Notes from Galveston (Week 2): Jac Saorsa, Visiting scholar at the University of Texas

Built of stone and steel for the railroad magnate Walter Gresham and his family, this famous house was designed by Nicholas Clayton, Galveston’s premier Victorian-era architect. The Bishop’s Palace is recognized as one of America’s finest examples of Victorian exuberance and Gilded-Age extravagance

Built of stone and steel for the railroad magnate Walter Gresham and his family, this famous house was designed by Nicholas Clayton, Galveston’s premier Victorian-era architect. The Bishop’s Palace is recognized as one of America’s finest examples of Victorian exuberance and Gilded-Age extravagance http://www.galvestonhistory.org/1892_Bishops_Palace.asp

Each day I walk either along the shore, or past beautiful Victorian architecture in the nationally acclaimed ‘historic district’, to the office I have been assigned at the Institute of Medical Humanities. (To be fair, I actually have two offices… the unofficial one is somewhere between the downtown coffee house, where I am becoming a regular, and the beach!). The official office is on second floor of the newly appointed Primary Care Pavilion (PCP) at UTMB and, tidy and very well-equipped when I took residence, it is now a sea of books, notes and transcripts that bear witness to my work on the Speaking the Unspeakable project. On the wall is my ‘new’ system of notes that involves layers of translucent planning paper (kindly donated by a fellow scholar), each spider diagram a palimpsest of the underlying sheet! I am creating a fat gestalt of my thoughts and ideas!

 

My desk!

My desk!

 

Unsurprisingly those ideas are expanding, and maturing I hope, now that I have the gift of time to give them room to breathe. Woods {2011} has led me to Strawson {2004} who in turn has led me to question the role of narrativity in the project beyond the relation between word and image, and Wikan’s simple yet profoundly evocative comment, ‘People bleed stories, but academics gather narratives’ {Wikan 2000, in Woods 2011}, has left a lasting impression on my thinking. As an artist, and as I myself wrote a paper entitled ‘Sometimes I Bleed…’ {Saorsa 2011} this has definitely struck a chord!

Impromptu tutorials with graduate students are a great way to get to know them and feel ‘engaged’ with the life at IMH and we have also organised a life drawing class! So, I get to bring a little bit of the Broadway Drawing School to Texas and as they say here – ‘its all good!’

Fantastic weather, a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere and the gift of time all add up to a reinforcement in my determination to make the most of this opportunity and give due respect to the import of what I am doing here. The import of Speaking the Unspeakable project and the hard work and generosity of all those involved – who after all are major contributors to my being here at all – makes doing the best I can with it the priority. Alongside working on the monograph therefore, I am also working on a paper based on the drawing Women’s Cancer project as a whole for a colloquium here at UTMB and a proposal – also related to the project – for the ‘Portraiture and Pain’ panel at the Association of Art Historians 40th Anniversary Conference & Bookfair
Royal College of Art, London 10 – 12 April 2014 (http://www.aah.org.uk/annual-conference). The subject seems so very relevant and has been on my mind in the last few days as I am working on some sketches… examples below:

DSCN0640DSCN0641DSCN0642

 

 

 

 

 

More Notes from Galveston soon…

Saorsa, J., 2011, Sometimes I bleed, Journal of War & Culture Studies, 4(1), pp. 127-39.       Strawson, G., 2004, Against narrativity, Ratio, 17(4), pp. 428-52.
Woods, A., 2011, The limits of narrative: provocations for the medical humanities, Medical humanities, 37(2), pp. 73-8.

 

About Jac Saorsa

Independent visual artist, writer and researcher in philosophy and contemporary art practice, primarily in the field of Medical Humanities. Director and Senior instructor at The Broadway Drawing School in Cardiff.
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