By Alex Guerra
Recently, Associate Professor of Art Alison Perchuk was granted the Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize, an award given by the Medieval Academy of America to those who write an article on any field of medieval study and publish it in a scholarly journal. The CI View sat down with Professor Perchuk and discussed what this award means to her, as well as what brought her into the world of art history.
“While my article was in publication, one of the editors of the journal recommended that I send in the article for consideration for the prize,” she explained. Her article strives to “draw together art history, and history, and theology.”
Upon finding out she had won the prize, she exclaimed, “I just started jumping up and down… I called (my husband), I called my friends, I called my parents. I was really excited, and really deeply, deeply honored.”
Professor Perchuk has a Ph.D. in History of Art and teaches art history at CI. Growing up, she read a lot of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. “I became deeply interested in this time period, and I loved to read so I read a lot of fiction that was set in the Middle Ages,” she explained. “Historical fiction; things like that… I loved “Lord of the Rings”.”
When it was time to go off to college, it came as no surprise that she wanted to do something with the Middle Ages, having grown up immersed in the world since she was a child.
“What I’m particularly interested in is medieval Italy, and especially the ninth through 12th century.” She stated. “There’s a grouping to me there between…what was there in the eighth and ninth century, then a moment of loss of collective memory, of forgetting, and what comes out of it on the other side, in the late 10th and 11th and 12th century. So that’s really what I’m interested in.”
She explained how she had taken a study abroad trip to Italy, and after her experiences there, she came back wanting to study more about it.
When asked why she thinks art history is so important, Professor Perchuk said, “I would say on the one hand it’s no important or no less important than any other liberal arts major that you could choose, or really any major you could choose. But…what I see art history offering that few areas of study do is that it requires you to look carefully and patiently again and again at the same thing.”
“Art history helps us understand how our physical environment is important to us, right? How the spaces we create, or that others create for us, how those affect how we live,” she concluded. “It helps capture a time period but it can also help shape it.”