Faculty Profile: Graham Bader

Ayanna Williams

Fluent German speaker. Questioner of many cultural aspects of art. Graduate from one of the top institutions in the country. All of these titles can describe Visiting Professor of Art and Art History Graham Bader.Bader, who studied literature and graduated from Yale University in 1991, spent two years after his graduation teaching English in the Eastern German city of Halle. “What was interesting for me was that Germany had just reunified, and that part of the country had shifted from one cultural system – socialism — to another, democratic market capitalism,” Bader said. “People were asking all kinds of questions about both systems, about the benefits and pitfalls or each. The experience made me ask fundamental questions about my own cultural background and beliefs.”These very questions sparked Bader’s interest in how culture affects art works.Before college, Bader had little background in Art History. “I only took one Art History class at Yale,” Bader said. “However, when I graduated, I found myself reading a lot about art and art criticism.”When talking about how he first became interested in Art History, Bader’s face filled with remembrance. “Looking at works of art and just talking about them,” he said. “It was really just that spark. To observe the object in front of us and talk about the meaning it has. That was the beginning”.Bader describes Art History as ” the discipline of studying works of art. “Asking questions about how they work, about what roles they play and what they tell you about a society,” Bader said. “Looking at a work of art, you can ask the most precise questions about how it was made or what its maker was thinking, or huge questions about the culture from which it came, be it ancient Greece or modern Japan.”After living in Germany for two years, Bader returned to the U.S. to attend the Graduate Program in Art History at Williams. Bader learned a great deal more about Art History and received his Master’s degree in 1995. After returning from Germany, where he lived for another year after earning his Master’s, Bader went to Harvard University to earn his PhD. While at Harvard, Bader was inspired by Yve-Alain Bois, who was his doctorate advisor. “He inspired me because he looked at works of art as what they are, but he connects them with cultural and societal meanings,” Bader said. “Then he would ask questions about a larger contexts. He was someone who never let you get away with anything. He was very gracious and nice, but he never let me get away with b.s. and I think that is important in a teacher.”Before coming to Colgate, Bader taught in the Art History Department at the University of Michigan. “The experience is a lot different and a lot better here,” he said. “[Colgate] students are a lot more and they are better writers. Student are very diligent, and it makes it a lot more fun for me to read their papers.”Bader teaches courses on the History of Photography, Art Since 1950 and The Challenge of Modernity.”I’m excited to have a full sweep of the twentieth and twenty-first century,” Bader said. “It takes us through so much history of art and culture.”While Bader is at Colgate, he hopes to impact and improve the department and it’s impact on students. “It’s an exciting time to time to be at the Art History Department,” said Bader. “I would like to get more students involved in twentieth century art and contemporary art. I hope to give students tools to look at art in a new and interesting ways.”