IMPORTANT: Each session requires separate advance registration to immediately receive the Zoom Link, ID, and Passcode. Reminders will be sent to all registrants one day and one hour before each session.
Keynote – Thursday, April 7, 7PM
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Dr. Renée Ater,
Provost Visiting Professor,
Memoryscapes of Slavery: The Slave Dwelling as Remains and Commemorative Object
From Maryland to Louisiana, the slave dwelling is undergoing a significant reexamination through archaeological excavation of its remains and new interpretive strategies that suggest the dynamic lives of the enslaved. Along with these reappraisals, the slave cabin has also been transformed into an object of remembrance and commemoration. This lecture centers From Absence to Presence, Commemorative to Enslaved Peoples of Southern Maryland (2020), designed by Shane Albritton and Norman Lee of RE:site Studio for St. Mary’s College of Southern Maryland. The commemorative takes the form of a free-standing rectangular building with wood slats and mirrored surfaces that are inscribed with Quentin Baker’s erasure poetry derived from nineteenth-century runaway slave advertisements. The local “ghost” architecture of Historic St. Mary’s City (a living history museum of the colonial era), a slave cabin at nearby Sotterly Plantation, and the writings of Angela Davis on enslaved families and intimacy (Women, Race, and Class) inspired Albritton and Lee to create a commemorative object rooted in the local. Dr. Ater argues for the centrality of the link between memory and place in relation to From Absence to Presence. This memorial functions within “a dynamic zone of memory interaction and interchange” between people, the built environment, language, and the geography of Southern Maryland. Tracing the memorial’s relationship to the modest slave cabin depicted in the iconic Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and to the slave dwelling as domestic architecture, Dr. Ater offers a reading of From Absence to Presence as a complex memorial that is both materially visible and invisible within the memoryscape of slavery at St. Mary’s College and in Southern Maryland.
Day 1 – Friday, April 8
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10:00am Jess Schwarz, Columbus College of Art and Design
Houses Left Alone: Exploration into Tsukumogami in Japanese Art
The Western world has long been terrorized by the mythos of the “haunted house” with its ghosts and poltergeists. In the Eastern world, however, and more particularly Japan, there exists the concept of tsukumogami, wherein a spirit inhabits a household object after a long period of abandonment. This paper discusses several examples of tsukumogami and draws comparisons between their more historical artistic interpretations and the more contemporary representation through pop culture media. Furthermore, this paper explores the changing feelings of wider Japanese culture, from fear of tsukumogami inhabiting their homes, to a much more appreciative love for the spirits they once feared.
10:15am Josías Salvador, Harvard College
Morro do Castelo’s Ruination: A Sign of Refuge and Cultural Production
This paper follows the story of Morro do Castelo as a mountain landscape in Rio de Janeiro that was first settled by Portuguese colonizers in 1567 to its demolition in 1922 on grounds of sanitation for its occupancy by racialized Brazilians. While the demolition of the Morro do Castelo (Castle Hill) was a result of a project of whitening to displace Black and Brown Brazilians to the margins of the city, its inhabitants utilized the topography of the hill to distinguish themselves from the cultural hegemony of the larger Rio de Janeiro. Thus, although the excavation of the hill was ultimately successful in ridding the city of the Morro do Castelo, it failed to eradicate its inhabitants who had created an identity, memory, and community on the hill. In finding signs of cultural production of the Morro do Castelo, this paper posits the hill as one of memorial and epistemological legibility with the ability to be rebuilt, renegotiated, and re-institutionalized by its people. By using early 20th century photographic evidence, Morro do Castelo’s topography and architecture underscore the presence of an urban community that differed from the developing Rio de Janeiro. In engaging with the signs of life that concurred in the Morro do Castelo, this paper argues that the mountain was a space of refuge and revitalization which counters the government’s archive of the Morro do Castelo as a ruin. In accurately historicizing the existence and current use of the land where the Morro do Castelo once stood, its memory as a comprehensible site of congregation responds to the violent actions by the Brazilian government. The story of the Morro do Castelo is reconstructed from that of the national archive into an alternative residence that shaped the formation of Rio de Janeiro.
10:30am Ameer Mussard-Afcari, Fashion Institute of Technology
The Concerned Architect: Hassan Fathy and the Preservation of Tradition
In this paper, through the analysis of individual projects and first-hand accounts, I examine the architectural philosophy of Hassan Fathy, the venerated 20th century Egyptian architect who sought to ameliorate the housing issues of Egypt’s rapidly growing laborer class. During the 1950s and 1960s, while the post-colonial Egyptian government was laying a foundation for the newly independent nation, Fathy pushed for a new approach to housing development for the rural working class — his vision entailed the use of traditional building methods and materials, an emphasis on self-sufficiency within village-style housing projects, and an interconnectedness within those villages that would foster a sense of community. Furthermore, this talk emphasizes Fathy’s resistance to foreign influence and the concept of “self-colonization,” both of which he aimed to combat through a traditional Egyptian mode of architectural development that he firmly believed would improve the livelihoods of the working class and strengthen the national identity.
10:45am Nina Gregory, Virginia Commonwealth University
A Case of Creative Limitations: How the Hyperinflation Crisis in the Weimar Republic Shaped the Haus am Horn
This paper considers the Bauhaus design school’s first collaborative exhibition of work, the Haus am Horn, developed during the peak of the Weimar hyperinflation crisis in 1923. Though often hailed as a paragon of early industrial design, the Haus am Horn was also a product of its social and economic constraints. The dire economic circumstances of the time required creative design solutions that influenced every detail of the house, providing a new model for modern architecture. In an attempt to lower the cost of construction, designers Georg Muche and Walter Gropius ventured into the then unexplored world of modular construction. They built the house out of simple, prefabricated shapes constructed from new, affordable alternatives to common building materials, opting for jurko slabs over traditional brick masonry and Triolin over highly taxed linoleum. These practical measures brought down the cost of construction to meet tight budgets due to the economic crisis. The design of the Haus am Horn also took into account the major social shifts caused by hyperinflation. As women were forced to take a more active role in housekeeping and child-rearing in the absence of hired help, Muche and Gropius devised a layout where the kitchen was near the children’s room, allowing the women to fulfill their new duties with ease. The design of the house also considered the changing structures for families due to their need to move frequently to find work. Marcel Breuer carefully designed all the house’s furniture to be elegant, yet lightweight. These carefully considered design features led to a new kind of dwelling that was an adaptive, innovative response to the crushing economic conditions of the time.
11:00am Cameron Findlay, Smith College
Tracking Traveling Artists: How Itinerant Artists Reinforce the Importance of Collections Management
Limners, folk artists, itinerant painters. Though they are known by many names, these travelling artists are not known by many means. Few records were kept on the pieces these travelling artists made, and even fewer survive. Folk artists highlight the importance of Collections Management, and of museum record-keeping as a whole, in preserving the history of these works for generations to come. These artists travelled across the United States and abroad to peddle their wares; portraits, sculptures, landscapes, or even sermons were produced in exchange for lodging, food, or money. Normally, registrars use documents like bills of sale, auction records, and insurance paperwork to trace ownership and to give a complete record of the artwork for future reference. Artworks by limners, of course, have little written information to gather, so research and provenance work must be done in more creative ways. When looking through the lens of itinerant art, it is easy to see how important Collections and records are to painting the complete picture of a piece of art. The work that registrars and Collections Management staff do is vital to understanding the history of artworks and how collections practices have evolved over time. As cheesy as it may sound, without records collected and catalogued by registrars, we would not be able to learn from the past. Our knowledge of Seurat would be as murky as our knowledge of Samuel Cooper. The difficulty in tracing America’s limners reveals that with a dearth of information comes a surplus of gratitude for those who keep it.
11:15am Eva Solano, University of Connecticut
An Exploration of Diversity in Art Museums
Art museums have a long history of excluding BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals from their spaces and prioritizing White male artists. 2020 Census data reports that only 57.8% of the U.S. population is White and that this number will continue to decline in the coming years. Art museums are supposed to be neighborhood spaces: a safe and welcoming environment open to anyone and everyone. Unfortunately, this is not true as these institutions have been facing controversies over racist incidents among staff, guests, and artists. My project through the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network at UConn focuses on what art museums are currently doing–or not doing–to make their space more inclusive. For this paper, I focus on four prominent art museums in New York City, as New York is home to some of the world’s most renowned museums and has a population of diverse families, communities, and cultures. I started by analyzing and assessing these museums’ websites for their mission statements, values, outreach programs, and racial makeup of their staff. I then made site visits to my selected museums over a two-month period to see their exhibitions as well as observe the staff and visitors. By the end of my site visits, I gained an overall understanding of the atmosphere of these museums and used the information I gathered to create a website detailing my observations, which I hope will provide insight into the issues art museums face and add to the already existing dialogues about how these institutions can do better.
11:30am Lauren Sigda, University of Rochester
The Work of Art in the Age of Reproduction/In the Age of NFTs
Walter Benjamin’s critical work from 1935, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, is seminal to how society comprehends and aggrandizes capitalist thought surrounding media. The essay criticizes the culture of commercialism in art caused by public accessibility through prints and photography. It pivots between conceptualizing the aura of an artwork, the aestheticization of propaganda and political agenda represented in the production of art, and artifactual authenticity in culture while maintaining a Marxist lens on commodification and grounding the labor in the object. He prophesied that the franchising of art would have irreparable consequences on perception and human experience of interacting with the world. There is no doubt that if Benjamin were with us today, he would be absolutely baffled by many facets of our culture. The overstimulation of information and sense is a factor of global consumption and massive social transformations that are shifting the paradigm of how we live, let alone how we view art. As we progress towards a late-stage capitalist way of thought, I offer the question: is The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction still relevant today? In a contemporary age of virtualization of nearly all things in life, including art and NFTs, does Benjamin’s perspective on the lifeforce and authority of objects still ring true?
11:45am Eleanor Miller, Colgate University
Mirrored: Reflective Artworks and the Power of Spectatorship
This paper investigates reflective works of visual art, meaning art works that involve mirrors and the viewer’s reflected image as the primary media. By evaluating the participatory capacities and engagements between such artworks and the viewer, I explore the ways in which these interactions can upend or subvert passive spectatorship and consumption. This mechanism sustains what Guy Debord theorized in 1967 to be the spectacle: “a completely separate pseudo world of images… ruled by the market economy.” I argue that the reflective space of the mirror effectively engages the viewer by turning their internal reflection outwards, forcing them to relate their positionality to other people, objects, and media. Mirrored works constitute an instance of participatory relational aesthetics. “Participatory relational aesthetic” is a compound-term that collapses Claire Bishop’s theory of participation with Nicholas Bourriaud’s theory of the Relational Aesthetic. By reading these two foundational theories of spectatorship and participation through Christina Albu’s recent discussion of the “mirror affect,” I analyze reflective artworks for their participatory capacities. This paper specifically evaluates Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings, and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate as exemplar reflective art works spanning the early 1960’s to the early 2000’s. In each case, the work places the viewer into uncomfortable situations with themselves and the media they are consuming, and in so doing stress an engagement with questions of one’s identity, community, and relationship to media.
12:00pm R.J. Maupin, Elon University
Mirrors as Mediators of the Intersubjective Sublime: Agnes Denes's “Pyramids of Conscience” (2005) as an Initiator of Ecological Advocacy
Agnes Denes’s Pyramids of Conscience (2005) presents viewers with a complex mediation of their mirror images amidst tap water, polluted water, and crude oil. While mirrors have previously been incorporated into contemporary ecological conversations to create new relations between the viewer and natural material, Denes’s work necessitates a reorientation to the intricate connections between natural materials, spectators in the gallery, humans outside the gallery, and non-human life. Expanding on Cristina Albu’s concept of ‘mirror affect,’ I theorize the influence of the intersubjective sublime on this work, which evokes horror and pleasure at the endless web of global relationships. Unlike the traditional sublimes of Immanuel Kant and Edmund Burke, the intersubjective sublime does not need to be conquered or overcome by human reason. Rather, it reveals the unbalanced power dynamics on Earth, putting humanity’s environmental destruction into perspective. While part of the experience of Denes’s artwork is a self-centered musing on the pollution of tap water, the intersubjective sublime makes it nearly impossible for viewers to avoid thinking about the cascading effects on the ecosystem. The overwhelming implication of the intersubjective sublime motivates viewers to become ecological activists for their communities, both human and non-human. The mirrors in Pyramids of Conscience create a collective in the gallery that is concerned with the lives of all beings and can inspire real-world change in those who view it.
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1:00pm Michelle Ma, Smith College
Reimagining Coins: Money Images on Money Trees in the Eastern Han Dynasty
Placed in tombs and having their images occur on mortuary objects, coins from the Eastern Han dynasty (25 -220 CE) embody cosmological observations and auspicious wishes through burial artifacts, such as money trees (yaoqian shu). This paper investigates the symbolic meanings of different coin decorations on Eastern Han dynasty money trees and the socioeconomic factors that influenced the production of this type of artifact. By examining four major types of coin decorations on money trees excavated from southwestern regions of China, this paper argues that the coin decorations adapted visual elements from wu zhu coins to illustrate cosmological observations and express auspicious wishes.
This paper first discusses the relationship among coin images on money trees, wu zhu coins, and the cosmos. I argue that derived from the representation of comet tails, coins adorned with patterns of feathering thorns manifest an Eastern-Han understanding of the celestial phenomenon. Secondly, the recurring inscriptions and patterns on coins, such as the wulihou writings, the floral décor along the rim, and paired wings of bats, articulate the connection between these decorative motifs and auspicious wishes for economic prosperity, longevity, and happiness. Lastly, I interrogate the relationship between socioeconomic conditions and the employment of coin images on money trees to explore how cultural beliefs and the growth of private coinage respectively shaped the production of money trees. The widely accepted Taoist ideology, as expressed in Daodejing, fostered the private production of money trees, criticizing wealth accumulation, and money-worshipping. Meanwhile, the illegitimate but rampant practices of counterfeiting coins account for why coin images are present on money trees as a decorative repertoire.
1:15pm Annaliese Terlesky, Middlebury College
Shunning the Presence of People: Chinese Landscapes and the Artwork of Disney’s Bambi
This presentation stems out of an art history seminar about the aesthetics of Asian art, and focuses on the ideology, aesthetics, and artistic strategies of landscape artists during the Song Dynasty in China (960-1279), and how they influenced the artwork of Tyrus Wong (1910-2016), a Chinese artist who created the visuals of the 1942 film Bambi. I will analyze both Northern and Southern Song landscape art, as well as Wong’s creative evolution with relevant early examples from his career, his concept art for Bambi, and stills from the film itself. Both Wong and Song dynasty landscape painters attempt to reckon with the human-nature relationship, utilizing the same stylistic elements, such as negative space, comparatively small figures within vast landscapes, and delicate brushstrokes. However, Wong and these artists diverge in the implications of such interactions. Song dynasty landscape artists were influenced by ideals of Neo-Confucianism, a philosophical movement developed in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) that combined Buddhist and Daoist beliefs and stressed self-cultivation and the inherent unity of the universe. These artists centered human life within the landscape, suggesting that nature served as a paradisiacal vehicle for human self-cultivation and remote reflection. In contrast, Wong’s own artwork and his contributions to the film suggest a quite different ethic in eco-aesthetics: nature not only exists outside of its relations to mankind, but man’s most obvious role is its violent, exploitative interruption into nature’s harmonious life.
1:30pm Reem Nemmassi, St. John’s University
Death Ex-Situ: Medieval Muslim Tombstones
In the late Middle Ages, the horrors of plague made way for the amplified implication of Muslim death and martyrdom. Communities often buried their martyred loved ones in mass graves. Regardless of the qualities of one’s life or death, elaborately decorated grave markers are discouraged by most Muslim scholarship. Despite this, Muslim artisans in the medieval Near East produced beautiful religious calligraphy around geometric designs on tombstones, as seen in those of the Sufi Shaikh ibn Sada Muhammad and Ibn Ahmad al-Hasan Karwaih, from Yazd, Iran. They also engraved their names directly on these tombstones. In so doing, they engage viewers, whether they be mourners or art historians, with questions of subject, form, and material. These profoundly intimate grave markers inspire further provenance investigation when considered ex-situ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While the museum acquired some from Iranian families in the 20th century, other tombstones arose from the collection of John Richard Preece (1843-1917), who worked in Iran for Britain. He accumulated an extensive set of Persian pieces focusing on calligraphy, though the details of his acquisition processes remain unspecified. With attention to the human movement of art, I explore death markers from the Near East between 1100 and 1400 C.E., focusing on social and spiritual changes
1:45pm Gabby Farina, Wesleyan University
Water and the Womb: Origins of the Sacred at Nachi
A site venerated for its natural beauty and its connection to the divine, the Nachi shrine at Kumano sits as one of the most sacred spaces in Japan. It is situated deep within the mountainous region of the Kii peninsula beside a 130-meter waterfall at the headwaters of the Nachi River. Like many other shrines and temples across Japan, Nachi was heavily involved with the production of pilgrimage mandalas (sankei mandara) and acted as a source of inspiration for visualizations of the divine. Nachi was likely the source for the pilgrimage mandala genre at large. While other sites have one or two surviving examples of these mandalas today, Nachi is depicted in over thirty. Pilgrimage mandalas served as fundraising tools for sacred sites, inspiring viewers to undertake a physical journey to the illustrated site in medieval Japan. These pictorial maps became sacred objects themselves and allowed for spiritual travel through the images, providing virtual pilgrims with the karmic benefits of actual pilgrimage. In looking at depictions of Nachi in pilgrimage mandalas, my research has found that divinity at Nachi is deeply connected to its associations with birth, rebirth, and the womb. Illustrated origin history scrolls, rituals, and ascetic practices further connect the site to motherly figures and female deities. It is through an association with the female body that the sacred is able to grow out of Nachi, and it is through water that the sacred becomes accessible to all people. At Nachi, water acts as a vehicle for purification, facilitating divinity at Nachi as pilgrims use it to cleanse the soul and gain proximity to the Buddhist Pure Land. It is ultimately Nachi’s foundational association with the female body along with its topographical connections to water that the site has become imbued with power and therefore acts as a sacred space.
2:00pm Ethan Gonzales, Fashion Institute of Technology
Islam and the Philippines: Development of the Pinoy Islamic Expression in Architecture
In this paper, I demonstrate the development of Pinoy-Islamic expression through architectural case studies. I will focus on the southern region of the Philippines, with specific attention paid to the cultural evolution of the Moro people from the late 13th century to the modern era. This focus can lead to a significant understanding of the chronological development of Islam in the Philippines. In the earliest archaeological record of the Moro encounter with Islam, we can see early examples of pagoda-style mosques that combined local and Middle Eastern design elements. By delving into traditional mythology such as the Sarimanok and local carvings such as Okir, we can better understand the transformations of artistic expression as new visual forms are implemented in religious structures.
More recently, we can see how trade and war led to the educational expansion of Islam via migration and displacement of southern populations into central/northern Philippines. Education sponsorships between Filipino Muslims and other Islamic nations lead to an increase in trade, tourism, and cultural influence on Islamic architecture. Mosques began to incorporate inspiration from Middle Eastern architectural forms, such as multi-dome structures and minarets. Overall, we can see how dynamic the visual expression of Islam in the Philippines changes throughout history. As the identity of the Moro and Pinoy Muslims shift and change, so does their work which leads to this uniquely beautiful blend of both local and traditional Islamic forms.
2:15pm Diyang Zhou, Bard College
The Cultural Significance of the Cave: Using Green Dragon Cave Temple Complex as an Example
This presentation discusses the Green Dragon Cave temple complex in Zhenyuan, China, a product of the marriage of the ethnic Miao and Han cultures. It was used for conducting the ancestor worship of the indigenous Miao people two thousand years ago before being converted into a religious site of the Han ethnic group around the sixteenth century. Even though the temple complex has a Buddhist shrine, a Confucian sanctuary, and one Jiangxi guildhall, the Green Dragon Cave that the Daoist temple occupies is the most auspicious location of the whole complex.
The cave is so significant that the whole complex is named after it. That this architectural site is called Green Dragon Cave instead of Green Dragon Temple, as sites like this are commonly designated, leads to the question of the significance of the ‘cave’ for its local people. Anthropologically speaking, the cave is the holy burial ground for the Miao and a symbol of their afterlife. ‘Cave’ is also used as a synonym for ‘local village’ under the political administrative system of Zhenyuan county from 618 AD to 1107 AD. But most importantly, a cave is associated with the traditional Daoist practice and internal alchemy. In Daoist language, a cave is a time tunnel and connecting point between earth and heaven. The Zhongyuan cave and Green Dragon Cave in this religious complex were both used as temporary dwelling places for Daoists and portals to the Daoist heaven. Finally, the Jade Emperor, the highest deity in Daoist mythology, sits at the Green Dragon Cave nowadays. This further shows that the Green Dragon Cave is the most blissful and auspicious site in the whole county.
2:30pm Indranil Banerjee, Maharaja Sayajirao University
Pleasure of Seeing: Diffusion of Images through Printed Books and the Case of “Lazzat un-Nisa”
The explosion of printing technology necessitated by the emergence of a reading public in the second half of nineteenth century Calcutta, India witnessed the invention and re-appearance of diverse categories of text. The “Baṭtalā” region in Calcutta – which became synonymous with cheap literature and print and catered mostly to a neo-literate and non-literate, lower-middle class public – became the cradle of an unprecedented scale of experiments with printed images. Surfacing multiple times from mid-nineteenth and continuing through the early twentieth century, an illustrated erotic-medical manual from Baṭtalā called Lazzat un-Nisa (“Pleasure of Women”), having its ancestry in pre-modern India, became the site of coexistence of a multitude of woodblock engraved images of diverse genealogies. This paper, looking closely at the images and text of an edition from the first decade of twentieth century, questions the role of the images to illustrate the text. Analyzing how significant images became to the new buyer-reader-seer of the books, I argue that some of the images, most importantly, a set of Europeanized engravings depicting amorous couples in intimate positions, lived a life outside their mere role as illustrative images. As objects of titillation, these images were wrapped inside texts that were not sexually provocative and safely circulated amongst the lower-middle class audience, I contend, perhaps to evade the Colonial Obscenity Act that specifically targeted Baṭtalā presses. This paper attempts to recover the art historical significance of printed images of ‘cheap’ books from its critical marginalization in the discourse of art history and book history.
2:45pm Stacie Rosario, Florida International University
Expressionism and Abstraction in Chinese Literati Painting: Uncovering Modern Concepts in Early China
Abstraction and Expressionism are artistic movements that are traditionally believed to have begun with western artists during the early 20th century, however, the core beliefs and concepts that are attributed to these movements can be seen in artworks as early as the 11th century in Chinese literati painting. The purpose of this research is to introduce an alternative viewpoint that focuses on the innovative, foundational nature of Chinese literati painting and seeks to recontextualize our understanding of the before-mentioned art movements through a more holistically global lens. By means of historical analysis, cultural evaluation, and artistic analysis of key artworks this study provides a comprehensive understanding of how early eastern art was able to introduce concepts commonly misunderstood to be “modern”. This research also encourages an emphasis on conversations about non-western art’s widespread influence and its ability to participate in and predict trends in art that were later claimed by the west in what we call modern art history.
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4:00pm Sara Miller, University of Maryland at College Park
Digitalizing the Torch-Bearing Maiden: A New Analysis of the Chthonic Figure Vanth
2,500 years after her first appearance in the art of central Italy in the 5th century BCE, the Etruscan spirit of the underworld, Vanth, remains a largely enigmatic figure. Although she is usually shown leading the deceased to the underworld, her iconographical origins are contradictory. Attempts to interpret Vanth’s character in particular are complicated by variability in her physical appearance, associations, and actions as depicted on cinerary urns, pottery, mirrors, statues, sarcophagi, and wall paintings produced between the 5th and 1st centuries BCE. I seek to understand Vanth’s chronology and iconography through quantifying the appearance of Vanth “types” across time, space, and artistic media, by identifying patterns in those manifestations, and by explaining those patterns in light of Etruscan history and specific details of the iconography. Through my collecting and sequencing of 236 images into an Omeka database and Excel spreadsheet, I argue that while Vanth was initially variable in her appearance and role in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, by the 3rd through 2nd centuries BCE her image crystallized as that of a huntress psychopomp. Vanth’s early iconographical fluidity and later consolidation reflects the tumultuous centuries when Etruscans contended with Gaul attacks, Greek artistic influences, and Roman assimilation.
4:15pm Joshua Collier, Columbia University
Iconographic, Animalic Apes: As Devil, Demon, and Human Degenerate in Christian Literature and Art of the Middle Ages
The meaning of the ape within a Medieval Christian context followed an interesting trajectory. First a figura diabloli, the non-human primate served as a visual representation of the devil himself. As the concept of sinners developed into persons who had neglected their humanity, the aspect of themselves which gave them the ability to become closer to God than any other of His creation, the ape came to represent not Satan, but those whom Satan had corrupted. Despite the undeniable similarities between humans and non-human primates, the latter were deemed naturae degeneratis homo—rather than being nearly human on a scale of ascendancy, apes were viewed as minimally human on a scale of degeneracy.
It is known that apes represented degenerate humans in literature, which means that humans would have had to have been capable of regressively taking on ape-like characteristics during the process of degeneration; however, there has yet to be much written on visual representations of individuals undergoing such a process. In the image of the Torture of St. Agatha in the Picture Book of Madame Marie, I have identified such a liminal figure: I argue that the face of the torturer to Agatha’s right has been made excessively prognathic—protruding and round at the bottom—not because medieval painters were incapable of consistency, but to represent the torturer as a sinner, not yet as a demon, but a human degenerate, one whose facial features have begun to resemble those of the ultimate naturae degeneratis homo, the non-human primate.
4:30pm Katie Kenna, Skidmore College
A Means of Control: Categorizing and Classifying the Other in Artistic Imagery from the Spanish Colonial Era and the Hispanic Enlightenment
The Florentine Codex is framed in scholarship as the first true anthropological study produced in, and of, the Americas. In the sixteenth century, Franciscan missionary Fray Bernardino de Sahagún sought to document Nahua (Aztec) culture for the purpose of subjective control and conversion as colonial rule was established. The twelve-volume codex was then used as a reference point for Spanish colonization and conquest, dominating international perceptions of the New World. Centuries later, in eighteenth-century Mexico, botanical illustrators produced nearly twelve thousand images of the flora and fauna in the New World. At the same time, Spanish painters produced sets of casta paintings, canvases that documented and organized the racial mixing among people in the Americas for the purpose of Spanish comprehension and digestion of the unexplored territory. This Hispanic Enlightenment of the eighteenth century could not have occurred without the influence of objects like the Florentine Codex, which planted and germinated ideas of visually collecting and categorizing human identities as a means of control in the cultural zeitgeist, specifically, through illustrating human bodies as objects in a naturalist vein. This paper will therefore juxtapose the Florentine Codex with botanical illustrations and casta series produced during the Hispanic Enlightenment to examine the ways in which they classify, categorize, and display people. In so doing, I will answer questions such as how the artistic image rendered people both visible and invisible in Spanish America, how white liminal spaces play into the meanings of illustrations, and how visualizing the world equates knowledge and power.
4:45pm Alyssa Carnevali, University of Pittsburgh
The Politics of the Representations of Indigenous Peoples in Artwork: Artworks Created by the Oppressive and the Oppressed
This paper discusses the depiction of Indigenous people in art through the lens of the oppressive vs. the oppressed. Spaniard and Indian Produce a Mestizo is a casta painting from the late 18th century and thus portrays the subject in the position of an oppressor, viewing the mixing of racial relations through a critical eye. In comparison, Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People) is a multi-media creation by an Indigenous artist in the 1990s, portraying the experience of Indigenous people as affected by the United States of America. While both artworks depict racial hybridity in the experiences of Indigenous people, Spaniard and Indian Produce a Mestizo is viewed from the lens of the oppressor, as Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People) shows the genuine hardships that have affected Indigenous people in the past and the present.
5:00pm Tanya Pattison, University of Florida
Unto the Hour of Our Death: The Skeletal Figure in the Viceroyalty of Peru
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, skeletal figures associated with hell and damnation can be seen in indigenous Andean artworks working with baroque styles. This paper aims to show that these figures can be attributed to European influences, and to understand how we should view the skeletal figure within Andean artworks with respect to the shifting cosmologies that came with Spanish colonization. Given traditional Andean worldviews and burial practices, the association of the skeleton with both the Grim Reaper and the dead as lifeless beings invokes both fear and indifference toward the skeletal body of the deceased. By creating this association, Spanish missionaries were able to emphasize the significance of the soul, and both discourage idolatrous practices honoring the ancestors and instill a fear of death and afterlife that differs to the Inca worldview. This paper will primarily focus on analyzing the skeletal figures in each of four different artworks: Tadeo Escalante’s mural program in the church of San Juan Bautista de Huaro, Peru; the Death painting from the village church of Caquiaviri, Bolivia, the sculpture of Death the Archer from Lima, Peru; and Manuel Chili’s The Fates of Man from Ecuador.
5:15pm Regina Gallardo, Wellesley College
The Folk Spirit of the Peruvian Indigenistas: The Art Versus Craft Debate
During the 1920s, a group of Peruvian avant-garde artists known as the Indigenistas celebrated colonial-period folk arts by appropriating their aesthetic forms into their work. The group was led by José Sabogal and included Julia Codecido, Teresa Carva, Alicia Bustamante, Camilo Blas, and Enrique Camino Brent. Their interests mostly focused on eighteen-century ceramics, paintings, and textiles of indigenous origin. To them, popular art revealed the marriage between Spanish and pre-Hispanic cultures, which formed the “soul” of Peru. At the same time, these artists believed that the indigenous spirit in popular art was “primitive:” raw as well as exciting. The Indigenistas’ early attention to popular art also increased demand in foreign and upper-class markets later in the 20th century.
