Wellesley College

ARTH 100: Introduction to the Analysis of Art

Courses at Wellesley College

ARTH 100: Introduction to the Analysis of Art – (*New in Fall 2015*)

Why does art matter? Because paintings, photographs, buildings, fashion, maps, even web pages shape our ways of understanding ourselves and our world. Being able to look closely and analyze what you see, therefore, is fundamental to a liberal arts education. This course provides an introduction to the discipline of art history. We will study different tools and problems of visual, spatial, and material analysis, using works of art and architecture from around the world, as well as key historical and critical texts. The course’s themes include cultural difference; race, gender, and the body; collecting and display; power and politics and more. Students meet twice weekly for small group discussions with their instructor. Twice a month, all discussion groups join together for special lectures, films, and workshops. The course is intended for majors and non-majors. There are no prerequisites. This is a required class for all art history, architecture, and studio majors.


ARTH 258: The Global Americas, 1400 to Today – Co-taught with James Oles 

This innovative course explores how and why we teach “art” by examining the arts and cultures of North and South America from pre-Hispanic times to the twenty-first century. We will investigate new ways of looking at canonical and non-canonical practices and figures, issues of race and class, and the dynamism of rural life vs. metropolises (like Havana, Miami, São Paolo and Mexico City). Emphasis is on the formative role of international encounter and cross-cultural exchange from Africa, Europe and Asia. Diverse topics include: caste paintings in Mexico, Native Americans in painting and photography, carnival practices in the Caribbean, the Harlem and Mexican Renaissances, Brazil in the 1920s, biennials, film, and contemporary art. Visits to the Davis Museum and field trips to area galleries and museums.

ARTH/AFR 262: African American Art 

We study art made by African Americans from early colonial America to the present. We examine images of African Americans by artists of diverse cultural backgrounds. Throughout the course we analyze construction(s) of subjectivity of African-American identity (black, Negro, colored) as it relates to visual worlds. Although the course is outlined chronologically, the readings and class discussions revolve around specific themes each week. The course is interdisciplinary, incorporating a variety of social and historical issues, and media and disciplines, including music, film, and literary sources. This course has been taught as a 200-level survey and 300-level seminar. 

AFR/ARTH 264: African Art: Powers, Passages, Performances

As an introduction to the arts and architecture of Africa, this course explores the meaning and the contexts of production within a variety of religious and political systems found throughout the continent, from Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mali, to name a few. We will consider important topics such as the ancient art outside the Nile Valley sphere, symbols of the power of royalty, and the aesthetic and spiritual differences in masquerade traditions. We will pay special attention to traditional visual representations in relation to contemporary African artists and art institutions.

AFR/ARTH 292: African Art & the Diaspora: From Ancient Concepts to Postcolonial Identities

We investigate the transmission and transformation of African art and culture and their ongoing significant impact on the continent, in Europe and in the Americas. This course explores the arts of primarily western and central Africa, including the communities of the Bakongo, Yoruba, and Mende, among many others. The influences of early European contact, the Middle Passage, colonialism and post-colonialism have affected art production and modes of representation in Africa and the African Diaspora for centuries. Documentary and commercial films will assist in framing these representations. The study of contemporary art and artists throughout the African Diaspora will allow for a particularly intriguing examination of post-modern constructions of African identity. Group discussion will be a critical part of each class session.


ARTH 316: The Body: Race & Gender in Modern and Contemporary Art

This course charts past and present artistic mediations of racial, ethnic and gendered experiences throughout the world, using the rubric of the body. In the struggle to understand the relation between self and other, artists have critically engaged with the images that define our common sense of belonging, ranging from a rejection of stereotypes to their appropriations, from the discovery of alternative histories to the rewriting of dominant narratives, from the concepts of difference to theories of diversity. The ultimate goal of the course is to find ways of adequately imagining and imaging various identities today. We will discuss sociopolitical discourses, including essentialism, structuralism, postmodernism, and post-colonialism and we will question the validity of such concepts as diaspora, nationalism, transnationalism and identity in an era of global politics that celebrates the hybrid self. See my op-ed article about teaching this seminar written for WBUR’s education blog, Edify, “Beyond ‘Mona Lisa Smile’: Art, Race, and Social Media in the Classroom.” 

ARTH/AFR 316: The Jazz Aesthetic

This seminar will examine intersections of African American visual arts with the rise of jazz music from African-derived work-songs and spirituals of the 19th century to the later development of rock-n-roll, funk, and hip-hop into the 1990s. We will explore multifaceted themes in art, literature, and film, such as the color theories of Wassily Kandinsky, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the photomontages of Romare Bearden, and Sun Ra’s AfroFuturist film Space is the Place. We will treat the art and artists related to Cubism, the Harlem Renaissance, Social Realism, Abstract Expressionism and the Black Arts Movement, among others, and will consider individuals such as Aaron Douglas, Josephine Baker, Norman Lewis, David Hammons, Miles and Betty Davis, and Betye Saar.

For a full list of courses taught at Wellesley and elsewhere, click here.

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