The Rocky Mountain Division of the American Society for Aesthetics held its annual conference in its usual time and place--the historic Hotel St. Francis in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the second weekend of July--but it was far from a usual year for this group. Beginning in the backroom of the bar at the Inn of the Govenor’s in 1984, this meeting has grown in size and scope since those rather humble beginnings some 25 years past. This year, we welcomed our greatest number of participants in many years and marked the celebratory occasion with a champagne toast during Saturday night’s reception, which included a speech befitting the moment from our member of longest-standing, Reuben Ellis. The conference enjoyed its signature high-desert, beautiful weather of sunny days with sometime cooling rain in the afternoons.
This year saw the close of term for President of the Division over the past three years, Arthur Stewart. We will miss his leadership and are so very appreciative of his commitment to this organization. Linda Dove (the current Vice-President) now begins her three-year term as President; John Samson returns as Secretary/Treasurer for a final year in 2008-09. During Sunday’s Annual Business Meeting, veteran participant James Mock was elected Vice-President for the 2008-2011 term, after which he will assume the duties of Division President for the 2011-2014 term. An election for Secretary/Treasurer will take place at next year’s business meeting.
Activities on the 11th began with conference registration and opening remarks by President Stewart. The sessions themselves covered a broad variety of topics and emphasized the interdisciplinary character of the Division’s work. The 2008 conference program featured the following panels: Philosophical and Historical Issues (S.K. Wertz, Lawrence F. Rhu, Roger Paden); Ethics, Geopolitics, and Art (Raphael Sassower, Michael Hurlburt, Bassam Romaya); Music and Wrestling, Then and Now (Daniel Copher, Ryan Jordan, David Conter); Film in Philosophy/Philosophy in Film (Mark Silcox, Marissa Stroud, Nicholas Diehl); Literary Issues (John Samson, Norman Fischer, Michael Manson); New Mexican Landscapes, Zen, and Horticulture (Rebecca Bensen Cain); Written Exchanges (Dustin Morris, Francis Downing, Joseph Vincenzo); Ripley, Identity, and Feminism in the Alien Films (George Moore, Eva Dadlez, Elizabeth Graham); Manners, Eloquence, and Music (Martin Donougho, James Mock, Arthur Stewart).
Although the topics, texts, and disciplines represented by the papers were diverse, there were definite intersections that kept discussions lively among all participants. To name but a few examples: Raphael Sassower presented a series of historical photographs of this country’s military engagements, in which he asked some challenging questions about the ubiquitous appropriation of these images since they have become available for anyone to use and thus retell the story of war as it fits their purposes. George Moore, Eva Dadlez, and Elizabeth Graham engaged with a sociopolitical representation of aesthetics as well in papers they gave on the Alien film series and its potentially feminist heroine. In her paper entitled “At a Distance,” Frances Dowling considered the implications of so-called distance education--virtual computer classrooms--in her undergraduate architecture courses. Michael Manson took on John Nichols’s hot-off-the-press novel The Empanada Brotherhood in an analysis of its reification of community. In their combined panel, Martin Donougho, James Mock, and Arthur Stewart approached three material texts as representations of various aesthetic principles--that of seventeenth-century mannerist Lord Shaftesbury as representative of virtuoso culture; that of political candidates and the voting public as filtered through philosopher Hume’s sense of eloquence and its attendant emotional commitments; and the work of musician Poulenc as demonstrative of Pierce’s concept of thirdness.
We were honored to have The Manuel Davenport Keynote Address presented this year by Susan Feagin, Editor of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Temple University, who spoke on “Emotions in Appreciation.” The Artist at Work plenary session was given by Jane Abrams, who is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico. She presented “A Selection of My Work from the 1990s to the Present: Artist Residencies from Costa Rica and Spain, to Maine, Mexico, and Omaha.”
We look forward to the 2009 conference, when we hope to maintain this year’s levels of participation and enthusiasm.