Associate Professor of Art History and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Mather House Room 316
Ph.D. Rutgers University, 2009
M.A. Rutgers University
B.A. University of New Hampshire
Associate Professor of Early Modern Art and Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies
Professor Benay is a specialist in Italian painting and visual culture of the early modern period, c. 1400-1700. She is especially interested in the ways objects are manufactured, how they move through space and time, and in what ways they contribute to the production of knowledge and belief. Her teaching and research address a number of topics in Renaissance and Baroque art including Caravaggio and the Caravaggisti; sensory perception, gender issues, and devotional art; the history of collecting and knowledge in 17th-century Europe; travel, ethnology, and visualizations of the ‘global;’ prints and printed matter 1500-1700; and the history of science and art.
Together with Lisa M. Rafanelli, she is the author of Faith, Gender, and the Senses in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art: Interpreting the Noli me tangere and Doubting Thomas (Ashgate, 2015). The book considers how representations of these two popular Renaissance subjects together engaged with contemporary theories of the senses and definitions of gender. Professor Benay’s second book, Exporting Caravaggio: the Crucifixion of Saint Andrew (Giles, 2017) uses a single painting by Caravaggio as a point of departure to discuss how the mobility of objects and the history of collecting shape the interpretation of canonical works of art. Benay’s current book project, Italy by Way of India: Translating Art and Devotion in the Early Modern World (forthcoming, Brepols/Harvey Miller) considers how cultural production between India and Italy during the pre-colonial and colonial periods shaped both European perceptions of India and the development of an Indian Christian art. In so doing, it defies eurocentric histories of the ‘Renaissance’ and of global circulation. Benay has also published essays in the Sixteenth Century Journal, Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, Open Arts Journal, Arte Veneta and in Art, Mobility, and Exchange (Routledge, 2020) and Caravaggio: Reflections and Refractions (Ashgate 2014). Together with her students she is the founder of Baroque Without Boundaries, a digital mapping intervention that challenges the parameters of the early modern canon.
In addition to her work in the field of global early modern studies, Professor Benay is also dedicated to the cultivation of public humanities initiatives in Cleveland and works closely with area non-profits LAND Studio and The Sculpture Center to incorporate art history into community-engaged practice. She is currently spearheading a major university initiative to create a certificate in Public Humanities and Civic Engagement and was recently awarded a Faculty Research Grant by the Baker Nord Center for the Humanities to work with the recently incarcerated at area non-profit, Edwin’s Institute.
Prior to joining the faculty at CWRU in 2012, Prof. Benay taught at the State University of New York, Oswego and at Marlboro College in Vermont. She was a curatorial assistant at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers University, and at the Morgan Library in New York. She has been the recipient of a number of awards and grants, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Institute of Indian Studies, and the Samuel H. Kress grant in Renaissance Art History, and has been invited to speak at numerous conferences and symposia in the United States and Europe.
Professor Benay has been nominated several times for the Carl F. Wittke award for undergraduate teaching and for the John S. Diekhoff award for graduate mentoring. In 2017 she was awarded the John S. Diekhoff Award for excellence in graduate teaching.
To learn more about Professor Benay’s work, click here.