Art history professor awarded Millard Meiss publication grant

Deborah Hutton, assistant professor of art history, was awarded the Millard Meiss Publication Grant by the College Art Association (CAA) for the publication of her book manuscript, “The Art of the Court of Bijapur.”

The book, a revised version of Hutton’s Ph.D. dissertation, examines the architecture and paintings of the kingdom of Bijapur, a Muslim-ruled empire in India during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is set to be published by Indiana University Press in Fall 2006.

The grant honors accomplishments of art historians. It is a great achievement for Hutton, as art history books are difficult to publish due to the high costs of image printing and of receiving permission from museums to use photographs of artwork.

CAA awards the Millard Meiss Publication Grant to “support book-length scholarly manuscripts in the history of art and related subjects that have been accepted by a publisher on their merits, but cannot be published in the most desirable form without a subsidy.”

The book received an award from the American Institute for Indian Studies (AIIS) last year, and Hutton already had a publisher. However, the Millard Meiss Publication Grant will help with the financial strains of the publication process.

Hutton’s accomplishment has met with the approval and enthusiasm of students and faculty. James Lentini, dean of the school of art, media, and music, said, “One thing I believe that is really exciting is that it fits in so perfectly with the College’s mission of having a community of teacher scholars. Our faculty here are not only people who teach young minds, but they are also engaged in their (own) artistic or scholarly studies.” Lentini was excited that Hutton achieved this kind of success so early in her career and anticipates further accomplishments. He added, “This kind of publication brings great recognition to (the College).”

Mandy Floyd, sophomore graphic design major, said, “It is really cool to be taught by a professor that has received such high recognition. It shows how enthusiastic she is about what she teaches.”

The book, which contains photos of artwork that has either never been published or has not been not published since 1920, focuses on the artwork from the kingdom of Bijapur, a diverse empire comprised of people from both Islamic and Hindu religions. Though the kingdom was Muslim-ruled, the artwork reflects aspects of both Islamic and Hindu culture.

Hutton said, “It was an Islamic kingdom so the rulers were Muslim, but the population was largely diverse. I looked at how the development of the art reflected this diversity and how they shaped the art to draw on different traditions that make up the diversity of the kingdom.” She calls this trend “intercultural exchange.”

The publication of the bookwill coincide with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s first exhibition on Islamic art in India. Hutton will be actively involved in the affair, as she will be writing an essay for the exhibition.

AIIS also awarded Hutton a grant to travel to India this summer as part of a new project. Hutton will be focusing on the photography of late 19th century India. Hutton expects to examine “how they used photography to create identity for the court that reflected all these different aspects.”

Hutton highlights two main goals for her focus of study. First, she feels the presence of Islamic art in India is “highly understudied” and that there are countless pieces of art and architecture, which she intends to expose and detail in her work, that reveal a great deal about the development of Indian culture and its diverse background.

Hutton’s second goal revolves around the common assumption that Islamic culture is adverse to any type of cultural integration. She hopes that her work can help to redefine this aspect of Islam.

“For me, my goal is to get people to reconsider what they think Islamic culture is, or broaden what they think it is and how it interacts with other cultures. I’m reacting against the popular idea that Islam does not clash well with other cultures,” she said.

Hutton hopes that she can use her studies to raise awareness and expand the College’s spectrum of South Asian studies. She will team up with Anita Anantharam, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies, to meet this goal.

“We are trying to build up interest in South Asia. It is an interesting part of the world because it is so diverse and because of its growing importance in the world today,” Hutton said.