American Art and Visual Culture Seminar: Ann Keating, North Central College, Maura Lyons, Drake University

American Art and Visual Culture Seminar
Friday, January 28, 2011

2 pm to 5 pm

“First Chicago: The 1812 Fort Dearborn Massacre in the Early Republic
Ann Durkin Keating, North Central College

On August 15, 1812, about 500 Potawatomi attacked about 100 U.S. soldiers and their families as they evacuated Fort Dearborn. In under an hour, 15 Indians and 52 members of Heald’s group were dead. Sculptor Carl Rohl-Smith memorialized the event in his 1893 Fort Dearborn Massacre. On prominent public display for almost a century, the statue is now in a warehouse.  The embattled story of the Fort Dearborn Massacre mirrors the contested history of this event in Chicago history. Controversy about the use of the word massacre has led to renaming the event as the Battle of Fort Dearborn, while objections to the portrayal of Native Americans have led to removing the work from public display. This paper explores how this work of public art reflects a contested history, how it has shaped public perceptions of the past, and whether it should again be on public display.

“Memorialization vs. Marginalization: Contemporary Vernacular Landscapes and the American Civil War
Maura Lyons, Drake University

Virginia’s governor reignited a long-smoldering controversy by declaring April 2010 “Confederate History Month” without mentioning slavery. This paper investigates similarly charged contemporary memorializations of the Confederacy and the Civil War through vernacular landscapes. These built designs, which include Gettysburg Park, a Mississippi slave market, and a housing development in Ohio, simultaneously draw from and compete against a powerful visual culture tracing back to the mid-nineteenth century. Although the designs invoke the past in order to combat the marginalization of particular locations, communities, and values within the crowded American public sphere, their visual associations may prohibit redefinitions of place, race, or class in the United States.

Commentator: Kim Theriault, Dominican University

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org.  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.