Tag Archive for Art and Art History Department
by Bill Holder •
The scent of ancient perfumes evaporated eons ago, but scientists are able to reconstruct their ingredients by analysis of the residues left on their containers. Up until now, however, such studies have largely been isolated in the scientific literature, disconnected from the textual and archaeological data that place these perfumes back into the hands of their ancient users.
Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, archaeology, and art history, is hoping to change that as co-architect of the OpenARCHEM project, which seeks to assemble the largest set of organic residue samples ever collected from archaeological artifacts around the Mediterranean. Built in collaboration with archaeochemist Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, OpenARCHEM connects botanicals with the containers in which they traveled and the ancient texts that mention them, to reveal the many roles they played in Mediterranean cultures. To develop this project, Birney has received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship.
The New Directions Fellowship will enable Birney to take advanced coursework at M.I.T. and to study with experts in mineral analysis and the ecology of the ancient Mediterranean, fields that are essential for understanding the cross-disciplinary nature of this work.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Casey Herrick ’16, a Houston-based artist and designer, was named a Henry Luce Scholar for 2018. One of 18 scholars selected from among 162 candidates, Herrick will begin with an orientation in New York starting in June, before the cohort embarks for Asia. The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., to honor his parents, who were missionary educators in China. The Luce Scholars Program was launched in 1974 to “enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society.”
Upon his graduation from Wesleyan, Herrick, who majored in studio art and psychology, returned to his hometown of Houston to work as lead 3D-designer, as well as photographer, graphic designer, and video editor at ttweak LLC, an artist-based strategic communications firm. Herrick notes that his work at ttweak has provided the opportunity to work with some of the area’s most prominent institutions, including the Houston Endowment, the Texas Medical Center, the Lawndale Art Center, and the Houston Parks Board. His collaborations focus on helping the organizations communicate dynamically, with maximum effectiveness.
Transitioning out of the design field, Herrick now works as a full-time painter. At Wesleyan, he was deeply involved with Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, serving as a photography lab assistant, a woodshop monitor, and a studio arts teaching assistant. In 2015, he received the university’s Zawisa Grant to photograph the American South, with a focus on regional identity in Louisiana and East Texas. His thesis, Safe Conduct, focused on expectations and traditions associated with gender and the role of society in boys’ coming-of-age. Featuring a 10-by-6 foot canvas, in addition to five other paintings, his thesis work earned him Highest Honors—and New York’s Leslie-Lohman Museum purchased one of the paintings, “The Herndon Climb,” for its permanent collection. He was also awarded the Studio Art Program Award for departmental achievement.
Says Herrick, “I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity. This summer, I’ll be moving to Beijing to work at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and with the city’s art community at large. Right now, I’m frantically trying to learn Mandarin. I know the words for coffee, sandwich, and horse—so I’d say I still have some work to do!”
For more information on fellowships and scholarships, please contact Kate Smith, associate director of fellowships, internships and exchanges, at Wesleyan’s Fries Center for Global Studies. Smith says: “Applicants are interested in fellowships and scholarships for a number of reasons; they offer opportunities to continue academic or language study and to pursue research or explore professional interests. The more students engage with their coursework and harness opportunities available at Wesleyan, the more purposeful they can be when considering these programs.”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
“Pattern recognition was a constant in my explorations at Wesleyan—and what I focused on afterwards,” says Benjamin Fels ’06, explaining the unity behind a seeming diversity of interests.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Organization is interested, also, in what Fels finds intriguing. The company Fels co-founded, macro-eyes, is one of 20 that the foundation selected to be a Grand Challenges Explorations winner. The project that macro-eyes proposed seeks to use their own breed of statistical machine learning, trained on supply chain and immunization data at health facilities in Tanzania. The goal is to maximize the number of children who get vaccinated and minimize vaccine wastage.
Fels and his partners believe that by adding important data, information and observations from health-care workers at the site, they will be able to train and test algorithms, which will learn to identify predictive patterns to forecast demand and recommend the optimal delivery of vaccines to each site in the program.
At Wesleyan, Fels was an art history major who wrote an interdisciplinary University Major Honors thesis with advisor Khachig Tölölyan, professor of Letters and English. “He knew the kinds of topics he was interested in and the things he liked—but the exploration of the things he liked weren’t easily available within a departmental structure,” recalls Tölölyan. “Both of us wanted to think hard in the ways we wanted to think and not worry too much about whether a single discipline could comfortably accommodate that.”
Post-graduation, Fels spent a number of years trading derivatives, which he describes as, “I sat in front of 12 computers, dense with data, looking at patterns; working with technology and people from other cultures to develop algorithms to predict what came next. I really liked the rigor and clarity of it.” After a while, though, he sought to take his interest in pattern recognition in another direction, launching his company, macro-eyes, with a chief scientist who is also a principal research scientist at MIT, and a chief design officer.
“Machine learning—data analytics, or working with large amounts of data to discern those predictive patterns—is important in other domains outside of financial markets, so I went and founded a company,” he explains. Fels and his team are convinced that macro-eyes can solve the problem of ineffective health-care supply chains by harnessing effective machine learning paired with on-the-ground human information.
Fels initially became interested in this specific application of this theory through talking with Anna Talman Rapp ’05, a program officer at the Gates Foundation, which invests heavily in the development of vaccines, a crucial component of the global health climate. At the time, macro-eyes was working with a large U.S. health-care system, exploring questions around determining the value of different devices: which produced the best outcome for the lowest price for which type of patients.
The problem of predicting need captured his imagination: “On one hand, we could celebrate the effectiveness of vaccine delivery,” he says, “because on a global scale, more and more people are vaccinated against deadly diseases—global coverage is something like 86 percent. However, as more and more people are vaccinated, there’s a greater rate of coverage that will run in parallel to a greater wastage of vaccine. The approach so far has been to accept that as the cost of doing business.”
But the cost of vaccines has skyrocketed. Additionally, the vaccines themselves are fragile, with a limited shelf life and narrow range of temperatures in which they remain viable. Over-delivery practically guarantees some will spoil before they can be used—a waste of resources. In Fels’s mind, what is worse is undersupply.
“Let’s think about this one clinic in Arusha, Tanzania, that we’re going to work with: Let’s say, I decide to take my child to this clinic to be immunized. And I spend a good portion of my day traveling from where I live to get to this site. And when I get there, I’m told, ‘Sorry, we’ve run out of those vaccines.’ Rationally enough, I’m probably not going to come back. And even more dangerously, I’m probably going to tell my community, ‘Don’t bother to take your kids to get immunized, because they’re going to tell you that there aren’t any vaccines.’”
What he proposes is to use technology to much more accurately predict demand. Growing out of data from immunization events, he believes that patterns will emerge that can be translated to quantity and type of vaccine to be delivered. “The better you get, the less waste, more opportunity you have to provide the health care to the people who need it.”
Additionally, a key element Fels sees is: “We want to engage these caregivers at the frontline, get their information—and I use that word very carefully because information is many steps up from data; it’s filtered through somebody’s brain and understanding—about the context for care. We believe that these are people who are the world’s foremost experts on the delivery of care at that clinic in Arusha; nobody else knows more than they do; they have this deeper insight into what is happening around them.”
From there he notes a connection to health care in this country: “You’ve probably read about how many doctors spend probably about half their day entering data. And you see this when you go to a doctor, typing away. That frustrates them, because they feel like, ‘That’s not what I trained to do.’ The data collection doesn’t seem important—and the reason is, it’s not flowing out and bouncing back with insights that would make their data collection worthwhile, an ‘Okay, this is why I’m making this investment.’ If we collect data, the initiative must be worthwhile for everybody.”
“I think of this health care project in terms of problems worth solving—and finding those has always interested me. I like the interdisciplinary aspect. And I would bet that everyone who goes through Wesleyan thinks in similar terms. That’s the point, right? To solve a problem that is worthwhile.”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
In a program jointly sponsored by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, artist Glenn Ligon ’82 joined Dean and Professor of Art History at Northwestern University Huey Copeland for a discussion on Sept. 13 at the Atheneum in Hartford. The two, who noted their longstanding friendship as they began their onstage discussion, explored Ligon’s creative practices and Copeland’s research on the ways African American artists have addressed race in the history of American art.
Prior to the conversation, attendees were invited to view the Atheneum’s permanent installation of post-2000 contemporary art in the Hilles Gallery. Ligon’s piece, White #15 (1994, paintstick on linen and wood), is on exhibit there. Ligon had been featured at the Athenaeum in MATRIX 120, the 1992 exhibit in an ongoing and changing series of contemporary art exhibitions, initially funded 1974, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The conversation between Ligon and Copeland explored Ligon’s work, including the installation, To Disembark (1993), and that of other contemporary artists, including Cameron Rowland ’11—as well as the museums charged with illustrating the history of African Americans, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture—in the context of current events.
by Laurie Kenney •
Visual artist and author Miles Hyman ’85 has been chosen for the prestigious title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Ministry of Culture. The award will be bestowed during a ceremony on a future date to be determined.
Hyman studied drawing and printmaking with Professor of Art David Schorr at Wesleyan and went on to study at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-arts. Hyman’s award-winning drawings and paintings have appeared in books, magazines and galleries in the United States and Europe, with clients that include the New Yorker, the New York Times, Viking Press, Chronicle Books, GQ and Louis Vuitton. He is also the author and illustrator of several graphic novels, including his adaptation of his grandmother Shirley Jackson’s renowned short story “The Lottery” (Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, Hill & Wang/Casterman, 2016) and The Prague Coup, a graphic novel retracing Graham Greene’s voyage to Vienna in 1948 to write The Third Man (with writer J-L Fromental, Dupuis, 2017). The monograph Miles Hyman/Drawings, featuring more than 200 of Hyman’s works, was published in 2015 (Glénat).
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Amid rising student interest, Wesleyan has announced a new interdisciplinary minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS), beginning in 2017-18. It will be hosted within the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS).
The IDEAS minor will introduce foundational skills in engineering and design, and bring together existing arts, design, and applied science courses to create a more formal structure to guide students interested in these fields.
According to Professor of Physics Francis Starr, a co-proposer of the minor and director of the CIS, “The new minor plays into Wesleyan’s unique capabilities and dovetails with Wesleyan’s commitment to prepare students for the challenges facing society today. Our aim is to provide students with practical design and problem solving skills, coupled with the context to understand the social and cultural implications of their work.” The minor passed the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) in April.
Wesleyan is at the forefront of an emerging approach in academia
by Lauren Rubenstein •
The Ancient Romans relied on a curious object to tell time: a sundial in the shape of an Italian ham.
National Geographic has featured the work of Wesleyan’s Christopher Parslow to re-create this ancient “pork clock” through 3-D printing, which is helping researchers to better understand how it was used and what information it conveyed.
“It does represent a knowledge of how the sun works, and it can be used to tell time,” said Parslow, professor and chair of Classical studies, professor of archaeology, professor of art history.
The small, portable prosciutto sundial —the “pocket watch of its day,” according to the article—was first excavated in the 1760s from the ruins of a grand country house in the Roman town of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
Chris Chenier, digital design technologist and visiting assistant professor of art, printed the sundial on 3-D printers at Wesleyan, and Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy assisted with the research. Parslow first presented his initial findings at a presentation in Wesleyan’s Wasch Center last December.
According to the article:
After Parslow was asked about the pork clock, he was inspired to build a 3-D model. He took dozens of photos of the timepiece at its home institution, Italy’s National Archaeological Museum of Naples. A 3-D printer at his university churned out the model—in plastic rather than the original silver-coated bronze—in a matter of hours.
Like the original, Parslow’s model bears a dial, in the form of a slightly distorted grid, on one side. The vertical lines are marked for the months of the year. The horizontal lines indicate the number of hours past sunrise or before sunset.
The original clock is missing its gnomon, the part of a sundial that casts a shadow, but an 18th-century museum curator described it having one in the shape of a pig’s tail, so Parslow re-created that, too.
Parslow then experimented with the sundial outdoors. The clock is hung from a string so that the sun falls on its left side, allowing the attached pig’s tail to cast a shadow across the grid.
The user aligns the clock so that the tip of the tail’s shadow falls on the vertical line for the current month. Finally, the user counts the number of horizontal lines from the top horizontal line to the horizontal line closest to the tip of the shadow. That indicates the number of hours after sunrise or before sunset.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
On Nov. 1, Professor of Art David Schorr’s Flying Carpets—New Paintings by David Schorr opened at Wesleyan’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery with a standing-room-only reception and gallery talk by the artist. This solo exhibition and the site-specific installation, Flying Carpets, revisits Schorr’s childhood days spent playing on his grandmother’s Persian rugs. A few days earlier, on Oct. 29, Schorr had previewed this opening in an WESeminar for Family Weekend.
In his remarks, Schorr shared the artists’ process through which the series came to be. “One of the questions my students ask is, ‘Where do ideas come from?’” he began. “And alas, I have no easy answer. I can say where an idea begins, but often like a working title which is discarded, my ideas are not born fully formed and as I try to give them form I am actually trying to understand what it really is I am trying to say…..
“What I do care most about from the start is whether the idea that I am chasing is a potent metaphor for my viewers. I don’t need to know that the images they are seeing what I am seeing. I do need some assurance that these images are stirring memories or thoughts or emotions in my viewers. And only then do my own doubts begin to abate and I can keep working on…”
Beginning with a conversation about childhood moments spent playing with toy vehicles on grandparents’ carpets—and the memories he saw that this triggered in his friends, Schorr traced the creative path, following the evolution of this series from the image of sturdy metal toys against the colors and patterns of the carpet, to the sense of play and abandoned boundaries that childhood imagination imbued in each.
