Undergraduate Research

Scholarly work being done by our students

Undergraduate Research (UR) is self-directed or -designed academic work by an individual student or team of students that addresses a research question with the expectation of a scholarly or creative product intended for publication or presentation on or off campus. Students undertake this work with a faculty mentor for at least one academic term or intensive summer, through which students learn and assume their roles as researchers and creators.

 

Spring 2016 Studio Art Abstracts

Shanna G. Blake, Shape of the Heart and the Mystery of Meaning

The human heart is far more than a blood pumping organ. It is the source of life’s vitality, and the institute of feeling, thought, and even memory. The heart shape is necessary to generate reason in an observer. Heart ideograms are especially vital to religions such as ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and more. Many religions use both the imagery and the existence of the physical heart to represent emotional and spiritual qualities. The iconological symbol of the heart that we have today originated and developed in the late Middle Ages. Renaissance artists established the now widely used “heart shape” while the intertwining of religious virtuosities and romantic love developed “heart metaphors”. The significant connotation of the heart is to serve as an empty vessel to be filled with love; romantic and spiritual. Through the symbolic nature of the heart, the audience becomes fascinated with a feeling that transcends life and when depicted properly can leave an impression of vicarious grandeur. Through my art and research I explore these spiritual and metaphorical qualities by manipulating wood and various other materials to make unique sculptural pieces that can profoundly portray the assorted conditions of the human heart. Allegories such as the romantic, wounded, broken, inflamed, and winged hearts are just a few ideas I reference in my own body of work through carving, casting, and employing a variety of mediums.
Fri 1:00pm-1:20pm Owen 101

Jesse Hinson, Grieving in Art

Dealing with the unexpected death of a close family member is, in many ways, incredibly traumatic. While experiences vary from person to person it is not uncommon for many to feel immense and overwhelming feelings of guilt, fear, anger, and anxiety; as well as, resentment towards other family members and questioning one’s personal faith or spirituality. With this body of work I hope to portray those same feelings of grief experienced by families that lose others unexpectedly, specifically those that lose children. By creating bold and photo realistic prints of baby dolls, and other child-like imagery, I hope that the viewer will in some ways be able to walk away feeling some of those same emotions. However, to counter act that, these images will be printed onto hand dyed fabrics or incorporated into fabric crafts so that something loving, caring, and warm can balance out the more negative emotions. With this research I hope to better understand how these emotions manifest in others and how people learn and grow to deal with them. By producing works that directly correlate with these experiences and combining them with things that feel more like labors of love, this research will help provide a more thoughtful process and portfolio.
Fri 2:40pm-3:00pm Owen 102

Max Killion, Reverse Tarot: A Representation of Extreme Negative Thinking

Individuals with self-loathing mentalities trap themselves in a vicious cycle of self-fulfilled prophecies that inhibit their ability to see their world rationally. Because someone with distorted logic will only see what they want; if what they want to see is their own devastation, then they will find a way to confirm it for themselves. This series of graphite drawings visually explores the extent to which these people forcibly infer negative connotations to support a belief of their own self-deprecation. Using tarot cards as a vehicle for this idea, the artist takes the original cards' meanings and distorts the information to an extreme caricature skewed towards the macabre. Research on the topic presented in this paper explores why this phenomenon occurs, and by extension what allows it to cycle into itself. The resulting artwork presents this pitfall of pessimism by being intentionally ignorant of each individual piece of the tarot cards' favorable outlooks. Throughout the series, a transition is communicated of this phenomenon, growing more extreme and twisted as a portrayal of this diseased thinking swallows the individual's sense of logic and reality, and shows the cynic's twisted interpretation of what fate they pull toward themselves. Influences are taken from contemporary Polish painter Zdziszlaw Beksinski for his surrealist representations of figures and their environment and Austrian painter Gustav Klimt for his use of patterning and metal leaf. Friday 1:40-2:00 pm OH 101

Marisa Mahathey, Experiencing the Connection: A Ceramic Exploration of One

The word “one” is representative of wholeness and unity. One is the source of all numbers and an image for divine unity. Through transitioning of beliefs from childhood to adulthood, growing up in a Christian household and searching beyond those teachings, Experiencing the Connection discovers the importance of unity by exploring religion and personal truth. The sense of oneness and interconnection has become a personal truth, the essential belief, and symbolizes the series. An inherent intimacy is formed when creating with clay; a potter creates simply with their hands, using no other tool. Working on the potter’s wheel is a conversation, one must not only speak to the clay by guiding it into the shape desired, but one must also listen; being aware of and open to what the clay is saying and then reacting to that is the most important aspect of throwing. The metaphorical conversation that a potter has with clay during the creation process can then be “heard” when viewing a handmade pot. The pot will reveal qualities about the potter: preferences, care, and even imperfections. The immediate intimacy and connection between the clay and the potter provide the foundation for the conversation that produced this series. Through the crafting of jars, unity is created. The jar form has the added component of the lid, creating an essential need for two pieces to fit together. To add further communication between the lid and jar, complementary designs, are carved to be aesthetically pleasing on their own, yet are more powerful when stacked upon or placed with other jars. The unity is then multiplied from one jar and lid to an entire stack or family of jars, making the visual experience, or conversation, more meaningful.

Fri 3:00pm-3:20pm Owen 102

Kristin Sorenson, The Past 5 Years: Using Art as Empathy Practice

The Past 5 Years addresses the ability of evoking an emotional response through drawings and the importance of regularly practicing empathy. This collection of drawings focus on what a person does when they experience loss: how they move their body, what they do with their hands, the words they say, and the objects they touch. The Past 5 Years investigates a family’s response to a sibling’s disappearance and subsequent return. Synthesis of representational figurative drawings and words recreates an intimate moment of candid emotion. The words throughout these pieces represent the conversations, journal entries, and prayers that coincide with these sensitive moments. The recognizable gestures, portrayed in this collection of charcoal drawings, give the viewer the ability to empathize with the drawings. Extensive research on the subject of empathy and its effects generated several different methods to practice empathy, and evoke this feeling. Some of which included, listening to another’s experience, sharing personal stories. This body of work questions how art can be used to help someone become more empathetic as well as the social and personal benefits of empathy.

Friday 2:20-1:40 pm 101

Christine Ashley Thomas, Reclamation of Self Through Form: Making the Internal, External

Making the internal, external—through art—is a path towards truth, acceptance, and enlightenment. In the series, Reclamation of Self through Form, figurative clay sculpture is the vehicle of this message. In the aftermath of being raped and the dissociation caused by it, sculpting forms with clay is a visceral manifestation of the healing process. The relationship and tension between the female form and nature-inspired abstractions expresses that which is experienced on an internal level. Creating ceramic sculptures is symbolic of reclaiming the physical body and exploring the internal: subconscious memories, thoughts, and emotions related to such a traumatic event. The abstractions of the sculpted female shell represent an interpretation of the soul or the mind, which tends to be more complex and mysterious. A psychological metamorphosis is shown in the destructive manipulation of the clay body, which leaves a space for new growth. The connection between the figure and these abstracted forms holds a deeper meaning related to the internal state of things. This is also seen in Ana Mendieta, Maria Martins, and Sophie Kahn’s use of the human figure in some aspect in their artwork, even though the mediums are different. Making the internal, external—through art—is a visual representation and form of communication to bring more understanding for the artist and the viewer.

Friday 12:20-12:40 pm OH 101

Kevin Watson, The Mad King's Caernival: World-Building as Artistic Practice

Often seen as fantasy, imaginary worlds have a profound connection to the real world. Indeed, it is in the imagination that we wrestle with the religious, moral, and ontological worlds that define subjective experiences. Imaginary worlds, therefore, are just as potent, and, arguably, just as “real” as the real world, and are created through a process known as world-building. Many creators use these worlds as socio-political, religious, and philosophical thought experiments to describe specific world-views, which in turn uphold or challenge standing perceptions of the “real” world. In order to understand these differing conceptions of world, this body of research explores the creative act of world-building by constructing an imaginary world, The Mad King’s Caernival, through an innovative combination of both traditional and digital media. Following Mikhail Bakhtin’s ideas of the carnivalesque, the world of the Caernival reveres the grotesque, and idealizes bodies that challenge hegemonic standards of “normal”. Thus, these Caernival bodies express and embody moral perspectives of right and wrong/good or bad that challenge normal, ontological conceptions of what a body is, does, and is supposed to be. In this way, the research project not only acts as a world-building exercise, it also critiques real world values and expectations about the human body.
Friday 12:40-1:00 pm Owen 101

