I specialize in the art, architecture, and material culture of Byzantium and its Slavic neighbors in Southeastern Europe, with emphasis on the period from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries. My areas of research and teaching interest include the interplay between the visual and the verbal, medieval aesthetics and theories of the image, the agency of art objects, the history of subjectivity, and the cultural interactions between Byzantium and the Slavic world.
My first book, Epigram, Art, and Devotion in Later Byzantium, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. The book explores the nexus of art, personal piety, and self-representation in the last centuries of Byzantium. Spanning the period from around 1100 to around 1450, it focuses on the evidence of verse inscriptions, or epigrams, on works of art. Epigrammatic poetry, I argue, constitutes a critical, if largely neglected, source for reconstructing aesthetic and socio-cultural discourses that informed the making, use, and perception of art in the Byzantine world. Bringing together art-historical and literary modes of analysis, the book examines epigrams and other related texts alongside an array of objects, including icons, reliquaries, ecclesiastical textiles, mosaics, and entire church buildings. By attending to such diverse topics as devotional self-fashioning, the aesthetics of adornment, sacred giving, and the erotics of the icon, this study offers a novel account of Byzantine art and its place in Byzantine society and religious life.
I am currently developing a second book project, The Enkolpion: Object and Self in Medieval Byzantium, which considers the complex interplay between subjectivity, materiality, and the power of things in Byzantine culture. The project focuses on the so-called enkolpia, a broad category of objects—crosses, engraved gems mounted in precious metal, miniature reliquaries, and others—worn around the neck. Proceeding from a detailed analysis of these diminutive and often highly intricate and artistically sophisticated objects, and an array of textual sources that illuminate different aspects of their use and circulation, I address a cluster of larger issues, among them the role of devotional objects as social agents; the relationship between materiality, artifice, and the body; the convergence and collaboration of optic and haptic forms of perception; and miniaturization as an aesthetic phenomenon. Special consideration is given to the enkolpion as an instrument of self-regard and part of the physical armature of personhood.
My scholarship has received recognition from a number of sources, including Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where I held a David E. Finley Fellowship. I offer courses in Late Antique, Byzantine, and Western Medieval art, and also teach in the University of Washington’s Art History Seminar in Rome.