Who’s Who: Emma Barker

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I’m Emma Barker, Senior Lecturer in Art History. I’ve worked at the OU for nearly 25 years  and have worked on most of the art history modules that have been produced during that time, including A216 Art and its Histories, AA318 Art of the Twentieth Century, A226 Exploring Art and Visual Culture, A344 Art and its Global Histories as well as several MA modules. I’ve also contributed to the interdisciplinary modules, A207 From Enlightenment to Romanticism and A105 Voices, Texts and Material Culture.

What are your main research areas?

My research focuses on French art of the late seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries, but I have also written about British art of the same period. I have a particular interest in parallel trends in French and British art during the ‘long eighteenth century’, such as the wide-ranging cultural phenomenon known as sentimentalism; changing representations of women, children and the family; and the image of the artist and the idea of genius in the Romantic era.

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

I have made two Open Arts Objects film that each focus on a single work of art. I’ve made one about Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Lady Taking Tea (1735), which relates to my research on the representation of women. It also draws on work that I did for A344 Art and its Global Histories, because of the impact of trade with the Far East evident in the painting. I’ve also made one about Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus (1601), which relates to a chapter that I wrote for A105 Voices, Texts and Material Culture, in which I used this picture to develop students’ skills of visual analysis and to explore changing conceptions of artistic value.

I’ve also made a film for the Critical Terms strand exploring the term ‘Classicism’, which relates to some of the teaching material in A344 about how classicism was spread throughout the world during the eras of colonialism and imperialism.

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

As with any teaching around a work of art, having to talk about it to an audience really focuses the mind on how the work itself addresses an audience.

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

My recent publications include an essay entitled ‘No Picture so Charming’: The Family Portrait in Eighteenth-Century France’, Art History, vol. 40 (3), 2017, pp. 526-53. Some of the portraits I discuss in this essay borrow from domestic scenes such as Chardin’s Lady Taking Tea. One of these portraits, for example, shows a family taking their morning coffee.

What got you interested in Art History? Fun fact?

When everyone in my class at primary school was asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up, I drew an artist at an easel. Sadly, the secondary school I later went to did not take art very seriously, so instead I became an art historian. I think I am probably a better art historian than I would have been an artist.

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.

Who’s Who: Amy Charlesworth

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I’m Amy Charlesworth, a lecturer in Art History, modern and contemporary art with a particular interest in photography and moving-image art, feminist politics and feminist art with particular reference to the 1970s-1990s. 

I am chair of A844 (the second part of our MA in Art History) and deputy chair for A843 (the first part of our MA). I wrote ‘Contemporary art: movement, migration and other histories’ for the fourth book, Art after Empire: from Colonialism to Globalisation for A344 Art and Its Global Histories. I have chaired AA318 Art of the Twentieth Century (which no longer runs) and most recently I have written online material on Benin art and culture for our A111: Discovering the Arts and Humanities. 

What got you interested in Art History?

As an art student I found I was better at writing about art and its histories then I was making it! For me, art and culture allows us to look at the world, our current environment, examine how things are, how different histories and cultures have contributed to this, and crucially, explore how things might change. 

What are your main research areas?

My research (publications, public events and teaching) largely comprise of three main elements: feminist politics and art; moving image and politics of visualising migration and mobility; and digital art and its relation to lens-based art.  

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

The OAO film I did on US artist Martha Rosler’s Service: a trilogy on colonialization from the 1970s also speaks to US and Mexico relations and politics through the subject of cooking. In Rosler’s postcard novel (later – and used in my film – complied as a book) the artist takes three different perspectives on cooking: two from Mexicans either working in private households or in fast food industry north of the border, and one on a US housewife trying to improve and expand her Mexican culinary skills. 

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

The challenge of extracting key information about a single work of art for a short talk to camera. It is always important to think about how one communicates and teaches and so this was a central element to the filming process and the information that needed to be conveyed. I also enjoyed working with the camera person and getting an insight in to how the process of filming and presenting works (the wonders of editing!).

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

My most high profile piece of published research thus far is on the filmmaker Chantal Akerman and some of her work she made for a gallery in the US on migration at the US-Mexico border in the early 1990s, for the journal The Oxford Art Journal. I also wrote about this work for my teaching material on A344 Art and its Global Histories

I also acted as consultant and co-producer on They Call Us Maids: A Domestic Workers’ Story. This animation short, which was scripted and animated by Leeds Animation Workshop in close collaboration with national campaign group The Voice of Domestic Workers, was made over a two-year period. It seeks to agitate and educate a wider public about the violent realities of women of colour working in private households throughout the UK as cleaners and nannies and the UK government policy decision in 2012 to change their visa status demoting their status as workers and rendering many ‘illegal’.

With the founder of The Voice of Domestic Workers, activist and domestic worker, Marissa Begonia, I co-wrote a chapter of the experience of making this film for Feminist Art Activisms and Artivisms, ed. Katy Deepwell (2020).

In 2016, They Call Us Maids was shortlisted for the AHRC Research in the Arts – Innovation Award. It has won many awards over the years, including Best Short Screenplay at the Philippine International Film Festival, Los Angeles (2016) and The Best Film on Modern Slavery in the UK (2018).

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.

Who’s Who: Susie West

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I am Susie West and I am Senior Lecturer in Art History and Heritage. I have contributed to our current modules A111, A226, A843 and A844; in the past, I have worked on Understanding Global Heritage (AD281), Voices, Texts and Material Culture (A105), and its predecessor A151, and Heritage, Whose Heritage? (A181). 

What got you interested in Art History?

It wasn’t what I expected to do, as I was passionate about archaeology and that was my undergraduate degree. However, I was also influenced by my dad’s interest in historic architecture (he really liked the eighteenth-century architecture of Robert Adam) and I realised that I could study surviving buildings as part of my course, not just ruins underground. Historic buildings specialists use lots of methods shared with archaeologists as well as art historians, it turns out. 

What are your main research areas?

I research British architectural history, particularly 1600-1800 and the English country house; my heritage studies interests mean that I also think about how we look after historic buildings and their landscapes today. 

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

So far I have made two Open Arts Objects films, the first is about St Michael’s Church, at Walton Hall. It is a church that has changed its function, to become part of the OU campus, and it relates to my current research as part of an AHRC project on how communities use historic religious buildings (Empowering Through Design, lead by my Design Group colleagues); I have also written about medieval churches for A226, ‘Exploring art and visual culture’. The second film looks at the historic gardens of Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, which I have researched as part of my work on the De Grey family and their houses at Wrest Park (they rebuilt their medieval house); I have also written about the gardens for A226. My Critical Terms film, Commemoration (see below), with Leah Clark, discusses how ideas about commemoration can be found within art history and heritage studies. 

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

I really like getting outside to be surrounded by the historic building or landscape that I am thinking about, I find it so refreshing to see the play of light on a surface and hear the sounds of particular places. 

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

I’m going to choose something not very obvious, which is an article about a lost country house, one I can’t visit although if I had a time machine I would love to be able to assess my suggestions for how it looked. I could also meet its owner, and probable designer, the author Lady Mary Wroth, and I would ask her to show me her library. I used archives and methods more usually used by archaeologists and economic historians to reconstruct Lady Mary’s material environment. 

West, Susie (2016). Finding Wroth’s Loughton Hall. Sidney Journal, 34(1) pp. 15–32.  

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.