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Everyone has a reason for why they do what they do, and for Dr. Tamara Smithers, associate professor of art history at Austin Peay State University, the reason she has devoted her passion to the study of art history is the work of Italian Renaissance sculptor and painter Michelangelo.
“To speak candidly, I’ve been obsessed with Michelangelo – his artwork, his life and his legend – ever since I can remember,” Smithers said.
Recently, the APSU professor channeled a bit of her expertise on the massively influential creator into serving as editor and contributor for the volume “Michelangelo in the New Millennium: Conversations about Artistic Practice, Patronage and Christianity,” a new scholarly book published by Brill, a major publisher of academic publications.
“Michelangelo in the New Millennium” presents six paired studies in dialogue with each other that offer new ways of looking at Michelangelo’s art. The three sections address the literal and metaphorical flexibility of Michelangelo’s artistic intentions, delve deeper into his early religious works, and take a new look at papal patronage of Paul III and IV.
But before she could begin the process, Smithers said she had to answer one question – was there anything new to say about Michelangelo?
“The answer, of course, is yes,” Smithers said. “In the introduction of his 1995 series of collected essays, ‘Michelangelo: Selected Scholarship in English,’ Washington University in St. Louis professor William E. Wallace asked, ‘Has the Bull Been Milked?’ Decidedly he answered, ‘There are still many cows to milk.’
“The field of Michelangelo studies is thriving. However, since the turn of the millennium, only a few edited volumes have been published on Michelangelo-related topics and they focus on specific themes or artworks,” Smithers continued. “This volume offers complementary-paired essays that utilize a variety of approaches on a wide range of topics on Michelangelo and the culture in which he lived.”
Each of the six essays in “Michelangelo in the New Millennium” is penned by someone new to publishing on Michelangelo in the new millennium. Hoping to offer a unique look at the influential creator, the collection as a whole re-explores the life, art and myth of Michelangelo’s early career in Florence to his last works in Rome through the eyes of a new generation of scholars.
“While the authors employ an assortment of methodologies, each chapter offers something new by presenting an alternative iconographic reading of familiar works, offering different contextual insights, exploring an innovative theme or presenting fresh observations from close visual analysis,” Smithers said.
Smithers herself contributed to the collection, providing a student-friendly essay titled “Michelangelo’s Suicidal Stone,” an anecdotal portrait, which explored not only Michelangelo’s reactions to his peers and friends, but also the reactions of others—patrons, collectors, art writers, artists, and stones alike—to him.
More information on “Michelangelo in the New Millennium” can be found by visiting www.brill.com/products/book/michelangelo-new-millennium. The book, which is now available, can be purchased on Brill.com, as well as Amazon.com and other retailers.
For more information on the APSU Department of Art and Design, visit apsu.edu/art.