Event—Scholarly Seminars

Elyse Speaks, University of Notre Dame and Christina Michelon, University of Minnesota

Elyse Speaks: “Housewife Beads the World!” Liza Lou and the Domestic Politics of the Bead / Christina Michelon: Making the Scrapbook and Other Printcrafts

Elyse Speaks: A Labor of Love: the Museum, the Kitchen, and the Politics of Labor

The problems posed by the classification of aesthetic categories, such as ‘fine art,’ ‘craft,’ and ‘self-taught art,’ have long been contested but never resolved. New Museum founder Marcia Tucker argued for the deep significance of the place of the museum in this conversation. This paper is an analysis of the means by which Tucker’s 1996 exhibition, A Labor of Love, mounted a challenge to the politics of value that undergird aesthetic categories within the museum. I explore the show’s two key themes, the politics of labor and the politics of domesticity, and how the unconventional engagement with each operate as an intervention on conventional aesthetic values. The paper then narrows focus to highlight one particular work within the exhibition, Liza Lou’s Kitchen (1991-1996), a full-scale, beaded environment, which, in part because it is a work that directly treats issues of domesticity and labor, became central to the critical reception of A Labor of Love. Examining Kitchen through Tucker’s exhibition, and vice versa, illuminates the porous nature of those boundaries that distinguish museum politics from broader social politics, and points to the work that might be done within museums to reconstruct those values that ostensibly lie outside its province.

Christina Michelon: Making the Scrapbook and Other Printcrafts

​This paper introduces the concept of "printcraft" through a close reading of the widely-reproduced painting Making the Scrapbook (1865). Printcraft is a broad genre of making that includes collage, decoupage, quilt making, and other practices. Printcrafts share certain material characteristics – namely the use of prints – but also operate or signify in similar ways. They are mediatory objects that negotiate between what seem like simple binaries. As personalized arrangements of widely reproduced images, they mediate between the unique and the mass-produced, the industrial and the handcrafted, destruction and creation. These operative tensions sustain them and were central to nineteenth-century domestic life.

Respondents: Katie Wood Kirchoff and Tricia Scanlan