Contemporary Art Panel Discussion

by James Elkins

Panel Discussion from On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art

A panel moderated by Jonathan A. Anderson discusses thought and practice in contemporary art as it relates to religion by James Elkins, Roger Feldman, Rachel Hostetter Smith, Daniel Siedell, Karen Kleinfelder, and Christina Valentine. 

James Elkins grew up in Ithaca, New York, and stayed long enough to get the BA degree (in English and Art History). Over this time, Elkins took summer hitchhiking trips to Alaska, Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and Columbia. For the last twenty-five years he has lived in Chicago; he got a graduate degree in painting, and then switched to Art History, got another graduate degree, and went on to do the PhD in Art History, which he finished in 1989 (all from the University of Chicago). Since then, he has been teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism. His writings focus on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes).

Rachel Hostetter Smith is Gilkison Professor in Art History at Taylor University in Indiana where she served as chair of the art department for many years. Before coming to Taylor in 1998 she was on the graduate faculty of the School of Comparative Arts at Ohio University. She earned her doctorate from Indiana University with specializations in Italian Renaissance, Medieval, and Asian art. She worked as a graphic designer and in book publishing early in her career and has curated several exhibitions, including East Meets West: Asian Art in Michigan Collections. Smith currently serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) and is chair of the publications board, which oversees the journal SEEN.??Growing up in Pakistan, Mexico, and the United States, she has continued to work abroad on a regular basis. She has taught courses in Italy and Vancouver, Canada and has been a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome. In 1998 she received the Best Article of the Year Award from the journal Explorations in Renaissance Culture. She writes on a wide range of topics in the arts including historical and contemporary subjects in the visual arts, architecture, literature and film. Her work has been published in books and journals including Explorations in Renaissance Culture, Renaissance Quarterly, Sixteenth Century Studies Journal, Christian Scholar’s Review, SEEN, Arts, and Mars Hill Review.

Daniel Siedell, formerly the the Director of Whale & Star, the Miami-based studio of artist Enrique Martínez Celaya, has taught modern and contemporary art history, theory, and criticism at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Daniel was also Chief Curator of the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for eleven years. His art historical research interests are the work of Enrique Martínez Celaya, Abstract Expressionism, and theology and the nature of belief in contemporary art. Siedell's work as an art historian, critic, and curator operates at the intersection of art history, cultural criticism, theology, and philosophy. He is motivated by the conviction that Christian thought and practice, as it is embodied in the seven ecumenical councils, can nourish a deeper and more expansive understanding of contemporary artistic practice. He is a Fellow at the Center for the Theology of Cultural Engagement in Portland, Oregon.

Roger Feldman earned his M.F.A. Degree from Claremont Graduate University in 1977. From 1978-89 Feldman worked as a graphic designer in the Seattle area and continued to exhibit as an installation artist. In 1986 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist’s Fellowship. Feldman’s installations were being shown internationally while he was a professor at Biola University (1989-2000). Feldman continues to exhibit nationally & internationally. Feldman’s work is listed in Marquis Who’s Who in American Art, Who’s Who in America, & Who’s Who in the World. He is currently the Chair of the Art Department at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.

Karen L. Kleinfelder is a Professor & Head of the Art History program at California State University, Long Beach. She received her Ph.D. in 1989 from the University of Michigan where her thesis won the Distinguished Dissertation Award & was later published by the University of Chicago Press as a book, The Artist, His Model, Her Image, His Gaze: Picasso’s Pursuit of the Model. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, she is currently at work on a book about the images of women in Picasso’s art. A list of seminar topics she has taught at Cal State Long Beach include Surrealism & Gender, Bataille’s informe, Baudrillard’s hyperreal, mind/body/cyborg, real places/imaginary spaces, boundary crossings, & “Engendered Species”. Dr. Kleinfelder won the Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award at Cal State Long Beach in 2000.

Jonathan Anderson has been teaching at Biola University since 2006. He holds an M.F.A. from California State University Long Beach, where he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Drawing & Painting. He is an actively exhibiting artist, including exhibitions at the US Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand; Phantom Galleries in Long Beach, CA; the Museum of the Living Artist in San Diego, CA; George Fox University in Newberg, OR; and numerous other galleries around the country. Anderson’s work is heavily influenced by 20th-century philosophy and takes the figure/ground relationship in painting as his primary preoccupation. In addition, Professor Anderson is a regular speaker and writer about art, focusing especially on bringing contemporary art and Christian theology into more meaningful conversation with each other.

Christina Valentine, former Professor of Art History in Biola’s Department of Art, received her M.A. degree in Criticism & Theory at Art Center in Pasadena, California. She has worked for UCLA Live, one of the leading performing arts series' in the United States, as well as the Armand Hammer Museum of Art in Westwood, CA. Some of the memorable exhibitions that occurred at the Armand Hammer during her tenure there were Sexual Politics, Black Male & Too Jewish. She has written for many art publications including Art/Text, Flash Art, & Image Journal. She has written catalog essays & exhibition reviews for Lynn Aldrich, Nicole Cohen, Noble & Webster at Gagosian, and Matt Byloos. Currently, Ms. Valentine is the Director of Curatorial Projects with ZG Press.

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