Rome Prize Fellows
The American Academy in Rome awards the Rome Prize to a select group of artists and scholars, after an application process that begins in the fall of each year. The winners, announced in the spring, are invited to Rome to pursue their work in an atmosphere conducive to intellectual and artistic freedom, interdisciplinary exchange, and innovation. Rome Prize winners are listed here with a brief project summary in their own words.
Nathan S. Dennis
My dissertation examines the pictorial, material, and liturgical strategies employed in Early Christian baptisteries of the Mediterranean (fourth to sixth centuries) to create visions of paradise. These visions not only transformed baptismal initiates into new Adams and Eves reenacting the fall of humanity upon an edenic stage, but they also facilitated the transformation of the carnal senses into spiritual perception, deemed necessary for physical bodies occupying a liminal space that was thought to unify terrestrial and celestial realities. I examine the development and transmission of paradisiacal motifs in the baptisteries of Italy, North Africa, and the southwestern Balkans, pairing them with contemporary theories of performative space and medieval discourse on sensory perception.
Katharine P.D. Huemoeller
In this dissertation I investigate the intersection of sex and slavery during the high point of development of the Roman slave system, from approximately 200 BCE to 200 CE. Although it has long been assumed that enslaved men and women were vulnerable to sexual abuse by their owners, my project is the first to consider sexual and reproductive control—ranging from compulsory abstinence to physical alteration—as integral to the exercise of ownership. Placing legal and documentary sources next to the more familiar literary evidence, I analyze slave-owners’ articulation of the sexual and reproductive value of their slaves and, in doing so, demonstrate the significance of this dimension of slavery for constructing both the lived experience of the enslaved and attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and intimacy in the Roman world.
Jenny R. Kreiger
My dissertation seeks to shed light on the funerary industry in late antique urban contexts in Italy, specifically the influence of funerary laborers on commemorative art and epigraphy. Working with three major catacomb complexes developed between the second to sixth centuries CE (Domitilla, Rome; San Gennaro, Naples; San Giovanni, Syracuse), I examine inscribed burial plaques, painted decoration, and architecture in each complex, employing a range of archaeological, art historical, and philological methods. I argue that catacomb material makes it possible to reconstruct some aspects of the late antique funerary industry, such as workshop organization, labor specialization, the balancing of customization and mass production, and the development and application of site-specific commemorative habits. The Rome Prize will allow me to study archival and archaeological material available only in Rome and to complete a draft of my dissertation in an interdisciplinary environment.
Jeremy B. Lefkowitz
This project will develop a new perspective on Aesopica by emphasizing the conditions under which this prototypically oral form of storytelling came to be collected and written down in antiquity. By turning attention to the goals and motivations of those who wrote Aesop's fables in Greek and Latin, and by considering what the figure of Aesop may have stood for as an authorial figure and literary model, my project seeks to resituate the Aesopic tradition in the learned, elite contexts from which our surviving texts inevitably emerged. My interest in processes of writing and archiving will lead to questions about the putative "lowness" of fable and, more broadly, to fundamental questions about our access to the popular cultures of the ancient world.
Mali Annika Skotheim
I am writing a social history of the Greek dramatic festivals under the Roman Empire, from the 1st c. BCE to the 3rd c. CE. My aim is to illuminate Greek popular culture under the Empire, and the construction of Greek identity by elites and non-elites. My dissertation is in two parts.
(1) Seven chapters examining various aspects of the Greek dramatic festivals under the Roman Empire, including: the organization of festivals; the traveling performers who competed at them; the marginal entertainers who were hired to entertain the crowds; the spectators; and the involvement of the emperors in the Greek theater.
(2) A collection of all the epigraphic evidence for Greek drama under the Roman Empire, with texts, translations, and commentary. I am working with 170 inscriptions from mainland Greece, the Greek Islands, Asia Minor, the Black Sea, and Syria. While in Rome, I will add a section on the epigraphic evidence for the Greek dramatic festivals in Rome and Magna Graecia.
Eva M. von Dassow
On the conventional view, the history of civilizations is structured by a conceptual opposition setting liberty, identified with modernity and the West, against subordination to authoritarian rule, identified with the Orient and the past. The invention of freedom is attributed to the Greeks who defied Persia, which stands as synecdoche at once for Asia and for autocracy. My research develops a new paradigm. The societies of the ancient Near East knew liberty, rights, and participatory governance long before Athenians invented democracy. That they not only possessed freedom but conceptualized it is evident from many sources, notably the “Song of Release,” an epic poem treating liberation from subjection in a polity where citizens determined policy. What ancient Near Eastern literati did not do, which classical Greek and Roman thinkers did, was to carry out in writing a reflective discourse explicating the principles and practices at issue. The book I shall write will do it for them.
Rules for Tools seeks to uncover historic and tectonic rule sets to parametrically process current predicaments of materials and technologies. The proposal investigates two geographically and intellectually relevant design-builders: Francesco Borromini and Pier Luigi Nervi. While both architects worked in disparate historic periods, both created novel spatial arrangements using specific materials and modes of translation from design to construction. The main design modes used were subtractive through stone cutting and additive with reinforced concrete. Borromini’s stones were assembled into flowing forms which disguised individual building elements. Nervi stacked cast elements which highlighted the incremental, individual parts. Their construction techniques and practices will inform my own work carried out in Rome in light of new material innovations, advanced manufacturing, and quickly evolving industrial robotics.
Though the fragment is the inevitable and primary state in the mortality of all objects, it fails to be positioned as a positive element or conscious response in contemporary architectural expression. This absence is based on misconceptions of finality. Often perceived as temporary and vanishing, it essentially encompasses the majority of the lifespan of objects, since nature and artifice quickly erode the ephemeral whole. The proposed study will seek to position the fragment as a determined beginning rather than an unexpected end in the discourse and production of architecture. Through a study of the religious reliquary, a largely forgotten and perverse construct used to control and amplify the intensity of the fragment, I will seek to reveal how the fragment can be created, as opposed to merely encountered. How it can be considered a site for opportunity and activism as opposed to ruin or paralyzing melancholia. The work will materialize with the production of constructs and drawings based on analysis of the fragment's formal, organizational, and allegorical narratives, proceed with the making of a visual catalog of strategies, and finally tested with opportunistic interventions on a sampling of incomplete public works scattered around Italy.
Play is a project about the extension of fiction, off the page, into space (by way of exhibitions, videos and performances) and back into print.
The aim of this project is to research public and private sites across Rome which have been the setting for history and literature, fact and fiction, past and present and within them, to stage discrete, site-specific exhibitions as narrative vignettes. These will culminate in a series of paper-back publications and short videos online: a new serial fiction.
This idea is a play on translation: The translation of literature into exhibitions, of exhibitions into books, of history into the backdrop for fiction.
Rome, as a city infused with narrative, with public histories and private lives, has often inspired filmmakers and writers to present its stories in vignettes, in constant and repeating motion, updated each time by the characteristics of their generation.
As a 2015 winner of the Rome Prize, I will pursue a series of collages that embrace material culture and graphic archeology, relative to the magnificence of Rome. Through the repurposing of a variety of interesting historic and contemporary materials such as photographs, drawings, newspapers, ads, labels, tickets, flyers, posters, and a variety of other graphic ephemera harvested from the Roman landscape, I will create a series of two-dimensional works that reflect the richness and depth of the Roman culture.
I also hope to create a series of assemblages incorporating found objects and other industrial detritus from Rome’s fascinating multilayered material culture. My inspiration for this effort comes from my graphic design background where my continuing pursuit of successfully juxtaposing seemingly unrelated images has resulted in powerful and unexpected pieces of graphic communication.
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Jeffrey W. Cody
My project revolves around Saverio Muratori’s methodology of “typomorphology” related to Italian cities, particularly Rome and Venice after World War II. As an architect-educator, Muratori was distinctive because he questioned whether the Modern Movement’s approaches to architectural creativity were suitable for the reconstruction of Italian cities. His work for “INA-Casa” residential areas in/near Rome – Lido di Ostia (1949) and Tuscolano (c. 1950) – confirmed his doubts that “council housing” was appropriate. Between 1950 and 1954 Muratori taught in Venice, where he refined his approach and then returned to Rome as a Professor of Architecture at La Sapieza where he further elaborated his typo-morphological methodology. Muratori influenced many students (e.g., Caniggia), but much of his legacy has been lost to non-Italian audiences. I intend to read Muratori’s work, visit sites, interview Italian professionals he influenced (my Italian is functional), and clarify the implications of his work. Muratori's method, as shown in conservation plans by Benevolo, Cervellati and others, goes beyond merely interpreting the historic fabric; it helps make decisions about how to intervene on city blocks and individual parcels in terms of conservation, adaptive re-use and infill. By better understanding Muratori’s methods, I intend to adapt those methods in my teaching about urban conservation in non-Italian contexts.
This project continues my ongoing research into the drawing techniques of historic preservation. Every method of drawing a historic building – from a measured elevation to a 3D scan – asserts a specific ideology of seeing, valuing, and maintaining that architecture.
While in Rome, I will research the emergence of orthographic projection in the 16th century as a tool for documenting ancient ruins, examining how measured plans, sections and elevations merged the ambitions of preservation and architectural invention. Motivated by the idea of instauratio – the revival of the former glory of Rome through restoration and repetition – Italian Renaissance architects perfected techniques of orthographic projection to accurately document and reproduce ancient Roman architecture. Drawings by Baldassare Peruzzi, Antonio da Sangallo and Sebastiano Serlio reveal simultaneously the struggle for dimensional accuracy and the aesthetic ambitions of Renaissance idealism. In a tight feedback loop between documentation and design, these architects produced idealized abstractions of ancient monuments, which in turn influenced subsequent imitations and transformations. For this project, I will research and analyze drawings by Peruzzi, Sangallo and Serlio, and produce new iterations of their drawings, mining the bias of orthographic projection as a tool for observing, imitating, and transforming the past.
Rome has a long history of using speculative urbanization endeavors in pursuit of empire, exporting its formats of settlement, infrastructure, and governance as instruments of economic production and political influence. With this in mind, I propose to explore the implications of increasing contemporary foreign incursions of urbanization activities into the African continent, reflecting on the appearance of “African New Towns” as a new kind of soft empire building. Though this geography is certainly in urgent need of infrastructural and urbanistic upgrades, the promiscuous replication of exogenous models of city building in this context demands critical assessment. However, rather than undertaking this work as a purely text-based research endeavor, my interest is in engaging the volatility of these pursuits through the development of a robust body of visual design scholarship that will hypothesize on, and experiment with alternative land-use, planning, infrastructure and building logics as hedges against this new speculative settlement.
Pictorial depictions of the Italian landscape have had a seminal influence on landscape architecture. Studied on the “Grand Tour” by generations of landscape painters, Rome and its environs are source material for the scenic theories that are a cornerstone of the profession. They have been so influential, that recent scholars have pilloried them to make room for ideas of performance and infrastructure. Yet visual experiences remain an essential component of landscape design and common failing of infrastructures. My proposal for the Rome Prize is to reconcile scenic theories with performative currents in landscape architecture. In the spirit of how the sketching informed Salon landscape paintings, I will develop a “sketch” process that uses custom software and contemporary design tools to link visual experience with landscape performance and process. My focus will be on Rome’s urban waterways; an important subject of painters and critical focus of landscape architecture.
Recently scholars have turned their attention to landscapes and gardens to discover new and re-describe relationships between practice, technology, and theory. Landscape Architects draw to consider,create, communicate, and argue. Historians rely on words, they write to think, create, convey, and argue. Drawing is an object of interest to the historian, while the historic narrative shapes how the drawing is read. As a landscape historian, I propose to explore how these distinct practices, and methods of investigation, intersect to (re)frame narratives of the history of landscape architecture. I will immerse myself in the drawings of the AAR Fellows and in the act of drawing. Drawing as a means of reading design; reading drawing as a means of research. By projects completion, I intend to drafted manuscript on the role of drawing to challenge contemporary narratives of landscape architectural history alongside a series of exploratory sketchbooks that engage drawing histories.
I’m working on my third book, a novel currently titled The Aviary. It’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011 and follows a young woman with a rare neurological condition. It is, in part, a love story and is informed by Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo and Daphne. Granta Books has acquired the manuscript, and I’ll be looking to place it with a US publisher while in Rome. In addition, I’ll be drafting new short stories, most of them loosely themed around travel and immigration, with an eye toward updating those time-honored subjects to the 21st-century. During my time at the Academy, I also plan to work on articles, essays, and screenplays.
While in Rome, I will continue work on my novel-in-progress, which focuses on the troubled relationship between a mother and son, and deals with undocumented Filipinos living in California, Internet scam artists, Filipino rebel movements during World War II, and 80’s action films. The novel is under contract with Ecco/HarperCollins. I will also begin work on a second collection of short stories.
The relationship between the ninth-century legal forgeries associated with Pseudo-Isidore, and the political environment that gave rise to them, has long been a matter of controversy. Though scholars have studied Pseudo-Isidore’s legal protections for the Frankish episcopate, they have neglected the voluminous non-legal content of the forgeries. In consequence, Pseudo-Isidore, one of the most widely circulated and deeply influential texts of the Carolingian period, is poorly integrated with our broader understanding of early medieval history. I propose to study the specific agenda of the forgers regarding the ecclesiastical hierarchy, diocesan administration, and Christian orthodoxy, and to place this agenda in the context of ninth-century movements to reform the Frankish church. This work will reveal Pseudo-Isidore’s position in contemporary debates over church reform, and also, I hope, indicate the broader influence that the forgeries exercised upon ninth-century history.
Pilgrims visiting Rome in the Jubilee Year 1450 were certain to seek out the wondrous ‘Image of Pity’ (Imago Pietatis). This, they believed, was the original death-portrait (effigies) of Christ made ‘from life’ by Pope Gregory in ancient Christian times. The object of erstwhile pilgrim desire is a Byzantine micromosaic icon of the Man of Sorrows enshrined since ca. 1400 at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. My dissertation proceeds from a close study of this icon and its ‘life’ as a cult-object between East and West in the later Middle Ages. Embedded within an extraordinary triptych reliquary and showcased in Santa Croce’s subterranean Jerusalem Chapel, the icon was the centerpiece to a Christological tableau vivant that allegorized Real Presence in the Eucharist and emblematized the Roman Church. My analysis of this spectacle affords insight into newly emergent criteria for what constituted ‘real’ in cult-objects in the Quattrocento, and charts the interdependent functions of an image, its frame, its chapel, and its church in the creation of a New Jerusalem in Rome.
Modern Italian Studies
Joshua W. Arthurs
This project offers a microhistory of the collapse of Fascism in 1943, spanning the forty-five day period between the fall of Mussolini and the Italian surrender to the Allies. Drawing on sources ranging from police reports, legal tribunals and censored letters to memoirs and radio broadcasts, I interrogate everyday behaviors, emotions, and relationships during this phase of instability and (ultimately abortive) transition. I look especially at acts of retributive violence, iconoclasm, and public protest, in order to understand how individuals and communities confronted the unsettling legacies of the past twenty years. Longstanding frustrations and antipathies resurfaced as they negotiated quotidian realities; claims to vengeance and clemency, guilt and victimhood, complicity and legitimacy – all were refracted through competing recollections of life under Mussolini. I am thus interested in the lived experience of aftermaths and regime change, and their impact on later memory politics.
Katharine McKenney Johnson
My dissertation reconsiders the early work of one the most significant artists of the postwar period, Alberto Burri (1915-1995). It focuses on the years immediately following the war, during which time Burri’s artistic métier rapidly evolved from a conservative painting practice into a highly experimental and internationally recognized mixed media project. Ample evidence suggests that the transformation of Burri’s work was intimately tied to his participation in the avant-garde circles of 1950s Rome. Yet scholarship on the artist has long characterized him as a solitary, creative genius working in isolation. I show that Burri deliberately sought to establish the singular and independent character of his artistic practice in response to the perceived failures of his community. I argue these failures are rooted in the unfulfilled promises of fascism, which persisted in the cultural, social, and political ruins of reconstruction Italy.
I have long been inspired by Italian art and culture, in particular that of Rome. I will compose three new works which will be inspired by the acoustics of Italian spaces and the long lineage of Italian Art and Theatre that the city has to offer. The works being composed are a new work for the Quince Vocal Ensemble, a new work for mezzo soprano and percussion quartet for Third Coast Percussion and Sandbox Percussion, and a new work for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and starting work on a new opera based on the short story In a Grove.
Nina C. Young
During the fellowship period supported by the American Academy in Rome, I will continue work on a Making Tellus: Sketches of a Cosmogram for the Anthropocene, an evening-length, experimental cantata for bass voice, female vocal trio, mixed chamber ensemble, and electronics - a collaboration with bass vocalist Andrew R. Munn and producer Sugar Vendil of the Nouveau Classical Project. Imagine collecting an ice-core sample from a glacier. This cross-section of frozen water contains thousands of years of information - data used to create a climactic record of Earth. Scientists become chroniclers as they discover and tell the story of our planet. In Making Tellus I harvest a metaphorical core-sample of human time. This cross-section becomes a cosmogram, or a mandala, that narrates the mythological, scientific, literary, and socio-political conversations that have led to an awareness of our new geologic epoch - the Anthropocene. This cantata visits a wide swathe of texts from the Bible to research papers, from Antonio Stoppani’s 1873 Corso di Geologia to #Anthropocene tweets. This temporal juxtaposition creates a dialogue between the past and current ideas regarding the notion that humankind is now directly sculpting the geology of Earth.
Subsequently I will write a chamber concerto for violist Jocelin Pan that will focus on creating sonic equivalents to the “trompe l’oeil” illusion inspired by Andrea Pozzo’s paintings of the “dome” and ceiling of the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio.
Renaissance and Early Modern Studies
Scholarship on Titian has tended to treat the artist’s journey to Rome in 1545-46 as a sidebar to his career, and especially to its trajectory at mid-century. My dissertation challenges this prevailing view of Titian’s activity in the 1540s, a decade crucial to the artist’s development in ways that will profit from further investigation. I argue that the social power exercised by Titian’s paintings, particularly his portraits, took center stage in the intersection of Roman and Venetian culture at mid-century, a period that has been understudied in relation to both what preceded and followed it. The opportunities presented by this moment of dislocation and encounter—Central Italian and Venetian, papal and republican, ancient and modern—allow me to reassess Titian’s own agency and innovation within the richly textured fabric not only of early modern Italian culture, but also the larger European stage, upon which his frequent patron Charles V was a key player.
The songs of Homer were first translated into Latin by humanists of the Italian Renaissance (1362-1474). My project aims at a historically-contextualized analysis of the transmission of Homer’s Iliad and Odysseyduring this period from Greek manuscript into Latin print. The process whereby Homer went from Greek miniscule on calf’s skin to Latin incunabula represents much more than an exchange in the media of textual transmission. It reflects a substantive shift in historical understanding. The Troy-tale had deep roots in the Bronze-Age civilizations of the Eurasian steppes and Mediterranean. To the literate societies of Renaissance Italy this was a baffling world of feudal monarchies expressed in the even more baffling idiom of oral composition. Humanists often refracted Homer through the lens of more familiar authors such as Virgil or Cicero. The Homers they invented were thus a distinct product of the humanist program to revive a certain moment in Roman history.
