Rachael is a visual culture historian specialising in concepts of gender and identity within French and British art and design c.1850-1950, with a focus on women Surrealists, especially Leonor Fini. Her work employs feminist and posthumanist theory to explore depictions of hybrid, ambiguous bodies in flux; bodies which blur boundaries not only of gender but between human / animal / plant / mineral. Rachael has published a series of articles and essays around gender and hybrid bodies in Surrealism, the most recent of which examine surrealist costume and theatrical design. She is currently working on a monograph that attempts to develop a feminist art historiography of Fini, mirroring the unstable bodies in Fini’s work by destabilising art historical taxonomies and methods of writing.
Her interest in posthuman, ambiguous bodies also has a contemporary focus, both within art and pop-culture, and has led to a fascination with horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres. If it has witches, vampires, monster, cyborgs, aliens, or any kind of macabre, composite creatures, Rachael will like it and probably use it in her teaching!
She obtained her PhD in 2010 from the University of Glasgow, where her doctoral research explored the motif of the alchemical androgyne in Symbolist and Surrealist art. She has previously held a Lectureship at Plymouth University and teaching posts at The Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, and the University of Glasgow before joining Loughborough University in 2016.
Rachael completed her postgraduate certificate in academic teaching practice in 2017 and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Rachael’s research interests include:
- Histories and critical concepts of gender in the 19th and 20th centuries in European art and design, including androgyny
- Surrealist art and design, particularly in relation to women artists
- Surrealist costume and theatre design
- Pan-European fin-de-siècle visual and material culture with a particular interest in the French Symbolists and the Glasgow School
- Alchemical and occult iconography within visual and material culture
Her current research focuses on the expression of embodied identities and posthumanist bodies within visual culture. In other words: how do artists convey identity as something malleable; something that is repeatedly recreated, and how this can be expressed through a body that refuses taxonomical categories and exclusionary systems of knowledge.
She is a member of the following research groups:
- Genders and Identities
- Gendered Lives
- Cultural Currents 1870-1930
Rachael teaches undergraduate courses exploring modern and contemporary art and visual culture, including:
- SAA921 Drawing: Discourses and Debates
- SAA922 Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Art and Design
- SAB931 Contemporary Art and Aesthetics
- SAB932 Visual Culture: Histories and Theories
- SAC940 Art and Design Dissertation
She also runs the following optional modules (depending on availability):
- SAB928 Decoding the Occult
- SAB929 19th-century Bodies
She is currently developing an MA course on Gender, Sexual Politics, and Visual Culture.
Rachael is currently supervising PhDs on:
- Countering abortion stigma: Activism and actions in contemporary visual art.
- Learning diversity from gallery education: Pedagogies for an inclusive, embodied, and decentred museum.
- Beyond the Canon: Rethinking the Histories and Legacies of the Female Russian Avant-Garde.
- Interpretations of gender within the design of robotics and embodied AI.
She is acting as a temporary, remote supervisor for a PhD on Nordic Symbolist artists.
Rachael would be keen to supervise students interested in any of the following areas:
- Gender debates in 19th-20th century visual and/or material culture (including art, fashion, theatre design, film, etc.)
- Symbolist and/or Surrealist art and/or design
- Artists / designers of the 19th-century Glasgow School (such as Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, Jessie M. King, etc.)
- Occult iconography in visual culture (including depiction of witches, alchemical imagery, etc.)