Maggie Nelson to Lecture on Care, Obligation, and Freedom in Art

Works by Maggie Nelson
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Halley Sutton

On April 4, 2018, the Otis College of Art and Design Fine Arts Department will host a free lecture by the 2018 Critic-in-Residence, Maggie Nelson, entitled, “Song of Care and Constraint.” 

“Over the years, many of the Fine Arts faculty and I have used Maggie's writing as part of our courses. Her books and texts have addressed art, feminism, queerness, aesthetic theory, sexual violence, and a history of the avant-garde that has been so meaningful to our students,” said Soo Kim, professor and program director of photography at Otis College of Art and Design.

During her lecture, Nelson will address recent developments in the art world that have to do with care, obligation, and freedom, as well as revisiting Langston Hughes’s famous comment that, “An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must never be afraid to do what he must choose.”  Although the lecture is sponsored by the Fine Arts Department, and will speak most directly to Fine Arts students, all interested students and the public are encouraged to attend.

The lecture by Maggie Nelson, known primarily for her written works of prose and poetry, highlights one of the unique aspects of Otis College of Art and Design: the opportunity to cross-pollinate creative theory, input, and practices between different artistic mediums. With so many different types of artists working together on Otis College’s campus—visual artists, painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, and fashion designers, to name only a few—the opportunities to be inspired by a work outside of one's own medium lends unique possibilities for artists across all disciplines. Nelson’s written work and criticism is influential and inspirational to artists of all disciplines, and her lecture will be an important meditation on the responsibilities of the artist—more pertinent in today’s cultural and political climate than ever—regardless of medium.

Bringing Nelson to campus is part of the ongoing Critic-in-Residence fellowship lecture series put on by the Fine Arts Department, which brings a different, widely known and influential artist and critic every year for a public lecture. “The Critic-in-Residence is an integral part of the Fine Arts program that connects our students and faculty with a rigor in thinking and writing in contemporary cultural discourse exemplified by the critic we invite to speak to our students at the college and the wider LA community,” Kim said. The Critic-in-Residence fellowship began in 2001, and features an outstanding critic whose lecture is meant to contribute to the cultural and artistic lives of the campus, the students, and the surrounding Los Angeles artistic community.

Past Critics-in-Residence lectures have included:

  • Graham Harman, contemporary American philosopher whose work on the metaphysics of objects led to the development of object-oriented ontology, gave a lecture entitled “Why Art and Design are Central for the Body.”
  • Andrea Zittel, an American artist whose practice encompasses spaces, objects, and modes of living, presented a lecture entitled “How to Live?”. Her project A-Z West in Joshua Tree has become an iconic installation in California.
  • Charlotte Cotton, photographer and researcher who was the former head of the Wallis Annenberg Department of photographs at LACMA, presented a lecture entitled “Photography is Magic.” The lecture covered recent research and projects that explore photographic practices that are evolving in light of Web 2.0.
  • Diedrich Diedrichsen, an author, music journalist, cultural critic, who presented a lecture entitled “Our Kind of Venue – Subcultures, Institutions, and Historiography.

Maggie Nelson is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, many of which have become cult classics defying categorization. Her nonfiction titles include the New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, The Argonauts (2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (2011; a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), Bluets (2009; named by Bookforum as one of the top 10 best books of the past 20 years), The Red Parts (2007; reissued 2016), and Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007).

Her poetry titles include Something Bright, Then Holes (2007, reissue 2018) and Jane: A Murder (2005; finalist for the PEN/ Martha Albrand Art of the Memoir). She writes frequently on art, including recent catalogue essays on Carolee Schneemann, Matthew Barney, and Sarah Lucas. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA in Poetry, an Innovative Literature Fellowship from Creative Capital, and an Arts Writers Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation. In 2016, she was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant. After 12 years at CalArts, in 2017 she became a Professor of English at USC. She lives in Los Angeles.

Find out more about the event.