Department of Art History and Art Conservation Graduate Theses


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 108
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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.
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    The Italian Sacri Monti and their Sculptures as a Spiritual Boundary during the Counter-Reformation
    Forte, Kennis; Art History; Bailey, Gauvin Alexander
    The Sacri Monti in northern Italy have been understood as a group since the late sixteenth century, when religious leaders across Lombardy and Piedmont began building new pilgrimage sites based on the example at Varallo (est. 1491). It is evident from the sites’ shared stational format and emphasis on life-sized sculptures that they are variations of a distinct type, but the way that this group developed and changed over time has yet to be clearly defined. Modern scholars have often described the Sacri Monti as a “spiritual boundary” or “defensive system” on the frontlines of the Counter-Reformation. This dissertation argues that their role as spiritual defenses between Catholic and Protestant territories is one of the elements that distinguishes these sites. Since relics and images were a significant focal point for religious conflict during the early modern period, the Sacri Monti’s fundamental reliance on sculpted figures is presented as an indication of confessional identity as well as the primary means of communicating with the viewer. This study proposes that the physical locations of these “Holy Mountains,” their placement within the local landscape and connection to particular communities, was a critical component of their collective function as a spiritual boundary. It examines where the sites were planted in relation to important trade routes, preexisting centers of religious and political power, and the regions most vulnerable to spiritual attack to demonstrate how each Sacro Monte responded to the historical context and present circumstance of their own unique environment. The profound spiritual experiences pilgrims had at these sites reinforced local traditions, faith practices, and religious institutions since visitors from nearby communities could return more easily and often. The sculptures themselves embodied Catholic beliefs by emphasizing doctrines and practices that Protestant groups rejected, such as the spiritual authority of the Virgin Mary, saints, holy relics, and the use of religious images. Initially, each group of narrative scenes was unique. Their diverse subjects and site-specific series rooted the Sacri Monti in their local environment and reinforced local devotion by memorializing people and places that had had an enduring impact on the practice of faith in Milan.
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    A Case for Utopian Dreaming: Feminisms within Canadian Artist-Run Centres
    Berson, Amber; Art History; Lord, Susan; Taunton, Carla
    This dissertation is motivated by a set of questions elaborated from a central query: What is a flourishing future? When applied to the state of artist-run centre culture, and specifically feminist identified artist-run centres, in Canada, questions that follow include, who gets to represent futurity? Whose futures count? How are artist-run centres and art communities transformed by the inclusions of Indigenous and Black futures and futurism? How and by whom is feminism defined in these spaces? How does white feminism get out of the way of a flourishing future, or how doesn’t it? Throughout, I return to the concept of utopia as method, as proposed by Ruth Levitas. At its core, Levitas’s method comprises three simple steps: state the problem, attempt an archaeological dig of the past to shed insight into how we reached the problem, and then—and this is the key part—we are asked to educate our desires. This grounding in utopian methodology leads me to specifically ask: how can artist-run centres benefit most from incorporating intersectional feminism and anti-oppression work into their daily operations? To think through this question, I consider a selection of historically feminist artist-run centres, active during the second wave of feminism to the present, to understand how they advanced specific feminist agendas, and to evaluate what kind of impact state policy and state funding priorities had on these artist-run centres. These include Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Women in Focus Collective (WIF) in Vancouver, British Columbia; The Women’s Art Resource Centre (WARC) and the Feminist Art Gallery (FAG) in Toronto, Ontario; Womanspirit in London, Ontario; and La Centrale and articule in Montréal, Québec.
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    The Countess’ Print Album: An Examination of Heads, English & Foreign Collected by Henrietta Louisa Jeffreys, Countess of Pomfret
    Marshall, Kate; Art History; Dickey, Stephanie
    In 1730, Henrietta Louisa Fermor (née Jeffreys) compiled an album of printed portraits with hand-written biographies. Through a detailed examination of the portraits and biographies held in the album titled Heads, English & foreign collected by Henrietta Louisa Jeffreys, countess of Pomfret, this thesis places the album in the historical context of 1730s English print collecting. At the time the album was created, print collecting was extremely popular with upper class Europeans, like the countess. Not only does the album reflect the history of collecting prints and biographies, but it also reflects the ways upper-class women engaged in intellectual endeavours during the Enlightenment through socially acceptable means. In an era when intelligent women were met with suspicion and ridicule, women who collected or otherwise cultivated learning had to engage with such practices in a socially accepted way or choose to ignore the criticism. Neither approach shielded a woman completely from gossip. The album will be discussed in the context of the sexism the countess faced and how that sexism shaped her historical legacy.