Fulbright Lecture: Spectacle and Social Order in ‘Scientific’ Prints

A black and white mezzotint of a philosopher showing an experience on an air pump. The people watching are huddled around the pump in awe of the experiment.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, scientific demonstrations, sponsored by Benjamin Franklin, the Midlands-based Lunar Society, and others, were popular entertainments that said as much about social order as they did about science and technology. Depicted in paintings and popular prints, the social message of these demonstrations was elevated even more. Visual references created witty social commentary, and invited a variety of audiences to find relevance in the artworks. In this talk, Prof. Louise Siddons will take a close look at mezzotints by Valentine Green after Joseph Wright and others, asking how changing audiences affected the interpretation of the imagery in his prints.

Dr. Siddons is Professor in Art History at Oklahoma State University whose research interests focus on the history of printmaking and photography, particularly in relation to representations of race, racialization, gender and sexuality. Her Fulbright award supports the completion of her book manuscript which will examine American photographer Laura Gilpin’s 1968 book, “The Enduring Navaho.” Siddons will examine her position within the intersectional politics of twentieth-century photography, Indigeneity and queerness, as well as discuss the propositions Gilpin made for both queer and Native self-determination and sovereignty through the book’s visuals.

Watch the full talk below: