Categories
Problematic Visual Culture

What Artistic Depictions of Thanksgiving Get Wrong

by Liam Conner, class of 2025

National American Indian Heritage Month, since its inception in 1990, celebrates the past and present histories of Indigenous peoples and honors Tribal sovereignty and self-determination. In an attempt to acknowledge the United States’ colonization of formerly Tribal lands, the month recognizes the evils of colonialism and its effects on how we perceive American identity.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that has become a staple for all the wrong reasons. The feast-focused celebration now features early-morning 5Ks, televised parades, football games, and boxed stuffing (albeit the best kind). In classroom retellings of the holiday, we learn that the Puritan Pilgrims peacefully ate alongside their Native American counterparts solely because they developed a friendly relationship. Unfortunately, many accounts fail to mention painful truths, like how the feast coincided with various wars and battles for land. The contextual and historical exclusion of the crucial facts of this story not only allows for these traditions to remain prominent but also disregards the toilsome reality of Thanksgiving and its colonial undertone.

One way to visualize American misconceptions around Thanksgiving lore is to engage critically with depictions of the holiday in art. From Thanksgiving’s earliest representations in the 1800s to the modern clipart we can download on our computers, incorrect retellings inform some of art’s most seminal pieces. 

George Henry Durrie (New Haven, Connecticut, June 6, 1820-1863) Home to Thanksgiving, 1867, hand-colored lithograph, 14 ⅝ X 25 in. co. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon.

One of the first published renderings of Thanksgiving dates to 1867, four years after Abraham Lincoln codified the holiday as a national celebration. In George Henry Durrie’s “Home to Thanksgiving,” a snow-covered farm and its inhabitants greet their guests from the city. Rural tranquility marked with a jovial yet modest celebration demonstrates the escapist nature of the holiday. The idea of leaving a bustling city for the peaceful countryside still prevails today, as relatives convene in a typically calm and welcoming home situated away from the day-to-day. 

While perfectly describing the current nature of Thanksgiving, Durrie’s painting does not reflect its origins in history and conflict. The people in this scene celebrate the holiday that began in 1863, not the 1621 feast that the current holiday attempts to resemble. In no way, however, was the first Thanksgiving utterly peaceful. Instead, the feast most likely celebrated a recent massacre of about seven hundred Pequot Indians or the newly agreed-upon, yet quickly broken, peace treaty between the local Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims.

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 8, 1863-1930) The First Thanksgiving, 1912 Oil on canvas.

Nearly fifty years later, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’s painting “The First Thanksgiving” attempts to depict the holiday as dominated by the Pilgrims. They are postured above the Native Americans, standing up and feeding them as they sit on the ground. It is as though the Pilgrims were fully responsible for their bountiful harvests and societal advancement, leaving no thanks for the Natives, who were crucial to their survival.

Perhaps the most notable of these native guides is Squanto or Tisquantum. Tisquantum, a member of the Patuxet Tribe, was an English-speaking liaison between the Pilgrims in Plymouth and his own Tribe. His story is a prime example of how crucial facts are left out of the general public’s view of the holiday.  Many people tend to disregard the question of how Tisquantum learned the culture and language of the English. Many years before, European colonizers captured Tisquantum and sold him into slavery. Because of this enslavement, Tisquantum spent years in England, forced to adapt to the language and ideas of his colonizers.

Norman Rockwell (New York, New York, February 3, 1894-1978) Freedom from Want, 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections.

A more contemporary look at Thanksgiving includes one of Norman Rockwell’s most famous pieces. “Freedom From Want,” part of a four-part series, displays a family sitting down to eat the Thanksgiving meal. Instead of gawking at the mouth-watering turkey, the family members smile at each other, grateful for their presence. They have no need for a bountiful meal; they just need each other.

Despite the wholesome and anti-materialist representation of this modern feast, the painting still disregards any historical context. The holiday may have signified familial love and gratitude, but that does not mean we should ignore its true and violent origins. Wars across the “new world” surrounded the time of the feast, making it nothing but cheerful. Therefore, depicting the holiday as strictly pleasant is wrong and misleading.

Before the colonization of the “new world,” there were approximately five million American Indians, but by 1800, this population had declined to only 600,000. European colonizers brought disease, quickly killing many Native peoples, yet the wars they waged were the most impactful. In a greedy search for land, colonizers decimated Native populations and enslaved the remaining survivors. As a result, Europeans and their colonial desires wiped many tribes completely out, one of them being the Massachusett, who resided on the very land that Boston College now inhabits. Because of this, a month of history is not enough, as many Native Americans call for reparations to begin amending the crimes of the colonizers.

While these famous works of art certainly depict a widespread misunderstanding of Thanksgiving, there are even false and problematic pieces like these on Boston College’s campus. In Gasson Hall’s rotunda, there are four large paintings on the upper walls created by Francis Schroen, SJ. Two of them display colonizers and their interactions with the local Tribes. 

While attempting to praise these saints, these religious images blatantly show how European colonizers forced Christianity onto the Native Americans. In the first image, it seems as though the holy figure leads the Natives in search of more land. He uses his domineering religion to colonize another land that is not his own. Similarly, the second image depicts a religious ceremony happening right in front of the Natives’ eyes. Placed in the background, they watch from afar, and the painter shows them gazing in a state of awe. The painting inflates the importance of Christianity, deeming it superior to the religion of the Natives. Again, on land that is not their own, the colonizers celebrate divine providence and the false sense of manifest destiny.

It is striking to see these paintings within the halls of Boston College, as they display extremely problematic scenes of colonization. To praise these saints that clearly imposed themselves and their religion on the native population is seemingly against the values of our institution. Unfortunately, this example is not limited to the walls of our own university. Reminders of the incorrect retellings of Thanksgiving and the colonization of the “new world” riddle themselves throughout the United States. Depictions through art are just one of the many ways our modern world ignores the horrific actions of the European colonizers. If we continue to acknowledge these works as accurate, we will never be able to honor the true history of our nation. Instead, we must know that these depictions are wrong and educate ourselves to the greatest extent.

Categories
Uncategorized

Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo Returns In Person

By Megan Streeter, Class of ‘24

Few things can get me out of bed early on the weekend, but when I heard that Boston University would be hosting the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE), I set multiple alarms. MICE has been bringing comic artists and fans together for 13 years, but this is the convention’s first meeting in person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as BU’s first time acting as host. Stepping off the T on a chilly Saturday, unneeded pointed me toward an endless stream of students, adults, and parents with children in tow towards the Thurman Center, known as the “cultural hub” of Boston University.

Over two days of operation from October 22-23, MICE artists, writers, and publishers in the independent comics world spoke on panels, and led hands-on workshops on everything from character design and lettering to printing. All sessions were free of charge, making the event economically accessible. One of the panels I attended was titled “(Not-So) Funny Animal Comics.” Tak Toyoshima moderated the panel, which hosted four contemporary comics artists whose works feature “delightful and off-beat animal stories.” The roundtable discussion began with a short history of animal characters in comics, from early 1900s newspaper strips to Art Spiegelman’s 1980 graphic novel Maus, pages of which the McMullen Museum’s American Alternative Comics exhibition currently feature. Then, as the title suggests, the panel discussed both the funny and the not-so-funny, examining animal characters in comics as vehicles both for comedy and social commentary. 

MICE’s biggest draw was, arguably, its vendor hall. The hall gives space to hundreds of independent artists with a wide range of styles, subjects, and notoriety. Boston College senior Michal Miller said of her experience at MICE: “As I walked onto the convention floor, I was initially shocked by the number of artists in attendance and even more appalled when the first person I spotted was an author I’d met years earlier (at another convention) in New York City!” 

Included in the mix was a storyboard artist from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, Boston University students displaying their works, and independent artists from all over the east coast. “Every single vendor there was so incredibly passionate about their work, and so much of it was incredibly strange and avant-garde and unique,” said Boston College junior Tommy Chen. The vendors sold not only comics but posters, prints, stickers, pins, even tabletop games of their own devising, and much more.While they have yet to set a date for 2023, you can learn more about MICE on their website and join their newsletter to receive updates. Can’t get enough of indie and alternative comics? Even if you missed MICE, you can still get a healthy dose of indie and alternative comics at the McMullen Museum’s American Alternative Comics exhibition, which will be open for the rest of the semester.

Categories
Artists Across Comm Ave

Artists Across Comm Ave: Katie Garrett

Artists Across Comm Ave is a series that spotlights student artists at Boston College (across Commonwealth Avenue). The social media installments of this series can be found on the McMullen Museum’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

By Michaela Brant, class of ’23

Boston College senior Katie Garrett does more than study economics; she is also an avid sewer since childhood. She learned from her grandmother in California, who gave her a sewing machine, and believes that everyone should know the skill.

Katie’s love of sewing began with tailoring and mending clothes (although her very first creations were pencil pouches as valentines for her class—which she said were not long enough to fit pencils). If she got a hand-me-down or thrifted a piece of clothing that fit less than perfect, it did not mean it was trash. It just meant she had to make it her own. 

“That was my first love with sewing, was taking stuff in or making something a little shorter,” she said. “I didn’t really start to get into making clothes from scratch until probably the past two years. It felt like something I was never going to be able to do, but I think as you get into a hobby like that, it kind of takes over, and you’re like, ‘Totally, I could try this out.’” 

Traveling back and forth from California to Boston College every couple of months meant that Katie had to leave her sewing machine at home. At first, she found that sewing machines on campus were only available to students who had a connection to the Theatre Department’s costume operations. She needed another option if she wanted to keep sewing. 

Meanwhile, the Boston College Design and Innovation department sought to bring more design thinking to campus. So in the summer of 2021, the department installed a makerspace where students could use equipment (including sewing machines) to do their own projects in the basement of Higgins Hall, the home of several BC science departments and classes. Spending time down there, Katie realized she wanted to bring her passion for sewing to the rest of BC. Once the makerspace, renamed The Hatchery, moved to BC’s newest academic building at 245 Beacon Street, Katie saw her chance. The idea for Patches, a sewing and upcycling club, was born.

Starting a club on campus is not as simple as grabbing your friends and booking a room—it requires a process that includes meeting with the Board of Student Organizations (BSO), proving there is a need for the organization, and documenting interest. Because STITCH, a club of crafters primarily focused on knitting and crocheting, was deemed too similar to her idea for a sewing club, the BSO rejected her first application proposal sophomore year. Rather than let that derail her, she decided to reapply the following year and get creative in proving that students wanted and needed Patches on campus.

At the annual Boston College Arts Festival in April, not-yet-official Patches set up a booth to sell clothing and collect interested students’ emails. By the end of the day, they had sold almost all of their clothing and had a lengthy list of interested students’ emails. 

In the fall, once Patches was an official club, Katie tabled at the student involvement fair, gaining even more interested participants. The first general interest meeting, she said, drew about 60 people, even though it was at 9:00 pm on a rainy Monday night. 

Patches uses the sewing machines in The Hatchery for sewing meetings, meaning members need to take the safety orientation, then complete a sewing machine training. Katie is among the group of student workers at The Hatchery who leads training and helps people out during open hours. 

The hardest part of teaching people to sew, she said, is that they underestimate their skill level. She compared learning to sew to driving a car or following a recipe—once you get the hang of it, it feels natural.

Making clothes from scratch and upcycling, while it may seem small, is a way for Katie to resist the fast fashion industry and overconsumption. Textile waste is a vast pollutant worldwide. The EPA estimated in 2018 that the United States created 17 million tons of textile waste.

“My ability to sew is something I’m really grateful for,” she said, “because it allows me to be sustainable in a way that a lot of people don’t have the ability to be.”

Upcycling clothing is one way to divert textile waste from landfills or already overrun thrift stores. “It allows me to be more thoughtful about the ways that I consume,” said Katie, “which I just try to take advantage of.”

As an economics major, Katie hopes to work to regulate banks and financial technology companies in the future. Although she does not see sewing playing a role in her career, she knows she will be sewing for the rest of her life. 

Although the arts scene at Boston College can sometimes appear limited to traditionally popular forms, like music, theatre, dance, and visual arts, Katie and Patches are helping create artistic spaces for anyone interested. 

“People who do art, or who want to do art, or like art, give you that respect and encouragement, like, ‘No, that’s cool, you should keep doing it,’” she said. “And I feel like meeting people like that here, even though I wasn’t still sewing [as often], encouraged me to…sew now more than I ever have in my life.”

Categories
Into the Collection Spotlight Uncategorized

Into the Collection Spotlight

Joseph Stapleton (1921-1994) Thinking of Duke Ellington, 1979 India ink on paper, 17 x 14 in.

By Liam Conner, class of ’25

Joseph Stapleton was one of the many artists who populated New York City following the wars of the early 20th century. As a member of Abstract Expressionism’s “second generation,” Stapleton and others were heavily influenced by international culture, social movements, and artistic creativity. As shown in Stapleton’s Thinking of Duke Ellington, the seemingly spontaneous and erratic brush strokes combined with what seems to be text throughout the border work to create a portrait of Duke Ellington like none other. Painted approximately five years after The Duke’s death, the work expresses his longstanding legacy through its aberration from form. Ellington’s music throughout his career was revolutionary, and this image articulates that with its quick and almost swing-like strokes that hop around the canvas. Heavily influenced by Japanese calligraphy, Stapleton unconventionally incorporates themes from throughout the world in the same way that Duke Ellington wrote music with Latin and European cultures in mind. Stapleton’s interpretation of the great composer in Thinking of Duke Ellington provides a look not only at his own era but also at the impact of Duke Ellington and his legacy on the greater artistic community.

Sources:

Duke Ellington: American Musician. See https://www.britannica.com/biography/Duke-Ellington#ref344119. Accessed 9/23/2022.

New in Artstor—Nearly 300 Self-portraits by Joseph Stapleton: A Unique Offering from a Second Generation Abstract Expressionist. See https://www.artstor.org/2019/11/05/new-in-artstor-nearly-300-self-portraits-by-joseph-stapleton/. Accessed 9/23/2022.

Categories
Uncategorized

Letter from the Co-Editor: Signing Off

Dear McMullen Community,

I am beyond grateful to have served as a Student Ambassador, member of the  Education and EDIA+ (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) committees, and co-chair of the Publications Committee over the past two years. I started working during the pandemic and have had the opportunity to witness the McMullen grow and adapt to the challenges of our society, including the struggle for racial justice. Additionally, I have been able to experience several exhibits, such as Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives and Taking Shape: Abstractions from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s. The exhibits have introduced me to different forms of art from around the world and have made me think more critically. 

The McMullen is a place that has enriched me intellectually and personally. I have met some of the most passionate, creative, and kind people, and I am blessed to have many of them as not only colleagues but friends. In addition, I have had the opportunity to work with other McMullen Ambassadors, host workshops, and implement my own ideas through collaborations with student organizations that I belonged to, such as FACES, the anti-racism organization, and BC Bigs. From the good-humored security guards to our amazing supervisor Rachel, the McMullen has fostered a welcoming and intellectually-stimulating environment that provided me with skills that I will use in future academic and professional pursuits. 

Being a co-chair and member of the Publications Committee, the Terrace provided fellow Student Ambassadors and me with an outlet to critically analyze art, its nuances, and its role in our society. Through articles such as “Religious Art: Buddha is not Home Decor” and “Art as Resistance: Murals at the U.S. – Mexico Border,” I have recognized the role of art beyond something aesthetically pleasing and as a powerful tool for both social change and oppression. The publications team has engaged further in the idea of art as a tool of oppression through our series called “Problematic Visual Culture,” which discusses pieces of visual culture that perpetuate stereotypes and other forms of discrimination. We also ask questions about the ethics of how museums operate in the article “Museums and Ethics: A Series of Question.” I am grateful to have been a part of a platform that has encouraged critical thinking, new perspectives, and the inclusion of marginalized groups. Through the Terrace, the McMullen has been able to connect with issues facing communities beyond BC and uncover how important art is in the world.    

I will definitely be visiting the Terrace website in the future, but as a reader rather than a writer, and I am beyond excited to see the fantastic work of all the Student Ambassadors to come. Working here has been an amazing experience, and while it is sad to say goodbye, I am so excited to pass the Terrace over to the committee’s returning co-chair: Michaela Brant (‘23), and new co-chair Joy Cheng (‘23). 

Sincerely, 

Ivana Wijedasa ‘22

Categories
Uncategorized

Art as Resistance: Murals at the U.S. – Mexico Border

By Ivana Wijedasa, class of ‘22

During my senior year spring break, I visited a beach not part of a resort in Cancún filled with stressed college students in need of a vacation, but one lined by a wall – the U.S. – Mexico border wall. Although it would be my last college spring break, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to physically see the borderlands instead of solely reading about them in academic courses. Thus, I decided to spend the week on an educational trip to visit the border in San Diego and Tijuana as part of a course titled “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Borderlands and Human Mobility” taught by Professor Olayo-Méndez. The trip centered on utilizing different disciplines such as biology and theology to analyze and address issues at the border. In the case of art, the trip focused on paintings and murals, and how artists can use them as a tool of resistance against discriminatory migration policies at the border.

A place in San Diego that featured art from Chicanos—Mexican-Americans—in response to harsh migration policies and dehumanizing rhetoric towards migrants is Chicano Park. Immediately, the complexity and number of murals throughout the park overwhelmed me, and I stood in front of each mural for several minutes, admiring the mix of faces and phrases. A central theme of the murals focused on the injustice of migration policies, and I felt both sadness and frustration at the lack of humanity ascribed to migrants as I walked around the park. In the mural with many crosses, phrases such as “Love has no borders!” and “No border wall” are visible. The mural draws connections between religion and migrant rights. The presence of several crosses signifies how Christianity promotes a love for one’s neighbor, which the U.S. government obstructed with the construction of a border wall.

Photo from Chicano Park of a mural saying “Love has no borders!” and “No Border Wall” painted on a bridge pillar

In another mural photographed below, one artist painted on a pier under a bridge with the phrase “La tierra es de quien la trabaja con sus propias manos,” which roughly translates as “The land belongs to those who work it with their own hands.” There are images of migrant workers in the same mural, which illustrates how jobs tilling and farming the ground in America are often done by migrants who cross the border and should be allowed to remain on the land they work. Lastly, another mural in the park pictured below contains the phrase “Ningun ser humano es ilegal,” meaning “No human being is illegal.” The mural addresses the rhetoric surrounding Hispanic migrants at the border that describes them as “illegals” to dehumanize them and justify cruel migration policies. In addition to the murals in San Diego, more paintings and murals are featured across the border in Tijuana, addressing similar issues of dehumanization and injustice.

Photo on the left from Chicano Park of a mural featuring migrant workers painted on a pier. Photo on the right of a mural from Chicano Park saying “Ningun ser humano es ilegal.”

When we crossed the border to Tijuana, the colorful and mural-filled border wall on the Tijuana side surprised me. A wall that is a barrier to pursuing a better life and is constructed from racist and nationalist ideologies has become a form of art. In addition to the murals painted on it, the location of the wall also surprised me. In the photos below, the wall sits alongside a beach, where people frequently visit to spend leisure time under the rays of the sun. The wall is part of everyday life for the people of Tijuana, who cannot escape its presence even when trying to enjoy the beach. The dehumanizing wall is covered by paintings and phrases that advocate for migrants and address the injustice of the wall’s existence. For example, in the photo below, an upside-down American flag is painted alongside the phrase “Repatriate” as a reference to the deported veterans who served in the American military. The upside-down flag represents the hypocrisy of the U.S. government that permits undocumented migrants to serve in the military but not to live in the country.

Photo from Tijuana of the border wall on the beach in Friendship Park
Photo of the mural on the border wall with an upside-down American flag and the word “Repatriate”

Another feature of the border wall pictured below is the blue door with the word “love” painted in yellow within a red heart. Surrounding the door are phrases such as “mural de la hermandad” or “brotherhood wall,” as well as words including “love,” “peace,” and “liberty.” The door itself, which the government rarely opens, allows families who have been torn apart by the immigration system to meet for a few minutes and for some to hug each other for the first time. The remainder of the wall meeting the ocean features portraits of deported migrants as a way to humanize and put a face to people often characterized by numbers. The border wall art and the art at Chicano Park serve as reminders of the humanity of migrants and the injustice they face due to U.S. migration policies.  

Photo of the Love door in the border wall in Tijuana

Although we often view art as a pastime or something enjoyed for leisure, art is also a powerful tool of social change. The murals at Chicano Park and on the border wall in Tijuana provide us with important examples and serve as a reminder of the humanity of migrants and the discriminatory policies that we need to combat to ensure migrants’ humanity is recognized. Art is a tool of resistance, and hopefully, more artists and people will begin to realize that.

