Carol Knicely

Carol Knicely is an Assistant Professor of Medieval Art History in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC. She has a Ph. D from UCLA. In addition to courses in her field she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in cultural theory and methodology of art history. Her research and publications have focused on pilgrimage cults and Romanesque art (including the development of reliquaries and monumental sculpted portals) especially in France between AD 1000-1200 with a special interest in exchanges between lay and monastic cultures as they are mediated through visual imagery. She has published on the Cult of Sainte Foy at Conques, on the art historian, Meyer Schapiro and on the 12th c. portal sculptures of Souillac in France. A recent project is dealing with the role of jewels and treasure in medieval art.

Areas of special interest in work and teaching have considered the visual in relation to: monasticism; religious, political and social aspects of pilgrimage and the cult of relics, the Holy City of Jerusalem , early Islamic art especially in Jerusalem and Spain, cultural attitudes about death and concepts of the afterlife; gender roles; changing forms of religious devotion; the role of violence and the role of humour (sometimes encountered together as in the carnivalesque); debates around oppositions between high and low in culture, sacred and profane, literate and illiterate, ecclesiastical and lay, spectacle and ritual, medieval manuscripts including Books of Hours and concepts about the structure of the world and the universe in the Middle Ages.

Topics of seminars in the past have included: The Cult of the Saints, Narrative Theories and Medieval Art, Visual Art and the Millennium, Rhetoric’s of Violence in Medieval Art, Regarding the Margins of Medieval Art, Exploring Humour in Medieval Art, Dealing with Death in the Middle Ages, Ritual and Medieval Art, The Holy City of Jerusalem: Desire and Conflict, Materiality in Spirituality, Ornament and Medieval art and Pilgrimage and the Cult of Relics.


  • Sunbeams

    June 29–July 27, 2013

    Installation View, Sunbeams, 2013

    Michelle Blade 366 Days of the Apocalypse, 2012 selection of paintings from 366 Days of the Apocalypse, acrylic ink on paper 9 x 11”

    Heather Goodchild, Journey Portrait, 2009. Wool and burlap, 27" x 70".

    Shannon Bool, Fallen Knight, 2012. Oil and batik on silk, 66" x 44".

    Shannon Bool, Casino Runner (Aztec Inn), 2011. Wool, 44" x 222".

    Installation View, Sunbeams, 2013.

    Morgan Watt, Primitive Understanding, 2013. Embroidery floss on linen, 18 x 24 x 3/4". Begin Being, 2013. Embroidery floss on linen, 18 x 24 x 3/4".

    Heather Goodchild, Journey Landscape, 2009. Wool and burlap, 65" x 37".

    Morgan Watt, Promises, 2013. Embroidery floss on linen, 9 x 12 x 3/4".

    Premised on the concept of thanatophobia, the works in Sunbeams have been brought together for their shared interest in the undetermined. Although defined as a fear of death or dying, the origin of thanatophobia can also be an apprehension or aversion to the unknown. The inability to comprehend what occurs after death can be a source of anxiety for individuals, and those most prone to this specific type of phobia are often highly intelligent and inquisitive, or those who question their own philosophical or religious beliefs. In addition to ritual and spirituality, the works in the exhibition maintain an engagement with craft and labour, adopting lengthy production processes to address a contemporary Western relationship to faith, the afterlife, and end times.

    In 366 Days of the Apocalypse (2012), Michelle Blade (Los Angeles) created paintings for an entire year, the impetus for the series being the myths surrounding the 2012 Mayan prophecies. Produced daily, the project created a ritual in which the artist moved towards both the literal end of the work and the proposed end of the world. Elements of romanticism, ritual, and existentialism are present in the work, as Blade conceals her surfaces with ominous hazes and subsumes her figures into transcendent landscapes. Despite its foreboding premise, the work is not intended to act as a warning, but rather an examination of our relationships to rituals, prophecies, and our own sense of mortality.

    Everyday life, literature, psychology, and art history are frequently referenced in Shannon Bool’s (Berlin) work, which takes a range of forms including wall paintings, photograms, collage, and sculpture. Casino Runner (Aztec Inn) (2011) is a twenty-foot-long carpet whose pattern is derived from a wall-to-wall floor covering of an Aztec-themed casino from the 1980s. The casino itself is homage to a relic of American Art Deco, the Aztec Hotel, which continues to operate in Monrovia, California. The hotel exemplifies American Art Deco’s appropriation of the geometric patterns and symbols of ancient Mexican civilizations, and Casino Runner complicates this cross-cultural relationship. Hand-woven by traditional village weavers in Anatolia, Turkey, the carpet alludes to the delirious and sublime experience of entering a casino while simultaneously creating an Eastern interpretation of a Western sensibility.

    Since 2009, Heather Goodchild (Toronto) has focused her work on Anna Ward Brouse, an imagined character in a secret society conceived by the artist. Brouse is an amalgamation of several 19th century North American spiritual leaders, and within this constructed narrative Goodchild develops systems, regalia and rituals of Brouse’s visions, using this process to locate meaning within her own desire for spirituality and ritual in a culture lacking religion. In Journey Portrait (2009) and Journey Landscape (2009), Goodchild draws from the rituals and symbolism of Freemasonry, Girl Guides, and childhood games, gathering inspiration from the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell and Alchemical practices. Within a system of symbols and proverbs, the individual rugs outline voyages towards personal fulfillment achieved through sacrifice.

    Word play and language figure prominently in the work of Morgan Watt (New York), who arrived at embroidery through his interest in the process of drawing and contemplative, labour intensive practices. Investigating the intersection of drawing and embroidery, Watt became intrigued with medieval tapestries, and his work references methods of communications in the medieval era, in particular battle standards. Works such as Primitive Understanding (2013) relay envisioned conversations amidst the fear and chaos of the battleground. Although the absurdity and humour of these interactions is apparent in the dialogue, anxieties of death and fear are prevalent in the works, with falling arrows alluding to the prospect of death arriving in a violent or abrupt way.

    Postscript 53: Kellee Ngan on Sunbeams (PDF)

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