Professor, art majors to present Loeb’s hidden treasures

On Thursday, Late Night at the Loeb will feature a talk by art history major Zoe Lemelson ’17 and a presentation by Professor David Tavárez about Mesoamerican artwork, such as the pieces above. / Michael Chung

Every Thursday, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center holds extended gallery hours from 5 to 9 p.m., an event known as Late Night at the Loeb. The Art Center almost always holds art events during these Late Nights. On Thursday night, April 20, the Loeb has two programs running parallel to each other.

The first event will be a faculty talk at 5 p.m., given by Professor of Anthropology and Latin American & Latinx Studies David Tavárez on Mesoamerican artifacts that are currently on display and will be up until April 23. The second event is part of an Art Talks program that is spread out across three consecutive Late Nights in April.

During this program, Art History majors discuss a work in the galleries or brought up from the vault, in relation to their theses. At this week’s event at 6:30 p.m., Zoe Lemelson ’17 will deliver a 20-minute talk on a work by contemporary photographer Doug Rickard that is on display in the Project Gallery.

The pre-Columbian pieces that Professor Tavárez will discuss are part of an exhibition that includes an eclectic group of ceramic and stone objects produced across several time periods, from the Late Formative and Early Classic to the Classic and Early Postclassic. These artifacts were associated with temples, tombs, ball courts, private residences and everyday life activities from West, Central and South Mesoamerica and the North American Gulf Coast. Some of the featured works are from the Loeb’s museum collection while others are recent gifts or on loan from private collections.

Tavárez explained what the focus of his talk will be. As he stated, “I will introduce the significance of these pieces for a contemporary audience, stress what we know about the daily life, social order and religious organization of Mesoamerican societies, and outline their importance for a full understanding of indigenous cultures in the Americas before European colonization.”

Regarding what interested him about the works, he continued, “Many of the pieces capture small details of how these distant ancestors saw themselves, from the grimace of an elderly fire deity or the elaborate mask worn by a priest who personified a deity of rain and thunder, to a touching representation of maternal love, or a display of a public feast with families, children and dogs.”

“Now more than ever,” he continued, regarding the particular reasons for exploring this artwork in our era, “these figures show the importance of understanding and rediscovering the original peoples of the Americas, which have deep routes that tie them to a land subsequently claimed by many other peoples.”

The subsequent talk by Lemelson on Doug Rickard will focus on the new strides this contemporary artist is taking, especially in his genre of American documentary photography. “Rickard took images from Google Street View, and appropriated them,” Lemelson elucidated. “I will talk about one of the photographs that is part of this series. It was shot in New York City, and it has a lot of nuances. I really love this work because it intersects American documentary photography with issues of surveillance, race and class, all captured through Google Street View. It’s a pretty intelligent work if you dissect it.”

Ryan Holguín ’17, a member of the Loeb Student Committee and also an Art History major who will be giving an Art Talk next Thursday, April 27, expressed her opinion on the value of the talks: “So much material is illuminated through the independent research of students … We are fortunate to have an incredible collection that is coupled with fantastic scholarship waiting to be discovered in the files and then communicated to the public … Every senior acts as an author by telling the story of each artwork in a unique narrative, which is why it is so valuable to attend the talks in person.”

During last week’s Art Talk, on April 13, Nikki Lohr ’17 and Matthew McCardwell ’17 presented on works related to their respective senior theses. Lohr spoke about Mark Rothko’s “No. 1” while McCardwell discussed a Jacob Lawrence lithograph on display in the Project Gallery. According to Holguín, “There was a great turnout with community engagement and a fascinating discussion of the works.”

Next week, on April 27, Rosa Bozhkov ’17 will discuss two works by Philip Guston, “The Actors I” and “Inside Out,” while Holguín will discuss a Baron François Gérard drawing, “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia.”

Curator of Academic Programs at the Art Center Elizabeth Nogrady collaborated with the Curator of Public Education as well as the Loeb’s Student Committee to organize these talks. She shared her perspective on the program: “I love it when both students and faculty use and research the works in the collection. The Art Talks are an opportunity for the students to share some of the really great research they are doing with their peers, with the larger public and with us too!”

“In addition,” she continued, “since the students examine the works in relation to their theses, the talks are very illuminating from rather unexpected angles.” For example, last week Nikki Lohr looked at how the CIA undertook abstract expressionism to forward America’s agenda during the Cold War, in relation to the Jackson Pollock—a very unconventional, interesting take.

With regard to the interest for students in presenting these talks, Nogrady stated that they don’t necessarily retain the same depth of knowledge or interest they gained while doing their theses once they have completed and submitted them. “When a student is doing research, there comes a specific point in the midst of it when one completely masters their topic,” Nogrady stated. “The total understanding that one feels when they are utterly caught up in the research process is fleeting, and I think it’s a really great moment for the students as well as the audience when the speakers can share what they know, especially at that transient stage of the process.”

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