The Chicago School of Media Theory > Members > Rebecca L. Reynolds

Rebecca L. Reynolds


Rebecca Reynolds is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. She works on 20th century American and European Sculpture, with an emphasis on post-World War II American artists. She is currently beginning work on her dissertation on the topic of sculpture parks and gardens in the United States, 1964-88.

Rebecca served as a course assistant for the Winter 2003 Theories of Media course, bringing her expertise on the history of art and its attitudes towards the concept of a medium to bear on the more theoretical investigations guiding the course. She gave a lecture entitled "Sculpture and Space: Art in an Expanded Field," in which she used the classic art historical trick of contrasting two seemingly disparate examples, only to engage them as examples of similar problems. The case studies in question were Storm King, a sculpture park in New York state founded in 1960, and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, as represented by his film on the topic. Considering the formal relationships between sculpture and landscape in these two examples, Rebecca used them to talk about the constellation of media invoked by sculpture: landscape, film, photography, print, and not least the body. The class considered Rosalind Krauss' essay "Sculpture in an Expanded Field," along with an essay by Robert Smithson and Martin Heidegger's "Art and Space."

Rebecca hopes to continue her explorations of the fine arts in relation to media theory in CSMT. As such, she likes to think about the role of the art object itself, especially in relation to "objects," and the attendant discourse in sculpture between artwork and object. Last year she spent a lot of time thinking about objects when she served as Co-Editor of the Chicago Art Journal, on the theme, "The Use and Abuse of Things." In contrast to the prevalent image/text dialectic, she wants to complicate the term "image" in relation to the fine arts by considering media that don't adhere easily to that term. Partly for this reason, she finds herself gravitating away from the paintings that are traditionally the domain of art history, instead being entranced with the bodily life of sculptures. Also on her horizon of fascination are the history of landscape design (gardens, parks), architecture, urbanism, public art, and music.

Her approach to art history and contemporary art incorporates a consideration of institutions and practices that support the creation of art in the 20th century, while questioning the possibility of these institutions and practices shaping the form or content of media themselves. In particular, she is trained in the history of exhibition practice and museums. She tempers this training with her interest in discourses practiced outside the museum, especially architecture and public art, in order to create a fuller picture of the forces affecting visual art production.

Rebecca fell in love with sculpture while she was writing her MA on an exhibition of site-specific art, "Places with a Past," that was held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1991 during the Spoleto Festival. Inspired by the local controversy that the exhibition incited, Rebecca wrote about the conflicting national and local responses, especially in relation to the definition of site-specificity that the exhibition suggested. Entitled "If Mold is Growing on the Honey," the resulting paper also reflected on the differing expectations attached to art inside and outside the museum walls based on museum practice and public art alternatives.

Rebecca has also worked for three years with the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. She coordinated a multi-disciplinary art program for 6th-8th graders in Chicago Public School, called ArtWords, ArtSounds. The program was designed around students responding creatively in multiple media to works of art in the Smart Museum's collection. After choosing a work of art, each student created two artworks inspired by their original choice, from three possible media of creative writing, visual art, and sound. At the end of the program, each student had created two interpretations of a work of art, using vastly different materials and methods.


Chicago School Media Theory: Reading List

Media Taxonomy Models: "Towards a Taxonomy of Media"

Media Theory Keywords Glossary: "Building Media Theory"

Theories of Media Lecture (2003): "Sculpture and Space: Art in an Expanded Field"

Theories of Media Lecture (2004): "Sculpture and Its Others: Art in an Expanded Field"