Vanderbilt University History of Art Blog

HART Alumna Ellen Dement to Pursue Interest in Architectural History and Historic Preservation in Grad School

Dement-Ellen-200In pursuit of a career in architectural history and historic preservation, Ellen Dement, BA’18 (History and History of Art), is headed to graduate school this fall at the University of Washington in their master’s degree program in architectural history and theory. Dement will study the architectural, cultural, and political forces that have shaped architecture, dovetailing with an interest observed throughout her undergraduate projects and papers while at Vanderbilt.

Dement was awarded highest honors for defending her undergraduate honors thesis, “A Poem in Stone: The Nashville Customs House and William Appleton Potter’s Government Architecture.” Potter, who worked almost exclusively in the High Victorian Gothic style during his tenure as Supervising Architect of the Treasury customshouse01from 1875 to 1876, designed the Nashville Customs House in 1875. According to Dement, critics praised Potter’s designs, with one newspaper (Commercial Times, February 28, 1876) calling them “poems in stone” and “a surprising reversal of…dreary government buildings.”

The characteristics of Potter’s government designs “are exemplified in the Nashville Customs House, with its Gothic forms, extensive stone carving, and monumental tower,” wrote Dement. “At the same time, however, the building embodies meanings beyond those of its architectural design. Its construction came after nearly two decades of political delays occasioned by the Civil War, and the building was used as a symbol of Reconstruction that would bring economic prosperity to the city of Nashville.”

Dement received a Frances and John Downing Undergraduate Research Travel Award in 2017 to visit the National Archives in College Park, MD, and Washington, DC, where most of the original records on the Nashville Customs House are located. She also did research at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural Library, which houses records related to Potter’s private practice as an architect.

The Downing trip also included research for her Vanderbilt Library Fellowship project, “Visualizing Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building.” Vanderbilt’s Fine Arts ellendementwoolworthbldgmanagerGallery had recently acquired the Reiman Collection—more than 150 previously unknown architectural drawings of New York’s Woolworth Building—from Cass Gilbert’s office, including elevations, floor plans, mechanical drawings and details. These working drawings complement those in other public collections, notably at the New York Historical Society and the Library of Congress.

When it opened in 1913, the 60-story Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan offered the latest technological innovations in the tallest building in the world: direct elevator access to two subway lines, wind bracing, electrical power generation, heating, and cooling.

For her Library Fellowship project Dement created a website that contextualizes these newly acquired architectural drawings within the larger body of sources on the Woolworth Building. She visited two other collections on the Woolworth Building at the Library of Congress and the New York Historical Society, “and had the amazing opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire Woolworth Building with the building’s manager, Roy Suskin,” wrote Dement. “Visiting the Woolworth Building in person provided a more holistic understanding of Vanderbilt’s collection of drawings and the building’s cultural significance in the history of New York.”

libraryofcongressThe Department of History presented Dement with the 2016-2017 Paul K. Conkin Award for her essay, “The Making of a National Library: The Library of Congress as a Cultural Product of the Late-Nineteenth Century,” which was published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Vanderbilt Historical Review.

In her paper Dement explores the transformation of the Library of Congress from simply a reference library for the legislature into the national library of the United States. It argues that this process was the product of American culture in the late nineteenth century and analyzes the rhetoric and methods—particularly the passage of the Copyright Law of 1870 and the construction of a separate Library of Congress building—used to create the institution’s status as a national library.

Posted by on June 18, 2018 in HART, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC

New Sculpture by HART Alumnus Alan LeQuire Marks Tennessee’s Pivotal Role in 19th Amendment

LeQuireSculptingClayHART alumnus Alan LeQuire’s latest sculpture, the Burn Memorial Statue, was unveiled on June 9 in downtown Knoxville next to the East Tennessee History Center and across from Krutch Park. The bronze sculptural group of Harry Burn and his mother Febb Burn celebrate Tennessee’s pivotal role in the 19th amendment and women’s suffrage across the country.

“Tennessee had the honor of being in the eye of the storm for several weeks as the pro and anti forces across the country descended on Nashville,” said Wanda Sobieski, president of the Suffrage Coalition, during the evening’s unveiling ceremony.

In August of 1920, the Tennessee House was deadlocked 48-48 on the issue and seemed poised to reject the ratification of the 19th amendment, which still required a 36th and final state’s approval before it could become a part of the U.S Constitution. Harry Burn, at that time a 24-year-old freshman state representative from Niota, was originally opposed to the measure.

