Ishtar Gate Lion, Babylon, Iraq

Reconstructed panel of bricks with a striding lion Neo-Babylonian Period; Processional Way, El-Kasr Mound, Babylon, Iraq; CC0 1.0 Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

CANCELLED: Exhibition Gallery Talk

Drawing from the Past

Tracy Molis

Columbia University

Please Note: This event has been CANCELLED. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Archaeological illustration played a significant role in recording the discovery of the Ishtar Gate— excavated in Babylon between 1899 and 1917—during an era when photography was coming into its own. Although the technologies of archaeological documentation have evolved tremendously over the past century, illustration continues to play a part in contemporary practice.

Constructing Reconstructions: The Archaeological Illustrator’s Role in Figuring Babylon      

The observational drawing techniques of archaeological illustration occupy a site between art and science that continually evolves according to the paradigms and contingencies of the times in which they are made. This gallery conversation will introduce varying functions and aesthetic considerations of archaeological illustration, while moving through the early 20th-century reconstructions of the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way on exhibit in A Wonder to Behold. We will discuss the technical process that goes into making such illustrations, and compare them with methods we use now more than 100 years later. The discussion will then broaden to conceptual issues such as the material choices of the illustrator, the question of photography and current digital technologies, and the interplay between objectivity vs. subjectivity, and convention vs. inventiveness in illustrating the past. 

Tracy Molis is an artist, archaeological illustrator, and adjunct professor of Visual Arts and Archaeology based in Brooklyn, NY. Her art and illustrations have been exhibited at fine art galleries including Kai Matsumiya, New York, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, And Nagel Draxler Kabinett, Berlin. Molis has worked with the New York City Archaeological Repository to illustrate the artifacts in their archive, and she co-teaches the interdisciplinary course Science and Art in Archaeological Illustration with Archaeologist Zoe Crossland at Columbia University.

This gallery talk is given in conjunction with ISAW's exhibition  A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon's Ishtar Gate. This exhibition along with its associated catalogue and programming are made possible by generous support from the Selz Foundation, The Achelis and Bodman Foundation, and the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional funding provided by the Dennis and Diane Bennett Charitable Trust, Elizabeth Bartman, and Karen S. Rubinson.

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