Spring 2016 Art History Abstracts

Hannah Wiepke
Curating Community

Society often regards those with disabilities to be less capable of having creative capacities and social relationships. Open Hearts Art Center (OHAC) a non-profit organization in Asheville, North Carolina seeks to change that perception and empower individuals with intellectual disabilities to create works of art. Established in 2005, OHAC serves forty-five artists in the Western North Carolina region. OHAC is a place where artistic expression blends with habilitative care. The artists of OHAC work primarily in a group setting, which not only aids in the development of social skills, but also helps to support an artistic community. Artists attend classes ranging from painting, music, dance, songwriting, and sculpture. They also have the option to sell their work in the community through a variety of venues and in turn receive a paycheck. Through analysis of internship experience, scholarly interviews, and interviews with OHAC artists, this inquiry discusses the challenges that come with creating an exhibition centered around the disabled community, which is typically marginalized by society. The exhibition is informed by scholarship in the areas of both art history and disability studies as well as other contemporary exhibitions of art created by intellectually disabled artists. By presenting the artists of OHAC as members of an artistic community rather than patients attending a daytime medical facility, the way in which the viewer interprets the exhibition is drastically different. At the core of the exhibition is the representation of these individuals as artists to engender a more inclusive notion of our contemporary definition of what it means to be an artist. (Fri 12:40pm-1:00pm OH 229)

Hannah Wiepke
A Fascination with the Unknown: The Work of Albert Eckhout and Frans Post in Dutch Colonial Brazil

Within the last forty years, a significant amount of research has been completed about the artistic works of Albert Eckhout (c. 1610-1665) and Frans Post (c. 1612-1680) and their connection to Dutch colonialism in Brazil. This presentation will explore the paintings created by Post and Eckhout during their seven-year stay in Brazil as well as the images based on their visit to Brazil and completed after their return to the Netherlands. To European eyes, the landscape of Northeast Brazil would be described as beyond comparison. With its natural waterfalls, forests, and winding rivers, Brazil was like an exotic paradise to its colonial settlers. The native peoples that inhabited the Brazilian coast had utterly different languages, cultural values, clothing styles, and familial systems, and governing structures than the Dutch. The native population was completely unfamiliar and foreign. Fortunately, these Dutch artists choose to create images of costumes and customs they observed, and thus today, we have access to some of the first formally painted images of the Viceroyalty of Brazil and its inhabitants. During their stay in the port of Recife, Golden Age landscape artist, Post, and portrait artist, Eckhout, created images of the New World. The work of Post and Eckhout contributes to the larger understanding of Dutch colonialism and the value of intercontinental travel and representation of the exotic in Baroque-era Europe. Using early modern taxonomic frameworks and practices along with visual analysis and historical studies of indigenous peoples, this investigation goes beyond previous scholarly interpretations referencing images of inhabitants along the northeast Brazilian coastline during the Baroque era.
(Fri 9:30-950  OH 229)

Dorothe Santistevan
The Socio-Political Climate and the Evolution of Techniques in War Photography: Are Photographic Reproductions Reliable Historic Documents?

Focusing on the American Civil War (1861-1865), World War II (1939-1945), and the Vietnam War (1955-1975), this paper will investigate the ways in which war photography has evolved not only in regards to technical advances, but also in response to the ever changing socio-political climate of the country. Since, in many cases, specific resources about selected photographs are sparse, any conclusions drawn heavily depend on analysis of the images within the context of the socio-political situation. By using primary source material (including access to quality photographic reproductions and historical documents and film) as well as scholarly research into the history of photography as it is situated in times of war, this study will draw conclusions through analysis of iconic photographs from each time period. The inherent reliability of photographs in conjunction with their function in times of war is a connection that is rarely drawn in scholarly research, although the two ideas are drawn separately. This paper joins the two ideas, pulling together the relationship between war, each artist’s truth, the public’s perception of their truth, and how that collective cultural interpretation can move people. Through staging of dead soldiers to create an emotionally heightened image, manipulating the German people into supporting a despotic leader, or negating support of the Vietnam War within the United States, these photographs of conflict have had the power to sway the public into believing and supporting a cause, thereby making photographic reproduction the most influential form of accessible visual culture. 
(Thur. 4:40-5:00 OH 229)

Hannah Criswell
Artemisia Gentileschi: Judith Reimagined

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was a prominent female painter in the Italian Baroque era and has been the subject of many scholarly texts throughout the years. This paper analyzes Gentileschi’s Judith paintings through a social psychology lens rather than using feminist theories and psychological models of rape as has been done previously. Analysis is accomplished by looking at the paintings in a linear manner addressing the connections between Gentileschi’s life and paintings, her relationships within her life, and the differences between the male and female viewpoints of the same subject. Initial research was based on the book, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, written by Mary Garrard. Further research was expanded by reading primary sources, such as the story of Judith in the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books of the Christian Old Testament, and scholarly journal articles within the fields of the biblical Judith and Gentileschi’s life. After reading more on Gentileschi’s life and studying psychological models that are used to explain human behavior, the direction of this research changed to focus directly on the concepts of social psychology. Through detailed visual and psychological analysis, this study provides a new interpretation of the connection of the four Judith paintings to Gentileschi’s life. Context Warning: this presentation will have context that may be sensitive to some individuals, including paintings depicting violent acts and discussion of sexual assault.
(Thur 2:00-2:20 PM OH 229)

