Art Libraries Society of North America 32nd Annual Conference, New York, NY
Roosevelt Hotel, New York, NY—April 15-21, 2004
Session 15: Librarians as Art and Architecture Historians
This session was generously sponsored by Michael Weintraub, Inc.
Deborah K. Ultan, Art/Art History Librarian, University of Minnesota
K.C. Elhard, Humanities Cataloger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Thomas Riedel, Distance Services Librarian, Regis University
Jane Devine-Mejia, Architecture/Art Librarian, Notre Dame University
William B. Keller, Fine Arts Librarians, University of Pennsylvania
The practice of art and architecture librarianship draws not only from sound training in the library profession but also from a scholarly background in the arts. Many academic art librarians pursue their own art historical research and publication; indeed, it is not unusual for them to seek advanced degrees in art history while working in the profession. Whether for the love of research or the pursuit of tenure, librarians who publish as art and architecture historians can provide special insights to the researchers they serve as well as to other librarians while making their own contributions to the literature. This panel featured ARLIS/NA art and architecture historians who discussed their research processes on particular projects and presented finished papers.
I. Thomas Riedel. “Tradition Reconfigured: Juan A. Sanchez, Patroci[~]no Barela and New Deal Saint-Making.”
In 1936, a woodcarver, Juan Amadeo Sanchez, was hired by the Federal Art Project to make reproductions of traditional santos, or images of saints and holy persons, found in northern New Mexican churches. Sanchez's work, destined for display in museums and galleries, closely duplicated original 19th-century works, revealing not only nostalgia for a simpler past but a growing market for "primitive" religious objects as tourist art. This paper compared Sanchez's FAP project with that of woodcarver Patrociño Barela, who created original works often based on religious themes; while Sanchez's work was rigidly traditional, Barela's more aptly conflated folk form and modernist aesthetics, and he was declared by Time Magazine in 1936 to be "the discovery of the year." Through the research process, Riedel attempted to catalog Sanchez's work as well as to write his biography; although many museum curators were aware of his work, no one could fill in the blanks of his story. Standard sources revealed much about the context of the Federal Art Project, but the most useful information about Sanchez came from interviews with former FAP artists and contacts with Sanchez's relatives.
II. Jane Devine-Mejia. “Architecture for a Young Republic: Eugenio Rayneri and the Development of Havana, 1910-1933.”
The end of Spanish rule in 1899 brought profound social, political and economic changes to Cuba. With the advent of the republic in 1902, a need arose for new civic buildings. This gave architects the opportunity to define a new republican architecture, distinct from the colonial past. In Havana, the old landed aristocracy was losing influence in favor of a new middle-class elite of businessmen and professionals. This social change engendered a gradual transformation in architecture as the nouveau riche elite built homes outside the old city in the fashionable suburb of El Vedado. These opulent mansions were the work of a small group of Cuban and American architects, of which Eugenio Rayneri was one. Rayneri was the first graduate of Notre Dame's architecture program, in 1904. Yet, despite his prominence in the period 1910-1933, very little has been written on his career. This paper explored two aspects of Rayneri's contribution to Havana: his work as a residential architect and his role in the design and construction of the most important early republican civic building--the Capitolio Nacional.
III. William B. Keller. “Architecture for Community and Spectacle: Roofed Arenas in North America 1873-1968.”
The roofed arena is a covered seating bowl surrounding a central area, accessed through portals and passages. For centuries, this enduring architectural form has provided the liminal setting where cultural thresholds are crossed and spectacular rites are performed. The modern arena finds its patterns for the seating and purposeful direction of spectators in such classical antecedents as the stadia, fora, and amphitheaters of the ancient world. From the Colosseum at Rome, to the classical revival of the Renaissance, to the industrial advances of the 19th century, the roofed arena has evolved as a flexible, multi-functional facility for social activities. In this paper, Keller emphasized the pre-history of that development with selected references to contemporary buildings, such as Madison Square Garden.
Session attendees asked specific questions directed to the individual speakers, but were particularly interested in hearing about the presenters' personal experiences, their institutions' support, and their future plans for publication. All three presenters emphasized the value of the "human element" in conducting their research, and were gratified by the contact they had established with those personally associated with their research topics. The presenters reported that their employers were varyingly supportive of their research--but that, in general, their needs were met with understanding and flexibility.