My name is Michael Harper. You’ve probably have seen my name and picture in the bathrooms of Brody, making me feel like a celebrity. And as much as it is an honor to have my picture and name in the bathrooms, it is a true honor to be a Freshman Fellow and working with JHU’s Special Collections. When I first heard about this program, I thought to myself: Man, this is right up my ally. I have to do this. Fast forward a few months and I am amidst research and working with primary material. I don’t know about you, but I think it is pretty awesome. Art has always had a special place in my heart. I have always been making art ever since I was a child, and it is a big part of who I am. My favorite subject in high school was, well, art class. I am definitely a chronic doodler. And I will always be happy if I have a pencil and paper in front of me. But as much as I love to make art, I really love the study of its history. That is why I am an art history major. Learning about artists, art movements, history, and cultures is super fascinating. I honestly cannot get enough of it. I read somewhere once that art is a record of culture. For some reason, I find that thought provoking, perfectly ambiguous, and absolutely exciting. And moreover, what happens when you combine art, literature, fashion, popular culture, and the best thinkers and minds of the arts together?
Well, you get a publication that is a close reflection of contemporary society and speaks to the aesthetic preferences of different time periods. Vogue Magazine is probably the most famous fashion magazine today, but not many know its origin and its rise to fame and widespread circulation. Vogue began in 1892 as a small New York newspaper targeted towards the city’s wealthy elite, and throughout the years went through many changes and evolved into the magazine we know today. However, my research focuses on the early 20th century. This was a turbulent time for the world: the rise and dissolution of colonialism, two World Wars, and long periods of struggle for many people across the world. Nonetheless, this was also a time of radical change within society including new found rights for women, the rise of the middle class, and, in particular, radical innovations in the arts. The early 20th century saw many different art movements which truly manifested the new changes of contemporary culture. I am looking closely at the close relationship art movements had with Vogue Magazine and the artists and creatives who made the magazine what it is today. Using the amazing material within Special Collections, including art movement’s manifestos, publications, and early issues of Vogue Magazine, I plan on creating a visual and literary analysis of the magazine to demonstrate the close relationship the magazine had with significant artists, writers, and thinkers of the time. I am really excited by this project and I really hope that at the end of my research, my work has some art historical merit. As much as I love the study of Art History, I also want to have a contribution to this area of academia because it is where my heart and passion lies.