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Personal profile

Research interests

My research interests align along two related axes, which are my subject specialisms in nineteenth-century British art and culture, and the history of art museums and art collections. In both trajectories my key concern is how gender and related social formations (sexuality, the nation, the modern) organize the production and circulation of visual images. A key focus for me is portraiture, which proves a particularly rich seam of material in British and related visual culture, but I have also enjoyed working outside my period specialization in collaborations on feminist-informed projects relating to art exhibitions, collections and museums.

Scholarly biography

In my undergraduate degree I studied a wide range of humanities disciplines and developed an interdiscplinary focus on modern Britain. I pursued this specialism first in an MA in History at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and then as a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of York in the UK, where i studied for my phd. My interest in art history as an element of cultural history led me to teaching in art history programmes for students of art and design practice as well as humanities students at the Winchester School of Art, Newcastle University, and at the University of Brighton, and i have enjoyed teaching and undertaking research projects with artists, curators, and humanities scholars from different disciplines.

My PhD research was a study of women in the National Portrait Gallery, as artists, sitters and collectors/donors. This was part of an emerging body of scholarship on art institutions and their nineteenth-century origins, and was published as a book titled History's Beauties: Women and the National Portrait Gallery 1856-1900, in 2006 (Ashgate). Research from my phd was also published in a collection edited by Paul Barlow and Colin Trodd, Governing Cultures: Art Institutions in Victorian London, (Ashgate, 2000) and an article on the National Portrait Gallery 2001 resdisplays in Visual Culture in Britain (2002). Additional research about G.F. Watts's series of portraits "The Hall of Fame" and its relationship to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery was published in Colin Trodd and Stephanie Brown's volume Representations of G.F. Watts: Art Making in Victorian Culture (Ashgate, 2004).

My investigation of gender and art collections took on a new significance around 2008, when there were initiated a series of unrelated but high profile exhibitions involving feminism and women's art, hosted at major institutions from Stockholm to Los Angeles and many points between (Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, for example). These major projects as well as less visible efforts on the part of curators to explore gender and feminism in exhibition, invited critical scrutiny and I have been part of a series of collaborative projects to explore feminist curating in art museums and other contexts, which have resulted in publications including co-editing with Angela Dimitrakaki, Politics in Glass Case: Feminism, exhibition cultures and curatorial transgressions (Liverpool University Press, 2013), which included my own essay "A great time to be a woman"? Women artists and feminism at Tate Modern'; co-editing with Dorothee Richter and Elke Krasny, Issue 29 of OnCurating, Curating in Feminist Thought (2016), which was published to coincide with an international conference on feminism and curating in Zurich; and contributing to 'Constant Redistribution: A roundtable on feminism, art, and the curatorial field', Journal of Curatorial Studies, 2(2), June 2013. This latter publication was a documentation of some of the issues that were raised through an international research network 'Transnational perspectives on women's art, feminism and curating', funded by the Leverhulme Institute which I led in 2010-2012.

The practices of exhibiting women's and feminist art continues to be one of interest to me and to others and I have participated in a variety of seminars, conferences and discussions in the UK, Europe and North America in relation to this field of reflection and activity. Although I am not a curator by training I have participated in some small-scale curatorial projects including co-curating with Pawel Leszkowicz an exhibition at the University of Brighton called 'Civil Partnerships' which explored women's and queer art (2012); co-curating with Althea Greenan and Sarah Sparkes the South London Women Artists' exhibition of 2012; and co-organizing the participatory exhibition Maps and Lives with Louise Purbrick and Claire Wintle at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton in 2017. 

A central question in exploring feminism and women in museums is the reflection on the relationship between centre and periphery in art (history) which has also informed two recent publications, an article in Third Text (2017) titled ‘The Artist’s Household: On Gender and the Division of Artistic and Domestic Labour in Nineteenth-century London’ which used census data to explore the labour involved in art making during a crucial phase of art's history, and a volume co-edited with Victoria Horne of new approaches to feminism in art historical research, Feminist Art Histories: Renewing Radical Critiques of Theory and Practice (IB Tauris, 2017). These publications revisit an earlier interest in the marginal status of English art in histories of modernism, which was the theme of a conference 'Englishness and English Art' which I helped to organize at the University of York in 1997, which produced two edited collections, one of which I co-edited with David Peters Corbett, English Art 1860-1914: Modern Artists and Identity (Manchester University Press, 2000 and Rutgers University Press, 2001). This also included work from my doctoral research on the relationship between portraits of women and the emergence of aestheticism, 'Looking like a woman: modernity in the National Portrait Gallery before 1900', which explored the gendering of modernist art.

Co-producing a website with the artist Nicky Bird which probed the status of the Unknown Sitter in portraiture (2005-11) and co-editing a special issue of the Canadian journal of art history, RACAR (Revue d’Art Canadienne / Canadian Art Review), Vol. XXX (1-2), 2005 expanded my research and scholarship on portraiture beyond conventional oil painting, and whetted my appetite for undertakng research on the very fascinating portrait cultures of nineteenth-century England that used formats such as printmaking, sculpture, and photography. I published an article on carte-de-visite portraits and albums, 'The carte de visite in the 1860s and the serial dynamic of photographic likeness', in Art History, September 2012. Articles on popular images of Nelson and Nelson's column in London, and portraits of women authors in popular circulation in the 1880s, are forthcoming.



Supervisory Interests

I have enjoyed supervising 6 doctoral students to completion, candidates who have worked on subjects in modern British art history, or in projects relating to feminist or queer approaches to visual interpretation or production. I have supervised and examined candidates who have undertaken phd work by practice or prior publication. I would particularly like to encourage applications from prospective phd students who would like to pursue projects that interpret British art and visual practices using intersectional feminist perspectives including decolonization and transnational approaches.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of York

1 Oct 199430 Sep 1998

Award Date: 1 Feb 1999

Master, University of British Columbia

3 Sep 199231 Aug 1994

Award Date: 30 Sep 1994

External positions

Lecturer, Newcastle University

1 Sep 200531 Dec 2005

Lecturer, University of Southampton

1 Feb 200130 Aug 2004

Lecturer, Continuing Education, Birkbeck University of London

30 Sep 19981 Feb 2001


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