Proto-Feminism in Fluxus Performance Art: Yoko Ono and Cut Piece

Summary of Essay

This essay delves into the background of Yoko Ono and her involvement in the Fluxus movement of the 1960s. It explores her artistic methodology during this period, and evaluates her performance Cut Piece as a proto-feminist work. Ono’s intersectional identity as a Japanese-American woman is intricately connected to this analysis, considering the historical fetishization of Asian women. While neither Ono nor her critics initially recognized Cut Piece as a feminist work, it has become culturally understood as such. By offering a concise exploration of its situational context and interpretive evolution, and exploring audience receptions of the work, this essay contends that Cut Piece actively fosters a feminist interpretation with regard to intersectionality and evaluates it as such.

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965 performance at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York. Uploaded by J Maurício T Loures

Hokusai’s The Mansion of the Plates

Summary of Essay

This essay discusses the artist Katsushika Hokusai, and his renowned skill as a Ukiyo-e style woodblock-print artist. This essay focuses particularly on his work The Mansion of the Plates from the series One Hundred Ghost Tales. The print portrays the tragic tale of Okiku, a maid-servant killed by her employer, a samurai named Aoyama Tessan. The analysis delves into the visual elements of the print, emphasizing the composition, use of color, and stylistic features that characterize Hokusai’s artistic approach. It also provides context on the popularity of ghost stories, known as Kaidan, during the Edo period and highlights the cultural significance of Hokusai’s work in this context. The narrative of Okiku and her fate is explored, comparing Hokusai’s representation with other works in the same theme.

image of Hokusai's Mansion of the plates. Woman coming out of well, tailed by 8 plates.
Katsushika Hokusai, Mansion of the Plates, 1831-1832, Woodblock Print. Image from Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The May Day Tradition, Through Their Eyes

An Overview

This semester project required me and a team of public history students to curate an exhibition surrounding the history of May-Day and its celebrations that took place here at Mary Washington University.

The Process and Our Goals

As a member of my team, I worked to collect witnessing objects and oral histories that connected the tradition of May – Day to campus life. Ultimately, my team and I found a wealth of images, material objects, and personal testimonies to share in our exhibition. It was our goal to design an exhibit that resonated with, and educated, current students. The artifacts selected aimed to enhance visitor experience by providing a glimpse into the feelings and thoughts of past students and faculty who engaged with the May-Festival. We worked to create an immersive and visually compelling display through a multi-sensory experience that drew participants in.

Mary Washington College, 1942, May- Day Celebration. From UMW Special Collections Archives.

Master Label

As the last vestiges of winter’s chill retreated, the blossoms of may sparked campus wide anticipation here at Mary Washington, for the May Festival was right around the corner. This event, once a campus grandeur, celebrated spring’s return from 1914 to 1968, before falling out of favor as an antiquated event. It featured joyous springtime festivities, including: music, maypole dances, and the ceremonious crowning of the May Queen. Although the tradition no longer graces the campus, echoes of its merriment linger on. Old photos, scrapbooks, and archived programs now offer windows into the May-Day traditions of the past. By exploring these relics, one can intimately connect to the experiences of those who celebrated May-day at UMW and uncover the enduring legacy of the May-Day tradition.

The Capsule

The following are the artifacts and interpretive texts we included in our exhibition. Enjoy!

Student Scrapbook

Creator: Mary Ayers Farmer
Date of Creation: 1929-31
Location in Repository: Private Collection of Jake Martin

Interpretive Text

It was a time of youthful bliss and flowering beauty during spring at the Fredericksburg State Teacher College. This scrapbook demonstrates this student’s early campus life blossoming while the college was a teaching school. Storing mementos and tales of her daily life, Mary Ayer Farmer’s scrapbook captures the spirit of May day and the festivities from which she was involved. Providing an intimate look into the lives of students here at Mary Washington, Farmer preserves treasured memories in a tangible and artistic form.

1931 Battlefield Yearbook, May Day Pictures

Creator: Fredericksburg State Teacher College 
Date of Creation: 1931 
Location in Repository: Private Collection of Jake Martin

Interpretive Text

The May queen and her Court pose for the camera, as an air of natural elegance becomes them. This image is telling as to who would be selected for these roles, as ‘beauty,’ intelligence, and campus involvement all played a significant role when culling the possible nominees. Their picturesque nature and rich garments give the impression of a flawlessly formed group, reflecting the values of the festival and in turn the campus at the time.

