Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.8

January 13, 2005


Defiant Imagination talk explores mini-portraiture

By Barbara Black

Dean Christopher Jackson, Kristina Huneault, Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) Liselyn Adams, President Frederick Lowy and Lynn Hughes.

Celebrating two Concordia Research Chairs in Fine Arts are Dean Christopher Jackson, Kristina Huneault, Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) Liselyn Adams, President Frederick Lowy and Lynn Hughes. The reception was held Dec. 7 at SAT, the Society for Arts and Technology, on St. Lawrence Blvd.
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

The Defiant Imagination is the name given to a series of talks over the next three months by scholars in every domain of the arts, sponsored jointly by Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The series begins this afternoon, Jan. 13, at 3:30 in the Maxwell Cummings Auditorium of the MMFA with Max Wyman, president of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and a well-known writer, critic and advocate for the arts. He is an inspiring speaker, and will set the tone for what promises to be an interesting series.

Kristina Huneault, Concordia University Research Chair in Art History, will give the second lecture, on “Miniature Painting: The Fine Art of Selfhood.”

She explained, “While I was looking into 19th-century women artists in Canada, I came across some works that seemed quite special to me.”

The works are miniature portraits — tiny watercolours on ivory, scarcely three inches high, and the subjects are First Nations people.

Miniatures were popular before the advent of photography. For travellers, including explorers in North America, they were like carrying photos of your loved ones in your wallet. They were popular among businessmen, professionals, military officers and their families; in other words, the elite.

These First Nations sitters are clearly identified and individualized, Huneault said.

“One is Teyoninhokarawen, or Major John Norton, a Mohawk war chief, diplomat, soldier, and the adopted nephew of Joseph Brant. The other is Kahkewaquonaby, or the Reverend Peter Jones, an Ojibwe chief and Methodist missionary, who was the first ordained Aboriginal minister in Canada.

“The portraits were painted in London while their sitters were in England attempting to secure land, education, and financial security for North American First Nations.

“In the lecture, I explore the context of the men's lives but I also look at the nature of miniature painting itself, to assess why this kind of portrait might have been painted, and what impact the format has on the images that are portrayed.

“To hold a miniature in one's hand, to bend nearer to its polished surface and refocus one's gaze to see its details, is a very intimate experience.”

Huneault’s lecture will be on Friday, Jan. 21, at 3:30 p.m., in English, in the De Sève Cinema. Subsequent lectures are by Rhona Richman Kenneally on Feb. 4, Sha Xin Wei on March 4, Erin Manning on March 11, Raymonde April on March 17, and Lynn Hughes on March 31. Consult the Back Page listings of future issues of CTR for more details.

As research chair, Huneault is also organizing seminars on art historical practice to bring recognized scholars into contact with Concordia graduate students and faculty.

This fall's speakers were Mieke Bal, founder of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Theory; Anthea Callen from Nottingham University; and Reesa Greenberg, an independent scholar and curator.

Winter and spring seminars are scheduled for Susan Hollis Clayson from Northwestern University (Jan. 14), David Peters Corbett from University of York (Feb. 14) and Anne Higonnet (May 17) from Barnard College, Columbia University. The series will continue over the five years of Huneault chairship.

“Good research requires so many things — diligence, inventiveness, time, money, and commitment — and new ideas to help refresh thinking,” Huneault said.

“The seminars are methodologically oriented sessions, in which scholars discuss their current work, with an emphasis on process — what they do and how they do it.”