The Visual Studies program is proud to present the research of its graduating seniors in the form of multimedia digital essays. The essays were developed in a class called “Senior Projects II,” taught by lecturer Kathy Zarur, with support provided by digital scholarship librarian Lisa Conrad.
Laura Thomas, “The Face of Opposition: Edmonia Lewis and Cleopatra”
Mary Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis created the marble sculpture “The Death of Cleopatra” for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Through close formal analysis and careful attention to the historical context, Thomas presents an argument that engages race, gender, myth, and religion. Lewis was an American of African American and Native American descent who lived in Rome, where she worked as a sculptor. Thomas argues that through Lewis’ sculpture of the Egyptian queen, herself a powerful woman whose identity was complex, the artist offered a subtle critique of the status of race and gender inequality in the United States.
Committee: Michael Stevens, Jordana Moore Saggese, Kathy Zarur
Yi Shan Tan, “Deconstructing Failure: The Ceramic Works of Peter Voulkos”
Peter Voulkos is an American West Coast Ceramist best remembered as an Abstract Expressionist hero. Instead of perpetuating this ongoing narrative however, Tan compares his work to lesser-known creative influences, such as American avant-garde composer John Cage, dancer Merce Cunningham, Japanese potter Shoji Hamada and not least, Zen ceramics. In doing so, she argues that it is more productive to see Voulkos as a revolutionary figure who strategically employed failure, performance and deconstructive techniques in ways that are specific to the medium of ceramics. She also examines how Voulkos employs the notion of paradox to complicate and challenge preconceptions about ceramics and its relationship to function. In doing so, Tan shows that Voulkos reframed the clay vessel as an aesthetic object in its own right and ultimately established ceramics as an autonomous medium.
Committee: Elizabeth Mangini, Jordana Moore Saggese, Kathy Zarur