That changed when he received a letter from his mother, Febb, urging him “to do the lequireburnmemorialright thing and become the deciding vote in granting women’s suffrage across the country,” Sobieski said. Each figure is cast as life-size plus another one-third, and “the statue base will include information about the mother and son’s place in history.”

On Women’s Equality Day (August 26) two years ago, LeQuire unveiled another large-scale public monument to suffragists in Nashville. This monumental bronze work is in Centennial Park near the Parthenon and features heroic-scale portraits of five women from across the state and country who were leading suffragists and fought valiantly in the final ratification battle in Nashville in August 1920.

*Alan LeQuire sculpting in clay on the Burn Memorial Statue in his Nashville studio

*Yellow roses adorn Alan LeQuire’s bronze statue of Harry Burn and his mother Febb on June 9, the day of its unveiling in Knoxville, TN

Posted by on June 15, 2018 in HART, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Fine Arts Gallery Hosts Commodore Classroom for Vanderbilt Alumni and Friends on June 14

kinstler_tomwolfeThe Nashville Chapter of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association invites alumni, families, parents and friends to Cohen Memorial Hall on Thursday evening, June 14, for a Commodore Classroom with Joseph Mella, director and curator of the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery. The event begins with a reception in the atrium and viewing of the featured gallery exhibit, Everett Raymond Kinstler: America’s Portrait Painter, followed by Mella’s lecture at 7 pm.

Mella will discuss the varied and colorful history of Everett Raymond Kinstler, now 91 years old and America’s foremost portrait painter. From his early years inking cartoons at the age of sixteen in 1942, to his work as an illustrator for pulp novels and eventual career as a portraitist responsible for painting every U.S. president from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush, Kinstler is truly an American treasure and a master storyteller in words as well as images. Mella will focus on the Fine Arts Gallery’s current exhibition that highlights the many creative leaders in the arts painted by Kinstler over the course of his lengthy career: Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney, Christopher Plummer, Tony Bennett, Alexander Calder, Norman Rockwell, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Tom Wolfe, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and many others.

The cost is $20 per person, including appetizers, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages; for Vanderbilt graduates of the last decade, the cost is $15. Kindly RSVP to Emily Korab ( by Wednesday, June 13.

The Fine Arts Gallery is housed on the second floor of Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Avenue South, on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Visitors to the gallery event may park, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95, accessible from 21st Avenue South.

*Everett Raymond Kinstler (b. 1926). Portrait of Tom Wolfe, 1987, oil on canvas, 50 x 27 inches. Collection of the artist.

Posted by on June 7, 2018 in Events, Fine Arts Gallery, HART, Lectures, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Christopher Johns to Present Paper at “American Latium” Conference in Rome

Christopher Johns, Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Professor of History of Art, will present a paper entitled “John SIngleton Copley in Rome: The Challenge of the Old Masters Accepted,” at an international conference, “American Latium: American Artists and Travellers in and around Rome in the Age of the Grand Tour,” on June 6-7 at the Centro Studi Americani, Palazzo Mattei di Giove, in Rome. The conference forms part of an ongoing research project directed by Johns, Tommaso Manfredi (Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria) and Karin Wolfe (British School at Rome); conference proceedings will be published in 2019.

CopleyAscensionThe Boston-born painter John Singleton Copley began his Grand Tour in London and Paris before arriving in Rome in October 1774, eager to see the antiquities and Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces housed in Rome’s myriad museums, private galleries and churches. Impressed with Raphael, Copley decided to paint the Ascension of Christ during the winter of 1774-1775, “both as a tribute to Raphael and as a modern challenge to the authority of what was arguably the most famous painting in the world during the eighteenth century,” said Johns.

Why did Copley choose such a subject as his initial challenge to the European tradition he so admired and envied? Why did Copley decide not to produce a large-scale version to demonstrate his mastery of the High Renaissance idiom? In his paper Johns will examine the sources of Copley’s Ascension in the context of artistic challenge so frequently encountered among artists in Italy during the age of the Grand Tour.

Johns described the American Latium conference as addressing the pioneering origins of the artistic relations between America, Rome, and its environs from the eighteenth century up until 1870, in order to define the extraordinary impact of the arts of Rome, from antiquity through to the modern world, that in large part resulted in the birth of a national American aesthetic.

The conference program features four thematically distinct sessions: The American Grand Tour in Europe: Origins and Dynamics (chaired by Johns); American Rome and Latium: Image, Sites and Itineraries; Americans and the Artistic Culture of Rome: From Old Masters to New (Copley paper presented by Johns); and Rome in America: Transpositions of Ideas, Art and Artists.

