HAAARCH!!! 2017

HAAARCH!!! is a yearly showcase of undergraduate research, creative work, and achievement. This forum provides students the opportunity to exhibit, present and promote their research and experiential learning activities.

HAAARCH!!! 2017 will take place in the Cloister and University Art Gallery of the Frick Fine Arts Building on Monday, March 27th, from 4-6 pm.

HAAARCH!!! 2017

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    A Catalyst for Nostalgia: Lion Attacking a Dromedary

    A Catalyst for Nostalgia: Lion Attacking a Dromedary

    Isabella Sigado

    “I’ve been coming to visit this piece for years,” was the shared sentiment that grew quite repetitious, but no less interesting, during my day of conducting visitor evaluations and interviews at the grand unveiling of the reimagined Lion Attacking a Dromedary. I had heard the same thing in slightly different words nearly a dozen times by the day’s end. I found, through conducting interviews, that the group in attendance largely felt connected to the piece— it was a catalyst for a shared sense of nostalgia, and I felt it too.

    There was one attendee in particular; they had traveled with their whole family to come to the symposium because the piece, and the Carnegie Natural History Museum as a whole, was so important to them. They recounted the feeling of seeing the piece now known as Lion Attacking a Dromedary for the first time—“It was overwhelming, seeing this intensely dramatic moment right in front of you, acted out like a freeze frame at the climax of a play; it took me to a different place entirely. I fell in love with it, and I’ve been visiting it ever since, bringing friends and family along too.” That particular attendee boasted that they knew everything there was to know about the diorama. Another symposium attendee brought their adult son along. They said “I’ve been visiting the diorama since I was a child, then when he [their son] was old enough, I brought him and his wife. I can’t wait to bring my grand kids one day too.”

    I could remember my first time seeing the piece as well. I was on a girl scouts field trip in second grade, and was overcome with the drama most attendees I interviewed identified with. It incited fear in me—the same fear the fictive moment portrayed in the eyes of the courier. In high school I would volunteer at the CMNH, and always looked forward to being in the hall where Lion Attacking a Dromedary was situated. As a child, I couldn’t see how problematic its location was, but after sitting in on the lectures throughout the day at the symposium, I was enlightened to the plethora of problems surrounding the piece, its name, and its location.

    After the first round of lectures in the morning, on topics varying from orientalism and exoticism to the nuances of conservation, I returned to most of the attendees I interviewed during the opening refreshments to see if their view had changed (like mine). Unsurprisingly, we found ourselves in the same boat. Issues were brought to light that we hadn’t considered, but we were happy they were resolved. Even the self-proclaimed expert on the piece was blown away by what they had learned during the symposium. With new information, excitement grew for the unveiling of the reimagined piece.

    As the red curtains were pulled back, a small crowd of adults watched with wide child eyes. It was, and is, beautiful. But, what the attendees I had the chance to talk to were most pleased with was not the new shiny clean quality of the pieces in the diorama, rather, its new location where it could attract all of the attention it deserved.

    Lion Attacking a Dromedary is so much more than a piece in a museum, it is a defining icon for our museum. It functions as a catalyst for waves of memories for Pittsburgh locals and travelers alike, and its reimagining benefits its message, its history, and its audience.

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    • HAAARCH!!! 2017
    • Undergraduate Work
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    Historical Fiction and Alternative Facts in "Lion Attacking a Dromedary"

     

                Around two months ago, I attended a symposium on the unveiling of the newly renovated diorama “Lion Attacking Dromedary,” formerly known as “Arab Courier Attacked by Lions” at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I was tasked with doing some informal audience evaluation, mostly in the form of individual and small group interviews, and then following up with a blog post about my experiences. I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to attend the symposium, which was filled with fascinating lecturers and an enthusiastic audience. I was also lucky to have the chance to test my visitor evaluation skills, which were still rudimentary at that time. Since then, I have had the chance to hone my skills a little, and if I were to repeat the experience, I may have switched up my methodology a little. I may have had a prewritten list of open-ended questions, and I might have recorded the demographics of the visitors more closely. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the symposium, and learned more about the diorama and about practical evaluation skills than I ever could have from a textbook.

    “It’s so sad that he had to kill those lions” said a preteen girl during the unveiling of the diorama.

                “What? No, he didn’t kill the lions” I said in amazement, after listening to hours of the morning session of the symposium, entitled “Historical and Intellectual Contexts of the Diorama.” I had assumed everyone knew the truth about the diorama.

                “So they killed him?” she asked in horror.

                “No, they probably all died separately and were just assembled together,” I said by way of clumsy explanation.

                “Oh, I thought it was something that really happened.”

                My initial reaction to this girl’s ignorance was one of surprise tinged with patronization. After spending the morning learning the truth about the diorama, I had forgotten that, despite all the facts, the provenance, and scientific data that color the scene as a work of fiction, it looks real. More than that, it feels real. As Nadia Khawaja, the Outreach Coordinator of the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh, would say later that day during the panel discussion, “people believe what they see,” and “what they see in the media confirms their beliefs”.

