Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh is a consortium of local museums, galleries and archives working together to share information and expertise, and foster collaboration in research, teaching, and public engagement.

Here, at the HAA Constellations blog, you can read about some of the outcomes of these partnerships. Learn more about Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh at https://haa.pitt.edu/ckp.

 

Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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    "Caravans of Gold" and the Premodern World: HAA Field Trip to Toronto

    Author: Shirin Fozi

    Assistant Professor, History of Art and Architecture

    On February 22 a group of 37 HAA undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty were in Toronto to see the Aga Khan and Royal Ontario Museums. The central goal of the excursion was to see Caravans of Gold, a path-breaking examination of art, culture, and exchange in the age of Mansa Musa, when access to extraordinary gold mines made a West African king the richest man in the world. Deeply rooted in current scholarship and developed in partnership with curators in Mali, Morocco, and Nigeria, it showcases not only the wealth of the Saharan region during the period ca. 1000-1400 CE but also argues powerfully for the role of trans-continental trade routes in linking Africa to networks of exchange that extended as far as China in the east and France in the north. To name but one example, the show includes ivory statuettes from Paris in dialogue with a bronze figure from Nigeria; the goal is to show that French craftsmen were using African ivory even as African artists were obtaining copper from France. The exhibition was an outstanding opportunity to rethink the global Middle Ages with an emphasis on Africa.  

    It was a great privilege to see Caravans of Gold at the Aga Khan, one of the only two museums in North America exclusively dedicated to the art of the Muslim world and a showcase for the diverse artistic practices that are often clustered under the umbrella of “Islamic” art. Containing objects from a vast geographical territory that spans from China and South Asia, across the Middle East, to Spain and North Africa, the permanent collection at the Aga Khan Museum emphasizes the cross-fertilization of cultures, techniques, and artistic practices. Cross-cultural contacts between Muslims and Christians are reflected with particular strength in the collection, which includes medieval architectural decorations recovered from the Iberian Peninsula and also an extraordinary eleventh-century ivory oliphant made in southern Italy. The group also visited the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and had time to explore its outstanding collections of Asian, European, and Indigenous North American art. The ROM, home to one of North America’s finest and most comprehensive collections of Chinese art in particular, offers exceptional possibilities for connecting cultures of the premodern world. Objects from the Six Dynasties through the Mongol empire (220–1368 CE), for example, reflect sustained, in-depth exchange between cultures across Eurasia in ways scarcely accounted for by modern geopolitical boundaries. There was much more in Toronto than could be absorbed in a single day, but still we learned a great deal from even a brief encounter with these powerful collections just across the northern border.  The organizers of the field trip, Shirin Fozi, Sahar Hosseini, and Michelle McCoy, are particularly grateful to the Asian Studies Center, the China Council, the World History Center, and the Undergraduate Dean’s Office for a set of small grants that supported the field trip and allowed us to keep the participation fee to just $30 for transportation, lodging, and museum tickets.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
    At Fran Gialamas' studio
     

    Say Her Name: Women of the AAP

    Author: Emi Finkelstein

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    Say their names: Tina Williams Brewer, Fran Gialamas, Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer. A collection of works by these three artists and members of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) are on display in the University Art Gallery through the end of March. The exhibition Three Artists (Three Women) was inspired in part by the work of Mary Ethel McAuley, an AAP artist from the early 20th century, whose paintings of Germany during wartime are on display in the front gallery of the UAG. Together, these four local women artists, whose work differs greatly in subject, form, media, and scale, share a commitment to pushing forward what it means to be a woman artist working in Pittsburgh—whether today or a century ago.

    The plans for Three Artists (Three Women) kicked off with a visit from Madeline Gent (Executive Director of AAP), Brewer, Gialamas and Cuellar-Shaffer to the UAG in January, where the artists saw McAuley’s paintings for the first time and were inspired to display work that created a dialogue between her art and their own. The following weeks were a whirlwind of research, studio visits across the city, and discussions with the artists. Our first studio visit took place at Fran Gialamas’s Aspinwall studio. Next to the front door were stacked a series of large-scale canvases, which we slowly unwrapped and examined with Gialamas. Watching the artist revisit almost four decades of her own work was an exciting perspective into her long career, which included serving for a few years as president of the AAP and advocating for artist equity. 

