Department of Art and Art History Art History

Stephennie Mulder co-authors article in Huffington Post

Mon. November 2, 2015

Green cube with white graphic design overlay

Dr. Stephennie Mulder co-authored the article Subverting the Script: 'Homeland' Graffiti Artists Use Same Techniques as Native Americans for Huffington Post with Dr. Erika Bsumek of the Department of History at UT Austin

Inaugural Seminars on Site course completes study abroad trip

Thu. October 29, 2015

people post for a group photo in Rome
Photo by Amy Angell.

This fall, the Department of Art and Art History piloted its first semester of Seminars on Site, a new course supported by the Kimbell Art Foundation. The seminar, entitled Architecture and Decoration in Pre-modern Rome: Patronage, Politics, and the Past, was offered to graduate Art History students and taught by Penelope Davies and Joan Holladay.

After their trip, the students described their experience via email. Don't miss this photo album documenting their trip!

Our trip to Rome provided us students with an opportunity that few students of art history receive in their academic careers: the chance to study architectural monuments in person, particularly with two of the greatest experts in the fields of ancient Roman and medieval art and decoration. We were able to fit so many site visits into these 10 days. I would enroll in the course again in a heartbeat if offered the opportunity!" — Allison Porambo

"For me it was the opportunity of a lifetime. What I found most rewarding about our experience in Rome was the ability to stand before some of the grandest monuments in the history of human endeavor and being able to make a real connection to the past, and its people through the rich visual narrative of architecture. What it has helped me to realize is that there is a vibrancy inherent in every city, an unending cycle of decay and renewal. Through the recycling of art, architectural space, one can not only reclaim the past, but through careful rearrangement also add to a city or building’s narrative, in essence giving it a life.

They say that you never truly know someone until you travel with them. The day-to-day interaction as a class in Rome afforded us the unique opportunity for discovering multi-vocalic perspectives, and an opportunity to forge friendships that will, I hope, span our academic careers. " — Christopher Wood

"Going to Rome was an incredible experience. This was my first visit to the city—and to Italy—and I feel so fortunate to have had such amazingly knowledgeable tour guides. While the long days were pretty exhausting, and my feet haven’t entirely forgiven me, it was worth it to get to see the multi-layered fragments of Ancient and Medieval Rome up close and within the living city, and to see the unforgettable views of the landscape from atop the seven hills and through the windows of historic monuments like the Colosseum and Castel San Angelo." — Shana Thompson

"The trip to Rome was absolutely amazing. Seeing the monuments themselves added an indescribable layer of depth to my overall understanding of Roman life in the ancient and medieval periods. It was an unforgettable experience!" — Katrina Erni

"The trip to Rome was incomparable! We learned so much about so many different places in such a short time span that it was truly a whirlwind! By far my favorite monument was the Pantheon. (I've attached a photo of it at night) We discussed it in such great detail that I never imagined I could learn so much about a place I thought I was familiar with." — Sally Topping

"Walking among Rome’s urban landscape provided an understanding of the physical space of the city that looking at a map cannot deliver. Presenting research on a monument on-site lent weight and permanence to words that a slideshow of photographs in a classroom cannot give. The opportunity to experience the modern city and witness its integration with the ancient and medieval worlds allowed for a more complex perception of Rome and offered inspiration for future projects." — Amy Angell

"The ability to experience and interact with Roman monuments greatly altered my perception of ancient and medieval Rome. I was most impressed with the size of Rome. Although some areas of the city had a high concentration of monuments, other notable structures were much further from the city center than I previously realized. Traversing the streets of Rome provided me with a clear understanding of the city’s space during the ancient and medieval periods." — Alexandra Madsen

Excerpt / Julia Guernsey and Michael Long, “Middle Preclassic figurines and ancient antecedents for themes of embodiment, fragmentation, and social order"

Thu. October 29, 2015

photo of circular stone carved with mesoamerican glyphs
The Coyolxauhqui Stone, c. 1500. Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan (Museo del Templo Mayor, Mexico City), photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The following excerpt is from a paper by Dr. Julia Guernsey and Ph.D. candidate in Art History, Michael Long entitled, “Middle Preclassic figurines and ancient antecedents for themes of embodiment, fragmentation, and social order." The paper will be published in an upcoming volume on witchcraft in Mesoamerica, forthcoming in 2016 from University Press of Colorado.


Even at La Blanca, where figurine fragments associated with Mound 1 were obviously not cached with care, but instead deposited along with domestic refuse, it is interesting that the structure itself — a massive symbol of the body politic — was constructed of fill that included body fragments that were linked to other disembodied parts scattered throughout the domestic space of the site. We think it possible that such practices linked the community together, not only by means of the broken fragments, but through the memory of their once complete wholes, which symbolized the communal labor necessary to construct the massive structure….

Fragmentation was also envisioned and shared by all levels of Mesoamerican society already by the Preclassic period, and enacted in both the public and private sectors. We believe that the domestic evidence of figurine fragmentation is particularly important to emphasize, because it underscores the “folk” or community-based ritual practices that served to sustain issues of personhood, embodiment, and the disassembly/fragmentation of the self. Many of the ideas documented ethnohistorically or ethnographically in later years engage with strikingly similar notions of bodily fragmentation and social integration/disintegration that are presaged by the patterns of Preclassic figurines but that, nevertheless, must be problematized within a conceptual matrix that was influenced by a European fascination with similar concerns.


Julia Guernsey received her Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in 1997, and has taught ancient Mesoamerican art and culture history in the Department of Art and Art History at the UT Austin since 2001. Her research and publications continue to focus on the Middle and Late Preclassic periods in ancient Mesoamerica, in particular on sculptural expressions of rulership during this time. She also continues to participate on the La Blanca Archaeological Project, which is exploring this large site that dominated the Pacific coastal and piedmont region of Guatemala during the Middle Preclassic period.

Michael Long is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art and Art History. His dissertation research focuses on the development and role of stairway monuments in Classic Maya art and politics. In particular, he investigates how the writing and imagery included with these monuments create theatrical contexts for elite interaction. In addition to his interests in Classic Maya architectural spaces, Michael also maintains research interests in the phenomenological analysis of Mesoamerican sculpture and the interaction between memory and artefact in prehistoric art.

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