2/3/23 - 9/3/23

Elizabeth Gallerani
Curator of Mellon Academic Programs

Object Lab is a hybrid gallery-classroom that visualizes the Williams liberal arts curriculum through the museum collection. Faculty work with WCMA staff to select art that connects with course concepts. These works of art are then installed in the gallery, grouped by course. Through museum visits combined with close-looking assignments and digital projects, students engage deeply with the objects throughout the semester.

During spring 2023, students are creating virtual worlds using computer graphics, composing poetry, writing museum labels, curating virtual exhibitions, and thinking critically about how places are represented.

We welcome all museum visitors to experience the diverse array of objects and to engage with the interdisciplinary ideas brought forth in this active, experimental space.

Object Lab: Spring 2023 Classes

American Studies 146: Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies
Professor Stefan Aune

Covering a range of contemporary Indigenous issues, this introductory course investigates struggles over politics, natural resources, and representation. It builds on conversations about Native American art, literature, and culture as well as depictions of Indigenous people in non-Native popular culture. Chemehuevi artist Romero confronts the idea that Indigenous people have no place in modernity, an issue underscored in class discussions. Weems incorporates an archival photograph from the Hampton Institute to address the harms of mainstreaming Indigenous students in boarding schools, contributing to cultural erasure.

Art History 222: Photography in/of the Middle East
Professor Holly Edwards

This course uses photographs made in and of the Middle East as case studies to develop students’ skills in looking critically at images. They compare these two depictions of Egypt: Frith’s 1857 photograph, which showcases a famous monument, incorporates a person for scale, and reflects British colonialism; and Callahan’s 1978 photograph, which shows the expanse of the desert and demonstrates his interest in color and dye-transfer photographic processes. For their final projects, students research a place of their choice, identify patterns of representation, and then curate a virtual exhibition.

Art History 325: The Arts of the Book in Asia
Professors Murad Mumtaz & Anne Peale

From palm leaf manuscripts and scrolls to Islamicate codices, books have long served as vehicles of religious, cultural, and artistic exchange in Asia. This seminar highlights the development and dissemination of book arts and introduces students to painting, calligraphy, and illumination using these seven works as well as holdings at the Chapin Library. Students compare three different pages from dispersed copies of the Bhagavata Purana, all showing vignettes from the life of Krishna. They look closely at artistic style, materials, and techniques, and think about the ramifications of having only a single page from a once-intact book.

Comparative Literature 242: Americans Abroad
Professor Soledad Fox

This course explores Americans’ experiences abroad between the end of the 19th century and the present day. Students consider the relationship between American and European identities, and the gaps between cultures, expectations, and reality. This selection demonstrates the impact of travel on American artists during the Gilded Age, with particular emphasis on Venice. Signac focuses on popular tourist attractions such as gondolas and views of San Marco, while Whistler chooses a quieter canal scene. Pennington and Story were in close contact with Whistler in Venice during the 1880s, and both painted portraits of poet and playwright Robert Browning in 1881.

Computer Science 371: Computer Graphics
Professor Jim Bern

Covering the fundamental mathematics and techniques behind computer graphics, this course teaches students how to represent, render, and animate three-dimensional geometry. Students visit Object Lab to develop their own creativity and to learn about artistic choices such as color, lighting, texture, and scale. They compare how Utrillo uses linear, one-point perspective to convey depth and relative size with Chagall’s more whimsical placement of objects in space. Students implement and manipulate these visual elements themselves in assignments, culminating in a final project where they create a virtual world.

English 302: “A language to hear myself”: Advanced Studies in Feminist Poetry and Poetics
Professor Bethany Hicok

The title of this course comes from Adrienne Rich’s 1969 poem “Tear Gas,” grounding students’ study of feminist experiments in language and activism in the 1960s through 1980s. Students explore connections among poetry, art, and activism in Object Lab. Bohnen, Valdez, and Weems incorporate images of their own bodies to raise issues about representation, inclusion, and access. Bohnen blurs the presentation of gender while Weems stages vignettes at her own kitchen table, leaving room for the viewer to join. Each student then composes their own ekphrastic poem–a verbal representation of a visual representation–inspired by a selection here.

English 311: Trans-American Modernisms: Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Black and Latinx U.S.
Professor Matthew Gonzales

Attending to questions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, this course aims to broaden students’ perspectives of what “Modernism” is and examines early- to mid-twentieth-century Black and Latinx experiences of modernity in the United States. Selections in Object Lab connect with Federico García Lorca’s Poeta en Nueva York, which recounts the poet’s journey from Black Harlem to Cuba and his horror at tourism and crowds in Coney Island. Students compare Lorca’s descriptions of Coney Island and Harlem with photographic representations by Feinstein, Siskind, and Van Der Zee.

Philosophy 207: Contemporary Philosophy of Mind
Professor Joe Cruz

The philosophy of mind has been one of the most active areas of philosophical inquiry over the last century. Whether the mind can be fully understood within a scientific framework has taken on an exciting urgency. This course investigates the broad topics of consciousness and thought, using art in Object Lab to explore the relationship between scientific explanation and conscious subjective experience. Students examine the motion studies by Edgerton and Muybridge as well as Cubist works by Braque and Gris to consider the implications of seeing from different perspectives at the same time.