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Art and Art History

Against Reason: Anti/Enlightenment Prints

“Against Reason: Anti/Enlightenment Prints by Callot, Hogarth, Piranesi and Goya,” an art exhibition exploring the darker side of the Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, opens Friday, April 3, at the Faulconer Gallery, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, France, and elsewhere in Europe began to question religious and political authority, embracing the notion that humanity could be improved through critical reasoning. The Enlightenment produced scientific discoveries, legislative reform, pioneering philosophical texts, wars, and revolutions. It also supported the institution of slavery. 

Featuring prints by Jacques Callot, William Hogarth, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, "Against Reason" examines the dangers of secularism, nationalism and a scientific method that dismisses rather than exalts the qualities that make us both human and humane.

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, was curated by Timothy McCall ’15, Maria Shevelkina ’15, Dana Sly ’15, Emma Vale ’15, Elizabeth Allen ’16, Mai Pham ’16, and Hannah Storch ’16. The students worked under the direction of J. Vanessa Lyon, assistant professor of art history, during a fall 2014 exhibition seminar.

"With Good Reason: Conversations, Celebration and Music" will be held at Faulconer Gallery at 4:15 p.m. Friday, April 17, featuring the opportunity to speak with student curators and hear music from the Enlightenment period. Faculty members from the departments of philosophy, English, and French will join student curators in a roundtable discussion on the themes of the exhibition at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, at the gallery.

"Against Reason" will be on view through Sunday, Aug. 2. The Faulconer Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. This exhibition includes a loan of four prints from Legacies for Iowa: A University of Iowa Museum of Art Collections Sharing Project, supported by the Matthew Bucksbaum Family.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Bucksbaum Center for the Arts has accessible parking in a lot behind the building just north of Sixth Ave. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations.

 

Unveiled and Queering the Fortress Europe

Katrin Sieg, professor of German and European Studies at Georgetown University, will screen Fremde Haut (Unveiled) at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 4, in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152. She will hold a question and answer session after the screening.

At noon Tuesday, May 5, she will presents "Queering the Fortress Europe," in Burling Library Lounge. In the talk, Sieg will place the film in the larger context of asylum law and policy in Europe.

Fremde Haut tells the tale of a lesbian fleeing persecution in Iran. When she escapes to Germany she passes as a man to gain refugee status, and then falls in love with a German woman.

European asylum law and policy is increasingly coming under attack for its inability to protect those fleeing persecution, either for political reasons or for belonging to particular ethnic, racial or social group, including gay, lesbian, and transgendered people.

Sieg asks, "How has queer European cinema and visual culture of the past decade helped to conceptualize the enactment of queer desires and identities as a human right?  The enshrining of gay rights in EU law, and the celebration of queer icons at such popular events as the annual Eurovision Song Contest seemingly signal the unequivocal victory of gay rights as human rights.  What perverse impulse, then, drives some European filmmakers to call the discourse of a cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse and sexually tolerant Europe into question?"

Sieg’s visit is sponsored by Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, the departments of History, Art and Art History, and the Cultural Films Committee.

All are welcome. Refreshments and a small snack will be provided.

Andelson, Chen at Iowa Humanities Festival

Two faculty members from Grinnell College will deliver presentations at the Iowa Humanities Festival in Des Moines, Iowa, April 10-11.

Iowa Humanities Festival LogoThe Iowa Humanities Festival welcomes Iowans to explore significant themes through the lens of the academic and public humanities. This year’s theme, "The Elusive Prairie," will be explored from the perspectives of the arts, biology, history, literature, performance, and religion. Presenters from across the state will be featured in the two-day festival.

Presenters from Grinnell are:

Jeremy Chen, assistant professor of art
9:45 a.m. Saturday, April 11, at the Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave.
In "Taking Sculpture for a Walk: Prairie as Site," Chen will explain how a prairie site has infused his artwork with new meanings, and will share further thoughts on his creative process.
Jonathan Andelson, professor of anthropology
3:15 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Salisbury House, 4025 Tonawanda Drive
Andelson will present "Metaphor and Meaning in Early French Descriptions of 'La Prairie.' " Andelson, founder of Grinnell's Center for Prairie Studies, has conducted research on the earliest French explorers and missionaries in Iowa and the Upper Mississippi Valley and their views of the prairie landscapes they encountered there. His analysis of the first impressions of these settlers offers an interpretation of what has been lost and gained by the conversion of prairie into farmland.

