August 26, 2020
Caroline E. Giddis & Clarissa Maria Chevalier
Creating Space for Becoming:
A 2020 Art Publication Manifesto
In many ways, the global eruption of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 did not so much create new problems in the art world as it did exacerbate old ones. From the ever-heightening financial difficulties associated with maintaining an art practice to the environmental unsustainability of constant global travel now synonymous with art-world success, to even the underlying presence of systemic racism in art institutions, the pandemic seemed to expedite issues that were present long before. It has always been challenging to navigate the art world ecosystem. However, in the shadow of COVID-19, for emerging art historians, writers, and artists freshly graduated or nearing the ends of their degrees, the road ahead seems more daunting than ever before. It is within this climate that Tesserae was born.
Tesserae exists partly as a response to the dwindling art world opportunities in the wake of COVID-19, and partly in response to the indefinable purgatory that emerging scholars and artists land in after they graduate but before they are well established in their field. After leaving the university ecosystem of student-run publications, symposiums, and campus jobs, many students find a void where there should be early career development opportunities. In this increasingly competitive climate, there seem to be less and less opportunities that land somewhere between “unpaid internship” and “5+ years of experience required.” Even scholars interested in re-entering academia in pursuit of competitive graduate degrees must traverse the difficult world of publishing with minimal financial support while navigating impending student loans, high application fees, and costly campus visits. There is merit in starting at the bottom, but how can you work your way up when necessary rungs of the ladder seem to be missing?
It was after expressing these frustrations—more acute than ever in the crumbling pandemic economy—that we decided to build a platform for art historians, writers, and artists in the early stages of their careers to share their work. Tesserae seeks to elevate emerging creative voices through the publication of a wide range of articles, including artist statements, interviews, exhibition reviews, and extended interpretations of art history, theory, and criticism.
Tesserae (singular: tessera) are defined as the small pieces of stone, glass, or tile used in the creation of a larger mosaic. Similarly, this publication aims to promote articles that help expand our understanding of the complex mosaic of art history while embracing an interdisciplinary, global, anachronistic approach towards art history. Tesserae does not place particular emphasis on a singular period, medium, or location to provide space for the widest range of creative voices in the face of pandemic-induced and pre-existing art world challenges. We cannot wait to hear your voices, share your work and your stories, and create a community of support and encouragement. Welcome to Tesserae.
Clarissa Chevalier is an incoming art history Ph.D. student at the University of California San Diego. Chevalier received an MA in art history from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2020 and a BA in cinema studies and art history from Columbia College Chicago in 2018. Chevalier’s areas of interest include critical theory, modern, and contemporary art, with particular emphasis on environmental art created in reaction to climate change. Her current research examines the intersections of phenomenology, ecological art, and environmental ethics.
Caroline E. Giddis graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2020 with an MA in art history, after receiving her BA in public relations and Spanish with a minor in art history from The University of Alabama in 2016. Her areas of interest include a broad timeline of medieval, early modern, and the long nineteenth century, with a focus on perceptions of women, feminist examinations, and intersections of visual and literary culture. Giddis curated a 2021 exhibition of recent acquisitions at the Delaware Art Museum as the 2020 Alfred Appel, Jr. Curatorial Fellow. Her recent research focuses on women of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.