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Interview with Becca Cook

Updated: May 14, 2023

I recently had the opportunity to discuss with Becca Cook, someone who has majored in Art History at Roanoke College. I met her through the Bringing the Lessons Home internship at the United States Memorial Museum, and she's been teaching me about not only the Holocaust but about art history ever since!

I asked her a few questions about why she started as an art history major. She worked as a research assistant in her freshmen year for her Art History professor, Dr. Leslie Wardon who was an archeologist that studied Egypt. Becca met another professor and jokingly states that she was "peer pressured" into majoring in art history rather than minoring. From then, she started her path.

I asked her what her favorite part of her project with Dr. Wardon was. Becca interestingly mentioned that she participated in writing a book in her freshman and sophomore year- North Kharga Oasis Survey Volume One. In her junior and senior years, she was part of a paper. She states that "she was excited to see everything come together to contribute to something to help others learn" instead of the titles that came with it.

Of course, because she studied art history, I just had to ask her what her favorite artwork was. She said it was the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo (attached below), and that she wrote her senior college thesis on the artwork.

The Creation of Adam is displayed in the Sistine Chapel, where she visited to study. She was originally introduced to the meaning of The Creation of Adam by her old professor whom she had adored but had stopped working at Roanoke College. He spoke about the process and effort Michelangelo showed, and the brilliance of the piece. Becca happily spoke about how she "came a full circle" between her introduction of The Creation of Adam and eventually writing her senior thesis on it.

I asked Becca about what she herself thought about the piece. Becca knew that "he was a devote catholic, and a lot of his artworks had similar meanings to do with God". However, she interpreted it as a move on an artistic choice rather than a spiritual one. Her professor described it as a "pregnant moment", and she compared it to watching a movie and knowing what would happen before the climax before it happened. She then correlated that with the touching of fingers. The fingers touching meant giving life to man before man was fully completed. Adam wasn't "fully completed" yet because he didn't have the spirituality from God. We weren't seeing the creation happen, but the moment at which he was about to be created. It poses the question "Are we human? Are we whole until we understand something bigger than us?".

In the Sistine Chapel, Becca answered my question about if the paintings in the chapel around the Creation of Adam were correlated. She mentions that they were separated by sections in the bible (ex: The Last Judgement).

Lastly, I asked how Becca's studies had impacted her experience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She mentions that there are more artifacts than actual art, but she loves that they helped with critical thinking and connections with people in the world.

I was so grateful to have this interview with Becca, and I'm looking forward to seeing her again!

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