Wordstruck 2015

May 13-16, 2015

Lublin, Poland

Abstracts of papers


1. Dr. Ewa Antoszek, Department of American Literature and Culture, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland.

 “Crossing the Borders of Tradition: The Play of Pre-texts in Alma López’s Representations of La Virgen de Guadalupe”

The focus of my paper is Alma López, who draws from indigenous traditions and archetypes in order to rewrite them from a feminist perspective and provide Mexican-American women with alternative paradigms for the construction of the 21st century identities. The main goal of the presentation is to analyze how López takes advantage of the polyvalence of the Virgin of Guadalupe, as part of traditional Mexican iconography, and reinterprets the traditional archetype from a queer and feminist perspective (Calvo 202). The presentation will examine “a series of digital images that break open and transfigure previous interpretations and uses of the Virgin” (Calvo 202), including the famous “Our Lady” (1999) montage and selected digital collages from López’s “Lupe and Sirena Series” (beginning in 1999), in order to show how she challenges stereotypical archetypes, limiting tenets of patriarchy, racism and sexism by rewriting the long-prevailing myths and developing new empowering discourses. The presentation will focus on the analysis of Lupe’s images with a particular focus on Burgin’s pre-texts, i.e. the “other, unchosen elements exist[ing] in . . . the popular preconscious” and how “these elements linger in the field of meaning evoked by Lopez’s image” (Calvo 216). In addition, my goal is to show how these reinterpretations of traditional myths and archetypes allow for a creation of new personal and collective identities by emancipating the brown female body and doing away with the virgin/whore dichotomy. Finally, I also want to analyze how the medium López uses – digital art – is significant for her purposes, both “because of its ability to transform pre-existing imagery” (Latorre 132) and also as a “potentially empowering medium for creative expression,” traditionally used by male artists (Latorre 132). The final part of my presentation will address the controversy López’s works have evoked both within and outside of the Chicano/a community.


2. Dr. Sarah Archino, Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow, Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Paris, France.

“Image Withheld: Censorship and Avant-Garde Parody”

The most famous example of censorship in 1910s New York may be the suppression of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, rejected by the jury-less Society of Independent Artists Exhibition of 1917. Duchamp countered this decision by publishing the second issue of The Blind Man. In a period of wartime tension and increased censorship, artists explored the relationship between censors and the press. This paper examines two publications that withheld images as a method of anti-authoritarian resistance. By refusing to provide an image to be suppressed, these works subverted the official censors and provided an effective means of critique. Anthony Comstock’s censorship of a Clara Tice exhibition was a flashpoint for artists in New York. In the same month as the raid, March 1915, Man Ray issued The Ridgefield Gazook, a small, handwritten publication of four pages which parodied contemporary fears of censorship and which I argue was offered as a direct reaction. The work drew on anarchist philosophies, naming several followers under punning pseudonyms. Poems, artwork, and reviews were headlined, but their contents were marked with censor bars and inkblots. Throughout The Ridgefield Gazook, Man Ray obscured the “illustrations” with blank frames and spilled ink spots, preempting the official censor. With the American intervention in World War I, censorship regulations became increasingly strict. In April 1917, The Little Review printed a blank page, labeled only with the text, “We will probably be suppressed for this.” By withholding the image, the editors created a protest that could not be effectively censored. With the absence of any image that could be charged as inappropriate, the editors made a statement of resistance that defied censorship. This paper would explore the commonalities between these publications, especially their connection with anarchism, which influenced their passive resistance to official control and governance.


3. Dr. Leanne Carroll, Contemporary Art Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, United States.

 “Writing Artists: Assumptions Underlying the Uses of American Artists’ Writings since 1945”

Grounded in mid- to late twentieth-century case studies of Abstract-Expressionist, Minimalist, and Conceptual artist-writers, this paper moves inductively toward observations about artists’ writings. The aim here is to expose assumptions employed in the reception, uses, motivations, and production conditions of writings qualified by the word artists’. The assumptions include a meaning-limiting author-function, the isolation of artists from other writing subjects, the reportative quality of writing, the incompatibility of word and image, and the suspiciousness of pursuing multiple talents or avenues. These assumptions establish norms that place power in the hands of commenting critics, curators, and collectors and make artists’ writings seem transgressive. But the deskilling of art that rendered the formalist critic obsolete, the lack of marks of subjectivity in much modern and contemporary art, and the need for contextual information to accompany art mean that artists’ statements have become necessary. Thus “transgressive” artists’ writings were accommodated without disturbing the power differential by becoming domesticated as mere artists’ writings. In replacing critics as art-and-writing-conjoining commentators, the public, dealers, collectors, and curators continue to preserve the Artist-Genius. The space of writing may be always already co-opted and artists complicit, regardless of their motivations – which range from an acknowledged “death of the author,” the drive to criticize critics, a desire for an art world right of entry, the belief that artists know best, an obligation to be critically responsible, an interest in intermedia, or the need for remuneration. But writing is a potentially critical space nonetheless.


