Desire, Conflict & Exchange Featured Student: Maria Jose DeSantiago Galan

Written by Marketing Intern Astrid Cabello

Maria Jose DeSantiago Galan is one of the students from the Art History Capstone course from this past fall which was responsible for the curation of the current exhibit: Desire, Conflict & Exchange Art of 19th Century East Asia & the West. DeSantiago Galan is a senior from West Chester, Ohio. She is an Art Education major with minors in Photography and Art and Architecture History. She is also involved in the student chapter of The National Art Education Association where she serves as treasurer.

During the semester long capstone course, all students worked collaboratively to select an overall theme, sub-themes, and a wide variety of pieces to be featured. Later on, each student chose an individual piece to highlight and explore more in-depth, researching its history and background and then compiling that information in a catalogue entry. 

DeSantiago Galan chose the Felice Beato photograph titled, The Executioner that was taken in the 1860s and recreates the execution of Shimidzu Seiji, a Japanese man who murdered two British officers around that time. When DeSantiago Galan first saw the photograph she immediately knew something about it was off and wanted to explore its history. Upon further inspection it was clear that it was staged in a studio. The subject matter depicts the scene of an execution, where a man on his knees appears to be moments away from being decapitated, although in reality it is completely fabricated. DeSantiago Galan was interested in how an image like this carried cultural significance and why this kind of subject matter would be sought after by the Western European audience of Felice Beato.

Felice Beato, The Executioner, Hand-colored albumen silver print from wet collodion glass-plate negative, 1860s.

During the semester the capstone significantly expanded DeSantiago Galan’s understanding of Asian Art History and the relationship between what is considered the East and West. The capstone experience allowed for a behind the scenes experience of curating an exhibition from ideation to realization. Students were able to learn about the individual roles of the MUAM staff members and how they collaborate to create educational exhibitions and materials year round.

Aside from the collaborative process of creating a museum exhibit, DeSantiago Galan’s favorite part of the Capstone course was the class trip to Boston where students met with a variety of museum staff members at multiple art museums. The group had a great time as a class exploring the city’s art scene and learning from practicing art historians. DeSantiago Galan recommends the Art History Capstone to anyone interested in working in a museum, education majors, and art history/history majors. DeSantiago Galan believes, “Experiencing the creation of a museum exhibition contextualizes your research and the art objects that come together to create something educational and entertaining. I highly recommend and would take the course over again.”

The exhibition opened Tuesday, January 28 and will remain open through alumni weekend, closing on Saturday, June 13. Attend the following programs to celebrate the exhibition:

East Asian Symposium: Trade, War, Art: East Asian Exchange Past & Present

Mon, Mar 16 | 5–6:30 PM 

This symposium examines the current state of economic and cultural exchange with East Asia through the lens of our recent past. Scholars from Miami University and the student-curators of our Spring 2020 exhibition will present short papers on topics from the first foreign residencies at Yokohama, China’s current Belt & Road Initiatives and the Japanese influences on Rookwood.

Presenting are: Professors Haosheng Yang, Kazue Harada and Michael Hatch and

Capstone Students:  Maria Jose DeSantiago Galan, Faith Walker and Yiwen Bai.

Cosponsored by the East Asian Studies Minor and the Miami University Art Museum.

Gallery Talk & Reception: Desire, Conflict & Exchange

Mon, Mar 16 | 6:30–8 PM

Join the Art & Architecture History Capstone students (ART 498), as they share their curatorial experiences and research related to works on display in the exhibition, Desire, Conflict & Exchange.


Come learn more about Maria’s piece along with the rest of the exhibition, Desire, Conflict & Exchange, at the Miami University Art Museum!

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