Dr Catriona McAra is University Curator at Leeds Arts University.

She was awarded her doctorate in the History of Art from the University of Glasgow (2012) and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh (2013-2014). She has also served as a Visiting Lecturer in Forum for Critical Inquiry (FoCI) at Glasgow School of Art, and Research Fellow in Cultural Theory at the University of Huddersfield where she project-managed a two year collaborative exhibition programme at Huddersfield Art Gallery. 

Catriona’s research interests are broad but tend to cluster around literary art, feminist aesthetics, and curatorial engagement with natural history and the medical humanities (especially creative ageing).

Specialist knowledge includes the contemporary legacies of surrealist art and literary history, having published widely on the work of the American centenarian artist and writer Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) and English-Mexican nonagenarian artist and writer Leonora Carrington (1917-2011). Catriona’s first book, a 'stratigraphic' study of Tanning’s novel Chasm, was published with Routledge in 2017, and a co-edited a volume of essays with Jonathan P. Eburne (Pennsylvania State University) appeared the same year with Manchester University Press celebrating the centenary of Carrington's birth. Catriona's further major research projects to date include an edited volume of essays on the entomological sculptures of Tessa Farmer, and a special issue of the European Journal for the Study of English (EJSE) with Anna Kérchy (University of Szeged, Hungary) on the topic of feminist interventions into intermedial studies, including an interview with the Dutch narratologist and cultural theorist Mieke Bal. Catriona has also recently published journal articles on the demythologisation of girlhood in the novels of Kate Bernheimer, and in the performance practice of English interdisciplinary artist Samantha Sweeting.

Catriona is interested in supervising doctoral candidates in any of the following areas:

Research Interests

  • Narrative and literary art
  • Surrealism and its legacies in contemporary practice
  • Feminist aesthetics
  • Historiography (especially histories of the curatorial)
  • Artistic engagement with the sciences
  • Medical humanities (especially creative ageing) 

Select Publications

C. McAra, ‘Glowing Like Phosphorus: Tanning, Ernst, and the Sedona Western’ in Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, volume 10, number 1 (2018). Forthcoming.

C. McAra, ‘Brass Art: Gestured’ in Corridor 8 (4 December 2017).

A. Kérchy and C. McAra, ‘Interview with Mieke Bal’ in Feminist Interventions in Intermedial Studies, European Journal of English Studies, volume 21, issue 3 (2017).

C. McAra, 'Dollhouse Architecture: Leonora Carrington and Children's Literature' in Gramarye: Journal of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, issue 12 (2017), 35-45.

C. McAra, ‘Hope Chest: Demythologizing Girlhood in Kate Bernheimer's Trilogy’ in Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, volume 10, number 3 (2017), 168-183.

C. McAra, A Surrealist Stratigraphy of Dorothea Tanning's Chasm (New York: Routledge, 2017). 

C. McAra, 'A Nonagenarian Virago: Carrington in Contemporary Practice' in Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde, edited by J. P. Eburne and C. McAra (Manchester University Press, 2017).

C. McAra, 'The Malevolent Nostalgia of Tessa Farmer' in In Fairyland: The World of Tessa Farmer, edited by C. McAra (London: Strange Attractor, 2016).

C. McAra, ‘Emma’s Navel: Dorothea Tanning’s Narrative Sculpture’ in Intersections: Women/Surrealism/Modernism, edited by Patricia Allmer (Manchester University Press, 2016).

C. McAra, ‘Witch Milk: Samantha Sweeting’s Lactation Narratives’ in ASAP Journal: Experimentalism (May 2016).

C. McAra, ‘Photography’ in Folktales and Fairy Tales: Traditions and Texts From Around the World, edited by Anne E. Duggan and Donald Haase with Helen Callow, 776-778. (Wayne State University Press, 2016).

C. McAra, 'Surrealist Ghostliness by Katharine Conley' in Papers of Surrealism, issue 11 (Spring 2015).

C. McAra, ‘xo Orpheus: 50 New Myths edited by Kate Bernheimer’ in Gramarye: The Journal of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, issue 5 (Summer 2014), 88-90.

V. Carruthers and C. McAra, ‘Mermaids and Metaphors: Dorothea Tanning’s Surrealist Ocean’ in Framing the Ocean, 1700 to Present: Envisaging The Sea as Social Space in Western Art, edited by Tricia Cusack (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2014), 211-222.

C. McAra, ‘Brigadoon Evacuated: The Demythologising Business of Rachel Maclean’ in Rachel Maclean: I HEART Scotland, commissioned exhibition catalogue essay, part of the Edinburgh Art Festival 2013 at Edinburgh Printmakers (2 August – 7 September 2013).

C. McAra. ‘Kaleidoscope Eyes: Cytherean Voyages in the Post-Surrealist Practice of Dorothea Tanning’ in Dorothea Tanning: Unknown but Knowable States (San Francisco: Gallery Wendi Norris, 2013), 11-19.

C. McAra. ‘Sadeian Women: Erotic Violence in the Surrealist Spectacle’ in Violence and the Limits of Representation, edited by Graham Matthews and Sam Goodman (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 69-89.

C. McAra, ‘A Natural History of The Dark Crystal: The Conceptual Design of Brian Froud’ in The Wider Worlds of Jim Henson: Essays on His Work and Legacy Beyond ‘The Muppet Show’ and ‘Sesame Street’, edited by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham (Jefferson: McFarland, 2013), 101-115.

