King to talk celebrity, women, art and Gaga in VACI lecture



Joanna Hamer | Staff Writer

Elaine King is an art historian, curator and professor at Carnegie Mellon University interested in public policy, ethics and Lady Gaga.

Today at 7 p.m. in the Hultquist Center, King will give a talk titled “The Union of Art and Celebrity,” exploring the art of Cindy Sherman, Madonna and pop queen Lady Gaga, who she calls “the reigning champion of hyper-modernist culture.”

“I feel that they all challenged and addressed significant issues about the role and representation of women in society, how they’re shown in the media, as well as in the creation of art,” King said.

A seasoned Chautauqua speaker, King has given Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution lectures on spirituality and art, perspectives on the environment and the evolution of the portrait beginning with Andy Warhol. She also wrote the catalogue essay for the “Abstraction in America” show in Strohl Art Center. This evening, she will talk about fame in contemporary art culture, focusing on those three iconic women.

“As a society, our culture has become more homogenous,” King said. “I want to show how each of these women become celebrities in their own right but each stays pretty individual in what they do.”

King teaches history of art and theory and museum studies at Carnegie Mellon, and holds an interdisciplinary doctorate degree from Northwestern University in theory and culture and art history.

“Part of the reason that I like coming to a place like Chautauqua is that I am not just a straight academic,” King said. “I really don’t believe in just writing papers for a limited audience. I tend to look at things contextually. There’s a reason, there’s a context, there’s a time. Things are not isolated.”

King is the co-editor of an anthology of essays titled Ethics and the Visual Arts, which explores the issues of media, technology, globalization, markets and public policy and how they relate to the creation, curation and sale of fine art.

She is currently working on a new book about the National Endowment for the Arts — how it began, what it accomplished and why it has since stopped granting awards to individual artists.

“I’m trying to show how government and its support of the arts in an unconditional way was very important in nurturing new talent as well as how that talent later becomes influential in changing the canon of modern art,” King said.

King’s lecture will cover the history of the three iconic female artists, from Sherman’s “The Complete Untitled Film Stills,” through Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and to Lady Gaga’s contemporary fashion, music and performances.

“I want to show each of these artists, who become household names in their own area, have raised thought-provoking questions,” King said. “All of these women are icons in their own right.”