• Marion Clendenen
    Marion Clendenen

At the 2014 “From Every Voice” Research and Creative Works Symposium, Marion Clendenen won the Best Poster Award.  

As part of her International Studies major, East Asian art history concentration, and Chinese minor, Marion has been researching the intersection between religion, art, and politics in premodern China.

Through assistant professor of art history, Dr. Allison Miller, she developed a strong interest in the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism to the Chinese court system during the Ming and Qing dynasties and its influences on imperial portraiture.

Marion’s poster on imperial portraiture was one of many student presentations at this year’s expanded Symposium. All posters were graded by a panel of three judges on appearance, content, and verbal presentation.

President Edward Burger, who according to Marion generously took time to engage in discussion with all Symposium presenters, likewise appreciated her work.

“I found Marion’s poster powerful as it highlighted an otherwise invisible feature in my mind: How the positions and perspectives of central figures in imperial portraits changed over generations,” Burger said. “Her observations offered a window into the thought-provoking political optics of religion.”

Throughout her three years at Southwestern, Marion has held a sustained passion for the East Asian art history courses offered by Dr. Miller. According to Dr. Miller, “Southwestern’s art history program is unique in that we have equal numbers of faculty in Western and non-Western fields. Our East Asian course offerings cover the full range of East Asian history from the neolithic period to contemporary art. Students are often surprised to discover the ways that art history can enliven and elucidate history. They often walk away from my courses with a much deeper understanding of East Asian culture than they expected.”

Marion began her study of the Qing court in Dr. Miller’s Introduction to East Asian Architecture course in the fall of 2012. “In this course and my landscape course, we discuss in detail the Qing court’s relations with Tibet,” Miller explained. “Marion wrote an outstanding paper examining the ways that Tibetan art influenced imperial portraiture that ignited a lasting interest in the subject.”

The following year, Marion received a Fulbright-Hays GPA scholarship to study abroad in China through the prestigious Associated Colleges in China program. Marion’s Chinese improved dramatically after two semesters (summer and fall) of intensive language training. She also had the opportunity to visit a number of important museums, temples, and collections of Ming and Qing period art in China.

Marion will build on this research in her final capstone research paper, which will expand on this topic and include more information about the political, social, and economic dimensions of imperial art. “I want to gain a more detailed understanding of imperial portraits and the influences that they have received throughout this time period,” Marion said.

According to Dr. Miller, Marion’s capstone plans regarding Tibetan influences on Imperial Portraiture are promising.

“Art history is an inherently interdisciplinary field that requires students to analyze both visual and written sources,” Miller said. “Marion’s passion for East Asian art, excellent language skills, and keen ability to navigate a range of sources make this project an exciting one.”

In part-time assistant professor of Chinese Pati Schiaffini’s spring 2014 course “Modern Tibet: Politics, Culture,” Marion and her fellow students chose their own research topics. “Marion studied how Tibetan art influenced dynastic portraiture in China and other students completed research papers related to Tibet in the context of their own majors or minors, in fields as varied as psychology, political science, and communications,” Schiaffini said.

Dr. Schiaffini’s “Modern Tibet” course sheds light on political, religious, economic, and cultural issues pertaining to Tibetans residing in China as well as Tibetans in exile.

This semester, the course has included guest lectures from Dr. Julia Schiavone-Camacho (University of Texas-El Paso) on Chinese immigrants in Mexico, Dr. Francoise Robin (INALCO, Paris) on Tibetan poems, Dr. Lauran Hartley (Columbia University) on modern Tibetan literature written in the Tibetan language, New York-based ethnomusicologist Michael Monhart on Tibetan monastic music, and Dr. Robbie Barnett (Columbia University) on ethnic conflict and social justice.

All “Modern Tibet” students presented their papers and posters at the “From Every Voice” Symposium. For the course, Dr. Schiaffini combined a student-centered methodology with a rich background of “literature, documents, and videos,” said student James Grachos.

Dayton Blankenship presented a poster on the relationship between Chinese language policies in Tibet and the Tibetan nationalist movement; James Grachos shared his research on Tibetan film; presentations by Shannon Hulett and Kevin Lentz addressed different aspects of the evolution of the Dalai Lama as a religious and political institution; Cody Phelps presented a poster about early historical encounters and agreements between the governments of Lhasa and Beijing; Eryn Quinn’s poster compared the organization and power structures of the Catholic and Buddhist churches; Jamie Rogers presented her research on the role of Buddhist nuns in Tibetan society; Shawnee Vasquez explored the psychological influences the China-Tibet conflict have on Tibetan children; and Julianne Wood presented a poster on the effects of Buddhism on Tibetan society.

Marion expects to graduate from Southwestern in spring 2015.