Session at the 108th College Art Association of America Annual Conference
Affiliated Society or Committee Name: International Center of Medieval Art
Meg Bernstein, UCLA and Emogene Cataldo, Columbia University
This panel seeks to explore foliate forms in a cross-cultural context across geographies and cultural traditions from roughly 300 to 1500 CE. Foliate forms can be found in many types of buildings from the medieval period, displayed in prominent locations or hidden from the casual viewer’s gaze. From the Gothic cathedrals of western Europe to the Hindu temples of south Asia, builders and artisans filled their structures with flowers, leaves, fruits, and vines. These organic interventions took many forms and adorned architectonic elements in sometimes unexpected ways. They were also executed in a variety of media: sculpture, glass, mosaic, ceramics, and painting. The study of foliate forms has the potential to enliven discussions of artistic production and authorship in medieval architecture. A generation of new scholarship has richly re-integrated the decorative into architectural discourse; vegetal forms need not be filed neatly under “architecture” or “decoration,” as foliage often occupies a liminal space that defies such categorization. Furthermore, the ecological turn has reinvigorated debates concerning liveliness, between-ness, and nature in art, and this research presents a promising opportunity to apply new thinking to previously overlooked aspects of medieval monuments on a global scale while examining one of the most fundamental relationships in the history of architecture, that of nature and the built environment.