Erin Dalton and Cynthia Canejo (co-author and mentor)
Islam and Christian Spheres: Interaction and Exchange of Religious Orders

As a Western society, we have the tendency to reflect and study our own struggles, victories, changes, and innovations--leaving our academic realms of Western and Eastern cultures polarized and the lenses of history biased. Nonetheless, architecture of the Medieval Ages presents actual evidence and traces of cross-interaction between the two spheres of Europe. The Crusades are frequently highlighted as a point of overlap as well as conflict between Islam and Christianity. Thus there is a habit to categorize history, meaning the timelines and their respective cultures are divided into their own “realms” of time. As a result, they seemingly cannot touch or interact except in forms of violence. This is simply not true, for in the case of Islam and Christianity the cultures were interacting and exchanging ideas. Despite their immediate differences, both Christianity and Islam stem from classical roots in architecture, and often utilize trends from each other. Their architecture provides visual dialog and societal markers of wealth and community. Available on hand are various documentations debating and commenting on these discords between Christianity and Islam. This study will also utilize documents written by the chroniclers from the time period, such as the Chronicles of Fredgar. Furthermore, the architecture speaks to shared purposes and techniques; for example, the Islamic Dome of the Rock and Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre are siblings in the Holy Land of Jerusalem. In previous studies Islam and Christianity have been analyzed together, yet from different perspectives and predispositions. This paper actively demonstrates the interchanging relation and gives equal status to Islam and Christianity.
(Sat 10:40-11:00 OH 229)

 

Fall 2015 Studio Abstracts

Marisa Mahathey: Experiencing the Connection: A Ceramic Exploration of One

The word “one” is representative of wholeness and unity. Thought to be the beginning and accord from which all things arise, it is the source of all numbers and an image for divine unity. Through transitioning of beliefs from childhood to adulthood, growing up in a Christian household and searching beyond these teachings, Experiencing the Connection discovers the importance of unity by exploring religion and personal truth. The sense of oneness and interconnection has become a personal truth, the essential belief, and is what this series represents. An inherent intimacy is formed when creating with clay; a potter creates simply with their hands, using no other tool. Working on the potter’s wheel is about having a conversation, one must not only speak to the clay by guiding it into the shape desired, but one must also listen; being aware of and open to what the clay is saying and then reacting to that is arguably the most important aspect. The metaphorical conversation that a potter has with clay during the creation process can then be “heard” when viewing a handmade pot. The pot will reveal qualities about the potter: preferences, care, and even imperfections. The immediate intimacy and connection between the clay and the potter provide the foundation for the conversation this series creates. Through the crafting of jars, unity is created. The jar form has the added component of the lid, creating an essential need for two pieces to fit together. To add further communication between the lid and jar, complementary designs are carved that are aesthetically pleasing on their own, but are more powerful when stacked upon or placed with other jars. The unity is then multiplied from one jar and lid to an entire stack or family of jars, making the visual experience or conversation more meaningful. Read about BFA Senior Exhibition

Christine Thomas: Reclamation of Self Through Form Making the Internal External

Making the internal, external—through art—is a path towards truth, acceptance, and enlightenment. In the series, Reclamation of Self through Form, figurative clay sculpture is the vehicle of this message. In the aftermath of being raped and the dissociation caused by it, sculpting forms with clay is a visceral manifestation of the healing process. The relationship and tension between the female form and nature-inspired abstractions expresses that which is experienced on an internal level. Creating ceramic sculptures is symbolic of reclaiming the physical body and exploring the internal: subconscious memories, thoughts, and emotions related to such a traumatic event. The abstractions of the sculpted female shell represent an interpretation of the soul or the mind, which tends to be more complex and mysterious. A psychological metamorphosis is shown in the destructive manipulation of the clay body, which leaves a space for new growth. The connection between the figure and these abstracted forms holds a deeper meaning related to the internal state of things. This is also seen in Ana Mendieta, Maria Martins, and Sophie Kahn’s use of the human figure in some aspect in their artwork, even though the mediums are different. Making the internal external, through art, is a visual representation and form of communication to bring more understanding for the artist and the viewer. Read about BFA Senior Exhibition

