Not Set in Amber

Dr. Faya Causey
Head, Academic Programs
National Gallery of Art

Faya Causey’s lecture title, Not Set in Amber, might suggest something about the subjects she will speak about on January 19, 2017.  Her most important publications have been centered on ancient art, a few contemporary artists, Paul Cézanne, and the fossil resin, amber — its nature, importance to humans over history as a high-value substance used for ornament, as amulet, as medicine and for incense especially in the ancient world.  Although her first jobs as a professor seemed to indicate a life in academe, Causey took a different path in 1994 when she left a tenured position as an art history professor to work at the National Gallery of Art in the Education Division as the Head of the Academic Programs Department.  Her career was not fossilized! In addition to an overview of her fascinating work at the ArtCenter Pasadena, California State University Long Beach, at the National Gallery of Art, Causey will speak about alternative career paths for students interested in art, art history, archaeology, and the humanities.


2016 Work in Progress Series
A Sculpture, a Blood Libel, and the Power of Portraiture in Renaissance Italy
Jeanette Kohl, Ph.D. Professor of Art History

On Easter Sunday 1475, the dead body of a 2-year-old Christian boy named Simon was found in the cellar of a Jewish family’s house in Trent, Italy. Town magistrates arrested eighteen Jewish men and five Jewish women on the charge of ritual murder. In a series of interrogations that involved liberal use of judicial torture, the magistrates obtained the confessions of the Jewish men. Eight were executed in late June, and another committed suicide in jail. The accusation was torture, strangulation and bleeding the infant to death in order to use his blood for the preparation of the Passover bread.

The case of Simon of Trent went down in history as one of the most brutal blood libels against a Jewish community in Early Modern Europe. What is lesser known is the debate and the visual propaganda it set in motion within the catholic church, which had a split opinion about the case, and in the cities and courts of Northern Italy and Southern Germany. In my work-in-progress talk, I will discuss a new identification of one of the major Renaissance sculptures at the Getty, presenting new conservatory and iconographic evidence for the object as a possible key work in the ferocious, anti-semitic propaganda around the Trent blood libel of 1475.

The Department of the History of Art Has Unanimously Approved the Following Statement in Response to the Presidential Election of 2016


The Department of the History of Art is committed to the intellectual inquiry and rigorous analysis of artistic practices from across the globe and across time. It is our belief that a socially and politically responsible art history produces encounters with and the study of diverse cultures, which inspires both tolerance and ethical conduct, reminding us of our shared humanity.  The repeated instances of xenophobic, racist, and misogynist language that characterized the recent presidential election is antithetical to the principles of this department which stands for the inclusion of a plurality of views. This rhetoric and the actions it engenders threaten the core values of our department, our university, and the UC system as a whole. Echoing the words of UC President Janet Napolitano, we “remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.“ We are concerned that some now face  heightened risk of harassment and as a department we condemn discrimination, marginalization, and violence against any member of our community. We affirm our commitment to the diverse student population of UCR and offer our support and protection to students who feel vulnerable, due to their immigration status, gender or nationality.   The current political climate has only sharpened our convictions about the imperatives of studying histories and diverse visual cultures.  Critical thinking, factual argumentation, and lucid debate are even more vital in a climate of derisive language, images, symbols, and behaviors.  One cannot underestimate the value of understanding history in shaping our collective future.

Jason Weems has won the Fred B. Kniffen Book Award for Best Authored Publication, and the John Gjerde Prize for the Best Book on Midwestern History awards for his book, “Barnstorming the Prairies: How Aerial Vision Shaped the Midwest.”

Barnstorming the PrairiesWriting a book is an all-encompassing commitment,” Weems said. “As scholars, we do it because of a belief that we can bring about a better understanding of the world. When trusted colleagues suggest that you might be succeeding in that effort, it is very special.”

The book offers a panoramic view of the transformative nature and power of aerial vision that remade the Midwest in the wake of the airplane. It addresses how fight led to a new view of the Midwest, and how aerial vision helped to recast the Midwestern landscape amid the technological change and social uncertainty of the early 20th century.

The Fred B. Kniffen Book Award for Best Authored Publication is awarded by the International Society for Landscape, Place and Material Culture Studies (ISLPMC). The ISLPMC encourages and recognizes books by authors regarding North American material culture, which is the physical evidence of culture, such as objects and architecture. Named for the renowned geographer, Fred Kniffen, the prize in his honor is granted annually for the best book in the field published within two years of the award.
The Jon Gjerde Prize for the Best Book on Midwestern History is awarded by the Midwestern History Association to the best book authored on a Midwestern history topic during a calendar year. In the award announcement, it was noted that “Weems directs our attention to bird’s-eye-view maps, historic atlases, the paintings of Grant Wood, Frank Lloyd Wright plans, Farm Service Administration photos, as well as aerial photographs, to explore both the physical and the imaginative landscape of the Midwest.”



