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Feminist Art Conference Celebrates Two CAS Pioneers

From antiquities to abstract expressionism, Norma Broude and Mary Garrard have helped shape the field of feminist art history, coediting four volumes of feminist essays used in university classrooms around the world. Last week, dozens of scholars and students gathered at American University to celebrate the legacy of the two pioneers. Broude is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and Garrard is professor emerita.

The first annual feminist art history conference, “Continuing the Legacy: Honoring the Work of Norma Broude and Mary Garrard,” featured 10 sessions, during which 40 leading art historians shared their insights on everything from Renaissance art to modernism in Russia to nineteenth-century European art.

The conference, sponsored by CAS and the Department of Art, kicked off November 5 with a lively discussion of antiquities. Laetitia La Follette of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, presented her work on Roman elite women as shapers of family memory.

Traditionally, she said, “the focus has been on women as ornaments, [but] I’m more concerned with what was in women’s heads, not on top of them.” La Follette described how Roman women were more than just pretty faces: “they played an important role in the definition and promotion of lineage for political purposes . . . serving as a link between generations.”

The conference wrapped up at Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, where Garrard discussed her new book, Brunelleschi’s Egg: Nature, Art, and Gender in Renaissance Italy.