Thursday, 3 March 2011

Professor Karen Mathews came to speak to my Intro to Islam class at the University of Miami on 'What is Islamic about Islamic art?'

This excerpt taken from Demystifying the Middle East By Ivette M. Yee

"Mention the Middle East and Karen Mathews gets excited about the region’s artwork. The UM art history lecturer teaches “The Art and Culture of Early Modern Islamic Dynasties.” Through the study of dynasties such as the Safavids in ...Iran, the Ottomans in Turkey, and the Mamluks in Egypt, her students learn how these empires used patronage of art and architecture to impress their subjects and rivals. Thus many of their cultural achievements manifested themselves in architecture and the decorative arts. Moreover, “the art of the Islamic world is some of the most beautiful and powerful that I’ve seen as an art historian, and that’s what I share with my students,” Mathews said. “This is artwork that many wouldn’t ever see otherwise.”

The Islamic art examined in Mathews’ course includes metalwork, ceramics, wall paintings, tomb architecture, and intricate textiles and jewels. Each medium has much to say about the society’s class structure and historical events, said Mathews, and the topic is an area of research that continues to attract scholars.

It attracts students, too, and exposes them to a whole new world of art. “I absolutely loved the class,” said student Elizabeth Fregien, “and the material was very different from what we art-history majors are used to studying.” The course offered some broad revelations as well. “Probably the most surprising thing I learned is how early and often the Islamic/Eastern world had contact with the Christian/Western world,” she added. “The interaction resulted not only in political exchanges but also in cultural advancements on both sides.”"

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