Mysoon Rizk is Associate Professor and Head of Art History in the School of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Toledo, in Toledo, Ohio, where she has been teaching courses in humanities and art history, especially modern and contemporary periods, since 2000. In January 2017, she became the Director of the Roger Ray Institute for the Humanities in the College of Arts and Letters, for which she will be organizing a series of public humanities programs for the community and region, while helping build and maintain bridges between departments, colleges, and campuses.
Rizk earned a BA in studio art from Oberlin College and a BS in architectural studies, with honors, from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she returned to study modern and contemporary art history, earning an MA in 1994 and a PhD in 1997, her dissertation about the New York-based American artist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992), one of the most significant American artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries who died of AIDS-related illnesses. She was the first person to catalog the Estate, during which time she also worked for galleries representing the artist (PPOW and Gracie Mansion). Estate materials were subsequently acqusitioned as anchor for the “Downtown Collection” in New York University’s Fales Library.
After twenty-seven years of professional research and activities, along with twenty or more years of publications, exhibitions, and public presentations, she has become an internationally recognized expert on the art and times of Wojnarowicz, most recently tapped to contribute a Wojnarowicz chapter to a 2016 catalog for an exhibition at BOZAR, the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium. She is currently completing an art historical monograph about this remarkable artist — under contract by the University of Minnesota Press — and is set to become the first single author to do so.
Her interests in Wojnarowicz and the AIDS crisis steered her toward the histories of disease, medicine, and the “medical humanities,” and she regularly teaches a course called “Art and Disease” — most recently in Spring 2017 and most intensely, perhaps, in Spring 2011, when students organized a public exhibition at the world-renown Toledo Museum of Art, drawing on the museum’s permanent collection. One of many experience-based classes, this exhibition version of “Art and Disease” helped satisfy a degree in museum studies and moved students beyond studying the history of disease in art, to the full-scale production of a professional art museum exhibition. Researching and curating, drafting all didactic labels, and interpreting the subject for the general public, students coached their audience to let go “of our fear of sickness” while advocating for diminishing “the suffering of the afflicted.”