Kathleen Quaintance is a historian of modern(ist) visual culture, a critic, and a craftsperson, with a focus on twentieth-century conversations between the precariously delineated and often fluid spheres of art, craft, and design. To complicate these boundaries, Kathleen’s recent research has focused on how a consciousness attuned toward pattern and decoration might simultaneously function as a material craft study and as an alternative epistemology, disrupting masculinized narratives of whitewashed, ornament-suppressing modernism. Kathleen’s past research has focused on women designers in the first half of the twentieth century who used regional popular art, everyday objects, industrial machine processes, and high-modernist developments simultaneously in their pattern design. This research subverts the narrative of individualistic artistic production by focusing on women who have not been allotted traditional training in architecture but nevertheless contributed to the built world, women who were trained as fine artists but chose to pursue craft practice instead, and women who worked as art educators, employing their creative pedagogic tactics toward the development of modern visual culture. Crucially, this research maintains a central focus on materiality, a reflexive understanding of art’s epistemologies, and a resistance to gender essentialization and/or uncritical reclamation in women’s art history.
Kathleen is very interested in developing an embodied research practice by practicing and studying craft and design in tandem. For example, some research has stemmed from an engagement with woodblock-printed textiles created in collective contexts, and has found expression in both written research and in material, hand-made textile form. With an eye towards expanding the ways in which we produce academic work about material culture, this method has included making objects using needle, loom, print, metal, and wood.
More widely, Kathleen often considers complicating ideas of modernity, archival practice, and the use of queer theory, having completed an MSt in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Oxford as an Ertegun Scholar, and a BA with a concentration in Art History at Sarah Lawrence College.
Kathleen has also worked as a printmaking studio technician, a craft teacher, a poster designer, an assistant curator of the collection of modern British art held at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, a historical research assistant to a creative writer, and a museum educator.