Interview with Arryn Davis
As a part of our monthly newsletter, Accessible Art History plans on interviewing members of the art history community. Our first feature is with Arryn Davis, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for the Seattle Opera. She graduated with a honors degree in art history from the University of Washington in 2014.
What is your favorite period in art history?
I studied the Italian Baroque period (basically all of the 1600's in Italy) because the art is so decadent, and because I had an amazing professor/mentor who also studied the Italian Baroque. Baroque art is luscious and robust and filled with life and expression all in the name of coercing the masses into Catholicism after the Reformation. It's the ultimate propaganda, but it's so beautiful that we sometimes forget (or ignore) that part. However, having been out of college for awhile now, I'm much more interested in non-Western art and art that isn't 'canon'. So much of our education is centered around the Western narrative and takes a completely colonial perspective. I think it's so important to decolonize the way art history is taught and to re frame the narrative from indigenous histories and perspectives too.
What got you interested in studying art history?
I came from a really small high school, so I didn't even know you could study art history when I got to college. I took a class, and then another, and then another. I was so hungry for it but I was trying to be a science major. Finally, by senior year I had taken so many art history classes that I realized that was actually what I loved. I think I declared my major the day before the deadline.
What is your favorite piece of art and why?
What I love about art history is that it helps you understand historical events by how people interpreted their lived experience in that time, so in that sense I don't have any favorites. I love it all because every single piece tells a story that was important to someone. That said, if I had to pick something it would be the caryatids in the temple of Athena in Greece. The idea of artists carving human women in place of pillars holding up buildings is so powerful (even if it may have been because they were slaves). When you start looking, you see human figures in place of columns all over the art historical timeline, and there doesn't seem to be a particular reason why.
Do you have any advice for people who want to study art history?
If you want to make art history your career, you have to learn other skills that are employable. Art history is a good foundation, but sadly it's not a job. Learning trades like library science, teaching, archival methods, or even studying chemistry to become a conservator are ways to make art history part of your work life. If you're just studying for fun, my advice is to make visuals! Put photos of art on a timeline that's based on geographic location. It will really help you see patterns over time and space, and build a cohesive understanding of history in your mind.
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