Reconstructing the Two-Dimensional: Planimetric Designs in Colonial Peru

Summer 2009

Shauna Peterson : History of Art

Mentor: Todd Olson, History of Art

To the European mind, conditioned by the Renaissance ideals of linear perspective, the two-dimensional patterns of the indigenous people of colonial-era Peru proposed a very different conception of space. In an attempt to qualify a process that defies traditional Renaissance visual standards, art historians termed the indigenous artists’ conversion of three-dimensional forms into flat patterns planimetricism. Through an examination of a colonial Peruvian tapestry and its relationship with Inca textiles and contemporary colonial church façade decoration I will address both pre-Conquest and European influences and ultimately, suggest that these two-dimensional patterns, as forms of non-figural representation, transcend the merely decorative. A historical perspective can provide the means to thoroughly deconstruct the significance of planimetric pattern in Peru and subsequently, reconstruct the purely decorative as the narrative of a bygone era of cultural exchange.

Participation in the SURF program will allow me to pursue more in-depth research for my senior thesis in History of Art and gain experience conducting extensive research. I am very excited to pursue a research project of my own design in a relatively unexplored area of History of Art. The additional time and funding provided by this program will facilitate my trip to Boston to examine several of the Peruvian textiles that I have studied. Through this work, I hope to make a contribution to both my discipline and the greater UC Berkeley research community.