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Art History
Graduate Students

Graduate students in Hunter College's Art History program come from a wide array of backgrounds and varied life experience. Our program, and Hunter College in general, has always been proud to empower diverse voices to reach deeper into the social conversation and to become leaders in the intellectual, social and emotional development of their students.

Explore Our Students Stories

Tatiana, Art History

My dad grew up in Beirut during the war. He was about 10 years old when it started, and by the time he was 15 they were trying to draft young boys into the army to fight. My grandparents were able to get him out, and he made it to the states. We've been going to Lebanon once a year for vacation since I was little, but in the past two years I've become more involved in the Lebanese art scene. I did a residency program, and then started working on some curatorial projects with artists that I met in Beirut. I was at the Beruit Art Center to see a show called Place at Last by Walid Sadek. There was this moment where my questions and thoughts of my father's identity, and more largely, my own Lebanese identity and heritage synthesized with my professional and academic interests. It was this really wonderful moment for me. Everything shifted and merged. I went back to the show twice. I said, "I’m going to school for this. This is what I'm interested in." Art is capable of articulating something you can’t, and shifting your perception.

Diya, Art History

I work in socially engaged art; where art meets activism and social justice. I think the way art is advertised, and in general, it has this false image of being a luxury item. I don’t think that especially benefits the need for diversity in art. I used to work at the Queens Museum, but right now I work in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. My boss was telling me a story recently about somebody he met from NAACP who thinks it’s a PR problem that nobody thinks art is good for communities, that we don’t actually talk about the impact of the arts and what it can do for people and people's lives. Art has a lot of social impact. Art can show you how interrelated everything is; that inclusiveness means you don’t have to be a box. Then you have the freedom to just be you. I think if people understood that, then maybe it would be thought of as something as influential to a community as being a nurse, or a teacher, or a social worker.

Kristen, Art History

My dad had surgery yesterday, and it made me think about when I was a kid and I felt I would be a good doctor because I was really good at science. But I actually wouldn't be, because I wouldn't want to have somebody's life in my hands. That's something that I learned about myself really quickly, and why I didn't go to school for biology or science. I'm interested in studying things that I think can eventually help people in a much larger way. A lot of times people ask, "Why work in the field of art?'

I think for me, art is much more about allowing people to re-experience paths. I've known a lot of people who've passed away suddenly throughout my life. When I was 13, someone I was really close with OD'd. Then when I was completing my undergraduate, I was dating my best friend from high school, and we broke up and he took his life. I've experienced a lot of those kind of sudden tragedies. My thesis is not about undertaking why he would do that, but it's about understanding how culture has dealt with the suddenness of death. The medieval period is a really fascinating period to think about death, because it was all around you. It was much more embedded in your life in a way that it's not today. We have developed really socially effective ways of dealing with death that remove you from it immediately. You have three days off of work or five days off of work, and that’s maybe if it's a close family member. Grieving is not a socially accepted part of culture. I became really interested in memorials and tragedy, and that’s how I discovered votive objects, which is the thrust of my thesis. Votives can have a dual purpose, because you can give votives to the personality of the deceased person in a very secular way, in a way that's today very divorced from religion. But people still give votives in the religious context of being saved. So there's sort of a duality to them in which -- on the one hand -- you give them as a way to relieve yourself and to affirm that this person somehow still exists, or comfort the fact that they died, but you can also give them as a dedication in thanks for being saved from something. In the beginning of Christianity, magi were just being used as a justification for Christ’s arrival, but later on, they're used to promote bringing gifts to the church. And you see that when pilgrimage really started picking up in the 1200s, we start to see Adoration of the Magi imagery on the outsides of the churches and on the inside there's a cult statue of the Virgin and Child, because the Mary cult was also developing and becoming more popular. Because of this, and I will eventually finish writing this book one day, the development of votive culture and the way that it developed, is what enabled portraiture to happen – it’s what enabled high art to happen. Portraiture comes out of donor images. In the Renaissance, say you’re Cosmo de' Medici and you commission a painting of yourself kneeling. Medici would be at the bottom, but there would be a religious scene at the top. But eventually, people started commissioning paintings only of themselves. That wasn't happening in the medieval period at all, because there was a rejection of naturalistic portraiture. I really think that a lot of what has happened in art has been enabled by a rejection of votive culture, yet it still exists and continues to persist. I think there's a really inherent desire to dedicate objects artistically to discharge pain that you've experienced from tragedy. The tragedy is really what you should hold on to.

Irini, Art History

Art is a big. It’s one big set of questions about the world that you can't ask in any other way. In art history we may work toward finding answers, but at the end of the day, there are so many different ways to define art and to talk about art, or artists, that it’s in constant development, and it doesn’t really have a lot of concrete answers. My thesis is about Franz Roh, a German modernist, art historian, art critic, and artist who coined the term “magic realism”; and specifically about a photo book he created. I started discovering his photographs and was immediately drawn by this seemingly unexplainable quality that made his photographs feel so unique, yet looked very similar to other photographs by well-known photographers at the time. I had the chance to look at these photographs unframed in the backrooms of the MET. When you see something in a gallery space, it's kind of like in this rarified setting, but when you are that close to the object, you're able to have this really intimate experience and search deeper into the enigma of the art.

The work was almost spooky, which was typical of other work from the 1920s, but it still had this different life to it. I told myself, "there must be something about this artist, something that I can try to pinpoint that brought him to make something that looks so strange.” The '20s through the '40s in Germany was a locus for new developments in photography and print culture. Germany and in Eastern Europe at that time were teeming with international exchange and so many weird political changes between World War I and World War II. But with Franz Roh, I didn’t find any real political reasons for him to create work this way, or even to promote modern art the way he did. But I did find that Roh was not only a co-editor of the book, but he was its biggest author, which is interesting because he has not been studied much as an artist. It was obvious that he had developed a technique to translate his scholarly theory of magical realism to what I felt was the deceptiveness of these photographs. Another interesting tangent to this story is that he wrote the book in 1925 and the first language it was translated into was Spanish, in 1927. I haven’t gotten too deep into it, but it definitely influenced Latin America and its artistic movement of magic realism. His work is a perfect example of art offering different ways of asking questions about the world and having effects on the real world because of it. I think there's this magic in the experience that you have when you encounter a work of art and don’t understand it right away. I enjoy the challenge of getting to know the work and I think the questions that you ask should come from the experiences you have -- it should all come from the art. As a society, one challenge we face is trying to find a place for art to fit in our lives. I’m still figuring out where exactly that is. But whether that's in a museum, some kind of nonprofit public arts wing, or helping artists have their work shown in the business sector, my greater goal is to help artists communicate with the public, and use their work to make suggestions about how we can move forward as humanity.