As a 2019-20 Fulbright Scholar, Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture Angelique Szymanek is exploring place, art, feminism and the ways women have been marginalized within the history of art, in spite of the political advances of the mid-20th century.
Based in Scotland at the University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, for six-months Szymanek is embarking on an examination of works by women artists in the Scottish lowlands between 1969 and 1985. This research highlights the absences of women, particularly rural craftswomen, in the standard story of the arts in the U.K.
Szymanek, who is co-editing an anthology offering a history art from transnational perspectives, says that her research retracing feminism and feminist art production has “revealed the parameters of the ‘west’ as exclusionary…While the U.S., England, Italy and France (or at least their urban centers) have long been positioned as generators of political thought, activism and art production, their rural sites and many immediate neighboring countries are glaringly absent.”
Looking at the ways “the ideological construction of Great Britain, in particular, belies its geographic boundaries” led Szymanek to the question of why “England, London specifically, has been so vital to the origin stories of feminism that dominate while Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are nearly absent?” She chose to focus on Scotland, where the long history of gendered exclusions, which often differentiate traditional craft production from fine arts, can be explored in depth.
“Scotland has a long history of craft production that has only gained art historical acknowledgement in relation to the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century, for which primarily male architects and designers are credited,” Szymanek explains. “My interests are, thus, the intersections of the Women’s Liberation Movement, around which there was much highly understudied activity, and women’s cultural production as well as the Craft Revival that marked the decade. I am interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of how the cultural, activist and political labor of women here has been both distinct from and in tune with the broader swell of feminist activity that has come to define this time period globally.”
Traveling the U.K. to comb though historical archives, Szymanek is also meeting with local artists and curators, as well as faculty at the University of Dundee, “all of which have helped me better understand the culture in which I find myself as well as the history I am researching,” she says. “I am sure that my findings will challenge the exclusion of Scottish women from histories of feminist art and activism while disrupting the dominate narratives that continue to retrace colonial relations of power at the expense of intersectional and transnational ones.”
Szymanek, who joined the Hobart and William Smith faculty in 2015, holds a B.A. and M.A. in art history from SUNY Buffalo and a Ph.D. in art history from SUNY Binghamton. She is the recipient of a summer scholar awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities in both 2016 and 2017. During her time at HWS, she has published work in Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture & Society and The Journal of Feminist Scholarship, Women’s Art Journal, and Art Journal (forthcoming). Her tenure as a Fulbright Scholar coincides with Hobart and William Smith’s recognition once again as one of the U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2019-2020 Fulbright U.S. Students.