Categories
Uncategorized

From the Seven Hills of Rome to Chestnut Hill: On the Trail of Boston College’s St. Michael Statue

By Michaela Brant, class of ‘23

Featured image by Éamon Laughlin, class of ’22

When awe-struck visitors and hustling students enter Gasson Hall, Boston College’s most iconic Gothic building, they pass through a rotunda adorned with oil paintings, and in the center stands a towering sculpture. St. Michael, triumphant in his struggle with Satan, raises his brass sword to smite the devil and send him to the underworld. The action-packed scene depicted by this statue would not be amiss  in a comic book. Motion is chiseled into the marble, transforming solid stone into fluid forms and lythe bodies straining against one another. The folds of Michael’s robe flowing behind him and the intricate decorations of Lucifer’s serpentine tail truly bring the marble to life. This important piece of Boston College and Gasson Hall history has a pathway that spans centuries and takes us from an artist’s studio in the heart of Rome to the parlors of Boston’s 19th-century elite, to right here in the Heights. 

Lucifer lays prone at Michael’s feet near vanquished, and he tries to raise himself upright, not yet defeated. You can almost hear Lucifer cry out a ferocious roar as he looks back at his assailant, face full of frustration and left fist clenched. He uses the other hand to steady himself as he prepares a retaliatory strike. Although a paradox, one cannot help but admire the demon for his stubbornness and refusal to stay down. The Archangel Michael stands victorious but takes no joy in his work. Their battle is not simple, but a civil war. Lucifer was once a powerful angel, and Michael casting him out represents a conflict between former allies and friends. The artist’s masterful carving inserts the emotion and gravitas of this conflict and forces the viewer to reckon with this struggle for the fate of heaven and earth. As one gazes down from the towering Michael to the foundation of the statue, the decorations forming the base are equally impressive. Three sides of the base feature intricately carved scenes of St. Michael. When he carries Moses’s body to heaven, drives away a demon from Moses’ dead body, and he meets and blesses the prophet Daniel in the Tigris River. After one stops and absorbs this majestic sight, it conjures more questions—who made this work? What inspired it? And how did it get here?

Scipione Tadolini

The iconography of St. Michael remains a constant in the Catholic tradition of statuary. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the statue’s creator, Scipione Tadolini, was commissioned to bring this favorite biblical story to life. Tadolini, a middle-class sculptor based in Rome, lived from 1822 until 1893 and came from a family of artists. His mother, Serafina Passamonti Tadolini, painted miniatures. His father, Adamo Tadolini, was also a sculptor and a favorite assistant of the great Neoclassical, Venetian-born artist Antonio Canova. Canova helped Adamo establish his own studio, where he trained his sons, and which Scipione took over upon Adamo’s death. Four generations of Tadolinis worked in this historic Rome street studio until it closed in the 1960s. The studio is now home to the Canova-Tadolini museum and café, where patrons can sip on chianti and dine on fresh-made pasta, all the while admiring beautiful marble sculptures. 

There is not much recorded information about the life of Tadolini himself, but what we have gathered focuses mainly on his art. From looking at his pieces over the years, it is clear that white marble was Tadolini’s material of choice. Tadolini studied at the Accademia in Rome and then gained recognition for his sculptures from prominent institutions in Italy and beyond. He created several portraits and ecclesiastical sculptures for Roman churches and sculpted an equestrian statue of Simon Bolivar for the city of Lima, Peru. He also was well known for his figure sculptures, and in the early 1850s, he gained notoriety for making several marble works from the same model, La schiava greca (The Greek Slave)

Photo courtesy of Richard Redding Antiques Ltd., richardreddingantiques.com 

The Statue’s Path

The life of Gardner Brewer, the statue’s patron, began in Boston in 1806. Brewer came to be one of the wealthiest merchants in Boston, following in the footsteps of his father, Thomas Brewer. He worked as a distiller and then became involved in the dry-goods trade, founding the house of Gardner Brewer & Co. Through this dry-goods business, Brewer accumulated a fortune estimated at several million dollars by the time of his death. With such a substantial fortune, the Brewers were eclectic collectors of art. They filled their home with American pottery, European decorative art, Etruscan gems, Japanese screens, oriental jade, and rare jewelry from France and India. The Brewer family bequeathed most of this collection of worldly art to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Additionally, shortly before Brewer passed away in 1874, he gifted a beautiful fountain to the city of Boston. The Brewer Fountain now stands in the Boston Common and has been running since June 3, 1868.

