Emily Leon is an Art Historian, Drummer, Performer, Sound Enthusiast, Research Assistant and Graduate Student in The Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies under the rubric of Digital Art History at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Thesis Abstract (forthcoming December 2018): Hilma af Klint, an oft-cited but underresearched Swedish artist, is often included in art historical literature on art and spirituality. And yet, the assumed art world affinity between Swedish artist Hilma af Klint and other leading voices on the topic – above all, the Austrian philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner and Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky – demonstrates an urgency to place af Klint within a framework she doesn’t quite belong. This has subsequently led to a gross misunderstanding of her complexity as an artist and the broader question of spirituality and art. A lack of thorough visual analysis of her early works in much of the secondary scholarship, in addition to the absence of archival research, allows for these speculative claims. However, attending to a closer analysis of her visual imagery as well as available archival information in particular questions the supposed affiliation of af Klint to the work of Steiner. The speculation around af Klint’s relationship to Steiner claims he allegedly negatively impacted her works between the years 1908 and 1912. I employ analog, digital, and historical methods to explore this interesting albeit problematic encounter between af Klint and Steiner. These methods afford the opportunity to consider these connections in new and different ways. Therefore, allowing a comparison and re-evaluation of the evidence presented by others to demonstrate that the scholarly tendency to affiliate af Klint with Steiner or Kandinsky as a means of validating her place in the canon is not the historical argument we should be looking for. On the contrary, historical methods prove that the Steiner narrative in much of the secondary literature can only be understood as speculative. In addition, digital methods afford the opportunity to analyze this particular moment with the assistance of interactive data visualization software and text analytics systems. These systems not only show there was no shift in her iconography before 1908 and after 1912, but also demonstrate that art history still needs a clearer picture of af Klint.
Leon, Emily. “Considerations on Michaela Davies.” In Engineering the Future: As part of V&A Digital Design Weekend 2016, edited by Irini Papadimitriou, Andrew Prescott, Jon Rogers. United Kingdom: Uniform Communications Ltd, 2016.