Work In Progress Series – Patricia A. Morton, PhD

Work in Progress Series — Patricia A. Morton, PhD

Place or Nonplace: The City as Domain or as Field

Patricia A. Morton, Ph.D. Professor of Art History

In the early 1960s, faculty members at UC Berkeley developed rival theories of urban and architectural design and their relationship to place. Charles Moore and three other Berkeley architecture faculty wrote a manifesto, “Toward Making Places,” that was published in J.B. Jackson’s journal Landscape (1962). Moore and his co-authors valorized a geographic notion of place and called on architects to recover the symbolic function of design and create orderly, human-centric spaces. Contemporaneously, faculty in City and Regional Planning and East Coast planners challenged geographic concepts of place in Explorations into Urban Structure (1964) and proposed new models concerned with the pattern, structure, and dynamics of the metropolitan complex. Melvin Webber’s contribution, “The Urban Place and the Nonplace Urban Realm,” boldly asserted the primacy of “nonplace” community over geographic place in the modern city. Positing “community without propinquity,” Webber emphasized the importance of deracinated networks of human interaction to the modern city, anticipating later theories of networked urbanism. Comparing these two theories, I contextualize the concepts relative to postwar theories of ecology, mobility and landscape.


The Second Annual Wong Forum on Art and the Immigrant Experience


This symposium examines the idea of homeland in the art and visual culture from the region now called the United States. As a concept, homeland plays a vital role in the shaping of individual and collective identity. Most directly, homeland can be understood to signify a person or people’s place of origin. The concept is in this way deeply embedded in the specifics of location and lineage. At the same time, the term also connotes a more subjective and contingent set of allegiances, including those of family, community, nation, religion, race, ethnicity, environment, and experience. Through these bonds, identification with a homeland provides one of the main anchors of individual being, group cohesiveness, and social legitimacy. Forging such connections offers people roots, a framework for binding to others and, ultimately, a sense of place in the world. The notion homeland is, in this way, a positive cultural force.

At the same time, the idea of homeland has been an abiding source of contention, divisiveness, and violence. Human history is pervaded with trauma and injustice enacted over claims to homelands both actual and metaphorical. In this way, the assertion of a homeland has tested the very possibility of social cohesion and self-determination. In the United States especially, where an array of constituencies struggle—often inequitably—to build for themselves a sense of place and belonging, laying claim to a homeland has become synonymous with struggles over voice, power, and beliefs. This can be seen historically in the US histories of colonization, indigenous removal, African American enslavement, and other longstanding pattern of unofficial and state-sanctioned inequality toward minorities. In our recent moment of globalization, the visibility of the concept has grown, from the post-9/11 founding of the Department of Homeland Security to the unsettling strains of anti-immigrant sentiment that mar the current presidential contest.

We will explore how the visual arts provide a powerful means to negotiate the problems and possibilities inherent to the notion homeland. What roles have visual and material expression played in shaping both dominant and alternative visions of the US as homeland? How have these efforts influenced broader discourses of American identity—or failed to do so? How has the question of homeland influenced the form, content, and purpose of the artistic expression? How might studying evocations of homeland in art help us to better understand and historicize the term’s cultural value and impact? Particular attention will be given to the understanding the topic through the prism of dialogue, with the idea that art provides a unique medium for the exchange of ideas across boundaries of identity and experience.

Schedule of Events:

10-10:10 am — Welcome
10:10-10:30 — Framing Remarks, Jason Weems, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
10:30-11:00 — Edward Hopper’s Portable Homes, Leo Mazow, Curator of American Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
11:00-11:30 — Kara Walker, Imagining Home, Rebecca Peabody, Head of Research Projects and Programs, Getty Research Institute
11:30-11:50 — Questions

11:50-1:10 — Lunch Break

1:10-1:50 — Keynote Presentation: Home—So Different, So Appealing, Chon Noriega, University of California, Los Angeles
1:50-2:10 — Questions

2:10-2:20 — Short Break

2:20-2:50 — Homeland as Gesture: The Paintings of Maidu Artist Frank Day, Mark Minch, Sawyer Fellow, Tufts University/Assistant Professor, University of California, Riverside
2:50-3:20 — Somewhere Else, But Here: Visual Ethnography and an American Islamoscape Between Imagination and Image, Maryam Kashani, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
3:20-3:50 — Smiling Faces Sometimes: The Homeland Portraiture of Tseng Kwong Chi, Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University
3:50-4:10 — Questions

4:10-4:45 — Moderated discussion with all presenters; audience participation encouraged

4:50 — Reception


For more information, contact