Julia Guernsey


Art History

Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Art

Julia Guernsey received her PhD from The University of Texas at Austin in 1997, and has taught ancient Mesoamerican art and culture history in the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin since 2001. Her research and publications continue to focus on the Middle and Late Preclassic periods in ancient Mesoamerica, in particular on sculptural expressions of rulership during this time. She also continues to participate on the La Blanca Archaeological Project, which is exploring this large site that dominated the Pacific coastal and piedmont region of Guatemala during the Middle Preclassic period.

Her most recent book, Sculpture and Social Dynamics in Preclassic Mesoamerica, was published by Cambridge University Press in the spring of 2012. The book deals with the well-known, yet enigmatic, “potbelly” sculptures that were erected at dozens of sites during the Preclassic period in many regions of Mesoamerica. She argues that their strange attributes — obese stomachs, closed eyes, and jowly features — link them to themes of ancestry, which factored significantly into the dynamic social formations that accompanied the advent of state formation in Mesoamerica. Research support for this book was provided to Guernsey as an American Fellow of the American Association of University Women in 2010-11 and a research travel grant from the Mellon Foundation in 2007.

Guernsey also recently co-edited, with colleagues John E. Clark (Brigham Young University) and Bárbara Arroyo (Francisco Marroquín University), The Place of Stone Monuments: Context, Use, and Meaning in Mesoamerica’s Preclassic Transition. The volume grew out of a 2007 Dumbarton Oaks symposium held in Antigua, Guatemala, in 2010, and was published in 2010 by Dumbarton Oaks and Harvard University Press. The book offers a consideration, from a variety of perspectives and regions, of the relationships between sculptural production, the rise of civilization, and the political transformations that characterized the Preclassic period. Her first book, Ritual and Power in Stone: The Performance of Rulership in Mesoamerican Izapan Style Art, was published by the University of Texas Press in 2006, and focused on a series of carved stelae at Izapa that feature rulers garbed in avian costumes that link them to ancient mythic narratives.

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