Art History & Archaeology Theses and Dissertations

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Now showing 1 - 5 of 154
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    (2022) Cope, Ashley Lynn; Korobkin, Tess; Art History and Archaeology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    As concepts that differ across history and between cultures—even diverging radically within a single time and place—sex, gender, and desire are most accurately understood when examined through a historically and culturally specific lens. This thesis directs that lens towards the intersection of sexology and art in early-twentieth-century France with a specific interest in representations of the third-sex subject in visual culture. Classified as neither women nor men by sexologists, members of the third sex at the turn of the twentieth century occupied a turbulent middle-ground between masculinity and femininity, and defied sexual and romantic social norms. Early sexology produced a plethora of images to serve as evidence of the innate nature of sexual desire and gender identity, and queer artists consuming sexologists’ work responded in kind with artistic works that grappled with theories of gender and sexual identity. This study deepens art historical engagement with images that contributed to and were influenced by sexology discourse in the early-twentieth century; artists like Romaine Brooks, Berenice Abbott, and Claude Cahun negotiated sexological theories about sex and gender in artworks that challenge binary conceptions of identity and make visible the third-sex subject.
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    (2022) Callahan, Maura; Shannon, Joshua; Art History and Archaeology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In the mid- to late 1960s, as her previously underrecognized work as a painter started to secure visibility in the art world, the American portraitist Alice Neel (1900-1984) began to minimize her subjects’ physical environments, often leaving the surrounding area a blank white field. She instead concentrated her paint within the figure, the boundaries of which became emphasized by a vivid blue outline. This attention to the figure and its borders reveals a critical nuancing of the humanist ideals her paintings purportedly defended. Rather than merely affirming the autonomy of the human subject, Neel's late portraits suggest an anxiety toward the coherence of selfhood and its sheltering within the body. This essay considers a small selection of these paintings, created between 1965 and 1982, alongside the work of preceding and contemporary artists who used portraiture to work through Western culture’s shifting conceptions of the human subject to different ends. These studies ultimately explore the possibilities and limitations of portraiture in revealing and validating the subject, and how these challenges were negotiated by Neel during the culturally transformative decades which coincided with her late career.
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    Peruvian Feather-work: Development, Purposes, and Techniques
    (1965) Roll, Virginia Helen; Wilbur, June C.; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md)
    The purpose of this study was to gain knowledge of Peruvian feather-work, its development, its purposes, and the techniques involved in the production of this material. Through research and through examination of seventy-seven pieces of feather-work at seven museums, theories propounded in research were verified. In addition, discoveries were made. An additional method of stringing the feathers was discovered. A brief history of the people shows that as they developed in agriculture, they had a parallel development in cultural accomplishments. It can be assumed that the agricultural development led to more time for cultural achievements. It has become known that their accomplishments in the area of textiles were outstanding. Among their textiles, feather-work was particularly unique.
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    Picturing Island Bodies Under US Imperialism
    (2022) Robinson-Tillenburg, Gabrielle; McEwen, Abigail; Art History and Archaeology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Since the end of World War II, the US has maintained the naval occupation of Okinawa,a small island off the coast of Japan. Across the globe in Puerto Rico the US operated what was at one point the largest naval station in the world during World War II and through the Cold War until ceasing operations in 2001. Islanders in Vieques, Puerto Rico face alarming cancer rates, speculated as due to pollution from offshore explosives. Women of Okinawa experience recurrent acts of sexual violence at the hands of US servicemen. In both archipelagos, public protests against US occupation have disputed land ownership and environmental damages. Taking a transnational approach to the survival of US imperial violence, this paper examines how contemporary video artists, Okinawan Chikako Yamashiro, Puerto Rico-based duo Allora & Calzadilla, and Puerto Rican Beatriz Santiago Muñoz picture island bodies both human and geographic. In Seaweed Woman (2008) by Yamashiro, Under Discussion (2005) by Allora & Calzadilla, and Post-Military Cinema (2014) by Santiago Muñoz, liminality, as a space between life and death—a condition particular to colonized bodies, is pictured as an aesthetic and durational refusal of death and destruction to the island body. The condition of liminality is portrayed through visual and sonic engagements of hyperrealism, that is the confusion between the artists’ reproduced images/sounds with the real experiences of island bodies. In Post-Military Cinema, liminality is used by the artist to produce a repossession of the island body, and in all artworks, to picture resistance. Broadly, this comparative study challenges notions of “American Art” and reflects on how US imperial ideology enacts violence, but via the creation of binary oppositions creates liminal spaces from which the island body resists and survives.
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    On the Threshold: Visualizing Ambiguity in the Art and Experience of Ancient Roman Doorways
    (2022) Chen, Amanda Kane; Gensheimer, Maryl B.; Art History and Archaeology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Neither interior nor exterior, doors, thresholds, and passageways were regarded as powerful, yet ambiguous areas by the ancient Romans. Ancient myths and texts characterize thresholds as sites of magic and ritual and record that improper movements or interactions could enact misfortune or physical peril for those who transgressed the space. These concerns about the liminal nature of doorways are reflected in the art historical and archaeological records, where corridors are often decorated with charged images or inscriptions. This dissertation examines the wide variety of efficacious images that accompany domestic doorways in the cities of ancient south Italy (Campania) from the second century BCE through the first century CE. The project investigates the painting, mosaic, architectural features, and surrounding urban landscape of domestic doorways to understand how images were used to mark and mediate transitional spaces, and to reconstruct the ancient experience of moving through spatially ambiguous areas. In doing so, it offers new insights into the active nature of Roman images and the mechanism of this “superstitious” practice. The phenomenon of decorating spaces of passage with powerful imagery existed throughout the ancient Mediterranean and reveals not only Roman concerns with the uncertainties of liminal space, but also that images were considered an effective tool for mitigating the perceived vulnerabilities of thresholds. This dissertation demonstrates that homeowners in ancient Campania safeguarded their thresholds by embellishing their entrance corridors with images that themselves possessed ambiguous or transitional qualities and associations. By addressing spatial ambiguity with its visual and ideological counterparts, the Romans developed a visual language that they used to mediate transitional areas. The efficacious images also physically engaged viewers in these protective mechanisms through pointed visual details that encouraged reciprocal interactions and activated the images. This project draws on data collected from a survey of all domestic doorways in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. It combines wide-ranging philosophical, anthropological, art historical, and archaeological theories to assess the material, and offers a new methodology for understanding and evaluating spatial ambiguity. The conclusions, methodology, and datasets presented in this dissertation exhibit the importance of a comprehensive contextual approach to the art and archaeology of ancient Campania, while they also demonstrate the interconnected nature of art, space, and spiritual practice in ancient south Italy. The project thus carries important implications for studies of Roman art, archaeology, and space, but also for perceptions of and responses to ambiguity and uncertainty more broadly.