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Amara Solari

Professor of Art History and Anthropology, Director of Graduate Studies in Art History
Headshot of Penn State Professor of Art History and Anthropology Amara Solari

My research focuses on processes of cultural, visual, and theological interchange between indigenous groups and Spanish settler-colonists of New Spain. Centered on the Maya people and processes of conversion to Catholicism, I have published multiple articles and two monographs. The most recent, entitled Idolizing Mary: Maya-Catholic Icons in Yucatán, Mexico, investigates discourses surrounding early modern conceptions of contagious disease and indigenous religion, using Maya-venerated cults of the Virgin Mary to understand the development of Yucatecan religiosity. I am working on a number of collaborative book-length projects, including a cohesive text on early modern mural painting in Yucatán, a project that is funded by a three-year collaborative grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I have also just begun my third monograph, Seeing Malinche: Visuality and the Production of Mexican Historical Memory, 1519–2019, which analyzes the intersection of early modern visual imagination and its influence on both academic historical discourse and the gendering of Mexican nationalism.

  • Education
    • BA from University of California, Berkeley
    • MA from University of California, Santa Barbara
    • PhD from University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Courses Taught

    Art History 100, Art History 140, Anthropology 129, Art History 460, Art History 462

  • Honors + Awards
    • 2019–2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant, “Maya Christian Murals of Yucatán: Indigenous Catholicism in Early Modern New Spain”
    • 2020 Visiting Research Professor, The Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University
    • 2018 Penn State Center for Humanities and Information Digital Humanities Grant
    • 2015 Penn State Department of Art History award from the George Dewey and Mary J. Krumine Endowment
    • 2014 Penn State Institute for Arts and Humanities Residential Fellowship for Fall 2015
    • 2014Library of Congress Long-Term Kislak Fellowship at the Kluge Center, Washington, DC (declined)
    • 2013 National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
  • Publications + Presentations
    • 2021 The Friar and the Maya: Diego de Landa and his Account of the Things of Yucatan. Coauthored with Matthew Restall, John F. Chuchiak IV, and Traci Ardren. Boulder: University Press of Colorado (in final preparation stage, scheduled to be submitted for peer review in May 2020).
    • 2020The Maya: A Very Short Introduction. Coauthored with Matthew Restall. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • 2019 Idolizing Mary: Maya-Catholic Icons in Yucatán, Mexico. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.
    • 2013 Maya Ideologies of the Sacred: The Transfiguration of Space in Colonial Yucatan. Austin: The University of Texas Press.
    • 2011-2012 and the End of the World: The Western Roots of the Maya Apocalypse. Coauthored with Matthew Restall. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
    • 2016“The ‘Contagious Stench’ of Idolatry: The Rhetoric of Epidemic Disease and Sacrilegious Acts in Colonial New Spain.” Hispanic America Historical Review 96:3, 481–515.
    • 2014“Plaza, Atrium, and Maya Social Memory in Sixteenth-Century Itzmal.” In Mesoamerican Plazas: Arenas of Community and Power. Edited by Kenichiro Tsukamoto and Takeshi Inomata. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 193–209.
    • 2010“Circles of Creation: The ‘invention’ of Maya cartography in early colonial Yucatan.”The Art Bulletin XCII:3, 154-168.
    • 2010“ Reinterpreting Sacrality Among the Classic Maya: Recent works on the deified nature of geography, rulership and death.” Ethnohistory 57:3, 467-470.
    • 2009“The Relación Geográfica Map of Tabasco: Hybrid cartography and integrative knowledge systems in sixteenth-century New Spain.” Terrae Incognitae 41, 62-89.
    • 2007 “Lords of All Created Things: Aztec political ideology in the collections of Motecuhzoma II.” In Orientes–Occidentes. El arte y la mirada del otro. Mexico: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma, 239-260.
    • Conference Papers and Organized Panels

    • 2019 “Blue. Green. Yax. Naming, Valence, and the Sacrality of Maya Blue,” co-written with Linda K. Williams, paper presented at the College Art Association annual meeting, New York, February
    • 2019 “Blue. Green. Yax. Naming, Valence, and the Sacrality of Maya Blue,” co-written with Linda K. Williams, paper presented at the College Art Association annual meeting, New York, February
    • 2018 “Sacred Stuff: Theorizing Indigenous Materiality in the Early Modern Americas,” Double session panel organized with Linda K. Williams for the American Society for Ethnohistory annual meeting, Oaxaca, Mexico, October
    • 2015 “Mapping Indigenous Landscapes in North and South America,” panel organized for the American Society for Ethnohistory annual meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada, October
    • v2015 “Broken Boundaries of Barbarity: The 1648 Yellow Fever epidemic and re-conceptions of colonial space in Yucatán, New Spain,” paper presented at the College Art Association annual meeting, New York, February
    • 2013 “Landa’s Relación and his multivocal reading of Maya sacred space,” paper presented at the American Society for Ethnohistory annual meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, September
    • 2013 “The Renegotiation of Maya Sacrality: The 1648 Yellow Fever Epidemic and the Virgin of Tabí,” paper presented at the Renaissance Society of America’s annual conference, San Diego, California, April
    • 2013“A Moveable Fiesta: Theorizing locative sacrality in seventeenth-century Yucatan,” paper presented at the Yucatan in Pennsylvania Symposium, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, March
    • 2013 “What is Yucatecan about Yucatecan Art History?” panel organized for the College Art Association annual conference, New York, February
    • 2013“Maya Maps as a Colonial Cosmology: The Emergence of Cartographic Discourse in Early Colonial Yucatán,” paper presented at the American Historical Association’s annual conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, January
    • 2012 “The Maya Apocalypse: 1562 or 2012?,” panel organized for the American Society for Ethnohistory annual conference, Springfield, Missouri, October
    • 2012 “Diego de Landa as friar/architect,” presented at the International Congress of the Americas, July, panel organizer and speaker, July
    • 2012 “The Virgin of Itzmal and the making of a peripatetic Marian icon,” presented at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., April
    • 2012 “The Virgin of Itzmal and the making of a peripatetic Marian icon,” presented at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., April
    • 2011 “2012 and the End of the World,” presented to the Yucatan in Pennsylvania Conference, The Pennsylvania State University, February; Invited Speaker
    • 2008“The Yucatec Relaciones Geográficas as Visual Interculture: Melchor Alfaro de Santa Cruz’s production of the ‘Mapa de Tabasco,’” presented at the Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies annual conference, Dallas, April
    • 2008 “From Chak Chan to Gaspar Antonio Xiu: Literary Forms and Secret Knowledge in Maya courtly communities” (with Gerardo Aldana), presented at the Society for American Archaeology annual conference, Vancouver, March
    • 2006“Mapping Myth: Colonial Cartography and the Yucatec Maya,” presented at the Graduate Student Symposium, University of California, Santa Barbara, May
    • 2006“Mapping Memory: Maya Cartography in Early Colonial Yucatan,” presented at UC MEXUS Symposium, University of California, Riverside, October
    • 2003 “Lords of All Created Things:” Aztec political ideology in the collections of Motecuhzoma II,” presented at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma annual conference, Orientes – Occidentes. El arte y la mirada del otro, Vera Cruz (Mexico), November
    • Invited Lectures

    • 2020“Maya Blue and the Counter Reformation in 16th-century Yucatán,” lecture given at the Mesoamerican Research Institute, Tulane University, February
    • 2020“Cornering Christ: Centering Christianity in post-Contact Yucatán,” paper given at the annual Mesoamerica Meetings, The University of Texas at Austin, January
    • 2019“Transforming the Trinity: The Colorization of Post-Tridentine Theology in Early Modern Yucatán,” keynote given at Arpeggio, the annual symposium at Duke University’s Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, November.
    • 2019“Coloring Catholicism: Maya Artists, Pigments, and Localized Theology in Early Modern Yucatán,” paper given at the 1519, the Arrival of Strangers: Indigenous Art and Voices following the Spanish Conquest of Mesoamerica conference, The Getty Center, October
    • 2019“Ceremony and Purpose: The Pottery of Ancient Peru,” The Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State, August
    • 2019 “Coloration and the Creation of Maya Catholicism in Early Modern Yucatán,” paper presented at the 16th Annual Paul and Erika Bourguignon Lecture in Art and Anthropology, Ohio State University, March
    • 2018 “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue ‘C’: Refiguring “Azul Maya” and Indigenous Catholicism in Counter Reformation Yucatán,” co-written with Linda K. Williams, presented at the “Boulders, Bugs, and Beakers: The Materiality of Artists’ Colors” Symposium, State College, Pennsylvania, October
    • 2017 “Where the Streets Have ne Name: Racialized Urbanism in Mérida, Yucatán,” presented at the Inaugural Penn State Latin American Studies Symposium and TePaske Seminar, Ealy Urban Transatlanticism, State College, Pennsylvania, April
    • 2017 “Andean Ceramics in the Palmer Museum of Art,” gallery talk at Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art, State College, Pennsylvania, April
    • 2017 “Nineteenth-Century Bird’s Eye Views of Pennsylvanian Coal Towns,” gallery talk given at Penn State’s Earth and Mineral Science Museum with Jonathan Mathews, State College, Pennsylvania, April
    • 2016 “Cacao and the Maya: The Real Story,” paper to be presented at the Frontiers in Science and Technology for Cacao Quality, Productivity, and Sustainability, State College, Pennsylvania, June
    • 2015“Visual Rhetorics of Idolatry in Sixteenth-Century New Spain,” paper presented at Penn State’s Institute for Arts and Humanities, October
    • 2014“The Victorious Virgin: Diseased Divinity in 17th-Century Yucatán,” presented at Yale University, New Haven, CT, October
    • 2014“Our Moveable Mary of Mercy: Disease and Divinity in Seventeenth-Century Yucatán,” presented at the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, Providence, RI, May
    • 2013“Myths and Misconceptions of the Ancient Maya,” presented at the University Club, State College PA, April
    • 2012 “Maya Apocalypse: 2012 or 1562?” presented at The University of California, Santa Barbara, November
    • 2011 “The Maya Apocalypse” presented to the anthropology, history and art history departments of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, PA, November
    • 2011 “Spicy Enough?: The History of Maya Chocolate, 1500-1800,” presented to Conference for Chocolate History and Health, The Pennsylvania State University, April
    • 2010 “Maya Mapping as a Form of Colonial Cosmology,” presented to the Department of Art History, The Pennsylvania State University, March
    • 2009“The Interculturalization of Mexican Biombos,” presented to the Department of History and Religious Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, November
    • 2008“Circles of Creation: the invention of cartography in sixteenth-century Yucatan,” presented to the Department of Art, Oregon State University, April
    • 2007“The Mani Land Treaty Map: Recreating the cosmos by mapping spatial experience,” presented to the Department of Art History, Binghamton, February
  • Service + Affiliations

    College Art Association, Association of Latin American Art, American Society for Ethnohistory, Renaissance Society of America

  • Expertise
    • Latin American Art and Architectural History