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Past Symposia

​18th Annual History of Art and Architecture Student Symposium

​​​​Student Speakers​


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​17th Annual History of Art and Architecture Student Symposium

​​​​Student Speakers​

Mali is currently an epicenter of African art photography as local artists expand the financially appropriate definitions of Malian photography from the well loved, successful portrait photographs of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé to politically and socially charged works that respond to contemporary political issues. The tradition of Malian portrait photography has influenced the world as the creation of Bamako Encounters-African Biennial of Photography in 1994 showed the global interest in Malian, and African, photography as well as gave local photographers a platform on which to safely express their ideas, culture, and artistic prowess. Bamako, Mali’s capital and home to the exhibition, has overseen the exponentially politicized arena of Malian photography as local artists gain access to a global art market. Events such as democratization, coups, the growth of global financial markets, and the creation of Bamako encounters have been large factors in these artistic changes and Bamako has become the epicenter of a changing artistic landscape. All these political factors inspired/forced Malian photographers to use their successful national tradition of portrait photography and make contemporary human statements about their nation, their lives, and the government that surrounds them to cope with and even change their political circumstances.

Dylan Becker

This paper examines the climate crisis and how we might solve it through applications of vernacular architectural practices and ideals in our modern built environment. By taking inspiration from vernacular African earth-based architecture, we could achieve an architectural language which is once again in harmony with our environment, rather than in direct opposition of it. Earth and structures made from it benefit greatly from numerous naturally occurring technologies which prove advantageous to modern applications in building. These include temperature regulation without the need for air conditioning—in the correct environment, of course—as well as fire resistance. By eliminating the need for mechanical temperature regulation, the energy consumed by a building is significantly reduced. Likewise, using earth such as clay to construct a building also reduces the amount of energy consumed during the building process. These properties of earth can be combined with modern technologies to create even more efficient homes without sacrificing any contemporary comforts as demonstrated by Mario Cucinella’s development of the TECLA house in Italy. While earth may not be an ideal construction material for all buildings, inspiration from the natural world can still be involved in modern construction through the application of biomimicry. The Eastgate Center in Harare, Zimbabwe is exemplary of this process which involves observing the operations of the natural world (in this case, the temperature regulation of termite mounds) and, using new technologies, mimicking them in modern structures. The current standard of construction will only continue to contribute to the climate crisis, but we need not sacrifice the comforts provided to us by it; taking an approach to architecture which harnesses the natural technologies of the world to provide the same comforts, like that of traditional Africa, is a viable solution to the death of our planet.

Halle Blauwkamp

In recent years, historic house museums and sites have faced an ongoing struggle to capture the interest of younger generations and to build inclusive atmospheres that tell the stories that have shaped history. Historic house museums face many intrinsic difficulties, such as a lack of physical space, staff, and resources, often further hindered by outdated, and perhaps stale, interpretation practices. By analyzing the approaches taken by various examples of historic house museums, sites, and societies, both successful and unsuccessful, a clearer picture of what it will take to revive these unique spaces will emerge. Through this exploration, one can see that in order for historic house museums and sites to remain relevant and attract the attention and interest of America’s youth, they must address every angle of the narrative of American history, even its most painful realities, and implement modern best-practices and approaches to better establish connections with their audience. As museum professionals continue their work to build exhibits and gallery spaces based on representation and inclusion, it is imperative that historic house museums and sites are included in this effort. These valuable spaces have the ability to bring history to life for visitors, making them especially worthy of analysis and eventual improvement so that they may continue to serve as stewards of historical truths. 

The mysterious French mistress persona of Marcel Duchamp, Rrose Sélavy, has become an icon for future artists. Sélavy changed the representation of artists from a blue-collar manly man to the “bi-gendered and dandified” eccentric that seems to seep through the work of many modern and contemporary practices. The existence of Rrose Sélavy created a free space for the fine art world to go from the picturesque Brancusi’s performing at the peak of masculinity to the Andy Warhol’s practicing creative expression within art and as a lifestyle.

Exploring individuality and the artist’s experience within society as a form of art and artistic practice helped truly bridge the gap between the traditional works of the Academy and the Avant-Garde works circumnavigating the Salons of the 20th century. Rrose Sélavy has influenced the perception and role of the artist in society for the past 100 years completely shifting the demographic of aspiring artists and those being showcased in fine art institutions. Examining the work of more contemporary artist in context with Sélavy in mind, this paper shows how Duchamp and his alter ego changed the perception of artists to come. Sélavy forced the modern art critics to look at modern works with new lenses and helped many future artists find the tools to do the same with advertising, making the life of the artist a performance piece itself, and blurring the lines of analysis and methodology critics have used for decades. Sélavy popularized the idea that artists have agency in their perception and therefore changed the reception of art and artist in the public eye.