4. Dr. Daniela Daniele, University of Udine, Italy.

 “Surrealist Group Autobiographies: Experiments in Lyrical Prose by American Women Artists”

Prose poetry is the ambivalent genre used by Surrealist American women artists to account for their experience in the Surrealist circle. Dorothea Tanning, Mina Loy, Leonora Carrington and Kay Sage adopted this lyrical form to write the history of the circle of European expatriates in America, in the intimate tone of a group autobiography which mainly focused on the significant others who introduced them to painting, sculpture and to the radical experiments of that circle (i.e. Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and Richard Oelze). I would like to concentrate on prose poetry as a suitable form to give shape to the extravagant attitudes of an Avantgarde circle whose story is conveyed by these American women artists and writers from a non-conformist female perspective.


5. Dr. Stamatina Dimakopoulou, Faculty of English Language and Literature, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece.

Sites of Art and Trails of Experience in the Writings of Vito Acconci, Robert Smithson and Bernadette Mayer”

This paper proposes to examine how two artists and a poet who variously engaged with conceptual art’s reflection on and critique of the workings of language, implicate the question of experience in their writings. Vito Acconci’s notes and records of his “activities” in his diaries invite reflection on how the self-referential logic of performance gets entwined with contingency and the density of experience. Smithson’s reflections on entropy and the American landscape probe physical, material, and conceptual boundaries through an exploration of spaces, and the cultural situatedness of artistic practice. By intensifying the reflexive function of language, Bernadette Mayer, in her autobiographical Memory, engages with the textures of lived experience. Acconci, Smithson, and Mayer produce texts that are not merely ancillary to an abstract, and/or tautological idea of either life or art, but, like much writing of the second Generation New York School, mediate experiences that are singular, contingent and contextual. Acconci’s, Smithson’s and Mayer’s reflections converge at the level of substantiating the distance between the intractable and contingent substance of experience and the reflexive loop of concurrently self-enclosed and permeable works.


6. James Finch, PhD candidate, Tate, London/University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom.

“Franz Kline and the Artist Interview”

The rise to prominence of the abstract expressionists in the 1950s coincided with the development of the artist interview in its modern form. Books of interviews by Selden Rodman (1956) and Katharine Kuh (1962), regular interviews and profiles in Art News, and the instigation of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program (1958) testify to a growing demand for artists to satisfy interest in their lives and works. To consider the function of the interview genre this paper will focus on interviews with Franz Kline. Often considered the archetypal “action painter,” Kline might be seen as rejecting being “read”: he did not write artist statements and rejected the interpretations of his works as “calligraphic.” Lawrence Alloway described him as “not a thinker at all,” but like numerous other critics nonetheless hoped to interview him. Irving Sandler found him the only artist whose conversation I was unable to jot down” and admired the “gift for language” which enabled Frank O’Hara to “invent” the artist’s words for his “Franz Kline Speaking.” David Sylvester, interviewing a series of American artists in 1960, edited his discussion with Kline more extensively than any other in the group. Rodman had lunch with him at the Cedar St. Tavern, the location most closely identified with abstract expressionism. Kline’s interviews demonstrate the desire for critics to find a textual accompaniment to artists’ works. They also highlight the role of the interviewer in the transition from speech to text, whether this is manifested in O’Hara’s gift for language or Sylvester’s judicious editing. The repercussions of this process are relevant not just for the study of Kline and his contemporaries, but also for the present day, with the interview format a ubiquitous form of discourse in the visual arts.


7. Dr. Susan Greenberg Fisher, Executive Director, Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation, New York City, United States.

 ”The Head and the Hand: American Sculptors as Authors”

This presentation examines the understudied postwar body of writing published by American sculptors who rose to fame during the interwar years. These books, authored by Chaim Gross, William Zorach, and Jacques Lipchitz, among others, with titles such as The Techniques of Wood Sculpture (Gross, 1957) and Zorach Explains Sculpture: What it Means and How it is Made (1947), are primarily how-to books, or day-in-the-life books, that aim to teach the reader about the process of the artist. Rather than addressing the art critic, expert, or connoisseur, they are aimed at beginners, and have a clear educational mission. In the case of Gross, they follow earlier efforts to teach a broad public about the making of sculpture, including Gross’s weeks-long public demonstration of sculpture-making at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens; Lewis Jacobs’s half-hour film From Tree Trunk to Head, which charts Gross carving a wood sculpture from start to finish; and several photo essays of Gross in the studio by famed American photographer Eliot Elisofon. The books’ effort to demystify the hands-on work of the sculptor will be examined in relation to the postwar context in which they appeared, and the rhetoric of mystery and the subconscious around Abstract Expressionist painting.


