WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Margo Hobbs

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Margo Hobbs

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews:

Margo Hobbs

Margo Hobbs, Ph.D.
WCA President, 2018- 2020

Margo Hobbs

I am pleased and honored to present feminist art historian Margo Hobbs, who served as president of WCA from 2018 to 2020. Dr. Hobbs initiated and organized the Art Writers Committee, which is how I met her and experienced her exemplary leadership. This interview is part of the WCA Leadership Project in celebration of the organization’s fiftieth anniversary, one of the initiatives of the Art Writers Committee, and part of her WCA legacy. In our conversation Dr. Hobbs shares her memories and experiences about her career and WCA.

Dr. Hobbs is Art Department Chair and Professor of Art and Art History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She teaches courses in modern and contemporary art, women and art, and African American art. Prior to teaching at Muhlenberg, she taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bucknell University, the University of Notre Dame, Illinois State University, and the University of Vermont. Dr. Hobbs earned her B.A., at St. John’s College, an M.A., from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her Ph.D., from Northwestern University. Her research focuses on feminist art and artists of the 1970s and 1980s, with a particular interest in representing identity in photography. She has also written about graffiti art and public sculpture.

The Interview

MKM: Were you always interested in art?

MH: I was always interested in art, but I realized early on that I didn’t have the discipline needed to really master a medium and work independently. I was interested in talking to my artist friends about their process, and I thought working in a gallery would be fun. (When I was in college, the ambitious young art dealer Mary Boone was on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. My roommate and I decided we wanted to be her.) After college, I moved to Santa Fe and found a job as the registrar of a gallery selling sophisticated paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by local artists. I loved the small city art scene but after a few years I wanted more intellectual stimulation. I decided to pursue an MA in modern art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Working as a TA for the art history faculty, I discovered that I enjoyed teaching along with the research and writing, and so I applied to Northwestern to pursue a Ph.D. to become a college professor.

MKM: Do you have any memorable teachers, mentors, role models?

MH: Artist Tee A. Corinne took me under her wing early in the process of researching my dissertation on vaginal imagery in 1970s feminist art. She was the author of The Cunt Coloring Book—published in 1975 and still in print—which was a key work for my analysis. We met on the Feminist Art History listserv and she graciously shared her own archives, talked through my ideas with me, and connected me with other lesbian feminist artists whose work I would discuss—she knew everyone. I remember her introducing me around at a reception for the CAA Queer Caucus, “This is Margo, who I believe is heterosexual…” Her seal of approval was crucial for me to make connections with artists whose work was barely archived, much less the subject of much scholarship in the mid-1990s—such as Harmony Hammond. After completing my dissertation, I published an article on Tee’s graphics made for lesbian feminist ‘zines in GLQ: The Gay and Lesbian Quarterly which pleased her. And she was the impetus for my recent research on the feminist photography annual The Blatant Image (1981-1983), which originated in the feminist photography “ovulars” which were held on women’s land in Southern Oregon where she lived.

MKM: How has your work changed over time?

MH: My work has changed over time in two important ways: I have embraced my identity as a queer woman and consequently my research feels more personal, and I have learned from the examples of other queer art historians to have more confidence in my scholarly pursuits.

It might seem odd that a straight woman would take up the topic of vaginal imagery for her dissertation topic. One of the faculty on my dissertation committee, responding to my thesis proposal, scoffed that to study 1970s feminist art without taking up so-called “central core” imagery “was just pussy-footing around” (“so to speak,” said my advisor). I took his advice, and developed a thesis that the act of looking at vaginal imagery destabilized a straight female viewer’s identity in a performative sense. Little did I know. A little more than 10 years after finishing my thesis, I fell in love with a woman, realized I had been yearning for that experience my whole life, and never looked back. My desire to make visible artists working at the intersection of feminist and queer art feels urgent and deeply satisfying.

In the midst of that existential crisis of sexual awakening, I began to work on an article on The Blatant Image and the representations of lesbian identity scattered through its pages. I think the draft I sent the editors, Christopher Reed and Jongwoo Jeremy Kim, was a mess of half-baked, theory-driven analysis. They tactfully focused my thesis, offered more nuanced reads of the images, and suggested cuts. From Chris, I learned to think about archives as places where ideas could germinate, not as repositories of illustrations for preconceived notions. From Jongwoo, I was encouraged to think more queerly and creatively as I formulate ideas, to resist fixing meanings.

MKM: What work do you most enjoying doing – teaching or writing?

MH: As much as I enjoy researching and writing, I earned my degree in order to teach and I’m passionate about that. I want to share my conviction that works of art are inexhaustible. In talking about an artwork, you necessarily limit yourself by attending to certain issues or questions while excluding others. Words and visual expression are incommensurable—otherwise artists would just explain their ideas. I want my students to get excited about what art can do aesthetically, culturally, politically. I want them to be able to mine the past for creative solutions to persistent problems, to find themselves in historical works. Over time, I’ve become less invested in imparting art historical knowledge to students and more interested in teaching them the skills to find information, analyze visual evidence, and generate their own ideas.