This support, however, stimulated debates about the relative value of “popular” and “high” art in the Peruvian art world, articulated through the difference of “craft” and “art”. This paper examines how Modernist ideas influenced these debates in Peru. Through the selective incorporation of folk images that had long been social outcasts, the Indigenistas ensured the palatability of these images to an art world audience, satisfying an elite market. This paper suggests, however, that by the end of the 20th century this strategy had led to an elite rejection of the popular art that had once inspired the Indigenistas’ artworks. Indeed, by elevating the exotic nature of popular art, the Indigenistas helped categorize it as the product of a primitive “other” within global markets and art historical studies, preventing those same objects from being interpreted without bias by members of the Peruvian art world.
5:30pm Adriana Osornio, Lycoming College
¡Corre y se va Corriendo con Felix d’Eon!: Reimagining La Lotería through a Queer Lens
The game known as La Lotería is an important aspect of Mexican visual and popular culture. La Lotería is played similarly to Bingo, but uses 56 cards instead of numbered balls, each with iconic, bright watercolor representations of men, women, food, objects, and mythological beings. As Latines migrated, they also brought their cultural traditions with them, such Lotería, solidifying the game as a staple within the Latine community. Many Latines grow up playing the game as a beloved symbol of national tradition and cultural identity. The images on its cards, however, reflect other long-standing traditions, such as gender norms that continue to pervade both Mexican and Latine culture. In particular, depictions of men and women on the cards uphold sexist ideologies of machismo, misogyny, and rigid heteronormative performances. This paper examines queer Chicano artist Felix d’Eon’s recent reinterpretation of La Lotería from 2016. By juxtaposing d’Eon’s version of La Lotería with the history of the game and its representations as related to the emergence of modern gender norms in the twentieth century, I argue d’Eon’s specific choices help to positively reimagine Latine gender norms and introduce LGBTQ+ terms for his audiences through a queer lens.
5:45pm Matt Olsen, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Recontextualization and Development in the Landscape of Pueblo Ceramics 2020-2022
The central focus of my paper is the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous communities in the southwest and more specifically ceramic artists. A starting point I have taken is the cancellation of the 2020 South Western Association for Indian Arts 99th annual “Indian Market” in Santa Fe, otherwise known as the largest face to face event for Indigenous artists to sell their work to the public. This cancellation is representative of the New Mexico government’s larger effort to postpone all in person selling events for Indigenous artists during the summer of 2020. This cancellation is important to contemporary Pueblo Ceramics as almost the entirety of indigenous artist’s work is sold through face-to-face interactions with tourists and collectors during the ‘market season’. To illustrate the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous ceramic artists, I have put together a concise historical survey of the importance of face-to-face commerce in the history of Pueblo Ceramics. This survey starts with the exchange of wares between regional communities during the “prehistoric” or pre-colonial period followed by the production of wares for trade facilitated by the Spanish during the early stages of colonization in the 16th and 17th centuries followed by the development of a railroad and tourism industry in the late 19th century. The purpose of this historical survey is to illustrate the importance of the marketplace model to contemporary Pueblo Ceramics but also to show how commerce has shaped stylistic trends through profiles of artists such as Helen Cordero and Maria Martinez. Using this historical survey of the relationship between the marketplace and Indigenous artmaking communities as relevant context, I provide a hypothetical analysis of how the cancellation of the 99th annual SWAIA “Indian Market” amongst other repercussions of the past two years will shape the future of Pueblo Ceramics for generations to come.
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7:00pm Sophia Sacal, Universidad Iberoamericana, Cuidad de México
Women, Warriors, and Mothers: The Identity of the Cihuateteo Through Their Jewelry
According to the Mesoamerican cosmovision, the women who died during childbirth were part of the religious pantheon, known for escorting the god of the sun on his daily blaze through the sky. They were both worshiped and feared for their power to grant fertility to those who venerated them, but also to take life away from anyone—especially children and men who they found on crossroads. This essay analyzes, through identity and gender studies, the process through which the cihuateteo’s identity as warriors, mothers and women was molded. It explores how jewelry may be taken as a sign of these deities’ role within the social imaginary in the pre-Hispanic world. An examination of a group of clay sculptures of cihuateteo from El Zapotal I (in current Veracruz) shows that their jewelry was manufactured to reveal their relationship to fertility and the origins of the world. Their ornaments are also a key point in the understanding of the way in which their child’s death became the moment they came into their full womanhood. These sculptures represent the cihuateteo as powerful, self-realized beings, whose jewels connect them with their bodies and the cosmic world.
7:15pm Tori Watson, University of Georgia
Nieuwe Kunst and Batik: Women’s Production, Expertise, and Artistry of the Fin de Siècle
Nieuwe Kunst, the Dutch iteration of the international Art Nouveau movement, is both underrepresented and under-examined in Anglo-American scholarship. The Netherlands’ contribution to the international movement has been largely discussed through batik. Batik describes both a decorated textile and the wax-resist technique used to create it, in which cloth is decorated with wax, then dyed. Batik originated from Java and gained European exposure through the Dutch East Indies’ colonial trade and through established European artists, who infused the medium with the ideals of Art Nouveau. This Europeanized batik was presented to the world at the 1900 World’s Fair as a Dutch innovation–a perfect representation of Nieuwe Kunst–and batik’s complex origins in women’s craft were forgotten. While batik certainly influenced Nieuwe Kunst, research must recognize batik as not only a medium that was primitivized and appropriated, but as a mastered indigenous craft. This paper will investigate the 1898 Women’s Labor Exhibition, one of the first major feminist events in the Netherlands. The exhibition had an expansive section dedicated to crafts of the East Indies, with included much batik. Instead of focusing on women’s liberation, this section emphasized the exoticism of native life and the role Dutch women needed to play in authenticating Javanese crafts. Analyzing this exhibition opens a window onto how batik was displayed, received, and understood by the Dutch. Its display of batik helped set a narrative that was continued in the World’s Fair two years later. Raden Adjeng Kartini and her sisters, daughters of the Regent of Japara in Java, and A.J.F. Jans, a notorious Indische (Indo-European) entrepreneur, displayed their work. These women created textiles that were woven with colonial, gendered, and nationalistic influences, and a careful examination of their batik and display reveals the complicated story of how women’s craft contributed to Art Nouveau.
7:30pm Jimena Perez, Albion College
Retelling History Through Visual Elements of the Mammy
Betye Saar (b. 1926) and Kara Walker (b. 1969) are two important black artists in the domain of contemporary art. They use their artistic platform to raise their voices, and speak to issues faced by African Americans, who are frequently silenced because of our systemically racist society. This paper explores issues of race, oppression, and stereotypes through Walker and Saar’s artworks. I analyze A Subtlety, otherwise known as the Marvelous Sugar Baby (2014), and the Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972), through multiple theoretical lenses: critical race, gender, and post-colonial theories. Walker’s sugar sculpture and Saar’s figurine are both tied to the history of the mammy, an important figure in the Antebellum South. Black mammies provided essential domestic labor in white, wealthy households and plantations. However, their history is deeply rooted in oppression, stereotypes, and racism. White Americans viewed the mammy as a grotesque figure, yet she symbolized maternity and domesticity. White women, on the other hand, were considered the prime representation of Victorian beauty. Kara Walker and Betye Saar reference concepts of race, physical traits, and exploitation through the visual elements of their artworks. Yet, artists such as Walker and Saar are reclaiming their history and the way it has been told to empower the African American community. By critically examining these artworks’ historical references through various theoretical perspectives, we can gain a richer understanding of how Saar and Walker use the mammy to subvert stereotypes of black women.
7:45pm Sarah Hujber, Fordham University
Subverting Surrealist Misogyny and Gender Binaries in Claude Cahun’s 1921 Untitled Self Portrait
With the rise of Surrealism in twentieth-century France, names like Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and André Breton became widely recognizable and canonical in modern art history. While she was never truly forgotten, photographer Claude Cahun never received the same praise or investigation as her contemporaries. Thanks to mounting interest in the history of gender and sexuality in recent years, scholars have brought new attention to Cahun’s work, finally recognizing her contributions to the Surrealist movement. Cahun’s, Untitled (fig. 1) (Museum of Modern Art, 1648.2001) seems to be a straightforward portrait – a headshot of a figure with a shaved head. However, the print becomes more puzzling when one discovers that the figure was a woman acting as both photographer and subject, and that the print is a cropped version of a larger negative. I consider the formal elements of this work in relation to the biographical details of Cahun’s life and demonstrate that it reveals a rebellion against the misogynistic depictions of women by her contemporaries, and an intentional subversion of gender binaries. The fact that the influence of misogyny on Cahun’s work has not been considered to date reveals the sexism inherent in the tradition not only of Surrealism, but also of the scholarship on the movement. Investigation of misogynistic attitudes and traditional conceptions of gender among Surrealist leaders discloses the meaning behind Untitled. This paper will consider the photo in relation to Salvador Dali’s photomontage, The Phenomenon of Ecstasy, as well as works by Sigmund Freud that inspired Surrealists. In this paper I look to prove that Claude Cahun intentionally uses the practice of masking to reject feminine or masculine gender, as a way to subvert the misogyny and strict gender binaries imposed by the Surrealist movement.
8:00pm Harrison Morris, State University of New York at New Paltz
Between Brooklyn and Ornans: Meyer Schapiro’s Coming of Age and Courbet’s Radical Realism
Meyer Schapiro’s seminal work on Gustave Courbet and French Socialism of the nineteenth century, “Courbet and Popular Imagery: An Essay on Realism and Naivete,” published in 1941, is an early milestone in the examination of works of art within their socio-cultural and political contexts. The essay overturns early conceptions of realism that held that Courbet’s paintings were unaltered depictions of an observed reality, and it shows evidence of printed popular imagery of the period as a major influence on Courbet’s naïve style, as well as the form and composition of some of his paintings. Courbet’s A Burial at Ornans (1849-1850), painted in the wake of the French Revolution of 1848, is examined for its connection to two popular French woodcut prints of the 1820s, the Souvenir Mortuaire, and Degres des Ages.
Schapiro was specifically predisposed by his background to understand the complexities of Courbet’s revolutionary allegiance to French democracy and socialism, and Schapiro had his own genius for turning his life experience to the field of art history. This symposium presentation, based on excerpts of my capstone research paper for SUNY New Paltz Art History Theories and Approaches, examines Schapiro’s early life experiences as preparation for the development of his Marxist approach to inquiry. Especially notable was his exposure in his youth to popular imagery published in left-wing political magazines, which, I propose, had an influence on his analysis of Courbet.
8:15pm Sarah Zhang, Davidson College
Civilization, Suzhi (素质), and Three Layers of Absurdity: An Analysis on Liu Zheng’s My Countrymen Series
When People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949, state ideologies and strict official controls largely dominated photographic representations. Photos and all forms of art were produced to propagate socialist ideals and support the socialist construction of the country. Almost all mainstream images featured depictions of workers, peasants, and soldiers glamorized for their contribution to a modernizing nation. After the shock of the April 5th Movement in Tiananmen Square (1976) and the subsequent overthrow of the Gang of Four in late 1970s, experimental art flourished in this land where individual creativity has been dialed down in “a sea of red.” Experimental photographers established their alternative position by deviating from the official photographies both conceptually and visually. Liu Zheng (b. 1969) led this new direction in Chinese photography. His works contradicted the bright and optimistic official images. Instead, he interrogated the official narrative of a new Chinese identity at the turn of the millennium. This paper explores Liu’s remaking of post-Mao Chinese identity through an analysis of his photographic series My Countryman (1994), which set the stage for Liu’s experimentation with the unexplored representations of the Chinese people. Building upon anthropologist Ann Anagnost’s analysis of China’s corporal politics of wenming (文明 or civilization) and suzhi (素质 or quality), I argue that Liu’s images restore the individuality of marginalized people in Chinese society and negotiate a space for the malformed bodies within the system of suzhi. Moreover, this paper extends art historian Wu Hung’s review of the series and illustrates how the series exposes three levels of absurdity that encapsulate the selfcontradictions in constructing the new Chinese identity, namely, the contradiction of morality, of the natural and the “artificial” bodies, and of the quest for perennial civilization and ephemeral modernity.
8:30pm Alexis Welch, Middlebury College
Painting Through Extinction: The Representation and Reclamation of Sinixt Identity in Ric Gendron’s Coming Home
Coming Home, a public painting made by Indigenous artist Ric Gendron, was unveiled in 2021 in Revelstoke, British Columbia. On his father’s side, both of Gendron’s grandparents were Sinixt, an Indigenous Peoples whose traditional territory spanned from the northern region of Washington through the Interior of British Columbia. In the late 19th century, the Sinixt were pushed off their land by colonial settlers, with many ending up at the Colville Reservation in Washington State. Later, in 1956 the Canadian government declared the Sinixt extinct even though hundreds of descendants still lived south of the border. This declaration of extinction was revoked in April 2021 by the Supreme Court of Canada as part of the Desautel decision.
Coming Home is the first piece of publicly displayed Sinixt art made after this decision. The painting depicts the lives of thirteen Sinixt ancestors—historical figures in relation to the landscape. With the dominant culture’s colonial history and charged political climate, being Indigenous is a radical act. Further, the Sinixt’s fight to exist on their traditional lands and to reclaim the very ground of their representation is inherently political. Due to his status as a Native American Artist, Gendron’s work is forced to take on these narratives. In this presentation, based on my senior thesis research, I will discuss the history and implications of these objectifications. Further, I will look at Gendron’s choice to use more accessible imagery to provide hope for future generations of Sinixt as they return to their traditional lands.
Day 2 – Saturday, April 9
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10:00am Madeline Herlihy, Suffolk University
Expectations of a Court Lady: Isabella d’Este and the Two Venuses
Isabella d’Este Gonzaga is one of the most discussed female patrons of the Italian Renaissance. Although she had a considerable amount of influence in Mantua, one of Isabella’s primary concerns was upholding her image as both a learned and intelligent person, and a chaste and virtuous woman. Isabella is best known for her studiolo, a room designed to house art and inspire intellectual discussion amid those at court. What has remained at the center of art historical discussion is the collection of seven allegorical paintings that Isabella commissioned from contemporaneous artists. Isabella’s studiolo commissions focused on virtue and vice through mythological subjects, namely the figure of Venus. Appearing in the first five paintings Isabella commissioned, the goddess of love appears in two different forms: the virtuous Celestial Venus, and the lustful Earthly Venus. Through close analysis of the iconography within the paintings, especially pertaining to Venus, one can observe the contradictions that existed between the female Renaissance standards of beauty, learnedness, and chastity, as well as the rapidity with which a lady’s character could transform for the worse in the eyes of the court. Through the process of comparing the allegorical meaning of Venus in her higher and lower forms and studying the history surrounding the goddess’ appearances in the studiolo paintings, one can begin to better understand the contradictions and complexities of the life of Isabella d’Este as the Court Lady of Mantua.
