Diane Burko & Dr. Ann Sutherland Harris Reflect on FOCUS & Alice Neel

Posted by: Roy Wilbur

Diane Burko focuses on monumental geological phenomenon. Since 2006 her practice has been at the intersection of Art and Science, devoted to the urgent issues of Climate Change. Her current work reflects expeditions to the three largest ice fields in the world. In 2013 she sailed around Svalbard with artists and also spent four days in Ny-Alesund with scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute. In 2014, she returned north to Greenland’s Ilulissat and Eqi Sermia glaciers. She first traveled to the Antarctic Peninsula in 2013 returning in January 2015. After exploring the Antarctic Peninsula she flew from Ushuaia to El Calafate to discover the Patagonian ice field of Argentina. Diane’s ongoing study of polar landscapes – profoundly inform her work as she bears witness to the unprecedented ice melt on our planet. Aside from continually exhibiting, Burko has garnered the attention of the scientific community who invite her to speak on how the Arts can communicate Science. She is an affiliate of INSTAAR, having led a seminar at their headquarters and interacted with their research scientists in Boulder CO. She is invited to speak at various conferences such as the GSA (Geological Society of America) and AGU (American geophysical Union). Diane Burko is committed to sharing her experience as a public speaker on issues of climate change and her practice.  Diane Burko has had more than thirty solo exhibitions in galleries and museums across the U.S., including recent museum exhibits at the Zimmerli Museum of Art, Tang Museum, Tufts University, Michener Art Museum and at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Her numerous awards include Independence Foundation’s Fellowship in the Arts (2013), NEA Visual Arts Fellowships (1985, 1991); Individual Artists Grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (1981, 1989); a Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation Residence Fellowship (1989); a Rockefeller Foundation Residence Fellowship (1993); and the Bessie Berman Grant, awarded by the Leeway Foundation in Philadelphia (2000). Burko’s works are in numerous private and public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago; The Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; The PEW Foundation; The Delaware Art Museum; The Woodmere Art Museum; The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum; Denver Museum of Art; The Tucson Museum of Art and Tang Museum.

Ann Sutherland Harris was born in Cambridge, England and was educated in both the USA and the UK (BA 1961 & PhD 1965, University of London [Courtauld Institute of Art]).  She has worked in the States since 1965, teaching at Barnard College and Columbia University, and at several other universities before joining the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh as Professor of the History of Art and Architecture in 1984.  There she taught a wide range of courses to undergraduate and graduate students until her retirement in 2012. Her research focuses mainly on 17th century Europe, especially painters and sculptors working in Italy and France.  She has a particular interest in artists’ drawings and what they reveal about artists’ ideas and intentions, as well as in artists’ self-perceptions and the roles they play as they interact with patrons and their demands.  She has published books about Andrea Sacchi and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s drawings and, most recently, a substantial survey of European 17th century art and architecture (Laurence King, London; 2005; 2nd ed. 2008).   A full bibliography of her publications is available on her university’s web site.

Dr. Harris became interested in the past and present situation of women during the late 1960s and 1970s, when she became an activist for improved status for women in academe.  She testified before the US Congress in 1970 about the discrimination faced by women in higher education, and then helped to set up the Women’s Caucus for Art, an advocacy organization for women active as artists, art historians, and museum professionals: she was its first President (1972-74), and it is still active with many local branches and an annual meeting held in conjunction with that of the College Art Association.  It has awarded prizes for lifetime achievement to many of the (now) best-known American women artists, beginning in 1978 with Isabel Bishop, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Selma Burke and Alice Neel.  She also encouraged Wilhelmina Holladay to found a museum devoted to women artists, which she did twenty-five years ago: the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Art history and activism came together when she and Linda Nochlin co-curated the traveling exhibition Women Artists, 1550-1950 for the Los Angeles County Museum in 1976-7 (also shown at the University Art Museum, Austin, Texas; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Brooklyn Museum, New York).  She was responsible for artists active in the 16th to 18th centuries, and Nochlin for the artists working after 1800, and she contributed most of the catalogue entries for the earlier artists as well as an introduction that provided the essential historical background for the pioneering women artists who emerged in Europe in the mid-sixteenth-century.  Since then, she has occasionally written about twentieth-century women, including Alice Neel (1900-84), Elizabeth Murray (1940-2006) and Edna Andrade (1917- 2008), as well as contributing catalogue essays, articles and reviews about Artemisia Gentileschi and Sofonisba Anguissola, and a survey of recent scholarship on Sofonisba, Artemisia, Lavinia Fontana and Elisabetta Sirani for the exhibition, Italian Women Artists from the Renaissance to the Baroque held at the women’s museum in Washington in 2007.

This discussion was recorded on April 3, 2016 during the MooreWomenArtists Film Festival in conjunction with the screening of Andrew Neel’s film Alice Neel. The Festival was presented by Moore College of Art & Design in partnership with Women Make Movies.

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