Texas Tech University :: School Of Art

Dr. Carolyn Tate Chosen For Spring ’07 Clark Fellowship
Written by Douglas Chapman

As one of a few scholars worldwide, Dr. Carolyn Tate, from the Texas Tech School of Art, has been chosen for a Clark Fellowship for the Spring ’07 semester. Only fifteen to twenty Clark fellowships are awarded each year to qualified national and international scholars, critics, and museum professionals. The fellowships range in duration from less than one month to ten months. The Clark Fellowship is offered by the prestigious Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute located in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The Clark Fellowship benefits national and international scholars, critics, and museum professionals by providing them with a forum to propose projects that extend and enhance the understanding of the visual arts and their role in culture. The Clark Institute also functions as an international center in both the academic and museum fields for research and discussion on the nature of art and its history.

Fellows are furnished with offices in the library, which contains a collection of 200,000 books and 900 periodicals. A committed library staff meets the challenges of a rotating schedule of Fellows. The Institute’s collections, its library, visual resources collection, and the Fellows program are housed together with the William’s College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

“I am very honored and excited to be chosen as a Fellow of the Clark Institute,” Tate said. ”This fellowship should provide me with the additional resources, support, and research opportunities that will benefit the research project and book I have been working on for several years now,” she said. Dr. Tate has been researching Mesoamerican Olmec art and knowledge for the past fifteen years. She has been working on a book on this subject for the past ten. Dr. Tate explained that her research involves Mexico’s Formative Period (1400 to 400 BC), often called Olmec. The study involves ancient Mexican beliefs, science, biology, human interaction, and religion in relation to their art forms.

Tate further explained that many male authors of contemporary textbooks have cast the people of the Olmec Period as being misguided by superstition, fear, and lacking empirical knowledge of biology, the human body and natural phenomena. Tate pointed out that she differs in opinion with many authors because she believes there is much evidence to the contrary. “My research has shown evidence that Olmec Period peoples created a host of sophisticated intellectual, scientific and spiritual technologies which can be found in their artwork, relics and structures,” she said.

Another area of Dr. Tate’s research involves evidence that Olmec Period peoples were fascinated by the processes of human reproduction, the human embryo and the stages of pregnancy. “Figurines dating back as early as 1400 BC depict a female with a hollow abdominal cavity containing a tiny sculpture of a fetus,” she said. “Hollow, life-sized sculptures of babies dating between 1200 and 800 BC have been found at many locations across Mesoamerica. By 900 BC, three-dimensional and relief sculptures of embryos were common and fetus effigies were also produced,” Tate added. Dr. Tate said she was unsure exactly what the title of her book will be, but as of right now it will be titled, “Olmec Art and Knowledge: Gestation, Creation, and Regeneration in Formative Period Mesoamerica.” She will be leaving for the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute at the end of January ’07 and will be there until June. We wish her the best of luck in her research and in her book.