History of Art and Architecture

Undergraduate Research Summer 2012

It was another vibrant summer for independent research among our undergraduate majors! Maria Castro (HAA) received a Brackenridge Fellowship from the University Honors College to begin her honors thesis research on "A Semana de Arte Moderna" (The Week of Modern Art) which occurred in February of 1922, and served as a foundational moment for the emergence of modernism in Brazil – a modernism that attempted to negotiate between European influence and the desire to forge a new indigenous national style and artistic sensibility at the centenary moment of Brazil’s independence from Portugal. Maria’s work is supervised by Barbara McCloskey, who helped her navigate the extensive primary source documents that report on this exhibition in Pitt’s own Latin American library collection. As a focal point for this project, Maria devoted her attention to the work of three key figures in the exhibition: Anita Malfatti, Victor Brecheret, and Emiliano di Cavalcanti.  

Maeve Sattler (Arch Studies) also won a fellowship from the University Honors College that enabled her to return to London to continue a project she began last summer on “Early 20th-century Social Housing Design in Vienna and London.” This project was inspired by Drew Armstrong’s 2011 integrated field trip abroad course, “Architecture and the City in Central Europe,” which brought students to Vienna, Ljubljana, and Zagreb.  After travelling with this class and studying modernist housing design, Maeve noted previously unremarked similarities between the Vienna sites, and those she encountered in London while later attending Pitt’s summer study abroad program. She thus returned this summer to substantively research and document her findings as she prepares to write her honors thesis paper this fall.   

Three HAA majors received summer undergraduate research awards from the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Siqiao Lu travelled to the Shaghai Municipal Archive in China to study the fourteen-volume photobook War Scenes of the Chinese Revolution, a compilation that documented the uprising, published between November 1911 and May 1912. While there, she also investigated contemporary documents that provide a broader historical and contextual understanding of both the physically published volumes and the individuals who played an instrumental role in the events depicted within them. She explains, “while scholars credit the Opium wars to be the beginning of China’s modern history, its real transition can be credited to the Republican Revolution of 1911… [My] study of China’s photographic images during this transitional period is of special significance for understanding photography’s relationship to China’s modernization” in the twentieth century. This project was supervised by Josh Ellenbogen.

Also travelling abroad this summer, Tyler Shine studied the work of Andres Serrano while studying in Rome and Florence, initiating an honors thesis project that he will complete this fall under the direction of Terry Smith. Specifically, Tyler is studying Serrano’s photography; how it forges connections with Italian art of the Renaissance period. His interest in Serrano’s early photographic work from the 1980s and 1990s has two components.  First, he is interested in how and why contemporary artists are drawn to explore modes of seeing from prior periods. Also he is considering how the controversial content (the corpse) and material (body fluids like blood, milk, urine, and semen) of Serrano’s work actually engages “a longer tradition of controversial themes in Italian Renaissance history regarding the representation and experience of religion.” 

Travelling vicariously this summer, Scott Morgan devoted his time, attention and research skills to the creation of a digital map that charts (in real space and across landscape features) the major medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago da Compostela from four main origin points: Paris, Vézelay, Le Puy and Arles. For this project, Scott researched primary source documents and included on the map detailed information about each stop along the way. In so doing, he is “interested in studying the landscape through which these pilgrims traveled, both the physical terrain and infrastructure of the routes as well as the mental landscape of miracles, travel-fears, and early tourism.” His efforts resulted in the production of a particularly rich website which he hopes to eventually make public to a broad audience, thus contributing a key research tool for future scholars. This exciting digital humanities project is being supervised by Alison Langmead, the director of the department’s Visual Media Workshop and a joint faculty member with the School of Information Sciences.