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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Feminist art historian to speak at SU April 6

Mary Gerrard, the William Fleming Visiting Professor in Art History, will present the 2011 Doris Lecture.

March 31, 2011, by Rob Enslin

Mary Garrard
Mary Garrard
Mary Garrard, a nationally renowned feminist art historian, will come to Syracuse University in April as the William Fleming Visiting Professor in Art History. In this capacity, Garrard will deliver the 2011 Doris Lecture, “Art Versus Nature: A Renaissance Competition in the Key of Gender,” on Wednesday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Gifford Auditorium of Huntington Beard Crouse Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public. Also, Garrard will lead two graduate seminars on Friday, April 8 and 15, for which registration is required.

All events are organized and presented by the Department of Art and Music Histories in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. For more information or to request participation in the seminars, call 315-443-4184.

At SU, Garrard will draw heavily on her book “Brunelleschi’s Egg: Nature, Art and Gender in Renaissance Italy” (University of California Press, 2010), which explores gender constructs in the histories of art and science. Already, “Brunelleschi’s Egg” has drawn praise from scholars and critics, including CUNY’s James Saslow, who calls the book a “must-read for historians of the early-modern period, with a theme also of urgent contemporary concern,” and Dutch cultural theorist Mieke Bal, who praises it as an “exemplary feat of interdisciplinary study.”

Gary Radke ’73, event coordinator and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, whose métier is 15th-century Florentine sculpture, is also a fan. “Having something new and valuable to say about the Renaissance is always challenging, especially when we try to address the big questions of how and why Renaissance art took the course it did. By looking at the gendered tension between nature, which was conceived as female, and the work of male artists, Professor Garrard makes us reconsider what was actually going on in art and how it anticipated much later scientific thinking,” says Radke, adding that her book provides novel and convincing readings of the art of Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Botticelli, Leonardo, Giorgione, Titian and others. “I will never look at the dome of Florence Cathedral or Leonardo’s Mona Lisa the same way after reading her work.”

Garrard is professor emerita of art history at American University in Washington, D.C. She has lectured extensively on Renaissance art, feminist art and feminist issues in universities, colleges and museums across the country. Also, she has written and edited numerous books, including the critically acclaimed “Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art” (Princeton University Press, 1989), and has published scholarly articles on Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Jacopo Sansovino, Artemisia Gentileschi, Sofonisba Anguissola and others.

With AU colleague Norma Broude, Garrard has edited and contributed to the landmark texts “Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany” (Harper and Row, 1982), “The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History” (Harper Collins, 1992) and “Reclaiming Female Agency: Feminist Art History After Postmodernism” (University of California Press, 2005). Both professors also served as co-curators of the 2007 exhibition “Claiming Space: Some American Feminist Originators.”

A leader of the feminist movement in art professions, Garrard has served as president of the Women’s Caucus for Art, as a board member of the College Art Association and as chair of AU’s art department. She is the recipient of many honors and awards, including lifetime achievement awards from the Women’s Caucus for Art (2005) and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (2011).

The William Fleming Visiting Professorship was established in 1986 to bring to campus established scholars of international reputation in cultural history, with an orientation toward the visual arts or music and whose published work has been innovative, provocative and broad based. The professorship is supported with funds provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by William Fleming, founding chair and professor of SU’s Department of Fine Arts (now Department of Art and Music Histories).

The Doris Lecture is made possible by donors who wish to remain anonymous.