Art history lecture series connects art with contemporary life, pop culture

Leslie Cusano

Professor combines humor with fine art to entertain and inform

Assistant professor of art Albert Reischuck discusses Vincent Van Gogh’s 1885 painting “The Potato Eaters” during his lecture last night at the Akron Art Museum. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Audience members sat in the darkened auditorium. A painting depicting a scowling young man appeared on the screen in front of a lecturer dressed in black. The caption underneath read, “Self-Portrait of 1493 by Albert Durer.”

“He’s not a very happy man,” the lecturer said. “He should cheer up. He’s getting married in a couple of days.”

He explained that the man in the painting is holding erysium, which in that time was believed to be an aphrodisiac.

“He’s obviously fortifying himself for his wedding night. If he lived in the 21st century of pharmaceuticals, I guess the painting would look like this,” he said as a photo of a bottle of Viagra appeared on top of the painting, and the audience roared.

It was the beginning of “Art History 101: Love and Family/Gender Issues,” a lecture given by assistant professor of art Albert Reischuck at the Akron Art Museum last night.

Reischuck discussed everything from ancient Egyptian sculptures of Ukhotep II and his family to Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” sculpture. Throughout the lecture, Reischuck inserted photos of President Bush, Amy Winehouse and Heath Ledger, among others, and related them to works of art.

Kristin Mohn of Copley attended the lecture and said she heard about the lecture through the museum’s e-newsletter and was curious.

“His sense of humor was great,” she said. “It wasn’t at all dry or stuffy.”

Frank Johnson of Green also attended the lecture.

“Kent is lucky to have him,” he said. “He has a good way of bringing in art with contemporary issues.”

Alison Caplan, associate educator at the Akron Art Museum, organized the lecture series. She said while the museum was closed three years ago, classes were offered to the docents to teach them about the art in the museum. When their current educator left, Reischuck stepped in.

“All the docents were very impressed,” Caplan said. “They all just raved about his lectures.”

When the museum finally reopened, additional funding provided the opportunity to bring Reischuck back for lectures to the public, she said.

“We had over 100 people attend the first lecture,” Caplan said. “Everyone was really excited and interested in the topic.”

Reischuck said the audience was more animated than some of his daily classes at Kent State.

“There’s no stress because they don’t have to be tested on this,” he said. “It’s nice that they’re appreciative of things that are sometimes a hard sell for students at Kent.”

Reischuck said that he wants to be able to connect modern art to people’s everyday lives.

“There’s a lot of elitism in the art work,” he said. “A fixed topic might not touch on your life. But this series gives you the most chances to connect with modern and contemporary art.”

He also said he hopes to quell people’s fears about this art genre.

“There’s a disconnect people feel with modern art that is unfortunate but present,” he said. “You have to consider certain struggles and concerns will be ongoing and will always be addressed by artists. Just the means of addressing them have changed.”

Caplan agrees that it’s important to educate people about modern art.

“A lot of people are resistant to (modern art) because it’s a complicated puzzle to unlock, but it can be accessible to everyday life,” she said. “The more we can educate people about modern and contemporary art, the better.”

Reischuck’s next lecture, “War and Peace,” will be March 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the museum’s Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium.

Contact College of the Arts reporter Leslie Cusano

at [email protected].