In 1865, Brewer contacted Tadolini and asked him to convert his vision of St. Michael overcoming Satan into stone. Brewer paid $28,000 for the statue and insisted that Tadolini accompany it on its journey to America. Tadolini, always a perfectionist, took four years to complete the statue, which was one of his largest and most ambitious works. In 1869, Tadolini accompanied the statue across the Atlantic to Boston, where Brewer had the statue installed in the great hall of his Beacon Street Home. The city of Boston has since torn down his house at 29 Beacon Street to build an extension of the Massachusetts State House.Unfortunately, Brewer only had five years to enjoy the statue. After Brewer’s death, the St. Michael statue passed into the hands of an art dealer. It remained in storage for many years until an anonymous benefactor purchased it for Boston College in 1909 in the name of Charles Lane, S.J., who was a prefect of the Church of Immaculate Conception and minister of Boston College High School. The acquisition was announced in April 1909, and the statue arrived at Boston College soon after.

Image courtesy of O’Neill Library, Boston College

Gasson Hall: Traditions and Contexts

Gasson Hall is both the center of and backdrop for many highlights of BC life. Several rooms in Gasson Hall bring students together for academic and extracurricular events. Gasson 305, the home of the Fulton Debate Society, is both a classroom and a mini auditorium. A list of debate winners since 1890 adorns one wall, and the spirit of both learning and performance continues outside of the classroom—the same room is the site of panel discussions and comedy shows. Closer to the St. Michael statue, Gasson 100, or “the Irish room,” hosts guest speakers, chamber music concerts, and student admissions programming.

Not only does Gasson Hall play host to a multitude of BC traditions, but the shaded Linden Lane that leads up to the hall is also one of the most Instagrammed locations in the country. Visitors and graduates pose for photographs framed by lush trees in front of the bronze eagle sculpture with Gasson’s gothic spires in the background. Students snap photos walking to and from class in sunshine and snow alike. Freshman process down Linden Lane for “first flight,” and seniors process the opposite way for commencement. Boston College students cherish Gasson Hall and the memories it gives to them. And the St. Michael statue stands just beyond the doors, a silent witness to it all. 

A Boston College Stylus article from April 1909 describes the newly acquired St. Michael statue as “a great gift to Boston College.” Since then, Boston College has undergone many changes—not the least of which are admitting women and people of color. The university continues to evolve academically, with adding an engineering department and the Schiller Institute of Integrated Science and Society, and socially, with students pushing for increased resources for marginalized communities. No matter how the school has changed, the beautiful art and architecture have made Boston College Boston College, one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses and a place that people associate with service and commitment to Jesuit values. Today, the St. Michael statue resides in a space that continues to give to Boston College students—memories, traditions, and hopefully, a place to call home. 

Acknowledgments

Thank you to all the student ambassadors at the McMullen Museum of Art who played a role in the process of writing and researching this article: Chris Rizzo, Ivana Wijedasa, Matthew DiBenedetto, Adrianna Zhao, Zoey Zheng, and Ethan Starr. Thank you also to Rachel Brody and Emily Coello for their guidance and editing.

References

The Answer Wall. “What Does the Gasson Hall Mean to BC Students?” Boston College Libraries, July 30, 2018. https://library.bc.edu/answerwall/2018/07/30/what-does-the-gasson-hall-mean-to-bc-students/. Accessed 3/7/2022.

Andreozzi, Brenna. “The Magnificent Site on Commonwealth Avenue: Father Gasson’s Bell Tower Brings Boston College to New Heights.” John J. Burns Library’s Blog, October 19, 2015. https://johnjburnslibrary.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/the-magnificent-site-on-commonwealth-avenue-father-gassons-bell-tower-brings-boston-college-to-new-heights/. Accessed 3/7/2022.

Nisbet, Gary. “Scipione Tadolini (1822-92).” Glasgow – City of Sculpture, see http://www.glasgowsculpture.com/pg_biography.php?sub=tadolini_s. Accessed 2/1/2022.

Christie’s. “The Opulent Eye – 19th Century Furniture, Sculpture, Works of Art, Ceramics & Carpets.” Live Auction 12029 [2016]. Scipione Tadolini (Italian 1822-1892/3) La schiava greca (The Greek Slave), see https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-6001605. Accessed 2/1/2022.

Richard Redding Antiques Ltd. “Sold Objects.” A Classical Statue of The Greek Slave or La schiava greca by Scipione Tadolini, Rome, dated 1860,” see https://www.richardreddingantiques.com/sold/9527/. Accessed 2/1/2022.

Willard, Ashton Rollins. History of Modern Italian Art. United Kingdom: Longmans, Green, 1900. https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Modern_Italian_Art/oZdGAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1. Accessed 3/7/2022.

“Changes Among Boston Jesuits” The Sacred Heart Review, Volume 59, Number 30. July 27, 1918. https://newspapers.bc.edu/?a=d&d=BOSTONSH19180727-01.2.11&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——-. Accessed 3/7/2022.

YouFine Art and Sculpture. “Ornaments of Scipione Tadolini Outdoor Garden White Marble Life Size Statue for Sale-MOKK-231,” see https://www.cnstatue.com/ornaments-of-scipione-tadolini-outdoor-garden-white-marble-life-size-statue-for-sale-mokk-231.html. Accessed 3/7/2022.

Trainor, Tessa. “Gasson’s historical artwork under wraps.” The Heights, November 15, 2010. https://newspapers.bc.edu/?a=d&d=bcheights20101115-01.2.70&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——. Accessed 3/7/2022.

Kelly, Joseph E. “A great art gift to Boston College.” The Stylus. April 1909. https://newspapers.bc.edu/?a=d&d=stylus19090401-01.2.2&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——-. Accessed 3/7/2022.

Categories
Podcast Archive Uncategorized

Art in Focus: “Martin Parr” with Professors Monsignor Liam Bergin and Joshua Snyder

The McMullen Student Ambassadors are pleased to present Art in Focus, featuring an informal discussion between professors from various academic departments at Boston College. With each new episode, we aim to uncover a unique perspective on the works on display, informed by research and methodologies in areas of study across the University. In addition, each conversation will bring the exhibition’s works “into focus” to highlight art’s expansive reach and interdisciplinary nature.

The following podcast is the second installment in the Art in Focus series, where we explore different photographs and themes from the Martin Parr: Time and Place exhibition. For this episode, we have invited Professors Monsignor Liam Bergin and Joshua Snyder of the Theology Department to discuss Catholicism in Ireland and how Martin Parr’s photograph “The Pope Gives Mass at Phoenix Park, Dublin,” documents Pope John II’s historic visit in 1979.

The Pope Gives Mass at Phoenix Park, Dublin, 1979 © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos

Categories
Podcast Archive Uncategorized

Art in Focus: “Aftermath” with Professors Mark Cooper and Jane Cassidy

The McMullen Student Ambassadors are pleased to present Art in Focus, featuring an informal discussion between professors from various academic departments at Boston College. With each new episode, we aim to uncover a unique perspective on the works on display, informed by research and methodologies in areas of study across the University. In addition, each conversation will bring the exhibition’s works “into focus” to highlight art’s expansive reach and interdisciplinary nature.

The following podcast is a special installment in the Art in Focus series, where Student Ambassador Christopher Rizzo interviews the co-artists who created Aftermath, an installation on view in the winter. For this episode, Professors Mark Cooper and Jane Cassidy of the Art, Art History, and Film Department discuss their roles as collaborators in the creation of Aftermath and how the piece offers a critique on “fast-fashion” and global economic trends based on throwaway consumption. 

Aftermath has now traveled on to the ACCelerate Creativity + Innovation Festival, where it will be exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in April 2022. 
Categories
Podcast Archive Uncategorized

Art in Focus: “Martin Parr” with Professors Robert Savage and Sean McGraw

The McMullen Student Ambassadors are pleased to present Art in Focus, featuring an informal discussion between professors from various academic departments at Boston College. With each new episode, we aim to uncover a unique perspective on the works on display, informed by research and methodologies in areas of study across the University. In addition, each conversation will bring the exhibition’s works “into focus” to highlight art’s expansive reach and interdisciplinary nature.

The following podcast is the first installment in the Art in Focus series, where we explore different photographs and themes from the Martin Parr: Time and Place exhibition. For this episode, we have invited Professor Robert Savage of the History Department and Visiting Professor Sean McGraw of the Political Science Department to discuss how Martin Parr’s photographs capture an Ireland in transition through history, politics, and culture.

St Mary’s Holy Well, Killargue, County Leitrim, 1981 © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
Sandy Row Bonfire, Belfast, 2016 © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos