Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Joanne Allen travels to Rome to present a joint paper with colleague Dr. Michael Gromotka of Freie Universität, Berlin.

Dr. Joanne Allen and her colleague, Dr. Michael Gromotka of Freie Universität, Berlin, presented their joint paper “Crowdsourcing the past: The Society for the Study of the Church Interior collaborative online research database,” on November 3rd 2016 at the Ècole Française De Rome.

Dr. Allen is interested in the nature of the relationship between recurring church reform movements and architectural space and how the usage of church buildings change in response to new liturgical norms. In order to understand these broad questions, a large amount of data is needed.

This paper introduced the Society for the Study of the Church Interior and their collaborative database project which seeks to collect the still scattered data regarding the development of spatial dispositions and aesthetic treatments of walls and other surfaces in churches. This paper also discussed the issue of terminology within this database. For example, how many different types of rood screen are there and what should we call them? Should terms discovered in historical sources be used? How many subtly different types of ‘alteration’ were applied to church furnishings (e.g. ‘partially demolished’; ‘remake proposed’)? Lastly, this paper discussed underlying tensions between devising an accurate, workable list of terms and subjecting the information to modern, interpretative judgments.

Another exiting aspect of this paper was that Dr. Allen and Dr. Gromotka encouraged the involvement of potential participants in this ongoing database project.

Congratulations and well done to Dr. Allen, we look forward to further information on this exciting collaborative project!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Helen Langa presents her paper “Framing Justice. Modernism and Social Advocacy in American Visual Arts and Dance, 1929-1945.”

Dr. Helen Langa presented a paper in October at a symposium in Chicago titled “Framing Justice. Modernism and Social Advocacy in American Visual Arts and Dance, 1929-1945.” The Symposium was held at Loyola University in Chicago.

There were three panels with pairs of presenters that responded to issues of racial oppression, gender oppression, and economic oppression. Dr. Langa’s talk was in the session on racial oppression; it was  titled “Respect and Resistance: The NAACP, the CPUSA, and Modernist Artists’ Contributions to the Struggle for ‘Negro’ Rights, 1929 to 1945”.

She focused on the roles that two organizations, the NAACP and the CPUSA, played in influencing visual artists to take up themes that resisted white racism, promoted black equality, and affirmed a positivist vision of black individuals and their contributions to American history. She argued that artists used a diverse array of realist and modernist styles to portray contemporary individuals and issues.  While the NAACP emphasized works that promoted respect for African Americans, both white and some black artists drew on Communist ideals to create works that explored contemporary resistance to racism and support for racially-integrated solutions in political and workplace organizing.

Student Spotlight: Danielle Grega, Recipient of a Segnan Award and a College of Arts and Sciences Mellon Award

Danielle Grega, a second year Master’s Student in the Art History program, received a Segnan Award and a CAS Mellon Award to support international travel for her research trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Below, Danielle shares her experience with us:

“While in Edinburgh I was able to view a group of nineteenth-century paintings concerning Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, the subject of my master’s thesis. I was able to take detailed photos of Sir William Allan’s The Murder of David Riccio (1833), the principal painting my thesis will focus on. I was also able to view and photograph James Drummond’s The Return of Mary Queen of Scots to Edinburgh (1870). Existing photographs of these paintings fail to convey accurate formal techniques and color palette, and I am extremely grateful to American University for aiding me in conducting the most precise research possible. I focus on these particular works because they depict specific, well-documented moments in Mary Stuart’s history, thus allowing me to analyze how and why they transform the Queen from a historical figure into an ideal archetype of the Scottish nation. The visit to the Scottish National Gallery and to Holyrood Palace—the actual site of the murder Sir William Allan’s painting depicts—helped me to better understand the art of nineteenth century Scotland and how closely Scottish national identity is tied to it.”


Alumni Spotlight: Nichole Rawlings

Nichole Rawlings graduated from American University in 2012 with a focus in Italian Renaissance art. In 2014, Nichole was appointed Gallery Director at the Brenau University Art Gallery, in Gainesville, Georgia. Below, Nichole talks about her responsibilities as Gallery Director, and how her MA in art history at AU has prepared her for this position:

In my role as Gallery Director at Brenau University, I oversee physical gallery spaces and exhibitions as well as a large permanent art collection.  Our collection was begun in the 1980s and has over 6,500 pieces encompassing a number of media, artists, periods, and styles.  The first piece donated to the collection was a William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), and more recently we acquired a number of original Andy Warhol prints – demonstrating the variety of the collection as a whole! Many works are installed around campus to make them accessible to our community, and I am responsible for maintaining them and educating our faculty, staff, and visitors about them.

