Noelle Giuffrida

Assistant Professor

Mather House 302

Other Information

Degree: Ph.D. University of Kansas, 2008
M.A. University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.A. Vassar College

Professor Giuffrida is a specialist in Chinese art. Her research focuses on two main areas: 1) the history of collecting and exhibiting works in the United States after World War II, and 2) the visual culture of Daoism during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Her teaching interests extend broadly both temporally—from Neolithic to contemporary—and cross-culturally to China, Korea, and Japan, as well as to South and Southeast Asia.

Her first book Separating Sheep from Goats: Sherman E. Lee and Chinese Art Collecting in Postwar America (University of California Press, forthcoming July 2018) uses American curator and museum director Sherman E. Lee (1918–2008) as a lens through which to investigate the history of collecting and exhibiting Chinese art. Lee stands out as a key figure in the formation of art historical canons and public understanding of Asian art in the United States. Giuffrida’s study excavates an international society of collectors, dealers, curators, and scholars who comprised the art world of the 1930s through the 1980s. Moreover, the book evaluates contemporaneous transcultural efforts to collect and present Chinese art by multiple institutions, while also scrutinizing scholarly and museological discourses of the time. She traces the circulation and display of Chinese art in general, and paintings in particular, to reveal the historical circumstances and major figures behind a new surge of collecting and exhibitions in postwar America. Giuffrida’s research into the postwar decades, when the United States blossomed as an international hub for Chinese painting, demonstrates that this critical, yet largely neglected, era is essential for understanding the history of Chinese art beyond its country of origin.

Giuffrida’s Daoist research has resulted in recently published book chapters and contributions to exhibition catalogues. “Transcendence, Thunder, and Exorcism: Images of the Daoist Patriarch Zhang Daoling in Paintings and Prints” in Telling Images of China: Essays on Narrative and Figure Painting (University of Hong Kong Press, 2013) reveals disjunctures in Zhang’s hagiography, while demonstrating the role of images in efforts to associate early Daoist figures with temple complexes active during the late Ming.  Her essay “Ming Imperial Patronage of the Wudang Mountains and the Daoist God Zhenwu” in the exhibition catalogue Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in 15th Century China (Scala, 2015) traces court patronage of temples and rituals dedicated to the Daoist god Zhenwu [the Perfected Warrior] during the Ming and early Qing.

Her second book project Visualizing Perfection: Representing the Daoist God Zhenwu in Late Imperial China illuminates the pivotal role that visual and material culture played in the construction and transmission of his cult and shifting beliefs about his identities and powers across Daoist, Buddhist, and popular religious contexts from the ninth through the seventeenth centuries. Her study engages with the concept of iconic circuits in which images in multiple media circulate within and beyond a single visual sphere, as well as with an interdisciplinary material religion approach that looks into the intersection of images, objects, spaces, and practices with belief. By offering a comprehensive cross-media examination encompassing paintings, woodblock-printed images, statues, steles, cliff carvings, ceramic figures, shrines, ritual vessels and textiles, her project explores the processes of creation, revision, negotiation, integration, and reception that assured the god’s ubiquitous presence in the artistic, religious, and cultural landscape.

Prior to joining the department at CWRU, Prof. Giuffrida taught at Vassar College. She also served as a curatorial researcher and museum educator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has received several awards and her research has been supported a number of sources including The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and the American Oriental Society. She has been invited to present her research at national and international conferences, workshops, and colloquia including the Association for Asian Studies, College Art Association, and International Daoist Studies.




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