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, multilingualism and cultural exchange, disability studies, ancient Greek and Roman medicine, performance, and classical receptions.
Stager’s first book, Seeing Color in Classical Art: Theories, Practices, Receptions, from Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge University Press 2022), offers a critical account of color as material in ancient Mediterranean art and architecture. Traversing sites from Athens to Antioch, Seeing Color in Classical Art traces color across media, including handheld panel paintings, painted monumental reliefs, alloyed bronzes, and mosaic floors. This book explores the materiality of color from the ground up through analysis of the pigments, dyes, stones, soils, and metals that artists crafted into polychrome forms. Artistic practices also shaped a literary and philosophical landscape encompassing Sapphic lyric, Presocratic atomism, and Theophrastan natural history and produced a discourse on color by ancient Greek writers that reverberates in the present. Despite these abundant traces of color, ancient Mediterranean art has long been reduced to the white marble of its ruins to stage an idealized, monochrome picture of the past. This book examines the process by which this reception tradition has elevated whiteness and feminized and racialized color. In response, this book illuminates the construction of the category of the classical in modernity and challenges its claims to order and exceptionalism. Ultimately, Seeing Color in Classical Art harnesses ancient ideas of materiality, care, landscape, visual exchange, and artistic atomism to theorize color in the ancient Mediterranean and its afterlives.
Building on the theoretical frame of atomism and mosaic, in Spring 2020 Stager launched the Antioch Recovery Project (ARP), an international collaboration that uses digital tools to analyze 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.
Her next book project, Making Medicine: The Arts of Healing in the Ancient Mediterranean, elevates women healers, laborers across the gender spectrum, and transcultural knowledge-sharing produced through and archived in the visual arts. An essay drawing from this research, “Towards an Archaeology of Care”, appears in Knappett and Watts eds., Ancient Art Revisited.
An Archaeology of Disability, a research station curated for La Biennale di Venezia Architettura (May-November 2021) with David Gissen and Mantha Zarmakoupi, reconstructs elements of the Acropolis in Athens through the lens of disability and impairment and in languages and forms developed by and for contemporary disabled people. After Venice, the research station traveled to La Gipsoteca di Arte Antica, Pisa (January-April 2022). As a curator, Stager has collaborated on a range of institutional and extra-institutional exhibitions and she writes for academic and public audiences at Art Practical, ASAP/J, Classical Receptions Journal, Eidolon, Hesperia, Open Space, RES: Aesthetics & Anthropology. A book of essays in classical receptions and feminist criticism co-written with Leila Easa, Public Feminism in Times of Crisis: From Sappho’s Fragments to Viral Hashtags, published in 2022 ("highly recommended" by Choice Reviews). An essay drawn from the final chapter of this book, “Overwriting the Monument Tradition: lists, loss, and scale” appeared in RES 75/75. Professor Stager has held fellowships from the National Institute of Humanities and the Getty Research Institute, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC.