The University of Alabama was well-represented at the recent national conference meeting of SECAC held in Birmingham October 17-20, 2018. Faculty, students and alumni of the UA Department of Art and Art History presented research and chaired sessions at the annual meeting of one of the largest art conferences of its kind in the US, hosted by UAB’s Department of Art and Art History and nicknamed “SECAC Y’all.”
UA art faculty who gave presentations were Dr. Wendy Castenell, Jonathan Cumberland, Dr. Jennifer Feltman, Dr. Kate Kocyba, Giang Pham, Dr. Rachel Stephens and Dr. Doris Sung. Bryce Speed and Dr. Stephens chaired sessions.
A PARTICULAR ACHIEVEMENT
Of special note was art history graduate student Morgan Heard, who presented her research paper, “‘May the Points of Our Needles Prick the Slaveholder’s Conscience:’ Women’s Abolitionist Needlework and the Anti-Slavery Fair,” in a session titled “Historic American Painting.” Dr. Rachel Stephens, who introduced Heard to the topic through Stephens’ course, “Slavery and American Art,” pointed out that it was a particular achievement for an MA student to present research. “SECAC is a friendly conference and inclusive of scholarship at all levels,” however, Stephens added, “more often, it is advanced PhD students who participate at SECAC.”
Heard said that this was her first time presenting at a conference of this scale. “Although I was nervous, I enjoyed being able to share my work and receive feedback and encouragement from those who attended.”
Heard’s research probes the little known work of anti-slavery women in producing abolitionist items to sell at anti-slavery fairs. These handmade objects, she asserts in her research, became important signifiers of early female activism within a domain (sewing) that was considered appropriate for women during the antebellum period. Heard became so interested in the topic that she decided to make it the focus of her thesis research.
Several UA art alumni also participated in the annual art conference. Recent graduate Reed O’Mara (BA 2017, double major in German and economics, minor in art history) presented “Strasbourg’s Prince of the World as Political Foe and Sinful Suitor.” Last year, as a UA graduate student in medieval art history, O’Mara won a competitive Barbato Fellowship in art history to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, which awarded her a graduate assistantship with a full tuition scholarship and stipend.
National conferences often bring new friends and colleagues together. Rachel Stephens met presenter Laura Lake Smith, a UA art history major from 2000. A recent Ph.D. recipient from the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, Smith presented “An Origin in Absentia: Richard Tuttle’s First Work” at the conference. She is currently visiting lecturer and teaching associate at Coastal Carolina University.
Other alumni presented research in a wide array of subjects, including Amy Feger (MFA 2012), whose work was selected for the 2018 SECAC Juried Exhibition, which was juried by Peter Baldaia, head of Curatorial Affairs, Huntsville Museum of Art. Corey Dzenko (MA 2007) presented “The History of Graphic Design as a Discipline: Surveying Student Responses to Curricular Changes;” Jenny Fine (BFA 2006, photography), chaired a session and presented research titled “Time as Material;” Michelle Moseley-Christian (MA 2000, BA 1997, art history) chaired a session and presented “Hairy Female Bodies and the Early Modern Wild Woman in Visual Art;” and Raymond Gaddy (MFA 2000, painting) co-presented with Ashley Waldvogel, “Are You Vulcan’ Kidding Me? Mythology Everywhere.”
SECAC, formerly known as the Southeastern College Art Conference, promotes the the study and practice of the visual arts in higher education and is now the second largest national organization of its kind. This year’s conference, hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is the first in Alabama since 1986 when the annual meeting was held in Tuscaloosa.
For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, go here: https://art.ua.edu/academics/.