    The next day, we traveled to Brewer’s residence in Homewood. Seated on her living room floor, we discussed the artist’s life and work—her frequent collaborations, her materials collected from all over the world, and the way she translates her spirituality into her art quilts. One of the most memorable moments came when UAG Director Sylvia Rhor found herself wrapped up with the artist in a large dancing skirt, which is now elegantly folded and hung at the front of the UAG exhibition. Greensburg-based artist Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer’s studio was too far away for us to travel to, so we followed her process via text message as she painted three new works for our exhibition. When the works were delivered by Cuellar-Shaffer we arranged them as a tryptic against a gallery wall and sat before them, discussing the artist’s own experiences as a Columbian immigrant and Latina woman living in the US. 

    Throughout the period of research and curation, our team frequently returned to our initial conversation with the artists in the gallery in early January, when we shared the story of Mary Ethel McAuley and her nearly forgotten paintings with the artists. When Brewer heard this, she exclaimed “say her name!” quoting the title of one of her own art quilts. This phrase became an important touchstone for our team, and we decided to place the phrase on the wall of the UAG’s Rotunda space in four languages—English after Brewer’s work, Spanish for Cuellar-Shaffer, Greek to reference Gialamas’s childhood and heritage, and German, for Mary Ethel McAuley. The space will be transformed into a feminist maker space and reading room for Women’s History Month in March, casting light on the achievements of many women artists—here in Pittsburgh and across the globe.

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Where are the Women Architects?

    Author: Thomas J. Morton

    Senior Lecturer, Architectural Studies Program, History of Art and Architecture

    While approximately 50% of architecture students in the United States are women, the number of women who are practicing architects is a fraction of that number. And, the number of women in leadership positions for architecture firms is a fraction of that fraction. One can ask, Where are the Women Architects?, and this topic is the focal point of a series of events occurring March 26-28, 2020 at the University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Library – Oakland. The Architectural Studies Program in the Department of History of Art & Architecture at Pitt and Women+ in Design PGH are organizing the events. Despina Stratigakos, who authored the book, Where are the Women Architects? (Princeton University Press, 2016), will offer a free, public lecture on this topic on Thursday, March 26th at the University Club in Oakland (the lecture starts at 6:30pm). Stratigakos is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Buffalo and Vice-Provost for Inclusive Excellence. Mary Beth McGrew, the Associate Vice-Chancellor for Design, Planning, and Real Estate at the University of Pittsburgh, will introduce Stratigakos. Following her lecture, Stratigakos will be joined for a Q & A by Lori Brown, Professor of Architecture and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Syracuse University. A reception in the University Club will follow.

    On Friday, Brown and Stratigakos will speak at a breakfast organized by the Women’s Leadership Initiative of the Urban Land Institute and will meet with students and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh throughout the day. On Saturday, March 28th Lori Brown will oversee a free, public Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the Carnegie Library in Oakland (10am-2pm). The event is open to the public, and no previous experience with edit-a-thons is necessary. The goal of the edit-a-thon is to add as many entries as possible to Wikipedia for women designers  – a group that is woefully underrepresented in Wikipedia. If you change the web, you change the world.

    These events have many sponsors, including Pitt’s Year of Creativity, the Department of History of Art & Architecture at Pitt, the Architectural Studies Program at Pitt, the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) at Pitt, Women+ in Design PGH, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID), and the Urban Land Institute Pittsburgh – Women’s Leadership Initiative.

    Emily Pierson-Brown, Associate at Perkins Eastman - Pittsburgh, and Thomas J. Morton, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History of Art & Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, organized the events.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Replication and Revelation

    Author: Sarah Reiff Conell

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    This Valentine’s Day, members of the History of Art and Architecture Department spent some quality time with Warhol. Together with Chief Curator José Carlos Díaz, we explored the exhibition Andy Warhol: Revelation at the Andy Warhol Museum. This exhibition brought together the rich archival holdings of the museum alongside Warhol’s artworks, highlighting the influence of Catholicism on the artist’s image making. The show also includes local objects from Pittsburgh, like panels from the iconostasis (icon screen) of Warhol’s church, St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church, located in Ruska Dolina (now known as the Four Mile Run neighborhood of Greenfield).

    Through engagement with the exhibition and in dialogue with the curator, I gained a new appreciation for Warhol’s work and was fascinated by the way that the artist engaged in the process of copying through the lens of religious image making. As mentioned in the exhibition catalog, “Warhol’s devotion was not an act but a fundamental part of his life.” Images take on meaning in the eyes of their beholders, and Warhol knowingly treads the line between objects of genuine devotion and kitsch that thwart such distinctions as he merges high and low, sacred and profane in his copies. Seemingly mundane objects can be incredibly powerful, as they are more accessible and are able to be activated by the attentiveness of viewer. Religious objects have persistently traversed the boundary between cheap copies and treasured surrogates.

    I came to this conversation from my area of expertise on miracle working images in the sixteenth century Europe. Early modern copies were understood to connect mortals with the heavenly. In the twenty-first century, replicated images can seem to lose their value, in part because of the scale of copying that can be accomplished with relative ease. Still today, the role of the copied image in Catholicism resists this characterization, as images fulfill roles that supersede artistic innovation in the everyday lives of people and their devotional practices. 

    Valuable repetition can be found in a variety of spiritual objects and devotional practices. For example, liturgical calendars mark time through a rotation of days dedicated to honoring particular saints. Repetitive actions can also be supported by specialized objects. Praying the Rosary is a way to commit to memory important scriptural events, and each iteration of the prayer cycle is primed for reflection. The “Hail Mary” prayer is a condensed version of prayerful repetition, and each reflective utterance potentially reveals new points of attention as well as a deepening connection with a central saint of the Catholic faith. 

    Warhol is well known for his pop icons, which he created in multiples. The blue and gold representations of Jacqueline Kennedy mourning the assassination of her husband are reminiscent of portrayals of the Virgin Mary responding to Her Son’s crucifixion. Both offer the opportunity for viewers to connect through the experience of traumatic loss, an empathetic response that is held in tension with the intentional flatness of the picture plane. These women are simultaneously near and distant, known and unknowable. Such images of the Virgin Mary have been copied for centuries. Iconic portraits of the Madonna have garnered legitimacy through a chain of reproduction that spans back to the earliest depiction of Her, which some believe was painted by Saint Luke. The practice of copying paintings that were produced hundreds of years apart, connects each iteration of that image to a powerful original. This topic is too large for a single blog post, but it is important to reconsider images as meaningful for the ways that they link humans to each other and to the divine.  

    The works selected for the Revelation exhibition offer examples of reference and wit that I am excited to share. Inspired by this show and eager to continue our conversation, I wrote a short reflection on a handful of objects that stirred connections with my own research area. Click here if you want to read more about the images above. 

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Irrespetando la frontera: un mural de la comunidad Latinx en Pittsburgh

    *You can read this text in English below the Spanish version

    Autora: Marisol Villela Balderrama

    Doctoranda en Historia del Arte y de la Arquitectura

    Irrespetando la frontera es un mural creado comunitariamente en Pittsburgh en octubre de 2019 con el fin de reflexionar y de posicionarnos en contra de las políticas y retóricas antiinmigración cada vez más violentas de la administración de Trump. Como estudiante de Historia del Arte y de la Arquitectura, soy parte del grupo interdisciplinario organizador de este proyecto de arte público que activa el diálogo acerca de la presencia Latinxs en Pittsburgh, utilizando un muro como elemento de conexión, en lugar de división. El mural refleja trayectorias de migración representadas por vehículos hechos de objetos cotidianos que cargan memorias de nuestros lugares de origen; mensajes en spanglish, referencias musicales y de intercambio de conocimientos, entre otros elementos. Los vehículos están conectados entre sí y son arrastrados por un caracol encapuchadx que brinda honor a la rebeldía y la libertad, fuerzas críticas para soportar tiempos difíciles. 

    El mural es una pintura acrílica sobre paneles de fibra de vidrio con dimensiones totales de ocho por veinte pies (2.5 x 6 metros) y fue creado durante un taller comunitario de tres días en un estudio de arte en el Hill District. Invitamos al artista Gil Rocha, originario de la ciudad fronteriza de Laredo, Texas, a dirigir el proceso creativo. La vida y trabajo de Gil están íntimamente ligados a la frontera, por lo que al compartir sus experiencias nos ayudó a conceptualizar y plasmar en imágenes nuestras propias vivencias como comunidad Latinx en Pittsburgh. Veinte personas de diversos géneros, edades, nacionalidades y profesiones nos unimos para pintar. Nuestras edades oscilaron entre los siete y cincuenta años y describimos nuestros orígenes como chilenxs, colombianxs, salvadoreñxs, guatemaltecx-estadounidenses, mexicanxs, mexicanx-estadounidenses, y estadounidenses. La colaboración de Casa San José fue crucial para contactar con la comunidad Latinx y el proyecto tuvo el apoyo del comité de Pitt's Hispanic Heritage Month y la iniciativa de Year of Creativity. La curadora fue la artista local Leah Patgorski.

    La siguiente fase del proyecto es encontrar una pared pública en Pittsburgh donde montar el mural permanentemente y así continuar dignificando y haciendo visible la presencia Latinx en la ciudad. En diciembre de 2019 el mural se exhibió durante el evento Unblurred - First Friday Gallery Crawl en Garfield, donde hubo una ocasión más para convivir. Después de participar en la creación y exhibición del mural, Jorge Jiménez, doctorando en Bioingeniería en Pitt, expresó: “Irrespetando la frontera fue la primera oportunidad desde que llegué a Pittsburgh hace tres años y medio en que pude compartir con libertad mis vivencias y experiencias culturales.” Con el proyecto de Irrespetando la frontera buscamos que la comunidad Latinx, al igual que otras comunidades minoritarias, pueda ser y sentirse siempre libre en Pittsburgh y los Estados Unidos.

     

    Disrespecting the Border: a Mural from the Latinx Community in Pittsburgh

    Author: Marisol Villela Balderrama

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    Disrespecting the Border is a community-based mural created in October 2019 with the aim of reflecting and taking a stand against the increasingly violent anti-immigration policies and rhetoric under the Trump administration. As a second-year graduate student in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, I am part of an interdisciplinary group that organizes this community project of public art project, which activates dialogue about the Latinx presence in Pittsburgh by using a wall as an element for connection rather than division. The mural reflects trajectories of migration represented in vehicles made with everyday life elements. These vehicles carry memories of our homelands, Spanglish messages, motives for migration, references to research, music, and the sharing of knowledge, among other elements. They all are connected and pulled by a caracol encapuchadx (masked snail), which honors rebelliousness and freedom, critical forces for enduring dark times.

    The mural, an 8 by 20 feet acrylic painting on fiberglass panels, was created collectively in a three-day community workshop at a local art studio in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. Artist Gil Rocha, from border-town Laredo, Texas, led the workshop, in which twenty people of diverse gender, age, nationality, and profession participated. Ten women and ten men joined the mural painting process. Participants’ ages ranged from 7 to 50 years old; they described their origins as Chilean, Colombian, Salvadorian, Guatemalan-American, Mexican, Mexican American, and American. Casa San Jose was a crucial partner for reaching out to the community, and local artist Leah Patgorski was the curator. This project was supported by Pitt's Hispanic Heritage Month committee and The Year of Creativity initiative.

    The next phase of this project is to find a public wall in Pittsburgh to mount the mural permanently, as a way to further dignify and make visible the Latinx presence in Pittsburgh. The mural was exhibited at the Unblurred - First Friday Gallery Crawl in Garfield in December 2019. After participating in the creation of the mural, Jorge Jiménez, graduate student in Bioengineering at Pitt, said: “Disrespecting the Border was the first opportunity in 3.5 years of being in Pittsburgh, where I could share my cultural and lived experiences freely.” With this project, we enable the Latinx community, and other minority communities, to express themselves freely in Pittsburgh and the rest of the United States.

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992), Design for museum ramp adaptation, Bahia Cinema Club, MAM-BA (Bahia Museum of Modern Art), Salvador, Brazil, 1960. Instituto Bardi/Casa de vidro, São Paulo

     

    An architect draws: Zeuler Lima on Lina Bo Bardi

    Authors: Paula Kupfer and Paulina Pardo Gaviria

    PhD Students in History of Art and Architecture

    On Saturday, January 18, scholar Zeuler Lima offered reflections on the legacy of Italian-born architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92), in particular on the importance that drawing held in her practice. Bo Bardi, who emigrated to São Paulo with her husband Pietro Maria Bardi in 1946, is best known today for her architectural designs for the Museum of Art of São Paulo and SESC Pompeia, a popular cultural center and sports complex, also in São Paulo. The current exhibition at CMOA, Lina Bo Bardi Draws, curated by Lima, includes a comprehensive timeline of Bo Bardi’s architectural projects and showcases close to one hundred drawings.

    As Lima’s approachable presentation made clear, drawing was an instrumental medium for Bo Bardi from an early age and throughout her life. She sketched city scenes, was drawn to botanical motifs, and left behind drafts of unbuilt structures on paper. She also used this medium to reflect on architectural practice as a whole.  For instance, in the drawing La cámara dell’architetto (The Architect’s Room, 1943), Bo Bardi represented examples of architectural styles spanning centuries, including classical Greek temple designs inhabiting the same modern room with a miniature version of Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier's quintessential modernist house. Her interest in sketching botanical elements, which initially offered a respite from the daily experience of a Rome in ruins during fascism, would manifest strongly in her interest in organic architecture beginning in the late 1950s, which she pursued after settling in Brazil. 

    In addition to her work on paper, in his presentation Lima highlighted Bo Bardi’s important work with periodical publications. In the early 1940s, Lina Bo lived in Milan, where she collaborated with architect Carlo Pagani and edited the Italian design magazine Domus; during these years she further developed her concerns with domesticity, nature, and vernacular and industrial design. Years later, after becoming an established architect and exhibition designer in São Paulo, Bo Bardi founded the arts and architecture magazine Habitat. This platform allowed her to disseminate her work, engage in international discussions about modernist architecture and its connections to art, and further develop her interests for graphic design and illustration.