8. Dr. Edyta Frelik, Department of American Studies, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland.

 “‘Calling things by their right names’: Thomas Hart Benton as Raconteur”

Despite the growing attention of scholars studying Thomas Hart Benton’s paintings and his role in making Regionalism a distinct and significant style, his writings have still met with little critical interest. At best, his texts are considered expositions of his views on art and politics. Only a few critics hint at the strength of Benton’s literary output. While this disregard can be justified by the lack of adequate analytical tools at the disposal of art historians, the critical appraisal of his entire artistic oeuvre cannot be complete without giving proper consideration to his manner of storytelling and his unique approach to language. I propose to demonstrate ways in which Benton’s painterly experience of working in visual forms fed his approach to writing, and vice versa. To do so, I intend to examine Benton’s flagship genre, the mural, favored by the artist for the narrative possibilities its grand scale provided, against his 1937 autobiography, An Artist in America. While both reveal Benton’s natural skills as a recorder and teller of tales in the true folk tradition, his autobiography also indicates that as a writer he often consciously employed the same compositional procedures he used in painting. Despite the seemingly unpremeditated, “natural” unfolding of the story, there are many places where he deliberately exposes the “stitches” that hold words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs together, as though he wanted to remind the reader that, like paint, words are material that has to be handled with deliberation and dexterity. Thus, many of his verbal devices, though medium specific, can be seen as analogues of the stylistic maneuvers and compositional solutions he executed in painting, even though they may have been conceived of independently of the conventions of his visual practice.


9. Dr. Anna Gaidash, Department of Translation, Borys Grinchenko University, Kyiv, Ukraine.

“Ageing Artists in Tina Howe’s Plays”

 Theatre has always been a unique combination of verbal and visual components which convey multiple dimensions of reality reflecting life itself. American writers for theatre present a vast array of artistic characters. In fact, the majority of dramatis personae can be more or less classified as artists broadly understood – extraordinarily creative and skillful persons. In Tina Howe’s plays protagonists are often artists and art-related persons. Nominated for a Tony award, Coastal Disturbances depicts an elderly lady and amateur painter, M. J. Adams, whose character (though minor) constitutes an energetic and hopeful embodiment of postparental phase. In another Howe play, Approaching Zanzibar, octogenarian Olivia Childs is famous as the artist who used to build fabric mounds and circles in the desert. A minor character, Olivia Childs is depicted as elderly professional with positive characteristics, open to intergenerational contact. If in early plays by Tina Howe older adults are minor characters, the protagonist of Chasing Manet is eighty-year-old artist Catherine Sargent, now legally blind. A permanent resident of a nursing home, Catherine is firmly determined to get out. She is an impressive and powerful person “with ribald sense of humor.” Although in the exposition Catherine is depicted as depressed, her character’s optimism is revealed through her son’s cue: “You never look before you leap. You just run to the top of the precipice, spread your arms and whoooosh – you are airborne . . . leaping into the void.” This verbal portrait conveys the artist’s image at its best. With the help of her roommate, the aging Catherine succeeds in getting out: bound for Paris, chasing Manet. What is remarkable in the portrayals of these talented individuals is their elderly age, which subtly elaborated upon and even celebrated within the framework of Howe’s Bohemian characters.


10. Dominika Glogowski, PhD candidate, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria.

“Isamu Noguchi’s Relationship of Things”

In 1967, Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi presented a model of the US Pavilion for the first World Fair that was to be held in Osaka in 1970. Levitating balloons and pneumatic walls and roofs alluded to Japanese and Surrealist imageries at the peak of the international celebration of technology. The modifiable, disposable and innovative gas-filled membranes entered the stage of our cultural landscape in the 1960s. Serving as countercultural icons, the material’s transparency paralleled the dissolution of boundaries and the proclamation of intercultural exchange in the communication era. The notion of play, furthermore, transformed the arts into a catalyst for the participatory and interactive environment. Collaborating with artist and sociologist John McHale, former founder of the British Independent Group and research associate to scientist Richard Buckminster Fuller, Noguchi’s teamwork mirrors shared holistic worldviews. Nature, science and technology fused into a single universal bio-centric principle, embracing the visitor as World Citizen in the growing-together Planetary Society. His EXPO contribution reveals Noguchi’s artistic practice as a world of vision and discovery. His integral approach echoes relational conditions discovered in science that he readapted in his rare postwar writings as “the relationship of things.” Noguchi’s so-called “philosophy of the expanding inclusiveness” interlinks the human and the environment in a bodily experience of space. My talk complicates one-sided narratives on Noguchi’s postwar landscape oeuvre that has mainly been read through the lens of nature as embodied Japanese identity. Exploring his articles, excerpts from his autobiography and following his aim to publish an interdisciplinary book on leisure, I offer ground for the reconsideration of Noguchi’s comprehensive vision of the humanized space that verges on the universal notion of science and technology.


