Promey, Sally M. 1953-
PROMEY, Sally M. 1953-
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland, 1211-B, Art/Sociology Building, College Park, MD 20742-1335. E-mail—[email protected] umail.umd.edu.
CAREER: University of Maryland, professor of art history and archaeology. Member of advisory committee of Archives of American Art and editorial board of American Art; College Art Association representative for "Building Blocks" (interdisciplinary project), sponsored by National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage and American Council of Learned Societies. Curator of exhibitions, including (with David Morgan) Exhibiting the Visual Culture of American Religions, Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso University, 2000; and at American Bible Society, 2000-01).
AWARDS, HONORS: Charles C. Eldredge prize, National Museum of Art, 1993, for Spiritual Spectacles: Vision and Image in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Shakerism; Award for Excellence in the Historical Study of Religion, American Academy of Religion, 2000, for Painting Religion in Public: John Singer Sargent's Triumph of Religion at the Boston Public Library; Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars fellow, 2000-01; Ailsa Mellon Bruce senior fellowship, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts; fellowships from National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Louisville Institute, and general research board of University of Maryland; grants from Henry Luce Foundation and Lilly Endowment, for The Visual Culture of American Religions.
Spiritual Spectacles: Vision and Image in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Shakerism, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1993.
(With David Morgan) Exhibiting the Visual Culture ofAmerican Religions (museum exhibition catalogue), University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2000.
(Editor with David Morgan) The Visual Culture ofAmerican Religions, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Sally M. Promey first became interested in the relationship between art and religion as a college undergraduate. She earned her master's degree at Yale Divinity School, and by the time she entered the University of Chicago, where she received her doctorate, she had begun to focus on art history and religion in the United States, from the Colonial period to the present.
Regarding the book Spiritual Spectacles: Vision and Image in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Shakerism, critic Jane F. Crosthwaite wrote, in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, "Promey proposes an approach to the anomaly of Shaker religious art that is at once logical and innovative. To understand the appearance of art in an officially iconoclastic community, she has developed not only an interpretive framework that explains the translation of vision into visual image but written a history of the times that prompted the tumultuous visionary manifestations often called 'Mother's Work.'"
Journal of Religion contributor David Bjelajac noted that the visionary images that began to appear in Shaker communities by 1839 are explained by Promey "within the historical context of the Shaker religion and its struggle to maintain faith in the messianic truths of its founder, Ann Lee (1736-84), long after Mother Ann had returned to her heavenly home. . . . The ink and watercolor drawings that often mixed calligraphic texts with geometric and emblematic motifs were not regarded as art but as heavenly communications from Ann Lee and other first-generation founders of Shakerism. The messages were particularly addressed to young, third-generation Shakers, who never had seen Ann Lee, the feminine incarnation of Christ, in the flesh." The Shakers thus viewed these images as "spiritual spectacles" that enabled the young to experience, for themselves, the charismatic Mother Ann.
Painting Religion in Public: John Singer Sargent's Triumph of Religion at the Boston Public Library is Promey's study of the commissioned project that was begun in 1895 and left unfinished in 1919, for which Sargent produced a large number of religious murals for the library's special collection. Promey examines the artist's own religious convictions; the space within which Sargent worked while producing his art; the library as a venue for the public display of religious art and its reception; and a history of the religious art of the period. Sargent, who until embarking on this substantial project was known primarily for his portraits of Boston's Brahmin society, used a variety of mediums for his Triumph of Religion, including oil, gilding, textiles, and stucco. The project ended abruptly in 1919, however, when Sargent installed two small panels that contained anti-Semitic details, borrowed from the work of Michelangelo. Thus, the culmination of the exhibit—the hanging of the panel depicting the Sermon on the Mount—was canceled.
"Promey's book cuts a broad swath through several fields of scholarly inquiry: art history, cultural history, and American religious history," wrote Daniel A. Siedell in Church History. "Painting Religion in Public offers a powerful example of the impact that the study of visual culture can make as an important contribution to many disciplines as fine art and other forms of visual imagery are woven back into the fabric of social, cultural, political, and religions life."
Promey and David Morgan—the Duesenberg Chair in Christianity and the Arts at Christ College, Valparaiso University—curated an art exhibit featuring fifty objects from various religious traditions that, according to the exhibit catalogue, "allow viewers to explore how pictures, sculpture, illustrated books, and mass-produced items have contributed to the diverse religious experiences of Americans over the last two centuries." Such traditions include Native American, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Chinese, Shaker, Latino, African, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Shaker, and entries are organized by theme. The exhibit was part of a multi-year, interdisciplinary collaborative project of research, exhibition, and publication funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Lilly Endowment.
The Visual Culture of American Religions consists of fourteen essays by historians, art historians, museum curators, and American- and religious-studies scholars, each of whom participated in the exhibit project. Subjects range from Sioux Sun Dance paintings, to Jewish New Year postcards, to religious visual culture in books, bibles, paintings, and shrines. Sandra Yocum Mize noted, in Theological Studies, that "Certain authors prove more adept at maintaining the visual as the central focus of their analysis." James Cunning Holland, meanwhile, in Afterimage, stated, "What the editors have attempted to do is, in a sense, to unify avant-garde and traditional artistic practice, and marginal as well as mainstream religious cultures, into a mutually revelatory and constructive dialogue. To this end the book, by remaining openly modest in scope, impressively performs its task."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Afterimage, July, 2001, James Cunning Holland, review of The Visual Culture of American Religions, p. 19.
Art Bulletin, September, 1994, Magaretta M. Lovell, review of Spiritual Spectacles: Vision and Image in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Shakerism, p. 544.
Burlington, February, 2000, Mary Crawford Volk, review of Painting Religion in Public: John Singer Sargent's Triumph of Religion at the Boston Public Library, pp. 16-17.
Choice, October, 1993, J. B. Wolford, review of Spiritual Spectacles, p. 356; February, 2000, R. J. Onorato, review of Painting Religion in Public, p. 1092.
Christian Century, January 19, 1994, Harry Boonstra, review of Spiritual Spectacles, p. 54.
Church History, June, 1994, Gerald E. Jones, review of Spiritual Spectacles, p. 302; September, 2000, Daniel A. Siedell, review of Painting Religion in Public, pp. 687-689.
Journal of American History, June, 2002, Paul Eli Ivey, review of The Visual Culture of American Religions, p. 325.
Journal of Church and State, Lee Canipe, review of Painting Religion in Public, p. 379.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 1995, Jane F. Crosthwaite, review of Spiritual Spectacles, p. 144.
Journal of Religion, October, 1994, David Bjelajac, review of Spiritual Spectacles, pp. 573-575.
Library Journal, September, 1999, Nadine Dalton, review of Painting Religion in Public, p. 76.
Theological Studies, September, 2002, Sandra Yocum Mize, review of The Visual Culture of American Religions, p. 35.
Times Literary Supplement, May 10, 2002, Keith Miller, review of Painting Religion in Public, p. 30.
Winterthur Portfolio, winter, 2000, review of "Exhibiting the Visual Culture of American Religions," p. 306.
College Art Association Web site, http://www.caare views.org/ (September 6, 2002), Ellen Wiley Todd, review of The Visual Culture of American Religions.
University of Maryland Web site, http://www.inform. umd.edu/ (September 6, 2002), "Sally M. Promey."*