SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACTS, 2012
Conceptual artist Cindy Sherman began her extensive photography career by using performance art in conjunction with photography to explore ideas of “otherness” created by the female gender. These 69 still shot images, collected in her debut series Untitled Film Stills, are Sherman’s personal investigation of the marginalized depictions of women within popular culture and the cinematic productions of the 1950s. In conjunction with the theories of feminists Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler, Sherman’s images illustrate the theory of gender as a performative act. Through her use of make-up, props, and camera angles, Cindy Sherman explores the many roles that women take on within society and modern culture. I believe that Sherman is making an ironic comment on these stereotypical roles that are played out by women every day in modern society; and also how the female gender has been positioned as the “other” in direct opposition to contemporary male culture.
The series Untitled Film Stills is Sherman’s personal interpretation of the historic stereotypes of women positioned as “the other” within society. The images within the series are linked together through a common thread that positions the female figure as an object, subject to the male gaze. However, through her ironic commentary on the female figure and the feminine roles of women in society, she gives power back to women through her photographs. Although Sherman never directly claimed to be a feminist, her tongue-in-cheek representations of “femaleness” show women exactly what we do not need to be: distant, powerless, and alone.
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACTS, 2011
This paper will explore the gendering of the Italian Renaissance studiolo by recreating the studioli of Isabelle d’Este and Federico da Montefeltro. Isabella d’Este and Federico da Montefeltro decorated their private spaces to reflect their individual roles in Renaissance Italian society. The paintings in Isabella’s studiolo reflect an emphasis on fertility and motherhood, while Federico’s paintings in his studiolo emphasize his own power. Federico’s studiolo promoted humanistic ideas and contemplation, while Isabella’s collecting habits turned into an obsession with luxury items. Ultimately, the studiolo was a male gendered space, and Isabella’s studiolo seems to have been a rarity of her time.
Arguably the greatest of the Spanish Golden Age painters, Diego Velázquez served virtually his entire career in the employ of Philip IV as pintor del rey, an exclusive, even enviable, position that would seem to demand the utmost circumspection in one’s behavior and lifestyle. Yet within that manifestly conservative milieu Velázquez the artist departed markedly from the customary and usual even as Velázquez the courtier gave nothing of it away. This paper is an exploration of this most interesting dichotomy.
An icon in the music world, David Bowie’s work transcends the boundaries of music and crosses over into the art world. I argue that the artistic qualities of his work have always been evident, but have never been fully investigated. In 1973, Bowie conducted the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars tour. I will focus specifically on the tour’s last concert that took place at the Hammersmith Odeon Theatre in London on July 3, 1973. There with 3,500 of Ziggy’s dearest fans, the rocker retired and his “death” took place. Ziggy Stardust, the performance character created by Bowie, blends the ideas of performance, glam rock, the suicidal rocker, and more. It is a commentary on the plasticity of rock and roll, the fleeting nature of fame, and the hollow figures that these two elements create. Ziggy is thus a mixture of all rock musicians. In this paper I investigate the artistic selections made by Bowie while performing Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. For being such a ‘messiah’ in the realm of music, Bowie is still considered a ‘leper’ among the art community.
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACTS, 2010
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACTS, 2009
This paper researches the Japanese sub?culture, ganguro—where Japanese teenagers imitate American hip hop culture by donning blackface and wearing trendy rap inspired clothing. Discussion will come from two different directions. The first will be an examination of Iona Rozeal Brown’s a3 Series. The paper will delve into Brown’s personal theories on the ganguro and how she expresses them through the works. It will investigate Brown’s thoughts on ganguro as an appropriation of certain aspects of Black culture, particularly the material obsession with “bling.” Secondly the paper will explore ganguro as a diaspora, mainly whether ganguro can be seen and discussed as a diaspora. Revealing the ganguro sub?culture as its own diaspora will, hopefully, dispel the idea that it is merely a teenage fashion phenomenon. Discussing ganguro from a negative aspect where it is seen as a fashion trend copying Black culture and then counteracting it with the argument that ganguro can be seen as a respectable diaspora will bring a more positive look to this somewhat awkward teenage trend.