We have three rotating gallery spaces at Brenau University, and new exhibitions in each gallery every semester.  I am responsible for choosing the exhibitions, installing them or facilitating their installation, and creating programming around them.  This requires developing relationships with artists, collectors, and other institutions.  I work to promote our exhibitions through giving community talks, facilitating a growing docent program, and working with University public relations.

In a number of my day-to-day and long-term activities I have relied on skills I acquired during my time at American University.  The breadth of classes I took in terms of time period and methods have provided me the contextual information I need to speak intelligently and confidently about our collection.  I feel that I have the ability to talk to collectors, organizations, and working artists from a place of appreciation and knowledge of their work.  In general, I am a much more confident scholar and advocate of the arts after my advanced studies in art history.

Brenau University Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings.

Brenau University Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings.

Ties that Bind

Brenau Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings welcomes guests to the Ties That Bind reception in Sellars Gallery.

(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Carmelo Blandino Tours Downtown Center

Brenau Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings shows aritsit Carmelo Blandino the collection at the Brenau Downtown Center.

AU Hosts the 14th Annual Graduate Symposium in the History of Art

On September 24th, American University hosted the 14th Annual Graduate Symposium in the History of Art. Four MA students from the American University Art History program presented the following papers:

–Erica Bogese, “Constructing Citizenship: Jacques Louis David’s Lavoisier Portrait”

–Sarah Hines, “Captivity, Resistance, and Female Empowerment: Narratives of Women’s Strength in the Work of Harriet Hosmer”

–Leah Haines, “The Temporalities of Work and Rest: Camille Pissaro’s Peasant Woman”

–Becca Blader, “Balance and Mirrors in Joseph Jachna’s Landscape Photography”

Each of these papers was drawn from the students’ ongoing or completed thesis projects. Congratulations to all those who presented, and to George Washington’s three speakers for their excellent contributions to the symposium.


AU Students Erica Bogese, Sarah Hines, Leah Haines, and Becca Blader (left to right) pose in Katzen Art Center


Leah Haines presents her paper, “The Temporalities of Work and Rest: Camille Pissaro’s Peasant Woman”


Erica Bogese presents her paper, “Constructing Citizenship: Jacques Louis David’s Lavoisier Portrait”


Professors Juliet Bellow (far left) and Helen Langa (far right) pose with their advisees after the symposium

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Juliet Bellow organizes “If caa.reviews were performance.reviews”

Over the past year, Dr. Juliet Bellow has spearheaded a new initiative at caa.reviews, the College Art Association’s online reviews journal.  About the project, Dr. Bellow said the following:

“If caa.reviews were performance.reviews” is the first installment of a new initiative at caa.reviews to cover dance, performance, and other time-based media staged in museums and galleries.  The initiative grew out of my participation in a 2015 panel at CAA called “Dance in the Art Museum.”  It occurred to me that caa.reviews ought to seize the opportunity to engage with the increasing number and prominence of live events in the museum setting–and that, in covering such events, the journal could become a venue for art historians to carry on a cross-disciplinary dialogue with scholars of dance, performance, film, and music.  To that end, I commissioned three dance historians to write about Boris Charmatz’s marathon two-day intervention at the Tate Modern last year.  I’m excited not only about the content of those reviews, but also the format.  Wanting to capitalize on the fact that caa.reviews is the only one of CAA’s journals to be published entirely online, we used the digital platform Scalar to create a multimedia piece that includes images, video, and an interactive map.  My hope is that, in the future, all of caa.reviews‘ content can take better advantage of such digital resources!

Check out Dr. Bellow’s introduction to the project by following the link: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/caa/introduction

Congratulations, Dr. Bellow!



AU Art History Students take a tour at the Walters Art Museum with the Curator of Rare Books

On September 14th Dr. Joanne Allen took her Medieval Art class to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Curator of Rare Books, Dr. Lynley Herbert, first gave the students a tour of her special exhibition ‘Waste Not: The Art of Medieval Recycling.’ The exhibition contains more than twenty objects, such as gold, stone, ivory, glass, and parchment—all drawn from the Walter’s collection—that display evidence of reuse.

Subsequently, Dr. Herbert gave students a private viewing opportunity with the highlights from the museum’s medieval manuscript collection. “I hope visitors will have a new appreciation for the rich histories behind medieval objects, and the cleverness of the craftsmen who made and transformed them,” she commented.