10:15am Ani Parnagian, Kenyon College
A Look Into Glasses: The Symbolism of Spectacles and the Importance of Word Play
In my paper, I discuss the history of eyeglasses and their early appearance in Northern Renaissance Art. I focus on how the iconography is different in secular as compared to religious works. In religious pieces, the iconography often specifically references the Virgin Mary and a divine connection and religious awakening, while in secular pieces the iconography depicts deception and foolishness. These are opposites, but one overlap between two spheres of iconography is the word play and popular phrases associated with eyeglasses. I delve into two pieces: The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele by Jan van Eyck and The Ill-Matched Lovers by Jacob Corneliesz van Oostsanen. The Virgin and Child’s word play focuses on the Magnificat, a work created to exalt the Virgin Mary. The word Magnificat itself is word play, showing how the artwork aims to “magnify” the Virgin Mary.
The Ill-Matched Lovers is about two couples, with each member of each couple mismatched to the other member. Prominently in the foreground is a younger woman, who appears to be exchanging glasses with an older man and who is stealing or tricking the older man in some way. In the background there is another couple, but the ages are flipped — a younger man is cheek to cheek with an older woman, with the man touching the woman’s chin in a suggestive way. Word play is observed in a number of places in this piece, the most obvious being the inscription on the back wall — “LX SIIN TIIT” — which roughly translated means “everything in its time,” poking fun at both of the mismatched couples. The artist purposefully includes references to common Dutch sayings to demonstrate how important word play was to upper class Dutch culture. Eyeglasses were not only practical parts of life assisting vision, but became part of the artistic sphere as well, and wove their way into daily life by including common Dutch sayings.
10:30am Atlas Cox, East Tennessee State University
Maria Merian and the Art of Scientific Art
Maria Merian’s 1705 publication Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium has had a lasting significant impact on natural history and scientific illustration. Texts published prior had few — if any — illustrations of the creatures they discussed, and descriptions were limited to the words of others, or what of an organism could be observed in a study or laboratory setting. The drawings included in Metamorphosis, mixed intaglio prints translated from her original sketches and watercolors, are the result of Merian’s extensive field studies in Dutch Suriname during which she was watching species in their natural habitats, meticulously noting their behaviors, anatomy, and interactions with their environment. With this paper, I use Plate 59 (the Suriname Toad) as a fulcrum for a reflection on Merian’s contributions. This ranges from comparisons between the origins of scientific illustration with Conrad Gesner’s Historiae Animalium and Metamorphosis, the important zoological documentation of this specific amphibian and its unique birth process, and the influences Merian had on future naturalists such as Mark Catesby. The reproducibility and convenience of the printed medium was especially important in the circulation of her discoveries, and ultimately allowed for them to be referenced and studied extensively. Through my research, I have found that Merian developed a distinctive style with a focus on composition and accurate, lively representations of her subjects, which progressed the overall manner in which scientific art is composed and thus made her work a cornerstone in the field. Furthermore, her studies in a scientifically and geographically (from a European perspective) “uncharted” area allowed her work to be particularly progressive and exposed both her contemporaries and future artists and zoologists to once unfamiliar lifeforms, behaviors, and biological processes.
10:45am Caner Turan, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University
Images of Urban Poverty in English Rococo at the Hands of William Hogarth
Rococo style is known as the art of palace and aristocracy, mainly of the upper class, and it has arisen in France at the beginning of the 18th century. However, the same formal aesthetic may reflect itself in a different content in a different society. Although Rococo painters in France are interested in the small and isolated life of aristocracy full of love, eroticism, flirtation, wit, and humor, without moralizing and politicizing as general, in the vein of English Rococo represented by Hogarth is there a huge attention to things happening in society. He witnesses the changing moral values and structures coming along with the transformative effect of industrial development in England. In such a society, the religious, familial, and feudal principles holding the society together and providing an order drastically crackle. A new type of human mired in alcohol, crime, prostitution, and poverty arises in London and they become an important segment of the city in a period of the upcoming industrial revolution. Hogarth is not only one of the subtle portrait painters among his contemporaries but also reflecting his sensitivity to social realities responsibly and in a didactic style. In this paper, I will scrutinize how he has a unique iconography in Rococo school of art by issuing not the lighthearted life of upper class as in French one but people in the streets through some of his social masterpieces.
11:00am Nina Piper, Hunter College
Worthy of Skilled Observation: Visual Tricks in a Commode and Secrétaire by Jean-Henri Riesener
Five years before the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette commissioned her royal cabinetmaker, Jean-Henri Riesener, to create two chests of drawers for her sitting rooms at Versailles: a low commode and a taller secrétaire, both adorned with elegant veneers, intricate marquetry panels, and elaborate gilt-bronze mounts. Having created over 700 items of furniture for the king and queen and other royal patrons, Riesener understood the tastes and interests of the queen and other members of the upper classes beyond their fondness for flowers, ribbons, and richly decorated fabrics. Riesener was aware that the elite loved secrecy and trickery and that they used their furniture in elaborate displays of hiding and retrieving personal objects. Wealthy Parisians were also amateur scientists who employed a discerning eye to create artful collections of natural objects like butterflies and shells. I believe that Riesener capitalized on this dual interest in trickery and careful scientific observation by incorporating elements of trompe l’oeil into the design and decoration of secrétaire and commode that he created for the queen. Any tricks of the eye hidden within these objects that Marie Antoinette was able to decode would have delighted her and signaled the preeminence of her good taste and elite status.
Each method of trompe l’oeil that Riesener employs has a truly magical effect on the viewer. In his secrétaire and commode, Riesener conjures curved surfaces where none exist, proffers layers of decoration that seem to float on top of other layers, and suggests flowers sprouting from cabinets. It is astonishing that Riesener created these effects not once, but twice, adjusting the size and completely refashioning the decoration of these objects in 1790 and 1791 to fit Marie Antoinette’s smaller apartments at the Tuileries Palace, where she was forced to reside during the French Revolution.
11:15am Xin Zheng, Georgetown University
Cultural Others: An Examination of how the Chinese Viewed Foreigners During the Tang Dynasty Through a Study of Tri-colored Glazed Wares
Chinese pottery has always captivated both foreign and domestic audiences. With the Chinese known to have worked with clay for hundreds of years, they had become extremely skilled by the Tang Dynasty. Coincidentally, the Tang Empire had quite a vibrant and inclusive society with foreigners traveling and even settling within the empire which also fueled Tang pottery’s success. Tri-color glazed ware, or sancai, was produced exclusively during the height of the Tang Empire, and it exemplifies how the Tang Dynasty’s cosmopolitan society impacted the art scene. With the inclusion of foreign dancers, musicians, and animals in the design of sancai wares, one is left with the impression that foreigners were quite welcome. While previous researchers have simply attributed the existence of foreign elements in pottery design to the Chinese welcoming and enjoying foreign cultures, I explore a different side of the story. By looking at how and where foreigners were presented in sancai wares, I argue that although it was true that the Tang welcomed different cultures, there was nonetheless a deeply-rooted resentment toward foreigners in Tang society, and this resentment is shown through an imaginative and twisted reality that Tang artisans created through sancai wares.
11:3oam Madeleine Ward-Schultz, Skidmore College
Deglazing an "Oriental" Fantasy: The Laboring Body in a Pair of 18th-Century French Sugar Casters
Featured in the design of a pair of French sugar casters (1735-36) at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, two silver, male figures—round-cheeked and cherub-like—traverse across a rocky ground. The blossom-capped twigs, bundled and balanced atop their backs, mimic stalks of sugar cane, sweetly (and, as we will see, bitterly) referencing the removable bunch’s caster function. Luxurious black and crimson Chinoiserie dressing gowns adorn the figures as their silk-like lacquer surface and animated gold animals and foliage establish the ensemble’s magnificence and classification among Asian-associated, “Oriental” art and consumer goods. Within their artistry, the decorative pieces immerse elite, eighteenth-century European guests in an imaginative fantasy world pregnant with stimulating sensory experiences. However, upon a closer look, anxious tones struggle under the lustrous surface. Instead of a duo’s delightful romp in the countryside gathering nature’s ambrosial offerings, ambiguous faces (racialized yet unspecific, and quite problematic in their own right) bow from the body’s contorted stance under the bundle’s load, revealing a laboring narrative and further complicating the casters’ interpretation and reception. The once cute, delicate blossoms sprouting from the casters’ pores seep finely ground, sweet granules as if the flick of a user’s wrist equated the perilous, enslaved labor executed in European colonial islands. In these casters, toil and play, marvel and mockery oscillate back and forth. Why exhibit such paradoxical objects that both nurture and fragment one’s social position? This presentation explores the disturbing conversation of the laboring “Othered” and Orientalized body exhibited on the aristocratic European dining table, reflecting users’ internal and external anxieties projected on the casters.
11:45am Nathanael Lapierre, University of Central Florida
Representations of Blackness: The Black Body and Nineteenth-Century Orientalist Landscapes
In the nineteenth century, Orientalism functioned as a Western tool for dominating and restructuring the perception of the Orient. In France, where Orientalism found favor amongst artists, Orientalist works were produced in both the literary and visual arts to inform and control the narrative about the East. Influenced by the Napoleonic imperial conquests and an increased French presence in the East, Orientalism became an integral movement in the French visual arts. The relationship between France and the Orient was one of power and domination, which was mirrored in that between the French and the Blacks. As a part of the Western perception of the Other, the black individual had a unique role in nineteenth-century France. To be black in nineteenth-century French society was to be a second-class citizen. The existence of slavery, increase in French ethnography, and racism in French society objectified the black individual, turning them into another symbol of French power and conquest. The exploration of this project will focus on that symbolic representation of the black body in nineteenth-century Orientalist visual art.
As two separate areas of exploration in Art History, Orientalism and Race Theory have seen growth in scholarship thanks to contemporary interests in race and post-colonial theory. However, the overlap between the two subject areas is limited in research. Through the analysis of black figures in nineteenth-century Orientalism, we can discover more about the role of the black individual in respect to European society and the Eastern cultures in which they existed. This research project explores depictions of Blacks in nineteenth-century Orientalist art as a means of clarifying their societal roles and exploring the imbalance of social perception and representation in nineteenth-century French society. This project will reveal the truths hidden within the depictions of the black form.
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1:00pm Grant Bruner, Princeton University
Resurrecting the “Reserve Heads” – Life, Death, and Status in Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Tombs
The so-called “Reserve Heads” of Egypt have long been a puzzle of Old Kingdom material culture. Found only in mastabas in the elite cemetery of Giza during the Fourth Dynasty period, the heads are perhaps unique in Egyptian art in that they portray just a head without the accompanying body, a feature that defies Egyptian conventions across all media. This archaeological context is coupled with the unusual treatment of the heads themselves, which feature deep cutting around the eyeballs, deliberate carving around the cheeks, and a raised gaze that is untypical of Egyptian art of this period. In the face of these obscure features, the Reserve Heads have invited with each successive scholarly treatment a different explanation for its role in the funerary context: a substitute head for a decaying natural body, the site of an execration ritual against an alter-ego, a workshop master copy of a head design, a place of rest for the ba spirit, or more recently, a physical symbol of submission to the pharaoh-as-sun god. I examine the unique iconography and archaeological context of these heads within the wider understanding of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Art. In doing so, I synthesize two prevailing theories into a single, more internally consistent explanation for the sudden appearance and then disappearance of these elusive funerary objects in the tombs of Ancient Egypt’s elites.
1:15pm Brett Pine, Adelphi University
“Skin Deep”: A Hellenistic Statuette of a Rider Wearing an Elephant Skin
This paper deals with a curious bronze statuette, currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, portraying a rider in an elephant skin. Dating from the 3rd century BCE, the statuette is said to have come from Athribis in the Nile Delta in Egypt (and has been known since 1905). Even though the horse is missing, the human figure is very dynamic. With his right arm raised, a youth seems to be balancing on the back of a fast-moving animal. He is nude save for the sandals and an enigmatic elephant skin which is placed over the rider’s head in a helmet-like manner and covers his left shoulder and arm. The skin is tied in a Heraclean knot on the chest. Although most scholars concur that the statuette imitates a now lost large-scale statue of a Hellenistic ruler, there is no unanimous agreement as to who this ruler might be; Alexander the Great and Demetrios I of Bactria are the most probable candidates. My focus here will be on the statuette’s most interesting iconographic aspect, that is the elephant skin. I will investigate the ethnographic, political, and sociocultural implications of that feature against the backdrop of the iconographic tradition of depicting rulers in the Hellenistic period, established by Alexander of Macedon. I will further discuss the possible historical and cultural meaning of this type of elephant and the significance of the elephant skin in the Hellenistic society.
1:30pm MacKenzi Macko, Marist College
The Duality of Τέρας and the Grotesque as a Theatrical Vehicle for Cultural Expression
The Hellenistic Age of Greek Art is characterized heavily by innovation, artistic patronage, the exhibition of lavishness, and unconventional iconography. This leads to the era itself being described as theatrical in nature, allowing for histrionic art to thrive. The fascination present with unusual literary themes and artistic subjects frequented both the worlds of performance and material art. This allows for analysis of “the other” and the depiction of otherness in art as a vehicle for cultural expression. One such depiction common in Hellenistic Greece is the grotesque. These sculptures would depict deformed and peculiar body and facial features, in some cases as a study of bodily form, while in others a humorous mimetic representation, characteristic of the theatre and the age of New Comedy. The Bronze Grotesque (2nd c. BCE –1st c. CE) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art embodies the latter. The Bronze Grotesque epitomizes the intersection of theatre, art, and literature at the height of Hellenistic Greece, portraying the other in a manner that wholly encompasses the unconventionality of Hellenistic iconography and the theatricality of the era. The Bronze Grotesque encompasses the interest in theatrical characters and aspects as decorative and artistic elements and is connected with the enlargement of cultural exploration present in Hellenistic Greek society that had a fascination with the physical and non-physical features of monsterhood. Stories of monsters of the variety of revenants, phantoms, daimones, and bogeymen permeated literature and children’s stories passed down orally. Creatures of monstrous and physically “ugly” appearance also appear in the earliest surviving comedies in which they serve a variety of dramatic roles. Sometimes they may have been fully personified and appeared on stage, recognizable as an “other” through the use of masks.
