On View May 9—Refuting “Noble Savages”: Reflections of Nature in Ancient Mesoamerican Artifacts at the Fine Arts Gallery

Ball Player in Warrior Bird Costume, Pre-Columbian, Classic Period, 600–800 A.D., The Marjorie and Leon Marlowe Collection, Vanderbilt University. 1994.532

The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery is pleased to present a collection of ancient Latin American artifacts curated by undergraduate students as part of a semester-long course led by Dr. Markus Eberl, associate professor of anthropology. The exhibition, on view May 9–September 13, 2019, focuses on the connection between nature and culture among Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people (ca. 500 to 1500 C.E.). The mostly small artifacts on view elucidate their daily life and beliefs.

This exhibition challenges the term “noble savages,” a reference to Western portrayals of ancient Mesoamerican peoples in a subdued and romanticized form. In reusing this out-of-date term, the student-curators aim to draw attention to its racially-charged connotation, while presenting an opposing view that focuses on the diversity of everyday practices in Mesoamerica. City dwellers and farmers, mothers and children, ballplayers and creators are all showcased here. Their lives were grounded in sophisticated religious beliefs and exquisite knowledge of their environment. With the inclusion of interactive elements, including 3D artifact-replicas that invite hands-on discovery, we hope that you will join us in a multi-sensory exploration of ancient Mesoamerica.

Refuting “Noble Savages”: Reflections of Nature in Ancient Mesoamerican Artifacts is the result of a partnership between the Department of History of Art and the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery. This student-curated exhibition comes from a semester of work carried out in a class titled “Exhibiting Historical Art—Daily Life in Mesoamerica” taught by Associate Professor Markus Eberl. The undergraduate students include Baha Aydin, Kaitlin Joshua, Elsa Mueller, Kirsten Nafziger, Bella Smith, Sophie Stark, Yunyang Zhou, and Michelle Zhu. 3-D imaging and printing of ancient artifacts was made possible thanks to Anna Fisher, John Gore, Todd Peterson, Seth Smith, and Ken Wilkins at the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science. The exhibition is brought to the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, in part, by the support of the Department of Anthropology, the Department of History of Art, and the Center for Latin American Studies.

Gallery Hours
Noon–4 p.m., Tuesday–Friday
1–5 p.m., Saturday
Closed Sunday & Monday

Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery
1220 21st Avenue South
Nashville, Tennessee 37203
615-322–0605 Gallery
615-343–1702 Office

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