by Julia Cocuzza

On Thursday, April 16, 2009, the History of Art and Design department celebrated the excellence  of its graduate student body with their Eighth Annual Masters Student Symposium.  This event featured  four recent M.S. alumni – Amber Goupil, Alicia Josten, David Quinn, and Justin Terry – presenting  their thesis topics, slimmed down into brief ten minute presentations.

Different than previous years, it was held in the Alumni Reading Room of the Library (Brooklyn campus)  as a way to encourage campus-wide participation.  This move was a successful one, as approximately  fifty people throughout the Pratt community were in attendance.  In addition, it was co-sponsored by  HADSA (History of Art and Design Student Association) to further engage the current student body.

David Quinn, Justin Terry,  Alicia Josten, and Amber Goupil fielding questions from the crowd (Photo by Julia Cocuzza)
David Quinn, Justin Terry, Alicia Josten, and Amber Goupil fielding questions from the crowd (Photo by Julia Cocuzza)

The event began with light refreshments, a welcoming introduction by Acting Chair Edward DeCarbo, and  a few words from Co-President of HADSA Tracy Spencer.  Each presenter was introduced by their  individual thesis advisors, beginning with Sam Bryan opening for his former student Amber Goupil  (M.S., May 2008).  This first lecture was titled, “Greed from Silent Era to You Tube.”  Goupil  discussed this unique 1924 film by Von Stroheim.  This masterpiece was intended to uplift cinema  beyond popular appeal into high art, originally ten hours long but was chopped down to about two hours  against the director’s will.  She goes on to discuss how the interest in this so-called lost film (as  well as cinema in general) has adapted to advancing technologies and accessibility such as You Tube.

Alicia Josten (M.S., February 2009), introduced by her advisor Vanessa Rocco, presented her lecture  “The Journey to Vision: The Relationship between Helen Levitt and Walker Evans.”  These two  photographers shared a darkroom for five years at the beginning of Levitt’s career, while at the time  Evans was an established professional photographer.  The lecture examined the influence of Evans work  over Levitt’s developed style, with many examples to compare and contrast.  The most unique aspect to  this presentation was that during the thesis research process, Josten had personally interviewed  Levitt over the phone, shortly before she passed away, employing a very rare and one of the last  documented interviews with the artist.

The third lecture came from Justin Terry (M.S./M.F.A., February 2009), titled “Temporal Landscapes,  Similarities between Earthworks and Pre-Columbian Sacred Landscapes,” with an introduction by advisor  Edward DeCarbo.  Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, James Turrell’s Roden Crater, along with the work of  Richard Long was discussed in relationship to sacred landscapes of the Aztecs and Incas.  In each  scenario, elemental qualities of the natural environment are harnessed to produce an expression that  is temporal and linked to cyclic and dynamic aspects of the world we inhabit.

Lastly, David Quinn (M.S./M.F.A, May 2009) presented his piece, “Regalia of the Warrior: The Shield  Trailer of Chief Red Cloud” (also introduced by DeCarbo).  The Brooklyn Museum had acquired Native  American materials allegedly belonging to Sioux Chief Red Cloud.  While Quinn was an intern there, he  was assigned the duty of tracing the history of these valuable and mysterious pieces.  His talk  focused on one object from this collection, currently identified as a bonnet trailer.  He went on to  argue that the object has been mislabeled and is actually a shield trailer.

The lectures were wrapped up with a vibrant question and answer session where all four presenters  fielded questions from the audience.  A reception followed with plenty of informal discussions and  refreshments.  It was the hard work from the participating students and staff that made this event so  successful.  The diversity of topic and approach made for a very unique and stimulating evening.   Thank you to everyone involved and in attendance!