1:45pm Leah Jensen, Meredith College
The Lisnacrogher Scabbards: A Study in Historiography, Iconography, Artisans, and River Cults of the Insular La Tène
The Lisnacrogher Scabbards are a set of Insular La Tène Irish sword scabbards dating to around 200-100 B.C.E. found near the river Bann in Ireland. They exemplify the La Tène style in many ways, chiefly in their undulating engraved linear ornament. By examining the historiography and iconography of the scabbards, my research considers the effects of biases in past scholarship, as well as what insight can be gained from exploring the scabbards’ function and cultural implications. Past scholarship has been biased towards the idea that the Lisnacrogher Scabbards are derivative of the Yorkshire scabbard school, when in fact, their iconography hints at a complicated set of relationships between British, Irish, and continental Celts. Study of their iconography also lends insight to their possible function. The method of organizing the ornament by use of s-figures across the group of scabbards shows a cohesive school and helps provide evidence that these scabbards could have come from one aristocratic workshop. The Lisnacrogher Scabbards also reveal the lives of sword smiths, their patrons, and the workshops that created them. The findspot of the scabbards, when connected with themes from Celtic mythology and religion, support the idea that these objects may have had an association with Celtic river cults. Analyzing artifacts such as the Lisnacrogher Scabbards under current models of evaluating Iron Age Art helps to further our understanding of the La Tène and provides evidence of a society with an artistic tradition in its own right and cultural connections with both mainland Europe and Britain.
2:00pm Grace Robbins, Florida State University
A Lost Return: Examining the Capalbio Correspondences for Institutional Memory and Collection Management Practices
Archives are often perceived as stagnant record collections that only belong in museums and libraries. An archive’s function as evidence, however, supports its utility in preserving “institutional memory,” or the information about an institution’s history and culture through its members’ personal experiences and recollections. A well-preserved institutional memory prevents the risk of leaving long-term cases unresolved, long-term projects unfinished, and access to information delayed. The American Academy in Rome (AAR) and the American Numismatics Society (ANS) are two important institutions for cultural heritage research and preservation that maintain several archives spanning decades of both internal records and external research collections. Due to limited resources, the maintenance of research collections is prioritized, but not that of the institutional records, thus creating a gap in institutional memory. Such a gap plays an important role in a repatriation case involving both the AAR and the ANS. Nearly 70 years ago, an American archaeologist and AAR Prize Fellow Doris Taylor Bishop aimed to preserve and research an ancient Roman coin hoard, the Capalbio Hoard, by attempting to legally export it from Tuscany to the United States. Years later, after finding a publication on the hoard, Italian authorities alleged that the Superintendent of Antiquities did not permit their exportation, and subsequently asked for their return. What ensued was a multi-year endeavor to return the coins to Italy, however the coins remain in America at the ANS today. Members of both institutions cannot identify reasons for this lost return. By examining the Capalbio correspondences and interviewing members of both institutions, my research will produce a comprehensive narrative of the case. This analysis will explore not only the history of the legalities concerning the acquisition and exportation of Italian antiquities, but the issues surrounding unstandardized archival practices that result in the fragmented inheritance of institutions’ memories.
2:15pm Megan Johnson, George Washington University
Rediscovering the Roman Original in Archaistic Style
Ancient Roman originality has been questioned for more than two centuries, and the argument against it is still being perpetuated despite the growing amount of evidence that Romans created art in their own unique styles. Starting in the Renaissance and lasting through the late 18th century, both Greek and Roman art were highly prized for their beauty and antiquity, but distinctions between the two were largely ignored. In the 18th century, German art historian and archaeologist Johann Winckelmann argued that Roman art was a degenerate form of Classical Greek art. As such, he popularized the notion that Roman art, unless it portrayed specifically Roman historical events or leaders, was inevitably a copy of a Greek work, even if that work had yet to be discovered. Followers of Winckelmann even went so far as to coin the term Kopienkritik, which stipulated that the Ancient Romans copied Greek works to such precision that the Roman copies could be used as reliable evidence for reconstructing the Greek original. The idea still permeates modern scholarship about Ancient Roman art, with certain art historians using Ancient Roman statuary as a stand-in for Ancient Greek works and going so far as to claim that Roman artists plagiarized, and therefore were indebted to, the yet-to-be-identified Greek artists. In fact, the Romans did sometimes create copies of famous Greek works, but they more often adapted Greek styles into their own and, in doing so, they created art that was uniquely Roman. The archaistic style in Roman art provides a compelling starting point for deconstructing the notion of the “Roman copy” through its exaggerated blending of Archaic and Hellenistic Greek styles with traditional Roman artistic values.
2:30pm Zeeshan Hassan-Andoh, Brown University
The Eastern Arch: An Architectural Exploration of Regional Identity in Roman Gerasa
This presentation investigates the position of the eastern Roman provinces through the lens of architecture. It will focus on the Triumphal Arch of Hadrian (129–130 CE) at the Roman site of Gerasa located in modern-day Jordan. This monument presents an important case study to understand the relationship between Rome and its provinces during the second century CE. It is notable for combining the standardized form of the monumental archway—which had become intimately linked to Roman conquest in the prior centuries—with architectural features derived from the local Hellenistic tradition. I will show that the synthesis of these visual forms demonstrates the structure’s dual purpose within the context of Gerasa: it served to emphasize the new and uniquely Roman character of the city while simultaneously giving credence to local traditions.
Central to this presentation will be the ways in which the architectural intentions of the local elite—who constructed the arch in the emperor’s honor—constitute a notable visual manifestation of the Roman understanding of empire. Whereas the supplantation of the cultural and religious practices of conquered peoples was commonplace in the European empires of the early modern period, the Roman attitude towards conquest was relatively tolerant of foreign traditions. The empire—which by the time of Hadrian spanned the entirety of the Mediterranean basin—owed its rapid expansion to this characteristic flexibility regarding non-native practices and ideas. The Romans not only tolerated foreign religions and material culture, but routinely adopted them into its own cultural canon. This quality provided the ideological foundation for a complex bureaucratic structure and permitted the empire to maintain political stability despite its multi-ethnic and multi-religious character. This presentation will show how the case study of the Gerasa arch acts as a physicalization of this imperial model and will interrogate the relationship between architecture and politics in the ancient world.
2:45pm Laura Perlmutter, Brown University
Understanding Roman Artistic Practices and Culture Through Bronze
Ancient bronze statues are inherently tied with memory. As a metal alloy, bronze could easily be melted down and remade to form new objects to reduce the cost of obtaining new materials. As a result, few ancient bronzes remain intact, and most of the ones in our possession come from shipwrecks and burials. Bronze is also a material that readily oxidizes to form a protective green patina on its surface. This disconnection between the original aspect of ancient bronzes and their modern preservation, makes it difficult for a modern viewer to imagine the embellishments and details they once exhibited. However, the ways in which this transformation occurs reveal a great deal about a bronze’s lifetime. Holes and grasps once filled with accessories, gold traces, strategically placed multi-colored patinas, and breaks and fractures along joins all paint a picture of what a piece would have looked like when it was first created and how it was made. Dents, certain types of patinas, and the place of discovery, meanwhile allude to thousands of years of history. This paper explores several case studies of Roman bronzes, including a bust of the empress Julia Domna found near her home city in Syria and the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, among others. I will argue that the information found in bronzes today allows us to better understand important aspects of ancient sculptural manufacture and reception, including the uses of chemically induced patination, the combination of diverse media, ancient attitudes towards recycling, and the dynamic relationship between bronze and marble in ancient artistic production. These elements all work together to create a broader understanding of Roman bronzes in their original forms.
3:00pm Annika Reynolds, University of Virginia
Let’s Get Back to Reality: The Boston Goddess and the Quest for Authenticity
Much reevaluation has been necessary since the excavations of Arthur Evans on the island of Crete in the late 19th century and early 20th century. At the time, many archaeologists and scholars hastily dubbed Minoan finds as authentic. But as scholarship has become more precise and less biased, previously esteemed works like the chryselephantine statuette of the Boston Goddess, which “appeared” during that excavation, have been proven fake. The study of these excavations stirs up many questions: What is the role of authenticity? Why is authenticity overlooked? How is authenticity proved? Why is authenticity important? Through the case study of the Boston Goddess, this paper will demonstrate how the excavations seeking to experience the excitement of the Aegean world disregarded authenticity. Beginning with a formal analysis of the statuette, tracing its dubious past, and outlining the reasons for its inauthenticity, this paper will set the stage for a deeper examination of the concept of authenticity. The latter and more substantial part of this paper will concern the larger ideological implications of authenticity through the lens of the Boston Goddess. This exploration will prove that although the Boston Goddess is not an example of authentic Minoan art, it is nonetheless significant for what it reveals about three important dimensions of authenticity: accuracy, understanding, and ethics.
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4:00pm Sam Weinberg, Hampshire College
Mask Production: Feminist Artistic Expression in the Age of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic allowed artists to express themselves by using protective masks as a medium, a mode of expression which was particularly prevalent among American feminist artists during the first year of the pandemic. As museums and galleries shuttered in the spring of 2020, the art world lost a sense of self; as the pandemic necessitated that face masks be worn, individuals felt their own facial and emotional expressiveness being hindered. Despite these challenges, many established women artists turned ostensible limitations into artistic assets and faced these challenges head-on by using masks as a new medium, meant not just to be displayed but also to be worn.
From hand-painted masks to mass-produced ones, established feminist artists gave themselves and their patrons colorful substitutes for smiles and frowns. From the trompe-l’œil masks painted by Alexandra Rubinstein to the text-based masks designed by Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger to the abstract screen-printed masks made by Judy Chicago, these artists and several others addressed a growing social desire for art that acquiesced to the conditions of the pandemic while also allowing individuals to express themselves with more eye-catching and meaningful face coverings than a simple blue or black surgical mask. This paper explores these topics and more, asking: To what degree did these masks adhere to or diverge from these artists’ most recognizable works? To what degree did the political upheaval that the United States experienced during 2020 — from Black Lives Matter protests to the presidential election — impact how artists used masks to express themselves? How did artists effectively turn medical supplies into fine art? Which concepts inherent to second- and third-wave feminism are presented by the masks? What conclusions can be drawn about these artists’ larger œuvres after examining their pandemic-era art?
4:15pm Anna Wershbale, College of William and Mary
The Dream Vaccine: The Aesthetics of Eco-Escapism During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In the wake of the coronavirus lockdown in 2020, eco-escapist media thrived, exemplified by the popularity of the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the virality of the Cottagecore movement. This paper examines the art history of environmental utopianism and analyzes these two modern media manifestations of that ideology – evaluating the aestheticization of “nature” as a form of escapism in a contemporary context. From the Greco-Roman art of the Alexandrine expeditions to the emergence of American Romanticism in the 19th century to the 20th-century German pastoral landscapes fetishized by the Nazi party, a cycle emerges of societies producing art and historiographies that idealize “purity” in nature when faced with uncertain and unprecedented times. Animal Crossing utilizes visual elements of perspective and representational character design, perpetuating an unrealistic mindset that one is removed and above “nature” and of homo sapien superiority. Through an eco-critical, formal visual analysis of the game, this paper considers the potential for its environmental impact post-pandemic. Cottagecore, an online “aesthetic” phenomenon inspired by Impressionist style, seeks to erase 21st-century reality. The trend fails to address how humanity should attempt to blend modern technological and social advancements with sustainable practices. While Cottagecore has been heralded by WOC and LGBTQ+ creators, eco-fascists have also used it to recruit followers by romanticizing the narrative of “returning to simpler times.” This paper argues for expanding the canon of environmental art to include social media and video games, recognizing their stylistic and ideological debts to earlier art historical traditions.
4:30pm Mia Jackson, Florida State University
Digital Storytelling and User Experience in Online Exhibition Development
As of April 2020, the average user spends a quarter of their waking hours on their mobile device. And for millions, a large portion of that time is spent scrolling through social media. Where do museums fit, then, in a world with shrinking attention spans and ever-expanding media? How can museums engage visitors in ways that encourage learning and reflection, while also meeting their audience’s modern tastes for fast, digestible content? My project examines this issue from the perspective of online exhibition development and digital storytelling. It explores how exhibition narratives become more engaging and meaningful when they are made interactive, and when visitors are granted some degree of agency over a story. I plan to create an online exhibition that presents a single thematic narrative told twice—once with a linear structure, and once with interactive, non-linear features using ArcGIS StoryMaps by Esri. The narrative will be based on an interpretation of artwork from the late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, during the period of European contact and exchange with the Americas. Using a combination of user surveys and website analytics, my project will assess whether an exhibition narrative constructed with digital storytelling technology results in increased visitor engagement when compared with an online exhibition that relies on a linear thematic framework. It will also analyze the specific ways that visitors engage with an interactive narrative versus a chronological narrative. My project aims to investigate the potential uses of digital storytelling in online exhibitions, and their combined ability to create a unique museum experience that is accessible, inclusive, and engaging for a broad variety of museum visitors.
4:45pm Gabrielle Walker, George Mason University
Momentum and Memory on Monument Avenue
Monuments house visual and symbolic memory. Pivotal moments and historical figures are often monumentalized. They can create a distinct portrayal of a conventional value or social structure. However, beliefs can change. Over time, the establishment of a nation’s collective identity often requires an acknowledgement of problematic values that have shaped the present. Conversations surrounding the displacement of Confederate monuments have shifted significantly. Emerging discourse considers the resounding implications on the spaces and communities they impact. After its installation, Robert E. Lee Monument (1890) designed by Antonin Mercié, was shrouded in memory and celebration of the Confederacy. It represented a visual evocation of social structures that supported and validated white supremacy and systemic racism. For Black Americans, the monument served as an intimidating reminder of their disenfranchisement and unjust treatment. Simultaneously, this monument also emboldened activism and protest for civil rights and awareness from its installation in 1890 to its removal in 2021. Efforts to deinstall the Robert E. Lee Monument (1890) and other Confederate monuments ushered in new conversations about inclusive visions for Monument Avenue. This paradox of perceptions recurs throughout this paper. In this case, Monument Avenue does not just memorialize Confederate soldiers and events. It embodies an accepted tolerance of racist structures that characterized the Confederacy and justified unequal treatment of Black Americans. This paper explores motivating factors surrounding the Lost Cause, Civil Rights Movement, and Black Lives Matter Movement that have reshaped the conversation of this monument. The memory of the Robert E. Lee Monument represents a historiographic change from tolerance to widespread criticism of the monument’s significance in the community. Navigating these changes has sparked momentum for redefining Monument Avenue as a space that embodies the layered histories, diverse narratives, and collective character of Richmond, Virginia.
5:00pm Elizabeth McCarthy, University of Illinois at Chicago
Challenging Collective Memory: The Works of Zarina and Beverly Buchanan
Collective memory encompasses the shared memory, historical knowledge, and implicit values of a group. In his piece “Collective Memory and Cultural History: Problems of Method,” Alon Confino illustrates the value of framing history as a history of the collective memory. In this practice, the symbolic representations, cultural practices, and shared attitudes are all analyzed for their influence in creating the world today. By exploring collective memory, the connections between social, political, and cultural realities become evident. Collective memory is shaped by a society’s dominant group: the religious or ethnic majority, the country that won a war, and so forth. Although they came from different spheres of life experience, both Zarina Hashmi and Beverly Buchanan were artists who heavily identified with the “other”; that is, a member of a group that has little influence in the shaping of collective memory. Buchanan was a Black woman born in the year 1940 and raised in the Southern United States. Zarina was born in Aligarh, India, in 1937 and was displaced from her childhood home during the partition of India at a young age. Although vastly different in their stylistic approaches, both artists created works that challenged the collective memory, often by making personal histories public or by highlighting the malleable nature of memory itself.
