Dr Catriona McAra

University Curator, Dr Catriona McAra’s long-term research is primarily feminist-revisionary focusing on women’s participation in surrealism and how their legacies are manifest in contemporary practice.

She has published extensively on the work of centenarian Dorothea Tanning and nonagenarian Leonora Carrington, leading to greater public recognition of their art and writing as well as more nuanced understandings of how their recurrent themes speak to contemporary issues such as well-being and creative ageing, feminism and intergenerational cooperation.

In 2016 McAra was invited to presented "Dollhouse Architecture: Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning's Visual Narratives" at the National Galleries of Scotland (9 September 2016, 92 attendees). Her research has also contributed to greater awareness of and an increase in sales for work by surrealist women, as cited in The Market for Female Surrealists Has Finally Reached a Tipping Point (Artsy.net, September 2018). 

Dorothea Tanning

McAra has been interviewed for Stylist magazine arguing for a fuller public awareness of surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning, to coincide with a new large-scale exhibition survey at Tate Modern.

You can read the article in full here.

McAra, who advised on the exhibition at Tate Modern curated by Ann Coxon (Curator of Displays and International Art, Tate) and Alyce Mahon (Cambridge), was also invited to speak at a public roundtable exploring the subversion of traditional family values in Tanning’s work.

Some audience members claimed on social media that McAra’s talk made them want to read Tanning’s novel and engage more fully in the themes of her lesser-known writing. 

Coxon claims McAra’s impact on her curatorial practice as follows:

“[Catriona’s] book was very helpful to my curatorial research on Dorothea Tanning in many ways. Most of the existing literature on Tanning to date is largely biographical and not written from a scholarly position. It was refreshing to read a text which digs a little deeper into Tanning's output. I found [her] work on Chasm to open up new ways of thinking about many of Tanning's key works. In particular, I was intrigued by [her] analysis of the disparity between the desert landscapes of Arizona and the claustrophobic domestic spaces which populate her imagery.”

Leonora Carrington

Dr McAra is also recognised as an international expert on the work of Leonora Carrington by the artist’s estate and beyond.

McAra’s long-term research primarily explores Carrington and intergenerationality, particularly the effects of Carrington’s creative ageing on well-being and younger generations of contemporary practice.

The award-winning novelist and curator, Chloe Aridjis, writes the following testimonial about what McAra’s research has meant in terms of greater awareness around Carrington at large:

“Catriona and I converged many years ago through our mutual interest in Leonora Carrington. Catriona’s sustained research on my own writing and curating has meant a great deal to me and I’m constantly impressed by her intelligence and imagination. My co-curation of the Tate Liverpool show ‘Leonora Carrington: Transgressing Discipline’ (2015) was catalogued and presented to wider audiences through publication in Catriona’s co-edited essay collection, Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde, with Jonathan P. Eburne (MUP, 2017).

Catriona was also one of the first to write extensively about my film with Josh Appignanesi, Female Human Animal, firstly for a keynote lecture at Edge Hill University (June 2017) which helped contribute greater awareness of the film’s underlying themes. Catriona’s subsequent book chapter ‘A Feminist Marvellous’ for Leonora Carrington: Living Legacies (Vernon Press, 2019) makes many surprising and wonderful connections between my work and Leonora’s. I feel truly honoured that Catriona has chosen to write about my work.”

Header image: Dr Catriona McAra at Tate Modern. Photograph by Dr Felicity Gee.

For further information please see:

McAra, C. (2017) 'Chloe Aridjis and the Female Human Animal' keynote for Leonora Carrington Centenary Symposium, Edge Hill University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmTtAAaQv1M

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

McAra, C. (2017) '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.