Our annual Visual Studies Spring Symposium features public presentations of senior thesis essays by Visual Studies majors.
Full-length versions of the following students' thesis essays are also published in our annual journal.
Below you may download individual presentations as PDFs.
Visual Studies Spring Symposium 2013
"Picturing Tomorrow, Today: The Rise of the Endless City"
Beginning in the closing decades of the twentieth century, a number of photographers around the world created similarly evocative images that framed the incredible shape, enormous size, and daunting structure of cities at home and abroad.
At the vanguard of this international trend in contemporary photography were Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) of Germany and Naoya Hatakeyama (b. 1958) of Japan. Both composed highly detailed and vividly colored photographs that confronted viewers with beautiful, dispassionate views of the landscapes of today’s cities.
"Viola Frey: An Avant-Garde Exploration of the Figure"
How can a marginalized woman succeed in a field designed for men? When studying the rise of ceramic art, it is difficult to overlook the fact that the majority of artists noted for their revolutionary contributions to ceramics are men.
Though originally considered a domestic craft, after WWII ceramics became a predominantly male practice.
Therefore, when Viola Frey came into the field in 1953, men working in a large Abstract Expressionist aesthetic dominated the field. Frey regularly exhibited in private galleries and sold her work internationally; yet, her work has not received nearly as much recognition as it rightfully deserves.
"Invest in Your Future: Yuppies, Capital, and Culture"
Obsessed with objects, status, and taste, the 1980s Yuppie was the personification of a rising social class. They were young, educated, and ready to take on the world. Yuppies spent their “new money” on the latest technologies, designer furniture, expensive clothing, and would be responsible for the “Art Boom” of the 1980s.
On the surface the Yuppie was generally considered superficial and materialistic. However, there was a deeper meaning under the veneer of all that extravagant buying and spending.
This essay looks beneath the surface of the Yuppie persona and provides an investigation of what they bought, and why.
"Hans-Peter Feldmann and the Conspicuous Photograph"
German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann has long employed photography as a central element of his practice. His presentations of photographs, both appropriated and original, take the forms of artist books, grids of images arranged neatly across a wall, and clusters of images pinned to the wall like specimens.
For the most part, critics have associated Feldmann’s appropriation and minimal representation of photography as a kind of construction to inspire narrative. While his juxtapositions have this potential, arguably so does any arrangement of photographic imagery.
"Traces of Media Materiality: Kelley Walker's Palimpsests Uncovered"
As visual information presents itself in increasingly instantaneous and malleable ways, it is art’s role to explore the instability created by the digital picture.
Kelley Walker’s art explores the dizzying potential of endless image circulation specific to this 2013 moment, but his approach -- appropriation -- is not at all new to our time. Appropriation in art is the use of preexisting objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them.
Over the past century, Dada artists, Andy Warhol, the Pictures Generation, and many others have employed appropriation in their art practice to challenge existing relationships to pedestrian objects and art objects.
Walker uses appropriation differently than these preceding artists because of the way he incorporates digital technology. Walker employs the flat bed scanner and Photoshop to digitally layer physical objects without disturbing the distinct auras of each physical element, which undermines the traceable lineage of the appropriated picture.
"Emotional Vessels: The True Story of a Love Shack"
In 2000, Tracey Emin uprooted a beach hut from the seaside in the county of Kent and transported it to the Saatchi Gallery in London, where it became part of an installation called The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don’t Leave Me Here. This dilapidated blue shed transcends the historical trajectory of found objects in art, and acts as a primary example of an ordinary object having been transformed into an emotional vessel.
The Last Thing exemplifies the way in which people invest emotional qualities (such as fear of abandonment) into objects as a way to concretize, and therefore validate, those feelings, giving them a physical place in the world.
Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility," which explores the Romantic concept of aura, can be used to unpack the weight of Emin’s beach hut.
Tazetta Goldstein Yerkes
"Mother Monster: Lady Gaga and Queer Subjectivities"
“This is for God and the gays!” cried pop sensation Lady Gaga, brandishing her trophy for Best New Artist. Following this well broadcasted speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards, a widespread fervor seized academia.
Scholars gushed that the singer had queered the mainstream, while Harvard University made Gaga the centerpiece of its anti-bullying initiative.
One queer theorist mused that Lady Gaga has ushered in an era in which queerness is no longer marginalized, but is on the rise. Amidst this frenzy of positive reception, Lady Gaga’s music videos have received surprisingly limited criticism, despite their noticeably offensive imagery and language.
This paper questions whether the singer’s artistic methods are truly liberating through close readings of her music videos “Born This Way” and “Telephone.” When considering these videos through the lens of postcolonial theory, the pop star does not succeed in liberating queer people.