5:15pm Frances Taylor, Dickinson College
Protests, Pandemics, and Public Space: Re-envisioning American History Through Abigail DeVille’s Light of Freedom
The decade following Trayvon Martin’s murder has exposed the Great American Paradox. American democracy has developed simultaneous to the institutionalization of systemic racism. This paradox is concealed by America’s most recognizable architectural forms, whose narratives foreground the triumph of whiteness, freedom, equality, and democracy. This study interrogates Light of Freedom, a work by contemporary artist Abigail DeVille in terms of its function as a counter-monument and a visual counternarrative of American history. Through her monumental public installation, DeVille examines American identity and civic architecture as it relates to the themes of freedom, memory, whiteness, and racial violence. Her works draw on the rhetorical power of American historical monuments to elucidate and legitimize histories defined by the absence of freedom and democracy. By forging visual connections between past, present, and future, DeVille reframes American history as an ongoing struggle for freedom and democracy. It is my argument that DeVille’s Light of Freedom is defined by a central tenet of engaging and thought-provoking counter-monuments, wherein viewers are positioned as inheritors of America’s past moral failures and citizens of America’s future. In DeVille’s work, it is through revisiting the past that viewers must reconsider their relationship to one another on a personal and systemic level.
5:30pm Faith Rush, University of Akron
The Mother Tongue? The Language of the Subconscious, Community, and Identity in the Art of Hank Willis Thomas
We have come to believe that each artist has an individual language. What is unique about the art practice of Hank Willis Thomas is his ability to speak three languages at once. One of them seeks expression of his identity as an African American artist, the other reaches us as a subconscious communication, and the third one reverberates as a communal, shared language in his participatory projects. This presentation will examine how these three languages weave together in Thomas’s art to create a distinct artistic voice. At the forefront of Hank Willis Thomas’s artworks, with sometimes overwhelming blatancy, is the voice of his own identity. In some of his most thought-provoking works, such as Strike, Pitch Blackness / Off-Whiteness, and Icarus. Thomas appropriates the hidden codes of slaves, the ability to code-switch or to use Ebonics to express the unspoken language of the microcosm of American society. In such series as Branded or After Identity, What?, Thomas seeks to make sense of the things that are perplexing and confusing, and, conversely, questions the issues that appear unproblematic and clear. In this modality of his artistic voice, he examines subliminal, subconscious messaging that is at work in publicity and branding. In doing so, he exposes the sexist, stereotypical and racially biased tactics that plague the advertising industry. Furthermore, Thomas develops yet another voice – a communal, shared language – that brings the viewers into the workspace and make them a part of the exhibition dialogue, an active presence in the gallery space. In his relational pieces, such as Truth Is…, For Freedoms or Question Bridge, Thomas forgoes his role as a creator and instead acts as a translator and facilitator who relies on participants to actualize these large multimedia compositions.
5:45pm Shania Laylor, William Patterson University
How Erotic Art Plays a Role in the Body Posi Movement
The topic of my talk is the role of erotic art in the body positive movement, inspired by an Instagram page called @fatarthistory. The page has a collection of different art media like paintings, sculpture and photography. The main models/subjects are bigger bodied/plus-size people. The page combined two things in my life: my interest in art and in seeing bigger bodies in art, since I am a plus-sized woman. Historically, there are not many positive portrayals of bodies like mine, and with the body positive (or body posi) movement, that is starting to change. Erotic art plays a part in that. With permission from the creator of @fatarthistory, I used it as a source for my research into how plus-size bodies are depicted in photography.
In my talk, I introduce the body positive movement, explain what it is, what it stands for, and how art – in this case erotic art – plays a part in it. Comparing the works of four contemporary artists, Namio Harukawa, George Grosz, Martha Nilsson Edelheit and Miah Flowers (they/them), I break down what it means to have art labeled as erotic and who labels it as such, addressing such topics as the male gaze, censorship, and reception theory. In comparing their work, I discuss how the portrayal of bigger bodies has become a part of the body positive movement.
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7:00pm Nathan Hosmer, Virginia Commonwealth University
An Assessment of the 2008 Conservation Project of the Rock-Hewn Churches at Lalibela by International Institutions and Possible Treatments for Future Adoption
There are eleven rock-hewn churches that are surrounded by the Northern Ethiopian town of Lalibela. The construction of these churches can be traced back to as early as the 9th century C.E. As a result of their long history and unique approach to construction, the churches have presented challenges to conservation. Only starting in the early 20th century did major conservation projects get introduced to address water infiltration via runoff and rainfall. The most recent and extensive conservation effort was executed by UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), ARCCH (The Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage), WHC (World Heritage Center), and ICOMO (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) in 2008. Research has shown that the international institutions’ conservation structure addressed rainfall as a concern but failed to address other key factors driving deterioration mainly water infiltration from runoff and biodegradation. Furthermore, from interviews with local clergy members relations with UNESCO and ARCHH are strained because of poor communication and disrespect for religious traditions. Thus, it raises the question of how effective the treatment executed really was? How can future conservation efforts for these churches be centered around the local community? I explored the impact of agents of deterioration that were not addressed by UNESCO and ARCCH on the churches. I examined the effectiveness of local conservation techniques historically used by the community on the churches. I investigated how water infiltration impacted the churches based on their rock type, basaltic scoria. As evidenced by the general lack of respect for the local religious traditions and the damage caused to one of the churches by the international organizations involved, any future conservation project should be directed by members of the local community.
7:15pm Emma Knaack, University of Indianapolis
Medieval Art: The Facilitator of Anti-Semitism
Until around 1000 CE, there was no differentiation between Jews and other people in Western Art. Soon enough, the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as Christianity, led to Christianity becoming a prominent topic within art. Thus, Christians needed to be able to show “that which is Christian” and “that which is not” and with already negative opinions of Jews, they were the easiest subjects for the category of “that which is not”. Three pieces of art that are important building blocks contributing to the rise of anti-Semitism in medieval times are “The Second Gospel Book of Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim” from 1015, “The Crucifixion and Brazen Serpent” from the Commentary of Psalms made in 1166, and “Receipt Roll of the Jews” found on an Exchequer Roll from 1233. These three art pieces introduced the iconography of the Jewish hat and nose and the beginnings of the Jewish caricature. Although some of these identifiers had no negative connotations at first and were simply ways to identify Jews, they allowed anti-Semitism to be shown in art since artists now had a way to separate Jews from other people. These icons were not only identifiers but also had origins that related them to evil and the devil and placed them within art that was used to blame Jews for the death of Jesus. Caricatures of Jewish people continue to circulate today and have an impact on anti-Semitic representations and violent acts in our society, giving great significance to these art pieces. This presentation will show how each of these artworks put in place these different anti-Semitic images and will dive into their origins.
7:30pm Joselyn Garcia, Hunter College
Cosimo's Monster: The Use of Monsterfication in the Rise of the Medici
This presentation uses monster theory to better understand the way Cosimo Il Vecchio de Medici had himself depicted in art, and how this in turn affected his rise to power. Due to the rise of humanism, classical mythology also rose in cultural relevance and became a part of implicit cultural knowledge alongside contemporary biblical knowledge. Cosimo and his supporters used mythology, both biblical and classical, to cast themselves in a heroic light, and with Cosimo depicting himself as the “center” of humanism, it is important to understand who is then pushed to the periphery and depicted as such. The common understanding of a myth would affect its artistic use, and its tacit assertions. Monster theory explores how mythical “monsters” are often a reflection of real threats, perceived or actual. In exploring both monster theory and the reception of classical myths during the time of Cosimo Il Vecchio, I seek to better understand the function of mythology in both Renaissance Florentine society and art. Specifically, I hope to identify what fears Cosimo was relying on and how they were shown in artwork. Since the meanings both differed from and referred to ancient understandings, I will also explore primary sources to better understand the myth’s evolution in associations and functions. By engaging with monster theory, primary sources, and key artworks, I hope to present a firmer understanding of the role of mythology in the rise of the Medici.
7:45pm Cecil Pulley, Oberlin College
Focusing Divinity in Filippino Lippi’s “Lamentation of Christ at the Tomb”
Filippino Lippi’s Lamentation of Christ at the Tomb (c. 1500, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin), a small pen and ink drawing made in preparation for Lippi’s Pietà painting (1500, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), presents an interpretation of the Lamentation that emphasizes Christ’s divinity rather than his human mortality at the moment of his burial. Diverging from other 15th- and 16th-century depictions of this subject that center Christ’s physical suffering, Lippi focuses instead on the triumph of divinity over death. Whereas other representations tend to express Christ’s humanity and the bodily nature of his Passion, Lippi encouraged viewers to approach Christ’s body with reverence rather than pity. Details within Lippi’s drawing— specifically the painted highlights on Christ’s body— suggest that although it was preparatory for a painting it may have served as a finished, devotional image in its own right. Interestingly, these details in the drawing which emphasize Christ’s divinity are omitted in the finished painting, which then conforms with the standard representation of the subject. Why did Lippi change his design, changes that fundamentally transform his representation of the subject? By situating the drawing in the context of spiritual trends in early 16th-century Italy, I will explore how and why Lippi challenged trends of his time by portraying the Lamentation with a focus on Christ’s divinity.
8:00pm Daniel Alan, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Dwarfism in the Renaissance: Nano Morgante as a Nude Spectacle for the Medici Court
My paper is about how the dwarf Nano Morgante was portrayed in three artworks: Agnolo Bronzino’s Portrait of Nano Morgante, Valerio Cioli’s Fontana del Bacchino, and Giambologna’s The Dwarf Morgante Riding a Sea Monster. All three artworks show Morgante in the nude in humorous, erotic, and heroic aspects. Dwarfism was not commonly depicted in Renaissance visual culture, and dwarfs were generally seen as monstrous in nature by society. Nano Morgante was the most famous dwarf from Florence, Italy in the mid 1500’s, which was a time of increased scientific understanding. However, knowledge of genetic causes of dwarfism was still limited at that time. Nano Morgante took advantage of his mysterious status to entertain the Medici court of Florence, the most powerful ruling dynasty in what is modern Tuscany. They gave him shelter and food in the Pitti Palace in Florence in exchange for entertainment. This paper examines how dwarfs were generally treated during the Renaissance as well as Nano Morgante’s noteworthy influence on art produced at the Medici court.
8:15pm Mackenzie McDonald, Alfred University
Ephemeral Fountains: the Grottos of Bernard Palissy
Bernard Palissy, born in either 1509 or 1510 near St. Avit, France, was a quintessential Renaissance man. He was a glass painter, potter, writer, naturalist, surveyor, scientist, agronomist, Huguenot, and the “inventor of rustic pottery to the king and queen mother.” Palissy was renowned for his vast knowledge on topics relating to the natural sciences, which is evident in his pottery. Palissy’s ceramics were most often lead-glazed earthenware platters and jugs depicting the flora and fauna of his native France. These plants and animals were lifecast, a process uniquely applied to ceramics by Palissy which yielded incredibly lifelike results. Palissy was commissioned to make two grottos during his life, the first for Constable Anne de Montmorency at the Château d’Ecouen in Val d’Oise, approximately 12 miles north of Paris, and the second for Catherine de Medici at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. The commission of Palissy to craft both grottos ultimately played an integral role in protecting Palissy from further persecution and imprisonment as a Huguenot in Catholic France.
Above all else Palissy was a devoted Huguenot. He was imprisoned several times for his religious beliefs, had his atelier and work destroyed, and ultimately died in prison. With Palissy’s fame as an artist came his dual celebrity as a kind of Protestant martyr or folk hero. It is unsurprising that Palissy has acquired such stardom as he exemplifies the notion of a Renaissance man who has surmounted much persecution. Palissy’s life has all the makings of a good story, including a tragic ending. The political climate of Palissy’s time prevented him from finishing what would have been his magnum opus. Palissy’s grottos would have been the opulent culmination of his life’s work displayed prominently in lavish gardens.
8:30pm Sydney Collins, Ohio State University
Francois Boucher’s “Fountain of Venus” and His Influences
Francois Boucher’s 1756 painting the Fountain of Venus looks unlike the other paintings he created during the 1750s. Boucher’s painting was left out of the catalogue raisonne and has no known patron of which to attribute the glaring differences. This paper examines the influences in Boucher’s life that potentially informed the work’s creation. These influences range from the company he kept, most of whom were thoroughly entrenched in the philosophical and courtly worlds, to the projects he worked on, like the illustrations in one of Rousseau’s books and an edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Often overlooked as frivolous and too sensual, as a Rococo artist, Boucher had myriad competencies that informed his art with great ingenuity and versatility. While no one influence fully explains why the Fountain of Venus differs from its contemporary works, the examination of several in tandem demonstrate the abundance of knowledge and skills Boucher possessed.
8:45pm Kayleigh Ross, SUNY Albany
A Case Study: The Development of Obstetrics in Eighteenth-Century Northern Europe Through Printed Medical Illustrations
The eighteenth century in Europe was a time of intellectual and cultural advancement, with new systems of thought rooted in observation. Medically, observable evidence and experimentation served to advance the understanding of how the body operated. During an age of curiosity, the growing professionalization of medicine, increasingly literate population, and the expansion of print culture into scientific learning created a market for the popularization of medical texts. Medical manuals often included illustrated prints, as these images were integral modes for learning and teaching. As the reproductive female body became included in the study of anatomy and appeared in medical manuals, it marked the gendered shift in the attitudes of childbirth from a female midwife dominated affair to a male medical professional one. With the medical professionalization of midwifery and obstetrics came the growing requirement for education and training, especially regarding instrumentation developments like the forceps and anatomical knowledge, including that of the pelvis. Through the medical texts and illustrations produced under three practitioners in Northern Europe, the developments within the field of obstetrics in the eighteenth century can be observed. The Dutch physician Hendrik van Deventer became the author of The Art of Midwifery Improv’d (1701), the Scottish physician William Smellie wrote A set of anatomical tables with explanations and an abridgment of the practice of midwifery with a view to illustrating a treatise on that subject and a collection of cases (1754), and the French midwife Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray published Abrégé de l’art des accouchements (1769). As such, the three medical texts and illustrations can serve as a case study of the sexual politics and cultural, geographic, religious, and temporal differences in the advancements of gynecology and obstetrics, especially in the conception of the pelvis and the application or elimination of forceps in practical procedure.