    During his presentation, Lima reflected on Bo Bardi’s training as an architect, which given the constrictions on the practical application of construction in 1940s Italy focused on intellectual debates and design strategies. Lima’s assertion that Bo Bardi was a “generous humanist who saw architecture as a field of relations” is evident in the drawings included in the CMOA exhibition, most of which feature people, plants, and daily objects inhabiting the designed spaces. The richness of the material curated by Lima suggests that for Bo Bardi drawing was not only a vehicle for architecture design but the ideal medium to wonder about the multiple ways we move in space.

    Seeing nearly one hundred drawings of Bo Bardi is a rare opportunity that should not be missed. Greater emphasis throughout the exhibition and in Lima’s talk on Bo Bardi’s achievements and the relevance of her contributions––in architecture and exhibition design, as well as publishing periodicals for international circulation––would have better situated the role that these drawings played in Bo Bardi’s creative and professional practice. Her engagement with a specific place and with the social relevance of the built environment was nonetheless transmitted to Lima’s audience, both in his presentation and the exhibition in the Heinz Architectural Center on the second floor of CMOA.

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Mary Ethel McAuley, Women Working on the Strassebahn, Collection of Rebecca and Tasso Spanos

     

    Say Her Name: Year of the Woman at the UAG

    Author: Sylvia Rhor

    Director, University Art Gallery

    “I refuse to be one of the forgotten women!” Artist Lila Hetzel’s defiant words were published in an editorial letter to The Bulletin Index in 1938. Hetzel was writing in response to a critic’s assessment of the annual exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP), in which the author omitted the many women included in the organization’s inaugural exhibition in 1910. Among the excluded was a young woman named Mary Ethel McAuley. McAuley, a Pittsburgh native, was not only one of the inaugural members of the AAP, she was also a reporter, author, illustrator, painter and teacher. McAuley’s name was regularly in newspapers and on exhibition rosters, yet, despite exhortations like Hetzel’s, she has been nearly forgotten today. The upcoming exhibition in the UAG, Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines sets out to find her again.

    Although she has been referred to as an “untrained” or “outsider” artist due to her seemingly simple visual style, the research for this exhibition has shown that McAuley was far from it: She was a trained artist, conversant in modernist styles of her time, and deeply embedded in art networks, here and abroad. The collaborative curatorial team for the show, which includes Emi Finkelstein and Ana Rodríguez, has discovered a wealth of new information about McAuley, her painting process and her career. McAuley studied with Scalp Level artist Martin B. Leisser at the Pittsburgh School of Design, and, as early as 1910, pursued further training in Europe. When in Pittsburgh, McAuley taught weekend drawing classes in a downtown studio and exhibited frequently between 1903 and 1921 in galleries, department stores and museums in Pittsburgh and New York. A prolific writer and illustrator, she contributed regular columns to the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch and illustrated popular books. McAuley was a modern woman, forging a career as a painter and writer, and travelling the world at a time when women of her background were often expected to marry and raise families.

    The set of paintings that form the core of Behind the German Lines, was created around 1919 to illustrate McAuley’s first-hand account of life in Germany during the First World War, while she was a correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch. From ration lines for butter and beer to the building of the railway. McAuley’s paintings depict scenes that she witnessed as an American woman. She captures the nuances of quotidian life at that time, paying special attention to women in wartime. Her paintings depict German soldiers in uniform standing alongside chimney sweeps in town squares, women shoveling coal, mothers and children alone on the streets while fathers and brothers were on the front line. The exhibition includes objects from the collection of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, including German World War I helmets, to provide a context for McAuley´s work. 

    Examination of the paintings by conservator Rikke Foulke revealed more about McAuley’s unique painting process. The works were painted or mounted on materials such as artist’s portfolios and board, and McAuley seems to have used a red linen as a painting surface in other works, heavily building up the layers of paint on the canvas. Ultraviolet light inspection uncovered heavy overpainting in certain areas, raising questions about interventions at a later date.

    The ten paintings in the show – the only known extant works by McAuley – were loaned by collectors Rebecca and Tasso Spanos. Mr. Spanos purchased the works in the late 1960s from Harry Eichleay, a local art dealer, who, in turn, had seen McAuley’s works in a gallery window in New York City. Shortly after buying these paintings, Tasso Spanos contacted McAuley, who was living in Squirrel Hill at the time. Though he never had the chance to meet her (McAuley died in 1971), Spanos vowed to exhibit her works and bring more attention to an artist that he feels is on a par with other modernist artists of the early 20th century.

    The UAG has also partnered with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) on a companion exhibition: Three Artists (Three Women). This exhibition highlights the work of AAP artists Tina Brewer, Fran Gialamas, and Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer. The exhibition is conceived of as a dialogue – across generations and across media – with McAuley’s works. The artists in this show draw on personal and cultural symbolism to explore issues of migration, identity and history in their works. Together, the two exhibitions allow us to ponder how women artists across generations explore these topics. 

     

    Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines and Three Artists (Three Women) will be on view through March 28th. The opening reception for both exhibitions will take place on Thursday, February 13th from 5pm to 7pm. Related programming includes a gallery conversation on March 19th at 5pm, with AAP artists Gialamas, Brewer and Cuellar-Shaffer. We will also offer drop-in maker activities in the “Say Her Name” Feminist Maker Space + Reading Room in the gallery’s historic rotunda throughout March 2020.

     

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Andy Warhol, The Last Supper, 1986. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

     

    The Furtive Faith of Andy Warhol

    Author: Paula Kane

    John and Lucine O’Brien Marous Chair of Catholic Studies, Department of Religious Studies

    In a year that honored Fred Rogers as an exemplar of Pittsburgh and progressive Presbyterianism, the current show at the Warhol Museum embraced a more complex native son and his oblique connection to Catholic traditions.

    For the last several years I have worked with the Andy Warhol Museum as an advisor to its current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Revelation. The show is the first to highlight the artist’s religious background and influences. It closes in Pittsburgh on February 16 and will travel to the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and then to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The five rooms of the exhibit are preceded by Sunset, an unusual Warhol film from 1967 as part of a commissioned project for the Vatican pavilion at the 1968 world’s fair in San Antonio. Although the project was never realized, Warhol’s 33-minute shot of a California sunset hints at his anxieties about death and disasters–themes that consumed him in the 1960s–, as well as the spiritual sublime. Sunsets may be passages into darkness, or gateways to the dawn. The show then opens with “Ruska Dolina: Church & Community,” depicting Warhol’s local religious influences. “Glory & Graces” connects the tradition of sacred icons of his Pittsburgh parish to his well-known secular icons, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy. “The Catholic Body and The Renaissance Spirit: Inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci” consider the role of the body in Warhol’s art and his engagement with sacred Renaissance painting. The final segment, “Sacred & Secular: Reproductions and the Imitations of Christ,” matches artworks drawn from elite sources, such as Raphael Madonnas and da Vinci’s Last Supper, with mass-marketed items like Jesus night lights. 

    In addition to Warhol’s own works, a variety of items enhance the exhibition: drawings of angels by the artist’s mother, who lived with him in New York; Catholic kitsch garnered from city flea markets; photographs of Warhol with friends and the pope; newspaper ads and clippings that Warhol used in his silkscreens; line drawings of body parts. Since this exhibition is the first to highlight Warhol’s Byzantine Catholic roots, it offered an ideal opportunity to consider religion in the life of a modern artist. A conversational approach to this topic seemed more fruitful than a lecture, so I invited art historian Erika Doss from Notre Dame to join me at the museum a few weeks ago for the evening event, which we accompanied with projected images.

    What does revelation mean for a modern artist? For Christians, the word has its roots in the cryptic final book of the Christian Bible, where the end-time is vividly depicted. It speaks of a world undergoing a series of crises before being transformed by the victorious redemptive work of God. For Andy, did a sense of revelation play a part in his life and his art? What does he reveal to us, his viewers? Our conversation at the Warhol hoped to reveal at least two things: first, that in the art world, the religious identity of Warhol was more challenging than his gay identity. As performance artist and poet John Giorno recalled, it was far worse to be religious than gay. It was hard for modernists to accept that religion still mattered. Our second revelation, therefore: Warhol was both religious AND modern.

    Warhol was surrounded at The Factory, his studio from 1962 to 1984, by a cohort of “lost boys,” mostly lapsed ethnic Catholics from working-class families who were constant reminders of that shared religious heritage. Andy was religious, though in an idiosyncratic fashion. In Pittsburgh, his family had moved to Dawson Street in Oakland to live near their church. In Manhattan, Julia Warhol continued to attend a Byzantine rite church, while her son went to Mass at least weekly at various Catholic parishes, rarely taking the sacrament of communion. Andy often stayed at services only for ten minutes or so. We can only speculate about whether he feared the Church’s condemnations of homosexuality, or lacked a spiritual connection with the sacrament, or just liked to watch the congregations without being observed himself. He customarily carried a rosary and a missal with him, and his townhouse was full of devotional objects. He was proud of meeting Pope John Paul II in 1980.

    Although not “a religious artist,” Warhol was both religious AND modern.  He made hundreds of prints of religious subjects, but especially in the two years before his death, when he  repeatedly focused on da Vinci’s Last Supper, using a German engraving of the painting. Here, Warhol’s production of copies of copies of copies using modern photo or print technology and overlaying it with camouflage or pink paint recalls the role of sacred images and relics in Catholic culture: there, the power of the object is not diminished by copying, in contrast to Walter Benjamin’s famous claim that the aura of the original could not be replicated. In Catholic belief, the copied item (a vial of holy water from faraway Lourdes, for example, or a blessed holy card) still carries its sacrality, and the portability of holiness is an important aspect of devotional culture.

    The exhibition segments on the Last Supper and the Catholic body remind us of the important role of devotions in Catholic practice and of the incarnational core of Christian faith: material objects that can be touched, smelled, tasted, and admired visually are reminders of the presence of God, who took on human form. Andy grew up during the heyday of devotional Catholicism in the U.S.,  and appreciated its “thingness,” often for purposes of parody and satire, which led him suggest tantalizing connections between the Catholic subjects of the great Renaissance artists and the cheap mass-marketed religious items of the present.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Frontpage of “India in America”: East Indian Furnishings between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr by Katie Loney

     

    Digital Exhibition Maps Agency and Identity through Furnishings

    Author: Katie Loney

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture and Graduate Student Assistant in Public History

    How can furniture help us understand the world and its connections? As the Graduate Student Assistant in Public History at Pitt’s World History Center, I have developed a digital exhibition that shares the 19th century furniture from India which I study as an art historian beyond my discipline. “India in America”: East Indian Furnishings between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr traces the movements of a set of artistic furnishings produced by the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company in Ahmedabad, India to explore important questions about agency and identity. In the late nineteenth century, the American heiress, philanthropist, and suffragette Mary Garrett purchased this set for her Baltimore estate, later moving it to Bryn Mawr College’s Deanery with the help of the American designer Lockwood de Forest—one of the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company’s founders.

    Through virtual “galleries,” visitors are able to explore the transnational histories of these Indian furnishings, tracking their movements from Ahmedabad to de Forest’s New York showrooms, Garrett’s Baltimore mansion, and the Deanery, where Garrett lived with her partner, M. Carey Thomas, the then-president of Bryn Mawr College. Looking to period photographs, correspondence, inventory reports, and other archival materials, the digital exhibition reexamines the company’s artistic furnishings and their position within Orientalist interiors, which evoked an imaginary “East” for Western consumption. At each stage, issues of agency and exchange come to the fore by registering the company’s furnishings as objects of skilled craftsmanship, commodities, and exotic luxury furnishings. Taken together, these galleries illuminate the ways nineteenth-century Americans and Indians used luxury goods to navigate their identities and social relationships in an increasingly interconnected world characterized by colonialism and imperialism.

    Almost serendipitously, my project coincides with a new exhibition of de Forest’s work at Bryn Mawr College, “All-over Design:” Lockwood de Forest between Ahmedabad and Bryn Mawr, curated by Nina Blomfield (Ph.D. candidate at Bryn Mawr College). This led to a series of collaborative events at Pitt and Bryn Mawr college where we were able to discuss both our exhibitions with the public. At Pitt, we hosted a curatorial conversation in the India Nationality Room. We not only discussed our approaches to work of de Forest and the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company but were able to compare this de Forest’s design as a turn-of-the-century venture with the twenty-first century Indian Nationality Room modeled after the Buddhist Monastic University, Nalanda (active from ca. 500-1200 CE). This comparison raised questions about the global circulation of materials, goods, and aesthetics and how they are used in places deemed new and foreign. Comparing de Forest and the Indian Nationality Room also highlighted the processes of appropriation and inequity on which nineteenth-century Orientalist interiors relied and perpetuated, while illuminating the ways in which the Indian Nationality Room negotiates issues of identity formation for Indian communities in Pittsburgh.

    This event was followed by an object study session at Bryn Mawr College, where Nina and I led an interactive tour of her physical exhibition. Bryn Mawr Special collections provided us with hand lights and gloves to share with attendees, so everyone had the opportunity to engage with the objects visually and tactically. 

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Fig1. Margarat Honda. Frog, 2019. Multimedia. Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Belly Up: or, A Journey Through The History of Art In the Shape of a Frog

    Author: Christopher Nygren

    Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Director, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program

    In September 2019, the Carnegie Museum of Art installed a new work in the Forum Gallery: Frog is a five-foot long sculpture of a frog that Margaret Honda created in collaboration with Hollywood propmakers (fig.1). 