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACTS, 2008
The image of the Pietà can be seen in a variety of memorial contexts. Whether incorporated into the imagery on a tomb or grave marker, as a large sculpture in the midst of a memorial garden, or as a public monument to fallen war heroes, the Pietà has become one of the most widely used subjects among contemporary memorial images. Originally created as a Christian devotional image, the Pietà represents Christ’s sacrifice for the redemption of humanity. Its use in a memorial context seems valid for the Christian because it serves as an image of hope. It is therefore surprising that the Pietà has come to be used predominately in a context which is not explicitly Christian. As an image that has been used in a memorializing context since the late fifteenth century, this paper considers the Pietà’s continued significance through an assessment of a variety of modern and contemporary memorials. I will argue that the continued resonance of the Pietà as a memorial image can be attributed to its increased recognition and the secularization of the image.
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACTS, 2007
Following a prayer to the “good angel,” an unusual double-page Annunciation at Matins in a fifteenth-century Franco-Flemish Book of Hours (Baltimore, Walters Ms. W.267, folios 12v, 13r, 13v, and 14r) incorporates the image of its aristocratic female book owner into the scene. In the verso miniature, Gabriel, the Archangel of the Annunciation, stands behind the worshiper who kneels in prayer to the Virgin Annunciate on the facing page. With his hand placed gently on her shoulder, the Archangel acts as guardian, patron saint, and pastoral guide as he presents the young noblewoman to her exemplar of purity.
The occasion for the making of this book is not known, but Books of Hours owned by women were often gifts to them, particularly wedding gifts. These books as gifts, as we know from examples such as the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, could be shaped to influence and instruct a young woman in her new duties as wife and soon-to-be mother. The unusual and personalized nature of the Walters’ Annunciation image may be a clue to the purpose of this book. This paper will examine the ways in which these two normally very separated elements – the prayer to the Guardian Angel and the image of the Annunciation at the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin – combine to create a devotional form with uncommon details, which expresses and instructs the real female worshiper’s piety and status.
“Anxiety, Action, and Ambiguity: Remediation within the Photographic Images of Kerry Skarbakka” - Corey Dzenko (MA 2007)
Through remediating the past and present artistic practices of photography, digital imaging, and performance art, Kerry Skarbakka creates ambiguous photographic images based on the anxiety he experiences regarding human existence. For his series, Skarbakka travels to the locations of his images. Once there, he falls with the aid of mountain climbing gear and photographically documents his action. Back in the studio, he uses imaging technology to remove the evidence of his harness and lines. His use of photography creates a transparent link between the viewer and the self-portraits as Skarbakka is caught in a moment of descent. Photography’s assumed validity of the “real” is then challenged by the subtle alteration of Skarbakka’s images, but Skarbakka’s physical participation in the series reverses this challenge to the images’ validity. At the end of the process, Skarbakka’s images leave viewers’ perceptions oscillating between the immediacy and hypermediacy of these series.
“Chocolate: A Social History Presented by an Examination of a Seventeenth-Century Spanish Still Life Painting” - Mary Anna Hudson (MA 2008)
Spanish still life painters of the first half of the seventeenth century were frequently inspired by nature’s bounty. Juan Sánchez Cotán’s innovative compositions most often depicted a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and dead game. Flower still lifes were another popular expression of natural abundance. Works such as these possess a highly decorative quality but lack overt ostentation. As the century progressed there was an increased interest in the depiction of objects, such as serving dishes, either incorporated into such scenes of abundance, containing food and beverage, or simply in isolation as the main focal point of the work.
By mid-century one of the more popular motifs was that of the chocolate service, as seen in Antonio de Pereda’s Still Life with an Ebony Chest from 1652. While this painting has been beautifully executed, the viewer cannot help but inquire as to why such seemingly common household objects were worthy of such careful attention. The work clearly lacks the pretentiousness of Dutch paintings of a similar nature which were also prominent at the time. Several questions come to mind when viewing the work. Who would purchase such paintings, and where would they have been displayed? What was the purpose or meaning behind the representation of chocolate in Spanish still life? When did chocolate first appear in still life painting? I will seek to answer these questions through an examination of the history of chocolate, its introduction into Spanish society and its infiltration into seventeenth-century Spanish still life painting. I will argue that such depictions of chocolate functioned to both represent and celebrate the upper echelons of Spanish society.
“Alberto Giacometti” - Valerie Piette
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) has been associated with Cubism, Surrealism, Primitivism, and Existentialism. Today, however, he is most known for his later sculptures completed from the 1940s up until his death in 1966. Giacometti’s creativity as an artist is not limited to just these later sculptures however. Given Giacometti’s accomplishments in Surrealism and other mediums such as painting and drawing, it is unfortunate that Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, as well as other art survey texts, should only concentrate on a portion of Giacometti’s art by focusing on just his postwar sculptures. In this paper I will investigate Giacometti’s artistic career by examining Giacometti’s critical reception during and after his life as well as his artistic endeavors in surrealism and painting.
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACTS, 2006
In 1952, French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson defined photography. Even though he realized there was a great variety within the medium and that he could not define photography for everyone, he defined it for himself as the decisive moment in his publication with the same title. To Cartier-Bresson, the decisive moment is “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” Since Cartier-Bresson’s publication, technical advancements and theoretical ideas such as post-structuralist theories have freed photographers to shift their attention from the intuitive “capturing” of the decisive moment in street photography to “constructing” the decisive moment in the directorial mode. While Cartier-Bresson’s definition of photography did not allow for fabrications, post-structuralist theory moved away from thoughts of a universal truth and freed photographers from having to work objectively. These theories explain that viewers will read the signs present within images and will arrive at a variety of different interpretations. Therefore, an image no longer must focus on capturing a singular “truth.” This shift allows for contemporary constructions of decisive moments. Well-planned scenes, combining staged actions and formal compositions that borrow aesthetic elements and production practices from cinema, create a conducive environment for photographers, acting as directors, to achieve and photograph their decisive moments. So, while the process has changed, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s definition of photography as capturing a significant instance in a formal manner still holds relevance in today’s contemporary photography.
Today, death seems to have gained the status of a ‘taboo’ subject. It is not openly discussed, and when it does come up it makes many people feel uncomfortable. However, that has not always been the case. The many representations of death in art throughout history seem to support the assumption that attitudes toward death have changed over the last few centuries. One such representation is found in the postmortem portrait. This tradition has a long history, beginning with the death mask, transferring into the painted portrait, and finally ending with the photograph. Of this body of work, some of the most fascinating images are seventeenth-century Dutch paintings depicting deceased infants. At first glance the contemporary viewer may find these portraits strange, even morbid, a fact which can be attributed to twentieth-century attitudes toward death. They raise questions such as why the parents would want to remember their child in this way, and how were these portraits displayed – publicly or privately? Not only do these paintings raise questions, but they provide answers as well. They give insight into funerary practices of the day as well as attitudes toward children. In order to better understand what may seem a strange practice by today’s standards, it is important to examine several factors such as attitudes toward children in the seventeenth century, infant mortality rates, and the differing views of the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church and the Catholic Church on both infant death and baptism. My examination of those factors will shed light on the various modes of representing the deceased, and provide insight as to why certain portrait types would have been chosen.
“From Craftsman to Modernism: The Life and Works of Birmingham Architect D.O. Whilldin, 1881-1970”
- Thomas Mark Shelby (now a book!) (MA 2006)
This paper summarizes a recently completed thesis that documents the life and works of prominent Birmingham architect D. O. Whilldin. Prior to this research very little about this architect had been published, and much of this was secondary, and erroneous, information. Fortunately, a wealth of information about this man and the buildings he designed has survived in various archival and private collections. This thesis not only presents the educational background of the architect, but contains a compilation of major and minor structures designed over the course of his career, all interwoven with the history of Birmingham and Alabama and the history of architecture as well. Whilldin, a Philadelphia native, was born in 1881 and was educated at the University of Pennsylvania. He moved to Birmingham in 1902, attracted by the opportunity of a booming industrial economy, and remained until his death in 1970. A remarkable architect, he was comfortable in many different styles, ranging from Arts and Crafts, Beaux-Arts, Prairie, Italian Renaissance, Neoclassical, Colonial, Art Deco, Moderne, and Modern. He singularly transformed the built environment of Tuscaloosa and Gadsden, and designed some of the most important and recognizable buildings in Birmingham. As such, he was integral to the evolution of architecture in the State of Alabama and left behind a rich architectural heritage.