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Mark Roskill Graduate Symposium

The Mark Roskill Symposium in Art History is an interdisciplinary symposium organized annually by the graduate students in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, named in honor of Mark Roskill (1933-2000). Roskill was an art historian and scholar of art historiography and criticism who taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for over 30 years. Educated at Harvard and Princeton Universities, he began as a specialist in the Italian Renaissance, but continued throughout his career to write widely on then-emerging fields, including photography, English painting, and Cubism. Among his numerous publications is an influential methodological text, What is Art History? (1976).

2022 Mark Roskill Symposium

The Witching Hour: Occultism & Magic in Visual Culture

Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Amherst Woman's Club and via Zoom

Every year, the second-year cohort of graduate students in the History of Art and Architecture at UMass plans the Mark Roskill Symposium. This year, they presented The Witching Hour: Occultism & Magic in Visual Culture. Inspired by recent rising interests in the occult in popular culture, they began to wonder why we turn to these powerful symbols and practices, visual markers that have been present across histories and geographies. Interdisciplinary at its core, this symposium aimed to recognize the relevance of spiritual practices that have shaped history and culture, a conversation that was enriched through the lens of contemporary feminism. The symposium featured public scholar Pam Grossman– writer, curator, and teacher of magical history. She gave a talk titled Witch Pictures: Feminine Magic and Transgression in Western Art, which overviewed how visual representations of witches and magic intersect with changing historical attitudes towards minoritized groups. Grossman was joined by three scholars from within the Five College network: Classics Professor Debbie Felton from UMass, Amherst; Art Professor Alexis Callender from Smith College; and Art History Professor Natasha Staller from Amherst College. Each one of the panelists presented material related to witches and the occult.

The event took place at the historic Amherst Woman’s Club, whose Victorian architecture created the perfect intimate and intriguing atmosphere for this year’s conversation. The Woman’s Club supported the mission of accessibility to the Five College campuses and the surrounding community, resulting in 70 attendees at the seminar, one of whom was Damian Roskill the son of Mark Roskill. The talks were also live-streamed via Zoom and watched by roughly 55 people. This event would not have been made possible without the generous support of the following departments and organizations:

  • History of Art and Architecture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Graduate School, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • The Five College Lecture Fund
  • Art and the History of Art, Amherst College
  • Department of Art, Smith College
  • Department of Art History and Architectural Studies, Mount Holyoke
  • College of Humanities & Fine Arts, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • University Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Department of Classics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Sexuality, Women’s & Gender Studies, Amherst College
  • Emily Dickinson Museum


Previous Themes & Keynote Speakers


I've Seen Trouble: Art Out of Dark Times

Keynote Speaker: Charmaine A. Nelson, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design


Reduction, Regeneration, Restoration: Art as Agent in the Age of Climate Crisis

Keynote Speaker: Jonathan Fogelson, architect and designer


The Allure of the Global: Contemporary Curating as a De-Centering Practic

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Orianna Cacchione, Curator of Global Contemporary Art at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum


Artificial Selections: Art, Natural History and the Taxonomy of the Museum

Keynote Speaker: Elisa Kim, Assistant Professor of Architecture and History, Smith College


Strength, Unity, Power: Contemporary Practices in Native Arts

Keynote Speaker: Wendy Red Star, Contemporary Artist


Actively Historic: The House Museum in the 21st Century

Keynote Speaker: Frank Vagnone, co-author of Anarchist's Guide to House Museums 


Plugged In: Art in the Digital Age

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Anne Umland, Museum of Modern Art, New York


In the City: Identity and Urban Spaces

Keynote Speaker: Carmenita Higginbotham, University of Virginia