12/21/18 - 5/27/19

Elizabeth Gallerani
Curator of Mellon Academic Programs

In this hybrid gallery-classroom, Williams classes across disciplines investigate the relationships between works of art and key course concepts. Professors teaching courses from Androids, Cyborgs, Selves to Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Islam select objects from the collection to be displayed for the semester. During this eighth iteration students working in Object Lab will sketch plants in field journals, create object-costumes from a variety of materials, and make models using Geographic Information Systems.

Object Lab: Spring 2019 Courses

ARTH 273
The Arts of the Book in Asia, Professor Murad Mumtaz

This course explores the book as object and investigates its cultural significance in India, China, and Japan. These eight works represent a range of book forms, including individual pages from Indian books that were taken apart and dispersed, an album by a contemporary Chinese artist, and Japanese woodblock prints collected for personal albums. Students look closely at artistic style and research the materials and techniques used in these works. The class also discusses the various functions that books have performed over time.

ARTH 308
African Art and the Western Museum, Professor Michelle Apotsos

This tutorial focuses on the exhibition history of African art objects within Western museums. Students use these eight works, in addition to two more on display for Art Studio 385, to consider how hierarchies of power and agency are established between the object and the museum space. Each week, one student responds to a different prompt, such as how labeling practices limit understandings of African art and whose priorities are privileged in object representation. These texts will be made available as the students submit them each week.

ARTS 385
The Sculptural Costume and Its Performance Potential, Professors Amy Podmore and Deb Brothers

This team-taught studio art and theatre course explores the possibilities of the wearable sculpture and its role in art and performance. Students study artists—including Ann Hamilton and Martha Graham, both shown in photographs here—who have bridged distinctions between the theatrical costume and the sculptural object. Finding inspiration from the Igbo dance costume to the couture gown made of trash in the Fabrice Monteiro photograph, students produce object-costumes involving a wide variety of media while striving to develop their individual artistic voices.

BIOL 220
Field Botany and Natural Plant History, Professor Hank Art

This course trains students to look closely at specimens and recognize relationships among plant groups represented in local flora. Sketching is a critical component of the course; students compile a field journal with drawings made in the field, their classroom, and Object Lab. Here, students look at images of plants and analyze what artists do and do not show as they consider what visual features make a plant identifiable. Visitors are invited to make their own sketches in the nearby sketchbook by the bookshelves.

CHEM 364
Instrumental Methods of Analysis, Professors Professors Lee Park, Anthony Carrasquillo, and Nathan Cook

This course surveys different methods of chemical analysis. Focusing on works in Object Lab, students research specific artistic materials and learn about their degradation over time. Students also learn about different techniques for stabilization and restoration of these materials. The Japanese print and Deccan painting here are both faded and serve as counterpoints to more pristine examples under Art History 203. The Charles Prendergast and Byzantine panels both show how materials degrade at varying rates—compare the gold leaf with the tempera pigments.

ENGL 153
Androids, Cyborgs, Selves, Professor Ezra Feldman

Students in this writing-intensive course ask how authors and artists have applied human consciousness to foreign materials and media, and study the distortions and revelations that result. In Object Lab, students use examples of self-portraiture, electrified bodies, aspirational bodies, and moments of cynicism to explore the representation, imitation, and abstraction of selves. Examining these works of art alongside works of speculative fiction serves as a starting point for students’ self-examination in prose. Students also consider whether works of art have lives of their own.

GEOS 214

Mastering GIS, Professor José Constantine

This course uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which displays data related to positions on the Earth’s surface to help solve environmental problems. Using the art here, the class considers the impact of visual choices and the manipulation of data, underscoring that science is not always objective. They analyze how different viewpoints of the same place—Yosemite, Niagara Falls, and Benares—impact our understandings. Students draw parallels between the choices artists make around scale, color, and perspective, and the choices they make for their own GIS models.


Approaching the Past: The American Civil War, Professor Gretchen Long

This methods class for history majors looks at the different ways in which historians have written about the American Civil War, from the stories told to the sources used. The primary source material here helps the students consider how contemporary observers and artists such as Thomas Nast and Winslow Homer told the story of the war, and how their images influenced journalists and authors. Writing history is a creative process, and students analyze what is and is not apparent in both historical texts and images.

REL 242

Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Islam, Professor Saadia Yacoob

This course considers women and gender roles in the Islamic tradition and how Muslim women have interpreted and negotiated these discourses. Analyzing these works of art, students think about how gender, sexuality, and Islam are represented in visual form. They unpack the gender assumptions embedded in Julian Trevelyan’s print, including the depiction of Muslim men as warriors and the objectification of Muslim women. This contrasts with the photograph by Lalla Essaydi, an artist who identifies as female and Muslim, and who pushes on boundaries of gender and identity.

RLSP 102

Elementary Spanish, Professor Leyla Rouhi

This introductory language course focuses on grammar, elementary composition, practice in conversation, and the reading of easy modern prose. The course meets every weekday and immerses students in the language. Students describe what they see in each of these four images, including colors, people, places, and space. They also learn to describe their reactions to the works of art, using their growing vocabulary and grammar. At the same time, the students learn about Spanish, Mexican, and Chicanx artists and culture.

RLSP 274

Women’s Contemporary Cultural Production in Latin America, Professor Roxana Blancas Curiel

This course explores the concept of “Woman” as a representation and women as cultural producers in contemporary Latin America. We address intersections of race, ethnicity, sexual identity, and social class to analyze the reception and intentions of the work of female artists. In this selection of eight photographs from Citlali Fabián’s series, Ben’n Yalhalhj (I am from Yálalag), students look at the everyday life of a community in Oaxaca, México, as they investigate themes such as blended heritage, femininity, masculinity, and nationalism.