Mary McInnes

Professor of Art History
Art History
Art History & Theory
School of Art and Design

"But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief."

- Franz Kafka


  • PhD: History of Art, Boston University
  • MA: History of Art, Boston University
  • BA: Anthropology/Practice of Art, University of California

Specialties / Areas of Interest

  • Modern and Contemporary Art History of Sculpture Craft Histories, especially in glass and ceramics


I am a professor of art history with a focus on modern and contemporary sculpture; I teach at the School of Art and Design, Alfred University. Over the past decade, I have broadened my pedagogical interests to embrace the specific realm of glass and ceramic art as well as the broader discourse in craft practice. My current course offerings include: “Silica: Contemporary Glass and Ceramic Art,” “In, Of, and Around Contemporary Craft.” I have recently developed a series of asynchronous, online classes that emphasize contemporary professional studio practices.

My classroom advocacy for contemporary sculpture, craft, and craft-based practices has extended into my research and professional activities. My abridged curriculum vitae (below) highlights a number of writings for exhibition catalogs on ceramics (and, recently, in glass), my oral histories conducted for the Smithsonian’s Laitman Documentation Project for American Craft, my ongoing editorial advising for the international, scholarly journal entitled Interpreting Ceramics, and my chairing of the first College Art Association (CAA) panel on contemporary ceramics.

​My engagement with materials—glass and ceramic—outside of the mainstream critical framework has been a critical element in my rethinking and revising of modern art history. I seek to broaden the critical boundaries of these areas. My lectures are aimed at provoking the glass and ceramic communities to question their received history and to expand their references for contemporary art production.

Courses Taught

  • Spring 2021 Contemporary Projects in Art In the Studio: Modern and Contemporary Painting

Research, Publications, & Presentations

Research & Publications

  • My current research is a book-length text on modern art, focusing on materiality. I am also engaged in an ongoing series of essays on aspects of contemporary art; a particular interest of mine is recent sculptural practices including glass and ceramic work.
  • "One Hundred Years Out: The Relevance of 1920s Glass Art to Current Practices," in Jeffrey Sarmiento, ed. 2020
  • "Writing Glass History" for the 2019 Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposium at UrbanGlass on “Issues of Glass Pedagogy: Criticism, Critique, and Critical Thinking,” in Brooklyn, NY. 2019
  • “Encountering Sculpture in the Digital Age” at the panel, Shaping Form and Shaping Space: Sculpture’s 21st Century Challenge, International Sculpture Conference (ISC) in Portland, Oregon. 2019
  • “Maurice Marinot and ‘The Weightiness of Truly Beautiful Things,’” in Glass Quarterly, no. 156 (Fall 2019).
  • “Kait Rhoads: Inspired by Nature and Informed by Memory” Neues Glas: New Glass Art and Architecture, 2/2019 (May 2019).
  • Editor, Bioresonance: The Sculptural Work of Kait Rhoads. Hasselt, Belgium: Shiepers Gallery. 2019
  • “Summoning Eternal Life: The Work of Li Hong Wei” in Tao Wand, ed. Beyond Reflection: The Art of Li Hongwei. Syracuse, NY: SUNY UP. 2019
  • “Critical Discourse, Professional Practice,” for Issues in Glass Pedagogy: Curriculum and Career, the 2017 Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposium at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, New York from October 12-14.
  • "Summoning Eternal Life: The Work of Hong Wei", 2015
  • "Reflection: Collaborative Practice in Glass" GLASS Quarterly, 140 (Fall 2015):64, 2015
  • "As the Air Moves Behind You" in Chase Angier, As the Air Moves Behind You. Alfred, NY: Fosdick-Nelson Gallery. 2013 "Intangible Notch, SkyWell Falls, and EarthCloud: The Architectural Reliefs, in Peter Held, ed. Wayne Higby: A Retrospective. Tempe, AZ: Ceramic Research Center, 2015
  • "Visualizing Mortality: Robert Arneson's Chemo Portraits," in Interpreting Ceramics, The First Decade. Ed. by Jo Dahn and Jeffrey Jones. United Kingdom: Wunderkammer Press, 2013
  • Gage/Gaze: Aesa Bjork and Hiromi Takazawa. Alfred, NY: Fosdick-Nelson Gallery, 2013
  • "Contemporary Cast-Iron Sculpture: In the Wake of Redefinition" 2012 International US/UK Cast-iron Invitational. 2012
  • "Review: Man Ray and the Modernist Lens" for Dada/Surrealism, 2012
  • "SkyWell Falls" in Wayne Higby, SkyWell Falls, 2011
  • Author, "Introduction," and issue editor of Interpreting Ceramics 12 on international developments in ceramic studio education, Winter 2011
  • "Curiouser and Curiouser, the Work of Nathan Prouty" in Nathan Prouty. Philadelphia: The Clay Studio, 2010
  • "Everything, Encrusted, and Encoded," in Walter McConnell, Itinerant Edens. Missouri: Daum Museum, 2008
  • Author of the introductory essay, "Welcome," and issue editor, "Five Emerging Artists Survey the Field," in Interpreting Ceramics 9, Winter 2008
  • Author, "Reflection, EarthCloud" and editor, "Architect and Editor, "A Conversation Between Bruce Wood and Wayne Higby" in Wayne Higby, EarthCloud. Stuttgart, Germany:Arnoldsche Fine Art Publishing, 2007
  • "Reconsidering the Ceramic Object," in Proceedings, School of Visual Arts, NY, 2007
  • "Visualizing Mortality: Robert Arneson's Chemo Portraits," in Interpreting Ceramics 8, Fall 2006
  • "Cadiz: The Sculptural Topology of Anne Currier," in Anne Currier. Stuttgart, Germany: Arnoldsche Art Publishing, 2006
  • "Interview with Anne Currier." Nanette L. Laitman Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2006
  • "Interview with Wayne Higby." Nanette L. Laitman Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2006
  • Telling Histories: Installations by Ellen Rothenberg and Carrie Mae Weems. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999
  • "Alberto Giacometti, le féticheur," in Keith Aspley and Elizabeth Cowling, Eds. From Rodin to Giacometti, Sculpture and Literature in France: 1880-1950. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B.V. 1998 "Anne Currier, Recent Sculpture," in Kerameiki Techni, The International Ceramic Art Review 30 (December 1998): 20-2., 1999
  • Ellsworth Kelly, Recent Prints. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998
  • Philip Guston, 1975-1980: Private and Public Battles. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994
  • Provincetown Prospects: The Work of Hans Hofmann and His Students. Boston: Boston University Art Gallery, 1994

Affiliations & Memberships

  • American Alliances of Museums American Association of University Women, USA


I offer salary negotiation workshops for students who identify as women via the AAUW: the American Association of University Women. I also advise students for Fulbright fellowships. And, I have taught several collaborative, cross-disciplinary courses with my studio colleagues.

My interests outside the classroom: rowing, painting, reading...and just hanging out with a real good espresso.

Professional Experience

1997 - Professor of Art History, School of Art and Design, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University
2010 Interim Dean, School of Art and Design, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University
1996 - Independent Curator
1994-95 Director, Boston University Art Gallery
1994-95 Director, Museum Studies Program, Boston University
1992-94 Assistant Director, Boston University Art Gallery
1987-88 Consultant, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution 

Chair, Art History Division (SoAD) 
Chair and Program Advisor, Fulbright Committee (AU)
Member, Faculty Senate (AU)
Member, Phi Beta Kappa Chapter (AU)
Member, Graduate Advisory Committee (SoAD) 

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