Catherine M. Soussloff, professor of art at the University of Rochester, is the new director of the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester.
"I consider this the top program in the world in this interdisciplinary approach," Soussloff says. As the first graduate program of its kind in the country, Rochester's Visual and Cultural Studies Program uses a broad variety of methods to analyze visual culture, including art.
For the last three years, Soussloff held the Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in Art History at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she taught since 1987. During that time, she launched a collaborative program between UC Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art. In an added role as Co-Director of Visual and Performance Studies, Soussloff worked toward creating a doctoral program similar to the one that she now directs.
"I am pleased to be here to take this program to the next stage," she says. To her, VCS's interdisciplinary work in the humanities, arts, and social sciences sets the stage for understanding the visual in American culture. "You can see how important images and symbols are in our lives today. September 11 was enough to remind us all of that," she points out.
She has been consulting with faculty and graduate students since September on a plan for initiatives and collaborations. "All of my life, I've studied the history of art, but now in this century we need to train people who will be at the key, cultural nexus of our society," Soussloff says. Graduates of VCS, which was founded in 1989, move into the fields of art history, film studies, media studies, visual studies, and museums.
An art historian whose research focuses on historiography and the Renaissance period, Soussloff has been selected recently for several prestigious research opportunities.
During 1999-2000, she was a recipient of a Getty Fellowship to work in residence at Los Angeles' Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities. Last summer, she was a visiting scholar at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. She devoted her time to a major book project about the Jewish subject in Viennese art and art history from 1900 to 1938. Her project seeks to establish the historical and social contexts of art-making in Vienna in those years. Soussloff is presently completing essays on Leonardo Da Vinci and on interdisciplinarity in art history and visual culture.
She is the author of The Absolute Artist (1997), a historical study on the social perceptions of the artist in the European and American tradition from the Renaissance to the present. She also is the editor of Jewish Identity in Modern Art History (2000), the first comprehensive study of Jewish identity and its meaning for the history of art with essays from 11 influential scholars.
Soussloff received her bachelor of arts and doctoral degrees in the history of art from Bryn Mawr College. She also has held teaching appointments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.