Student Spotlight: Ariella Minden

Hometown: Toronto

Research Interests: My dissertation is on printmaking in early-sixteenth-century Bologna. I look at how the presence of the university allowed for sustained technical innovation and experimentation across woodcutting, etching, and engraving. Currently, I am conducting research for a chapter that examines anatomical and surgical woodcuts produced for three treatises written by Berengario da Carpi, a surgeon and professor in Bologna, between 1518 and 1523. I am interested in how Berengario worked with artists and printers to devise a series of solutions to representational problems that were being negotiated during this time, as well as how practices of observation and diagnosis were reflected in the making of the texts and their images.

How long have you been living in Toronto?  What is your favorite thing about living here? I don’t live in Toronto right now, but I have been living there on and off for the last twenty-six years. My favourite thing about the city are the neighbourhoods and sense of community therein. It is so much fun to choose a neighbourhood and spend the day exploring, but is equally nice to be able to be a ‘regular’ at certain shops close to home.

When did you realize you wanted to study art history? In my first year of university I was a double major in International Relations and History. While those courses were enjoyable enough, everyone was raving about their art history module, so in spring term I decided to enroll in a Baroque art survey just for fun, and eight years later I’m still here! I was so taken by the way that the lecturers weaved together such compelling narratives through images and the poetics of formal analysis. I was thrilled to discover that the history of diplomacy, theories of which I was simultaneously studying in International Relations, was embedded in the works of Rubens and Inigo Jones. Or how Artemisia Gentileschi and Nicholas Poussin were so careful in their self-fashioning and through their paintings they could make profound statements about their relationship to Art. The drama of the Baroque hooked me!

Most memorable or exhilarating encounter with a work of art in the last few months? There is a time and a place for looking at art alone, but more than anything I love looking at objects in groups. In April, I went to the recent Verrocchio exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence with art historians from London. The group included curators, professors, conservators and graduate students, and debate and discussion in front of the works themselves lent new perspectives to many of the questions addressed in the show, such as attributions, workshop practice, and the relationship of Florentine painters to the relatively new oil medium. This kind of dynamic way of looking at and talking about art with scholars at all stages of their careers was such a pleasure to take part in.

What is one thing, unrelated to your studies and research, that you enjoy doing in your free time? I cook. A lot. Cooking, for me, is one of those activities that requires a level of focus that doesn’t allow space for lingering thoughts, just the task at hand. It also provides the perfect foil to the PhD. Where the dissertation is a long-term endeavour with the end a ways in the distance, cooking provides the satisfaction of completing a contained task, with tangible results in a matter of hours. There is also something very rewarding about feeding others. I host a lot of dinner parties to test out new recipes on my guests. In the past year I have made my own cheese, experimented with a lemon-yogurt cake recipe, and semi-obsessively perfected my pasta al pomodoro (the trick is to roast the tomatoes, people!). Living in Florence, where there are incredible markets, ensure that I am constantly cooking with the seasons. Right now (early September) might be the absolute best time of year because there are an abundance of figs, eggplants, tomatoes, and zucchini ready to be made into an endless combination of dishes.

What is next for you in your academic career? The archives! This year I am taking the plunge and starting archival work at the Archivio di Stato di Bologna. It is simultaneously intimidating and exciting to begin to sift through wills, inventories, and other records that are half a millennium old in order to piece together fragments of the world in which the objects I write about were made.

Favorite study spot on/off campus? My favourite off-campus study spot is the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence where I am currently a pre-doctoral fellow.

My favourite off-campus study spot in Toronto is definitely the Summerhill location of Boxcar Social. The staff are fantastic, the coffee delicious, the space cozy, and pizza is on offer when you need that end-of-term-writing-pick-me-up.  

What is one thing you want your classmates to know about you? My dream is to canoe on the Arno, so if anyone knows of a canoe (preferably cedar) in northern/central Italy please let me know.

You’re a new addition to the crayon box.  What colour would you be and why? Navy with grey undertones. A very pensive colour.

Next dream vacation (if money and time were not an object!)? Horseback riding in the Scottish Highlands. 

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