Department of Art and Art History Art History

Q+A with alumna Sarah Conell, as she prepares for a fully funded PhD program in Art History

Thu. June 25, 2015

woman with curly hair and glasses poses for portrait

Sarah Conell (BA in Art History, 2013) grew up in Seguin, Texas before attending UT Austin. She is from a family of teachers and has completed two years of Teach For America. In August, she will begin a fully funded PhD program in Art History at the University of Pittsburgh. Conell answered a few questions by email.

Where did you grow up and how did you arrive at UT Austin?

Sarah Conell: I grew up in Seguin, Texas. I began my college career concentrating in Studio Art at San Antonio College, where I earned my Associates of Arts. Here I had the great fortune of taking an art history course with Dr. Debra Schafter (MA/PhD in Art History, 1989/1997). Through this experience, I was encouraged to pursue art history at The University of Texas at Austin.

My parents both attended the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio and were delighted when I was accepted at UT Austin. To announce this wonderful news, I purchased a variety of Longhorn “swag.” I presented these gifts to my parents and waited for their reaction. Confusion quickly turned into joy.

Why did you decide to study Art History?

SC: Though my early experiences with art history were numerous and inspiring, the decision to pursue Art History as a major was prompted by a course taken with Dr.  Schafter at San Antonio College. This survey course became my favorite, and I looked forward to completing the assignments. During this time, I was afforded the opportunity to intern with the Education Department at the McNay Art Museum, which cemented my decision to change from creating art to studying the history of art.

For the past two years you have been doing Teach For America. What has been the most rewarding aspects of participating and how did your Art History degree help you?

SC: Over the past two years, Teach For America has been intensely educational for me. Art History has informed the thought process I use to address issues in the classroom, as well as the issues the organization hopes to address in the wider educational system. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of being a teacher has been seeing students change their opinions of themselves. This has been the result of achieving academically, learning how to empathize with their peers, or feeling part of a group when they had previously felt like an outsider.

You studied abroad through the Learning Tuscany program. How did that lead you to your Undergraduate Art History Honors thesis topic and eventually your area of interest?

My experience during the Learning Tuscany program was the impetus for shifting my concentration in art history from Nazi propaganda posters to gothic art and architecture. I first learned about Santa Maria della Spina as part of a project on Pisa that I completed for one of Dr. Ann John’s courses. This small church, built in the 14th century, received a Passion relic from Christ’s Crown of Thorns. The implications of the church’s location, design, and relic led me to continue reading about relics from this time period, as well as the chapels, reliquaries, and churches that housed them.

In your spare time, you've been reading books that inform your future graduate research area. What books were you reading?

Over the past two years I have read books and articles by Caroline Bynum, Jacqueline Jung, Mitchell Merback, Beate Fricke, and Cynthia Hahn. Two of my favorite readings were: Dr. Mitchell Merback’s book Pilgrimage and Pogrom: Violence, Memory, and Visual Culture at the Host-Miracle Shrines of Germany and Austria and Dr. Jacqueline Jung’s article “The Tactile and the Visionary: Notes on the Place of Sculpture in the Medieval Religious Imagination.”

Eddie Chambers publishes articles in Nka and Afterall Journal

Thu. June 25, 2015

white overlapping hexagonal and cube shapes on green background

Eddie Chambers published articles in Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and Afterall Journal, Issue 39.

The May 2015 issue of Nka results from a 2014 CAA Panel Chambers organized and Rose G. Salseda, PhD candidate in Art History, participated.

Lynne Adele co-authored book published by UT Press

Mon. June 1, 2015

old fashioned book cover with eye in sky surrounded by title

Lynne Adele (BFA in Art History, 1984 and MA in Art History, 1987) co-authored As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850—1930 (University of Texas Press). It is the first book to explore how secret societies contributed to American visual culture during the “golden age” of American fraternalism. Her partner on the project is Bruce Lee Webb, longtime fraternal art collector and owner of Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas. David Byrne, best known as the singer and songwriter for the band Talking Heads, contributed the book’s foreword. The book will be available November 2015.

Dr. Stephennie Mulder provides expertise on threat to Middle East Antiquities

Thu. September 10, 2015

white overlapping hexagonal and cube shapes on green background

Dr. Stephennie Mulder provides expertise on events surrounding the threat to Middle East Antiquities in the Los Angeles Times, BBC (20 minute mark), and RT America.

Mulder discusses Palmyra with the International Business Times.

Alumna Hayley Woodward heads to New Orleans for fully funded graduate program

Thu. May 28, 2015

woman wearing dress and red scarf poses for photo on bridge with river behind

“My options were to continue in the professional world or to take a risk to pursue what I love,” described Hayley Woodward (BA in Art History, 2013). “I decided to follow my passion and apply to graduate school.”

Woodward will be attending Tulane University to study Post-Conquest mapmaking in Central Mexico. She received a full tuition waiver and generous stipend.

“Dr. Guernsey was present through my entire graduate school application process,” said Woodward. “She was also my mentor as an undergraduate.”

As a junior, Woodward discovered her interest in art of the Ancient Americas while in a Mesoamerican art history course taught by Dr. Julia Guernsey. Woodward recalled that Guernsey “breathed life into the ancient wall murals, animal figurines, and monumental stone effigies of the Pre-Columbian world.”

“I was hooked,” said Woodward.

She presented her paper, The Hollow Baby Genre: Implements of Elite Domiciles and Evidence of a Pan-Mesoamerican Tradition, at the Department of Art and Art History’s inaugural Undergraduate Art History Research Symposium, as well as at the South-Central Conference on Mesoamerica. Immediately after graduating, she traveled to Belize to do fieldwork at the Late Classic Maya sites of La Milpa and Hun Tun.

“At UT Austin, I was able to fully explore Mesoamerican art, using numerous resources such as the Art and Art History Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, Fine Arts Library, and many helpful professors and graduate students,” described Woodward. “My professors always went above and beyond for their students.”

After graduation, Woodward returned to Dallas and eventually began working at Samuel Lynne Galleries. She gained experience in all aspects of the gallery, from writing press releases and researching artists to working with clients and creating promotional materials.

“As an Art History major, I learned how to research, write, and communicate information in a succinct manner,” remarked Woodward. “That is exactly what I did on a daily basis at Samuel Lynne Galleries, in a contemporary art setting.”

This fall, Woodward will move to New Orleans to continue her research under Dr. Elizabeth Hill Boone, the Martha and Donald Robertson Chair in Latin American Art at Tulane. Boone is a renowned expert on Mexica (Aztec) manuscripts and received her MA and Phd in Art History from the Department of Art and Art History in 1974 and 1977.

“An interest in the Ancient Americas must run in my blood,” laughed Woodward. “While a student in Latin American Studies at George Washington University, my father took a course with Dr. George Stuart, the renowned National Geographic Archaeology Editor. While at UT Austin, I studied with his son, Dr. David Stuart, professor in the Department of Art and Art History. It is a small world indeed!”

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