Visual Arts Inspirations

Among the visual arts faculty are working artists and art historians who infuse their teaching with the passion, hurdles and joys of their own work. We asked these professors to answer one question, “What inspires you?” Their answers were as varied as their fields of study. And a few  might even  surprise you!

Robert ParkeHarrison, professor and acting chair of the visual arts department

“I am most inspired by…. questions of existence, the human condition, technology and the current environment crisis and how this impacts our lives and the future of civilization. I am also profoundly inspired by collaboration. For over 15 years I have worked in collaboration with my wife and artist, Shana ParkeHarrison. Together we  combine our artistic visions and utilize sculpture, painting, collage and performance to create hybrid photographic images. The images we create raise questions for contemplation regarding human existence in connection with nature and technology. These ideas are expressed through narrative, staged photographic images known today in the art world as fabricated photographs.” — Robert ParkeHarrison

Images of work by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison (from left): “Counterpoint,” “Stolen Summer,” from Gray Dawn, “Interior with Three Actions” and “Harbinger.” Learn more about ParkeHarrison’s work at



Virginia Raguin, professor

"I am most inspired by the vital role of vision in shaping culture, both in remembering a past and in constructing a future. The measure of our humanity is our capacity to reflect on and cherish the trace our paths throughout history.” — Professor Virginia Raguin

A sampling of Raguin’s recent work:
Art, Piety, and Destruction in the Christian West, 1500–1700, editor (introduction) and contributor
Published by Ashgate, 2010

“Kiki Smith: Lodestar” (catalogue essay and photographs)
Pace Gallery, New York
April 30–June 19, 2010

“Pilgrimage and Faith: Christianity, Buddhism, Islam”
Curator and catalogue co-author (Serindia Publications, Chicago)
2010-2011 exhibition at the Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross; Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago; Richmond University Museums of Art; Rubin Museum of Art, New York.


Susan Schmidt, associate professor

“I am most inspired by my recent work is inspired by ideas in fairytales, including violence towards women, fierce loyalty between sisters and girls who are clever and wise.  I am exploring how these stories connect with contemporary adolescence.” —Susan Schmidt

Recent  group exhibitions that have included Schmidt’s work:
 “The Artful Scriptorium” climate/gallery, New York City, 2010
“Beyond the Book” Honan-Allston Branch, Boston Public Library, 2010
“Black & White” Brickbottom Gallery, Somerville, Mass., 2010
“Think” The Boston Printmakers Members Show, Zullo Gallery, Medfield, Mass., 2010

Images of work by Susan Schmidt (from left): “Silhouette 1,” “Silhouette 3” and “Girl With No Hands 3.”



Joanna E. Ziegler, professor

“I am most inspired by the other faculty in my department! And by the atmosphere of comraderie that I have often felt during my nearly 30 years at the College.” —Jody Ziegler

Ziegler recently wrote an essay entitled “The dreamy scent of thyme,” to introduce the images of New England artist Andrew Nixon in Andrew Nixon, Paintings, Drawings, and Prints (below). She is currently working on projects with the mostly abstract color photography of Cambridge artist Howard Dinin and the watercolors of New York City artist Georgia Marsh.


Amanda Luyster, lecturer

“I am most inspired by the allure—and simultaneous impossibility—of accurately imagining the past. Why did medieval monks pave their chapter house with tiles showing an adulterous romance, or Muslim princes paint their ceilings with images of chivalric Christian knights?”—Amanda Luyster

A sampling of Luyster’s recent work:
 “The Pilgrim, the Image, and the Word in Islam” 
Part of the Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam exhibition catalogue
Serindia Press, 2010

“Text-Image Relationship”
In the Encyclopaedia of the Medieval Chronicle
Brill, 2010

Negotiating Secular and Sacred in Medieval Art: Christian, Islamic, and Buddhist (includes introductory essay entitled  “Mapping the Heavens, Treading the Earth”)
Co-editor with Alicia Walker
Ashgate, 2009 

“St. Martial” and “The Great Mosque of Damascus”
In  the Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage
Brill, 2009




Rev. John Reboli, S.J.
“As an art historian at Holy Cross, I am most inspired by the many students who develop so remarkably both personally and intellectually during their years here. For me, it is the clearest proof of what a special place this, and has been an inspiration.” —Rev. John Reboli, S.J.


Mika Natif, Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow

“I am most inspired by having a physical experience of something that I’ve studied. The full body experience, the attack on all your senses—it’s a wholly [missing word here? or do you think “wholly” should be “holy”?] event and you never teach about that object the same way again.”—Mika Natif

A sampling of Natif’s recent work:
“Rashid al-Din’s Alter Ego: The Seven Paintings of Moses in the Jami al-Tawarikh”
In Rashid al-Din. Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran, edited by A. Akasoy, C. Burnett and R. Yoeli-Tlalim
Warburg Institute, 2010

“Objects of the Hajj”
In Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam exhibition catalogue
Serindia Press, 2010

Natif also has two books in progress: Images of Desire: On the Sensual and the Erotic in Islamic Art with Francesca Leoni and Mughal Occidentalism: Artistic Encounters Between Europe and Asia at the Courts of India.