Department of Art and Art History News

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

Q+A with Meghan Rubenstein (Ph.D in Art History, expected December 2015)

Thu. October 29, 2015

woman in glasses with hair up poses for photo

Meghan Rubenstein is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History, expected graduation in December 2015. She answered questions over email.

Posts you wrote while doing research in Mexico are being published on a new website organized by the Program for the Art of the Ancient Americas at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). How did you get involved in this initiative?

Meghan Rubenstein: Last year a curator at LACMA contacted Julia Guernsey, my dissertation co-advisor, looking for individuals willing to share their research in Latin America with a broader audience. The concept behind the new Ancient Americas blog was to expose readers to the research process rather than just the results. Since I had recently returned from a year of fieldwork in Mexico, Julia suggested I contribute to this project. I contacted LACMA with a summary of my research and potential blog topics, and when the website launched earlier this year I was invited to write a series of posts on my work.

These particular posts document your initial fieldwork in 2012. How did your research evolve to your final thesis topic?

MR: Living in Mexico gave me access to an entirely different set of resources than I had in Texas. Not only was I able to meet with and work alongside a number of scholars in my field, I read archaeological reports and theses housed within the local archives and libraries. The combination of conversations and exposure to new data ultimately helped refine my project and more fully engage with the material. I originally intended to produce in-depth studies on several buildings at Kabah. Yet when I realized how much data was being unearthed at the Codz Pop, I made this structure my primary case study. While focusing on a single building seems narrow, it allowed me to explore the structure and its socio-political function in greater depth. Considering how it related to other examples nearby and afar also forced me to think more broadly about the cultural meaning of architecture throughout the world.

What attracted you to your current position at Colorado College? What does your average workday look like?

MR: When I started looking for jobs, I didn’t have an ideal position in mind. I was hoping to land in a place that would allow me to be creative, productive and continue my own research. When I saw the job description for the position at Colorado College, I felt like it was written for me. Colorado College is a small school with a combined Studio and Art History program, and they were looking for someone who could work closely with students and faculty to support their research and teaching needs. In addition to my background in art history, I have a love for technology, an undergraduate degree in studio art, and several years experience working in the field of Visual Resources. It was a good fit. Also, Colorado is beautiful.

There is no average work day for me. That is one of the reasons I was attracted to this position. Colorado College is on the block plan, so students take—and instructors teach—one class at a time. What that means for me is that every four weeks is like the start of a new semester. In addition to maintaining and growing the department’s image collection, I brainstorm ways students and faculty can effectively incorporate visual resources into their classrooms and scholarship, which involves researching new instructional technologies and providing training to our department.

Do you have upcoming projects or research travel you're particularly excited about?

MR: Like most research projects, I started with a single idea and ended up with a hundred new ones that will keep me busy for a while. I have plans to return to Yucatán next summer to continue my research in the Puuc region, as well as potentially join another project that is in the works. I haven’t been back to Mexico in almost two years—and I can’t wait!

Jacky Cardenas awarded 2015 TAEA Student Teacher of the Year

Thu. October 29, 2015

woman posing for photo in front of brick wall
Image courtesy of Jacky Cardenas

Undergraduate in Art Education Jacky Cardenas was recognized the TAEA Student Teacher of the Year.

The award is given to one TAEA member from each division who is nominated and has significantly contributed to the association and to art education on the state, local and/or national levels.

In her nomination, Christina Bain wrote:

As a co-director/president of UT Austin’s Artists in Action Group (UTAIA), Jacky has demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities. Jacky’s efforts greatly contributed to UTAIA receiving one of the UT Tower Awards in 2014, recognizing the organization’s work for service learning/community outreach.

Jacky believes that art can be used as a tool to improve our quality of life and brighten our communities. She is one of the most reliable and personable student leaders that I have worked with at UT Austin. Her leadership style is inclusive—always seeking to work collaboratively toward common goals. Jacky’s involvement in student leadership extends far beyond her dedication to UTAIA and the undergraduate Art Education program. Some of the groups Jacky volunteers with include: The Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Via Colori, The Memory Project, Austin Animal Shelter, Clean Up Austin, and Celebracion. Recently, she was featured in an Ethics Unwrapped video.

Jacky is a student leader who “walks the walk” and demonstrates by example. She is committed to her studies as well as serving those around her. UT Austin’s motto “What Starts Here Changes the World” is one that Jacky exemplifies through her actions as an inspirational student leader.

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.

Faculty, students, alumni speak at Art Education conference, Brushes with History

Thu. October 29, 2015

people sitting in auditorium listening to lecture

Dr. Paul Bolin served on the organizing committee for the conference, Brushes with History: Imagination and Innovation in Art Education History. The conference takes places at the Teachers College at Columbia University November 19–22, 2015.

Department of Art and Art History faculty, alumni, and students presenting include:

Dr. Christina Bain, “The Fabric of Our Lives: Discovering Art Education History Through Puppets, Place, and Pedagogy”

Dr. Heidi Powell, “Becoming a Curator of Memories: Memorializing Memory and Place in Art Making for Art Education”

Amanda Barbee (M.A. in Art Education, 2015), “Red Scaring Students: The Cold War’s Effects on American Education”

Debra Hardy (M.A. in Art Education, 2015), “The Detrimental Effects of McCarthyism on African-American Art Institutions”

Kirstie Parkinson (M.A. in Art Education, 2015), “Life and Work of Helen Gardner: Examining Art Through the Ages”

Elise Chevalier (M.A. candidate in Art Education), “Lessons From Dorothy Dunn: The Studio at the Santa Fe Indian School”

Allison Clark (M.A. candidate  in Art Education), “(Re)Telling Stories in Art Museums as a Wartime Service, 1917-1918”

Rebecca Dearlove (M.A. candidate in Art Education), “The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film: How Educational Film Programs Responded to Social and Cultural Changes in the United States”

Michelle Voss (M.A. candidate in Art Education) “Women’s Work: Art Education for Women in Late 19th Century America”

Early bird registation available through November 1, 2015.