Art History Major Presents at Prestigious UK Conference
Art history major Lily Paternoster ’23 presented her most recent research paper at the prestigious WorldCUR (Congress of Undergraduate Research) conference, April 3-6, at the University of Warwick in England.
The research paper theorizes the impact of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s merchandise on his legacy.
How prestigious was the conference? So hot, in fact, that the newly established La Valle Fund bought her ticket to travel there, where the acceptance rate for undergraduate research is less than 1 in 10.
Initially overwhelmed by the opportunity, Paternoster reflected on the experience with pride and gratitude.
“Presenting my research on Jean-Michel Basquiat at WorldCUR was incredible,” she said. “When I was informed that I would be presenting at the Data panel amongst STEM students, I thought it was a mistake. When I was assured it was not, I started panicking, intimidated by my status as the only female and American on my panel. However, when I was done presenting, the interest from the audience for my research was obvious. The intellectual exchange and support I have received both from fellow students and scholars has only furthered my desire to pursue a professional career in private art institutions. I am forever grateful to Stetson University for this opportunity and awesome education.”
Kimberly D. S. Reiter, PhD, associate professor of History at Stetson, who serves on the CUR board, cited that while Paternoster isn’t the first Stetson student to achieve this honor, it is a significant achievement.
“Those of us who review for World Congress try to balance international participation. Because of the large number of projects submitted from American universities, our national acceptance rate is very low, about 9% of a pool of submissions from students at the top of their academic fields,” Reiner explained. “We are proud that Stetson research is so highly esteemed on an international stage. This is quite an accomplishment, and I am overjoyed as a CUR counselor that Lily has this wonderful opportunity.”
Paternoster grew up in Jacksonville and became interested in art by virtue of her mother’s deep love of Impressionism, as well as her lifelong commitment of taking her two children on many museum visits. Lily was particularly taken the first time she saw Basquiat’s work.
“I was introduced to Basquiat in middle school and was captivated by the unapologetic harshness in his work. At that age, everything is uncertain except for misery and the grotesque nature of Skull, 1981 appealed to me,” Paternoster said. “I went on to gorge myself on media related to Basquiat until it resulted in my research paper for freshman seminar, analyzing the collaboration and relationship between Basquiat and Warhol. I became interested in the impact of commodification on the legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat after noticing a vast increase in brand collaborations with his estate in the last decade.”
Art merchandising is becoming a fast-growing segment in the art industry. Yet, art history as a discipline tends to dismiss it as a mere marketing gimmick, she added. Her research aims to challenge this attitude of critical suspicion by evaluating the commercial practice of art merchandizing and its impact on symbolic value of art being reproduced.
Not One But Two
And there’s more.
As an undergraduate student, Paternoster curated not one but two exhibitions.
In April 2022, she was the recipient of SURE Grant (Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience Grant), the most prestigious academic award at the university.
“Lily and her accomplishments are simply amazing,” commented Katya Kudryavtseva, PhD, an associate professor of art history and Paternoster’s academic advisor at Stetson. “Her SURE Grant project on Basquiat’s brand collaborations, which served as a basis for her Senior Research, is truly cutting edge.”
“In the course of my research,” Paternoster concluded, “I have established that most of Basquiat’s brand collaborations purposefully sanitized the politically charged messaging behind his works, reducing his daring artistic project to a logo. The ultimate goal of my research is to create a motivation to follow the artist’s clearly outlined wishes in being displayed in museums — not keychains, T-shirts or handbags.”
And, as part of her Stetson Student Experience, Paternoster shared her vision with the world.