Thursday Seminar: The Designs of Nature


Thursday, February 7, 2019, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Gould Hall, I Tatti
Piero di Cosimo

Speaker: Rebecca Zorach (Northwestern University / I Tatti) 

In Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Musaeum metallicum (written 1580s, published posthumously with editorial revisions in 1648), his vast treatise on rocks and minerals, the vocabulary of the artist—applied to the personified Nature—is ever-present. Nature draws, paints, depicts, delineates, represents, makes effigies and simulacra, emulates, imitates, simulates, figures, expresses, and imprints. In a research project initially inspired by Aldrovandi’s surprisingly untheological understanding of Nature as an independent maker of images, I consider questions of natural making, the place of intention in art, and practices of collaboration between artists and natural forces. In this talk I will introduce the project in terms of Renaissance art theory and philosophy as well as contemporary “new materialism,” arguing for a way of thinking of the relationship of art and nature not in terms of domination and conquest, but of parity and collaboration. 

Rebecca Zorach is the Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History at Northwestern University. She teaches and writes on early modern European art, contemporary activist art, and art of the 1960s and 1970s. Particular interests include print media, feminist and queer theory, theory of representation, the Black Arts Movement, and the multiple intersections of art and politics. Her books include Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 2005), The Passionate Triangle (University of Chicago Press, 2011), and the forthcoming Starring the Black Community (Duke University Press, 2019). She co-edited Ecologies, Agents, Terrains, the 2018 volume in Clark Studies in the Visual Arts, with Christopher P. Heuer.