    In a museum where families with children under 18 comprise approximately half of the visitors (according to onsite customer surveys collected since 2007 http://www.carnegiemnh.org/mission/visits.html)., this confusion between fact and fiction, history and art, is even more prevalent. While almost everyone who attended the symposium appeared to be adults over 35, the people wandering the halls of the museum appeared to be mostly young families with children.

    The dramatic unveiling of the renovated diorama was sandwiched between two sets of lectures held in the theater in the Carnegie Museum of Art. In total, the symposium and unveiling lasted five hours. Coffee and refreshments were served during the breaks in the lectures. The population of visitors who chose to attend the symposium and sit quietly for several hours was not the same population of visitors who chose to explore the museum at their leisure, with plenty of breaks for little leg.

     The first time I saw the diorama at the entrance to  the Hall of African Wildlife, I was a child too young to read in-depth, and I remember it making sense, feeling true. It reminded me of the Lion King and Aladdin, but then, those felt real to me too. The frightening scene seemed like it could happen, maybe 100 years ago, maybe once upon a time, or maybe even at that very second. It takes place in a fictional, timeless, eternal North Africa with no sign of modernity, in a vast open desert with no sign of habitation, with an inaccurate combination of details that create a generalized image of an “Arab” person and scene, which can make it immersive, and captivating, but also deeply problematic.

    If it only depicted animals, the inaccuracies would be less worrisome, but because it depicts a human being, with a human skull and teeth, it colors the way real people interact with other real people. In a natural history museum, especially in a diorama with real bodies, there is an inherent assumption of truth. A visitor typically views a taxidermy animal or a skeleton with the belief that an expert assembled the object for scientific and educational purposes, and that the information presented is true. The diorama stereotypes and generalizes “Arab” people as violent, aggressive, and uncivilized. Due to the diorama’s previous placement within a museum of natural history, the stereotype appears factual. As Ms. Khawaja put it, it’s just another depiction of an “angry brown man.”

    The symposium occurred only a few days after the first travel ban, affecting seven Muslim-majority countries, was announced by the 45th President of the United States, there was even a protest in Pittsburgh at the exact same time. It occurred at a time when the concept of truth itself was called into question. While the museum has made great efforts to present Lion Attacking a Dromedary as a work of art, including a name change, updated and informative labels, and a move to the “spine” of the museums, the very juncture between Art and Natural History, is it enough? Will the average museum visitor stop and read the labels, will they understand the nuances, and most importantly, will they care? Will they care about the truth when the “alternative facts” feel true? I feel that the Carnegie Museum did an amazing job of correcting the mistakes of its past. It is now the responsibility of each visitor to take the time to read the labels carefully and explain them to their children, so that they may experience the diorama as fiction, not fact.

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    • HAAARCH!!! 2017
    • Undergraduate Work
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    Bryan Trew

    The Architecture of Schools of Architecture

    This project analyzes the facilities of the studio component of the Architectural Studies program on the University of Pittsburgh campus in comparison with similar types of facilities elsewhere. It is based on research into the buildings of schools of architecture around the United States and specifically the requirements for productive and fulfilling studio activities for both students and instructors. Using digital modeling, it proposes improvements to the existing spaces at Pitt, currently located in Thaw Hall.

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    Abigail Meloy

    Image and Word Reconsidered: Lorenzo Lotto’s Trescore Frescoes, Trinity, and Madonna of the Rosary

    Although critically disavowed by art critics during his lifetime, Venetian Renaissance artist Lorenzo Lotto has attracted a revival of interest over the past century. Modern scholarship on Lotto has admired his “inventive” iconography in his religious works, including his Trescore frescoes and his altarpieces Trinity and Madonna of the Rosary. Attempts at interpreting Lotto’s artworks illuminate limitations within a common maneuver for understanding Renaissance art, an approach that has its roots in Erwin Panofsky’s studies of iconology. While many scholars have emphasized deviations from and literal illustrations of scripture in the Trescore frescoes, Trinity, and Madonna of the Rosary, this project explores select contenders of iconology as a starting point for thinking about the “meaning-making” of these works. By affirming the fundamental differences between images and words, I examine overlooked elements and visual strategies employed by Lotto as they relate to different ways of thinking about the dynamics of image and word as well as to the function of devotional art upon the beholder. 

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    Sonnie Solomon

    LaToya Ruby Frazier and Photography of Braddock, Pennsylvania

    LaToya Ruby Frazier grew up in the shadow of Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill in Braddock, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh. Over the course of a century, her family has weathered a wide variety of social and economic fortunes, from the city’s prosperous days as an industrial hub to its current ranking among the nation’s most financially distressed municipalities. Frazier’s 2014 photo essay The Notion of Family chronicles the deterioration of this Rust Belt town, featuring portraits of herself, her mother, and her grandmother along with images of its crumbling streets and dilapidated architecture. Unlike earlier documentary photographers, Frazier claims a more personal connection to the city, emphasizing her status as both a native of Braddock and a witness to its decay. In examining Frazier’s collection alongside the work of documentarian Lewis Hine and photo journalist W. Eugene Smith, this project interrogates the labels of insider and outsider in portraiture, while analyzing the implications of personal narratives for Pittsburgh’s photographic identity.