The Iowa Humanities Festival is a ticketed event. Registration is $10. Information on parking and accessibility at each venue can be found at the venues’ websites. 

 

Playing it Forward: German Expressionism to Expressionism Today

In 2001, The Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, acquired more than 70 German Expressionist prints from the collection of John L. and Roslyn Bakst Goldman of Rochester, NY. Since then, the Goldmans have formed a new collection of prints by international contemporary artists. This exhibition will feature both collections side-by-side, demonstrating the Goldmans’ continued interests in cutting-edge printmaking and their fidelity to Expressionist ideals, including a wide variety of printing processes, masterful technique, and challenging subject matter.

Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument

Gordon Parks was born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912. An itinerant laborer, he worked as a brothel pianist and railcar porter, among other jobs, before buying a camera at a pawnshop, training himself, and becoming a photographer. In addition to his tenures photographing for the Farm Security Administration (1941-1945) and Life Magazine (1948-1972), Parks also found success as a film director, writer and composer.

Anger Redefines German Expressionism

Jenny Anger, associate professor of art history, discussed German Expressionism in America, exploring how two world wars and cultural francophilia bear some responsibility for the uneven American response to this early 20th-century movement in the arts. View the full story, Anger Redefines German Expressionism, in the Scarlet & Black, the Grinnell College student newspaper.

‘War and Peace Project’ exhibition open at Grinnell College

Grinnell, Iowa - The “War and Peace Project,” a collaborative work created on all 747 pages of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” is on display in Burling Gallery on the Grinnell College campus.

Laura “Lola” Baltzell began the project in 2008 by making a collage from each page of a 1970s Soviet edition of the novel she’d picked up in Leningrad. She expanded the project to include a small group of friends, dubbed “Team Tolstoy.”

The team consisted of six Grinnell College graduates, and nine artists total. In addition to Baltzell, Lucy Arrington, Christiane Carney Johnson, Otto Mayr, Lucy Zahner Montgomery, Emma Rhodes, Elizabeth Jorganson Sherman, both Lynn Waskelis and Adrienne Wetmore contributed to this work. Occasionally, they invited guest artists to contribute a collage.

There were three rules for the project:

  1. Each collage should contain at least one word of the original text;
  2. The artist may not touch up or redo any collage; and
  3. The artist is free to decide if he or she would like to respond to the story line or not.

Each 5 x 7 inch collage incorporates one page from the Russian text, combined with bits of maps, dried flowers, ink, wax, graphite, thread, letters, and other printed material. Waskelis, calls it a “mash-up of personal bits and random detritus washed up from the universe of print.”

Overall, the project is a creative dialogue between Tolstoy and a collaborative team of artists who “… struggle to make connections, find meanings, and ultimately to create something of value,” according to Arrington.

In addition to the exhibition, a roundtable, workshop and gallery talk are planned for October and November. All of the events are free and open to the public in Burling Gallery at Burling Library, 1111 Sixth Ave., Grinnell.

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 4:15 p.m., Kelly Herold, associate professor of Russian at Grinnell College, and Edward Cohn, assistant professor of history at Grinnell, and a visiting scholar of Russian art history, will lead a roundtable discussion on images of war in Tolstoy's “War and Peace,” Russia's role in World War I in an age of revolution, and representations of war in Russian art of the early 20th century. The “War and Peace Project” will provide a backdrop and starting point for the discussion.

On Nov. 12 at 4:15 p.m., Lola Baltzell and Christiane Carney Johnson will discuss the collaborative process involved in the “War and Peace Project.” They will then lead a collage workship from 8-9:30 p.m.

The “War and Peace Project” was brought to Grinnell’s campus by the Faulconer Gallery, in collaboration with the Grinnell College Russian Department, the Eastern European studies department and the Center for the Humanities.

It is open through Dec. 7. It can be viewed daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Burling Library, and admission is free. In addition to being on view at Grinnell College’s Burling Gallery, the work will be featured in the events connected with the Humanities Center’s A Century of War.

Burling Gallery is located on the lower level of Burling Library at 1111 Sixth Ave., Grinnell. For more information about the exhibition and related programs, call 641-269-4660 or visit www.grinnell.edu/faulconergallery. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar@grinnell.edu.

Cutline for attached photos: Team Tolstoy, “War and Peace Project,” detail, collage on paper.

Photos: Collage 1, Collage 2

Art to Algorithms

“Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years?” That’s often the eye-rolling question in a first interview.

