Undergraduate Panel: Abstracts and Bios

We are delighted to launch our 22nd annual conference with a panel presented and moderated by the undergraduates of the Art History Department.

The panel will be held on April 4 in the Lower Galleries of the Binghamton University Art Museum (1-2:15pm).

Here is more information about the presenters and their talks:

Biography:

Mikey Kosowski is a sophomore who is majoring in art history and Russian studies. Mikey sees art history as a way in which he can develop a deeper and older passion, British history and visual culture, and is now beginning to explore his interests in Eastern Europe. His current research interests range from the interiors of Victorian Anglo-Catholic churches to the modern restoration of synagogue murals in Poland.

Abstract:

Dual Faith: The Pagan Vestiges in the Religions of Eastern Europ

The religion of the early Slavic peoples was centered on a mother-earth deity and a bountiful harvest cycle. Wholeness, both in the spiritual and in the physical realms, was strongly connected to the bounty that Mother Earth provided, and to the magic brought forth from her holy, wet dirt. The visual culture of these early Slavs sought to portray holiness in the union of nature. Plants and animals, and perhaps the morphing of the two into one, was an archetype of ancient Russian art. How then, during the Christianization of the Slavs, did these motifs continue? Did these traditions spill over into the Jewish religion of Eastern Europe as well? My research is concerned with these questions, and in particular, the visual ways in which Christianity and Judaism of Eastern Europe are different from that of elsewhere. Due to the mother-earth motif common in the art of synagogues and cathedrals in Eastern European countries, I believe that there are more similarities than differences between the visual mentality of the Jewish and Christian communities of Russia. I believe that both religions were susceptible to pagan vestiges, both in art and perhaps in faith and tradition. Because of this, I argue that these pagan vestiges serve a unifying factor between the two faiths of Eastern Europe, and serve as a way to differentiate them from their counterparts elsewhere.

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Biography:

Zsuzsanna Orban is a junior majoring in Art History. Her love of art started with many childhood trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other museums in her hometown of New York City. Her research interests include 19th and 20th century European and American art. She is currently the secretary of the Undergraduate Art History Association.

Abstract:

Words, Religion, and Censorship: Examining John Latham’s God is Great #2

In the wake of the July 2005 terrorist bombings in London, Tate Britain decided to remove British conceptual artist John Latham’s work God Is Great #2 from his retrospective exhibition, for fear of future attacks. Latham, who is no stranger to controversy, is known for using religious books to make sculptural forms. In God is Great # 2 the holy books of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are cut in half and glued to either side of a large piece of glass, giving the illusion that the books are floating through the glass. Latham chose these particular religions because of their Abrahamic, monotheistic origins, and through this work attempts to connect the three religions in terms of their similarities and questions the relationships among them. However, Latham is also known for his use of destruction in his works, and his general mistrust of institutions, including words and books. Islam, on the other hand, values the power of the word, as the Qur’an is seen as the revealed word of God. Therefore, the destruction of this holy book can be seen as a direct attack on Islam. Ultimately, it is up to the viewer to decide if the work is blasphemous, as Latham’s direct intention was not attacking Islam, but making the viewer think critically. I will argue that through God is Great # 2 Latham is able to preserve these books in a new context, while also discussing the complicated roles that language and words play with religion, destruction, and censorship.

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Hannah Hempstead-Dwiggins

Biography:

Hannah Hempstead is a senior in the Art History Department, but will remain for a fifth year at Binghamton to complete her MA through participation in the Combined Degree program. Her area of interest is nineteenth-century Britain, paying specific attention to forms of revivalism and retrospection in visual, literary, and built culture. She recently curated Marking the Past: Wax Rubbings Taken from England’s Monumental Brasses, an exhibition which was on display at the University Art Museum during the Fall 2013 semester. Hannah is the Treasurer for the Undergraduate Art History Association.

Abstract:

Strawberry Hill and Northanger Abbey: The Romance of Constructing and Deconstructing the Gothic

In 1748, Horace Walpole purchased a property in Twickenham that he would transform into a fairy-tale castle: Strawberry Hill. Strawberry Hill became a stage for his romanticized notions of the medieval, notions later enacted in his pioneering Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. Both Walpole’s physical and literary castles expressed what became a widespread cultural phenomenon for the next century, as artistic, literary, and architectural modes employed Gothicism, fabricating an ideal of the past in order to obtain or provide a spatially, physically, historically, spiritually, and psychologically transportive experience. At the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, Jane Austen would pen a satirically “gothic” novel, Northanger Abbey. Mimicking formal characteristics of gothic narrative, as well as choosing a medieval abbey as her setting, Austen offered an alternative route into the gothic, one that would ultimately lead through illusion and imagination to a romantic, yet emphatically rational and contemporary realism.

This paper uses a dual architectural-literary approach in its discussion of Walpole and Austen, whose own works seem to shift between the textual and the architectural, between the printed word and the built environment. Addressing the ways in which their concepts of Gothicism informed their own architectural romanticisms, this paper explores Walpole’s construction and Austen’s deconstruction of the gothic within their architectural spaces, Strawberry Hill, Otranto Castle, and Northanger Abbey, discussing their mobilization of such spaces as sites of realization, transportation, and, ultimately, revelation.

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