We are moving this week from Australia to the US, as Janet Tyson offers us a view on art and art history from her many roles over the years, as teacher, curator and exhibitor among others. I’m particularly looking forward to her take on “humanities as lived experience”.
Hello all. Janet Tyson here, tweeting from semi-rural west Michigan, USA. I’m an independent art historian who specialises in historical research, critical interpretation and audience engagement. That said, I have been working part time at a nearby brew pub, so that I’ll have extra money when I travel to England for three months, to teach art history in a community education centre.
I come from a middle-class family and my educational record is middling in its own way. I’ve got three Master’s degrees—in studio art, art history, and art librarianship—all from universities that are decent, if not stellar.
I claim a broad range of professional experiences, most of them, extra-academic. They range from working as an art journalist and critic for about 20 years; as an exhibition curator for more than 12 years; and as an exhibiting artist, intermittently, for some 40 years. But I also have sold tropical fish, worked in a food-processing plant, and bagged groceries.
In terms of academic employment, I’ve taught art history as an adjunct; conducted undergraduate writing workshops; and assisted academic curators as a catalogue editor and a writer of exhibition texts. I also have curated exhibitions for academic galleries.
Some highlights of my various careers include serving as a founding trustee of the San Jose [California] Institute of Contemporary Art in the early 1980s; as Texas correspondent for The Art Newspaper during the late 1990s; and as curator/interlocutor of artists’ talks for the Kimbell Art Museum in the early 2000s. As an artist, I’ve had solo exhibitions in Dallas, New York and San Jose, as well as group exhibitions in Houston, San Francisco, New York, Austin and Budapest. As a researcher, I’ve presented papers at major conferences in the United States, Canada, England and Scotland—most of them focusing on affinities between fifteenth-century Netherlandish imagery and René Magritte’s oeuvre (the general topic of my Master’s thesis).
If I were to summarise the way my life seems to be heading, it would be that, materially, it’s very low-budget, but much enhanced by tweeting, online reading, and generally feeding my mind/spirit. My approach to the humanities is as diverse lived experiences with numerous formal glosses. If I can point to someone whose writing I find most relevant to that paradigm, it would be Michel de Certeau.
PS Someday, I hope to earn a PhD in art history or material culture.
PPS Please, let’s get tweeting!