Dr Catriona McAra is University Curator at Leeds Arts University.

Dr McAra’s long-term research is primarily feminist-revisionist, focusing on women’s participation in surrealism and how their legacies are manifest in contemporary practice. She has published extensively on the art and literature of Dorothea Tanning and Leonora Carrington, and is considered a leading authority on feminist-surrealists.

Catriona has worked closely, in a curatorial capacity, with numerous contemporary art practices, for example: the embodied storytelling and performance art of Samantha Sweeting; entomological sculptures of Tessa Farmer; conceptual objects of Lucy Skaer; geological aesthetics of Ilana Halperin; millennial rococo of Flora Yukhnovich; and the feather sculptures of Kate MccGwire.

Catriona is also interested in forms of literary curating (and Mieke Bal’s notion of “theoretical fiction”) having interviewed and published widely on the novel writing of Kate Bernheimer, Chloe Aridjis and Heidi Sopinka. Catriona is also developing a keen interest in the “fictional activism” of Michelle Williams Gamaker.


McAra, C. (2019) ‘Glowing Like Phosphorus: Dorothea Tanning and the Sedona Western’, Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, 10 (1), pp. 84-105

McAra, C. (2019) ‘Leonora Carrington: Wild Card’, The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945, 14.

Kérchy, A. and McAra, C. (2017) “Interview with Mieke Bal” in ‘Feminist Interventions in Intermedial Studies’, European Journal of English Studies, 21 (3), pp. 231-235.

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

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

McAra, C. (2017) ‘Malevolent Nostalgia: Tessa Farmer’s Fairyland,’ Fortean Times. pp. 36-39.

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

McAra, C. (May 2016) ‘Witch Milk: Samantha Sweeting’s Lactation Narratives’, ASAP Journal: Experimentalism, 1 (2), pp. 261-285.


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

Book Sections

McAra, C. (2021) Open Sesame: Dorothea Tanning's Critical Writing. In: A. Watz, ed., Surrealist Women's Writing: A Critical Exploration. Manchester: Manchester University Press. pp. 210-224.

McAra, C. (2019) A Feminist Marvellous: Chloe Aridjis and the Female Human Animal. In: A. Cox and M. Man, eds., Leonora Carrington: Living Legacies. Liverpool: Vernon Press, pp. 1-18.

McAra, C. (2019) Flora Yukhnovich: Millennial Rococo. In: Flora Yukhnovich: Sweet Spot. London: Parafin, pp. 4-9.

McAra, C. (2017) A Nonagenarian Virago: Quoting Carrington in Contemporary Practice. In: J. P. Eburne and C. McAra, eds., Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde. Manchester University Press, pp. 177-197.

McAra, C. (2016) The Malevolent Nostalgia of Tessa Farmer. In: C. McAra, ed., In Fairyland: The World of Tessa Farmer. London: Strange Attractor, pp. vii-xiv.

McAra, C. (2016) Emma’s Navel: Dorothea Tanning’s Narrative Sculpture. In: P. Allmer, ed., Intersections: Women/Surrealism/Modernism. Manchester University Press.

Curated Exhibitions

Flora Yukhnovich. (2020) Leeds Arts University. 28 February – 9 April 2020.

31 Women. (2020) Sedona Arts Center. 3 – 26 January 2020.

Mieke Bal: Don Quichotte: Sad Countenances. (2020) Leeds Arts University. 9 January – 14 February 2020.

Feminist Public Sculpture. (2019) Leeds Arts University. 23 May – 4 July 2019.

Ilana Halperin: Minerals of New York. (2019) Leeds Arts University. 28 March – 9 May 2019. Touring to The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, 12 July 2019.

Nicola Dale: Figurehead with Dale, N., Eggleton, L., Riccardi, S. and Ward, S. (2019) Leeds Arts University. 9 – 31 January 2019.

Aggregate: Fritha Jenkins and Edna Lumb. (2018) Leeds Arts University. 14 February – 29 March 2018.

Zsófia Jakab: “Beckoning” with Chloe Briggs, Tessa Farmer and Eleanor Morgan. (2018) Leeds Arts University. 19 January – 9 February 2018.

Laurence Figgis: (After) After. (2017) Leeds Arts University. 11 August – 29 September 2017.

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

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

Conferences, Talks and Presentations

McAra, C. ‘Dorothea Tanning: Tableau vivant’ at National Galleries of Scotland. 25 February 2020.

McAra, C. ‘30+1: Dorothea Tanning, Sedona and Contemporary Art’ at Sedona Arts Center. 23 January 2020.

McAra, C. with H. Buckley, ‘Running with Wolves, Somaticizing the Text: Revisionary Feminism and Contemporary Dance,’ This Woman’s Work: A Kate Bush Symposium, University of Edinburgh. 13 December 2019.

McAra, C. in conversation with Katy Hessel, Carol Jacobi and Tai Shani at Rebel Muses, Cheltenham Literary Festival. 13 October 2019.

McAra, C. ‘An Outbreak of Surrealism in Leeds,’ ISSS Conference, University of Exeter. 30 August 2019.

McAra, C. In conversation with Kim L. Pace and Sarah Woodfine, Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London. 3 July 2019.

McAra, C. ‘Three Streets Away: Artists Respond to the Work of Dorothea Tanning’ at Doyce Street Studios, London. 5 May 2019.

McAra, C. ‘Memory Box: Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm’ at Dorothea Tanning: A Family Portrait, Tate Modern. 16 March 2019.

McAra, C. ‘Curating Carrington in Contemporary Art,’ Dada and Surrealism Group, University of Edinburgh. 11 March 2019.

McAra, C. ‘Towards a Feminist Marvelous: Channeling Carrington Through the Animal Languages of Heidi Sopinka,’ SURREALISMS: Inaugural Conference of the ISSS. 2 November 2018.

McAra, C. ‘Surrealist Souvenirs: The Prime Minister’s Bracelet and Leonora Carrington’s Postcards,’ Surrealism in Britain 1925-55, The Hepworth Wakefield. 6 October 2018.

McAra, C. ‘Lucy Skaer/Leonora Carrington: “Wild Card”’, Visionary Artists, Visionary Objects. The John Rylands Library, Manchester. 9 February 2018.

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

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

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

McAra, C. ‘Chloe Aridjis and Female Human Animal’, Keynote for Leonora Carrington Centenary Symposium. Edge Hill University. 30 June 2017.

McAra, C. ‘Leonora in Contemporary Practice’, Leonora Carrington Centenary. La Biblioteca de México, Mexico City. 6 April 2017.

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

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

McAra, C. Invited panellist at Distant Love: Surrealism, Women and Helmut Newton. Foam Gallery, Amsterdam. 29 June 2016.

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

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

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

McAra, C. ‘Lactation Narratives: The Embodied Fairy Tales of Samantha Sweeting’, Motherhood and Creative Practice. London South Bank University. 2 June 2015.

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