Vanderbilt University History of Art Blog

Free Coffee Available in Cohen 134 During Final Exams: April 24-May 3


As the spring semester comes to a close, the Visual Resources Center (VRC) invites students, faculty, and staff to join us for a free cup of coffee—or two or three—in Cohen 134. Coffee will be available throughout the day during the final exam period, beginning on “reading day,” Tuesday, April 24, through Thursday, May 3.

Pour yourself a cup and dash to class or stay for a while and review images streaming across the big screen at the end of our large study table or simply sit down and take some time to relax and enjoy a cup of java. The VRC is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


Posted by on April 24, 2018 in Events, HART, VRC

Leonard Folgarait to Lead Gallery Tour of “Under the Mexican Sky” at Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum

Weston+Rosa+CovarrubiasLeonard Folgarait, Distinguished Professor of History of Art, will give an in-gallery walking tour of “Under the Mexican Sky: A Revolution in Modern Photography,” a current exhibit at the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, on April 19. Folgarait is a specialist in Latin American art with a focus on Mexican art and photography. He is also the author of Seeing Mexico Photographed: the Work of Horne, Casasola, Modotti, and Álvarez Bravo.

Mexico City in the 1920s-30s was the scene of one of the great artistic flowerings of the twentieth century.  Like Paris in the aftermath of World War I, Mexico City after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) served as a magnet for international artists and photographers. These photographers were often commissioned by the Mexican government and helped create a modern vision for the country’s future. Through their exuberant melding of art, culture, and identity, photography blossomed into a modern art form.

On view through April 22, this exhibition explores the important role Mexico and Mexico City played in the development of international modernism through rare vintage photographs from the 1920s by Los Angelino Edward Weston and Hollywood silent film star-turned-photographer, Tina Modotti. It also includes stellar photographs from the 1930s by New Yorker Paul Strand, Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Mexico’s Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

Folgarait’s gallery lecture and tour is part of the Art Wise: Distinguished Speakers at the Hunter series.

*Edward Weston (1886-1958), Rosa Covarrubias, 1926, vintage gelatin silver print, 9 x 6 3/4 inches. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg. Organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions.

Posted by on April 18, 2018 in Events, HART, Lectures, News, VRC

Library Exhibit “Under the Influence: The Power of Propaganda” Opens April 19

Fellows-Propaganda-poster-forPR-page-001-673x1024Propaganda uses words and images to convey a message. Its persuasive nature makes it powerful. Using items from Special Collections in Vanderbilt’s Central Library, four undergraduates (also Buchanan Library Fellows) have curated an exhibit that explores diverse propaganda: Jorge Salles-Diaz (Propaganda of Oppression); David Zou (Campus Recruiting); McKallie Steen (Environmental), and Justine (Ji Yoon) Hong (War).

Under the Influence: The Power of Propaganda opens Thursday, April 19, at 2:45 pm in the second floor gallery of the Central Library, with a reception and informal tours with the student-curators.

The Fellows interpreted propaganda about war, college recruitment, oppression and the environment. Decide how you feel about their objects and consider the purposes behind them.  The exhibit runs through early August. Visit the second floor gallery at 2:45pm on the opening day (Thursday, April 19) and answer the question “Are you under the influence?”

The curators’ statement about the exhibit follows: Historically, propaganda has been able to control what we think; we want to reckon with this power and expose its mechanisms, objectives, and forms in different contexts and purposes.

Instant access to images and media means we need to question what we see. This is evident with the emergence of terms like “fake news” and “post-truth.” Though propaganda is inescapable, by understanding its nuances, we can better identify its impact on our behavior.

Our goal is to lift off the facade; to reveal the multifaceted functions of propaganda. This exhibit explores the diversity of propaganda in varied forms. Are you under the influence?

Posted by on April 17, 2018 in HART, News, Student/Alumni, VRC

Leonard Folgarait Explores Paris, Impressionism and Degas with VU Alums at the Denver Art Museum

Degas_APassionThe Denver Art Museum provided the perfect setting for an April 2018 Commodore Classroom featuring Leonard Folgarait, Distinguished Professor of History of Art, and the current exhibit Degas: A Passion for Perfection. Folgarait joined the Denver Vanderbilt Chapter on April 15 to discuss the work of Edgar Degas and to tour the museum’s exhibit of more than 100 works by the artist from 1855-1906. Following his lecture, “Paris, Impressionism and Degas,” guests viewed the exhibit using newly acquired knowledge and appreciation of the artist and his works. Folgarait has frequently traveled to Paris to teach a Maymester class and knows the city like a native.

