It is the first day of College Art Association (CAA), a four-day conference where thousands of artists, art professionals and scholars come together to exchange ideas and information in art and the history of art.
For an undergraduate student of Art History, my attendance is an amazing opportunity, considering that over 13,000 artists, art historians, scholars, curators, collectors, educators, art publishers and other visual arts professionals attend. Another 2,000 university art and art history departments, museums, libraries, and professional and commercial organizations hold institutional memberships as well.
Given my interest in ancient art and architecture, this first day of the CAA conference is extremely useful to me because of the session offerings relating to my interests.
A nod to Etruscan art
I leave the SMU campus and arrive at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in downtown Dallas to attend the first of my lecture sessions, titled “Giving Etruscans their Due.” After maneuvering through the spacious yet labyrinthine hallways of the Adam’s Mark, I find my conference room without much difficulty.
After taking my seat, I notice a few familiar faces from campus: Dr. Gregory Warden, who chairs this particular session, and two graduate students in the Art History department. The graduate students and I talk excitedly about what sessions we will go to next as the lights darken and the paneled session concerning Etruscan art commences.
The panel consists of Dr. Jocelyn Penny Small (PhD, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), Alexandra Carpino (PhD, Northern Arizona University), and Dr. Jennifer Neils (PhD, Case Western Reserve University) among others. The aim of these prestigious scholars is to address the tendency to regard Greeks as the dominant culture in the ancient world, thereby denying the cultural contribution of other cultures such as the Etruscans. Paper topics range widely from analysis of Etruscan architecture to the interpretation of mythological images on domestic implements.
On to Ancient Greek and Roman art
Mid-day I attend an open session on Ancient Greek and Roman art. Highlights include a fascinating re-reading of the Sarpedon Vase by Jennifer Neils. I remember this vase from my very first introductory Art History class and from numerous articles, journals, and textbooks. It was incredibly fascinating to revisit this object in detail.
In this session, I sit with a graduate student who is in the middle of researching this object’s history in the 19th century. We discussed the implications of its history during this session’s break. In those moments and in many to come, I truly feel as though I understand and have experienced the purpose for the CAA conference: a free and open-ended exchange of ideas concerning the arts.
The tale-end of this open session featured the work of several graduate students. As someone who desires to attend a graduate program in ancient art history, I was inspired to see the effort and enthusiasm that each brought to the session.
Throughout the day, I am able to make several important contacts with Art History scholars from across the nation. Two of these scholars in particular have authored several scholarly works that serve as the foundational theories for my recent independent research concerning Ancient Greek Art History. What an honor to discuss and receive feedback from these great scholars in the field of Art History!
Back on campus, after the conference ends, I have a long night ahead of me as I research many of the suggestions and new ideas born from my discussions with several scholars.