The Department of the History of Art and Architecture and the Cultural Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh are pleased to host a national graduate symposium, Natural Selections: Art and Exchange with the Natural World. This forum will explore humanity’s relationship with and study of the natural world as transmitted through artistic practice throughout the ages. This symposium is a joint venture with Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, which opens the exhibition Fierce Friends: Artists & Animals in the Industrial Era, 1750–1900 on March 25, 2006. The exhibition, co-organized by Carnegie Museum of Art and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, explores 18th and 19th century representations of humanity’s relationship to nature as exemplified by our treatment of animals. At the conclusion of the symposium the museum will host University Night, a special event featuring gallery and social activities for college and university students and faculty.

Symposium sessions will be open to museum patrons.

Natural Selections: Art, Science, and Exchange with the Natural World
March 31–April 1, 2006

Schedule of Events

Friday, March 31, Carnegie Museum of Art Theater

2:00 pm Opening remarks
2:10 pm Louise Lippincott, Curator of Fine Arts, Carnegie Museum of Art, Fierce Friends: Artists and Animals in the Industrial Era 1750–1900
2:30 pm Keynote address: Claudia Swan, Associate Professor of Art History, Northwestern University, “The Ends of Art and the History of Science: Natural History and Its Representation ca. 1600”
  What does it mean to call an image scientific? What ends did art serve in the context of early modern science? This talk will survey a number of points of intersection between early modern art and science, with a view to developing new ways of thinking about the ontological and epistemological status of pictorial realism ca. 1600. Taking as its point of departure the work of northern artists such as Albrecht Durer, Joris Hoefnagel, Jacques de Gheyn II, and Jan Brueghel, we will also examine the uses of images within the context of scientific developments south of the Alps, from Galileo's pen and wash drawings of the moon to the vast archive of drawings collected within the framework of the Academy of the Lynxes in Rome.
3:30 pm Short break (15 min)
3:45 pm Session 1: Nature Watchers
Respondent: Josh Ellenbogen, Assistant Professor, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
3:50 am Ilya Noé, University of California-Davis, “The Return of One Who’s Always Been Around, a.k.a. ‘Deerscaping-deerwalking’”
4:15 am Alissa Walls Mazow, Pennsylvania State University, “Cy Twombly’s Mushrooms”
  Cy Twombly is most well known for his heroically-scaled white and gray, or “blackboard,” paintings of the 1950s and 60s. But in Natural History Part I, Mushrooms (1974), Twombly engages mycology, psychotropics, and Darwinian science, presenting us with an important—if often overlooked—model for the intersection of art and science in later twentieth-century visual culture. This portfolio of prints broadens the ways in which the artist’s work can be read, and demonstrates how Twombly attempts to reconcile through natural history the scientific need to know the world through quantifiable means with those aspects of our world that are less empirical.
4:35 pm Discussion led by Josh Ellenbogen
5:05 pm Symposium adjourns

Saturday, April 1, Carnegie Lecture Hall (enter through Lecture Hall door)

10:00 am Opening remarks
10:15 am Session 2: Nature and Identity
Respondent: James G. Lennox, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
10:20 pm Lynette Regouby, University of Oklahoma, “Portrait of American Nature: Presentation and Proof in Jefferson’s Natural History”
  When Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris in 1784, his primary goal was to represent the new republic in trade negotiations, but he also sought to re-present American nature to the European scientific community. His concern to counter the claims of proponents of the degeneracy thesis led him to organize, from abroad, a search for anatomical specimens of moose, elk and other North American quadrupeds that would be evidence for the robustness of American nature. His diligence in gathering specimens that fulfilled his vision of what American nature could be and his interest to bring these into the view of Parisian community of natural historians exemplifies the intersection of science, art and nationalism in the late eighteenth century.
10:45 pm Renée DeVoe Mertz, University of Washington, “Gendering Transformation: the Fusion of Culture and Nature in Japanese Folklore and Visual Culture”
  Through an examination of the art, material culture, and folklore of Japan, “Gendering Transformation” explores the ways in which the supposed transformative powers of certain animals have served as metaphors for specific gendered traits in Japanese culture. The paper specifically focuses on the associations constructed between women and foxes and snakes as revealed through netsuke, Noh theater, and the prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.
11:10 pm Alexandra Karl, University of Cambridge, “Darwinian Men in late Nineteenth Century German Painting”
  One of Darwinism’s many contributions was to articulate ‘the animal nature of man.’ This talk will chart some of the ways in which this new identity was explored by German painters working in the late nineteenth century. Specifically, we will investigate several new manifestations of composite subjects (Tiermenschen). Evidence of their Darwinian nature will be provided both in iconography and critical reception.
11:30 am Discussion led by James Lennox
12:00 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Session 3: Art, Science, and Modernity
Respondent: Terry Smith, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art and Theory, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
1:35 pm Carissa Kowalski Dougherty, University of Illinois at Chicago, “Organic Functionalism versus Bionic Blobs: The Meaning of and Motivation for Biological Metaphors in the Work of Greg Lynn”
  Contemporary architect and theorist Greg Lynn, considered by many to be the father of "blob" architecture, frequently employs biological metaphors to describe his work. Lynn also takes issue with Modernist organicism's emphasis on wholism, functionalism, and determinism. I argue that while Lynn's "bionic" approach does draw from a different scientific and philosophical paradigm -- including theories of emergence, chaos, and cybernetics -- the motivations behind his use of biological metaphors are not so different from those of his Modernist predecessors.
2:00 pm Cristina Albu, University of Pittsburgh, “The Disavowal of Modernity via the Fusion of Science and Art in Olafur Eliasson’s Site-Specific Installations”
  As the project of modernity is associated with increased faith in technology and institutions, Olafur Eliasson, Danish-Icelandic contemporary artist, undermines its ideals by creating spectacular natural phenomena that disrupt ordinary museum experience. The paper explores the ways in which his ludic installations question universally accepted ideas about science and nature, challenging the boundaries between reality and hyperreality.
2:25 pm Joshua Fisher, University of Iowa, “ ‘Entropy Made Visible’: Robert Smithson and the Second Law of Thermodynamics”
  Robert Smithson's interest in entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been well documented. However, he conceived of entropy as much more than a scientific phenomenon. This paper explains how Smithson came to base his entire worldview around a consciousness of entropy.
2:45 pm Discussion led by Terry Smith
3:15 pm Short break (15 min)
3:30 pm Keynote address: Robert Rosenblum, Henry Ittleson Jr. Professor of Modern European Art, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, Animal Liberation from Stubbs to Delacroix
  This lecture addresses the complex and loaded topic of artists’ portrayals of animals over the course of a century. Rosenblum heralds the trials and tribulations of humankind’s quest to define a role in the animal kingdom in the decades between 1760 and 1830, a period that witnessed a liberation of animals. From the 18th-century master of animal art George Stubbs to renowned Romantic painters Theodore Gericault and Eugéne Delacroix a century later, painters and sculptors empathized more and more with the irrational roots of nature as reflected in the widest range of animal images. Such explorations corresponded to the growing realization that humans could share emotions with “lower” species, a revelation that also fomented growing public concern about the humane treatment of domestic animals and led to the establishment of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824.
4:45 pm Concluding remarks
5:00 pm Symposium ends; University Night opens at Carnegie Museum of Art