For Natalie Larson ’06, the quick answers could be “NASA,” “Norway,” and “ ’net congestion” — a few of her hefty résumé builders since graduating with honors as an art major eight years ago.

“At Grinnell, I oscillated between choosing philosophy and studio art as a major, but after taking time off to pursue life as a Carmelite nun (another exploration), and subsequently dealing with many inner philosophical battles, I chose art.” She credits faculty members Bobbie McKibbin, Matthew Kluber, Jill Schrift, and Lesley Wright as influential mentors.  

Grinnell, though, came after Larson found a math error on a national standardized test while in high school, but before she discovered a mistake in the GRE, which led to work for The Princeton Review and ACT. These experiences she counts among her “most satisfying to date,” followed quickly by “my internship at Harvard in 2010 and the 2011 program on quantum computing I attended at MIT, which were extremely gratifying. Learning about the strange, mind-bending, humanity-altering potential consequences of quantum computing from foremost researchers was an amazing experience.”

Art to algorithms

Larson in flight suit in front of planeWhat qualified the artist to conduct research in quantum computing? After graduation from Grinnell, philosophy was still on Larson’s mind. “I found myself drawn more and more to logic, eventually realizing that I should just study pure mathematics,” she says.

In 2012, Larson earned a second bachelor’s degree, double majoring in mathematics and computer science with honors from Vanderbilt. She also attended NASA’s Aeronautics Academy, where she wrote software to simulate in-flight Internet usage. Today, she’s in the midst of a Ph.D. program in computer science from the University of California, San Diego.

“In my Ph.D. research I study Internet congestion, both from a technical point of view, and a socio-economic point of view, looking at reasons why networks might be motivated to allow certain pathways to remain congested,” Larson explains.  

For example, “In early 2014, we saw especially heavy congestion between Cogent – one of Netflix’s transit providers – and virtually all other service providers with the exception of Cox, which has a special agreement with Netflix. When Netflix agreed to pay Comcast this March, nearly all congestion on paths between Cogent and other service providers disappeared,” Larson says.

“Identifying sources of congestion and finding ways to mitigate them can make the Internet fairer, faster, and more reliable.”

Larson’s research is funded by a Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), in return for her commitment to work for the DOD the next two summers and at least three years upon completion of her doctorate.

This summer, she’s working at the Simula Research Laboratory in Oslo to analyze congestion in Norwegian mobile broadband networks. And in her spare time, she ran a marathon in Helsinki to prepare for another in Oslo – all leading to her next goal, “my first 100-mile ultra.”

“When I ran my first marathon at Grinnell in 2005, I thought, ‘I’ll be satisfied if I never achieve anything else in running!’ but meeting that goal opened up the possibility for new ones. In 2007 I qualified for the Boston Marathon, and last year completed my first 50-mile ultra. I’ve already run two marathons this year (San Diego and Helsinki) and will run another (Oslo) in less than a month.”

Possible, probable, Grinnell

How is all this possible? Larson makes it sound so, well, Grinnellian. “By emphasizing ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions, holding classes in a discussion format, and heralding the value of many different disciplines and the connections between them, a liberal arts education gives us an appreciation for diversity — of vocations, of opinions, of ways of thinking — and an ability to think exceptionally critically and creatively.” About art, algorithms and Internet congestion.

Recent Art History Grads Make Good

Two recent art history grads move forward in their post-B.A. professional lives.

This summer Tianhan Gao ’11 (left) 

…became the associate cataloguer for the Classical Chinese Paintings Department at the art auction house Sotheby’s International in New York. Tianhan came to Grinnell in 2007 as an international student from China. She double-majored in bio-chemistry and art history. After graduation she took an internship at Samuel T. Freeman & Co. Auctioneers in Philadelphia, and then worked her way up to department assistant, property manager, and associate specialist of Asian art in three years before being hired this summer by Sotheby’s.

This fall José Segebre ’09 (right) 

…begins an M.A. program in curatorial studies at the Städelschule and Goethe Universität in Frankfurt, Germany. José came to Grinnell in 2005 as an International Merit Scholar from Honduras without (in his words) “the slightest idea that he would leave with a degree in art history.” He has since been involved with different art projects in Mexico City, his city of birth, and a self-sustainable art community in Portugal, and has also worked as assistant curator at the exhibition hall for contemporary art, Portikus, in Frankfurt. He is currently helping to organize an international symposium about contemporary Muralism that will take place in October at the cultural center riesa efau in Dresden, Germany.