PEOPLE: John Monash Scholar – Cassandra Joore-Short

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Cassandra Joore-Short? 

As an arts writer, my days are spent thinking about women’s artmaking and how I can best capture their stories for the public. Writing is key to this. I think a lot about the writing process for scholars. My normal day begins with reviewing writing from the previous day and giving myself an honest appraisal. The poet Allen Ginsberg has a phrase, ‘first thought, best thought’ and I try to read with fresh eyes each day. As someone who spends a lot of time looking at the visual arts, I keep a connection to visual media through making collage and story-books and I always look forward to this as a way to think about art from the perspective of someone who enjoys making it.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

Part of being a feminist art historian is grappling with ideas of identity, representation and empowerment. One of the issues I keep coming back to is how to diversify what we see in museum collections so that we break down that sense of museum as being about the legacy of ‘the powerful’. I think of inclusion as making visible something that was always there. Women artists have always been part of the story of art, as the subject of painting or sculpture or as an artist’s muse, but their contribution to the art-making process has not always been recognised.  One reason why it’s important to keep working on the many different histories of women in art is to allow women artists to feel that they are part of the diverse traditions of art making, in all its many forms.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

The challenges I’ve experienced in my personal journey haven’t come from others, but from a sense of overcoming the very human feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. Part of being a writer often means working alone without a guide. For me, I’ve learnt that it’s important to put doubt aside and trust that with time and care (as well as allowing myself to fail) that I will eventually write the paper, or finish the project.  I also feel that it’s important to sometimes put work aside if it’s not working and then return to it.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to find a solution when you return to a project with fresh eyes.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

One of the perks of being a historian is that you spend a lot of time looking back, learning about the small, lesser known stories of people who overcame huge obstacles to achieve their goals and ambitions. All of us, in some way, benefit from the work that others have done in the past. Something that always picks me up is getting a sense of solidarity from linking my work to the work of others – even if they lived a hundred years ago, I feel that I’m carrying on a legacy that is more important than anything that can be measured in terms of personal achievement alone. 

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