Andrew Lummus’ thesis delved into the essence, origins, and inspirations of 20th-century Scottish art and culture. The history major analyzed art of different mediums—painting, sculpture, architecture, and film most notably—contextualizing the artwork with Scotland’s nationalist movement. Lummus worked to answer questions about the connection between Scottish art and the self-portrayal of Scottish people. How did they see themselves, and how did that change over time?
His thesis brought together different visual sources to study culture in identity. Although a history major, at times he took a visual studies approach to his work. “My thesis uses a lot of film, which is frequently studied in cultural history, but I connect these with seemingly disparate examples in art and architecture,” Lummus said. “Future researchers can use my thesis as an example or springboard from which to study culture through multiple lenses.”
Lummus’ thesis topic derived from his personal interest in Scottish art. The title of his essay, “Sunshine on Leith: Art, Architecture, and Film in Scottish Nationalism and Culture, 1945-1999” took inspiration from a song by the Proclaimers, a Scottish band from the late 20th century. “Some of my focus on Scotland is taken from my love of ’80s and ’90s British music and culture, such as Scottish bands Primal Scream and Teenage Fanclub,” he said.
His project was also inspired by the work of William Turnbull, a Scottish sculptor and painter he learned of while studying abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland. In his research, he found that Turnbull’s art was heavily inspired by early Cycladic art and minimalism.
“His work covers a lot of midcentury genres, from monochrome abstract painting to Judd-like sculptural installations,” he said. “His major bronzes, though, are designed to evoke ancient monoliths and totems, and I connected them to the prehistoric rock art of Britain.”
Several members of the history department assisted Lummus with his project. Professor Linda Gerstein served as his first reader, providing valuable writing critiques and help with nationalist research. Professor Alexander Kitroeff advised him during his research seminar last fall. Professor Jim Krippner, Lummus says, had the most influence on him as a historian.
“Through my [four classes] and thesis work with him, he has taught me how to read history through images, how to perceive gaps in histories that exist, and how to understand culture and society from the smallest of samples,” said Lummus.
What did you learn from working on your thesis?
I mostly learned that I was capable of doing such a project. I was worried that my thesis would be a chore, or such a mammoth undertaking that I would really struggle to finish. But I was able to write on a topic that I genuinely love, something that I would have researched in my free time anyway, so it often did not really feel like work. This affirms my desire to work on projects I am passionate about. I do my best work when I am invested, and this work is useful and valuable.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently working an internship at the Penn Museum and moonlighting as a studio assistant for an artist in Philadelphia. I hope to continue studying culture much as I do in my thesis through writing essays, zines, and articles, and my own art practice. Hopefully, this will lead to a multi-faceted career in fine art, design, and cultural affairs.
You can find a collection of Lummus’ works here.
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.