Interdisciplinary in nature, this conference will introduce new research and new research approaches to the study of cultural travel and cultural exchange, including exploring the reverse side of this story of exchange, foregrounding the experiences and the contributions of the first Italians who traveled to America in search of work opportunities and cultural acclaim.

While in Rome for the conference, Johns will attend the formal presentation of the volume, The Holy Name: Art of the Gesù: Bernini and His Age, in a formal ceremony held in the Church of the Gesù. Johns co-edited the book with Linda Wolk-Simon, director and chief curator of the Fairfield University Art Museum, who described it as “the most important and substantial study in any language devoted to the Gesù.” Richly illustrated with 246 color images, The Holy Name is comprised of thirteen essays by an international team of specialists in Italian Baroque sacred art and religious culture. Johns contributed an essay entitled “The Fortunes of the Society of Jesus: Ecclesia Triumphans to Dominus Ac Redemptor.”

*John Singleton Copley. The Ascension, 1775, oil on canvas, 81.28 x 73.02 cm (32 x 28 3/4 inches). Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Conferences, Events, HART, Lectures, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

VU Anthropologist Awarded Grant to Develop Digital Platform for Virtual Archaeological Survey in the Andes

SteveWernkeSteven Wernke, associate professor of anthropology and director of Vanderbilt’s Spatial Analysis Research Laboratory (SARL), has received a $150,000 digital extension grant from the American Council of Learned Societies to develop a digital platform that promises to greatly expand our understanding of Andean culture. Wernke developed a prototype of the project with a National Endowment for the Humanities startup grant, as well as support from the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities and the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas. Parker VanValkenburgh, an anthropologist at Brown University, is the project’s co-director.

The Geospatial Platform for Andean Culture, History and Archaeology (GeoPACHA) will collate and connect satellite imagery from a variety of sources, as well as photos from historic aerial surveys, to build a detailed inventory of archaeological remains in the Andes—including many that have not been discovered yet.

Archaeology is an inherently piecemeal endeavor, Wernke said. “Excavation is a very slow and small-scale process, and even surface surveys are limited in area and can take years. With this collaborative platform for surveying high-resolution satellite imagery, we can achieve systematic coverage at an inter-regional scale—the scale of large empires like that of the Incas—for the first time.”

Once the satellite imagery is collected, the next step in the project is a student-driven crowdsourcing effort to locate thousands of archaeological sites over nearly 150,000 square kilometers. Using a browser-based tool, students will directly participate in a “virtual archaeological survey,” working with regional experts from the United States, Canada, Peru and Argentina to visually scan the images from the areas they know best. “This is a brute-force approach for imagery survey, but it’s currently the most accurate method available,” Wernke said.

The third stage of the project is to use these manually-identified data sets as training data for a machine-learning algorithm that will be able to identify sites automatically over even larger areas.

This project will provide immersive learning and research opportunities for students, and connects to a number of Trans-Institutional Programs, including the Vanderbilt Initiative for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Research (VIIGR), the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Cluster, the VUSAT Initiative, and Data Science Visions.

“Most directly, through our work with Amrutur Anilkumar (School of Engineering) and our VUSAT courses, Vanderbilt students are developing novel remote sensing techniques for detecting features and sites, and we are collaborating with Andreas Berlind (Department of Physics and Astronomy) and colleagues in the Data Science Visions TIPs to develop computer vision and neural network approaches to automate these techniques,” he said.

Wernke sees transformational potential for GeoPACHA, as it will enable archaeologists to move past traditional piecemeal approaches and toward a view of inter-regional scale networks of interaction in the Andes, while serving as a repository for archaeological settlement pattern data. The data for this project will be housed in SARL, and he aims to start the virtual survey in 2019 and 2020.

*MyVU article (May 24, 2018) by Liz Entman; photograph courtesy of Steven Wernke

Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Digital Humanities, HART, News, Technology, VRC

Renaissance Painting from Kress Study Collection On Loan to Norman Rockwell Museum

diBicci_packedA 600-year-old painting of the Madonna and Child by the Florentine artist Lorenzo di Bicci (active 1370-1427) and part of the Fine Arts Gallery’s Samuel H. Kress Collection, is currently enroute to the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA, for inclusion in an exhibition entitled Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition.

Opening on June 9, the exhibit will shed light on the unbreakable thread connecting American illustration and legendary artists Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell to the roots of European painting through the long line of teachers, who have, through the centuries, passed along the wisdom, knowledge, and techniques of the ages to the next generation of creators.