Day 3 – Sunday, April 10
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10:00am Kaitlin Balasaygun, Ramapo College of New Jersey
The Birth of Pictorial Journalism
Many of the modern capabilities of photography that consume our world can be credited to the development of pictorial journalism. In the late 1930s, World War II began and marked the start of six treacherous years of violence and despair. However, in the field of photography, this was a very prosperous period, as pictorial journalism was born. The act of photographing soldiers in battle became an extremely powerful practice that helped kickstart Life magazine, the first pictorial magazine, which has left an everlasting impact on our world and our contemporary understanding of photojournalism. Considered to be the first ever wartime photographer, Roger Fenton photographed the Crimean War in the 1850s, sparking a soon-to-be widespread practice of wartime photography that would eventually engulf American pop culture during WWII. As technological advancements took place in photography, the camera became better suited for capturing and printing wartime photographs by the time WWII began. This surge in wartime photography during WWII coincided with the growing popularity of Life magazine, as the two benefited from one another’s publicity. Sending out a magazine every week, Life informed readers as to what was happening overseas, documenting the variety of events that were occurring out on the battlefields. Providing a visual depiction of WWII also acted as a form of propaganda, encouraging patriotism amongst Americans as they were undergoing a terrifying time in history. Little did the staff at Life know that when they decided to send their photographers to capture the reality of WWII, they were going to create photographs that would leave an everlasting impact on American society, like Robert Capa’s D-Day and Margaret Bourke-White’s Female Welders at Work in a Steel Mill, Replacing Men Called to Duty During World War II.
10:15am Eliza Browning, Wheaton College
Collaging the Cultural Other: Hannah Hoch's Indian Dancer and the Postcolonial Gaze
This paper examines German Dadaist Hannah Hoch’s 1930 collage Indian Dancer within the context of her series From an Ethnographic Museum (1924-1934), which combines objects from European ethnographic museums with images sourced from the mass media. Situating the series within the tempestuous political climate of Weimar Germany and Hoch’s male-dominated milieu of Berlin Dadaists, I examine the origins of the image’s Bekom mask in its original cultural context, as well as the collage’s integration of images of silent film stars and kitchen utensils to produce a powerful feminist statement about the gendered roles of women in Weimar Society. Responding to earlier feminist criticism, I will situate this image within a postcolonial perspective to argue that this image furthermore both challenges and perpetuates racial stereotypes. While Hoch’s removal of the mask from its original ritual function and problematic equivocation of female and Black bodies appear to perpetuate thoughtless European appropriation of African art known as negrophilia, her critique of ethnographic museums serves as one of the earliest postcolonial feminist perspectives, making this collage a layered and fascinating glimpse into the turbulent artistic and political climate of interwar Germany.
10:30am Ella Nowicki, University of Cambridge
Ben Shahn’s Rejected Mural for Rikers Island Penitentiary, 1934-1935
In 1934-1935, social realist painters Ben Shahn and Lou Block planned a mural for the newly constructed Rikers Island Penitentiary. Funded by New York State and endorsed by reformist Corrections Commissioner Austin MacCormick, the mural contrasted crowded cells and corporal punishment on the east wall against reformed practices on the west wall, including recreation, education, and rehabilitative labor. The sketches were rejected by New York’s Municipal Art Commission as “anti-social propaganda” and “psychologically unfit” for prisoners. To defend their project, Shahn, Block, and MacCormick surveyed 62 incarcerated men for their opinions about the mural. The issues raised in these survey responses shed light on tensions within the mural and the project of reform. When read alongside prisoners’ experiences and opinions, Shahn’s images of prison labor point to the overlap between rehabilitation and punishment in early twentieth-century New York prisons. A whipping scene further showcases the slippage between activist art and racial violence as spectacle. Drawing from prisoners’ survey responses, this paper argues that Shahn’s planned mural simultaneously reinforced and contested the carceral state.
10:45am Laura Luo, College of William and Mary
Zao Wou-Ki: The Game of Ink
Art historians have always defined the French-Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki as a pioneer in breaking the limits of Chinese and Western artistic traditions. It is believed that he came to inhabit his given name, Wou-Ki (無極), meaning “no limits” in Chinese. The question of how Zao came to achieve such a state seems to have been overlooked, as scholars take Zao’s French-Chinese identity as a given. This essay turns to one of the most crucial moments in the development of Zao’s artistic style: his mid-career in the 1970s. During this period, Zao reconciled with Chinese ink painting after working only with oil painting for decades. Reconciling with the ancient medium of ink was not looking back into the past; instead, it opened the doors for Zao to explore a world of new artistic expressions. On the paper, Zao liberally explored artistic potentials of ink–the flexibility of the brush, the variety of the ink shades, and the painterly calligraphy were all experimented extensively to build Zao’s artistic vocabulary. He came to realize that the calligraphic lines coincide with strokes in Abstract Expressionist works, as they both translate artists’ gestures and movements particularly well. This research analyzes Zao’s ink on paper works in the 1970s to demonstrate that experiments with ink prompted him to examine the connection between Chinese ink and Western Abstract Expressionism.
11:00am Taylor Sarner, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Realism with Chinese Characteristics: The Everyday Perspectives of Post-Mao China
Following the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, China’s artists were faced with a predicament: crafting an artistic perspective while overcoming the exoticism inherent to China’s new international role. Following the turbulent years of the Cultural Revolution, China saw the birth of westernized art schools, independent filmmaking, and avant-garde literary movements. People were at greater liberty to embody the modern, western ideal of the artist, who analyzes society through honesty and vision, rather than ideological conformity.
The rest of the world, by extension, had become the audience to China’s new search for purpose. While some artists depicted China’s story through the CCP’s history, embodied in Zhang Xiaogang’s portraits of the Cultural Revolution, others rejected such images as representative of their experiences. Painters, such as Liu Xiaodong, and filmmakers, such as Jia Zhangke, turned instead to the lives of ordinary people, and the human experiences often neglected in both Chinese political life and the west. Chinese art, as Liu Xiaodong attempts to show, does not end in China; the prostitutes of Bangkok, whose portraits he captured in Jia’s film Dong (2006), are painted with a personality equal to that of the family life of a Mexican-American sheriff torn by his role at the Texan border. In breaking from both Maoist propaganda and oppositional politics, these artists have embodied a new approach to realism: a humanizing rendering of our society. The world does not look into a fetishized China; rather, they show history from the bottom up through the lens of contemporary China.
11:15am Hunter Parkhill, Middlebury College
Guston’s Golems: Redemption and Revelation in the Late Works of Philip Guston (1969 – 1980)
In September of 2020, a massive four-museum touring retrospective on Philip Guston, ironically entitled Philip Guston Now, was postponed due to fears surrounding protests and the racial justice movement occurring at this time. Philip Guston’s paintings were just as controversial in their own time as they are now due to the artist’s depictions of himself as a Klansman. For an artist who was a communist, leftist, Jew who had experienced Klan violence in his own lifetime, these works raise questions about allyship and artistic freedom. Despite good intentions, is this particular brand of confrontation appropriate? Or should Guston’s life work be censored and dismissed? The central question here is: How do we view Philip Guston’s works now?
In my paper, I explore the personal language of Guston and his sources, with the intention of understanding the artworks themselves while also considering the rapidly evolving discussions surrounding the interpretation and contextualization of Guston’s art. I propose that, to answer the question of whether Guston’s controversial paintings are still worthy of their places within the walls of revered institutions, one must first learn about the artworks themselves. If the provocative question is whether to “cancel” Guston, the work in this thesis is to proceed in a historical fashion to arrive at an answer, or non-answer. I investigate how Guston’s late works are, in a sense, reckoning with the trauma of our modern lives. Embedded in this recognition is an acknowledgement of the self as complicit within these systems. My presentation will be a brief historical and literary analysis of Guston’s oeuvre and source material. In this analysis, I suggest that perhaps the danger is not in looking at Philip Guston’s paintings, but in looking away.
11:30am Rayna Klugherz, Cornell University
The Artist’s Process: Understanding How Indigenous Knowledge Translates to New Media
This paper considers how contemporary Haudenosaunee artists translate customary or traditional knowledge to new media frameworks. Building upon recent research about the existing relationship between Indigenous communities and digital technologies and the development of the first Contemporary Haudenosaunee Art website, this paper privileges the artist’s voice in new media artworks. In dialogue with Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga) and Waylon Wilson (Tuscarora), this paper considers the components that migrate cultural knowledge from oral or written text to digital media. Some questions considered in these interviews include: Is there a larger conversation about your cultural heritage that you hope to incite or contribute to? How do you see a video game such as Čá··hu!, extending the discussion about customary knowledge in ways that other media cannot? Is there any cultural concept that you have struggled to or cannot convey through new media in comparison to traditional Haudenosaunee art forms? Has the combination of customary knowledge with new media been met with any support or criticism in your community?
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1:00pm Alina Husain, Vanderbilt University
Ethical Collecting during the Gilded Ages: The Vanderbilt and Sackler Families
The Gilded Age was characterized by the rise of a small group of elite families into massive wealth and power. Similar to the modern-day second Gilded Age, the period saw newly influential families attempt to increase their cultural capital and social importance through artistic and philanthropic patronage. The Vanderbilt and Sackler families, from the first and second Gilded Age respectively, are critical examples of new business leaders who utilized patronage as a vehicle to increase their importance and shape their reputations. As this research will explore, patronage served as a powerful mechanism for self-fashioning one’s image and was often used to overshadow public discourse about a family’s unethical corporate endeavors. Both the first and second Gilded Age were periods plagued by issues of predatory business practices and abuse of power by wealthy elites, however concerns about enterprise have largely been kept separate from a family’s social and cultural role. The goal of this research is to analyze the patronage of the Vanderbilt and Sackler families within the broader context of their business practices. By evaluating how each family’s art collection was influenced by or juxtaposed with the sources of their wealth, a more meaningful understanding of the role of morality within patronage emerges. Furthermore, it assesses how patronage has been used historically to self-fashion the public image of elite families. Through the analysis of specific objects within each family’s collection, this research shows that both families frequently used patronage to create a positive image for themselves that was distinct from the role they played internally within their businesses. As a result, there is a need for patronage to be contextualized within moral and ethical questions about the patron’s wealth and for a shift towards greater institutional accountability.
1:15pm Michael Parks, Brooklyn College
“So Purely Emotional”: Simeon Solomon’s Works after 1873
Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) was recognized in his early life as a genius up-and-coming painter in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but his works created after 1873, when he was arrested for partaking in same-sex sexual acts, have a different reputation. Solomon’s life and art after 1873, due to Victorian-era Homophobia, was shrouded in controversy and rumors. These old values still impact how his later work is viewed today where they are either ignored or outright disparaged. As a result, while there is an abundance of research on Solomon’s widely celebrated earlier career, there is a noted dearth of research into his post-1873 career. This study tackles this issue, as in spite of the commonly negative perception when Solomon’s late works are actually studied, it can be found that the emotional and moving qualities of his earlier works are not only present but amplified in the second half of his oeuvre where he challenged himself in painting complex ideas of love, pain, and beauty, elements which intensify the Pre-Raphaelite qualities of his work and make him truly unique against his peers. This is presented by comparing Solomon’s earlier works to those post-1873, in addition to the work of his contemporaries. These comparisons are made while considering how the context of Solomon’s circumstances impacted the formal attributes of his works. The result is the acknowledgement of the importance of these paintings and drawings to Solomon’s larger oeuvre, as well as to the study of the late Pre-Raphaelite movement as whole.
1:30pm Natalie Duke, Virginia Commonwealth University
Queer Female Expression in Domestic Spaces of the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries
In my paper, I examine interior decoration choices as expressions of queerness and women’s resistance to expected gender roles, especially female domesticity. During this period in the United States and England, middle class women were regulated to domestic roles and often confined to the home as housewife or mother. A commonly-held attitude of the time dictated that, if left unchecked, women’s supposed lasciviousness would lead to the breakdown of both the family institution and social unity. By extension, the way a woman decorated her family’s house was regarded as a reflection of their status and togetherness. According to home economists, if a wife chose austere, plain wallpaper, then both she and her family would maintain respectability and peace; if she chose a wallpaper, perhaps a tad flashy, that she liked, then her irresponsible behavior would negatively impact her family.
In this way, home decor and wallpaper choice were simply another way for women to be denigrated and subjugated. Women who chose to keep their ostentatious, floral wallpaper, despite guidance towards modest, simple decor outlined in ladies’ journals, dismissed concerns that their design choices would negatively impact their families and instead decided to decorate their space to their tastes. This transgressive act resisted popular thought which would denounce them as selfish harlots and instead affirmed these women’s identities as independent individuals. I argue that some of these women chose and maintained socially unacceptable decor as a way of expressing their equally socially unacceptable identities, such as queerness. I do so by briefly surveying the history of wallpaper and its advertisements targeting women, analyzing Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and examining the homes and decorating practices of Elizabeth Perkins and the couple Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper.
1:45pm Duomi (Amy) Chen, Brandeis University
The Representation of Androgyne and Hermaphrodite in Late Nineteenth-Century European Art
Among the literature of European art in the late nineteenth century, little scholarly attention has been attributed to the visual representation of androgyny, figures with psychological and/or biological traits of both male and female. With its historical root in ancient Greco-Roman culture, androgynous figures formulated by Symbolist painters in the modern period take on new meaning and historical significance. To explore the subject, my thesis examines the androgynous figures in the art of Belgian painter Fernand Khnopff and the British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, with a specific focus on their influence on the outlook towards gender expression and understanding of human nature. Nineteenth-century Europe was imbued with an existential dread that humans would be eliminated by the ruthless Nature based on the Darwinian principle of “the survival of the fittest.” The fear that “deviant,” or nonbinary, sexuality would threaten the continuity of humans led to severe sexual policing. As I argued in my paper, in response to the artificial rules humans set upon and against themselves, Khnopff and Beardsley reimagine androgynous bodies in their pictorial space to challenge materialism, social hierarchy, and gender tyranny in their era. Their sexually ambiguous figures defy strict definition and categorization, posing as provocative outliers that frustrated the bourgeois viewers who desperately sought to maintain a clear distinction of gender and thus social order. Khnopff’s and Beardsley’s androgyne, although bearing nuanced differences of meaning and assuming distinct visual forms, confront social and gender hierarchy, paving the foundation of a society that tolerates and recognizes diversity.
2:00pm Ash Towry, Columbus College of Art and Design
The Cowboy Chronicles: The Cultural, the Kitsch, and the Camp
My paper discusses the chronology of the image of the cowboy as a masculine ideal from the 1950s into the 1980s. In taking on cultural, consumerist, and queer lenses, I examine the totality of the cowboy’s image during that time, analyzing his origins, his entrance into the marketplace, and his gay appropriation. Beginning with the fall of the image of the soldier as the masculine ideal during the Vietnam War, the image of the cowboy was celebrated through Hollywood movies that championed cultural figures such as Wyatt Earp. As the image of the cowboy was brought into public spheres through movies and other cultural phenomena, his image was made marketable through a kitschification process. To appeal to an impressionable American consumer, distinct characteristics were emphasized during this process, as exemplified through Lone Ranger merchandise. With specific masculine qualities now associated with the cowboy, gay men began to appropriate his image to embody his hyper-masculine characteristics to regain a sense of masculinity within a society that deemed them overtly feminine. Because of the cowboy’s associations with American conservatism and traditional masculinity, tracing these origins and connecting them with marginalized groups, such as gay men, demonstrates the complex nature of a distinctive trope in American visual culture.
