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Passion for Subject Led DAAP Senior to Research

A Q&A with senior Betty Hensellek, dual major in art history and fine arts, and UC's October Undergraduate Research Student of the Month.

Date: 10/27/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Dama Kimmon
Phone: (513) 558-4519

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati's Undergraduate Research Council has announced the October recipient of the Undergraduate Research Student of the Month award. Check out the Q&A with senior DAAP student Betty Hensellek.

Betty Hensellek
Betty Hensellek

Betty Hensellek
Senior, Art History and Fine Arts, minor in German Studies
Under the direction of faculty mentor Theresa Leininger-Miller, PhD

What undergraduate research project are you working on?
I am analyzing the construction of a national identity in German postwar art. Due to the war and war crimes, much creative work that previously encompassed the nation’s identity was shattered after the war because of its Nazi ties, and furthermore, much of the global community felt German creative geniuses should no longer have a voice. I am researching how specifically visual artists faced this dilemma and opted to rebuild a livable future and find reconciliation with the past. Also, my own search for a national heritage as a dual citizen of both the United States and Germany is inevitably affected by history and I am currently exploring how to visually portray architectural preservation and lack thereof through my mixed media artwork.

Why did you opt to do undergraduate research?
I feel it is the most substantial part of art history, despite people commonly overlooking research in the arts and humanities. To be able to physically see a piece of artwork, to see an artist's workspace, or to see the city, state and nation in which the artist worked is nothing that a book can portray. I knew that by receiving a grant and being able to physically enter the realm of the artwork, I would be able to better describe, understand and relate to the work and thus better disseminate my findings to my audience.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned?
Commit to what you have a passion for. I like art, but there is nothing I can better relate to and understand than postwar German art. It is a natural understanding and I am incessantly drawn to it—aesthetically, theoretically and historically. I would get terribly bored doing this with Renaissance or Chinese art. You do not have to be completely “well-rounded” in your broad field. It is better to know a lot about something than just a little about everything.

What advice would you give to other undergraduates thinking about getting involved in research?
Go beyond your common resources that are given to you as an undergraduate, especially class wise.  Many other art history students’ interests lie in a class that is taught at the university. We do not have a single class on postwar German art, and not even German art at that. Do an independent study and find a supportive faculty mentor if something else interests you, because, like in my case, it opened a realm that I no longer need discipline for. I did all my research and study out of pure self-motivation.  It is easy to do if you discover a specific field that you are so passionate for.

What’s next?
Hopefully, I will be accepted to a university to continue art history with a combined master’s and PhD program next fall. I am working on applications now! And you can certainly expect that I will continue with German twentieth-century art.

September 2010 Undergraduate Research Student of the Month
May 2010 Undergraduate Research Student of the Month
April 2010 Undergraduate Research Student of the Month
March 2010 Undergraduate Research Student of the Month