The Mary L. Cornille (GRS’87) 39th Annual Boston University Graduate Symposium in the History of Art &
Architecture invites submissions considering or responding to the role of adornment in constructing and
communicating meaning in visual and material culture.
Stained glass windows. Painted tiles. Gilded embroidery. Sparkling jewels. Elaborate hairstyles. Be it person,
place, or thing, history has left few surfaces unadorned. In art, adornment is a tool for communication.
Alongside beauty and frivolity lie revelations about identity, taste, wealth, and reverence. Bound up with
ideologies of class, gender, and self-fashioning, adornment of the human body in particular is a powerful
signifier across time and space. When scholars of visual and material culture underscore adornment, they
demonstrate how it is central to art making and not merely incidental or additive. Studies in adornment have
emphasized the affective function of adorned surfaces created with the ability to enchant, inspire, and amaze the
viewer. Adornment is embellishment, ornamentation, and enhancement, and it is essential to understanding the
Possible subjects include, but are not limited to, the following: jewelry, money, ornament, decoration,
frivolity, shopping, wealth, cosmetics, excess, the body, tattoos, design, color, gilding, precious metals,
fashion, identity, accumulation, ritual spaces, self-fashioning, taste, collecting, exhibit design, accessories,
costume, patterns of consumption, class distinctions, fantasy, illumination, material culture, display, artifice,
relics and reliquaries, gems, the transience of beauty, furs and animal products, headdresses and hairstyles,
stained glass, embroidery, fiber arts, costume books, and luxury.
We welcome submissions from graduate students at all stages of study, from any area of study.
Papers must be original and previously unpublished. Please send an abstract (300 words or fewer), a paper
title, and a CV to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is January 13, 2023.
Selected speakers will be notified by early February. Papers should be 15 minutes in length and will be
followed by a question and answer session. The symposium will be held at the Museum of Fine Arts on
Friday, April 21, and Saturday, April 22, 2023, with a keynote lecture by Dr. Jill Burke from the University of