Student Recognized for Examination of Modern Art in China

January 25, 2012

Cynthia Kirkland’s report, Modern Chinese Art in Dialogue with Social Unrest, explores the transformation of Chinese art — from government-censored, traditional art to modern works that address social injustices — and the struggles of Chinese artists along the way.

After months of extracurricular fine-tuning and encouragement from Professor of Asian Studies Daniel Métraux, Kirkland’s article was first published by the Virginia Review of Asian Studies. It was then submitted to the Southeast Chapter of the Association for Asian Studies (SE/AAS), an organization that includes all the major colleges and universities in the southeast, including University of Virginia, Duke University, and University of North Carolina.

The chapter declared Kirkland’s work a winner. Earlier this month, the student traveled to the SE/AAS annual conference at Furman University in South Carolina to accept top honors, which she shares with a student from Emory University.

Kirkland at Capstone

“Cynthia Kirkland is an extraordinarily perceptive young scholar who has developed a keen sense of the issues facing the restless generation of Chinese artists today,” Métraux said. “Her research and paper were very well received … she brings honor not only to herself, but to the Asian Studies program at Mary Baldwin.”

It is the second year in a row the SE/AAS has recognized the efforts of a Mary Baldwin student, underscoring yet again the strength of the college’s successful Asian studies program and its emphasis on undergraduate research. Most of the other works presented at the organization’s conference were from graduate students, doctoral candidates, and professors in the field.

“I was a little nervous,” Kirkland said. “I’m an undergraduate, and I wasn’t sure how my paper would be accepted.”

The honors scholar from Woodbridge is majoring in both studio art and Asian studies. She took first place in the visual/audio-visual creations category at Mary Baldwin’s 2011 Capstone Festival with her studio art project, Modern China: An Experiment in Performance Drawing. After spending fall semester abroad at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto, Kirkland is turning her focus to her senior project in Asian studies: a study of youth biker gangs in Japan and the rise of subcultures in that country during the past 30 years.

Another Mary Baldwin student — Katy Lea Todd ’11 — took a similar path. After studying at Doshisha, Todd received a Capstone award and earned SE/AAS recognition for her fascinating study of Japanese youth who struggle to adapt within a changing society.

Set to graduate in May, Kirkland has already started applying to jobs in which she can utilize both of her majors and Mary Baldwin experience.