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East-West Encounters in the Visual Arts

East-West Encounters in the Visual Arts (ARTH160) examines cross-cultural artistic encounters between the Western world and Asia from the 16th through the 20th centuries. In particular, this year, the course focused on the reception of Christianity in China and the acculturation of Western societies through the use of Asian textiles.

For the midterm project, students researched the collection of liturgical vestments in the de Saisset Museum and compared different types of Chinese and Mexican material. This was fundamental for the final project that they developed as an exhibition titled The Universal Mother: A Visual Exploration of the Female Divine Across the Globe, which opened on March 3rd in the Dowd Building, under the supervision of Dr. Mariachiara Gasparini. Students showcased the universality of religion through the visual exploration of female divinities across seven different cultures. They incorporated textile designs from each culture as an artistic mode of religious expression. The seven female divinities: Amaterasu, Durga, Guanyin, Hagar, Sungmo, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the project’s own conception of the Universal Mother in the twenty-first century, were chosen not to conflate these cultures and religions, but rather explicate the importance of recognizing similarities while celebrating differences. Unlike the other icons, the student’s Universal Mother is representative of contemporary society; she is an expression of feminism, of technological advancement, and of queer identities. By creating these seven images, the exhibition hoped to spark the critical thinking process regarding the nature of religion and the importance of solidarity among people in our academic community.