    The scale of the work is jarring and the positioning of the frog, which lays on the ground belly up, is disarming. In the animal kingdom, the belly-up position is rarely a good sign. If you linger in the Forum Gallery for any length of time, you’ll inevitably hear visitors whispering to one another, “Is this frog dead?”

    Many other aspects of this frog are also subject to inquiry. If one looks at the sculpture long enough and compares it to photos of the European common frog (Rana temporaria), which is the species of frog closest to this sculpted invention, they will realize that there are a number of important divergences between Honda’s sculpture and real-world frog (the number of digits on the forelegs, for instance) (fig.2).

    These are not “errors”; rather, they are hold-overs from Honda’s font of inspiration for this curious and playful sculpture, which is a painting by the Renaissance painter Bramantino (1465-1530) held in the Ambrosiana collection in Milan (fig.3). 

    Like most pre-modern works of art, the museum has given the painting a descriptive title: The Madonna Enthroned with Saint Ambrose and Saint Michael. However, this overlooks the most surprising element of the painting, which is the gigantic frog that lays on back in the lower right-hand corner of the picture space (fig.4).

    As a specialist of Italian Renaissance art, I know much more about paintings like Bramantino’s than I do about contemporary sculpture. Even so, the Carnegie Museum of Art invited me to participate in a public conversation about Honda’s new work. This event was an experimental format that was dubbed “A Conversational Dissection,” and it brought me together in conversation with Jennifer Sheridan, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Hannah Turpin, Curatorial Assistant for Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography at the CMOA. Each of us presented for about 10 minutes, and our mandate was simply to bring our expertise to bear on Honda’s sculpture in a way that might enrich our understanding of the sculpture. Dr. Sheridan gave a very informative and rollickingly entertaining introduction to the biology of frogs. She introduced the audience to, among other things, the idea of “snout-vent length” that biologist use to measure frogs. Biologists have aggregated millions of data points to produce charts that show the link between a frog’s weight and its snout-vent length. Dr. Sheridan was able to extrapolate from these charts that, if it were to exist in the real world, Honda’s frog would with more than 900 pounds. 

    My presentation focused on the depiction of frogs in the history of art (mostly Western). I had never given any thought to frogs in art prior to the invitation from the CMOA, but as soon as I began looking for frogs, I started to find them everywhere. Of course, the “Plague of Frogs” is one of the curses that Moses brought down on Egypt in an effort to free the Jewish people from their captivity under Pharaoh (Exodus 8:4-5), and therefore I was able to find many depictions of frogs in illuminated manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, such as this Old English Hexateuch from the 11th century or the Morgan Picture Bible (fig.5 and fig.6).

    I’m especially fond of the illustration of this scene in a Hebrew manuscript known as the Golden Haggadah, which is a fascinating book about which I’d encourage everyone to read more (fig.7).

    My presentation, though, focused mostly on the oddity of having a frog as an attribute of St. Michael. St. Michael is mentioned both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the Book of Revelation, it is said that he will defeat Satan. In the Renaissance, this was usually figured by having St. Michael defeat some sort of person/serpent hybrid, as can be seen in this painting by Carlo Crivelli (fig.8).

    Looking at Crivelli’s painting, one can certainly see some similarities with Bramantino’s frog. However, Crivelli’s demon is clearly humanoid. Exactly how Bramantino decided to swap out this satanic demon with a frog is unknown. But about 20 years before Bramantino painted his altarpiece, Hieronymus Bosch had begun to infuse frogs with demonic connotations, as one can see in his altarpiece of the Temptations of St. Anthony, in which the hermit saint is taken on a terrifying flight on the belly of a frog (fig.9 and fig.10).

    It is unlikely that Bramantino knew Bosch’s painting and the story of the Plague of the Frogs from Exodus already suggests that frogs might have already been thought of as a demonic sign. Thus, it seems like Bramatino was simply using this logical chain of inference as his point of departure: frogs are associated with the demonic and therefore it makes sense that St. Michael might be pictured with a frog. What he produced was an utterly unexpected image, and the history of that image now included Honda’s sculpture, which is an equally surprising and jarring image. Understanding how Margaret Honda found inspiration for her sculpture in the oddity of a Renaissance painting offers perspective on how creativity and inspiration operate: Honda’s frog is as Renaissance as it is modern, and in that it offers a beautiful commentary on a topic that is dear to our department, which is how works of art manage to occupy multiple and diverse temporalities.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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