Curated by Dennis Nolan, an award-winning illustrator and professor of art at Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, the exhibition featuring more than 85 works by American and European masters spans five hundred years, tracing the student to teacher lineage of three Golden Age illustrators to their artistic ancestors in the Italian Renaissance.

Lorenzo di Bicci’s painting will be on view in the Keepers of the Flame exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum until it closes on October 28.

Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Fine Arts Gallery, HART, News, VRC

“Altered Reverence” Exhibit on View At Sarratt Gallery Through June 7

Altered-Reverence-228x300Altered Reverence, an exhibit featuring the clay vessels of David Heustess and the art quilts of JoEl Logiudice, will be on view through Thursday, June 7, in Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Gallery. Heustess is assistant director for visual arts and dance at the Sarratt Student Center; and Logiudice, a local fiber artist, formerly directed visual arts programs at Sarratt.

After studying pottery in Nashville area art programs, Heustess attended the Appalachian Center for Crafts and in 1995 completed his BFA degree with concentrations in clay and fiber arts. He began teaching clay classes at Sarratt Art Studios and became director of the program in the spring of 2004. Heustess has a passion for arts education and brings an array of educational experiences to Sarratt Art Studios.

Logiudice has been a fiber instructor at Florida Community College in Jacksonville, JoEl_Logiudice2Appalachian Center for Crafts, Tennessee Tech University, and Vanderbilt University’s Sarratt Student Center. She has taught workshops in rag-rug weaving at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina since 1984. In addition, she has given numerous workshops throughout the Southeast in beginning weaving, papermaking, and basketry, and her rugs and mixed-media works have been exhibited nationally.

In preparation for the two-person show, Logiudice described working on her art quilts as a meditative process. “The quilts showcase color photographs I took at Saint Brigid’s Well on the west coast of Ireland last summer,” she said.

The Sarratt Gallery is located in the main lobby of Sarratt Student Center at 2301 Vanderbilt Place. Free and open to the public, the exhibit is on view during gallery hours (9am-4:30 pm) on weekdays; closed on weekends.

Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Events, HART, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Vanderbilt Libraries to Host “Cultural Heritage in the Era of Big Data” Symposium on June 1

EraofBig-Data-450x254Vanderbilt Libraries will host a public symposium—Cultural Heritage in the Era of Big Data—on Friday, June 1, to explore the ethical dimensions of digital scholarship.  Held in the library’s community room from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, the symposium will bring together archivists, librarians, digital humanists and public historians to discuss the ethical implications of preserving and providing access to culturally sensitive materials online.

“Our annual ‘Cultural Heritage at Scale’ symposia critically examine the technological infrastructure for describing and providing access to digital cultural heritage in a networked age,” said Clifford Anderson, associate university librarian for research and learning. “Our symposium this year will grapple with how to preserve cultural objects for future generations while respecting the rights and following the norms of the communities that created them.”

Must sharing and surveillance always go hand in hand? This conference will explore the benefits and drawbacks of fostering openness in digital cultural heritage. What are the ethical implications of digitally preserving and providing access to cultural materials online? Are there limits beyond the right to privacy and copyright law to what we should make digitally available? How does sharing materials online affect, benefit or potentially harm cultural communities? “This is perhaps the most pressing issue of the day for any users of online information,” said University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss, “and we are all users of online information.”

Workshop leaders (and their session titles) presenting overviews of their cultural heritage projects include Susan Knowles, digital humanities research fellow, Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University, When Digital Collections Promote Community Visibility, 9-10am; Jay Clayton, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, professor of cinema and media arts, and director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt, The Fiction of Privacy: Genetic Data, Ancestry Research, and Forensics,10:30-11:30am; Ben Rydal Shapiro, MEd’13, and 2018 Vanderbilt PhD candidate in learning, teaching and diversity, Personal Curation in a Museum,1-2pm; Ethan Watrall, assistant professor of anthropology and associate director of MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at Michigan State University, Make it Useful, Make it Usable: Cultural Heritage, Archaeological, and Museum Data in the 21st Century, 2:15-3:15pm; and Cliff Anderson, concluding remarks.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. It is funded by the Jean Acker Wright University Library Staff Development Fund of Vanderbilt University. For more information, contact Celia Walker, Vanderbilt Libraries, 615.343.4701; to register, go to the Cultural Heritage at Scale site.

*Article and photograph courtesy of University Web Communications (May 3, 2018)

Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Conferences, Digital Humanities, Events, HART, News, Technology, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Mireille Lee to Deliver Lecture on May 31 at Interdisciplinary Seminar in Paris

mirrormireilleleeMireille Lee, assistant professor of history of art, will present a lecture entitled “Mirroring Femininity: The Body and the Mirror in Ancient Greece” on May 31 at an interdisciplinary seminar in Paris. The overall theme of the seminar is “The Individual and his Body in the Ancient Mediterranean Basin.”

Ancient Greek bronze mirrors provided women essential knowledge about the body throughout the female life-cycle. Mirrors were vital for navigating the bodily transformations of marriage, childbirth, and death, and facilitated important social connections with a woman’s natal family, with other women, and with the divine. “Although mirrors are often interpreted as simple toilet articles, or as straightforward symbols of beauty or vanity, they functioned as complex tools for the social construction of the female body in ancient Greece,” explained Lee.

Held from 4-6 pm (Paris time) at the Ivry sur Seine CNRS building or through video-conference, the seminar will be at the crossroads of history of religions and social anthropology, creating a dialogue between philologists, archaeologists, historians of religions and anthropologists. Those interested in attending the session (either on site or through video-conference) should register by e-mail beforehand (contact:

Posted by on May 22, 2018 in Conferences, Events, HART, Lectures, News, VRC

HART Majors and Minors and Their Families Honored at Graduation Reception

Kevin Murphy, professor and chair of Vanderbilt’s History of Art department, and HART faculty and staff honored our majors and minors and their families at the department’s annual reception for graduating seniors on Thursday, May 10, in the atrium of Cohen Memorial Hall. Following Murphy’s warm welcome and introduction of the faculty and staff, awards were presented and outstanding students recognized for their accomplishments.

cohenatriumTracy Miller, associate professor of history of art, introduced Ellen Dement who was awarded highest honors for defending her undergraduate honors thesis, “A Poem in Stone: The Nashville Customs House and William Appleton Potter’s Government Architecture.”

Sheri Shaneyfelt, senior lecturer and director of HART undergraduate studies, presented the Cooley Prize ($250) to Samantha Smith for the highest grade point average in the history of art.  Ellen Dement, Kenneth Frye, and Sarah Taylor each received an honorable mention award of $100.

The Department of History of Art congratulates our graduating majors: Lillian Claire Boyle (English and History of Art); Ellen Chambers Dement, cum laude, Highest Honors in History of Art (History and History of Art); Brant Alexander Feick (Economics and History of Art); Kenneth Donald Frye (Civil Engineering and History of Art); Gabrielle Leigh Levitt, cum laude (History of Art); Cecilia Stefania March (French and History of Art); Rose Marie Milnes, cum laude (Classical Languages and History of Art); Samantha Campbell Smith, summa cum laude (History of Art); Nicholas David Swerdlow (History of Art); and Sarah Madeline Taylor (History of Art and Political Science).

Graduating seniors introduced themselves at the reception, and among those present several of our majors shared their future plans. Lillian Boyle will remain at Vanderbilt to earn a master’s degree in the history of art from HART’s 4+1 graduate program. Ellen Dement will pursue a master’s degree in architecture, architectural history, and theory at the University of Washington—Seattle. Kenneth Frye is a transportation engineer for WSP USA, a private engineering consultant firm in Nashville.

Cecilia March has an internship at a Jewish museum in New York and ultimately plans to enroll in a master’s program. Rose Milnes will attend graduate school at the University of Georgia in the department of classics. Samantha Smith will work in the New York office of AlphaSights, a worldwide information services company. Sarah Taylor will remain in Nashville and work for Cigna, an insurance company.

The Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery was also open for our graduates and their guests to view the current exhibition, America Creative: Portraits by Everett Raymond Kinstler, which showcases the works of America’s foremost portrait painter. Kinstler’s career has spanned more than 70 years, and he has rendered portraits of more than 2,000 individuals, including eight US presidents.

Prior to the HART reception, graduating seniors attended Amal Clooney’s SeniorAmal_Clooney_Senior_Day-352x450 Day address where the international human rights attorney called on Vanderbilt’s 2018 graduates to “be courageous; challenge orthodoxy; stand up for what you believe in…. My advice isn’t that you have to be Gandhi or Mandela or Martin Luther King or that you should be a human rights activist or get jobs where the salary decreases at every turn,” she said, then quoted poet Robert Frost. “There will be moments in your life where two roads diverge in the wood, and when that happens, be courageous.”

*Amal Clooney addressing 2018 graduates on Senior Day (Joe Howell, Vanderbilt)

Posted by on May 17, 2018 in Events, HART, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC

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