HAA 98BR - Junior Group Tutorial: "Eco Art History"





Sarah Mallory

Thursdays, 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Group tutorial, offers concentrators the choice of several study groups investigating a particular field of art of architectural history. Required of concentrators, generally in the Junior year.

Can art history help shape climate justice reforms and influence environmental policy? Can it reveal information about climate change, mass extinction? This course will attempt to answer these and other related questions by introducing students to the practice of eco-critical art history. Broadly, we will consider how artworks inform our notions of the environment, humans, animals, and other ecological agents, including pollutants and contagions. We will draw upon a variety of texts to approach a range of topics and case studies that will address our guiding questions, particularly how considerations of art and environment implicate gender, race, and culture. For example, what can we make of the moniker ‘Mother Earth’? How does this idea relate, if at all, to artists’ depictions of wilderness, such as Albert Biersdadt’s large paintings of the American West? Swamps in the Americas, too, are area of wilderness which, like the Western frontier, were often sites of strife between European colonists and native and enslaved peoples. How have artists’ depictions of these places shaped perceptions of indigeneity? We will further examine the relationship between race and landscape by studying how artists and designers envisioned urban and rural, public and private spaces—for instance how public parks document the U.S.’s long history of racial inequality. We will consider how art has informed the categories of ‘plant,’ ‘human,’ and ‘animal,’ looking not only to depictions of animals in art but also the work of non-human artists, for example Congo the Chimpanzee whose works hung in art galleries alongside those of Miró and Picasso. This course is an ongoing exploration of the relationship between art and the notion of an Anthropocene, a thinking through the ways we visualize humanity’s impact on the environment, and they ways the environment, in turn, makes its own images. From depicting holes in the ozone to portraits documenting the impact of toxic waste on human bodies in Japan, we will look at how visual artists express the melding of environmental factors with sentient beings. Close examinations of art and design from around the world and across times and genres form the basis of our study. While reflecting on the current state of the discipline, we also are going to challenge ourselves to imagine what sorts of futures art history might create by embracing an eco-critical perspective.