What Is Miranda?

[Editor’s note: After five years offering a singular view on ICA, Miranda has shed her skin. Join our mailing list for updates on this blog’s next iteration.]

Miranda copy

Miranda copy

Besides being the name of the heroine in The Tempest, and the warning policemen read to the people they’re arresting, Miranda was the corn snake I owned from 1998 until her death in February 2010. I’m interested in snakes and I have written about them a lot (I wrote a novel called Lady of the Snakes, for instance), partly because of how deep and ambiguous their roots are in the culture. On the one hand, the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, resulting in those anchors of human existence: sex, shame, hard work, pain in childbirth, and death. On the other, the Greeks venerated snakes as symbols (and sometimes actual vehicles) of healing, which is why you see pictures of them spiraling up staffs on the doors of ambulances and emergency rooms (caduceus). Because they shed, snakes symbolize rebirth. This wealth of associations, along with the visceral human response to the sight of one, makes the snake a natural mascot for a blog about a contemporary art museum. Doesn’t it?

The name “Miranda” derives from the Latin word mirari—to admire or to look at wonderingly. “Miranda” is also a feminine form of mirandus, meaning wonderful, strange, or singular.

ICA’s blog Miranda offers a singular view inside the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Organizing exhibitions, unpacking art crates, cooking dinner for artists and speakers, raising money, and the secret spaces of ICA: Miranda connects you to everything that goes on at a small, internationally renowned contemporary art museum.



Rachel Pastan was Editor-at-Large at the Institute of Contemporary Art from 2009–14. When she wasn’t composing grants, editing wall text, or retrieving dangling participles, she blogs about what goes on at a small but fabulous university-affiliated art museum. In her other life, she is the author of the novel Alena (Riverhead, 2014) and teaches fiction at the Bennington Writing Seminars. For more information, visit www.rachelpastan.com.