as a particularly generative reparative response to the historical absences and erasure experienced by minoritized communities.
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    A Study of Metal Ion Migration in Oil Paint Films with Iron Oxide, Cobalt, and Organic Pigments
    Halili, Jonah A.; Art Conservation; Murray, Alison; Smithen, Patricia; Fuster López, Laura
    Metal soap formation and metal ion migration are two drying phenomena observed in historical and modern oil paintings. Conservation professionals have observed that the formation of metal soaps in oil paintings can be problematic for their care, and these metalorganic compounds have been linked to cracking and delamination on the surfaces of paintings. Metal ion migration can facilitate this process by the transfer of metal ions into adjacent paint layers which may induce metal soap formation in paints that would otherwise not undergo this process. The focus of this thesis was to determine whether metal ion migration and metal soap formation can be observed during the intial stages of the curing process of oil paint films. Laboratory samples consisting of paint films of a selection of colours and pigment content were studied using analytical methods including attenuated total reflectance-Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR-ATR), portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, and environmental scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive spectroscopy (ESEM-EDS), along with two other methods, the scribe test and the percent weight change tests. In particular, the results from the scribe test strongly suggests that interactions between adjacent paint films occur and can affect the drying times of individual paint types. Analyses conducted on the laboratory samples served to study the drying behaviour of paint films early in the paint-curing process in the immediate period following their initial casting. While metal ion migration and metal soap formation were not confirmed to have taken place through instrumental methods, interactions between different paint types were found to have occurred through the scribe and weight tests. A case study was also undertaken as part of this study to understand the long-term drying behaviour of oil paints better. Two paintings by the French-Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle from the Agnes Etherington Art Centre were analyzed using FTIR-ATR, scanning XRF, and ESEM-EDS. Two crack patterns observed on the surfaces of the paintings could be attributed to the presence of cobalt and calcium in the paint layers.
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    Entangled: Three Arctic Communities, Textiles, and Mid-Century Modernisms in Canada
    Burgess, Jennifer; Art History; Vorano, Norman
    The emergence of modern Inuit women’s textiles began in the 1950s through efforts of southern Canadian instructors and government-backed intermediaries. Inuit textile works became enmeshed in intersections of discourse, institutions, and power which assigned cultural value to artistic commodities. These histories were concurrent with the development of Canadian modernities. This dissertation examines the relationship between mid-twentieth-century discourses of Western aesthetic modernism, its related institutional practices, and the development of a textile market in the Arctic between 1950 and 1980. It explores how textile artists navigated these art worlds to generate economic opportunities in northern communities. This document also examines consumer tastes during this period as art markets became more frantic, competitive, and troubled by concerns about authenticity, reproduction, and purchasing ethics. To address these histories, this document investigates the systems that governed Inuit textiles, their development, and how Inuit textile makers navigated those systems. To answer these questions, it considers three Arctic textile production communities: Kinngait printed fabrics, Qamani’tuaq embroidered wall-hangings, and Pangnirtung tapestries. The resulting argument posits that modernity in Canada is not a monolithic period, and that by tracing the pathways taken by artists in these three Northern communities, and by members of the southern Canadian art world, this project indicates the fluctuating nature of Canada’s modernities – plural. This project uncovers those objects that exist beneath the surface of histories and scholarship which leave out the Inuit women’s experiences. It pulls back the smooth cover of modernity and reconnects the disparate forms of mid-century North American textiles. In doing so, it demonstrated the resilience of Inuit women in unpredictable economic environments. This document also illuminates the taste culture, nostalgia, and struggles for identity that defined Canada in the post-war period. The economies that rose and fell during the years that followed the Second World War reflected the nation’s shifting identity. Understanding this tumultuous period illuminates contemporary Canadian art worlds, and the tensions that existed between southern Canadian consumers and Inuit artists in the North. Instead, the fragmentation this document uncovered challenges the simplified narratives of Inuit textile production that proliferates in Canadian consciousness.
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    Radical Interventions and Resistant Black Looks: Wangechi Mutu’s Transgressive Black Female Subjectivity
    Adasi, Akosua; Art History; Kennedy, Jennifer
    The 2000s were a significant period in the development of Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu’s critical praxis. During this time, Mutu utilized collaging as a means of facilitating complex discussions about the representation of the black female body in popular culture. Her work, which takes into account the multifarious aspects of the imperial gaze and its influence on personal and collective identity proposes hybridity as a form of radical intervention and a way of (re)imagining blackness. The works selected here looks at how Mutu employs an oppositional gaze as defined by critical theorist bell hooks to interrogate and dismantle disparaging narratives put forth about blackness and black female subjectivity in particular in mainstream culture and popular discourses. The oppositional gaze as a means of creating transgressive black images/black looks in Mutu’s work shows how contemporary black sexual politics are tethered to historically derogatory assertions and stereotypes about blackness that reinforce the continued social and political oppression of black communities. During the 2000s, especially in the early to mid-2000s, Mutu produced works that physically and ideologically disrupted hegemonic Western tropes of blackness using collaging as an artistic strategy. The intimate and complexities of Mutu’s collages at this time created an opening for examining the development of defining and depicting the black female body and its integral relation to black sexual politics. My Master’s Thesis examines three of Mutu’s works in relation to the emergence of discourses of black feminism and Black sexual politics during the 2000s. In doing so, this thesis comparatively analyzes: 1) how the concept of the black female body has traditionally been inscribed and intellectually defined through Western visual culture to produce perspectives that uphold the social and political marginalization of black individuals; and 2) how Mutu’s work problematizes this one-dimensional view of black people and bodies through her art. The specific artworks included here reveal the adaptation of black feminist strategies by Mutu as a response to ongoing defamatory stereotypes about blackness. The works also demonstrates how Mutu simultaneously fractures her viewer’s gaze and encourage a critical view of the images’ original meanings using the oppositional gaze.