Fiona Collins is one of HAD’s BFA students from the class of 2019. After her time at Pratt, Fiona is now pursuing a master’s degree in Japanese Art History at the University of London. Below is Fiona’s journey and reflection at Pratt.
At Pratt, my classes Introduction to Painting Conservation and Technical Considerations for the Art Historian were among my favorites and inspired me to apply to internships within preservation labs and archives. Although I ultimately chose not to pursue conservation as a career, these experiences helped me realize that I love to study material culture through an art historical lens.
I often tried to take advantage of lectures, symposia and exhibitions in New York that would help me to further these academic interests, or allow me to better acquaint myself with recent research on the subject. I also frequently attended studio art workshops running in the surrounding area in an effort to understand how art-objects were made, and better identify their physical characteristics (I would recommend every art history student at Pratt check out the offerings of 92nd street YMCA, there are many affordable courses exploring historic techniques of art production!).
In the year after I graduated from Pratt, I tried to bridge what I had learned from my undergraduate degree with my long-standing interest in the arts of Asia. My enrollment in an intensive Rare Book School course taught at the University of Pennsylvania by Julie Nelson Davis was a particularly pivotal moment, and the first time I was able to study Japanese art-objects up close. Then, when working in Hawai’i at the Thomas Hale Hamilton Library in Honolulu the following year, I took courses in the Asian Studies pathway of the UH Manoa’s MLIS program and co-curated the library exhibition Bound by Tradition: the Physical Bibliography of East Asian Books. During this time, I kept in mind Professor Borhua Wang’s class at Pratt, which made it clear to me how important it is to master reading both modern languages and their archaic forms when studying Asian art history (one of the first things we discussed was the evolution of Chinese characters), and enrolled in Japanese language courses.
I am currently studying Japanese Art History at the University of London, where I have completed the coursework for my MA, and am writing my dissertation on the technical innovations of the Edo period painter Nakamura Hochu. I was recently hired to catalogue the collection of a fine arts gallery in Massachusetts from April to September of this year, after which time I will be doing a year of intensive Japanese Language at Waseda University (barring any more COVID-19 related travel restrictions!).
At the moment, my main objective is to continue honing my foreign language skills, and by extension, primary source research capabilities. I hope to pursue a doctorate in art history or Asian area studies, focusing on the material culture of East Asia, once I have higher proficiency in one or more of them! I will be applying in Fall 2021 to programs in the United States (if accepted, to enroll in Fall 2022). Eventually, I would love to develop my body of research on H?ch? further, or work in a museum, gallery, or auction house.
My two fondest memories at Pratt actuary mark the beginning and end of my time in my program: Although I was initially an illustration major, I decided to enroll in the B.F.A History of Art and Design degree after Professor Lisa Banner sent me an email when I was a student in her Global Art History survey. She reached out to ease my post-exam anxiety and to tell me that she thought that I had a mind for art history – I ended up transferring from my illustration degree a few weeks later! Then in my final year, I loved the process of developing my senior thesis with Professor Anca Lasc, who really helped me fine tune my composition skills and the presentation of my writing. It was both a tremendous relief and sad moment to turn it in!
Fiona can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @fionac_97