Margo M Hobbs
In art history classes, we devote most of our attention to primary sources: the art itself. Like all primary sources, artworks demand to be analyzed and interpreted. I am fascinated by the amount of information that is contained within a painting or sculpture, building or photograph: Our words inevitably fall short.
I try to guide students toward finding interesting questions to ask about art and locating the resources to answer them. Our first task is to learn to observe carefully and to describe what we see so that we have a common understanding. The object of our description must be put into historical context: Learning the politics, economics and social milieu surrounding art and architecture is essential to developing a plausible interpretation. Art never simply reflects its context, however. It shapes it, too. Helping students to think, talk and write about this complex relationship between art and its history motivates me as a teacher.
Prior to coming to Muhlenberg, I taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bucknell University, the University of Notre Dame, Illinois State University and the University of Vermont.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
I've been interested in art and its history since I was in grade school. I was lucky to grow up near Boston in a family that liked to visit museums, and I enjoyed seeing exhibitions of Egyptian art, the French Impressionists, and Beatrix Potter's illustrations of Peter Rabbit. After college, I worked in an art gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I discovered how interesting it was to talk to artists about how they made their work and what it meant. I decided to pursue an advanced degree in art history, and went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study modern art history, theory, and criticism. While I was there, I taught sections of the art history survey for the first time and found that I enjoyed teaching immensely. I earned my Ph.D. in art history at Northwestern University, where I wrote my dissertation on 1970s feminist art. After teaching at various colleges and universities around the country, I came to Muhlenberg in 2008. I teach courses in modern and contemporary art, women and art, and African American art. My research areas include feminist art, public art, graffiti art, and I'm currently researching lesbian photographers in the US.