College Art Association Conference Re-CAA-p

How can conferences be so invigorating and exhausting at the same time? I'm wrestling with this paradox on the train back to Boston from the College Art Association Annual Conference in New York City.  

What's black, white, and red/read all over? The title slide of my 2017 CAA presentation!

What's black, white, and red/read all over? The title slide of my 2017 CAA presentation!

I wore multiple hats at this particular event. First and foremost, I presented my paper "Throwaway Society: Ed Rossbach's Con/Temporary Basketry" as part of the composed session Exhibitions Between Art and Design. Following this new format, my two co-presenters and I submitted papers independently and were paired up based upon shared themes rather than responding to a pre-formulated question posed by a session chair. Because there is no formal chair for composed panels, we split the the responsibilities. I had the honor of introducing the major concepts unifying our talks: materiality, display, and temporal disjuncture. Rossbach articulates these ideas by combining ancient, enduring textile techniques with disposable detritus of the 1960s and 1970s United States. Thanks are due to the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design, who generously sponsored my stay in in NYC for the second time with a Craft Research Grant. 

The  Critical Craft Forum  never ceases to inspire. Discussant Jenni Sorkin, Assistant Professor at University of California Santa Barbara and member of my dissertation committee, is at the podium. Co-chairs Namita Gupta Wiggers, CCF powerhouse, and Benjamin Lignel, Art Jewelry Forum, bookend the speakers.

The Critical Craft Forum never ceases to inspire. Discussant Jenni Sorkin, Assistant Professor at University of California Santa Barbara and member of my dissertation committee, is at the podium. Co-chairs Namita Gupta Wiggers, CCF powerhouse, and Benjamin Lignel, Art Jewelry Forum, bookend the speakers.

With my own talk over early on Thursday morning, I was free to relax and enjoy the other panels, such as the Critical Craft Forum's eighth CAA session, Gender and Jewelry. Julia Heineccius, Evergreen State College, made a powerful point about fashion photography: "the jewelry is borrowed, the body is hired." This visual conceit is essential for marketing jewelry to customers who can imagine themselves wearing it, thereby vicariously transforming themselves into the idealized model. renée c. hoogland, Wayne State University, used an equally direct, compelling soundbyte to summarize the prevailing normative cultural expectations of gay versus straight lives: "In everyday life, heterosexuals are, homosexuals become." For example, straight cisgender people are rarely asked to consider the process by which they discovered their sexual identity, whereas LGBTQ are repeatedly questioned about when and how they "came out." In the context of a panel on jewelry and subject formation, hoogland sees this closet metaphor not merely a space of hiding and shame, but one that houses valuable tools for overcoming gender conformity: fashion, accessories, or as James Tigger! Ferguson so memorably put it, "my dead grandma's jewelry collection." If you missed this session, keep checking the CCF site and Facebook group; a podcast or publication of the event is forthcoming.

Installation view of   Françoise Grossen Selects   at Museum of Arts and Design, New York. The flames of yarn in the foreground are by my dissertation artist, Claire Zeisler!

Installation view of Françoise Grossen Selects at Museum of Arts and Design, New York. The flames of yarn in the foreground are by my dissertation artist, Claire Zeisler!

Sometimes I think that a list of the sessions one attends at their field's annual conference paints a composite portrait of that individual as a scholar. Here is mine: So Near Yet So Foreign: Negotiating Touristic Experience Through Design; New Materialisms in Contemporary Art; Reception Studies in Modernism: Reinterpreting Modern Masters; Art After Zero: Making Sense of the Aughts; Reinventing the Familiar: Updated Approaches in Art History and the Studio; and State of the Art (History): Pedagogy Laboratory

Of course, a trip to CAA wouldn't be complete without playing hooky for a few sessions to check out exhibitions around the city. At the Museum of Arts and Design, I caught the Peter Voulkos retrospective and Françoise Grossen SelectsIt was valuable to see her work in person again after giving a talk on it last fall.

Finally, I leave you with some exciting news unrelated to CAA: The American Craft Council (discussed in my post last October) named me their 2017 Emerging Voices Scholar! I'm thrilled to be acknowledged by an organization that I respect so highly, and that does so much good for American makers. Plus, I'm in such good company; I can't wait to meet the Emerging Voices Artists when we convene later this spring!

'Till next time,

Sarah