11. Dr. Karen Heath, University of Oxford and Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom.

“The Artist as Political Admirer: The Curious Tale of Andrew Wyeth and Richard Nixon”

At a White House dinner on 19 February 1970, the artist Andrew Wyeth raised his glass in deference to his hosts with the line, “I’ve consistently admired President Nixon and everything he stands for.” The circumstances surrounding Wyeth’s resounding endorsement of President Richard M. Nixon’s politics were unusual. An exhibition of his work had just opened at the White House and Nixon had just toasted him as an artist who captured “the spiritual heart of America.” After that night, the artist and the President developed a strong rapport, and the two families became very friendly socially. Wyeth’s adoption of a publicly supportive position of Nixon’s foreign and domestic policies was well reported by the nation’s media. Most notably John Canaday, the chief art critic for The New York Times, characterized Wyeth as the leading, if unofficial, artist for Nixon’s “vast silent majority,” i.e., that great number of Americans that the President believed supported the Vietnam War, but were often drowned out by the voices of anti-war activists. And yet somewhat surprisingly, when the nation’s focus shifted to the crimes of Watergate, Wyeth’s willing endorsement of President Nixon was completely forgotten. This paper examines Wyeth and his art in relation to Nixon’s rise and fall, and hence assesses the power and impact of the artist as political admirer in the 1970s. In so doing, the paper emphasizes the significance of art to the writing of modern American political history.


12. Dr. Izabella Kimak, Department of American Literature and Culture, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland.

 “Tagging Brooklyn: Graffiti, Race and Class in Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude

Jonathan Lethem’s 2003 novel The Fortress of Solitude is a text that makes extensive use of the motif of non-literary arts. The story of the relationship between two Brooklyn kids, the white Dylan Ebdus and the black Mingus Rude, unfolds to the beat of the music the two friends listen to and the latter’s father composes. Apart from music, the novel also explores the realm of visual art, especially graffiti. Both Mingus and Dylan paint Mingus’s tag, Dose, all over the neighborhood. It is no coincidence that Lethem set his novel in the 1970s and 80s as this was precisely the time when the graffiti art movement in New York City gained momentum. Although predominantly associated with people of color, especially blacks, graffiti was the art form that seemed to transcend racial boundaries. Reminiscing about his work in Queens, one graffiti artist, LIL SOUL 159, voices an almost utopian vision of the power of graffiti to solve the problem of racism: “Any [graffiti] writer will tell you that graffiti tore down the racial barriers of the late 1960s and early 1970s – eradicated them! Once we smelled that ink, we were just writers. The world could take a great lesson in conquering racism by giving everybody a can of spray paint!” (The History of American Graffiti 28). Lethem’s representation of visual art seems to serve as a pretext for discussing not only racial issues but also those of social class, for graffiti by the two teenage friends is juxtaposed in the novel with another type of art: that produced by Dylan’s father, Abraham, which is geared to the tastes of a different social class that than that of graffiti writers. This presentation will thus focus on these interlocking realms of graffiti, race and class Lethem discusses in his novel against the backdrop of Brooklyn of the 1970s and 80s undergoing a rapid change due to gentrification.


13. Yulia Klymchuk, PhD candidate, Borys Grinchenko University, Kyiv, Ukraine.

“Images of Women Artists in Wendy Wasserstein’s Dramaturgical Discourse”

Wendy Wasserstein, a famous figure in US drama, was known as an artist and social commentator during her lifetime. I am going to show how this playwright constructed images of women artists in her famous 1989 play The Heidi Chronicles, which earned her the Pulitzer Prize. In this play, the female artist and art historian Heidi Holland incorporates into her lectures reproductions of canvases of forgotten women that preserve the artists’ identities, creative visions, and skills. Heidi informs her class of the marginalization of female artists and uses her position as an instructor to bring the past into the present, reviving neglected female artists who serve to symbolize women’s dreams for recognition and inclusion. An in-depth analysis of the female artists’ paintings developed by the protagonist reveals curious representations of women finding their voices and authority within themselves through the creative outlet of painting. The aim of the present paper is to study the images of revived female artists – Clare Peeters, Lilla Cabot Perry, Lily Martin Spencer – and the impact of their creative heritage as reflected in fiction. In lecturing to her class, Heidi Holland establishes a personal connection with the artists in question and this connection leads to her reminiscing about past relationships with characters in the play. These artists and their paintings empower the protagonist and encourage her to develop her own sense of identity as an art historian and as a woman. The non-verbal means of artists speaking through their paintings, conveying messages about their own struggles for recognition by and inclusion in male-dominated societies are analyzed in the framework of the dramaturgic discourse.


