The Visual in Worldly and Other-Worldly Thought

Hernandez, Jessica, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Von Eschen, Penny, Arts & Sciences Graduate, University of Virginia
Hill Edwards, Justene, University of Virginia

This project explores the work of Caribbean visual artists during the 20th century. I ask: what modes of thinking are embedded in their work, and following Denise Ferreira da Silva, what kinds of thinking does their art make possible? More specifically, how do their aesthetic and intellectual projects express worldly thought by theorizing and reframing the relationship between humans and the natural world? Examining the work of artists such as Wifredo Lam and Aubrey Williams, I explore how their work theorizes worldly matters with regard to ecology and the environment. In doing so, I examine how their various engagements with these topics challenge the epistemologies of Enlightenment thinking that refer to the natural world. For example, this includes the idea of the human-nature distinction which did the ideological work necessary to justify the epistemological classification and the material domination of both human beings and nature. These ideas would later have implications for environmental ruin and crisis, another focus of this paper. Moreover, I examine how these artists, and other Caribbean thinkers such as Suzanne C├ęsaire, address and unsettle the modern conceptual tenets of Space and Time. Overall, my choice to examine 20th century artists, such as Wifredo Lam in the 1940s and Aubrey Williams in the 1960s, is to expand how we understand their work by foregrounding it as a form of ecological and intellectual thought. Analyzing their work through an ecological lens differs from the primary frameworks typically used, whether it be situating their work within an aesthetic canon or solely within the cultural and political movements to which they have been central. My aim is to take seriously the intellectual work their art does.

MA (Master of Arts)
Caribbean, nature, ecology, modernity, Enlightenment
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