Vivienne Yixuan Shi '19
Art History major

Vivienne Yixuan Shi

I didn’t know art history could mean so many things before I took Modernism, Postmodernism and Anti-Modernism with Prof. Pohl. In high school I taught myself AP art history (it wasn’t offered as a class in my school) so I had some knowledge before I came here. However, by that time I viewed art on a very visual level and only made reluctant inquiries of its underlying narratives. I had (and I still have) a tendency to equate sublimity and spiritual transcendence to art, and I thought it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I also knew that if I wished to appreciate art in a number of different ways, I had to learn to see the messages and other more “worldly” associations that go with the art. 

Prof. Pohl’s Modernism class really opened up a new window for me. It allows me to see and teaches me to understand the social and political aspect of art, and it trains me to establish connections between art and this world, which feels somewhat new but surprisingly interesting to me. It’s so satisfying to see art, as a vehicle, actually connects everything – culture, psychology, politics, aesthetics, etc. It’s such a free thing; it directs me to go anywhere I like. In this sense, majoring in art history could really help me, a visual person, understand myself, by either decoding the physical reality that I’m situated in (for example, the history of architecture in my hometown) or reflecting upon how I feel about such physical reality (do I identify with the culture and values embodied in this architecture?). Obviously I take art history in a very personal way and most of my research projects – the ones I’ve done and those on the way – are autobiographical in nature. That’s the beauty of this major: you can study art history without any attachment, but if you like, you can also do it with a touch of intimacy.

Barbara Joy Peisch '19

Barbara Joy Peisch

I’m majoring in art history because I think it’s the ultimate interdisciplinary field. I love that you can spend an entire class discussing a painting from a religious standpoint and then find a multitude of articles on the painting’s sociological significance. And I love that art history lends itself to scholarly analysis as well as informal enjoyment—just walking around a museum with your headphones on taking in what you see.

Taking Professor Jackson’s “Daughters of Africa: Art, Cinema, Theory, Love” class convinced me to major. From this class, I learned that the rhetoric you use in analyzing visuals is just as important as studying the visual content itself. The way you construct your argument — the analytical form — is just as powerful as the ideas that you’re trying to communicate.

I love studying this discipline because it helps me to grasp history on an individual level. When you have a tangible, subjective representation of a sentiment or event or practice, it becomes much easier to think of history as a collection of personal accounts. The content is so accessible at that level.