Others’ of Various Kinds”: J. Vanessa Lyon on Intersectionality as an Early Modern Scholar

My intervention in my own mind was to queer early modern painting, and . . . in Rubens, until you acknowledge what whiteness means for Rubens, it’s totally possible to go through a lot of works without encountering ‘others’ of various kinds. Once you start looking, they are there.”

In this episode

Caro Fowler speaks with J. Vanessa Lyon, who is on the faculty at Bennington College, where she teaches the histories of art with an emphasis on gender, race, and post/colonial relationships in Spanish, Flemish, and Transatlantic visual representation. Vanessa speaks about the influence of her graduate studies in theology and how she views teaching as a politics of care. She also describes her experiences as a queer woman of color working on Old Masters like Rubens, and contemplates reverberations between early modern and contemporary art, particularly for artists of color.


J. Vanessa Lyon teaches art history at Bennington College. She holds an MA in historical theology from the Iliff School of Theology and a PhD in art history from the University of California, Berkeley. Lyon’s current teaching and research focuses on portraiture and critical race theory. Her first book, Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens, appeared in 2020 (Amsterdam University Press). Her current book project traces a genealogy of “painterly” painters such as Rubens, Titian, Van Dyck, Velázquez, Hogarth, Goya, Manet, Sargent, and Rauschenberg. 

This conversation was recorded on November 12, 2020. 


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