• Founded
  • Seminar Number

Founded by Douglas Fraser, this seminar addresses major issues in the fields of African, Oceanic, Native American, and pre-Hispanic Latin American arts. The seminar provides an opportunity for members to analyze, evaluate, and discuss new and continuing research, as well as various trends in scholarship. Because the membership is comprised of art historians, curators, archeologists, anthropologists, and other field specialists, seminar meetings frequently involve in-depth discussions of theoretical and methodological issues. The seminar sponsors special symposia on diverse topics; the most recent entitled Art as Identity in the Americas.

Dr. Francesco Pellizzi

Professor Zoë Strother

Professor Lisa Trever

Yann Petit

Meeting Schedule

10/13/2022 Schermerhorn 934, Columbia University
6:30 PM
Body, Remembered: The Concept of Skin in Nahua Lost-Wax Gold Casting
Allison Caplan, University of California, Santa Barbara


Lost-wax gold casting was a longstanding artform among the Nahua people of central Mexico, arriving in the region around 800 CE and persisting after the onset of Spanish colonization in the sixteenth century. While lost-wax casting appears in multiple traditions around the globe, Nahua approaches to casting are unique in their conceptualization of the cast goldwork as a skin that is honed on the body of a casting core before ultimately being detached. Through a careful reading of the Nahuatl-language narrative of traditional lost-wax gold casting that appears in the 1575–77 Florentine Codex, this presentation examines how the Nahua concept of skin materially shaped the casting process as well as the very ontology of the goldworks that it produced. This discussion foregrounds Nahuatl visual terms as a body of knowledge with keen significance for the creation and interpretation of Nahua art and as a significant part of the global canon of art theory.

6:30 PM
Visual Economies and Emergent Aesthetics in the Terminal Formative Period (AD 400-600) in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia
Dr. Andrew Roddick, McMaster University


Archaeologist Severin Fowles (2017) reminds us that images and people are mutually constitutive, both defining historical contexts and bringing about those very contexts. Researchers have investigated the aesthetic labor that lies behind image systems, including during periods of great political change and changing social worlds. In this talk, I explore the visual economies associated with Tiwanaku, an urban center on the southern edge of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. I focus on the images that define some of the earliest occupations of the site, recently defined as the “Terminal Late Formative” (A.D. 400-600). These two centuries are characterized by significant political change, expanding social networks, and aesthetic innovation. Yet surprisingly little work has been done to explore the relationship between the early Tiwanaku visual economy and the social and political projects that made the urban center. I shall trace the relations and citational practices of decorated "Qeya" vessels, consider the earliest stone monoliths, and integrate regional textiles. This data will allow me to explore early Tiwanaku inhabitants' perceptual worlds. I shall then turn to aesthetic labor. As artisans painted the imagery on the vessels, and as the finished objects were displayed and deposited, inhabitants of Tiwanaku contributed labor to some of the earliest large-scale construction projects at the site, forever changing the historical trajectory of the region.

6:30 PM

Abayomi Ola, Atlanta University Center

6:30 PM

Jeronimo Duarte Riascos, LAIC, Columbia University