Aaron Slodounik is a Doctoral Candidate in the Ph.D Program in Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he has earned a certificate in Women’s Studies and is writing a dissertation entitled “The Painter and his Poets: Paul Gauguin and Interartistic Exchange”.
My dissertation, The Painter and his Poets: Paul Gauguin and Interartistic Exchange, argues that the meanings of Paul Gauguin’s works from his first Tahitian sojourn (1891-3) were mostly devised upon his return to France (from 1893-5) and worked out with his literary peers: Charles Morice, Alfred Jarry, and Stéphane Mallarmé. No longer an isolated genius on a heroic quest, Gauguin is portrayed as a strategic thinker in this new account. I reconsider contemporaneous poetry after Gauguin’s paintings and prints; his visual works that reference the poetry of his peers; and his co-authored, literary masterpiece Noa Noa. These offer glimpses of the ways in which Gauguin’s most sympathetic contemporaries experienced his work, and shed light on his engagements with the literary currents of his time. By examining the inter-dependencies of objects and texts and their travels between makers and recipients, we can chart the varied social relationships embedded in Gauguin’s works, and uncover historically-situated meanings that other methodologies, such as deconstruction, do little to reveal. I have presented my research primarily at international art history and comparative literature conferences, and my work has received support from the Mellon Foundation.
I presented my research on Alfred Jarry’s poem “L’Homme à la hache” (1893-4) and Paul Gauguin’s painting L‘Homme à la hache (1891) at the annual conference of the Association of Art Historians, held at Edinburgh University in April 2016. Jarry’s poem was published in his artist’s book Les Minutes de sable mémorial (1894) and is one of three poems that he wrote after Gauguin’s paintings. (The Société des Amis d’Alfred Jarry recently issued a true-to-original facsimile as issue 130-1 of their journal L’Étoile-Absinthe.) I participated in the Saturday morning session “Having Words: Artist–writer relationships“. My abstract and those of my co-presenters are available on the AAH Site.
My research received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation when I was invited to participate in the Summer Institute in Technical Art History organized by the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts in 2014. That year’s session was dedicated to study of materials and processes used in artist’s books. There are many resources in NYC for anyone likewise interested in related historical techniques, as I discussed in a post on the Institute site. In my own research, I examine some very early precursors of the genre. These include the paired poems and prints in Sonnets et Eaux-Fortes edited by Philippe Burty (1869) and Le Corbeau (1875), illustrated by Edouard Manet and translated into French by Stéphane Mallarmé—from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. In my research on Noa Noa, written collaboratively by Paul Gauguin and Charles Morice, I consider the project likewise as an artist book. Rather than see the text as an attempt to gloss Gauguin’s paintings (as many have done), I pay particular attention to the interrelationships between the text’s multiple manuscripts and the prints, which allow us to better understand the work as a whole.
In 2013, the NEA Foundation awarded me and my collaborators a Learning and Leadership Grant for pedagogical research. The grant offers up to $5,000 for educators engaged in group projects, including studies by Higher Ed instructors at public institutions. Our research investigated if instructional techniques designed to foster students’ self-regulatory strategies could enhance their ability to write analytically. We presented our research design at a 2012 Quinnipiac University WAC/WID conference and our preliminary results at the annual conference of the Northeast Educational Research Association in 2014. The results of our research were submitted to an educational psychology journal for peer review in 2015 and we received the feedback of the anonymous reviewers in 2016. We plan to re-submit a revised journal article in 2017.