Richmond News Leader

Creator: Jane Stephens
Date of Creation: Tuesday, April 9th 
Location in Repository: UMW Special Collections Archives

Interpretive Text

‘It’s not even mid-April yet,’ writes Jane Stephens, but the anticipation for the May-festival has clearly already budded. Here, the preparatory needs for May- day festivities are listed. In writing this, Stephens demonstrates the spirit of the celebration, ok this letter gives an idea as to what was expected of the day’s festivities and overall gaiety.

Program 1917

Creator: UMW May-Day Committee
Date of Creation: 1917
Location in Repository: UMW special Collections, Archives

Interpretive Text

With the festival soon to be underway, students of the Fredericksburg State Normal School eagerly read what the day would entail on a program such as this one. After a regal musical entrance, students waited with bated breath to see the crowning of the year’s May Queen. As the crown rose, so did the spirit of the students. Carefully and skillfully choreographed dances followed and laughter echoed throughout the twilight of a warm May night.

1942 May Day, Dramatic Reenactment

Creator: Photographer Unknown
Date of Creation: 1942
Location in Repository: UMW Centennial Image Collection
image of 1942 Performace during the May Day Festivities. Person in dark robe and stripes at far left, acting.
May Day, 1942.

Interpretive Text

In this photograph we see the traditional celebration already in progress. Many typical elements of these ceremonies can be seen in this image, including flowing dresses, floral arrangements, a central throne (towards the back, hidden among the trees), and a performer in a unique costume, similar to that of the performers in old pagan May Days or in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” All the participants are dancing in this scene, with the strange figure leading them. The image displays community and revelry among the student body during the day’s festivities.

Yearbook Pictures, 1968

Creator: Mary Washington College
Date of Creation: 1968
Location in Repository: UMW Special Collections, Archives
May Queen sitting with her Court, black and white image. 1968
May Queen, Sitting With Her Maid of Honor (front) and her Court (standing, back). 1968.
The Queens court. 4 girls siting and standing in a row. Black and white image.
The Queen’s Court. 1968.
Quarter-Profile portrait of the 1968 May Queen
Sally Carlson Monroe, May Queen, 1968.

Interpretive Text:

These image immortalize the very last of the May Festivals here on campus. The queen and her court pose happily for the camera as they are regally poised in fashionable late-60s attire. The May Queen Sally Carlson Monroe and her maid of honor, Mary Margaret Martson are pictured. The rest of the court for the freshman, sophomore, juniors, and seniors are sitting poised and ready to take their portrait on the remaining pages. These photos offer a look into the tradition and the women who participated in it.

Program 1968

Creator: Christopher Ruth Wineholt, May Day Committee 
Date of Creation: 1968
Location in Repository: UMW Special Collections Archive

Interpretive Text

The late spring sun illuminated the already glowing face of the soon to be crowned May Queen as she stood poised on the amphitheaters stage. As seen listed within the contents of this program, contemporary songs replaced older hymns, and modern comedy stole the spotlight of tragedy. Still, students danced elegantly in a maelstrom of ribbons around the Maypole. As the sun lowered in the horizon, so too did the half century reign of the May Queen.

Maypole Dance, 1929

Creator: Photographer Unknown
Date of Creation: 1929
Location in Repository: University of Mary Washington “Then and Now” Photography Exhibition, the Centennial Collection, UMW Digital Archives
Students dancing around a MayPole. With ribbons, in a circle.
1929 Maypole Dance, Mary Washington College.

Interpretive Text

Gathered on Ball circle and merrily dancing around the May-pole, the students of Mary Washington demonstrate one of the festivities most anticipated events: the Maypole Dance. This joyful tradition embodies happiness and merriment, and the image provided creates a visual gateway into these emotions felt by the students. Having this visual of the Maypole dance safeguards the memory of this tradition, ensuring it lasts for generations.

Richmond News Leader

Creator: Mrs. Donald E. Ripley. 
Date of Creation: 1963
Location in Repository: University of Mary Washington Special Collection Archives.

Interpretive Text

Over generations, the May-Queen has consistently been celebrated as a figure of beauty and a symbol for the renewing of spring. However, this document places particular emphasis on the depth of her character, listing her hobbies, involvement in campus activities, and major aspirations. This letter also delineated the specifics involved with the dances for the evening and even the color scheme that was expected. This type of written analysis allows one to visualize both the look of the festivities and the people, and also recognize the individuality of each.

Oral History

Narrator: Marceline “Marcy” Weatherly Morris, class of 1950 
Date of Creation: March 28th, 2019
Skip to 29:00-35:00 for May-Day related content

Interpretive Text

Marcy Weatherly, the May Queen of her graduating class in 1950, talks at length in this interview about her life on campus- and her preparation for the honor of being crowned May Queen. Through her testimony, we are able to gain insight into the lives of the girls who went here years past, and the anticipation surrounding the festivities.

Conclusion

This marks the end of our commemorative May-Day content. For our Exhibit, we distributed flowers to visitors and played music for them from the May-Day programs. We also had little activities to partake in, such as our ‘role bowl’ that allowed guests to draw a ‘role’ and see who they may have been during the festivities, if they were still celebrated today.

Methods of Art History

Focus Work

This individual project developed over the course of the semester, and was structurally broken down into three categories: the descriptive, the visual, and the theoretical.

Descriptive Analysis

My first essay focuses solely on the physical appearance of Watteau’s Ceres (Summer). This essay treats the work as a tactile object, recognizing the application and textures presented through the work. It also follows a very confused, rather intelligent caterpiller on the way.

Visual Analysis

Following my descriptive essay, I worked to produce a visual (formal) analysis. This practice systematically goes through each element within a work (in this case, Watteau’s Ceres), identifies it, describes it, and analyzes how it contributes to the work as a whole. It differs from the descriptive in that it promotes inferencing in regards to the artist’s conscious decisions.

Theoretical Analysis

Finally, my concentration shifted towards theoretical exploration. More precisely, I employed Iconographic theory to scrutinize the symbolic messages embedded in Ceres. Within this essay, I provide a contextualization of the painting’s contemporary history and examine how Watteau would have acquired an understanding of the symbols integrated into the piece, a canon of symbols used to represent summer since the medieval times.

Antoine Watteau's
Ceres (Summer). Image of woman, reclining against figure of a lion. In the clouds.
Antoine Watteau. Ceres (Summer), c. 1717/1718. Oil on Canvas.

Architectural Reform in Prisons: A Focus on Rehabilitation in Scandinavian Prisons and the US

This essay was an individual research study I did for my 400 level Seminar Class: Contemporary Architecture

PDF Version of this Essay:

Summary of Research and Major points of this Essay:

While prisons worldwide share core objectives of protecting the public, punishing offenders, and rehabilitating them, the United States has shifted focus from rehabilitation since the 1960s, resulting in a ‘revolving door’ for repeat offenders. The essay delves into the impact of prison architecture on rehabilitation, comparing the punitive U.S. system with Scandinavia’s emphasis on reform. Environmental psychology plays a crucial role, and case studies of Storstrøm Prison in Denmark and Halden Prison in Norway highlight how thoughtful design positively influences inmates’ psychological well-being, fostering a sense of normality and community. The essay acknowledges limitations and conflicting arguments, such as the cost disparity between Scandinavian and American prisons, conservative sentiments favoring retribution, and the challenge of restructuring the existing system. Ultimately, it argues for the necessity of prioritizing rehabilitation in prison design, not only ethically but also economically, as a humane environment can contribute to reduced recidivism.

Image of Storstrøm Prison in Denmark. Cloudy day, green grass, built structure in center.
Image of Storstrøm Prison in Denmark. By Architect Group C. F. Moller
Exterior of Halden Prison, in Norway
Halden Prison, in Halden, Norway. By Architect Group Erik Møller Arkitekter

Early Italian Renaissance Story Map

Florence, Tyranny, and the Rule of the Medici

Here is a link to my StoryMap that delves into the history of symbols of Florence and the way the Medici used them:  Old Testament Slayers: Tyranny, Florence, and the Medici Rule

Summary and Goals of my Story Map: 

Both the figures of David and Judith came to symbolize the people of Florence in their struggles against external threats, embodying republican ideals of liberty. My story map tells the tale of how these images became symbols reflective of Florentine values, and how they were later appropriated by the Medici in order to promote their own self-image. A few goals of this assignment are to educate audiences on the deeper history of popular images they might already have seen in Florentine art, (if they haven’t seen them, no worries! My story map provides a history on these figures and their narratives)  and how/why they were active symbols for the republic of Florence. Another goal is to demonstrate how a powerful family, such as the Medici, is capable of manipulating such images in order to propagate themselves in the favor of citizens when faced with criticism. Donatello’s bronze sculptures of David and Judith and Holofernes, prominently displayed in the Palazzo Medici Courtyard and garden (by at least 1469), purposefully aligned the Medici with civic triumph, leadership, and as defenders of Florentine liberty. My story map aims to uncover the motivations behind these representations and how they would have worked for a 15th century audience.

left profile of Donatello's David.
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