Faculty/Staff News

Dr. Anthony Cutler
Dec 2016
Evan Pugh Professor of Art History Anthony Cutler may already have a long and impressive curriculum vitae, but he continues to add new lines of acclaim. This fall, he accepted an invitation to present at the 34th World Congress of Art History in Beijing, China. The international conference, which takes place every four years, hosted 500 presenters and 2,300 auditors, with the talks translated into seven screens simultaneously . Cutler spoke about authenticity and elusion in art. “Authenticity is a complicated and nuanced concept that evokes notions of truth and sentiments of morality,” explained Cutler. “It is even more difficult when you are translating it into other languages. In Mandarin, a better word may be ‘autopsy,’ because it confronts materiality.” His paper, “Authenticity and Elusion” (translated as “真實與遁詞”), addresses the crux of his own research – the necessity of the direct handling of objects in order to understand how, why, and by whom they were made. Cutler is not only an advocate of the approach in his research, but also in his role as a mentor of graduate students, providing them with opportunities to handle ivory carvings and learn from examination. Graduate students working directly with Cutler as research assistants have examined works in Berlin, London, Madrid, Majorca, Milan, and Paris over the last several years. Brynne McBryde, spring 2017 fellow at Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, accompanied Cutler to Berlin, Madrid, and Paris to examine the “Alexandria ivories,” among others. Heather Hoge and Elizabeth Peterson attended the conference in Beijing. Hoge also joined Cutler on his trips to London, and Milan, where she saw the ivories of the so-called Grado Chair. Describing the research trip to London, Hoge said, “After the conservators removed the ivories from the cases for examination, Dr. Cutler would tell me his observations, and we would measure the levels of relief and document them. In London, everyone knew him very well from his publications and previous visits, and because of that, I had the opportunity to handle 1,400-year-old ivories and meet the curators of those museums. The trip also gave me the opportunity to expand my personal experience with the architecture of the city.” Andrea Middleton, a Ph.D. candidate in Art History and Cutler’s former research assistant, practices Cutler’s methodology in her own research. She credits Cutler with making her a better writer and a more confident scholar. “He has spurred me to use more theory in my work, ask good questions, and take risks. He tells me, ‘Andee, go out on a limb; just don’t saw it off!” smiled Middleton.   She recently presented a paper at the annual Byzantine Studies Conference (in the same session as Cutler, who presented “Raising Lazarus in Seventh-Century Alexandria”) about an ivory plaque at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., that Cutler invited her to see on a research trip. Her paper focuses on how the anatomy of the tusk could reveal its origin and how the carving technique could affect its attribution – potentially significant details in regard to the dating and monetary value of works of art. “Monetary motivation is part of the discourse of attribution and collecting,” acknowledged Middleton. “Some works were made as fakes to trick people by copying older techniques, even burying the works to make them appear older.” Identifying such tropes requires the careful looking that Cutler insists upon in his research. Last spring, he led a workshop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for scholars and students, including Middleton, on handling ivories. Literally having written the book on the subject, The Hand of the Master: Craftsmanship, Ivory, and Society in Byzantium (Princeton University Press), Cutler regularly fields inquiries from individuals, auction houses, and museums about the authenticity of works of art. The extensive practice of what some consider connoisseurship is how the discipline of art history originated. Cutler mused about what he considers a misconception about authenticity and its relationship to the value of an object. “I remember giving a talk at the Evan Pugh Professors luncheon at Penn State, and a scientist got exasperated with me because I was talking about a work that was a forgery. He said, ‘A fake is a fake!’ – but even fakes are interesting because they tell you so much about the period in which they were made and what that period valued – aesthetically, culturally, and monetarily.”  Cutler was recently chosen as a consultant to the Empires of Faith exhibition, opening at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, England, in October 2017. His next speaking engagement will be as a member of a panel at the College Art Association’s annual conference in February 2017 in New York, only because he turned down several international offers following his return from China. “Two fourteen-hour flights, a whirlwind conference, and seeing the Great Wall is enough for one semester!” he laughed.  For more information about Evan Pugh Professor Anthony Cutler, watch his video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TdoOLtmRPg  
Dr. Heather McCune Bruhn
Dec 2016
    Whether a student takes an introductory art history course in a classroom or at a computer in an active battle zone, Heather McCune Bruhn, instructor in art history, wants the experience to be transformative.   “I have had students who are active military members in Afghanistan write to me and say, ‘This is the only thing that is beautiful in my day. This is my escape.’ That alone is a reason to do this,” explained Bruhn.   An early supporter of online education, Bruhn has been teaching courses in the College of Arts and Architecture e-learning Institute since 2009. Her courses, Art History 111 and Art History 112, both covering western art, are general education offerings that feature slideshows of works of art with Bruhn lecturing over them. While her voice may seem disembodied, Bruhn ensures that her students understand that there is a person on the other end of the learning experience by introducing herself on video at the beginning of the course and sharing personal experiences about traveling and looking at art.    “I want students to get to know me over the course of the semester, whether it is by sharing stories about my son or a trip to one of the places in the lecture,” she explained. “Although I have teaching assistants, I also grade a share of the assignments myself to engage with the students’ work.”   Bruhn understands students in her online courses may be juggling their coursework with full-time jobs and family responsibilities. Her grading system allows students to drop their two lowest quiz grades and gives opportunities for bonus points. Weekly quizzes serve as check-in points, giving students an idea of how they are doing throughout the course.   “Unfortunately, when you’re in an online course, it can be very easy to lose track and get behind,” she says. “Weekly quizzes keep students up-to-date with the material, ensuring that they don’t end up with a lot of cramming to do before an exam.”   Bruhn strives to replicate the classroom experience as closely as possible in her online format, which at times she teaches concurrently (by semester) with her in-person class. Using similar slideshow presentations and replacing in-course participation sections with discussion questions and exercises for the online students helps both groups engage with the material in similar ways.   “I teach many students from University Park and Commonwealth campuses who may take one course online and then take the other half of the survey in the classroom. I want that transition to be seamless for them,” added Bruhn.   Not only has Bruhn developed her own style of teaching, but she also has managed to work beyond the standard type of textbook learning. In fact, she forgoes an overarching textbook in her online courses because students around the world are not able to obtain the textbooks in a timely or cost-effective manner. Instead, Bruhn has created her own course materials with study image lists on the ArtSTOR website through the Penn State University Libraries, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, and primary source readings via Canvas, the new course organization software that Penn State adopted this year.    “I really like Canvas. It is easy to use for grading and distributing timed assignments like quizzes and exams. They came up with a design that allows elements to be added and truly integrated into the course design,” Bruhn noted.   Despite the challenges that accompany teaching about 150 online students and up to 240 classroom students each semester, and an additional 100 online students each summer, Bruhn enjoys introducing students to art history and mentoring her graduate student teaching assistants.  As a graduate of the Department of Art History (’97 M.A., ’06 Ph.D.) and a former teaching assistant herself, Bruhn imparts the wisdom and knowledge that other faculty members gave her as a student.   “I have two main roles – providing students with a working vocabulary and set of tools to process and understand what they are seeing when they visit museums or monuments, and helping students gain visual literacy training. Medical schools now recommend students take art history courses because visual training leads to better diagnostics,” said Bruhn, a proponent of STEAM education. “However, this course, in its essence, is a way for people to become more culturally aware of the art of the past and of their surroundings.”   For more information, visit the e-learning website: http://eli.aanda.psu.edu/
Robin Thomas
Dec 2016
Dr. Robin L. Thomas, Associate Professor of Art History, presents a paper, “Il segno del potere monarchico. Le reggie dei Borbone di Napoli” at the conference Lo stato moderno napoletano e l'Europa borbonica: storiografia e fonti to be held at Caserta, Italy, December 5-6, 2016.
Dr. Patrick McGrady
Nov 2016
  Dean Barbara O. Korner is pleased to announce that Patrick J. McGrady, Charles V. Hallman Curator, has agreed to serve as interim director of the Palmer Museum of Art effective January 3, 2017. McGrady has been a curator at the Palmer since 1992, and previously spent five years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As Charles V. Hallman Curator, his curatorial responsibilities include the museum's European paintings and ceramics collections. A specialist in works on paper, he oversees the Drs. Albert and Lorraine Kligman Print and Drawing Study Room and directs the museum's Print Study Club. McGrady holds a Ph.D. in art history from Binghamton University.  
Nov 2016
MassArt Distinguished Alumni Each year, at the annual MassArt Alumni Awards event, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design community proudly recognizes a selection of outstanding alumni who have each excelled in their field. Nominated and selected by fellow alumni, faculty, and staff, these distinguished alumni epitomize the creative spirit, fearless determination, and endless enthusiasm that radiates throughout the MassArt community. 2016     
Robin Thomas
Nov 2016
Fall 2016 Faculty Research Showcase Arts Research Revealed   http://borlandprojectspace.psu.edu/sites/all/themes/bps/img/BPS.svg   We move beyond traditional notions of exhibition, performance, and scholarly programming to reveal the processes and procedures of “arts research,” which are frequently hidden from view
Dr. Heather McCune Bruhn
Nov 2016
Dr. Heather McCune Bruhn, Instructor of Art History, presents a paper, “When Less is More:  PDF Tutorials in a Video-Based Course,” at the 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, Seville, Spain, November 14-16, 2016.
Nancy  Locke
Oct 2016
Dr. Nancy Locke, Associate Professor of Art History, gave an invited lecture on Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe and nineteenth-century stereoscopic photography at Temple University, Philadelphia, on October 12, 2016.  Dr. Locke was also a panelist for grants awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities earlier this year.
Dr. Adam M. Thomas
Oct 2016
Dr. Adam M. Thomas, Affiliate Assistant Professor of Art History and Curator of American Art, Palmer Museum, co-curated the exhibition and authored a catalogue essay (University of Oklahoma Press) for Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art, opening at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, October 23, 2016.
Dr. Adam M. Thomas
Oct 2016
Dr. Adam M. Thomas, Affiliate Assistant Professor of Art History and Curator of American Art, Palmer Museum, presented the paper “Racial Hybridity and National Prophecy in Elihu Vedder’s The Cumaean Sibyl” at the conference Hybrid Republicanism: Italy and American Art, 1840–1918 at the American Academy in Rome, Italy, October 6–7, 2016.

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