A memory submitted by Luis Gonzalez, Class of 1989

Alessandra Comini

Her survey course of 20th century art was by far the best class I ever took. At 26, working toward graduate degrees in administration, I seriously considered starting over again and studying art history. Dr. Comini enchanted her students with erudite and profound judgments of the societal conditions reflected in great art. Although she spoke about esthetics, she emphasized the inseparable link between the artist and his/her time and place.

Although I took her class with at least 100 students, I felt she was teaching me, and me alone. Such impact was her teaching mastery that just recently a friend asked me who my favorite artist or art period, and the following was my answer, echoing Dr. Comini from two decades ago: “German Expressionism – Kirchner, Nolde, Heckel, Marc, Kandinsky, Clee, Beckmann, Dix, Kokoshka, Schiele, et al. Much of this art exists because Hitler stole it from Jewish collectors, labeled it “degenerate art,” and sold it to American museums and collectors to fuel his war machine. Lots of this art was burned along with books. Germanic culture at the end of the 19th century and into WWII was the apex of Western European culture intensified by growing urbanism, technological advancement, and post WWI burden such as hyperinflation, war reparation, and extreme differences between rich and poor. The decadence and reality of the greatest culture of the modern area in decline was conducive to extraordinary creativity, a veritable kiln for a new “expression” of urban living, sophistication, desperate living conditions, and decadent living with crumbling morality. This was the backdrop from which Hitler’s nationalism arose.”

Most importantly, Dr. Comini taught me that my personal reaction to any art piece was as valid as any critic or art historian. I’ve passed on this confidence to my children who also appreciate art because of her.