Professor Mary D. Edwards co-chaired the session “Native American Art Past and Present” at the 79th Annual Meeting of the SECAC Conference

Professor Mary D. Edwards, CCE in History of Art & Design, co-chaired with Professor Sally Brown of West Virginia University a session entitled “Native American Art Past and Present” at the 79th Annual Meeting of the SECAC Conference, Richmond, Virginia, October 13, 2023. The first paper in the session was on the Iconography of the Frog in the works of the people of the Northwest Coast and of the American Southwest; the second concerned the preservation and spreading of the Cherokee Language through collaborative handmade books; and the third dealt with the conservation of the surface of rock art produced in the Southeastern United States prior to the arrival of Europeans to the area. 

On the following day, also at the SECAC meeting, Professor Edwards read a paper in a pedagogical session entitled, “Singing the Survey, Part Two.”  There she shared the way she sings a few bars of popular songs on occasion when teaching first year students the key images in the art history survey.  The talk was similar to one she gave at a SECAC meeting many years ago, parts of which she later published (see, “Singing the Survey,” SECAC Review, XV, number 1, 2006, pp. 23-30.)

On October 27, 2023, Professor Edwards read a paper entitled “Altichiero’s ‘Soft’ Martyrdom of St. George in the Oratory of St. George in Padua (circa 1379-84),” at the 48th Conference on Patristic, Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Villanova University, outside of Philadelphia. She contrasted the violence inflicted on the saint as described in the Golden Legend by Jacopo da Voragine (ca. 1260) with the portrayed restraint and avoidance of bloodshed seen in Altichiero’s frescoes of the martyrdom of George. For example, in the execution scene, the artist shows George kneeling face down on the ground in deep prayer while the executioner holds his sword upright as an acolyte might hold the cross, rather than swinging it onto the neck of the saint. Meanwhile, a man at our right lifts a hand as if to hold the scheduled event in a pause.  At our left, another man leads a small child away to prevent him from witnessing the imminent execution. Edwards attributes the softer approach taken by Altichiero in the cycle to the influence of the Franciscans who were charged with the care of the oratory and its frescoes in the contract between patron and painter.

A frog bowl by Tlingit People

Frog Bowl. Tlingit People. Wood, Paint & Abalone Shell, 7½ Length, c.1860. (The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art: The Art of the Spirit World: Northwest Coast)

A painting Execution of St. George by Altichiero

Altichiero. Execution of St. George. 1379-84. Oratory of St. George. Padua.