Dr Catriona McAra is a writer and research curator working internationally.

She 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.

Catriona is author of A Surrealist Stratigraphy of Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm (Routledge, 2017), and co-editor with Jonathan P. Eburne of Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde (Manchester University Press, 2017). She is currently finishing her second book, The Medium of Leonora Carrington (Manchester University Press, 2022), a study of Carrington’s significance in contemporary art, literature and performance, with a third book forthcoming on the American writer Kate Bernheimer.

Another key interest is in the curiosities revival and artists who engage with science and the museological, especially archaeology and geology. Having previously published on the entomological art of Tessa Farmer (The MIT Press and Strange Attractor Press, 2016), Catriona is currently finalising a second curatorial legacy project, Felt Events, on the geological aesthetics of Ilana Halperin (Strange Attractor and MIT, 2021).

Catriona is also interested in forms of literary curating (Mieke Bal’s notion of “theoretical fiction” and Michelle Williams Gamaker’s “fictional activism”) having interviewed Kate Bernheimer, Chloe Aridjis and Heidi Sopinka about their novel writing and curatorial practices.

In 2019 (after several years in post), Catriona opened the new university gallery at Leeds Arts University with an exhibition of Yoko Ono (celebrating the artist’s 1966 visit). Catriona works closely, in a curatorial capacity, with numerous contemporary artists including: Kate MccGwire, Su Blackwell, Samantha Sweeting, Hannah Buckley, Rachel Goodyear, Nicola Dale, Fritha Jenkins, Laurence Figgis, Michelle Williams Gamaker, 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 lectured at the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, 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

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

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).


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-)

AHRC Peer Review College (2015-18)

Photo courtesy of Professor Roger Shannon, Edge Hill University.