Students in Professor John Scolaro’s Renaissance and Baroque Humanities Class know that theirs is not a typical class.
But on Wednesday, when they presented projects they’d done — based on an invention or artwork that inspired them from the Renaissance and Baroque periods — they had present their projects in front of the West Campus cafeteria. At the same time, Professor Scolaro had another surprise for them. He came dressed as radical 15th century Italian priest Girolamo Savonarola, and ranted about nudity in artwork of the period, debating with students the merits of their work.
For student Daniela Malabad, 19, who recreated a famous nude, “Gabrielle d’Estrees and One of Her Sisters,” the discussion of nudity in artwork didn’t faze her. “I chose this painting because I’m very into French culture,” said Malabad.
“Look at the contrast between nudity and art!” exclaimed Scolaro/Savonarola, turning Malabad’s painting face down. As an example of “real art,” he pointed to Kristine Bracewell’s replica of Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting, “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.”
Bracewell shrugged off Savonarola’s criticism and praise. She chose the painting, she said, because “Professor Scolaro said to create something that would connect to the Renaissance and Baroque period and I love that painting.”
She recreated the Vermeer painting by burning the girl’s portrait into wood. “It took me about five hours,” said Bracewell, who’s 19.
Jason Mahobir, 19, took his project in another direction. Inspired by the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, he created a model of daVinci’s pyramid-shaped parachute. Researching the background, he discovered that daVinci designed the chute to be made out of linen. DaVinci’s parachute was never actually built or tested, but a modern-day daredevil tested it in recent years, Mahobir said, and discovered that it worked. And its ride, he noted, was smoother than current parachutes. However, because daVinci’s design had no harness — and relied on the user to hold onto straps — it’s not considered safe.
The collection of student work was attention-getting, but for passersby, student Michelle Oquendo’s project may have stolen the show. Oquendo originally planned to create a castle, but couldn’t afford the materials. So she created a costume instead — and came dressed as Queen Elizabeth I of England. “I saw a royal portrait of her at age 14,” said Oquendo, “and loved it. She was an amazing, phenomenal woman so I decided to become her for a day.”