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‘Art History 101 … Without the Exams’ captures San Antonio’s art treasures


Art History 101 … Without the Exams is the new book from former University of Texas at San Antonio professor Annie Labatt giving readers a closer look at 20 pieces of art from 20 eras. Most importantly, there are no exams that you would find in a typical Art History 101 course.

“One of the beautiful things is when you see all of these things in front of you, are the connections thematically that tie us all together,” Labatt said. “The very fact that somebody painting their hand and leaving it on the wall of a cave 30,000 years ago, that there’s still art of that kind around us using our hands or using our body. So those kinds of connections I think are really beautiful to see.”

Former University of Texas at San Antonio professor Annie Labatt will attend an event for her new book 'Art History 101 ... Without the Exams' at The Twig Book Shop on September 27.

Former University of Texas at San Antonio professor Annie Labatt will attend an event for her new book ‘Art History 101 … Without the Exams’ at The Twig Book Shop on September 27.

Courtesy of Annie Labatt

The book is a collection of 20 lectures Labatt held at the San Antonio Museum of Art over a period of 2.5 years from 2013 to 2015. What started as a book club-type atmosphere, where friends would study art over glasses of wine, quickly saw theaters overflowed as Labatt provided a “blueprint of art history.”

“How can you get a bird’s eye view of things we’re told are masterpieces,” Labatt said. “What makes it a masterpiece? Like, why? You can’t just tell me it is and I just say ‘oh okay.’ Why is the Mona Lisa worth spending hours and hours in front of? Not everyone can just hop over to Paris and stick their nose in it and study it.”

Labatt, a San Antonio native, attended St. Mary’s Hall before earning an undergrad degree at Columbia University’s Barnard College. She went on to earn a masters at the University of Glasgow and a doctorate in Byzantine Art History from Yale University.

Along the way, she’s worked at The Met in New York City and traveled to Rome on a two-year fellowship called the Rome prize, furthering her knowledge in various artistic fields.

Annie Labatt at The National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Annie Labatt at The National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Courtesy of Annie Labatt

Art History 101 examines artwork beginning from prehistoric cave paintings, all the way to modern art with Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” But with each section, Labatt ties the examined piece back to artwork in San Antonio as a way to show the Alamo City’s connections to numerous art styles and periods.

“It brings to light the things that we see around us. It illuminates your surroundings,” Labatt said. “It’s about being aware and looking with that intensity and that joy. There’s so many treasures in San Antonio and I think the more that we appreciate those things and know that they’re there, the more we can preserve them as well. If we don’t notice them, we don’t take care of them.”

Labatt’s book also has a special review from H-E-B Chairman and President Charles Butt. H-E-B was one of the main sponsors during her lecture series, providing themed foods for each artwork. Labatt said she was touched to have the support of a company that means so much to San Antonio.

Annie Labatt at The Met Cloisters in New York City.

Annie Labatt at The Met Cloisters in New York City.

Courtesy of Annie Labatt

Coming up, Labatt will be holding a reading and Q&A at The Twig Book Shop at The Pearl on Tuesday, September 27.

“I hope that they get excited about the book and excited about reading the chapters and learning about these incredible masterpieces and get inspired to look hard and look with intensity and look with a new sort of insight,” Labatt said.



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