Why I Study Art History

About halfway through my sophomore year I decided that I loved studying art history and probably wanted to make a career out of it. When I tell people that I study art history they usually say one of the following: “Oh, so you’re going to be a curator?” or “So you want to work in a gallery? Like Charlotte?” but mostly they say, “What are you going to do with that?” These people are not wrong; the museum and gallery worlds are logical places to put an art history degree to use. I like going to museums but I have never had an interest in working in one, and while I love gallery opening and art hipsters I am less interested in contemporary art. My goals with art history instead veer toward academia.

The aspects of art history that most interest me are historical research, writing and visual analysis. I’ve always found that learning and writing about art came easier to me than any other subject. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I like studying art, but it has just always been something I was a natural at and never really felt like work in the same way that other subjects did.

It’s maybe ironic, but taking classes in the Religion department was what really made me realize that I wanted to keep studying art history after I graduated. Religion classes introduced me to a new way of approaching the study of art. In religion, we used theoretical models, talked about post-modernity and threw around buzzwords like “metanarrative,” “problematize,” and “routinization.” I fell in love, and it wasn’t long before I was trying to problematize everything in sight.

Being exposed to these new approaches completely changed the way I though about art history. I realized that I wasn’t interested in art because of the way it looked or because I idolized a certain artist. I was interested in art as material culture and the social, religious and political ideologies that shaped its appearance throughout history.

When I try to think about what exactly motivated my decision to pursue graduate study in art history it honestly comes down to my passion for looking at boring old things in exciting new ways. Let me be clear – I don’t think that medieval art is boring at all, but realistically I know a good amount of people would beg to differ. I jokingly refer to my preferred brand of art history as the “PoMo PreMo” (post-modern approach to the pre-modern) but I am serious about wanting to change the way people view and privilege art. Maybe I will go to graduate school and decide that art history and academia are not for me, but as of now I could not be more excited to begin.

*This post and the next two posts are a part of a blogging assignment for my English 408: Print Media class on how I became passionate about art history and my decision to go to graduate school.*

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