Diana Maddison is a senior art history student with big dreams of earning her doctorate, publishing her research, and eventually becoming a professor. “I’ve always been a huge nerd,” she says with a laugh. Diana has made the Dean’s List for seven semesters in a row and has participated in two different independent studies. “I’ve always been motivated. I love school, especially when I can study something I’m interested in,” she says. Even when Diana feels like giving up, she says nothing beats the reward of dedicating herself to what she loves most—the analysis of history via art. Diana always loved art history and literature, but her interest was heightened in a high school Advanced Placement (AP) European history class. From there, she realized her passion for analyzing the symbols in literature, the study of history, and her love of visual platforms could be combined into the study of art history, which essentially studies and analyzes art as a historical document with a heavy visual component.
Diana mentions that Dr. Elizabeth Pilliod, Visiting Professor of Art History, has acted as a mentor, helping her narrow her focus in her interests in art. “I really look up to her,” she says. Diana adds that Dr. Pilliod is working on a manuscript that catalogues Jacopo da Pontormo’s artistic work, focusing on the lost choir frescoes in San Lorenzo, Florence, during the 1540-1550s. “Because the paintings no longer exist, Dr. Pilliod has been reconstructing not only the visual frescoes, but the narrative around them,” Diana adds. In her research, she combines Pontormo’s diary and other records of the frescoes by local Florentines. Diana acted as a research assistant and an editor, combing the documents into a larger master diary. She explains, “primarily I assisted in correlating the entries with the specific day of the week and aligned them with the Gregorian (Christian) calendar. This added another dimension to the diary, as high holiday services and important feast days would have impacted Pontormo’s painting schedule.” She continues, “I learned how to perform this kind of work, and I realized what the efforts behind academic research and writing are like.”
When Diana was a first-year student she studied abroad in England, studying autobiographies and British pop culture, she visited the University of Oxford, which she will attend in Fall 2015. “I fell in love. It’s a great program with a great location,” she says. It has a prestigious humanities program with renowned art historians in addition to being located near many museums and libraries. “It’s so rich in culture,” she adds. Diana plans to study nineteenth-century French art with a manufacturing and industry focus.
In her sophomore year, Diana went to Budapest to study Czech and Hungarian literature and movies. This is how she was introduced to the work of Alphonse Mucha, whose work she later vigorously studied in one of her independent studies under Dr. Martin Rosenberg, Professor of Art History, whom she also greatly admires.
Under Dr. Pilliod, Diana researched Mucha’s advertising poster for the French cigarette paper company “Job” and how this affected French industry and culture. Diana studied up to intermediate French, and that greatly helped her translate the documents required for the research in her independent studies. Regarding her independent studies, Diana explains, “It’s all up to you and what you put into it.” She says she found it extremely rewarding to rise to the occasion of intense research.
Diana works full-time at a thrift-store, and balances her work and academic schedule with her acting hobby. “I have to schedule and block my time…but I love doing that, too. I like to be organized,” she says. When asked about her part in the Rutgers–Camden staging of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, she gushes, “It’s great, (Dr. Kenneth Elliot, Associate Professor of Theater) is an amazing director.” Diana says, “It’s a good outlet, especially for all the stress [from transitioning to Oxford]. It takes a lot of discipline, but it’s worth it.” Theatre production has been a hobby of Diana’s since she was in middle school. She had previously participated in dramas, but this will be her first comedy. Her dream role, Diana says, is Judas from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
After graduating, Diana plans to someday write academic articles, work for art galleries and auction houses, and become a professor of art history. “I’ve always been a motivated person,” she says, “(and) I’ll keep pursuing the best I can.” Diana’s journey is just beginning, and we look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish at Rutgers–Camden and beyond.
Written By Rebecca Grubb