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.”