Conference 2013: Perception of Identity Through Art

On Friday, March 15, the MPS Art Therapy Department held its 28th Annual Conference, Perception of Identity Through Art: How Narrative and Perspective Shape Understanding. This year’s conference focused on how social, cultural, and personal viewpoints impact perception and art therapy practice. Featured speakers included Savneet Talwar, Teju Cole, Jennifer Nash, Pablo Helguera, and Eileen McGann.

Eileen McGann (ATR-BC, LCAT, SVA Faculty) led the conference panel discussion

Savneet Talwar , PhD, is currently an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has also taught at George Washington University, Southern Illinois University, and the St. Louis Institute of Art Psychotherapy.  Talwar’s Teaching Statement directly relates to the focus of this year’s conference: “… I investigate contemporary American culture and systems of meaning as they relate to art therapy practice and pedagogy. By taking an interdisciplinary approach and stressing a critical intersectional perspective that takes full account of race, class, gender and sexuality, as I try to enrich art therapy practice. In my teaching and research, I explore the construction of identity and difference, focusing on identity formation and its place in human development from a socio-cultural perspective…”

Savneet Talwar speaking during the panel discussion

Wandering Uterus exhibition which Talwar discussed in her presentation

Teju Cole is a writer, art historian, street photographer, and Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College, whose novel Open City has become a recommended reading in therapy and creative therapy fields. Open City has won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New York City Book Award for Fiction, and the Rosenthal Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the Ondaatje Prize of the Royal Society of Literature. Contributor to the New York Times, the New Yorker, Qarrtsiluni, the Atlantic, Granta, Aperture, Transition, A Public Space, and is a contributing editor at the New Inquiry.

Teju Cole speaking during the panel discussion
Cole’s photography creates a conversation on identity and culture with the juxtaposition of his two photographs in this piece entitled Bombay-Florence.

Cole concluded his presentation with the story of Sonali Deraniyagala and her memoir Wave. Deraniyagala lost her husband, parents and two young sons in the tsunami of 2004.

Jennifer Christine Nash , PhD, is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at George Washington University. Nash’s work focuses on black feminism, black sexual politics, race and visual culture, and race and law. To date, her research has centered on two related areas:  first, she has studied representations of black bodies in visual culture, with a particular interest in sexualized images of black female bodies. Second, she has written about black feminism as an intellectual and political tradition, focusing on intersectionality and, more recently, on black feminism’s love-politics.

Nash discussing the work of artist Renee Cox

Baby Back by Renee Cox

Pablo Helguera, PhD, is a New York based artist working with installation, sculpture, photography, drawing, socially engaged art and performance, is Director of Adult and Academic programs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Helguera’s work focuses in a variety of topics ranging from history, pedagogy, sociolinguistics, ethnography, memory and the absurd, in formats that are widely varied including the lecture, museum display strategies, musical performances and written fiction. His work as an educator has usually intersected his interest as an artist, making his work often reflects on issues of interpretation, dialogue, and the role of contemporary culture in a global reality. This intersection is best exemplified in his project, “The School of Panamerican Unrest”, a nomadic think-tank that physically crossed the continent by car from Anchorage, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, making 40 stops in between. Covering almost 20,000 miles, it is considered one of the most extensive public art projects on record.

Helguera and team of Ælia Media, a participatory art project for Bologna

Pablo Heluera  speaking during the panel discussion

The afternoon concluded with a reception and a chance to connect with students, alumni, speakers and colleagues in the lobby of the SVA Theatre.

Class of 2004 alumni at the conference: Julie Combal, Ayde Rayas, Amy Duquette, Lesley Achitoff and Stacy Yamano

Video of the conference proceedings will be posted soon. Thanks to the presenters and attendees, and thanks to MPS Art Therapy Department staff, especially Special Program & Projects Coordinator Val Sereno, for organizing.

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