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Volume 13, Edition 3: November/December 2013

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Dr. Elizabeth Perrill travels to South Africa to pursue research on similarities between Zulu and Pueblo ceramics

Dr. Elizabeth Perrill (right) with African Art Centre Assistant Director Nozipho Zulu (left) and Ceramic Artist Thembi Nala (center) during Dr. Perrill’s visit to South Africa in October 2013

UNCG art historian Dr. Elizabeth Perrill (Assistant Professor, Department of Art) has recently been expanding her research scope. Dr. Perrill’s most recent project, entitled “Burnished by History: The Legacies of Maria Martinez and Nesta Nala in Dialogue,” focuses on surprisingly similar contemporary art movements thriving an ocean apart: Zulu and Pueblo ceramics. Both art forms are well known for their blackened, burnished, and hand-built ceramic traditions. Historically women’s art forms, these techniques have been used for centuries, and after experiencing some decline during industrialization, both experienced a revitalization and are now sold in high-end art galleries. Dr. Perrill’s project, which will result in a 25-page article accompanied by published interview excerpts, focuses on the doyens of these movements, Maria Martinez (1887-1980) and Nesta Nala (1940-2005). Each artist became famous for her experimentation and refinement of ceramic surfaces, and each has a set of family members or protégés who followed in her footsteps.

As a first step in “Burnished by History,” Dr. Perrill is identifying and conducting preliminary interviews with artists from South Africa and New Mexico. Utilizing a collaborative interview methodology, Dr. Perrill is working with interviewees to develop questions for the final trans-national interview between Zulu and Pueblo artists.

Dr. Elizabeth Perrill (right) with ceramic artist Thembi Nala during Nala’s visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in July 2012

In October 2013, Dr. Perrill traveled to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, to conduct her first interviews with Jabu and Thembi Nala, daughters of foundational Zulu ceramist Nesta Nala. Both women are professional artists who have traveled multiple times to Santa Fe, New Mexico, as part of the International Art Market. Despite this international exposure, Dr. Perrill found that neither artist knew their work had been compared to Southwestern Pueblo ceramics. Each sister was interviewed separately in Zulu, and neither knew that their mother has been likened to Maria Martinez in exhibitions, publications, and sales venues.

In response to these interviews, Dr. Perrill recently sent both books and DVDs on Maria Martinez to the Nala family. Correspondence with the Nala sisters is ongoing. The next step in her research will involve a similar process of artist identification and preliminary interviews in Santa Fe, leading up to the eventual dialog between members of the Martinez and Nala ceramic lineages.

This research is generously funded by a UNCG Kohler Grant, the UNCG College of Arts and Sciences, and the Council for Craft, Creativity, and Design.

Faculty funding for international activities
The International Travel Fund
(ITF), created by the Provost’s Office, supports ca. 50 UNCG faculty members per year to present their work at international conferences outside North America. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and processed typically within two weeks of receipt. Owing to the popularity of this fund, faculty are highly encouraged to apply as soon as they receive notification that their presentations have been accepted. Faculty may apply once per year every two out of three years. To see who received funding for international conferences for the 2012-13 fiscal year, click here and for those who have been awarded this year to date, here. Details about applying can be found at the following website: /travelfunds.html.

A portion of the Kohler Fund, established in 1991 with a bequest from the estate of Phyllis Penn Kohler, class of 1930, is dedicated to supporting faculty internationalization efforts in six areas (research, teaching, internationalizing the curriculum, student programs, special projects, and institutional linkages). Faculty are encouraged to submit proposals by the deadline that falls approximately six weeks before the proposed event or travel. To facilitate faculty submissions, the Committee has four deadlines per year for all six areas. The upcoming deadlines in the Spring 2014 semester are January 17 and March 21. Details about the procedure for applying and the forms needed can be found on the IPC website at /fundingopportunities.html. To see others who have received a Kohler award in the 2013-14 fiscal year, please click here. We look forward to receiving and reviewing next year’s proposals.

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