Asian Studies - Art History
Lara Blanchard’s love of art and Asian Studies stems from her early studies in art history and her experience of Asian culture. Her teaching and research in art history is concerned with more than aesthetics.
One of her interests is problems of signification, or how artists represent ideas and concepts in visual form. In Chinese painting, for example, meaning is often more than literal, with artists using visual images as metaphors. This practice stems from early theories about the close relationships between text and image, with the figures of speech used in literature also appearing in pictorial form. There is a close relationship between Chinese poetry and painting, with paintings often based on poetry and poems written about paintings, words and images complementing each other.
Blanchard can speak to this relationship and advises that to fully appreciate all the elements of Asian art one must develop a lens through which to look at this art. This may prove a difficult task when coming from a contemporary, Western society, but having this lens allows the viewer to understand and appreciate the artistic exercise more.
More recently, her interest in gender in Chinese culture has led her to examine how images, coded as either masculine or feminine, have contributed to the experience of art in Asia.
“From ancient times, China has had its own theories about gender. These ideas are observed and reconstructed in the arts,” Blanchard says. “Understanding what people perceived as ‘normal’ in terms of gender changes our experience of their art.” Blanchard’s dissertation, “Visualizing Love and Longing in Song Dynasty Paintings of Women,” discusses how male painters created idealized images of women in 10th- to 14th-century Chinese art. Attached to this discussion is Blanchard’s exploration of gender construction in Chinese art and literature. The topic, however, also allowed her to examine how intangible feelings were represented visually.
“Coursework in art history is a vital component of a program in Asian cultures,” Blanchard says, “and learning about Asian art complements the study of European and American art (and vice versa).” To illustrate this notion, Blanchard’s students read not only about art but also about literature, philosophy, history, religion, politics, and women's studies.
Interview opportunities and additional background information may be requested through the Office of Communications, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York. Phone: (315) 781-3540. After business hours, Communications staff members are accessible through contact information on their answering machine at that number.
Lara Blanchard joined the Colleges’ faculty in 2001. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan and her B.A. at the College of William and Mary. Prior to coming to Hobart and William Smith she served as an instructor at the University of Michigan. She also previously held a research fellowship at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Blanchard’s publications include her dissertation, “Visualizing Love and Longing in Song Dynasty Paintings of Women,” and “Lonely Women and the Absent Man: The Masculine Landscape as Metaphor in the Song Dynasty Painting of Women.”
Blanchard has made several trips to Asia. She lived for a year in Taipei, Taiwan, in order to study Chinese language and calligraphy and research paintings from the Chinese imperial collection, and she has visited museums, gardens and Buddhist sites in mainland China and India. She has knowledge of, or fluency in, several languages, including Chinese (Mandarin), Classical Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian and Latin.
Blanchard’s professional affiliations include being an Associate in Research for the East Asia Program at Cornell University, and a member of the Association for Asian Studies and the College Art Association.