2016-2017 Theme: Shifting Landscapes

The theme of Shifting Landscapes offers fertile ground for this group of distinguished scholars from distant and varied fields to come together and explore the nature, definitions, and impact of the multi-layered term "Shifting Landscapes" and how those readings effect the environment, humanity, and our respective fields of scholarship.

Our group brings together an art historian / biographer / curator / screenwriter whose current research investigates how shifts in the landscape (be they natural or man made) and patterns of human behavior have both informed and been influenced by landscape painting; a classicist whose research centers on the responses of 19th century travelers and photographers to the great Classical monuments and who identifies and analyzes the conventions that govern the descriptions, depictions, and readings of those monuments in the natural, historical and psychological landscape; an artist who tackles conventions of representing landscape, the wilderness, and the shifting environment as well as issues of memory and desire; a biologist who studies how stem cells, with the potential to become virtually any cell in the body, choose a distinct lineage and become a specific cell type and how the “landscape” of the brain is “shifted” by the addition of these stem cells; and a sociologist who works on music in social movements and is also studying decision-making and how it changes or shifts when decision-makers must personally bear the consequences of their decisions.

We will look at the linkages, crossovers and differences between our respective readings of the term: Shifting Landscapes. We are eager to see how this process of reaching broadly, digging deeply, and exchanging ideas and observations in a thoughtful and lively setting will inform, challenge, and change our outlooks and our respective research methods.  In fact, we fully anticipate working collaboratively on essays that will reveal some of our insights around topics we investigate in the Think Tank. The Invited Scholar will work on and complete a book for publication entitled: The Changing Face of American Landscape Painting: A Study of Artistic, Environmental, and Cultural Changes. The artist will have a major solo exhibition of her paintings in New York City and be the subject of an important monograph on her work published by Abrams entitled: Tula Telfair: Invented Landscapes that will come out during the 2016-17 academic year. The classicist will work a book containing a collection of his essays that will reframe familiar images of antiquity with a focus on memory and history and result in a multi-layered analysis of the Classical landscape. The biologist will write a manuscript for publication about her findings on how the structure and function of the brain shifts with the introduction of stem cells. The sociologist will write a book entitled: Living the Plan on the sifting landscape of political decision making throughout history with a specific emphasis on decisions concerning the environment. Collectively, our research will take the form of books, exhibitions, essays and articles. We are all looking forward to working collaboratively on scholarly pieces and each of us will present our research in a public presentation to the broader community as well as host an open panel discussion on that topic during the course of the 2016-2017 academic year.

2016-2017 Scholars' Research:

  • Henry Adams, Menakka and Essel Bailey '66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment
  • Laura Grabel, Professor of Biology and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society
  • Rob Rosenthal, John Andrus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life
  • Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Professor of Classical Studies and Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek
  • Tula Telfair, Professor of Art


Henry Adams
Henry is a distinguished scholar and noted art historian, author, screenwriter, former museum curator, and is currently the Ruth Coulter Heed Professor of Art History at Case Western Reserve University.  A graduate of Harvard University, he received his M.A. and PH.D. from Yale University, where he was awarded the Frances Blanshard Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in Art History. Dr. Adams is the author of 20 books or book-length exhibition catalogues that range from the architecture of Thomas Jefferson to the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock.  Among these are Eakins Revealed: The Secret life of an American Artist and Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock.  He has also had over 375 scholarly and popular articles published, ranging over the American field from the 17th century to the present, and has been singled out by Art News as one of the foremost experts in the American Field.

From 1984 to 1993 Adams was the Samuel Sosland Curator of American Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, and from 1982 to 1984 he was Curator of Fine Arts at the Museum of Art at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg.  In 1985, he received the Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize of the College Art Association, the first time this had been awarded to an Americanist or a Museum Curator.  Adams is also the recipient of numerous other awards including the IMS Museum Service Award - given at the White House, the William F. Yates Distinguished Service Medallion, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of The Cleveland Arts Prize.  In 2010, The Beauty of Damage, a Tom Ball/Telos Production film that Adams initiated and scripted won the Kodak Best Ohio Short Film at the 34th Cleveland International Film Festival, and in 1989, in partnership with film maker Ken Burns, Adams produced a documentary on Thomas Hart Benton which was broadcast nationally on PBS to an audience of 20 million.


