July 14-16, St. John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The keynote speaker, Professor Gerald Vizenor of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkely, argued that Native American Indians have and still do exercise a political “Sovereignty of Motion” rather than the typical European “Sovereignty of Territory” and explained why this difference has led to conflicts concerning fishing rights, concern for the environment and even Indian ownership of casinos.
In the first “Artist at Work” session, Jackie Bartley, a landscape poet and professor of English at Hope College, read her verses which depicted places and people from Pennsylvania to Bolivia by way of New Mexico. Richard Fleck, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Community College of Denver, described “Mountaineity” in New England, Colorado and on Mount Fuji – in his “Aesthetic Spontaneity above Treeline.”
In the second “Artists at Work” sessions, the painting of Taos artist Jim Wagner and Melissa Zink were presented and discussed by Sunny Nash, a California photo-journalist, and Thomas Haeussler, professor of Comparative Literature at Cal State, Long Beach. The artist were present and after hearing what was said about their work gave their own, often contrasting, comments and interpretations, and on the following day a trip to the artists’ gallery in Taos was made by many interested conference attendees.
The first panel, “Teaching and Aesthetics,” featured Lisa Hummler and Pam Chadick from the Fine Arts Program of the Air Force Academy, who discussed the relationship between aesthetic theory and the studio environment, and Karen Ordes Spence and Francis Downing, from the college of Architecture at Texas A&M, who considered the function of aesthetic theory in the “jury criticism” of student design projects.
Donald Driscoll, who teaches philosophy at the University of Southern Colorado and serves as the secretary-treasurer of the Rocky Mountain Divison; John Samson, English, Texas Tech; and Pete Williams, English, University of Colorado-Boulder, presented papers on the desert as art and the art of the desert in the panel, “Registers of the Desert.” On the following day, Pete Williams led a field trip to the Cienega rock art site.
More formal and philosophical critiques were presented in the panel, “Critical Response,” in which S.K. Wertz, Philosophy, Texas Christian University, spoke on “Art and Human Nature;” Dan Miller, English, University of Southern Colorado, discussed “Paul de Man and the anti-Aesthetic Imperative;” and Matthew Kieran, Philosophy, University of Leeds, argued “In Defense of Critical Pluralism.”
Rodney Parker, Architecture, University of Michigan, began the second day of the conference in the panel, “Design and Place,” with a paper on “Architecture as Decorative Mediation,” which was followed by Reuben Ellis’ paper on “Degraded Places.” Reuben teaches English at Hope College and is the current president of the Rocky Mountain Division.
A paper by Robert Scott Stewart, Philosophy, and Michael Manson, English-both from University College, Cape Breton – titled “Deceit, Desire and Destruction in King Lear,” stimulated spirited discussion in the panel, “Crisis in Shakespeare,” by presenting a novel interpretation of this difficult play.
The panel on “Film and Context” featured papers by Edward Sankowski, Philosophy, University of Oklahoma, who spoke on “Film Narrative, the Self, and Community,” and Thomas Mullin, Radio-TV, Eastern Washington University, whose paper was titled, “Language and Leverage: Confronting the Totalitarian Aesthetic of Directing.”
In the panel, “Social Revision,” Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure, English and Philosophy, Idaho State University, presented a paper with the most intriguing title, “Ishmeal Reed’s Neo-Hoodoo Aesthetics and the Western: A Reading of Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down.” Frank Christianson, English, Brigham Young University, followed with “Cormac McCarthy’s Reconstruction of Society.”
“Ethnopoetics” was the title of the panel in which Alastair Beattie, Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of the Andes, presented “The Aesthetics of American Subcultures,” and George Moore, Sewell Academic Program, University of Colorado-Boulder, discussed, “Ethnopoetics and Ethnocriticism: Southwestern Dialogues in the Poetry of Jimmy Santiago Baga.”
On the third and last day, Allen Carlson, Philosophy, University of Alberta, raised profound and controversial issues in the panel, “Natural/Cultural Landscapes,” with his paper on “Different Descriptions” of Devil’s Tower. Felix Heep, Art, Boise State University, followed with a provocative and humorous paper on “Franciscan Nature Mysticism in Colonial New Mexico.”
In considering “Issues of Perception,” Phillip Marshall, Psychology, Texas Tech, spoke on “Factors Contributing to the Perception of Visual Weight;” Rudy Brun, Biology, Texas Christian University – a long-time participant – presented a paper on, “Unification of Diversity: The Fundamental Creative Principle?” and William Day, Philosophy, Columbia University, discussed “Wittgenstein on Aspect- Blindness.”
The final panel, “Community and Code,” considered “Developing a Pop Aesthetic” from the perspective of Bob Dylan as viewed by Pat Kondas, Cheney, Washington; the “Riverlore of Western River Expedition River Guides” as seen by Charles Bradshaw, Brigham Young University; and “Local Music in a Small Town” as heard by Stephen Swords, English, Eastern Illinois University.
It was decided at the business meeting to meet again at St. John’s College in Santa Fe in July 1996. Information concerning specific dates and topics will be published in a later Newsletter.
Manuel M. Davenport