Margo Hobb’s art historical research on display in a recent exhibition of faculty work at Muhlenberg College

MKM: I think the talent and skills that make you a successful teacher also made you a great leader. For you, what was the most important thing you accomplished as WCA president?

MH: The most important thing I accomplished was after my term as president, when I reached out to all the self-identifying art writers in the member directory and organized the Art Writers Committee. I didn’t have a particular agenda in mind beyond figuring out how to make the organization more relevant for people like me—feminist art historians working in the academy. To be honest, I’m not sure that WCA is my best fit as an academic and the faculty members of the AWC have participated less over time. But the group has accomplished a compelling reboot of the WCA blog, Art Insights, a transformation in process of the WCA publication Art Lines, and the WCA Leadership Interview Project for our 50th anniversary. My part in this has been to convene regular meetings, facilitate constructive discussion, identify initiatives and steps toward accomplishing them, and stay out of the way. Moving forward, I believe that the AWC will be the place where members engage with important developments in the contemporary art world while maintaining a commitment to highlighting women’s voices.

MKM: Art is the focus of your professional life, at home do you maintain any collections or live with other artists’ artwork?

MH: When I worked at the gallery in Santa Fe, I did a quick favor for one of the artists we represented, and in return she gifted me a small monoprint of hers. Several artists graciously allowed me to choose a small work from their solo exhibitions at the gallery, and some works I purchased over time from my employer with deductions from my small paycheck. These gifts and purchases from artist friends are precious reminders of that time in my life when I was beginning to find my way. Working as a professor in various art departments, I’ve acquired works from my brilliantly talented colleagues and students. And during my time on the WCA Board, I’ve added to my collection works by artists whom I admire tremendously—Linda Stein, Margaret Parker, Rosalind Bloom. Nothing makes me happier than looking at the art in my home and thinking about the connections I have with the people who created it.

To learn more about Margo Hobbs and Art History at Muhlenberg, visit: https://www.muhlenberg.edu/academics/art/facultystaff/margohobbs/

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Mary D. Garrard by Margo Hobbs

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Mary D. Garrard by Margo Hobbs

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews:

Mary D. Garrard

by Margo Hobbs

Mary D. Garrard, Ph.D., WCA President 1974-1976

As a feminist art historian and former WCA President, I am honored and delighted to have had the opportunity to interview art historian Mary D. Garrard as part of the WCA Leadership Interview Project. Dr. Garrard shared her thoughts about the Caucus’ founding and its early years, WCA’s relationship to CAA, feminist art history, and leadership.

Mary D. Garrard was the second president of WCA from 1974 to 1976. She is an art historian specializing in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, who earned her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins, her MA at Harvard, and her BA at Newcomb College. She is an expert on the work of Artemisia Gentileschi and has written four books on the painter; the most recent is Artemisia Gentileschi and Feminism in Early Modern Europe (Reaktion Books, 2020). With feminist art historian Norma Broude, Dr. Garrard has edited three essential anthologies of feminist art historical writing, beginning with Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, published in 1982.

Dr. Garrard is professor emerita at American University in Washington, DC, where she taught from 1964 to 2003. American University honored her and Dr. Broude in 2010 with the inaugural Feminist Art History Conference, “Continuing the Legacy: Honoring the Work of Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard.” The conference has continued to be held; the seventh was online this past September. (It’s a wonderful conference, where scholars from undergraduate to senior faculty present groundbreaking feminist work.) Dr. Garrard has been recognized with a WCA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, the CAA Committee on Women in the Arts (with Norma Broude) for their “pioneering feminist scholarship” in 2000, and the Virginia chapter of the National Organization of Women for “scholarly and professional contributions to the history of women in the arts” (also with Norma Broude).

WCA Leadership Interview

Mary Garrard on Feminist Art History

Mary Garrard on Leadership

in Academia and Activism

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Linda Vallejo

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Linda Vallejo

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Linda Vallejo

Linda Vallejo

Visualizing what it means to be a person of color…

By Marianne McGrath

What an honor to interview artist Linda Vallejo! This interview is part of a series of interviews organized by the WCA Art Writers Group to highlight past leaders of Women’s Caucus for Art in celebration of our 50th Anniversary. Linda is one of the recipients of the 2022 Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. The Award recognizes the contributions of women to the arts and their profound effect on society. It honors the recipient’s work, their vision, and their commitment.

Linda Vallejo creates work that investigates contemporary cultural and political issues, visualizing what it means to be a person of color in the United States. Linda says that these works reflect what she calls her “brown intellectual property” — the experiences, knowledge, and feelings gathered over more than four decades of study of Latino, Chicano, and American indigenous culture and communities.

As the daughter of an Air Force officer, Linda moved many times during her childhood. From Los Angeles, where she was born, to Germany, Sacramento, and eventually to Montgomery, Alabama where she began high school “in an era defined by segregation, the Selma marches, and the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” She says, “it was then that I began to realize that skin color was a defining factor in how the world judges you and fixes your place in it.”