Laura Grabel
Dr. Grabel’s work examines many aspects of embryonic stem cell differentiation, most recently the production of neural stem cells and neurons from mouse and human embryonic stem cells. In culture, differentiating embryonic stem cells form neural rosettes that mimic the embryonic neural tube. In collaboration with Jan Naegele and Gloster Aaron, also at Wesleyan, efforts have focused on characterizing the fate of embryonic stem cell-derived neural progenitors transplanted into mouse models of temporal lobe epilepsy. These experiments have shown that embryonic stem cell-derived neural progenitors can differentiate into functional neurons within the hippocampus. She has also collaborated with Lori Gruen at Wesleyan examining various aspects of stem cell ethics and current efforts in this area focus on chimeras generated by  combining human pluripotent stem cells with embryos or adults of other species.

Dr. Grabel received her PhD at the University of California, San Diego and was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Gail Martin at the University of California, San Francisco. She is the Lauren B. Dachs Chair of Science and Society at Wesleyan, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and President of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. For the past several years she has collaborated with Liz Lerman, Elizabeth Johnson, and faculty at Wesleyan on the “Science Choreography” project, examining ways to use movement to enrich science instruction. As Co-PI of the Stem Cell Core grant to the University of Connecticut Health Center, Dr. Grabel runs the outreach component of the program.

Rob Rosenthal
Dr. Rosenthal is the John Andrus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life at Wesleyan University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has been at Wesleyan since 1987.  Dr. Rosenthal writes and teaches in the areas of housing, homelessness, community research, and the use of music in social movements.  He’s the author of Homeless in Paradise, co-winner of the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award (1994-95), Playing for Change (with Richard Flacks, 2011) and co-editor with Sam Rosenthal of Pete Seeger In His Own Words (2012).  His current project, Living the Plan, looks at how decision-making is impacted when those making decisions directly bear the consequences.  Dr. Rosenthal has worked for the past twenty-nine years with community groups in Middletown, CT, including as one of the founding directors of Wesleyan’s Service-Learning Center and the Center for Community Partnerships.

Andrew Szegedy-Maszak
Dr. Szegedy-Maszak earned his B.A. in Classics at the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. at Princeton University.  Since 1973 he has been on the faculty at Wesleyan University, where he is now Professor of Classical Studies and Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek.  He has also held visiting professorships at UCLA, Dartmouth and the Yale School of Drama. He has been a guest scholar in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.  He has won the American Philological Association's award for excellence in the teaching of Classics, as well as the Wesleyan University award for teaching excellence.  In 1998-99 he was the "250th Anniversary Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching" at Princeton.  In 2012-13 he was Wesleyan’s first Distinguished Teaching Fellow. He has published widely on Greek history and historiography and on the history of photography.  His current project is an ongoing set of studies of the representation of classical sites by 19th-century photographers and travel writers; among his publications is the co-authored Antiquity and Photography (2005), which won the Association of American Publishers Award for Excellence in Scholarly Publishing. His most recent publication is the essay “Photographing Ina” in the book by the same name by photographer Philip Trager (2015). In connection with his participation in the CoE Think Tank, he will be teaching a seminar on “Ancient Monuments: Landscape, History, Memory.”


Tula Telfair
Tula grew up in Africa, Asia, and Europe before moving to the United States. She received her BFA as a W.W. Smith Foundation Fellow from Moore College of Art in 1984, and earned an MFA in 1986 as a Graduate Fellow at Syracuse University. Inspired by the progression of landscape painting from the backdrops of the Renaissance through the travelogues of the nineteenth century and beyond, Telfair’s paintings are a contemporary reimagining of a centuries-old artistic tradition. Her monumental landscapes invoke both philosophy, with their enigmatic titles, and environmental awareness with their painstaking detail. Her work has been described as a meditation on the field of landscape painting itself. A new Biography and Monograph entitled Tula Telfair Invented Landscapes will be published by Abrams this fall. Telfair’s work is featured in public collections around the world and has been shown extensively in solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. She is a professor of art at Wesleyan University and lives and works in New York City and Lyme, Connecticut. She is represented by Forum Gallery in New York City where a solo exhibition of her epic paintings will open Thursday, November 10, 2016.  

Her monumental landscapes and epic-scale vistas are simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimate. She combines stillness with motion, solitude with universality and definition with suggestion in her bold and quiet works. An extension of the progression of landscape from the backdrops of the Renaissance through the travelogues of the nineteenth century and beyond, Telfair's paintings are fully contemporary in their inspiration and execution. They demonstrate the spirit and potency of the genre adapted to a new century. Each painting calls attention to the power and fragility of the environment. Her work has been described as a meditation on the field itself, fueled by memories of her experiences living on four continents. Telfair shares with us her private vision of the beauty and majesty of the natural world. More than a single moment in time, each scene is a continuum that develops a narrative of past, present and future, indicative of nature itself. (From the Exhibition A World of Dreams)