14. Dr. Anna Krawczyk-Łaskarzewska, Department of English Philology, University of Warmia and Mazury, Olsztyn, Poland.

 “Looking Harder at Movies, or the Challenge of Scaffolding Painterly Reviews”

This presentation will be devoted to selected aspects of Manny Farber’s work as a film critic and reviewer. Arguably “the boldest and the most literary of film and art critics” after World War II (Robert Polito), Farber was also a carpenter, a painter and a teacher of both painting and film history. Featuring a multitude of perspectives and historical as well as cultural and autobiographical associations, Farber’s passionate, pulp-friendly, detail-obsessed, “process-mad” film criticism exerted a powerful influence on his own paintings in the mid-1970s, yet of greater interest to me are the full implications of Farber’s being an artist for the content of his writing on film. Authors such as Jonathan Rosenbaum, Richard Flood, Steven Kaplan or Girish Shambu expounded on the painterly qualities of Farber’s film-related pieces, but, bearing in mind his somewhat perplexing assertion that film criticism and painting are “exactly the same thing,” I wish to foreground and analyze Farber’s self-professed insistence on following language rather than criticism when reviewing movies.


15. Dr. Jerzy Kutnik, Department of American Studies, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland.

“Straddling the Abyss: Robert Motherwell as Reluctant Wordsmith”

Robert Motherwell once wrote that there is an unbridgeable abyss between the painter and the non-painter. Yet, he spent most of his life straddling that abyss and in the end did more than any artist of his generation to bridge it. Paradoxically, although he was almost universally recognized as the “intellectual” spokesman of the New York School Motherwell felt stigmatized as such and declared that he loathed the act of writing, claiming that his written work did not compare, in depth or originality, with his painting. Another paradox: as a painter he repeatedly acknowledged his love of poetry and emphasized the significance of poets as those who created the atmosphere in which truly modern art could be born; but as a writer he shunned flamboyantly poetic expression and wrote in prose that was straightforward and unadorned. It was, however, the prose of a naturally-gifted craftsman, a genuine wordsmith. Though formally conventional, it accomplished masterfully what for him was the most important thing both in painting and in writing: expressing reality as felt. He once wrote: “The anti-intellectualism of English and American artists has led them to the error of not perceiving the connection between the feeling of modern forms and modern ideas.” This paper will examine that connection by looking at Motherwell’s writings, in which it was manifested in two different but naturally related ways. On one level, as an editor, writer and lecturer, he offered lucid and precise readings of other artists’ ideas and feelings. On another, he demonstrated that while painting and writing may be different aesthetic processes, in both the skillful and deliberate development of the medium’s potential produces a similar effect: bringing feelings and thoughts into being.


16. Dr. Filip Lipiński, Department of Art History, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland.

 “Inscribed Canvases: Writing-in-Painting in American Art”

In the proposed paper I will analyze the idea of a painter as writer in diverse modes of writing occurring in American painting. I intend to ask, perhaps provocatively in the context of this conference, to what extent we can call a painter painting text a writer; in what way a painter’s painting becomes writing-in-painting/painting as writing and a signifier of his/her way of reading; how that writing is conditioned on seemingly alien ground of a canvas, gaining material substance, framed materially, but also figuratively, itself “framing” the image, a part of which it becomes. I will start with art criticism describing American painting in terms of writing as in the case of the painterly idioms of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and especially Cy Twombly. Further, I will look at painted texts quoted in selected works by Robert Motherwell and Larry Rivers, aspects of verbal signs in Jasper Johns’ and Edward Ruscha’s work and the more contemporary, highly verbalized Ken Aptekar’s and Glenn Ligon’s paintings, which include autobiographical and often politically charged long narratives. Writing and the productive tension between verbal and graphic sign as sequence of “traces” will be theorized with reference to Jacques Derrida’s idea of writing and spacing and his writings “around” painting , “in the neighboring regions which one authorizes oneself to enter,” as he put it. In order to conceptualize special kinds of writing-in-painting I will also draw on W.J.T. Mitchell’s ideas of the complex relationship between text and image. In conclusion, I will try to point to the difficulty in any attempt at defining boundaries between the gesture of painting and writing on canvas. This also sheds light on the complexity of an artist’s identity as painter when marked by a writer’s gesture.


17. Siofra McSherry, PhD candidate, J.F.K. Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany.

 “‘Ever-Grateful Wonder’. The Gift as a Model for the Artistic Community: An Interdisciplinary Exchange between Joseph Cornell and Marianne Moore”

This paper applies the theory of the gift to an interdisciplinary exchange within the avant-garde community in New York, through close readings of the works and correspondence of visual artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) and poet Marianne Moore (1887–1972). These two key modernist figures engaged in an exchange of letters, ephemera and artworks that defined their friendship and provided material for their respective works. The social theory of gift exchange, derived from Mauss and updated by such thinkers as Marilyn Strathern and Miwon Kwon, provides a means of comparing Cornell’s visual works with Moore’s poetic texts in terms of their aesthetic, philosophical and procedural concerns, and assessing their wider relationships with their modernist community of peers and the public. By representing the exchange of shared ideas and conceptions – as well as physical texts and artworks – as a gift system, the shifts and transformations achieved between their different media can be traced, with texts and artworks positioned in a non-hierarchical, cyclical and continuous relation to one another. Moore and Cornell held similar positions central to yet marginal within New York modernism, and their need to establish social bonds across large urban distances, both social and spatial, was urgent. The correspondence and gift exchange into which they put so much energy was a function of their need to create community and propagate intimacy with those who shared their aesthetic and ideological occupations. Gift theory is the characteristic anthropological means of explicating social connections, especially those that happen outside dominant capitalist norms. My presentation will demonstrate that it can provide a model for an interdisciplinary artistic relationship based on shared aesthetic and professional concerns, refuting Ellen Levy’s assertion after Clement Greenberg that “the dynamic of modern art is driven by the relationship between literature and visual art, and that this relationship is essentially agonistic.”


18. Dr. Urszula Niewiadomska-Flis, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland.

“‘I‘se in Town, Honey– African American Artists Reclaiming Black Womanhood”

Fictional Aunt Jemima, epitomizing the “mammy” archetype – maternal, de-sexualized, black domestic help – has been a prominent symbol of African-American womanhood for more than a century now. Originally, Aunt Jemima began as a character in a minstrel show. She was a fat, jolly, and maternal woman. Considered to be the epitome of southern hospitality, she became the official face of the Quaker Oats Company in 1889. Despite metamorphoses spanning a century, her image still connotes the relationship among black servant women, the kitchen, and good food. In contradistinction to the trend to present black women as only fit to be domestic workers – Imitation of Life (1934), Gone With the Wind (1939), and most recently The Help (2011) – black artists in the second half of the 20th century began to raise and critique issues of power, or lack of it, and otherness through various renditions of Aunt Jemima’s image. It is my intention to analyze how African-American artists reclaim the black womanhood taken from them via stereotypical images such as Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben. Various works of art will serve as case studies: Betye Saar’s “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima” (1972), a work of mixed media, “Reason Aunt Jemima Smiles” by Pierre Bennu (large canvas, 2010, especially “Jemima’s Revenge”); Faith Ringgold’s quilts about Aunt Jemima revealing faulty perception of women of color. The analysis will be supplemented with a collection of racist images found in Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia (Michigan, April 2012) and the images of Dawolu Jabari Anderson’s comic-book series Gullah Sci-Fi Mysteries.


19. Małgorzata Olsza, PhD candidate, Department of American Literature, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland.

“A Portrait of the Artist as…? The Author in American Non-Fiction Graphic Novels”

Contemporary American graphic novels and comics have long matured beyond the carefreeness of funny stories or superheroes of unquestionable moral authority. Indeed, graphic novelists, writers and illustrators perceive their work as both reproduction and critical examination of the world. The growing genre of graphic biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and journalistic accounts is a testament to this trend, demonstrating how issues such as violence, sexuality, or trauma can be confronted and exorcised in a combination of writing and drawing. This paper will critically examine different instances of authorial self-representation in graphic non-fiction works and the role it plays in respective works. I will focus on three works and three “portraits of the artist” depicted in Funhome: A Family Tragicomic (2006) by Alison Bechdel, Stitches: A Graphic Memoir (2009) by David Small, and Palestine (2001) by Joe Sacco. Although all of the above works are based on real events, the relationship between the artist as the author, the narrator and the protagonist/character is by no means straightforward. The artist is caught up in a web of conflicting forces, in which distancing oneself from one’s experiences and their authentication coexist. The role of the artist is emphasized: the graphic selves of Bechdel, Small and Sacco question the world they live in and it is through the act of drawing and their “otherness” as the artist that they are able to examine homosexuality, sickness or military conflict. This dimension is often further developed by meta-discursive tools. Graphic novelists draw themselves drawing, thus problematizing the process of representing reality.


20. Dr. Rachel Sanders, Oxford Brookes University and the City Literary Institute, London, United Kingdom.

“Intellectual Convictions and Emotional Experience: Women Artists and Critics in The Liberator and New Masses

In a 1937 New Masses reviewer Charmion von Weigand noted that “although the artist may hold certain intellectual convictions, it is only when these convictions become part of his emotional experience that he can integrate them with his art and life.” Von Weigand was among a number of left-wing critics encouraging emotional content in the art of Communists and fellow-travellers as a means of injecting validity and combating dry journalistic propaganda in an ongoing battle between artistic merit and political content that beleaguered the practice of artists whose ambitions for their output included utility. Her gendered address is unsurprising considering how heavily masculinized New York’s communist cultural arena was during the inter-war period. However, women artists of some professional standing, including Wanda Gag and Peggy Bacon, along with lesser known artists, such as Sara Berman, Bernarda Bryson and Lydia Gibson, worked within this environment that was nominally pro-gender equality but did nothing specific to aid female inclusion and success. By contributing to the exhibitions of the Party-founded John Reed Club and to left-wing magazines including The Liberator (1918-24) and New Masses (1926-48) and they supported the class struggle. Female artists are listed among the contributing editors to these magazines and, significantly, much of the art criticism featured in New Masses was written by women – von Weigand and Elizabeth McCausland. This paper will explore the female contribution to political activism and to the intellectual milieu through the objective propaganda and subjective experience evident in their artworks and writing.


21. Rachel Stella, independent scholar.

“Harry Holtzman, the Artist as Magazine Editor”

The short-lived periodical trans/formation was an initiative of the artist and educator Harry Holtzman, coedited with the art historian Martin S. James. Three yearly issues (1950, 1951, 1952) constitute the full run of trans/formation. A founding member of American Abstract Artists and eminent professor at Brooklyn College, Holtzman is more often cited as executive of Mondrian’s estate than he is known as a painter. This presentation will demonstrate that he was a remarkable editor. The underlying assumption of trans/formation was that art, science and technology are interrelated. By treating arts and sciences as continuum, the review proposed to present unifying views of “culture under transformation.” A discussion of Harry Holtzman’s intellectual influences, from the founding of the American Abstract Artists group to his involvement with General Semantics, will provide insight into his editorial choices.


22. Dr. Carolyn Stuart, Santa Monica College, California State University (Dominguez Hills), California Polytechnic State University (Pomona), and Otis College of Art and Design, CA, United States.

Generations of Feminist Intelligentsia: June Wayne and Gilah Yelin Hirsch, Joans of Art”

The artists June Wayne (1918-2011) and Gilah Yelin Hirsch (b. 1943) are pioneering contributors to the fields of art and science through their essays and life work. According to Hirsch, as a newly minted MFA, Wayne’s statement that “artists should accept ourselves as the intellects we are” affirmed and formed a trajectory of action in Hirsch’s life. Wayne, best known as a leading force in the revival of printmaking in the United States, envisioned, founded, and directed the Tamarind Workshop for Lithography (1960-1970). In “The Male Artist as a Stereotypical Female,” Wayne described the art world as an “ecology” out of balance, and in this, and later essays, offered suggestions for change. Wayne followed her own dictum that “The shape of the art scene of the future depends on how profoundly, how philosophically, and yes, how cerebrally, artists come to understand themselves.” At a time when Abstract Expressionism dominated the art market, she did not shy away from literary content and illustrated the sonnets of John Donne in a small-scale medium. Also outspoken in her feminist writings, Wayne empowered young women artists by offering workshops, dubbed “Joan of Art” by Hirsch, a participant. The seminars provided practical advice on navigating the art world. Hirsch became a widely sought-out expert on the physiological effects of art. Her discoveries, made in the process of painting and informed by science, are highly regarded among psychologists, neurophysiologists, and a range of professionals in the healing fields. In “Artist as Scientist in a Reflective Universe: A Process of Discovery,” Hirsch explains, the “artist brings abstraction into form, while the scientist brings form into abstraction.” Through her keen observation of nature and the process of painting, Hirsch concluded that the alphabet originates in natural patterns, concepts summarized in her film Cosmography: The Writing of the Universe.


23. Dr. Zuzana Tabačková, Department of Language Pedagogy and Intercultural Studies, Constantine the Philosopher University, Nitra, Slovakia.

“Gibran Khalil Gibran – A Writing Artist or a Drawing Writer?”

