Woman with Book (c.1910). William McGregor Paxton (American, 1869-1941). Oil on canvas on board. New Britain Museum of American Art exhibit.
Paxton’s wife Elizabeth Okie managed his career and modeled for many of his works. “William McGregor Paxton… benefited from an art-savvy wife who supported his career, using her energy in the bet that his offered the more secure future,” said author and art historian Rena Tobey.
When did you know you wanted to be an art history major?
I’m glad you asked! I’m sure all other art historians know how this goes, but for those who aren’t aware, I’ll tell the story in full.
On the eve of every art history major’s 20th birthday, the living spirit of Jenny Holzer visits them and sprinkles truisms under their pillow. This begins the initiation. They are then guided through the Nine Circles of Survey Course Hell, where they face the following series of trials and tribulations:
“What IS art?”
“That’s Just A Colored Square”
“Well If Women Really Tried To Make Art They Would Be Included In This Lecture”
“Do Any Of You Young Folks Know How To Log Me On To The Powerpoint?”
“In My Day We Just Used A Slide Projector”
“In My Day We Just Used A Slide Projector, Part II: German Church Architecture Edition”
“I Did My Dissertation On This Provincial Italian Painter So Gear Up For The Next 12 Lectures Being About Different Ways To Draw Fat Little Mannerist Cherubs”
“You Need To Get An Internship”
“You Will Never Get An Internship”
Next they are led through a cabinet of curiosities and Antiquarian Purgatory into the Great Guggenheim In The Sky, where a pantheon of scholars explain how the contemporary museum is a racist, classist, and sexist institution propped up by an obscenely elitist capitalist art market and the antiquated idea of the male genius which, despite the best efforts of many scholars, is probably un-reformable. As they leave this vision and risk descending into the hellish world of ‘70s essentialist feminism, they are guided by Adrian Piper into the world of interesting discourse. However, before the future art historian can finally awaken, one of the many Jeff Koons androids gives them a personal house call and whispers in their ear: Gardner’s Art Through The Ages, Volumes One And Two, A Net Total Of Just $310.50 If You Buy Now With Your Student Amazon Prime Account—-
The art historian finally awakes, and checks their phone. They have 600 new emails and all of them are from Donna Haraway. The process is complete, and they can rest knowing that the hard part is behind them now.
I don't think I'm alone in wanting to hear more about your art school experiences - because it sounds rather similar to the ones that made me drop out just a few years ago, and we could all use hope that we'll end up as wonderful as you.
I’ll go quick on the subject to save my blood pressure.
For some folk, for some schools, the experience completes what they need to do what they want to do at a price that is worth it. For others, it is not.
The Probably Only Art School Advice Post Thing I Will Write Here because I’m not great at art school advice, but this may help since we’re on the topic: