Interdisciplinary series kicks off with close looking at Natalie Frank's 'The Czech Bride'

Series aims to explore varied ways art resonates

Photos/Mike Lovett

Above, Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" documents show the novel was once going to be "Catch-18." On BrandeisNOW front, detail from Natalie Frank's 'The Czech Bride,' subject of the first Close Looking event.

A new interdisciplinary series at Brandeis will illustrate relationships between the vast areas of study within the university through discussion and viewing of original art and manuscripts from some of the University's greatest collections.

The series, titled Close Looking,  will kick off at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 2, at the Rose Art Museum with a close look at "The Czech Bride," a painting by Natalie Frank.  Anthropology Professor Ellen Schattschneider  and English Professor David Sherman  will lead the discussion. The kickoff had been slated for Jan. 26 but was rescheduled due to the threat of a snowstorm.

With over 10,000 rare books and 7,000 rare works of art, making the first selections for the series was a challenging feat.

"We tried to choose things that would resonate with many different people on campus," said English Professor Ramie Targoff, who is Jehuda Reinharz Director of the Mandel Center for the Humanities, and who led in the creation of the series.

"The Czech Bride," for example, is a contemporary painting that deals with trauma, war, sexual violence and memory -- all themes that connect within various fields of the humanities, Targoff said, citing such diverse areas of inquiry as Near Eastern and Judaic Studies students working on war and its aftermath and participants in the Women's and Gender Studies Program exploring questions of sexuality and power.

"There are a many different ways in which that single piece of art seemed like it would reach people on campus," said Targoff. "It's very provocative."

The painting "Hartley's Musical Theme" by Marsden Hartley will also be featured in the series.

Special Collections librarian Sarah Shoemaker said that two "blockbuster" pieces were selected from the collections -- the Shakespeare Folio of 1623, which connects to people in theater and literature, and the original manuscript from Joseph Heller's satirical anti-war novel "Catch-22," which he gave to the university in 1964.

The seed for the Close Looking program was planted last fall when the Center for the Humanities opened.

"I wanted to come up with a series that would be a collaboration between the Mandel Center, the Rose Art museum and the Brandeis library," said Targoff, "something that the three institutions, which I understand to be deeply related, could do together."

Targoff, Shoemaker and Dabney Hailey, director of academic programs at the Rose met often to develop themes.

Making the first choices was tough, they all admitted. But with hopes that the series will be ongoing, the trio didn't feel that their first selections would be their only ones.

Other magnificent objects in the Special Collections include books ranging from the year 120 A.D. to the recent past; tens of thousands of linear feet of manuscript collections; Shakespeare's second folio and fourth folio; The Bern Dibner History of Science, which includes first edition Galileo, and Propaganda Posters from the Spanish Civil War, World War I and World War II.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Heller's "Catch -22."  Currently the publishing company Simon and Schuster is working on a special edition using some of the Brandeis materials.

Last year, American Studies professor Steve Whitfield wrote the Special Collections Spotlight on the manuscript, which prompted BrandeisNow to create a video, which then prompted a special on WGBH.

"We have so many wonderful resources at Brandeis in the form of talented faculty members, significant works of art, and fascinating items in Special Collections," said Shoemaker. "It's great to be able to have an event that takes advantage of all of these resources and puts them together in an intriguing and accessible way."

Hailey said that she's looking forward to matching faculty work with some of the collection's most interesting works of art, including pieces by Lichtenstein, de Kooning and Agnes Martin that are currently on view.  The Close Looking series, she said, represents the best of Brandeis: in-depth discussions from a range of disciplinary approaches in close contact with extraordinary objects.

"Such multivalent experiences are at the heart of a university's work, and I'm particularly proud that this series features Brandeis' own experts and collections," said Hailey.  In addition, she stressed that slowing down to look deeply is incredibly important in today's fast-paced, media-saturated culture.

"I hope the prolonged looking and probing engendered by these discussions will cross over into other areas of student inquiry," she said.


Close Looking is a project of the Mandel Center for the Humanities in collaboration with the Rose Art Museum and the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department. The inaugural 2011 series is being funded by  Ann Tanenbaum '66.

Upcoming Close Looking events include:

February 16, Shakespeare's 1623 Folio, Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library; Discussants: Ramie Targoff (English) and Adrianne Krstansky (Theater Arts)

March 9, "Hartley's Musical Theme," Rose Art Museum, Discussants: Nancy Scott (Fine Arts) and Aida Wong (Fine Arts, East Asian Studies)

April 27, Heller's "Catch-22" Manuscript, Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library, Discussants: Steve Whitfield (American Studies) and Michael Gilmore (English)

Categories: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage