My Approach to Teaching and Learning
All arguments in art history begin with evidence drawn from our own sensory experiences of an artwork. As an art historian interested in sensory history, this is especially true for my research. I wonder why an artwork affects certain responses in its audiences and how it was designed to do so. But how do I convince someone else to care about an artwork or its history? In my “Art and Its Markets” class, I ask students to think about this by putting real artworks in their hands and telling them, “Sell this to our campus museum.” Then they actually do it. We cover many topics over the semester, but the central project is an acquisition proposal in which students research an artwork on loan from a local gallery and describe to the leadership of the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum how it will contribute to the museum’s mission and collection. The museum then purchases artworks based on student presentations. In this way, students in Art and Architecture History classes make lasting contributions to their alma mater while also learning the fundamental impact art history research can have to shape their immediate cultural environments.
My Teacher-Scholar Journey
Curiosity drives the teacher-scholar model for me. In my courses I ask students to use their own curiosity as a catalyst to develop larger questions. Then we learn how to handle the research tools by which we can answer those questions. And what makes us more curious than the strange allure of an artwork? Art’s attractions are both ineffable and directly accessible. We feel drawn to artworks in ways we can’t immediately describe, and we are compelled to explain that attraction. Part of this pull is the sense of time travel an artwork offers. We can look in the present at an object that is in largely the same state as it was when it left the hands of its maker hundreds of years ago. Turning to primary sources, we find the voices of those makers as well as their original audiences, and hearing their words, seeing through their eyes, we begin a conversation that stretches across time, culture, and language. If you can give students opportunities to harness their curiosity and methods to excavate historical and cultural contexts beyond their own, you open up new possibilities of being in the present. I keep this in mind in my entry level classes especially, which I structure as extended museum tours. If we only stop to look at a few dozen works, how can the experience of each individual object open up a bridge between us and some other person, time, or place? How do they connect to one another to build larger stories?
Knowledge is Power
“Teaching at Miami makes me a better scholar. Designing courses for Miami students encourages me to think outside of the boundaries of my training and to look toward the larger impact my research and teaching can have on the world around me.”
Ph.D. Princeton University
M.A. Princeton University
B.A. Middlebury College
More About Me
At Miami, I teach courses about East Asian art history as well as broadly-themed courses covering topics such as the art market, arts writing, and the role of pleasure in art. My scholarship covers Chinese art from the 18th through the 21st century, with particular interests in materiality and sensory history. My first book, “Networks of Touch: A Tactile History of Chinese Art, 1790-1840,” will be on bookstore shelves by the end of 2023.