Hannah Orlando

In the United States a person is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds.[1] In my research paper I will discuss non-binary artists that have created activist artworks to heal from their own trauma and call attention to the devastating rate that people experience sexual violence. Their artworks have encountered some of the same scrutiny similar to that of survivors. However, the artists’ works have also been turned into foundations of community healing. I will be examining photography, book art, and endurance performance pieces by non-binary artists Zanele Muholi, Mirabelle Jones, and Emma Sulkowicz. All of these artists have created deeply personal works that bring attention to their communities. These artists make sure that their works are accessible and incorporate members of their communities. In addition, by having created archival resources and public initiatives these artists make spaces for inclusion and support. Circulation and the attention that these works received have expanded beyond the artists original intent, resulting in negative attention as well as causing the artwork to become more personal to its viewers. Through the use of data statistics on sexual violence, and queer and feminist critical theory, readers will gain insight into the realities of sexual violence from the outlook of someone from a non-binary perspective.

[1] RAINN, "Scope of the Problem: Statistics," RAINN.

Calligraphy has existed as the pinnacle medium for divine artistic expression and human intellect for centuries. Artists and scholars in China have painstakingly united lingual spheres of understanding with prominent compositional qualities, and in doing so have enhanced both language and aesthetic criteria to an elevated method creating and consolidating meaning. Elite members of Chinese society have historically been exalted and revered for their abilities to dictate their minds in capturing and integrating verbiage throughout bold swathes and delicate washes of undulating black ink. Drawing and writing are inextricably tied within this careful practice, wherein each line of characters may behave so uniquely they may stand in place for the author themselves. The closeness between these visual formal qualities of line and their semantic meanings are as much interrelated as the calligraphers most personal internal qualities are to the work itself. The contemporary understanding of calligraphy has been radically shaped by the political and ideological focus of the Great Cultural Revolution.

The radical democratization of character drawing, as it will be shown, reflect the held belief by Mao Zedong that in order to reshape society and its inhabitants, so too one must reshape the written word and by extension its long-held disparate associations. Calligraphy, in a divisive turn of events, may be subsumed for purposes of communal intelligibility, and in doing so creating a unilaterally understood mode of operation. The systematic dismantling of the aristocratic art form into didactic and legible script involved its practice by the most rural and even vulnerable members of society. Despite its inherent exclusionary nature, Mao would attempt to affect wide proportions of his population by ushering a novel discourse as to the power of calligraphy to inspire capable workmen and enact a righteous reversal of the static social stratification. The spirit of the Cultural Revolution and its inherent aims are properly understood through these concerns with language and its divisive spirit through the unraveling and reappropriating language as China knew it. It was apparent that in order for Mao Zedong to successfully usher in a Cultural Revolution, and lasting change, the once bourgeois and elite art form of calligraphy must be used by and for its people. The power-wielding influence of the pen and its once playful and unique transmutations would become at once leveled and organized for the eventual successes of the Chinese Communist Party.

Izzy Wagner

Utagawa Hiroshige's woodblock print Shinano Province: The Moon Reflected in the Sarashina Rice Fields near Mount Kyodai (Shinano, Sarashina tagoto no tsuki, Kyodaisan) is looked at closely here through the art historical methodologies of materiality and semiotics. Several scholars' works - both Western and Japanese -  and comparison to other woodblock prints are used to analyze the history and artistic qualities of Hiroshige's print. Evaluating this particular work in such detail allows one to see both the useful qualities and the downfalls of these methodologies as well as gaps in the scholarship surrounding specific works of art outside of the Western canon. There is more beyond just the artist's life that is necessary to evaluate woodblock prints. Materiality is useful for understanding the work that goes into creating a woodblock print and the importance of the materials used. Yet, art history scholarship has historically side-lined this method as well as the findings from it. In terms of Hiroshige's woodblock prints, the underuse of materiality leaves the work of carvers unrecognized and important questions of who should be recognized as alongside the artist are left unasked. Semiotics is used here to understand the complexities of the contexts this work is viewed, displaying how little this print's Japanese qualities have been considered both in scholarship and in museums. Text accompanying these works largely ignores the intrinsic Japanese nature within the prints. In museum spaces, information such as explanations of the importance of a location depicted is left out and Western perspectives are favored. Hiroshige's The Moon Reflected provides an intriguing case study to evaluate the methods art history uses, particularly concerning those works outside of the canon. By looking into scholarship surrounding non-Western works, the quality of art historical methodologies can be assessed.