Monday, February 14, 2011

The College Art Association Conference: A Review of Sorts

I am still getting back in the swing of things after Lauren and my trip to the CAA's annual art conference.  Some of you may have followed our tweet updates on the conference, some of you may have been there, and some of you may have been just plain bored by the change of routine! I happened to have a wonderful time and am proud to say had a seat at every session, which others can't boast of since the conference was so packed that some people were limited to sitting in the aisles!

I missed my first planned session due to rush hour and the fact that the registration line for anyone with a last name beginning in A-C had to wait in a mile long line.  Luckily I can live without learning about new technology for the art history classroom.  In the afternoon we attended the session on Sexuality and Gender in Early Modern Europe in which we heard about the Renaissance painter Bazzi fondly known as Sodoma by James Saslow, who was a particularly gripping speaker. I highly recommend that those interested in Italian Renaissance art, the Medicis or homosexuality in art look him up!

The fullest and most 18th century-esque day for us was the second day of the conference.  It began with a talk on Horace Walpole's gothic-worshiping home, Strawberry Hill.  Following this was HECAA's session which had an interesting talk on Madame de Pompadour's active role in designing her own jewelery.  Kristina Kleutghen reminded us that the 18th century may have had a trend for chinoiserie but the Chinese emperor at the time had such an interest in Europe that he created his own European palace, complete with a European village for him to wander about in.  Don't you love when speakers engage you in something you would otherwise not be interested in?  The Rococo session was surprisingly popular- and populated.  Colin Bailey, the Associate Director for the fabulous Frick Collection gave a fascinating talk on Fragonard's Progress of Love which he painted for Madame DuBarry who rejected the works for more sub-par ones (imho).  The other stand-out speech was by Allison Unruh talking about Warhol's early work and how it is oh so rococo.  True!  I found the last session by the American Society for 18th Centuries studies to be the most disappointing for the day.  It was supposed to be about Cosmopolitanism in  the 18th Century which sounds amazing but the session failed to impress. 

There is nothing quite so refreshing as controversy in the morning and that is what we got at Juriprudishness which explored law and art in the US.  All the speakers had incredibly interesting topics such as Mormon erotica photos in the early days of photography and how the US mail had to ban lynching photo postcards from traveling in the mail.  Dr Matthew Lodder spoke on the legal action against tattoo artists in the 1970s while being totally bedecked in gorgeous bodyart himself (college-age me would have missed the whole speech due to crush-factor). 

---Then Lauren and I went to the see The Eagle since we can't miss any movie on Ancient Rome; it wasn't bad!---

Refreshed from movie violence we went to what was easily the best session of the week, New Approaches to the Study of Fashion in Western Art 1650-1900.  As most of you fashion history-aholics can imagine, we were hanging on every word.  It began with late 17th century mantuas where we learned there are only five remaining original mantuas in the world.  Amelia Rauser, who has written on Georgiana before, talked about regency style gowns and Heather Belnap picked up the topic where Rauser left off, discussing how a regency mother could also be a fashionable mother.  Fashion plates of the time actually marketed to middle-class mothers, informing them they could be trendy.  Hmm sounds familiar doesn't it?

I fear I have gone on too long so I will leave off an account of Saturday since the sessions I attended aren't anything to write home about.  Did anyone else attend the conference?  I have heard from some readers but would love to hear from more if you're out there!


  1. All of it sounds fabulous to me! Lucky Girl! Were you able to take some photos of Pompadour's jewelry?- Love your sketches too.


  2. I wasn't able to take any photos but for a good idea of what jewels were talked about check out her bracelet in this portrait. And the sketches are not actually mine but Andy's! :-D

  3. Oh yes- I love that bracelet! Too bad about the photos,but it's understandable. Thanks:)