Pressly Forum: Ashley Lazevnick, "The Great Surgeon, Georgia O’Keeffe"

Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture
Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - 11:30 to 13:00
Ashley Lazevnick

Dr. Ashley Lazevnick is the 2018-2019 Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips Collection.

In a provocative 1922 essay on Georgia O’Keeffe, the critic Paul Rosenfeld ended one florid description by claiming that the artist seemed to “sever with the delicacy and swiftness of the great surgeon aplunge in the entrails of a patient.” Since the nineteenth century, when the discoveries of germ theory and anesthetics first allowed surgeons to operate with composure, the affinity between anatomical dissection and artistic realism had inspired a recurring analogy between the two professions. Between the two World Wars, however, that widespread metaphor entered a new realm of abstraction from the human figure. Poets from Ezra Pound to Marianne Moore compared their literary experiments to verbal amputations while no less than Walter Benjamin characterized the cinematographer as a surgeon, for whom cutting exposed a more trenchant reality than could be achieved by a painter. Still, the relationship between surgical practice and modernist art was far from obvious, especially as it was used to support entirely contradictory claims. This talk explores the complexities of that metaphor through the figure of O’Keeffe. It brings the technique and formal properties of O’Keeffe’s art into conversation with surgical literature from the 1920s, including education manuals, instrument catalogues, and scientific essays, and ends by weighing in on the overdetermined yet still poorly understood problem of gender in the reception of O’Keeffe’s practice.

The Pressly Forum is named in honor of its founder, Bill Pressly, a Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology for 25 years. Bill began the forum, originally known as the "Faculty Forum," in 2009 with the goal of fostering community within the department by bringing faculty together in an informal setting to share their current work with colleagues. A light lunch will be available at 11:30 and the lecture will begin at noon.

4213A Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building
3834 Campus Drive, University of Maryland, College Park 201742