Third Annual Grand Rapids Undergraduate Art History Symposium

Schiaparelli ShoeHatPhotograph by George Saad, L’Officiel, 1937

Friday, 11 April Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park


The Introspective Sublime: Romantics’ Grand Reflection of Self

In the early nineteenth century the philosophical concept of the sublime was a topic of much interest to Romantic artists. Often this Romantic sublime found expression in sweeping landscapes that forced the viewer to consider oneself in direct contact with the natural and depended heavily on Burkean, Emersonean, and Kantian theories of the sublime. While the impact of the sublime on the viewer is a well-discussed topic, this paper addresses artists’ contemplations of the sublime within their own work. I will examine the Romantic sublime as an introspection of self for those who attempted to portray it, and through this observe how the concepts of Sublime and Self united.

JAVON BORST (Kendall College of Art & Design)
Defining Masquerade

Masquerade and the many processes involved in the production of and maintenance of masks associated with these performances are not merely for art’s sake; rather, the mask is a grander and more theoretical umbrella device, reflective of the many facets of life. Any given masquerade society will instill importance to any part of the mask it deems necessary for the potency and effectiveness of the performance. While masquerade is not the same performance within every culture that masquerades, one could argue that it is a complex practice during which performer and audience, societal and political realms, the real and liminal intersect.

Building Big in Beijing

The past decades of economic growth in China have resulted in a surge of large building projects in Beijing. This paper examines the precarious situation of the city’s grand building projects, particularly the CCTV headquarters. Completed in 2012, this governmental building was designed by European architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren. It stands in direct opposition to the communist motto of building, “utility, economy, and, if possible, beauty.” If this is the tradition of building in Beijing, how can we understand the CCTV headquarters as a governmental building in Beijing?


BEN SWANTON (Calvin College)
The Book of Kells and Ornamentation across Media

The Book of Kells has long been understood as magnificent production of the early medieval period, the pinnacle of the Insular Manuscript Arts. Recognized as a quintessential piece of Irish heritage, it has drawn the attention of scholars across multiple disciplines. The nature of its production and its ornamentation depend upon a synthesis of cultures. While scholars often note the incorporation of ornament and decoration in Hiberno-Saxon and other early Northern European art is often noted by scholars, the pervasiveness of ornamentation, particularly abstract ornamentation across media begs for a closer look.

KAI KOOPMAN (Calvin College)
Monasticism and the Context of Apocalypse in the Morgan Beatus Manuscript

From the eighth to eleventh centuries, the Iberian Peninsula was ruled  by the Umayyads of Cordoba, who taxed and tolerated Jews and Christians under their dominion. As a Christian kingdom to the north grew and slowly contended with the Umayyads for territory and power, monasteries were erected in the borderlands, and with them, scriptoria that produced devotional manuscripts in a distinctive ‘Mozarabic’ style. This paper analyzes the Morgan Beatus, an illuminated Commentary on the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation), now housed in The Pierpont Morgan Library. The text of the Morgan Beatus was written by the monk Beatus of Liebana in the eighth century and then illuminated much later, in the tenth century. The term ‘Mozarabic’, used to describe a style both cosmopolitan and religiously divided, is apt as well as limiting. The interplay, moreover, between text and image in the Morgan Beatus highlight tensions within its dual eight- and tenth- century contexts. These issues are explored through the writings of Talal Asad, an anthropologist known for his work on Orientalist discourse. In conclusion, hypotheses on the power and political implications of the Morgan Beatus as a performed, religious text are offered.

LUNCH, 11:45-2:30


JULIA FIET (Calvin College)
The Portrayal and Involvement of Women in the Surrealist Movement

This paper focuses on the role of women as artist and subjects in the emergence of Surrealism in light of Freudian psychology. Female artists were essential to the formation of the movement but are often overshadowed by their male counterpart. Here, I will explore the implications of women as sexual beings in their own work, focusing primarily on Meret Oppenheim and her portrayal of sexuality and femininity, as well as the implementation of Freud’ psychoanalytic theory.

NIKKI REED (Grand Valley State University)
Cahun and Moore: The Female Surrealist Collaborators

Relatively unknown before the 1990s, Claude Cahun has recently become one of the most talked about female Surrealist artists. She is primarily known for her self-portraits in which she tackles ideas ideas of identity through the use of theatrical props and costumes. However, the strong collaboration between Cahun and her partner Marcel Moore is relatively unknown. The two women worked together from their teens until their deaths, creating photographs, poetry, illustrations, and photomontages while also enacting political resistance against the Nazis. Because Moore had such a strong artistic influence and active participation in Cahun’s work, it is problematic that there is little credit attributed to Moore. Moore’s exclusion from the collaborative photography not only detracts meaning from the art, but uniquely ascribes the biases of the Surrealists muse/artist relationship.

ANNA HANCHETT (Calvin College)
Schiaparelli, Art, Fashion, and Surrealism

Fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s contribution to the construction of practical garments for women in the period between the World Wards had a significant effect on the liberation of the modern woman. This paper explores Schiaparelli’s collaborations with Surrealist artists, particularly Salvador Dali, as their shared interests in the language of the subconscious provided a useful launching pad for thinking about fashion in relation to psychoanalytic theory. Using theatrical techniques, Schiaparelli helped design the new modern woman’s role as self-conscious and possessive, empowered to control her own image.

OLIVIA HERON (Kendall College of Art & Design)
The Power of Abjection in Works of Kiki Smith and Rei Kawakubo

This paper examines the correlation between the work of sculptor Kiki Smith and fashion designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons. The works of Smith and Kawakubo intersect through their realizations of the grotesque figure and the theory of abjection, as outlined by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror. Abjection is a fact of life dealing with the grotesque that we as humans cannot escape; artists who use abjection seek to push social and psychological boundaries in order to force us to take a hard look at what we wish to keep at a distance. Kawakubo and Smith grant momentary liberation from social constructs, demanding that the viewer pay attend to the more repulsive aspects of life. Their work is often uncomfortable, but only directly confronting what is taboo in our culture, both artist and designer reveal truths about what it means to exist within our bodies.

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