Angie Lopez (they/them) is a senior originally from Miami, Florida, majoring in Art History and minoring in French. Their research pursues questions of queer time and bodies in visual culture, with a particular interest in tracing the continuities between Medieval and modern constructions of queerness. When they are not researching, they can be found at Coupa Cafe, conducting language conversations in French, at the Anderson, where they tour, or on the McMurtry rooftop, their favorite study place. After Stanford, they hope to pursue graduate studies in art history. They love visiting local galleries, learning new languages, and trying new foods!
In a Queer Time and Spirit: The Cross-Temporality and Mysticism of Georgiana Houghton’s Spirit Drawings
Advisor: Alexander Nemerov
What is the focus of your current research?
My research currently examines the life and legacy of Victorian Spiritualist and Abstract artist, Georgiana Houghton. I evaluate her work through the lens of queer temporality (as elaborated upon by theorists like Elizabeth Freeman and Jose Esteban Munoz) and in relation with the preceding history of Christian female mysticism and the proceeding history of Abstract Expressionism. In this way, the curious temporality of Houghton’s work is not made to fit within the current chronology of art history but instead serves as a challenge to the discipline’s desire to consider the past, present, and future as discrete, progressive entities.
What drew you to this topic?
I have always been interested in pursuing questions of temporality, spirituality, and queerness in art (seeing my personal relationship to these three things in the navigation of my own life and identity) and found that Houghton’s work allows me to consider all three of these themes in conjunction. Additionally, and most urgently, I find myself drawn to Houghton’s drawings; the complexity of her line work and the richness of her color layering compel me to return to her work time and time again.
How are you conducting your research?
To comprehend Houghton, I am drawing from three volumes of Houghton’s autobiographical work, exhibition catalogs featuring her work (including, most comprehensively the exhibition catalog from Melbourne’s Victorian Spiritualist Union), and secondary literature on her (mostly exhibition reviews). Furthermore, I am engaging queer theorists in my elaboration of queer time, primary and secondary literature on Abstract Expressionism (drawing predominantly from Kandinsky) and on Christian female mysticism. I am placing all this literature in conversation with one another in addition to doing comparative visual analyses between Houghton and other relevant artists.
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
Houghton is a relatively obscure artist so any mention of her generally is surprising. Her method of working (summoning dead artists and angels who possess her and guide her drawing) and abstract style (a century before abstract expressionism) similarly perplexes folks. Lastly, the uncanny continuity of Houghton’s divinely timed legacy (Her Venice Biennale 2022 feature occurring on her 208th birthday, 28 being her divine number) is most likely the most shocking aspect of all. Frankly, there is no aspect of my research, I hope, that does not surprise people!
In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
An artist like Georgiana Houghton has existed unjustly at the margins of art history for too long. Seeing her being “out of touch” with the chronology arbitrarily decided by art history, her contributions have been omitted to preserve the widely disseminated narrative of male artist Kandinsky “inventing” abstraction. Furthermore, Houghton’s never being formally artistically educated and being a non-traditional woman (never married, worked professionally as an artist) further contributes to art history’s inclination to undermine her artistic rigor. In amplifying her importance, I hope to challenge the discipline’s methodology to encourage the study of more marginal, queer, and outsider artists whose works do not fit within the current parameters of canonizable art.
How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?
Academically, I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school so having the ability to undertake a long-term research project of my choosing has helped me to feel confident in my ability to engage in graduate-level research as well as helped me understand my research interests with nuance. Personally, this research has allowed me to engage in a constant queer re-orientation to spirituality, Christianity, and abstraction that positively impacts my ontological orientation.
How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?
The fellowship will allow me to participate within a community of scholars whose interdisciplinary insights will enrich my work and challenge my thinking, in addition to making the writing process a more collaborative experience. Furthermore, on a pragmatic level, the fellowship will provide me with a physical space, free of external distraction, where I can research and write for sustained periods of time.