The American writer of Arab origin Gibran Khalil Gibran is mostly well-known as the author of one of the best-selling books in history: The Prophet. However, the literary career of this Lebanese American emerged just after his artistic pursuits. Nowadays, many critics argue that “Gibran-the-Artist” did not create anything new, that he was just an imitator. This paper, in contrast, suggests that Gibran’s paintings can neither be understood nor fully appreciated without his writings. In Gibran’s literary microcosm, the verbal and the visual elements mutually complement each other. In other words, Gibran, this Blake of the 20th century, proposed the unity of all creation by uniting the verbal and the visual element in his literary works.


24.Dr. Marek Wilczyński, Department of English and American Studies, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland.

The Americanization of the Sublime: Washington Allston and Thomas Cole as Theorists of American Art”

 Allston and Cole, two of the most important US painters of the early 19th century, were also poets and art theorists (the former also tried his luck as a gothic fiction writer). Both of them left posthumously published “lectures on art”: Cole’s lecture, written to be delivered before the National Academy of Design in New York and published in 1980, focused mainly on the conditions of the artist’s work in America, while Allston’s full-fledged study, delivered most likely as a series of private talks in the early 1830s, appeared in print in 1850. Involved in the project of national American culture, the painters adopted as their theoretical frame of reference the British aesthetics of the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime, either trying to adjust it to the American locale, as in Cole’s well-known “Essay on American Scenery” (1836) and his journal, called “Thoughts and Occurrences,” or treating it as inspiration to advance their own general aesthetic ideas. This paper makes a comparison between Allston’s and Cole’s approaches, considering both similarities and differences between the two painters: one, American-born, who did not openly endorse cultural nationalism, the other, British-born, who stressed the necessity to practice and promote explicitly American art. Next to the “lectures on art,” Cole’s journals and minor writings are taken into account, since they provide a wider context of the development of his aesthetics. Allston’s and Cole’s romantic poetry, rarely read by critics, is referred to as a literary supplement to their major achievements.


25. Dr. Iryna Yakovenko, Philology Department, Chernihiv Taras Shevchenko National Pedagogical University, Chernihiv, Ukraine.

 “Flannery O’Connor as a Cartoonist”

This interdisciplinary research examines the relationship of narrative and graphic arts and analyzes the phenomenon of the fiction writer as an artist. The study addresses the cartoons and short stories of the 20th century American fiction writer Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor’s great achievements in fiction are worldly acknowledged and praised but her graphic art is unjustly overlooked. We presume that Flannery O’Connor’s cartooning might have greatly influenced her work as a literary artist. To date, there has not been a thorough study devoted to the influence of O’Connor’s career as a cartoonist on her literary output, and the impact of her graphic works on her fiction. The aim of this research project is two-fold: first, to investigate the parallelism of visual and verbal representations and analyze the correspondence between art and literary images; and second, to distinguish the dominant ideas and themes presented in O’Connor’s cartoons that intercourse with the ones in the short stories. Another focus of the study is the comparative research of the stylistic techniques employed in Flannery O’Connor’s graphic and literary works (grotesque, hyperbole, irony etc.). The methodology of the research is based on the philosophy of the visual image in art and literature, drawing upon the works of Paul de Man (“Aesthetic Ideology”), Umberto Eco (“On Ugliness,” “On Beauty: A History of a Western Idea”), and Mikhail Yampolskiy (Ямпольский М. Ткач и визионер: Очерки истории репрезентации, или О материальном и идеальном в культуре). The epistolary heritage of Flannery O’Connor is also analyzed to explore her view on the art of cartooning and writing fiction.


26. Dr. Bryan J. Zygmont, Art History, Clarke University, Dubuque, IA, United States.

 “Charles Willson Peale’s The Exhumation of the Mastodon and the Great Chain of Being: The Interaction of Science, Religion, and Art in early-Federal America”

Although primarily known as a portrait painter, Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) also possessed a profound interest in natural history. Indeed, Peale eventually founded the first natural history museum in the United States. During the end of the eighteenth century he began to overlap his two great interests: art and nature. The event Peale chronicled in his 1804 painting The Exhumation of the Mastodon caused an extreme stir within the intellectual and religious circles of its time, and brought about, at the very least, a serious questioning in the deeply held notion of the Great Chain of Being. Although now largely discredited, this religious conviction postulated two concepts that Peale’s Exhumation of the Mastodon seemingly contradicts. The first was the belief that no animals since creation had suffered the fate of extinction. The second was a lack of belief in geological time. Indeed, one Irish clergyman calculated the actual date of creation to 4004 BCE. Peale’s monumental painting is a work that is many things, a self-portrait and history painting among others. Indeed, in this painting, Peale responded to science, religion, and their shifting positions within early-nineteenth-century America. When viewed together, Peale’s The Exhumation of the Mastodon is not merely a record of an event that occurred in New York during the early nineteenth century, and instead is a document of Peale and the interaction of science and religion in early Federal America.