Touch is the elusive one. I can amplify sight, evoke viewing conditions (a candle flickers, making shadows dance) that suggest sounds and smells and even tastes (the Eucharist is but bread), but to tell my students to imagine the feel of ivory, its weight and warmth, only increases the distance I seek to diminish between them and the work of art.
This blog post had its origin in early morning anxiety over what to do with my course on Gothic art, which I am scheduled to teach in the spring. I found myself yawning and wondering, Why? Why am I teaching a course in Gothic?
I’ve had an obsession with the work of Kiki Smith for some time. I think it was always there, nascent since my first introductory art history course decades ago, but really flourished after I saw a retrospective of her work at SFMOMA in 2005.
Scholars feel like they need distance from a topic in order to work on it. But is it possible to be too far removed?
We read of (and experience) the joys and titillations of wonder, but less often do we read of the shock and horror of the dissected corpses.