Art History Senior Capstone, Fall 2012
In the Fall semester of 2012, nine Art History majors worked with Dr. Kim Smith to examine the topic of the representation of Nature in art. To complete their capstone course, all art history majors submit a lengthy research paper and present a lecture with accompanying visuals. The experience will prepare many of the students for grad school and careers in the art world.
Within the broad topic of ‘nature’ each student chose a unique focus which fit her own interest and art historical background. Students gave their lectures on December 4th and 6th in Fine Arts Center Room 235, from 4 PM to approximately 6 PM each day. The talks were each about 15 to 20 minutes long, and were followed by engaging questions and answers. The order of presentation:
Tuesday, December 4:
Visuality and Materiality in the Cloister: Gardens and Relics at Canterbury Cathedral
Seen at the Canterbury monastery and medieval relic shrine of Thomas Becket, the way medieval monks and pilgrims experienced different types of physical matter was extremely similar. In both garden plants and human relics, spiritual experience and healing were directly tied to seeing, touching, or being in the presence of a material object. In the garden, the arrangement of plants and walls gave the monks rejuvenation as they walked through it, and the alimentary or medicinal uses of plants were often directly related to their appearance. A relic shrine gave a pilgrim spiritual or physical healing, simply by their presence and seeing the object. Though these two practices took place in different areas of the Canterbury complex, their uses and the ways they were conceived were very closely linked.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Horses: What He Saw, What He Knew
Leonardo da Vinci spent a great deal of time observing and sketching horses for his work on the equestrian monument, the Sforza Horse. These endless sketches were apparently really only for scientific observation and though their final purpose involved a greater cultural situation, they themselves are supposedly devoid of cultural implications. In this presentation I intend to add to existing scholarship by conceding that these sketches were created with scientific observation and intention, but there are also huge cultural implications behind them as well as an artistic flair only da Vinci is capable of incorporating without compromising their accuracy.
Bellows’s Beauty and the Beef: How the World War I Changed an American Artist’s View of the Natural World
George Bellows (American, 1882-1925), Cattle and Pig Pen, oil on canvas, 51.44 x 61.6 cm.
George Bellows, one of the most popular American artists of the 1910’s and 1920’s, is best known for his compellingly realistic illustrations of urban life in New York City. However, he additionally painted many romantic pastorals images, which contrast drastically with these more famous works in the complete exclusion of the modern industrialized society key on their subject-matter. While Bellows escaped from the busy city life to the countryside annually throughout his career, there is a definite stylistic shift in his landscapes created during these periods of refuge after WWI, which implies a connection to the shift in worldview the American public held following the war.
The Panopticism of Modern Zoos
According to Michel Foucault, institutions such as schools, factories, and prisons all instruct us how to behave, molding each of us into functioning members of American society. Foucault argues that institutions instill this behavior through subtle surveillance and pervasive control of bodily movements, a theory known as panopticism.
Art institutions such as museums also force us to behave in certain ways. The hushed quiet of the building and reverential whispers of viewers stems from the panopticism of the institution itself. Zoos also participate in this panopticism; however, zoos, unlike museums, are outdoor environments filled with live animals. The presence of these animals enables zoological institutions to force both human animals and wild animals to become docile bodies and behave in certain ways while participating in the quintessentially visual phenomenon of zoo viewership.
The zoo can no longer be seen simply as the site of happy childhood memories and school field trips. Instead, it is a complex institution with its own history and agenda, and is intrinsically tied to politics and power. This reading of zoos implicates all of us, as zoo visitors, participants in dialogue about conservation, and members of an American society permeated with images of animals.
Thursday, Dec 6
Sex, Death, and the Sirens: A Look into Homer’s Odyssey on the Siren Vase
This paper will dive into Homer’s tale of Odysseus and the Sirens from the Odyssey and look into its depiction on the Siren Vase and why the Siren Painter tweaked the story on this vase and added the elements he did in order to reiterate the trials that Odysseus went through in order to face a terrifying death, but still live to tell about it.
Degas and his Inclusion of the Animal in ‘Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen’
This presentation examines Edgar Degas’s sculpture, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.” We will look at this sculpture within the context of Parisian society in the late nineteenth century. During this period of time, the theories of Physiognomy and Social Darwinism had become very widely known in France, particularly in Paris. These theories were applied by the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie to the class system within the city, and those who were in the lower classes were considered to have the appearance of animals. We will examine the extent to which Degas included these theories in his work, (particularly in “Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen,”) as well as the reason why he chose this manner of portrayal.
The Divided Body: Ambivalence and Self-Exploration in Kathe Kollwitz’s Early Self-Portraits
Current research sees Käthe Kollwitz as a socialist visionary, who was able to navigate the tides of gender and politics. However, there has been little research concerning her self-portraiture. By analyzing her early self-portraits, the issues of the multifaceted Kollwitz and the construction of her identity can be brought to life. Through her harsh rendering and unique framing, it can be argued that Käthe Kollwitz is most likely exploring similar ideas like in her earlier series, The Peasant Revolt. During this lecture, I will be arguing that Käthe Kollwitz was not willing to accept anybody’s idea of what it means to be a woman, and that by aligning herself in both body and mind with the working-class, she legitimates her role as a woman artist.
A Synthesis of Land and Cultural Identity in Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait on the Borderline of Mexico and the United States”
Frida Kahlo held a close relationship with Mexico, as it was her place of birth, her heritage, and a land she felt was worth fighting for. She aligned herself with revolutionary ideals and chose to showcase them in her paintings. However, a brief time in the United States forced her to adapt to different ideals in a contrasting culture. These shifting factors take form in her 1932 painting, Self-Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States. To better understand how two cultural identities become one, I will use author Gloria Anzaldua?s book, Borderlands. The text will allow me to illustrate how, contrary to popular belief, Kahlo?s self-portrait was not an attempt to prove one country?s superiority over the other, yet an attempt to illustrate how a borderland could become a place for these two conflicting aspects of her life to coexist and form her cultural identity.
In Search of Spirit: Joan Miró’s Early Landscapes as Identity Formation in Early Twentieth-Century Catalonia
Joan Miró, Vegetable Garden with Donkey, 1918
This presentation analyzes the early landscapes of Joan Miró, from the summer of 1918 at Montroig, within the political, social, and cultural contexts of twentieth-century Spain. The tensions that marked the end of the nineteenth century led to liberation movements within the Spanish nation, and within these regions fighting for national, cultural, and religious independence from the Spanish monarchy, artists like Miró aimed to aesthetically recreate a cultural tradition worth fighting for. These early landscapes of Catalonia do just that; these works not only illustrate Miró’s identity as a Catalan artist, but also interact with the politics of his time, capturing the Spirit of Catalonia by looking to the past, connecting to the present, and constructing a future for Catalan existence and autonomy.