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Learning from history and its art

By Sarah Hess
On October 20, 2017

Brianna Reeves presented a lecture on history and art for the "Let's Talk: Art" series at the Contemporary Art Gallery. Sarah Hess/The Lion's Roar

Senior art major Brianna Reeves discussed the philosophical aspect behind artists like Jean Dubuffet and how art can be used to show that human history repeats itself in her “Let’s Talk: Art” lecture.

“Let’s Talk: Art” began in 2008 as a collaborative idea of Associate Professor of Art History Dr. Irene Nero and Director of the Sims Memorial Library Eric Johnson. Since its creation, “Let’s Talk: Art” has done new and exciting talks each semester and produced a minimum of six every semester using different art topics. The latest presentation by Reeves’ lecture was “Jean Dubuffet’s Return to Humanity in the Context of World War II.”

Reeves’ presentation focused around the moment of Dubuffet’s art career when he witnessed the loss of humanity in society during World War II and wanted to create art that could remarry society. Nero recommended Reeves present this topic which began as a 17-page paper for Nero’s senior contemporary art class. The endeavor required Reeves to translate texts from French. Nero believes that due to the time Reeves has placed into this topic, she was well versed and ready to present at “Let’s Talk: Art.”

“I think she’s been thinking about it and working on it so much now that it’s just become part of who she is,” said Nero. “So, she could talk about it in her sleep.”

Freshman nursing major Brandy Baham attended the event with hopes of learning something about the art world and being able to use the information she learned at the lecture to write an essay for a bonus assignment in her art class taught by Nero.

“I need the extra points, and I feel like it would benefit me to learn more,” said Baham. “I feel like art's not really that entertaining, but if I try and go to one of these, everybody says they’re pretty good.”

Nero described her favorite aspect of the lecture.

 “Well you know, I love the pictures,” said Nero. “She brought in some really great images, and she explained them really well, and I like how she ties her facts into those images. So, it’s not just pictures. It’s not just facts. She marries it together.”

Reeves explained her fascination behind the topic of using art as a symbol of history repeating itself.

“I like the idea I can show people that history does indeed repeat itself because a lot of people say, ‘No, it doesn’t, ’ but this is a pure, true example of yes, it does, and we need to start going back to where we need to be,” said Reeves.

Reeves believes that doing this lecture has helped to benefit her feature by preparing her for her chosen field.

 “Definitely, talking is what I do,” said Reeves. “So as an art teacher, I think it will help me get more familiar with talking in front of college students. It’s definitely a tougher crowd.”

Reeves summarized a few key points she hopes people can take away from her lecture.

“The main points that most people can take away from this talk is that you can make a change even if you’re just one person,” said Reeves. “Dubuffet was the only person to work in L’Hourloupe for about 10 years, and yet he made a change, and perseverance will get you through anything and so will hope. Dubuffet also shows that you can rebuild something from nothing.”

Reeves finished her lecture on Dubuffet and the changes he made to society with a call to action for the audience.

 “There have been many inhumane acts in society these days, and it does not help that while we are recovering from so many natural disasters, the wildfires, the earthquakes, the hurricane and yet we still have this hatred towards one another that we’re willing to take the lives of so many other people,” said Reeves. “So many people that we cannot help are others around us. Through looking at Dubuffet’s work, we know that history repeats itself. We can see that the pendulum has swung back towards treating each other in inhumane ways, and I’ve recognized this need for a return to humanity, and I hope that you have too and we can do something about it. I know not all of us are art majors. Not all of us can paint a message, but we can change through our actions.”

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