September 12, 2018 – Matthew Rarey

Assistant Professor of the Arts of Africa and the Black Atlantic, Oberlin College

“Questions of Value and Bondage at a Hotel in London, March 1865”

In March of 1865, Dante Gabriel Rossetti encountered a child in the doorway of a London hotel.  One year later, Rossetti presented that child as an androgynous, bejeweled, and servile rendering of blackness in his celebrated painting, “The Beloved”. This talk explores the implications of that encounter, and that rendering, for debates about the representation of enslavement and blackness in Rossetti’s own social circle, the wider Atlantic world in the 1860s, and among those who work with and against the troubled archive of Atlantic slavery.

 

September 26, 2018 – Natasha Bissonauth

Visiting Assistant Professor & Writing Fellow
Writing Program, Haverford College

“Chitra Ganesh’s Tales of Amnesia: Re-imagining Goddess Iconography through Queer Form”

In 2002, as a South Asian diasporic art scene was emerging in New York City, Chitra Ganesh revisited comic books from her childhood, a series titled, Amar Chitra Katha, that propagandizes hetero-patriarchal visions for Indian nationhood — largely through narratives of Hindu myth. The result was an artwork in the form of a zine titled Tales of Amnesia, a queer parody of Amar Chitra Katha‘s goddess iconography. Bissonauth contextualizes Tales of Amnesia‘s goddess imagery and the nationalist ideologies from which it unhinges in order to highlight how scenes of queer desire trouble diasporic attachment to home/nation. Moreover, broadening analysis beyond queer content, Bissonauth argues that attention to Ganesh’s storytelling form, namely her intertextual dialog and aberration of image and text relations, reveals how queer archival returns enact an aesthetic of opacity, dissonance, and irreverence that ultimately rethinks historical method and narrative processes, too often overdetermined within the visual culture of difference.

 

October 10, 2018 – Ken Lum

The Rules of the Game (of Art)”
Professor and Chair of the Fine Arts Department
University of Pennsylvania School of Design

Ken Lum will speak about what is for him the meaning of art, which he defines as living the life of the artist.  While such a definition may sound romantic, living the life of an artist means a life where everything is relevant, from beautiful experiences to painful ones.  It also means a life of profound misgivings about the art system in which art must operate.  Lum will speak about how his mixed feelings about art have led to extensive travel and major curatorial and writerly initiatives.

October 24, 2018 – Chanchal Dadlani

Associate Professor of Art History and ZSR Foundation Faculty Fellow, Wake Forest University

“Translating India: Mughal Art and French Knowledge Production in the Late Eighteenth Century”

The eighteenth century was a period of heightened contact between India and France, resulting in the circulation of images and ideas between the courts of the Mughals and that of Versailles. A set of objects from the collection of Jean-Baptiste Gentil, a French East India Company officer who lived in the subcontinent for 25 years, embodied these exchanges. In this talk, I explore how Gentil collaborated with Indian artists and translators to produce albums that mediated between the traditions of Mughal manuscript painting and the audiences of eighteenth-century Paris, ultimately revealing the impact of Mughal manuscript culture on eighteenth-century French knowledge production. 

November 7, 2018 – Elizabeth Lee

Associate Professor of Art History, Dickinson College

“The Religion of Health: Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Cancer and the Phillips Brooks Monument”

In 1900, when the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was diagnosed with cancer, he began experimenting with a dizzying array of medical cures and therapies from surgery to electric shock treatment to eating Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and “Fletcherizing.” Throughout his illness, and until his death in 1907, he also worked on the Phillips Brooks Monument, dedicated to the Boston preacher known for his compassionate presence in the sick room. This paper addresses the poignant interplay between the artist’s own body as it was consumed by disease and the production of the Brooks, which came to life as the sculptor worked and re-worked the folds in the preacher’s robes, his expression, gesture and stance.

November 14, 2018 – Jie Shi

Assistant Professor of History of Art on the Jye Chu Lectureship in Chinese Studies
Bryn Mawr College
 
“The Vision of Immortality in a Princely Stone Sarcophagus in Sixth-Century China”
 

Dated to 532 CE, Prince Yuan Mi’s lavishly engraved stone sarcophagus exemplifies a hitherto little understood Chinese visual strategy, i.e., using the imagery of diagonal gaze to make a persuasive visual argument. Because gaze in medieval Chinese literature was an idiom for “closeness” and “parallelism,” the artist used the slanting gaze to shorten the physical and psychological distance between the three-quarter-view gazers and the gazed at, a group of ancient filial paragons residing in a landscape setting in the outermost layer. In supporting this argument, this essay also looks into the epitaph buried with the sarcophagus, which similarly paints a beautified picture of the deceased prince as a good official, which he was not according to his official biography.

 

January 31, 2018 – Shiamin Kwa

Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature, Bryn Mawr College

“The Panther, the Girl, and the Wardrobe: Terror Inside our Borders in Panther, by Brecht Evens”

Both the format and the premise of Panther, by Brecht Evens, are the deceptively familiar conventions of the illustrated children’s book. A young girl troubled by loss encounters a furry friend who brings color back into her life. As the book progresses, however, the girl’s and the reader’s expectations are violently overturned: book and companion have been deceptions. This paper considers Evens’ use of the comics form itself to critique border controls of varied kinds. In its contemplations of the pervasiveness of all kinds of “domestic terrors,” Panther presents a timely investigation and interrogation of the methods we employ to measure safety in a precarious world.

February 7, 2018 – Daniel A. Barber

Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania School of Design

“A History of the Not So Utopian Future”

This lecture will discuss how solar house heating methods and techniques of climatic design were essential aspects of the global architectural discussion in the period surrounding World War II. These techno-cultural developments not only produced novel designs, they also emphasized the role of architecture as a mediating practice, facilitating novel conceptions of the relationship between social and biotic systems. The not-so-utopian future that was imagined was a means to consider how humans transform in relationship to anthropogenic changes – a profound realm for analysis in the face of climate change.

February 14, 2018 – Susanna McFadden

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Bryn Mawr

“Meditations on Ornament: The Late Antique Wall Paintings of Amheida, Egypt”

Recent excavations at the late Roman site of Amheida in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis have revealed an astounding corpus of painted plaster, depicting both figural scenes drawn from Greco-Roman mythology as well as an array of Classical style “carpet” designs (textile and mosaic patterns). This paper focuses especially on the ornamental motifs and discusses the ways in which they are exemplary of the mimetic charades typical of late antique visual environments in the Mediterranean at large. As such, the paintings’ survival in a city on the edge of empire provides an unprecedented opportunity for nuancing issues of identity politics in Egypt as well as for examining the complexities of late antique decorative strategies both locally and internationally, past and present.