Dr Catriona McAra is a Scottish art historian and research curator working internationally. She has forged a unique career path with areas of expertise encompassing surrealism, contemporary art curation, art/science dialogues and, increasingly, geo-heritage.

Catriona is a specialist in modern and contemporary art history, and a leading authority on the work of Dorothea Tanning and Leonora Carrington, with particular interests in revisionary historiography and feminist-surrealist legacies in early twenty-first century art and literary practices. She is interested in how Carrington, Tanning and others have become “media” for the next generations of artists and writers, and defines this as curating the marvellous in the contemporary arts. Catriona is author of two monographs, A Surrealist Stratigraphy of Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm (Routledge, 2017) and The Medium of Leonora Carrington (Manchester University Press, 2022).

Another key interest is in the curiosities revival and artists who engage with science and the museological, especially archaeology and geology. Having curated and written extensively on the entomological art of Tessa Farmer (The MIT Press and Strange Attractor Press, 2016), Catriona has recently edited a second curatorial legacy project, Felt Events, on the geological aesthetics of Ilana Halperin (Strange Attractor and MIT, 2022).

Catriona is also interested in Mieke Bal’s “theoretical fiction” and Michelle Williams Gamaker’s “fictional activism,” and the possibilities of such frameworks for intersectional thinking, teaching and learning.

Catriona has worked closely, in a curatorial capacity, with numerous contemporary artists including: Yoko Ono, Kate MccGwire, Su Blackwell, Kim L. Pace, Samantha Sweeting, Hannah Buckley, Rachel Goodyear, Nicola Dale, Fritha Jenkins, Laurence Figgis, and Lucy Skaer, among others.

Catriona’s external curatorial projects include 31 Women at Sedona Arts Center (2020), and a range of catalogue essays for commercial galleries and public museums, including: Dorothea Tanning: Unknown but Knowable States, Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco (2013), and Flora Yukhnovich: Sweet Spot at Parafin, London (2019).

Catriona has previously lectured at the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and at The Glasgow School of Art, and given talks locally and internationally, including Tate Modern, National Galleries of Scotland, The Hepworth, Henry Moore Institute, and Biblioteca Nacional de México, as well as at universities throughout Europe and America.

Academic Positions

Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art History, University of Aberdeen (2022-)

Assistant Director, University Collections and Curation, University of St Andrews (2021-22)

University Curator, Leeds Arts University (2015-21)

Post-Doctoral Fellow, IASH, University of Edinburgh (2013-14)

Research Fellow, University of Huddersfield (2011-13)


PhD in History of Art, University of Glasgow (2008-12)

MLitt with Distinction in History of Art, University of Glasgow (2007-08)

MA Hons. First Class in History of Art, University of Glasgow (2003-07)


Terra Foundation for American Art research and development grant (2021)

Association of Art Historians (AAH) image grant (2015)

European Science Foundation (ESF) travel grant (2012)

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) doctoral funding (2008-2011)


Westfjords, Iceland  (February 2020).


C. Kahn, ‘Art historians look deeper at Surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning,’ Red Rock News (October 2022).

C. Pound, ‘Leonora Carrington’s Surrealist Paintings Continue to Bewitch Artists, Collectors, and Curators,’ Artsy (July 2022).

R. Ashenden and M. Gilroy, ‘Rebellion is My Bloodline!’ The Debutante (January 2020).

H. Keegan, ‘The dark, intriguing legacy of surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning,’ The Stylist (March 2019).


Ones to Watch, Sunny Bank Mills, Leeds (1 May – 4 June 2021).

31 WomenSedona Arts Center, Arizona (3-26 January 2020).

FUAM Graduate Art Prize 2019, University of Leeds (June 2019).

Editorial Boards

International Journal of Surrealism (IJS) (2020-2023)

So Anyway (2018-)

ASAP/J (2016-)

Current Membership

Scottish Society for Art History (SSAH) (2022-)

International Society for the Study of Surrealism (ISSS) (2018-)

Association for Art History (2008-)

Photo courtesy of Professor Roger Shannon, Edge Hill University.
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