After a few years her family relocated again to Madrid, Spain, where she completed high school and she had the opportunity to explore art and architecture, as well as other modes of creative expression. Linda says, “I delighted in family visits to ancient Roman sites and Europe’s great museums. I was in pursuit of a language that could express universal equality, acceptance, and appreciation.” In 1969 Linda returned to Los Angeles to attend Whittier College, where she received her bachelor’s degree. She went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking at California State University, Long Beach.

Over the course of her long and prolific career, Linda’s work has been included in more than 100 group exhibitions, twenty solo exhibitions and can be found in the permanent collections of several Museums. Her solo exhibitions include LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes; Kean University: Karl & Helen Burger Gallery, Union, New Jersey; Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA; bG Gallery, Santa Monica; Texas A&M University Reynolds Gallery; Bert Green Fine Art, Chicago Il; UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Los Angeles, CA; Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA; the Soto Clemente Velez Cultural Center, New York; George Lawson Gallery, Los Angeles; University Art Gallery of New Mexico State University; Arte Americas in collaboration with the Fresno Art Museum and Central California Museum of Art Advisory Committee; and California State University, San Bernardino, Fullerton Museum of Art.

Linda’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, CA; the Museum of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA; Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; East Los Angeles College Vincent Price Museum, Los Angeles CA; National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago Il; Carnegie Art Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA; UC Santa Barbara, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA), Santa Barbara, CA; UCLA Chicano Study Research Center (CSRC), Los Angeles, CA; the California Digital Library; and the Arizona State University Library Archives.

Her most recent solo exhibition Brown Belongings was featured in the New York Times “Visualizing Latino Populations Through Art” by Jill Cowan, New York, NY (November 26, 2019) and in The Los Angeles Times “Linda Vallejo and a decade of art that unapologetically embraces brownness” by Matt Stromberg (June 20, 2019). Upcoming 2022 shows include University of British Colombia Museum of Anthropology and the National Hispanic Cultural Center in New Mexico where Make ‘Em All Mexican and The Brown Dot Project will be featured.

An Interview with Linda Vallejo

Artist Linda Vallejo interviewed by Marianne McGrath.
Linda Vallejo in her studio

To learn more about Linda Vallejo and see her other series of works, please visit her website: https://lindavallejo.comhttps://lindavallejo.com

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Ruth Weisberg

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Ruth Weisberg

Ruth Weisberg in her studio. Click the link for the full interview.

Ruth Weisberg is a prolific multidisciplinary artist whose work traverses the genres of painting, drawing, and mural-sized installation. She has an avid interest in Jewish heritage and Feminist subject matter that oftentimes incorporates the female figure. Ruth is a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California and is the Former Dean of USC’s Roski School of Art and Design. She has received several awards for her work, such as the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award, a Printmaker Emeritus Award from the Southern Graphic Council International, and the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s 50th Anniversary Cultural Achievement Award. Professor Weisberg has also received such honors as Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College, and the College Art Association Distinguished Teaching of Art Award. Professor Weisberg received her BFA and MFA degrees from the University of Michigan, and a Laurea from the Accademia Di Belli Arte of Perugia, Italy. Her work is held in the permanent collections of over sixty museums nationally and internationally. 

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Barbara Wolanin

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Barbara Wolanin

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews:

Barbara Wolanin

Dr. Barbara Wolanin shares her experiences as a leader in the Women’s Caucus for Art. She was interviewed by Patti Jordan for the WCA Leadership Interview Project on WCA’s 50th Anniversary.

An Interview with Barbara Wolanin

By Patti Jordan

Dr. Barbara Wolanin joined the Women’s Caucus for Art back in 1978, only a few years after its founding in 1972. Since then, she has been quite active in WCA’s Washington DC chapter and has served on WCA’s National board as Southeast Regional Vice President. She was also Vice President for Chapter Relations from 1998 to 2010 and President of WCA’s DC chapter from 1998 to 2001.

Dr. Wolanin held the distinguished position of Curator for the Architect of the Capitol and Congress from 1985 to 2015 and is now Curator Emerita. In this role, she oversaw the conservation of this vast collection of murals, sculpture, paintings, research and education, archives, and exhibitions. Dr. Wolanin holds a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and a Master’s in Art History from Oberlin College, an MAT in Art Education from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a Kress Fellow from University Wisconsin-Madison, and a Smithsonian Fellow. Dr. Wolanin also lists as a noteworthy curator and art historian by Marquis Who’s Who. Additionally, she prepared a book for the Congress on the muralist for the US Capitol, Constantino Brumidi.

Barbara Wolanin interviewed by Patti Jordan – 2 Minute Segment
Barbara Wolanin interviewed by Patti Jordan – Full Interview

For more information about Barbara Wolanin’s career please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbara-wolanin-83bb6610/

For more information about author Patti Jordan please visit: https://www.pattijordan.com