Common Ground#703

Looking After: Conversations on Art and Healing

Sick Women: The Chronic-Poetics of Feminist Art History


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Gemma Blackshaw, Alice Butler, and Fatema Abdoolcarim join Allison Morehead for a conversation, with introductions by Suzanne Hudson and Tanya Sheehan. We conclude with a poetry reading by Saralee Stafford.

In this talk

Gemma Blackshaw

A photograph of Gemma Blackshaw.
Gemma Blackshaw is Professor of Art History at the Royal College of Art. Specialising in what she terms ‘clinical modernism’, she works on the intersection of modernist art with clinical medical cultures in early twentieth-century Europe. Recent projects include the exhibition The Body Electric: Erwin Osen and Egon Schiele at the Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2021. Current projects include her epistolary biography BESSIE, which draws upon her creative approach to the writing of sick women’s lives in histories of modernism, to the archive, and to cross-historical correspondence as a practice of care. She is co-editor of the anthologies CARE(LESS). A supplement to ON CARE (Ma Bibliothèque, 2021) and I care by… (Research Communiqués: RCA School of Arts and Humanities, 2022).

Fatema Abdoolcarim

A photograph of Fatema Abdoolcarim
An Indian-Pakistani Hong-Konger, Fatema Abdoolcarim is a multifaceted creative working in visual art, filmmaking, and writing. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her project, Hum, and After the Cut, consisted of a film script and a dissertation that intertwined personal narrative, history, and close looking into Islamic miniature paintings to consider the practice of female genital cutting and its representation reparatively. Unmarked Pleasures, an essay based on this work, comes out in the edited anthology, Gestures: A Body of Work (Manchester University Press, forthcoming). Her artwork and films have been shown at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; CPH:DOX; Locarno; and Sundance. She’s scheduled to premiere her fiction film, Sweet Lime, in 2023.

Alice Butler

Photo of Alice Elisabeth Butler
Interdisciplinary scholar-writer Alice Butler is Tutor (Research) in Arts and Humanities at the Royal College of Art. Alice works across feminist art history, practice, theory, and literature, to explore questions of sickness, sexuality, and gender via experimental approaches to archive, autotheory, and correspondence. Recent publications include the article “‘Have you tried it with three? Have you?’ Ann Quin, Love Triangles, and the Affects of Art/Writing” in Capacious: A Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry (2021), and the essay “Fan Letters of Love ’’ in the 2019 anthology Fandom as Methodology. She is currently finalizing a monograph on Kathy Acker and Cookie Mueller’s interdisciplinary art writing, together with an edited collection on gesture and feminist practice.

Allison Morehead

Photo of Allison Morehead
Scholar and curator Allison Morehead is Associate Professor of Art History at Queen’s University, specializing in the relays between European modern art, the psy-sciences, and medicine. They have received numerous grants and fellowships, most recently from The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in Washington, DC. Their book, Nature’s Experiments and the Search for Symbolist Form (Penn State University Press, 2017) considers symbolist painting and printmaking in light of late 19th-century practices and discourses of psychological experimentalism. Currently, Morehead is curating the exhibition Edvard Munch and the Medicalization of Modern Life and co-directing the online series Confabulations: Art Practice, Art History, and Critical Medical Humanities.

Suzanne Hudson

Photo of Suzanne Hudson.
Art historian and critic Suzanne Hudson is Associate Professor of Art History and Fine Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She writes with special emphasis on the history, theory, and conventions of painting and process. She is also a regular contributor to Artforum, and has penned numerous essays for international exhibition catalogs and artist monographs. Recent books include Agnes Martin: Night Sea (Afterall/MIT, 2017) and Contemporary Painting (Thames & Hudson, 2021). She is currently at work on Better for the Making: Art, Therapy, Process, a study of the therapeutic origins of art-making within American modernism.

Tanya Sheehan

Photo of Tanya Sheehan.
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art at Colby College, Tanya Sheehan is the Principal Investigator of Colby’s inaugural Public Humanistic Inquiry Lab, Critical Medical Humanities: Perspectives on the Intersection of Race and Medicine. Across her career, Sheehan has worked at the intersection of American art history, medical humanities, and critical race studies. This work includes two books, Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (2011) and Study in Black and White: Photography, Race, Humor (2018). Her current book project examines the subjects of medicine and public health in modernist and contemporary art by African Americans. Since 2015 she has served as executive editor of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Journal.

The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poetry reading, and we’re fortunate to have Saralee Stafford reading.

Saralee Stafford

Photo of Saralee
Saralee is a nurse and writer living and working in Atlanta. The poems shared today are taken from Letters in the Capsid— an upcoming full length book of prose-poetry to be published by Hi-Lo Press (@Hilopress / Atlanta). Born from the bedside of COVID nursing, Letters in the Capsid chronicles a dance between life and death and life and work in a crisis. Her poetry has mostly been self or community published and found in person. Her past life as a writer of southern insurrectionary history can be found by AK Press (Chico, CA).

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.