Thursday, Sept 25 | 1:15-2:25 pm

EMBODIMENT | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)

Re/Search Praxis in the Academy: Enacted/Experienced/Embodied (Re/Searching the Soul)

Erica Grimm

This paper invites session participants to consider the multiple ways in which meaning is made in artist studios and whether those embodied, non-linear, messy, inter/multi disciplinary, tangled processes and objects that arise in studios can be named as research. Can this process be productive of new knowledge? What the heck do artists do in their studios anyway? Do artists belong in the academy?  And do they deserve grants?  The recent inclusion of Research Creation designations in SHHRC grants suggests the academy is widening its definition of what constitutes research. But, not everyone agrees and criteria for practice-led research, and non-traditional research praxis processes, are still fluid.

I suggest that art enacts, constructs and complicates meaning by virtue of it being an active practice, experientially rooted in its inescapably materially embodied condition, situated within an historical/critical/cultural context. Inquiry based art-making practices exist in the interstices between lived experience and historical/cultural/theoretical situatedness, and are the means through which artist and viewer alike come to insight. I liken art-making to an apophatic epistemology, a form of understanding that integrates visual, physical/sensory, haptic, liminal and scholarly ways of knowing. In other words: in order to come to knowing, artists trust unknowing.

Do artists research?  Produce new knowledge? Ask questions? Interrogate issues? Search out what it means to be alive today? Widen research practices beyond the linear? Re/Search the soul?  And what would be lost if we did not?


Erica Grimm is a Canadian visual artist, researcher, and educator whose work is exhibited widely and is in collections such as the Canada Council Art Bank and Richmond Art Gallery. Her material practice is rooted in embodiment and she is curious about liminal, saturated or otherwise inexplicable but ordinary experiences. By layering materials, texts, maps, medical imagery, drawn fragments, projected video and aural soundscapes, she explores how ordinary surfaces (and sounds) collide to create meaning. Her written practice inquires into the epistemological implications of the process of making. 2002 Invited Nash Lecturer and named University of Regina Distinguished Alumnae, she is Associate Professor and Chair, Art + Design, SAMC at TWU.

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Flesh as Research: The Body in Lucian Freud and Jenny Saville

Emily Newman

Painting from live models is in no way a new practice; rather, for artists it has been a commonplace practice for hundreds of years. But in the late 20th century, two artists began to move beyond painting portraits to focusing intently on the flesh of the body. Repeated  investigations and studies of the same figures, shows a powerful interest in the form itself. For Lucian Freud and Jenny Saville, however, it was not just the “ideal” body type – like that of Kate Moss or Brad Pitt. For Freud, that meant studying the physiques of Leigh Bowry and Sue Tilley (who he nicknamed “Big Sue”). Saville was different, often turning the mirror on her own body and investigating each detail – from texture to coloration to form. Both artists return to their bodies (either models or their own) so frequently, it is as if they are trying to capture every detail and yet move beyond the flesh itself. Further, photographs of each artist often feature prominently in discussions about their work, putting a face on the artists themselves – helping to ground and humanize the legend that Freud has become, and providing a comparison for Saville’s bodies to her paintings. Complicating their work, are both Freud’s and Saville’s respective neuroses. Freud’s relationships with his models, particularly his daughters, are fraught with controversy and speculation. In her paintings, Saville’s work often draws upon feminist viewpoints and often challenging the beauty myth. In this paper, I want to compare the works of these two masterful British artists by looking at the way that they both research the flesh when painting.  Additionally, I will examine the way research surrounding their practices and processes has shaped the way that we understand and see their work.


Emily L. Newman is presently Assistant Professor of Art History at Texas A&M University-Commerce. She completed her PhD at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, in 2012, where she specialized in contemporary art and gender studies. Her research concerns intersections of modern and contemporary art history, popular culture, and the body. Besides having spoken at national and international conferences, she has published, curated, and spoken about a wide variety of topics including: rape and contemporary art, the illustrations of Pride and Prejudice, Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures, thinspiration and photography, and dieting for the sake of art.

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