School of the Arts, English and Drama

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Prof Hilary Robinson

Photo of Prof Hilary Robinson

Professor of Feminism, Art and Theory

Hilary Robinson’s teaching and research focuses on feminist art theory. Her publications include Visibly Female: Women and Art Today (1987); Reading Art, Reading Irigaray: The Politics of Art by Women (2006); Feminism-Art-Theory 1968-2014 (2015).

Hilary’s academic career has been in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Pittsburgh PA, USA; and London, England. At the University of Ulster (1992-2005) she taught art theory to studio students. She became Research Co-ordinator and subsequently Head of School for Art & Design. She also gained her first Chair, as Professor of the Politics of Art. In 2005 Hilary was appointed Dean, College of Fine Arts and Professor of Art Theory and Criticism, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA, USA. In Pittsburgh she was a board member of The Andy Warhol Museum; Quantum Theatre; Silver Eye Centre for Photography; Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and The Mattress Factory Museum. She headed the Creative Entrepreneurs research project, to retain artists in post-industrial Pittsburgh. She moved back to the UK in 2012 to take up the position of Dean, School of Art and Design, Middlesex University for a four-year term. She is presently on the advisory board for the AHRC-funded research project Black Arts and Modernism.

Initially she trained as a painter, graduating with a BA Fine Art, University of Newcastle upon Tyne; she also has an MA in Cultural History from the Royal College of Art, London, with a thesis on body image and sexuality in art by women; and a PhD in Art Theory from the University of Leeds (supervisor: Griselda Pollock), with a thesis on the implications of the work of philosopher Luce Irigaray for women artists.

My research explores the intersection of feminism and art, and aims to develop thinking about the relationship between the practice and theory of each in what has been and continues to be a highly productive juncture. What drives me is an interest in how 'art' and 'feminism' have informed each other, challenged each other, and created new ways of thinking and making, and a desire to make this dynamic legible in my work.

On the surface, my major publications may appear to be divergent approaches to the field. What holds them together is my refusal to treat art, or feminism, as merely objects of theory, but instead to treat them as processes of doing and thinking. Feminism-Art-Theory 1968-2014 (WileyBlackwell: 2015), is an archival anthology of 88 texts. It is a fully revised edition of Feminism-Art-Theory 1968-2000 (Blackwell: 2001), retaining only 33 texts from the earlier edition, and with a revised chapter structure.

My second major book was Reading Art, Reading Irigaray: The Politics of Art by Women (IB Tauris: 2006). This was, and remains, the only book-length study of the work of philosopher Luce Irigaray from within the visual arts field. Irigaray is an immensely attractive figure for artists, not only for her theoretical positions, but also because of her constant testing of theory in practice - her work on democracy with youth groups in Italy is just one example.

I am currently working on feminism, art, and activism, and on the histories of the feminist movement in art.

Forthcoming:  ReSisters: Activism, Art and Feminist Resistance (Duke U.P.)

Forthcoming:  Feminist Art: A History (WileyBlackwell). Single-author volume.

Forthcoming:  Companion to Feminist Art (WileyBlackwell). Co-edited with Maria Buszeck

Forthcoming:  ‘Witness it: Activism, Art, and the Feminist Performative Subject’ in Buszek and Robinson (eds): A Companion to Feminist Art (Wiley Blackwell)

2015    Feminism-Art-Theory 1968-2014: An Anthology (WileyBlackwell).

2013   ‘Feminism meets the Big Exhibition: Museum Survey Shows since 2005’, Anglo Saxonica, special edition: "Feminisms Today and Tomorrow," ed. Sandra M Gilbert. V.3, n.6, pp.129-149

2013   ‘Actionmyth, Historypanic: The entry of VALIE EXPORT’s Aktionhose: Genitalpanik into art history’, n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal vol. 32 (July 2013) Citizenship pp.84-89

2012   ‘Pleasure, Painting, Politics: The Three Graces – Or: Why I Like Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s Self-Portrait With Two Pupils’, in Xabier Arakistain and Lourdes Méndez (eds), Artistic Production and the Feminist Theory of Art: New Debates III (Victoria-Gastiez: Ayuntamiento de Vitoria-Gastiezko Udalak), pp 306-316

2006   Reading Art, Reading Irigaray: The Politics of Art by Women (London: IB Tauris).

2003    ‘Becoming women: Irigaray, Ireland and Visual Representation’, in Art, Gender and Nation: Ethnic Landscapes, Myths and Mother-Figures, ed. Sighle Bhreathnach-Lynch & Tricia Cusack (Aldershot: Ashgate)

2001    Feminism/Art/Theory 1968-1998 (ed.) (Blackwells). 706pp.

2000    ‘Whose Beauty? Women, Art, and Inter-subjectivity in Luce Irigaray’s Writings’, in Beauty Matters, ed. Peggy Brand (Indiana University Press), pp. 224- 251

2000    ‘The Morphology of the Mucous: Irigarayan possibilities in the material practices of art’, Differential Aesthetics, ed. Florence and Foster (Aldershot: Ashgate 2000), pp. 260-276

2000    ‘Disruptive Women Artists: An Irigarayan Reading of Irish Visual Culture’, Irish Studies Review, 8.1, April 2000, pp 57-72

1997    ‘Within the Pale in from: Beyond the Pale: the construction of femininity in the curating of an exhibition season at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin’, Journal of Gender Studies, vol 6 no 3, pp. 255-267

1996    ‘Louise Bourgeois’s “Cells”: Gesturing towards the mother’, in Ian Cole (ed): Museum of Modern Art Papers vol 1: Louise Bourgeois, Oxford: Museum of Modern Art, pp. 21- 30

1989    The Rough Guide to Venice, Harrap Columbus/Rough Guides (co-authored with Jonathan Buckley)

1987    Visibly Female: Feminist Art Today, London: Camden Press (editor)

I welcome enquiries about supervising theoretical or theory/practice research projects.

Current PhD students are:

  • Suzanne van Rossenberg: Towards a Transdisciplinary Model for Social Change: Feminist Art Research, Practice and Activism
  • Frances Hatherley: Sublime Dissension: A Working-Class Anti-Pygmalion Aesthetics of the Female Grotesque
  • Elina Suoyrjo: Creating Emancipatory Energies as a Feminist Curator.

Selected completed supervisions include:

  • Niamh O’Malley: ‘Repositioning the Landscape Viewer: Investigating models of appreciation and visual representation’ (practice/theory PhD)
  • Cherie Driver: ‘The writings of Griselda Pollock, Ireland, the "feminine" and visual representation’
  • Ruth Jones: ‘Liminality, risk and repetition: Towards a feminine becoming in contemporary art practice’ (practice/theory PhD)
  • Suzannah Chan: ‘De-centering whiteness, gender and "Irishness": representing "race," gender and diaspora in Irish visual art’

I have primarily taught the history and theory of contemporary art to studio-based students.

At BA level, required modules have included: Introduction to Visual Culture; Visual Culture Final Year Dissertation; Survey: Art Since 1945. Elective modules have included many varieties of feminist art modules; Theory and Practice of Art Criticism; and advanced Visual Culture modules. I have also taught on Fine Art studio modules.

At MA Fine Art and MFA level I have taught across theory and practice modules.