Lisa Wainwright on Her Obsessions
by Micco Caporale (MA 2018)
After 20 years in SAIC’s administration, Dean of Faculty Lisa Wainwright is hanging up her hat—figuratively, of course—as dean and returning to the faculty to teach art history. As the point person for faculty development and curricular changes, Wainwright uses her eclectic hat and shoe collection to “be semi-outrageous without being thrown out of the room.”
Wainwright came to SAIC on the heels of finishing her PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She started her career teaching in the Art History, Theory, and Criticism department, where she’ll return next year following a sabbatical. This return to her first love—art history—excites her. Here are some other things that are thrilling to this decorated art historian.
Early in my single life, I discovered this famous milliner and alum—Raymond Hudd—who had a store near my home. I wandered into his shop after a bad breakup, and he was amazing. I would have these therapy sessions with him, then walk out with a breakup hat. Now I’ve been happily married for five years, so I have only staying-in-love hats.
I’m from Miami, and Robert Rauschenberg was also a Southerner. It’s weird because here’s this gay, male Texan, but I felt like I totally related to him. I understood his awe around what it meant to be an American and the optimism he had. I also am completely smitten with the breadth of art history. Rauschenberg and I both have eclectic art interests, so in a way, I got to study the whole history of art through him and his appropriations.
Television was forbidden growing up, so now I’m obsessed with it. I especially love The Crown because monarchies are so anathema to my politics. They seem so anachronistic, and I’m fascinated. So, The Crown—and anything about Princess Diana, who would have been my age.
My love is fiction. Ann Patchett is my favorite. With nonfiction, I meander. I look at a footnote, and I go, “Oo, that sounds good...” So the way I talk about art history is in bed at night. Oh, that sounds terrible!