Sasha Rudensky ’01, assistant professor of art, assistant professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is a finalist for the New East Photo Prize. Her photos, Tinsel and Blue, explore the relationship between illusion and truth and the young people of the post-Soviet generation. Rudensky shot the photo series between 2009 and 2015 in Russia and Ukraine.
An alumna of Wesleyan, Rudensky graduated with a degree in studio arts. Rudensky, who was born in Russia and moved to the United States when she was 10, feels this competition keeps her in touch with her heritage. “I am happy to be included on a list of Eastern European artists in general because I strongly identify as one,” she said. “A majority of my artistic work has been done on the former Soviet Union and it continues to pull me back to my roots.”
The inaugural New East Photo Prize is sponsored by the Calvert 22 Foundation supported by The Calvert Journal. According to the Calvert 22 Foundation, “the Prize champions contemporary perspectives on the people and countries of the New East (Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia).” The initiative received a total of 1,030 entries form 25 countries.
Rudensky’s photo will be included in an exhibition at Calvert 22 Foundation in London from Nov. 4 to Dec. 18. The winner of the prize, which will be announced on Dec. 1, will have his or her work published as a photo book.
by Frederic Wills '19 •
The Wesleyan Center for the Arts was featured in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH), the main U.S. peer-reviewed scholarly journal for architectural history, in an article written by Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history. The article, titled “Roche and Dinkeloo’s Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University: Classical, Vernacular, and Modernist Architecture in the 1960s,” detailed the extensive history and creative motives behind the impressive 11-building complex.
From 1962, under the presidency of Victor Butterfield (in office 1943–67), Wesleyan’s trustees committed the college to develop into a small university, and in 1964 they commissioned a master plan that identified the eventual site of the Center for the Arts as an integral part of the expansion. The overall goal, in the words of the trustees, was to “reaffirm the relevance of liberal arts in a world of
The $11.8 million Center for the Arts was designed in the fall of 1965, at a time when Wesleyan had an endowment of $151 million for a student body of about 1,240.
Officially opening in the fall of 1973, the Wesleyan CFA’s “minimal aesthetic has invoked a sense of timelessness.” From the faculty committee tasked with choosing an architectural firm that met specific guidelines outlined by President Butterfield, to the subsequent hiring of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, and then the eventual construction of the CFA, the buildings were created as a “clear and impressive formal statement of what they would be used for, but at the same time, expresses what they stand for and represent,” Siry writes. “As modernist architecture, what these buildings lack in handcrafted ornament they compensate for in material and spatial effects.”
by Olivia Drake •
Although Professor of Art Tula Telfair’s hyper-realistic landscape paintings are vividly detailed, the scenes she depicts are not found in nature; they are conjured from memory and imagination. Informed by her experiences growing up on four continents, Telfair produces fantastical visions with delicate brushstrokes and a mastery of color and light. Suggestive of waterfalls in Africa, deserts of the American Southwest, and ice floes in Antarctica, Telfair’s art draws attention to the power and fragility of nature.
Telfair’s art, which has been featured in public collections around the world, will be showcased in a new book, Invented Landscapes, released on Oct. 18 by Abrams Books. The book can be pre-ordered online.
Included in the book are more than 120 images of her paintings, works in progress and personal photos. The images are accompanied by essays written by Michael Roth ’78, president of Wesleyan University; J. Michael Fay, biologist, ecologist, conservationist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; and Henry Adams, the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment and a professor of art history at Case Western Reserve University. Read more about the essay authors online.
“In the art of Tula Telfair we find … ourselves at once entranced by the beauty of the painted canvas and invited to examine the mystery of the world within it,” Roth says in his essay. “As we probe deeper, we find ourselves returning to the surface as if out of breath. The mysteriousness of the inner world, rendered with such precision, remains intact.”
Telfair was raised in Gabon, located on the west coast of Africa, surrounded by Fang, Pygmy and Bakuta tribes. Her father, Peter Telfair, worked as a geological mining engineer for Bethlehem Steel, the Gabonese government and a French mining company.
“We lived in the jungle and raised orphaned baby lowland gorillas,” she recalls. “Nature was the most powerful force there. I always felt small in the face of such a constant and unpredictable presence.”
Although Telfair’s work looks realistic, she works intuitively and only plans the size and format of each canvas.