Biophilia lecture

George W. Morrison, John Owen Greene, 1869, oil on canvas.

NEW ALBANY — The Carnegie Center for Art and History will host Ivan Kreilkamp for "Pets, Persons, Portraits," a lecture held in conjunction with the closing day of the exhibition "Biophilia Life; or, My Best Friend Has Four Legs and a Tail." The event will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, followed by a public reception. This event is free and open to the public.

The history of the painted portrait is human-centered, but not human-exclusive. From the classics of the Dutch golden age through to the present day, the portrait as a painting genre has often depicted its human subjects along with the household (or farm) animals that were those human beings’ pets, property, or companions. This talk considers some classics of the human/animal portrait in order to think about some of the questions raised by such images. When pet animals enter the frame of the portrait, are they being positioned as members of the household or family — fully included as worthy of representation? Or simply as yet another valuable or impressive object, included to bolster the prestige of the human subject? When, how, and why do particular portraits position household animals in such different ways, and with what implications?

"Biophilia Life; or, My Best Friend Has Four Legs and a Tail" is a pet-themed exhibit featuring work by prominent local and national artists that explores the unique connection between humankind and domesticated animals. The works created by the artists in this exhibition celebrate the symbiotic, emotional, and biological bonds between people and their pets.

Kreilkamp is an associate professor in the Department of English at Indiana University, Bloomington. While Kreilkamp's main area of research is the literature and culture of Victorian Britain, he has diverse teaching and research interests including print culture, media studies, contemporary fiction and popular culture, and animal studies.

In addition to his many publications in Public Books, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Yorker online, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The New Republic, his forthcoming book from University of Chicago Press is titled "Minor Creatures: Persons, Animals, and the Victorian Novel" which asks what it means to consider animals as members of a household or as characters in a novel. It considers animals as objects of sympathy and enmity, as companions and co-habitants, as subjects of experiment, and as minor characters. He addresses historical topics and asks theoretical and philosophical questions regarding the relationship of animals to personhood, subjectivity, and ethics. Kreilkamp received his doctorate and master's degrees from Brown University and his bachelor's from Yale.

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