Degas’s paintings, drawings, pastels, etchings, monotypes, and sculptures in bronze are on view at the Denver Art Museum, the sole American venue for the exhibition, through May 20. The exhibit focuses on the most prominent and recurring themes throughout Degas’s 60-year career, including his interest in learning from the art of the past and from that of his contemporaries, a lifelong fascination with the nude, a passion for horses, and his strong interest in opera and dance.

The works reflect the artist’s transformation from a portraitist and painter of historical subjects to one interested in the contemporary life of late-nineteenth-century Paris. By experimenting constantly throughout his career he developed techniques that allowed him to capture modern subject matter through sharp and precise lighting, such as café concerts, street scenes with new electric lighting, sporting events, and theatrical settings.


Posted by on April 16, 2018 in Events, HART, Lectures, News, Student/Alumni, VRC

HART Students Matthew Shorten and Samantha Smith Present Papers at Undergraduate Writing Symposium

Our department proudly recognizes two students who presented papers from their History of Art classes in the annual Undergraduate Writing Symposium on March 25 at the John Siegenthaler Center on the Peabody campus. Sophomore Matthew Shorten and senior Samantha Smith participated in a panel entitled “Objects of Culture and History,” chaired by Betsey Robinson, associate professor of history of art.

matthewshortenShorten presented “Japanese Tea, Ceremony, and Ceramics: Agents of Healing, Transformation, and Dynamic Cultural Symbolism,” a paper he originally wrote in the course, Healing and Art in East Asia, taught by Tracy Miller, associate professor of history of art. In his paper he examined the connection between tea as a health beverage and aesthetic preoccupation in early modern Japan and the development of the nation’s collective culture.

Smith presented “Romanticizing Ruin: The Imaginative Landscapes of Hubert Robert,” a paper assessing the career of the eighteenth-century artist Hubert Robert, demonstrating how he built upon the tradition of capriccio artists Giovanni samanthasmithPaolo Panini and Giovanni Battista Piranesi to create powerful works in response to the urbanization of Paris, and then the French Revolution. Smith became fascinated with the work of Robert while studying him at Saint Andrew’s University in Scotland, and followed up with a paper in Robinson’s seminar, Ancient Landscapes.

In its tenth year as a major undergraduate research event, the Undergraduate Writing Symposium is a forum for excellent undergraduate writing of all kinds. In addition to essays, the symposium features the great diversity of research and writing projects produced by students in all four undergraduate schools, and  competition is intense for participation in the ten panels.  Congratulations to our two HART students for their scholarly contributions!

Posted by on April 16, 2018 in Events, HART, Lectures, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Senior Show “Spicy” Opens April 13 at Ingram Studio Arts Center


Posted by on April 13, 2018 in Events, HART, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Arietta Papaconstantinou to Deliver Classical and Mediterranean Studies Distinguished Lecture on April 12

Arietta Papaconstantinou, associate professor of classics at The University of Reading, will deliver the Classical and Mediterranean Studies Distinguished Lecture—Was Umayyad Egypt a Mediterranean Society?—on Thursday, April 12, at 4:10 pm in Cohen Hall 203, with a reception afterward in the atrium.

papaconstantinouposterFor a long time, the notion of a unified Mediterranean culture was clear and unambiguous for scholars: it evoked not only a specific ecosystem and the agricultural forms that were associated with it, but also societies defined by systems of patronage and strong codes of honor, where local loyalties were more important than the participation in supra-local political entities. Even while this paradigm was becoming the object of sustained deconstruction, specialists of Roman and Fatimid Egypt were striving to show that it was also home to a ‘Mediterranean society,’ sharing the characteristics of its Mediterranean neighbors. This was a reaction to a long-standing perception that Egypt was ‘different.’

Papaconstantinou will revisit this question focusing on the period immediately after the Arab conquest of the seventh century. What happened to Egyptian society when it moved from the empire that invented the idea of mare nostrum to one that had its symbolic origin and center in the Arabian peninsula? How did the encounter between the two cultures take place and does the result conform to what we are used to calling a Mediterranean society?

Papaconstantinou’s research interests cover the religious, social and economic history of Egypt and the Near East during the transition from the Roman Empire to the Caliphate. She is particularly interested in the evolution of Christian communities during the first two centuries of Islamic rule. She likes to mobilize a wide range of sources and approaches, from economic to textual and linguistic, using traditional narrative sources as well as archaeology, papyrology and epigraphy.

Sponsored by Vanderbilt’s Program in Classical and Mediterranean Studies, the event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in all non-reserved spaces in Lot 95 near Cohen Hall on the Peabody campus.

Posted by on April 11, 2018 in Events, HART, Lectures, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Experience “The Sound of Silent Voices” at Central Library on April 10

Holocaust_childrenThe Vanderbilt Libraries will host “The Silent Voices Project” on Tuesday, April 10, at 7 pm in the Central Library’s Community Room. The Silent Voices Project uses the voices of contemporary children to recreate the voices of children silenced at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Under the artistic direction of Blair faculty member Zachary Ebin, the Toronto-based Ton Beau String Quartet will perform trios and quartets by young composers based on poetry written by children of the Holocaust. Vanderbilt Hillel students will provide narration of the poems, and a brief address will be delivered by Blair faculty member Mitchell Korn at the midpoint of the concert.

The event is free and open to the public. A pre-concert reception will be held from 6 to 7 pm in the Central Library lobby.

The Sound of Silent Voices is part of the community-wide programming for the Violins of Hope, a collection of instruments played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. Lovingly restored by Israeli luthiers Amnon and Ashvi Weinstein, the instruments are on display at the main branch of the Nashville Public Library from March 26 through May 27.

More than two dozen Nashville-area groups and organizations are involved in the project, and scores of local events—ranging from musical performances, art exhibits, lectures and more—are planned around the traveling instruments.

The April 10 concert is made possible by generous support from the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries’ Wild Bunch Lecture Fund, the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and the Manus family.

For more information, contact Nancy Dwyer (

Posted by on April 10, 2018 in Events, HART, News, VRC

Rebecca VanDiver Examines Collages of Loïs Mailou Jones in “American Art” Cover Story

amart.2018.32.issue-1.coverLoïs Mailou Jones (1905–1998) began traveling to Haiti in the summer of 1954. In the 1960s the artist produced a series of collages that signaled, via text and symbols, her experiences with and protracted study of Haitian Vodou ceremonial practices.

Rebecca VanDiver’s cover article, “The Diasporic Connotations of Collage: Loïs Mailou Jones in Haiti, 1954–1964,” featured in American Art (Spring 2018), examines the artist’s aesthetic transformation over the next decade—the move from her representational paintings of the 1950s to her abstract collages of the 1960s. VanDiver, assistant professor of African American art, argues that Jones’s eventual turn to collage is connected to her acquisition of a diasporic literacy and her ongoing study of Vodou symbolism, particularly the emblematic drawings known as vèvè.

After discussing prior African American artistic engagements with Haiti, trends in modern Haitian art, Jones’s role as cultural ambassador, and the specifics of the multilayered Haitian Vodou rituals, VanDiver turns her attention to the ways in which collage offered the artist an opportunity to experiment with and make sense of an unfamiliar cultural practice.

“Finally, this focused analysis of Jones’s collages suggests this medium/technique is especially appropriate to diasporic expression because it is predicated on the cut and the subsequent combination of disparate elements,” wrote VanDiver, who is completing a book-length manuscript on Loïs Mailou Jones.

Her research, centered on twentieth-century black women artists, African American artistic engagements with Africa, and the politics of exhibition and display, has appeared in Archives of American Art Journal, Space and Culture, and Transition.

*Cover of American Art 32, no. 1 (Spring 2018): Loïs Mailou Jones, Textile Design for Cretonne, 1928. Watercolor on paper, 28 × 21 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Bequest of the artist, 2006.24.10. Courtesy Loïs Mailou Jones Pierre-Noël Trust

Posted by on April 10, 2018 in HART, News, Vanderbilt University, VRC

Tracy Miller Presents Paper on Generative Design in Architecture of Medieval Chinese Buddhism

songyuesifullviewTracy Miller, associate professor of history of art, will present a paper, “Rethinking Creativity: Generative Design in the Architecture of Medieval Chinese Buddhism,” on April 19 at an event hosted by the Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University, and moderated by Eugene Wang, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art.

The famous pagoda at Songyuesi (ca. 523 CE), located on Mount Song, near the former Northern Wei capital at Luoyang, is not only the earliest full-size pagoda extant in China, but also the only one with a dodecagonal plan. Miller will explore how a particular design strategy, traces of which can be found in divinatory devices, reliquaries, and the plans of towering Indic temples, may have been used to create the plan of the Songyuesi pagoda in an effort to imbue the structure with an inherent generative power.

“The technique may have been seen as a type of geometric ‘proof’ of the Buddhist cosmological system, providing evidence that ritual objects could be designed by humans to transmit natural, life-giving energy to those who used them,” wrote Miller, who is currently writing a monograph on the use of Indic design strategies in the Buddhist temple architecture of Early Medieval and Medieval China.songyuesidetail

Miller’s research focuses on the impact of belief in divinity on the production of art, architecture, and spaces for spiritual encounters. Her publications include The Divine Nature of Power: Chinese Ritual Architecture at the Sacred Site of Jinci (Harvard University Asia Center, 2007), as well as articles and book chapters on ritual complexes associated with Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.

*Pagoda at Songyuesi (ca. 523 CE), on Mount Song, near Luoyang; and detail

Posted by on April 9, 2018 in Events, HART, Lectures, News, VRC

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