Jennifer Stager specializes in the art and architecture of the ancient Mediterranean and its afterlives. Her areas of focus include theories of color and materiality, feminisms, multilinguality and cultural exchange, ancient Greek and Roman medicine, and classical receptions.
Stager’s first book, Seeing Ancient Mediterranean Color (in progress), recovers period ideas of color as a phenomenon in ancient Mediterranean art. Stager analyzes the material colors found in dyes, pigments, stones, resins, and metals across the wider Mediterranean. Reconstituting material color not only reimagines the art of the ancient Mediterranean, but also opens up a series of connected theoretical frameworks, from valuing the care labor that material color demands, or reimagining chora as a space of polychrome material generations, to recognizing the reciprocities of painted and inlaid eyes and contemporary theories of vision, and the expansion of the medium of mosaic as a paradigm for the artistic atomism that material color makes visible and knowable. Stager has published two essays related to this research “The Materiality of Color in Ancient Mediterranean Art” and “The Unbearable Whiteness of Whiteness”.
Her next book project, Deliverance from Pain: Art, Medicine, and Magic in the Ancient Mediterranean, analyzes how a range of media worked in conjunction with texts to produce a story of western medicine that both proposed new practices and also built on the established visual cues of the religious cult of the healing gods Asklepios and Hygeia. Representational art associated with early medicine narrates a familiar story of the doctor as god, while portable arts, body-part dedications, curses and spells make visible practices and people traditionally excluded from histories of early medicine. In Spring 2020, Stager launched the Antioch Recovery Project (ARP), an international collaboration that uses digital tools to investigate mosaics from the ancient city of Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey, near the border with Syria), including those now in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
As a curator, Stager has collaborated on a range of institutional and extra-institutional exhibitions. These include the award-winning Picasso & Rivera: Conversations Across Time at LACMA and Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (2016-2017), for which she also published “Classicism & Revolution” and "Torn Bodies for Pleasure: Classicism and Monstrosity in Picasso's illustrations of Ovid's Metamorphoses". In collaboration with the visual artist Jenny Salomon Omabegho, Stager produced a series of site-specific contemporary shows, including Gisela Insuaste’s Haciendo marcas otra vez (making marks, again) installed in a repurposed prisoner transport bus, and a series on artistic collaboration for SFMOMA’s Open Space. In 2021, David Gissen, Mantha Zarmakoupi, and Stager will curate the research station, “3000 years of Disability” for the Venice Biennale Architettura. Stager writes reviews, art criticism, and creative nonfiction for public audiences at Art Practical, ASAP/J, Open Space, and Eidolon. With Leila Easa she is writing Public Feminism in Times of Crisis.
Professor Stager has held fellowships from the National Institute of Humanities and the Getty Research Institute (2012), the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (2009-2011), and The Berkeley Fellowship (2003-2007). For the academic year 2020-2021 she is a fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC.