Jennifer Dasal is an art historian and is the creator and host of the ArtCurious Podcast (www.artcuriouspodcast.com), an internationally popular, bi-weekly show exposing “the unexpected, the slightly odd, and the strangely wonderful in art history.” It was chosen as one of PC Magazine’s Best Podcasts of the Year for three years in a row (2018-2020), and it was selected as one of the Best History Podcasts of 2019 by O, the Oprah Magazine. In September 2020, Dasal’s first book, ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History, was released by Penguin Books. The book has already received a much coveted “starred” review from Publishers Weekly and highlighted in BookPage, BookList, and other publications.
Dasal is the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA), where she worked for thirteen years. She received her BA in art history from the University of California, Davis and her MA in art history from the University of Notre Dame, and she has completed PhD coursework in art history at the Pennsylvania State University. Prior to joining the NCMA in 2008, she was the curatorial assistant to the curator of Western art at the Snite Museum, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, and at the Richard L. Nelson Art Gallery, University of California, Davis.
Some of the oldest works of art—the first creations of humankind—are handprints that were left upon a cave wall, or small “Venus” figures depicting the female body. We are our bodies (“Our bodies, ourselves,” right?) And our bodies also are our art, and have been, for millennia. Just because the human body—or parts of the human body—has been the subject of the visual arts since the beginning of time doesn’t mean that it’s played out, or that there’s no fresh and wonderful new way to explore it. When we are unable to access models or to find inspiration from the landscape around us, we can turn to ourselves.
The body can inspire in myriad ways. It can entice and seduce; it can repel. It can lead us to experience the basest of emotions and the most transcendent—just as art, on a whole, can do. This collection contains some of my favorite body-related works that I’ve yet discovered on Altamira. Some, like Steven Curtis’s “A View Ahead” lead me to dream—I want to follow the protagonist on his bicycle journey into the sunset. Melissa Hefferlin’s “Self-Portrait Under a Skylight” teems with emotional depth. Emma Carr’s “I Am Confident” expresses so much in just a few swipes of a paintbrush.