Art scholar Wanda Corn ’62 exhibits her passion and irreverance

An art history professor emerita at Stanford University, Wanda Corn '62 has been called "a model in the field of American art history." Photographs by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College.

Stanford art historian Wanda Jones Corn ’62 loves the “pleasure of the hunt.”

There was the time she and fellow Stanford historian husband Joseph Corn ’60 went in search of the house that provides the backdrop for the painting “American Gothic.” Upon locating the house, she and her husband decided to join the cultural tradition of spoofing Grant Wood’s classic artwork — by posing topless.

The story, told during a 50th Reunion Seminar, typifies Wanda’s blend of passion and irreverence, and it’s why she was a crowd-pleasing highlight of the Class of 1962’s 50th Reunion Seminar programming.

As a curator, Wanda Corn '62 is known for showing artist’s pieces alongside objects that that deepen the viewer’s appreciation of the artist’s process.

Blending visuals, storytelling and humor, Wanda offered classmates an insider’s view of the thrills and challenges of guest-curating museum exhibitions.

An art history professor emerita at Stanford University, Wanda has been called “a model in the field of American art history.” Among the books she has authored or co-authored is 2011’s Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories (University of California Press, 2011) and the seminal The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935. Her teaching and scholarship have won her ample awards and recognition.

Not exactly from the L.L.Bean catalog, but Wanda Corn's footwear has the panache of an art history scholar.

A successful museum exhibition requires an “amazing team effort,” Wanda says, adding that the collaborative work is a welcome counterbalance to the often-solitary pursuits of the scholar.

But in true Bates fashion, Wanda emphasized the teaching opportunities in all her work. As a curator, she is known for showing artist’s pieces alongside objects that deepen the viewer’s appreciation of the artist’s process.

For example, while designing Andrew Wyeth’s first West Coast exhibit, Corn displayed photos of the actual places depicted in Wyeth’s paintings. The pairings emphasized Wyeth’s signature hyper-realism and mood.

Besides curating exhibitions and offering talks, Wanda is writing another book, this one on “American Gothic” and the various cultural spoofs and appropriations it has inspired — although she says any photographic evidence of her and Joe’s own homage is long gone.

After her talk, Wanda Corn talks with a classmate. Listening are Catherine Jones, the Bates Museum of Art education fellow, and Dan Mills, museum director.