Studying Art History at Brown University and taking classes abroad in Italy, I have come to some conclusions about this field of study.
Until beginning classes and looking around me at Brown, I had never seen art history as being an elitist area of study. I took an amazing class in high school, World History Through Art, and it was here where I stumbled on my passion for art and art history. Arriving at Brown, knowing exactly what I was going to study, put me at an advantage, but, Art history became colder and less welcoming than it was in high school. I Love western art, but I am beginning to wonder if the reason why i have such a penchant for this kind of art, is because my lack of exposure to other kinds of art. At Brown, I have yet (and I am about to start my senior year) to take a class about art outside of the Western ideals of art. There are so many less classes offered focused on eastern art or African art, or even African American art. Through my internships and other experiences I have become increasingly interested in art that falls outside of this “norm.”
A question that comes to my mind, frequently, is “why has Western art become the standard of high art?” What we study first in survey art history classes, is the birth of art in Egypt and other places that rarely ever come up again during those classes. It has become Western art that sets the guidelines for what is classified as high art, art to be collected and appreciated, even what is defined as art at all. In my eyes, it all goes back to the three Italian masters (Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michaelangelo) and the world’s desire to replicate, imitate, and ameliorate their artistic ideals, setting the western example as an undisputed standard of art. For this reason, western art is the focus of so many classes, survey books, and opinions. For me, it is important to gain a greater understanding of what is outside of that Western box, in order to lift up the art that does not specifically expedite those ideals.
-Randi Roberts, Gallery intern