February 25, 2016
Name: Virginia Seymour
Hometown: Columbia, SC
Majors: History of Art; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
“Studying art has never been just about liking art for me — it’s about critically looking. But I love running into people who have nothing to do with art and just really enjoy looking at it. That diversity of engagement is incredible and fascinating to me.”
A love of art history drew Virginia Seymour to Penn, and she became actively involved in the major during freshman year. As someone who had never gone west of the Mississippi River growing up, Virginia turned out to be quite the world traveler. As a sophomore, she traveled to Italy to see the 2013 Venice Biennale through the Spiegel Contemporary Art Seminar, taught by Dr. Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw.
“I had always been very interested in going to museums and seeing a lot of art — really just so much art that I didn’t expect to see … art that challenged me and made me think about what is important in art. [The Spiegel Wilkes Seminar] made me see that there is a whole other world of images and objects that I didn’t have access to in the United States.” .
That following summer in 2014, Virginia traveled by herself to Israel to look at art and conduct research through funding from a Thune Summer Travel Fellowship offered by the History of Art Department. For Virginia, who came to Penn with the initial interest of studying ancient art, traveling to see art in person literally expanded her view of art history and its possibilities.
“I had never thought about art as being produced in ‘right now.’ To know that your field is changing everyday and that there are new works to be read is really invigorating.”
As much as Virginia likes to study art, she also likes to engage in applied learning. Last year, she took another Spiegel-Wilkes Art Seminar in Contemporary Art, also taught by Dr. Shaw, about art curation. This year-long course allowed her to learn about all the steps involved in producing an exhibit. Together with her class, Virginia studied the work of artists Erin Bernard, Heather Hart, Rachelle Mozman, and Akosua Adoma Owusu, and curated the show Do/Tell at ICA.
Outside of work towards her two majors at Penn, Virginia helps operate and oversee student use of Penn's three-hundred year old letterpresses on behalf of the Kelly Writers House as the Student Coordinator. She also works as a research assistant for Dr. Holly Pittman on The Al-Hiba Project, working towards a publication of ancient artifacts excavated in Iraq and creating some illustrations herself.
“[The Al-Hiba Project] is a really exciting experience, getting my hands on artifacts while also doing something to help disseminate information that hasn't been made public yet.”
Currently, Virginia is working on her B.A. thesis in History of Art. Under the guidance of Dr. Christine Poggi (History of Art) and Dr. Demie Kurz (Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies), she will explore the historical context of contemporary photographs of physically disabled individuals.
After Penn, Virginia is considering a variety of options, from curatorial work to even law school, where she hopes to come out working on art repatriation legislation.
“To keep art relevant and in everyone's mind is very important to me, whether that translates into an advanced degree in art history or museum work.”
By Wing T. Dyana So.