Jacob Wilson: Questioning Consumerism

Certain aspects of current society threaten to hinder a more positive future. Blinded by the glory of consumerism, a majority of humanity has lost touch with what could be considered true happiness and prosperity. Disconnected from the natural world, struggling with a lack of understanding and appreciation for the simplistic beauty of life, modern man has come to accept consumerism as an inadequate substitution. Excessive focus on boastful consumer products perpetuates harmful behaviors and fuels negative mentalities, ironically resulting in lower qualities of life. These products and services are offered in an attempt to provide entertainment and comfort. However, their rewards are hollow, rarely invoking more than fleeting moments of happiness and temporary escape, while real health and satisfaction are seldom found. As an ongoing dilemma, similar concerns have troubled art and academia for centuries; specific examples include the writings of William Morris in 1884, social historian Peter N. Stearns, and the artworks of contemporary artists such as Duane Hanson and Chen Wenling. Through sculptural ceramics, it is possible to express these current struggles while simultaneously suggesting solutions. Working with a fundamental natural element, such as clay, provides a satisfactory vehicle for the conveyance of this concept. By manipulating a simple organic material, forms are created that exaggerate and emphasize certain suggested objects of modern misguidance. In this manner the pure medium of clay reflects on truth and health, while the resulting content ironically addresses the opposite. Through this body of work that presents the absurdity of current behaviors, the intent is to stimulate a questioning of values while provoking humanity’s realization of a desperate need for a better direction. Read about BFA Senior Exhibition

Spring 2015 Studio Art Abstracts

Austin Cathey (BFA drawing), Re-collection Immemorial: Exploring the Fragility of Memory

Memory, the process of creating, interpreting, and recalling information, has always been essential for the human experience. However, for a tool of such significance, our memories are notoriously unreliable. It is this faulty nature that provided the driving force for Re-collection Immemorial. After discovering a study from Northwest University that found that the simple act of recalling alters memories to fit the present context, the artist produced a series of large scale drawings to reflect this idea. The fluidity of the materials used in these drawings, ink mixed with water, serves as a metaphor for making and recording memories. When the ink wash is pooled on the drawing surface it immediately stains, leaving a record, a memory, of its existence. As the water slowly evaporates, only ink reticulations are left behind; always lighter and less vibrant than their original state. Thus time, ink, and water collaborate to create a visual metaphor for experience and memory. After the water has evaporated, the process is repeated over and over again. Just as time passes and humans record more and more information to pile on top of the old, so does each drawing repeat the idea of layer on top of layer of information. Since every individual has different experiences, interpretations, and memories, the drawings use abstract forms that convey balance and complexity. This exploration into abstraction was influenced by contemporary non-representational artists such as Seana Reilly and Val Britton, as well as abstract expressionist such as Jackson Pollock. In synthesizing these works with the research, the series provided a sense of acceptance for the innate faulty nature of making and recalling memories.

Margit Briggs (BFA, drawing), Don't Show Your Dirty Laundry

The women portrayed in this series show the private side of the woman who was brought up to be a “Southern Belle.” Based on personal observation, the artist depicts aristocratic Southern social culture as involving a great deal of manipulation in order to conceal imperfections and to display qualities which are socially acceptable. To highlight this perception, this series of drawings, Don’t Show Your Dirty Laundry, focuses on narratives about Southern women who pretend to be without moral defect and instead display qualities which are socially acceptable. This pressure to hide human emotions and characteristics is so strong that while the world is collapsing around her, the proper Southern lady still manages to put on a girdle and look as she is expected to. According to Alexis Brown this utopian woman, “....embraced femininity, beauty, simplicity, and submissiveness; the highest roles to which a southern woman could aspire were those of nurturing mother, dutiful wife, and social moral pillar.” The idea of the seemingly infallible woman pictured by Western civilization is the foundation of this body of work. Through the utilization of watercolor and colored pencil, the drawing method for this series is very controlled and leaves room for few mistakes. Therefore, the very process of making my work resembles the restriction encompassing southern women through the utilization of watercolor and colored pencil. By using watercolor as a preliminary drawing, the roughness of colored pencil is softened. This also allows for definition of specific focal points by using only watercolor in some areas as a fading background to the figure. These two mediums used together create delicate images which flatter the women who are depicted as well as a clear contrast between their perfect appearance and reality. Like the work of Suzanne Heintz, this series of drawings questions the role of women according to the standards of the American norm.

Anna Melton (BFA, photography): A Wider Perspective on People

Environmental portraits and panoramic photography have existed for decades, but rarely have been used in combination. This project employs both techniques to produce ultrawide-perspective images of people in typical, everyday settings that illuminate some important aspect of their lives. Each digital image is stitched together from dozens of photos into one, multi-gigabyte panorama.  The image tells its story through human interaction with meaningful objects that share the space.  This work pulls together themes and techniques from many great photographers, including the intentionality of Arnold Newman and Wes Anderson, the thought-out narratives of David Hilliard, the drama and humanity of Edward Steichen's Family of Man exhibition, and Elliott Erwitt's instinctual observation of the “typical."

Kelly Olshan (BFA, painting), Perpetual Pursuit: Painting the Unattainable

Perpetual Pursuit: Painting the Unattainable investigates the aspiration to access an unreachable landscape. This body of work deals with ambition in both process and content, utilizing artists’ materials and a visual vocabulary to reference pursuit. In the context of this research, ambition represents endless reaching; the tendency to idealize what is physically and immaterially remote; and the aspiration to close the gap between the near and the far. James Elkins’ What Painting Is outlines a distinct relationship between the painting practice and the pursuit of an unknown outcome. Artistic waste, such as leftover oil and acrylic scraps, serves as evidence of this process. Additionally, this body of work uses staircases, windows, and the color blue to reference elusive distances. The color blue draws upon the writings of Rebecca Solnit, associating it with the tendency to idealize what is far away. For this reason, various shades of blue are evident throughout Perpetual Pursuit. Staircases function as a symbol for endless climbing; they are the means to access elevated spaces. Windows serve as another architectural device: framing the unattainable, they act as visual abbreviations of longing. Influences include contemporary artists who reference abstraction and architecture such as James Turrell, Richard Jacobs, and M.C. Escher. James Hyde’s and Robert Rauschenberg’s use of unconventional materials as well as their combination of painting and sculpture also informs this series. Perpetual Pursuit: Painting the Unattainable seeks satisfaction in the act of pursuing.

Louisa Bahia Thompson (BFA, painting), Challenging the Feminine: Gender Tropes in Classical Painting

In much of art history, women are depicted as innately helpless, weak and even unwittingly malevolent. Conversely, many paintings affirm the virility, dominance, and general wisdom of men. Challenging The Feminine: Gender Standardization in Classical Painting identifies three archetypal depictions of females: the reclining female, the female aspect, and the grouped female. Several iconic works of art history are referenced, such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Edgar Degas’ Bath Paintings, and Raphael’s Three Graces. Accompanying the research, the artist has produced a series of large-scale oil paintings exploring depictions of gender. The use of classical figurative poses creates parallels between gender within contemporary art and the antiquated preconceptions of female agency. The artist also uses facial expressions and body language to communicate each painted figure’s personality and experience. Much like the duality of male and female, the Vanitas genre effectively communicates binary ideas. Relevant contemporary artists such as Jenny Saville, Beverly McIver, and Lizz Andronaco inform this discussion about the portrayal of women in contemporary painting. This body of work contextualizes and questions the conventions of feminine tropes in art history by utilizing the same classical canons that propagated them.

Adrian Etheridge (BA, photography), Art, Not Art: An Exploration of the Communicative Properties of Photography in Regards to Social Change

This research looks at photography as a mode of social activism in light of the “art versus document” debate. As opposed to examining which type of photography is “better,” this paper explores how pictorialists versus photojournalists communicate. While documentary photography (photojournalism) seems to purport reality, there are many ways images can be manipulated. And although fine art photography appears to convey tropes in a visually evocative manner, it is not fully organic. Instead, both categories use techniques of the “other side.” As such, we find that perhaps there is a fundamental problem with the debate; that is describes what Edward Steichen labels a “false dichotomy.” Rather, photography as a whole is a medium separate (because of its inclusiveness) from both documents and art. Using this new categorization of photography (thus its communicative properties) we can explore how to use photography as an instrument for change in a globalized yet polarized world.

Payton James (BFA, painting), Confronting the Threshold: Perceptions of a Passageway

Standing before a threshold can be quite stimulating, both physically and mentally. Confronting the Threshold: Perceptions of a Passageway represents liminal spaces through paintings and drawings of doors.  People often pass through these margins focusing only on their destination. Marginal spaces or thresholds are known as “liminal spaces” and can be difficult to recognize, as they are undefined territory. These short, transitional passes are incredibly significant, as stimulating thoughts occur during the passageway from one space to another. This could be a place where someone is leaving their past behind, eager to find a new beginning. This could be the waiting room, awaiting the next milestone, or an upcoming event in one’s life. On the other hand, it could be when one is indecisive. It may also be as simple as the process of opening a door and crossing a physical threshold. In addition to the more commonly known physical and anthropological contexts, there are spiritual and psychological transitions. These changes were recognized in ancient Rome regarding Janus, the god of doorways, who is often thought to be the god of beginnings and endings. This research will be represented in a series of paintings and drawings: the paintings depict life-size doors; the drawings provide details of door knobs, door handles and other elements. The art work signifies transitional zones provoking the formulation of questions in viewers’ minds. Doorways are excellent physical representations of liminal spaces, and like most liminal spaces, doors are often overlooked. Confronting the Threshold signifies transitional zones, providing an opportunity to appreciate the beauty and significance of transitions.

Spring 2015 Art History Abstracts

Kate Averett, Turning the Gaze: Zoe Leonard’s Anatomical Models Series

In the eighteenth century, the Western medical field approached the female body as a foil to the neutral male form based upon Christian ideals and sexual taboos. Depictions of women in medical textbooks as well as anatomical models furthered the idea of women as classicized, submissive reproductive vessels. Zoe Leonard, in her 1992 photographic series Anatomical Models examines these eighteenth century relics through an interventionist, feminist lens. Referencing crime scene photography of the Black Dahlia, cabinet cards, and classic horror films to create a gothic tone Leonard assigns modern implications to eighteenth century objects. Through her use of black and white, analogue photography Leonard creates narratives of empathy for the models as well as constructs a sense of exploitation. The Anatomical Models series contextualizes Zoe Leonard within a feminist art movement of the 1990s focused on the carnal body, her contemporaries empower their own bodies through contrasting viscera with conventionally passive femininity. This research aims to prove that Zoe Leonard utilizes modern visual cues to highlight the continued impact of the male gaze on representations of women. The anatomical models of Leonard’s series become timeless representations of women as victims to the male and medical gaze.

Paige Carter, Technology and Nature: Connections within the Greenhouse Aesthetic

Resource scarcity is a constant and recurring issue, addressed initially by artists reacting to the 1974 Energy Crisis and the Rachel Carson publication Silent Spring. Art movements of the 1970s lead to land based installation art and experiments with sustainable design methods. This study has coined the “greenhouse aesthetic” to describe the intersection of plant and human needs in art and architecture. Artists of the 70s, such as Hans Haacke created simplified organic-to-inorganic microclimate relationships and Alan Sonfist installed gardens of indigenous plants that represent the identity of New York’s native ecosystem. This mode of making is also mimicked by the Earthship architecture of Mike Reynolds, the designs of “Naturhus”, as well as contemporary artist Mark Dion’s constructed environment, Neukom Vivarium. Likewise, these interests continue into the twenty-first century with Amy Youngs creates technology designed for plants but maintained by human participation, allowing for positive human-to-plant interactions. Vaughn Bell facilitates spaces where human and plant experiences are mutually beneficial, through a shift in the viewer’s perspective. This paper identifies a philosophical from the 1970s to the present in artworks and architecture from immersive experiences in nature, or lessons of how destructive human actions are to nature and mutually beneficial nature-human experiences. This research blends visual and experiential analysis of art works and architecture with the history of greenhouse innovations to reveal the philosophical implications plant and microclimate oriented technology has on art, architecture, and design.

Kerri Collosso, The Waters of Ancestral Time: The Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié

Water has been a common theme in Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrié’s work since the beginning of his artistic career. Through the connection to memory and identity, this element signifies the heart of culture and tradition of the African Diaspora. It is representative of West African spiritual values expressed though the religion of Vodou, as it is the space connecting the realms of the living and the spiritual. This paper will analyze the meaning and importance of this element to the history of displaced West Africans who came to the Americas through migrations of the slave trade. Through a close examination of water in select pieces from Duval-Carrié’s bodies of work, entitled Divine Revolutions and Imagined Landscapes, the unification of a diasporic identity and a strong bond to ancestry is created forming a unique cultural identity. This imagery will be examined through the lens of Vodou spirituality and traditions, and compared to contemporary artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, who cultivates a similar visual dialogue of life in the Caribbean. Ancestral memory and identity become key roles in this portrayal of aquatic imagery and help to shed light on the cosmology and conceptualization of contemporary Caribbean life.

Avery Hill, Pioneering the Fog: The Dialogue of Fujiko Nakaya’s “Veil” and The Philip Johnson Glass House

During May through November 2014 The Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, hosted a site-specific environment based installation piece titled Veil. Its maker, Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya works with water and air to emit a transitory atmosphere composed of land and fog. Nakaya is credited with being the first to explore new technologies in Landscape Art in the 1970s. Veil specifically acts as an antithesis to the permanence of architecture in the Glass House’s visual narrative as stagnant in structure and historical sense as an iconic emblem. The ephemeral mystery of fog promotes a new experience of the familiar. Using Veil as the most recent of Nakaya’s installations, her temporary fog sculptures translate the invisibility of atmosphere into the visible and anti-architecture as decomposition of space and structure. Her sculptures have the visual advantage of never standing still and highlighting the surrounding environment they occupy. This paper articulates how the cloud of fog establishes an uncertainty to previous perceptions of space through  along with chosen past works. Collectively The Glass House and Veil transcend the dualities of Eastern and Western aesthetics to socialize the phenomenological and liminal experience of weather in a new and distinguishing way.

Will Lundquist, The Riace Bronze Warriors: Understanding Their Exceptional Form, Problematic Discovery, and Indistinct Provenience

In August of 1972, two life-like ancient bronze statues were pulled from the seafloor off the coast of the southern Italian region of Calabria. Since the discovery of the Riace Bronzes, as they are now known, there has been much scholarly debate surrounding their manufacture, provenience, form, and, above all, the circumstances of their deposition at sea. Through exploration of the statues’ characteristics in comparison to other known sculptures of the ancient world, scholars place the creation of these pieces in the early Classical Greek context (480-450 BCE). This paper reviews the scholarly debate and argues for an association with the workshop of the famous 5th century sculptor Phidias. It also suggests that the military presentation of the statues strongly indicates their original inclusion within a larger group of sculptures formerly situated in a commemorative monument at Delphi. This paper’s approach to resolving their unknown past involves an examination of what little physical evidence exists in their discovery, as well as the lack of evidence with respect to their transport and former physical situation. Further research offers a premise for the reason for their oversea transport, which is Roman imperialism and conquest. By connecting and synthesizing historical texts and modern scholarship, this paper uses archaeological methodology as a means to resolve many of the problematic aspects surrounding the bronzes, from creation and original context to their ancient loss and subsequent discovery.

Allison Meyer: The Headless Venus: A Study of Elihu Vedder’s Medusa Series

The predominate iconographic depiction of Medusa features her decapitated head affixed to the round shield of Athena or the severed head of Medusa held by Perseus. Her headless body is often not shown, and if shown, the body is depicted discarded at the feet of Perseus. American artist Elihu Vedder breaks from the traditional iconographical representations of Medusa by including and focusing on her nude, headless body in his illustrations, Perseus and Medusa (1875) and The Dead Medusa (1875). Furthermore, the pose reflects past and contemporaneous representations of Venus, the goddess of erotic love. Through the lens of feminist theory and Classical scholarship this paper will argue that the artist has transferred the desire for Medusa’s head to the desire for her body as exhibited by her sensual pose. The paper will contextualize Medusa within the social functions of mythology; these myths are cautionary tales that establish cultural norms. Likewise, Medusa symbolizes female sexuality and temptation in a patriarchal society, thus the male hero must vanquish her in order to maintain societal power dynamics. In these illustrations, Elihu Vedder inverts the power of the gaze from the agency of Medusa to that of the viewer’s objectification of her sexualized, defeated body. By removing the head, Vedder neutralizes the powerful gaze of Medusa, so the viewer can then safely look upon her body without Medusa looking back.

Sarah Westendorf, Visual Representation of Nationalism: Pan-Slavism through the Lens of Alphonse Mucha

Known as the originator of Le Style Mucha or Art Nouveau as deemed by the French, Alphonse Mucha's lesser known The Slav Epic reveals his passion and pride for Slav heritage. Mucha created a visual language through which people understand historical and political events, culminating in his desire to promote a pan-Slavic agenda. The Slav Epic received harsh criticism from the intelligentsia of the art world, having been created and finished during the Modernist art movement. This gave way to dialogue that considered the series obsolete and immature. In contrast, the general public found The Slav Epic moving, in the end facilitating imagined communities connecting people of Slav heritage. Through the examination of a selection of panels from the twenty in The Slav Epic, this thesis will analyze the events and symbols chosen by Alphonse Mucha to portray pan-Slavism.