2:15pm Emma Schaeffer, Colgate University
Inverting the Interstice: Black American Feminist Artists Since 1970
The art historical canon has long been venerated as the institution to which all artists should and do strive for inclusion, despite its historical insufficiency in representing demographics and perspectives other than predominantly white and male ones. In response, with the rise of Second Wave Feminism in the 1960s and 70s, art historical narratives began to include art that was distinctly and identifiably from a female perspective, but which was also often built on essentializing principles of heteronormative femininity, and additionally, displayed an overt blindness to black female artists despite the strong presence of black artists overall in the art world during this time. Most often, this negation of black women in the canon is attributed to blatant racism. In response, this paper reinvestigates the canonical absence of black feminist artists such as Betye Saar and Senga Nengudi by centralizing their own agency in this changing dynamic. Situating works and artists from two black feminist exhibitions, Sapphire Show (1970) and Black Mirror (1973) in comparison to a canonical white feminist exhibition Womanhouse (1972), as well as investigating the equally weight-bearing retrospectives, Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2008), Modern Women (2010), and Sapphire, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! (2021), this paper aims to engage with these moments of power construction. With critical frameworks borrowed from Hortense J. Spillers, Caroline Wallace, Michele Wallace, and Huey Copeland, this paper subverts the art historical narrative that continues to perpetuate the centrality of the canon in these and other feminist practices, with the main critical intervention revealing that the absence of black women is more complex than the uncomplicated culture of racism. By further examining black feminist artists’ activity and presence in the Los Angeles and New York art scene between since 1970, my analysis allows for a more comprehensive look into the interstitial spaces of the art world as spaces of intentionality and agency.
2:30pm Jennifer Weiss, James Madison University
The Intersection of Geology and Art History: How Art Historians Used Geological Theory to Improve Their Methodological Approaches
Geology has been connected to art since the first cave drawings were drawn on the surface of rocks using pigments from the weathering of earth materials thousands of years ago. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when both geology and art history began to establish themselves as disciplines and solidify their methodologies, academics within each field noticed the similarities in styles and began incorporating them into their own approaches to research. Geologists began to include artistic renderings of rock outcrops and visual details; and art historians began to borrow scientific concepts from geology and incorporate them into their theory. Art historians such as Giovanni Morelli, Aby Warburg, Walter Benjamin, Heinrich Wolfflin, and Erwin Panofsky utilized metaphors borrowed from geologic concepts to explain the central ideas of their methods and theories. They explored the ideas of stratigraphy, fossilization, and crystalline form to better understand how art can find its place in a cultural setting. Both disciplines, investigate the visual and contextual details of past artifacts to gain insight into the environment/culture of a past time period. As a result, they utilize similar methodologies and investigative techniques to better understand the world around them. Despite studying wildly different topics, the similarities between these two disciplines can illuminate the connection between the humanities and the sciences, revealing the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach and encourage future art historians to change their perspective, practice this methodology, and think differently about art and culture.
2:45pm Amelia Showers, Colgate University
Present Presence: An "Intimate Spectatorship" Beyond the Parangoles
This paper reviews the genesis of the term “intimate spectatorship”, as originally offered by Anna Dezeuze in relation to Hélio Oiticica’s Parangolés, particularly as it engages with performances of identity, self-reflexivity, and the temporal dimension. This concept of intimate spectatorship can be redefined and expanded through the lens of later one-to-one performance artworks, such as Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece and Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, and through a review of the term’s usage in contemporary theater scholarship, particularly the work of Rachel Zerihan. Through a reconsideration of the term, its application and analysis, intimate spectatorship becomes two-fold: on the one hand, continuing to express the properties which Dezeuze astutely noted, and on the other, evolving to rely upon on the specific, shared cultural and contextual buy-ins necessitated by the encounter between artist and viewer-participant. From here, the term’s original attachment to the Parangolés’ objecthood shifts toward reliance upon the mutual co-presence of viewer-participant and artist. This redefinition is essential, as it yields language to encapsulate an interiority and an integral conceptual thread within particular performance artworks, and therefore necessitates the preservation of intimate spectatorship as a principal concern of successive exhibition strategies. This compounded perception will remain salient moving forward, as display methods for performance artworks such as archival video and photograph projections become more ubiquitous in museum spaces whilst the artists themselves age, refuting the trend toward infiltrating technologies in favor of live (re)performance.
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4:00pm River Berry, Columbus College of Art and Design
Crafting Identity: Contemporary Craft Arts through Feminist Lenses
The craft arts have existed for centuries before they entered our contemporary gallery spaces and museums. Many of these mediums have rich traditions that are still being practiced today. Despite facing discrimination on numerous levels craft artists have persisted. The artists I will discuss in my research blur the lines between fine arts and craft worlds. As craft objects they are reminiscent of the domestic space while being shown in museums and galleries gives these objects a very dynamic life. These works become physical manifestations of women’s empowerment and progress. Feminist artists use myriad techniques and mediums to uplift their communities through their continued use of traditional crafts to explore and often subvert concepts of domesticity, womanhood, and “women’s work”. Contemporary intersectional feminism gives space to many different perspectives and experiences. These ideals and others are expanded upon in Postmodernist theories of art and feminisms. I will discuss the works of artists like Maya Vivas and Natalie Baxter and how they challenge traditional forms through combining craft practice and the body. As well as works by Faith Ringgold and Amina Robinson who express their experiences as black women through craft and painting with an emphasis on supporting their communities. These contemporary craft artists pursue innovative ways of using craft materials to explore their unique perspectives. An analysis of these works and related theories will be accompanied by a curatorial project which includes several pieces by the artists discussed previously. This portion of the project will explore how these artworks come together to reflect the subtleties of contemporary craft and examine their complexities as a group.
4:15pm Julia Hub, American University
Female Printmakers in the Early Modern Era
Early female printmakers have long received little attention or study within the field of art history. While printmaking and artists who engaged in printmaking is a well-studied topic in current scholarship, the full scope of the subject is lacking an analysis of exactly how women participated in printmaking processes. Although understudied, the topic presents an opportunity for a greater understanding of not only women printmakers but how women were able to become artists, their social interactions, and the overall unique possibilities afforded by printmaking. The existing scholarship on female printmakers shows pioneering research on the lives and work of several printmakers, while also contextualizing how they fit into the culture of the workshop and their impact within the printmaking world. This paper delves further into the topic of early female printmakers, recognizing their contributions and situating them within printmaking as artists and as entrepreneurs. In particular, it analyzes how women printmakers navigated a male-dominated world by balancing artistic skill alongside entrepreneurial awareness in order to achieve individual success while operating in the collaborative enterprise of the workshop. It will argue that women printmakers were fully aware of the socially restrictive worlds that they lived in, and thus made shrewd, conscious decisions to navigate the social structure to further their own careers, reflecting an agile and leveraged approach to their craft in the social climate of the time. This paper will operate as both an analysis and survey. The first half of the paper details the place of women within the print workshop including their role and the adaptations that were required of them to conform to the patriarchal system of the workshop. It will examine the context for women printmakers, and how women operated as artists and businesswoman to advance their careers. To fully analyze the ideas that are considered in the first part of the paper, the second half will survey the work and actions of several female printmakers both to exemplify how they succeeded and to highlight under-appreciated women who had notable skills and accomplishments. The point is not simply to discuss women printmakers who have not often been included in printmaking discourse, but rather to understand the artistic environment that they worked in and social structures that affected them and their work.
4:30pm Tara Vasanth, College of William and Mary
The Riveting Prophet: Realizing the Significance of Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter
In this paper, I evaluate several art historical interpretations of Norman Rockwell’s 1943 oil painting Rosie the Riveter and synthesize these distinct analyses to formulate a comprehensive critique of the scholarship that the work has prompted. Examination of the literature regarding this painting illustrates a variety of approaches that have social and cultural applications. First, I review different scholars’ assessments of Rosie the Riveter that are imbued with the issue of gender, paying particular attention to the changing role of women in American society during and after the production of the painting. Additionally, I discuss how each author framed his/her paper and gauge the persuasiveness of his/her argument. I then compare these analogous pieces to construct a thorough exposition of this method. Secondly, I address the academic writings that reveal ways in which Rosie the Riveter embodies the cultural and political climate of America during the 20th century. I consider how intellectuals compile and invoke their sources in their research to present a more compelling position. This section of the paper touches upon concepts of spectatorship, iconography, and propaganda. Inspection of these themes broadens the scope of Rockwell’s potent composition, demonstrating how the conception and characterization of Rosie the Riveter signified a profound shift in the collective consciousness of the American people. Lastly, I reiterate the general strengths and shortcomings of each art historical explication included in my paper. I then explain which method (or combination of methods) I find most suitable when viewing Rockwell’s work and why. By offering a scrupulous appraisal of Rosie the Riveter, underpinned by various scholarly articles and journals, I hope the sheer brilliance of this piece can be better appreciated.
4:45pm Beatrice Wright, Temple University
Capturing Russia’s Silver Age Icon Through the Kaleidoscope of the Avant Garde
Anna Akhmatova was a prominent Russian Silver Age poet and worked through the first half of the 20th century. One of her many talented friends was Nathan Altman, a Ukrainian artist affiliated with the Nordic Avant Garde, a movement of creatives across Northern Europe whose work criticized institutions of wealth, power, and knowledge that benefited only a small portion of the population. In 1914 Altman painted a portrait of Akhmatova called Portrait of Anna Akhmatova done in a mixed figural and Cubist style. At this time Russia was nearing the end of its Silver Age, an era defined by a bourgeoisie class who demonstrated their status through glamorous clothing and indulgent lifestyles as well as an interest in the classical. The friction between the Nordic Avant Garde and the Silver Age can be seen in the Cubist elements of sharp edges and lines, as well as an overall geometry that Altman explored within his painting Portrait of Anna Akhmatova. The contrasting colors used in building these shapes further emphasizes the tension within the painting. Altman in this work pushed against and grappled with the sitter who was tied to an institution of financial exclusivity through her work and the status it granted. Altman opposed this institution as he had been personally affected by it growing up in a poor Jewish family. Portrait of Anna Akhmatova straddles the boundaries between the Silver Age grandeur and Avant Garde aspirations of political and social change. Capturing this Silver Age icon in a Cubist style was a moment of transition for Russia into an era when the common person wished for closed wealth divisions, the establishment of religious freedom, and abolition of the monarchy.
5:00pm Liana Salazar, La Salle University
Louise Bourgeois: The (Sur)Reality of Motherhood
Surrealism was one of the major art movements of the early twentieth century and took heavy influence from the emerging psychoanalysis, philosophies, and the political landscape of the time. Surrealism rejected reality and focused on unlocking the imagination through dreams and the unconscious, which they believed were an authentic voice to one’s inner voice and impulses. The interest in the unconscious was inspired by studies of psychoanalysis. Louise Bourgeois was interested in how one’s childhood would affect them as an adult and struggled with being a housewife when she moved to the states.
Throughout art history, representations of motherhood were often a vehicle for the patriarchy to subjugate women and deny them individuality in the name of the family. The Virgin Mary’s role in Jesus’s life is rather limited. She was simply a passive figure who was pregnant with Christ and from the sidelines, unable to stop her from seeing her child grow into humanity’s sacrificial lamb.
5:15pm Kyle Maurer, Virginia Commonwealth University
Absurd Modernity: Eva Hesse and Post-structuralism
In my paper, I argue that Eva Hesse is a pivotal figure in the transition of Minimalist art to post-Minimalist strategies in the modernist canon. Her artistic investigations into the absurd sought to continue to undermine the categories of painting and sculpture which Minimalism had started to unpack. However, in a theoretical dimension, her work forged new grounds. Whereas Merleau-Ponty’s Structuralism provided the conceptual backing for Minimalism, Hesse would break from these unitary understandings. Merleau-Ponty’s theory posits a clear line between a perceiving subject and object, of which there are regular and codified relationships. Instead, Hesse layers subject and object between and within the work itself, deconstructing these once stable definitions. Writers in the late 60s, like Gilles Deleuze, Theodore Adorno, and many others, were championing this post-structuralist methodology. Hesse’s art is one of the first to posit a Postmodern view of art, that championed plurality, and paved the way for new methodologies of looking and thinking of art.
5:30pm Anya Thompson, California State University at Sacramento
The Art of Death: A Look Into the Lost Seventeenth-Century Baroque Polish Art of the Portret Trumienny – Coffin Portraits
Over the past decade, scholarship on coffin portraits from the early-modern period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has flourished, with much of the attention being paid to the identity of the portrait’s subjects, the patronage of the portraits, and the cultural importance the portraits played in society. Scholars such as Mariola Flis and Aleksandra Koutny-Jones have focused their research on szlachta nobleman and the importance of coffin portraits in funeral practices. However, while their research is thorough and groundbreaking, it is extremely limited to only the szlachta noblemen. Using previous scholarship on coffin portraits as well as scholarship about women in Polish society, such as Lynn Lubamersky’s The ‘Wild Woman’ in the Culture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, I will show that women played a more significant role in Polish society, a role that can be seen symbolically through Coffin Portraits. First, I show the important role of women in Polish society as shown using the Wild Woman archetype, which can be seen symbolically through material adornments of the female portrait subjects. Second, I prove that the idolization of biblical female figures and their respective Marian cults can be seen symbolically through use of head coverings. Lastly, I explain the rights of women in Polish society can be seen in the posture and stare of the subjects. My goal is to show that new analyses can be found using previously established scholarship in the field.
5:45pm Henne Van Campen, Smith College
Warhol’s Details of Renaissance Paintings: The Ictus of Iconophilia
My talk utilizes Andy Warhol’s series, Details of Renaissance Paintings, as a basis to discuss his late imitative works that invite discussion of art capitalism and religious works. The four quadtych pieces are simple recreations of four major 15th century works, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, da Vinci’s The Annunciation, Francesca’s Madonna de Duca Montefeltro, and Uccello’s St. George and the Dragon. The extreme changes that are made to the pieces, like color-shifting and cropping, will be discussed through Ingold & Hallam’s arguments of social improvisation and imitation. The talk will draw from broader art historical evidence which discusses genius and originality within pop-art. Since the Details of Renaissance Paintings were created after Warhol’s early critiques of consumer culture, they function as a parallel in relation to the high art world in which he was now immersed. Warhol’s own perspective as a Catholic will be shown to be a basis for the iconophilic nature of these pieces, which simplify all the pieces to just their icons. Limited discussion of Warhol’s social commentary on feminism and the civil rights movement will also help to display how he deliberately recreated and aggrandized Christian icons to act as a radical anti-capitalist critique of the modern art world he was adored by.