Scholarship of the past several decades has refined our understanding of the late medieval and Renaissance Italian economy and the coeval organization of commercial enterprise. Yet, we still lack a synthetic study that jointly considers culturally driven concepts of money alongside the actual places where financial trade was conducted. This project uses that touchstone to study the physical form of Italian merchant communities outside of the peninsula’s terra firma in Bruges, Lyon, Messina, Alexandria, Tunis, and Acre, primarily by analyzing archival documents that contain provisions regulating Italian communities in these cities. Exploring the vibrant world system of trade that existed during the late medieval and Renaissance eras, this project examines buildings used for business, particularly fondacos and loggias, as well as the mercantile settlements themselves, arguing that national identity was deeply at the heart of how money and goods moved through trade networks across space.
David E. Karmon
From the texture of dry wood to the smell and taste of moist vapor, buildings provide us with multiple and complex sensory stimuli. My book (its title recalling William James’s famous investigation, The Varieties of Religious Experience) sets out to examine the fundamental but little explored psychological impact of early modern buildings and cities. Early modern thinkers were keenly alert to such issues—Erasmus criticized the miasma emanating from unkempt English houses, while Montaigne noted that the smell of incense lifted his spirits during church services—and yet the standard narrative of architectural history has neglected the rich sensory record by attending only to visual forms. This book examines how the sensation of architecture, registered in memory, space, and everyday movement, defined the critical contours of experience and knowledge in the early modern world.
Being in Rome for a full year with a studio will allow me to move forward on several projects as well as investigate questions that I have been concerned with in my work for years. Of particular interest to me is spending time in a community of scholars and academics at the Academy whose work focus on Italy and the Mediterranean, as much of my practice oftentimes is either inspired by academic research or is made in collaboration with academics. Currently, I have several projects that I wish to undertake, all of which investigate personal and collective movement and its implications on the physical and social experience of trans-Mediterranean space and time in particular between Italy and Palestine. This includes writing and directing a short film to be filmed in Puglia loosely based on the short story of a herder and which has links to Pasolini’s location scouting in the Terra Santa. Another is related to part of an ongoing long-term research which explores communal acts and rituals of death in public space.
What do African Art and Dada have in common? Can these two seemingly distant points in culture be brought together? Afro-Dada-Glossolalia recalls the early influence of African artifacts on Dada and Surrealism and aims to re-inscribe the presence of African visual cultures into the network relations of Dada, Surrealism and modernist industrial culture. The use of Rome as the site for investigation revisits the Rome Dada Season staged by Julius Evola in 1921 and the film L'Age D'or by Luis Bunel where a cacophony of absurd object relations are framed through the laying of cornerstones of a future Rome. The word "glossolalia" is here used to articulate a methodological intent, a so-called 'speaking in tongues' which seeks to channel, or perhaps translate the drives of Dada and Surrealism in order to create a range of new critical and creative departure points, capable of resonating across time, place and aesthetic traditions.This project will be realized through video, installation, painting and sculpture. Recalling the mechanical passions of the Futurists and their brief flirtation with Dada, I intend to create an elucidatory assemblage of objects and artifacts, inspired in part by iconic Italian modernist industrial design and the very corpus of the city of Rome itself.
The Gabinetto delle Stampa, Instituto Nazionale per la Grafica at the Villa Farnesina and the drawing collection of the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca possess a treasure of drawings made in 17th Century Rome and are a rich taxonomical catalog of Baroque mark-making. Rome in the Baroque era was a melting pot of local and foreign artists making for an international aesthetic of averages. However, the drawings in the Villa Farnesina and the Accademia offer a view into the highly individualized, often localized, approaches to drawing. My own artistic practice is based on studying averages and differences in the tropes of visual art. In these archives, I would study the multi-layered definitions of what Baroque drawing is by examining its same and different forms, making drawings from the experience, and assembling a kind of visual atlas of Baroque drawing tropes.