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    Sana Mahmood

    Teenie Harris Archive Internship

    This project examines the work of Pittsburgh's Upper Hill district native, the late Charles “Teenie” Harris, through the eyes of high school students enrolled at University Prep. Its goal is to allow African-American high school students to curate their own racial storylines as if they were exhibits in a museum, and to encourage among them individual self-reflection and pride in the life one lives, hardships and all. Students and their mentors are introduced to the more than 80,000 photos shot by Harris in the online archive of the Carnegie Museum of Art. With the help of undergraduate interns, the high school students learn to navigate this archive and select pictures that speak to them and their personal stories as they wish for them to be portrayed to the community in a final exhibit to be displayed outside the library in the Frick Fine Arts Building. It encourages students to think like museum curators and take dimensions and other specifications of space and area into account when telling their visual stories, ultimately empowering them with the confidence and motivation to strive towards educational and career goals that they find fulfilling, and reminding them that such goals are well within their reach.

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    Dheeraj Jalluri

    Neuroesthetics

    Neuroesthetics is a relatively new field of research that postulates that certain qualities of art act as neurological and biological indicators for the level of a viewer’s aesthetic pleasure. This study aims to engage with these theories by specifically assessing whether color, contrast, and/or composition are predictive indicators of aesthetic experience using thirty-two paintings by artists of the nineteenth-century Hudson River Valley school. The works vary as to color distribution, average contrast, and composition, all qualities measured using Adobe Photoshop, MATLAB, and other computer programs. A survey on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk gives subjects a comparison of two random paintings from this dataset, and the subject is prompted to select which one he or she prefers. Upon completion of the survey, the resulting data is analyzed for the presence of any correlations between preferred artworks and the measured characteristics. The study does not aim to make any overall conclusions concerning neuroesthetics theories, but rather further the discussion through identifying possible correlations.  

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    Maureen Jones

    Black Panthers

    Few twentieth-century political parties are as polarizing, complex, and contradictory as the Black Panthers. They made headlines in the national press throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, but the content of their own newspaper, The Black Panther, is much less famous. It was published from 1967 to 1980 and offers a rare, firsthand insight into the psyche of the Black Panther Party as it established social programs, engaged in protest, challenged international relations, and faced the U.S. court system. My research centers on the artwork in the newspaper, ranging from the photographs that accompanied the articles to the supplementary drawings scattered throughout to the vibrant back covers. I investigate how the artistic culture of the Black Panthers served to support their ideology, and I attempt to determine the stylistic influences of the work, looking at the art of other leftist publications as well as African and African-American artistic and cultural tradition, in order to understand the art of The Black Panther within its global and historic context.

     

    Special Collections Project

    An integral part of the exhibition process is its preservation, which allows it to be experienced by the public years after its display. More traditional methods of preservation, such as exhibition catalogues, have their merits, but the hard-copy format has limitations in the digital age, and as a result, online Libguides are often made to chronicle Special Collections exhibitions. As an exhibit design intern in the department, my primary responsibility was the construction of a Libguide for each Fall exhibit. This involved fusing the exhibit catalogs with images of the display space and relevant supporting visuals, as well as secondary research to complement the exhibition rather than merely repeat it, and the addition of related hard-copy and online resources for those interested in learning more about the topics explored in each exhibit.

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    Sonnie Solomon

    Sonnie Solomon is a senior double-majoring in the History of Art and Architecture and Anthropology with a minor in Museum Studies. She is interested in the formation of identity and how it is represented in different artistic media, particularly within the photographic realm. At Pitt, she has served as a Brackenridge Summer Research Fellow, a Milton Fine Fellow at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and an intern for Revision Space Gallery, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival. She hopes to explore her academic interests further in graduate school, and ultimately plans to pursue a career in museum curation or art education.

    At HAAARCH!!!, Sonnie will discuss her honors thesis project, a comparative study of the work of three photographers—Lewis Hine, W. Eugene Smith, and LaToya Ruby Frazier—and their depictions of Pittsburgh and its communities. Sonnie’s research has been generously supported by a Friends of Frick Fine Arts Undergraduate Research Award, which allowed her to travel to Chicago to visit pertinent exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

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    Sean O'Connor

    Sean O’Connor is an Urban Studies and Architectural Studies double-major also pursuing a minor in Studio Arts scheduled to graduate in December 2017. He came to Pitt with a strong interest in architecture that began to blend with urban planning theory as he received greater exposure to the changing built environment of Pittsburgh, his hometown. Sean has been involved in multiple sustainability groups at Pitt, including the Give a Thread campaign and the Pitt Environmental Action Coalition. He also served as co-president of Students for Sustainability and designed a low-maintenance sustainable garden as part of the Sustainable Solutions Competition. Currently, Sean works as an intern in landscape architecture and graphic design with Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning. After graduating, Sean plans to attend graduate school to earn his M. Arch degree.

    At HAAARCH!!!, Sean is presenting his Design Studio One project, which meshes together his interests in both architecture and urbanism, using folding architecture to help mend the fragmentation of police and medical assistance services within the community of Hazelwood.

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