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Students research museum’s artwork


By Alison Graham





Four students will discuss specific pieces from the museum’s collection for 20-30 minutes each.

Participants were instructed to choose whichever piece they wanted to research and compose a paper and lecture to present their findings.

IU student Sam Tavlin found out about the competition when she was studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, last summer.

She saw information for the competition on the museum’s website and created a one-page proposal last fall to conduct year-long research about the etching “Male Nude” by German artist Oskar Schlemmer.

Her research consisted of viewing the artwork through two different theories from German philosophers.

One theory explores the idea of the separation between objects and the human body. However, when humans use certain objects, they become almost a part of the body itself, Tavlin said.

The second theory is called the alienation effect.

It states that when an audience does not get the chance to empathize with a character onstage at a theater production, they are forced to look at the production with a critical eye instead of getting lost in the story.

Tavlin applies these two theories to the piece she selected for the lecture
competition.

“I found that it’s one of those pieces that you look at,” she said. “Although it’s very simple, at the same time you can’t look away.”

Tavlin also said she liked the challenge of this particular artwork because very little research exists on it.

The same uncertainty appealed to IU student Eric Beckman, who will also give a lecture Friday.

Beckman selected a fragment from a Roman sculpture that was part of a Roman religion called Mithraism.

The fragment depicts a bull with a dog jumping up against it and would have served as the main focus for a place of worship in Roman culture.

Through his research, Beckman has traced the origins of the piece back to the 19th century, when it was found at the bottom of a riverbed in France.

Beckman followed the piece’s whereabouts until it finally reached the museum in 1985.

His research led him to discover that the symbols on the piece itself correspond to different constellations and astronomical bodies.

The piece depicts a certain time of the year and provides a road map for the Mithraic belief in the ascension of the soul after death.

“These types of scenes are extremely rare,” Beckman said. “There’s only 700 of them. To have as much information as possible just seemed like the right thing to do.”

In addition to Beckman and Tavlin, Anne Kneller will present a lecture on the museum’s “Seated Hermaphrodite,” and Rachel Schend will provide an interpretation of the Bilingual Eye Cup.

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