Jay A. Clarke '88
Delve into the life, genius, and spirituality of Ignatius Loyola, and one of the many things you discover is how seeing – truly seeing – changed his perspective. And changed the world.
For Jay Clarke, that life-changing way of seeing began in her first Holy Cross art history class with Professor Jody Ziegler. “I was struck by the confluence of art, history, psychology and anthropology” she has said. “I knew then this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
And what she has done. Since graduating with her major in art history (getting hands-on experience along the way as an intern at the Worcester Art Museum and the Chicago Institute of Art) and followed by doctoral study at Brown University, Jay’s exploration into that wondrous confluence has led her to become a world renowned scholar who has invigorated the cultural conversation and museum education.
Jay’s name is now synonymous with new understanding of the life and work of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Combining her passion for art history with keen curatorial skill, she created the 2009 blockbuster exhibition Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety and Myth at the Art Institute of Chicago. Jay brought together 150 rarely seen works by Munch and his contemporaries including Gauguin, van Gogh, Monet and Max Clinger. She published the accompanying catalog of the exhibition. Critics from around the world called Jay’s exhibition “extraordinary” . . . “ingenious” . . . “bold.” The exhibition, in the words of one critic, “unleashed a remarkable play of ideas, mediums, styles and personalities, making the very idea of the traditional one-artist retrospective seem limited” and challenged entrenched perceptions of Munch.
Through her scholarship, teaching, and curatorial skill, Jay has enhanced the gifts museums offer. Through her writing and lectures, she urges us to look, look again, to look more closely. And though her work takes her around the globe, she continues the legacy of great teaching here at Holy Cross, offering to a new generation of our students what she learned in Jody Ziegler’s classroom. Not long ago, Jay co-curated a seminal exhibition of Adrienne Farb’s paintings at the Cantor Art Gallery, co-editing the catalog, and returning to campus to talk with faculty and students.
After 17 years at the Art Institute of Chicago, Jay is now curator of prints, drawings, and photography at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in nearby Williamstown, a proximity that makes alma mater very glad indeed.
For her scholarship and her commitment to teaching, for giving us entirely new ways of seeing and understanding history, art and our world, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Jay A. Clarke the Sanctae Crucis Award.