C. McAra, ‘The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales by Béla Balázs, Mariette Lydis and Jack Zipes’ in Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies,volume 26, number 2 (2012), 261-263.

C. McAra. ‘Surrealism’s Curiosity: Lewis Carroll and the Femme-Enfant’ in Papers of Surrealism, issue 9 (September 2011): 1-25.     www.surrealismcentre.ac.uk/papersofsurrealism/journal9/acrobat_files/McAra%2013.9.11.pdf

C. McAra. ‘Surrealism as Epistemology’ in Art History: Journal of the Association of Art Historians, volume 34, issue 1 (February 2011), 214-218. 

C. McAra. ‘(Re-)Reading (Post-)Surrealism Through Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm: The Femme-Enfant Tears Through the Text’ in Postmodern Reinterpretations of Fairy Tales: How Applying New Methods Generates New Meanings, edited by Anna Kérchy (Lampeter and Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2011), 421-442.

C. McAra. ‘Prescription Narratives: Re-reading Joseph Cornell’s Pharmacy Series as Modernist Anti-dote’ in The Apothecary’s Chest: Magic, Art and Medicationedited by K. Georganta, F. Collignon, A. M. Millim (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 59-70. 

Select Curated Exhibitions and Events

C. McAra, Zsófia Jakab: "Beckoning" with Chloe Briggs, Tessa Farmer and Eleanor Morgan, Leeds Arts University (19 January - 8 February 2018). 

Leonora Carrington/Lucy Skaer, Leeds Arts University (15 July – 2 September 2016)

C. McAra, Tessa Farmer: In Fairyland with Su Blackwell, Sverre Malling and Annelies Strba at Leeds Arts University (30 January – 26 February 2015). A variation will tour to Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities, London (June 2015).

C. McAra, ‘Conteuses: An Evening with Kate Bernheimer’ curated by Catriona McAra, hosted by Danielle Arnaud with contributions from Samantha Sweeting and Tessa Farmer (7 June 2013, Danielle Arnaud contemporary art, London). Reviewed by Joanna Coleman, ‘Happy Endings and Uncommon Beginnings’ in Gramarye: Journal of the Sussex Centre for Folklore and Fairy Tales, issue 4 (Winter 2013), 66-69. See also: issuu.com/scfff/docs/newsletter_jun-jul 

Recent Presentations and Invited Talks

C. McAra, 'Lucy Skaer/Leonora Carrington: "Wild Card"' in Visionary Artists, Visionary Objects, The John Rylands Library, Manchester (9 February 2018).

C. McAra, In conversation for Leonora Carrington: The Lost Surrealist, Edge Hill University (24 January 2018).

C. McAra, The Artist's Dining Room: Leonora Carrington, London (19 January 2018).

C. McAra. ‘Making a Statement: Dorothea Tanning’s Critical Writings’ in Surrealist Women's Writing in the Later 20th Century at Modernist Studies Association: Modernism Today, Amsterdam (12 August 2017).

C. McAra, 'Chloe Aridjis and Female Human Animal' keynote for Leonora Carrington Centenary Symposium, Edge Hill University (30 June 2017).

C. McAra, 'Leonora in Contemporary Practice,' Leonora Carrington Centenary, La Biblioteca de México, Mexico City (6 April 2017).

C. McAra, 'Curating the Fairy Tale: A Feminist Practice' in Fireworks! The Visual Imagination of Angela Carter, RWA, Bristol (9 January 2017).

C. McAra, 'Dollhouse Architecture: Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning's Visual Narratives' by invitation at the National Galleries of Scotland (9 September 2016).

Invited panellist at Distant Love: Surrealism, Women and Helmut Newton at Foam Gallery, Amsterdam (29 June 2016)

C. McAra, ‘Pandora’s Complex: Curatorial Quests for a Feminist Surrealism’ in Feminist Historiographies of Surrealism, European Network of Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM) biannual conference, Rennes, France (3 June 2016) 

C. McAra. ‘Some (Pen) Roses and Their Phantoms: A Curated Dialogue Between Dorothea Tanning and Roland Penrose’ in Roland Penrose: Curating the 20th Century, Association of Art Historians (AAH) Annual conference , University of Edinburgh (9 April 2016)

C. McAra, ‘In Conversation with Rachel Maclean,’ part of the British Art Show, Leeds Art Gallery (6pm, Tuesday 13 October 2015)

C. McAra, 'Lactation Narratives: The Embodied Fairytales of Samantha Sweeting' at Motherhood and Creative PracticeLondon South Bank University (2 June 2015).

C. McAra, ‘Bibliographic Surrealism: Dorothea Tanning and Galesburg Public Library,’ The Stirling Maxwell Centre, University of Glasgow (5 March 2015).

C. McAra, ‘Lactation Narratives: The Embodied Fairy Tales of Samantha Sweeting,’ Intermedial Body Politics: Towards a Feminist Analysis of Image/Text Dynamics, panel co-organised with Anna Kérchy at ESSE 2014 conference, Košice, Slovakia (30 August 2014). 

C. McAra, ‘Nonagenarian Viragoes: Creative Ageing and Centenarian Surrealism,’ Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (27 November 2013). 

C. McAra, ‘Once Upon a Rocking-Horse: Hiraki Sawa’s Poetics of Space’ at Dundee Contemporary Arts (24 October 2013). Speaker’s fee and travel fully funded by DCA.