Kommareddi Lecture Series

Adorning the Self: Symbolism and Personal Identity

May 16 | 6p | FIA Theater | FREE Admission

Dr. Usha Balakrishnan, Guest Lecturer


In a museum setting, divorced from their ethnographic context and isolated from their cultural milieu, jewels are exhibited as just beautiful objects. However, they can form a unique visual legacy and metaphoric expression of dynamic societies, past histories, and design sensibilities. This lecture will delve into the rich tapestry of Indian history and culture through the lens of personal adornment. It will trace the intricate relationship between jewelry, attire, and the expression of personal identity, social hierarchy, and spiritual belief systems that have, since time immemorial, flourished on the Indian subcontinent.

Dr. Usha R. Balakrishnan is a cultural capital consultant and a highly regarded scholar of Indian art and culture. As a preeminent historian of Indian jewelry, she has been the former Indian representative for Sotheby’s, served on the expert committee of the Kerala Museum, and has worked for the Brooklyn Museum, New York, where she pioneered and steered the museum’s Mughal Jewellery project. She is presently Chief Curator of the World Diamond Museum.

A prolific author, some of Dr. Balakrishnan’s vast range of titles are Dance of the Peacock, a definitive volume on the five-thousand-year history of Indian jewelry; Jewels of the Nizams, the first publication on this renowned royal collection; Treasures of the Deccan, that brings together the fabulous Nizams’ jewels, artifacts and rare archival photographs; Enduring Splendor: Jewelry of India’s Thar Desert; Alamkāra: The Beauty of Ornament; India: Jewels that Enchanted the World; Splendours of the Orient: Gold Jewels from Old Goa; and Icons in Gold: Jewelry of India from the Collection of the Musée Barbier-Mueller. Her recent publications include Carnatic & Deccan: Bejewelled Past, and Munnu: Vision & Passion. She has curated, edited, and contributed to Diamonds Across Time, published by the World Diamond Museum. A forthcoming title includes Silver & Gold: Visions of Arcadia, The Amrapali Collection of Indian Jewellery.

She has curated jewelry conferences, and her work with museums has led her to curate key projects at Indian and international museums, as well as contribute essays to several museum exhibition catalogues.

This lecture is presented in conjunction with Meditations in Gold: South Asian Jewelry. May 16, 2024 - February 2, 2025

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Paradise in the Parlor: At Home with the Fowler Family

June 20 | 6p | FIA Theater | FREE Admission

Dr. Janine Yorimoto Boldt, Guest Lecturer


The group portrait of Delia, Milo, and Gertrude Fowler, the three youngest children of John Nash Fowler, has long been a popular painting at the Flint Institute of Arts. According to family tradition, the painting was created around 1854 in Clayton, New York, before the family relocated to Detroit, Michigan. The three children sit in a garden setting with an imaginary Edenic landscape behind them. Some of the portrait’s iconography suggests that it is a post-mortem portrait of the youngest child pictured, with the landscape referencing heaven. However, there is no archival record of a death in the family around the time the portrait was painted. This presentation will discuss the history of the portrait and the Fowler family and consider the painting in the context of their evangelical, Methodist faith. The portrait expressed moralizing lessons and values and can be understood in relation to domestic religious practices in mid-nineteenth-century America.



Janine Yorimoto Boldt is the Collection Reinstallation Project Associate at the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where she is involved in planning the comprehensive reinstallation of the permanent collection galleries. Previously, she was the Associate Curator of American Art at the Chazen and a Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society. She holds a PhD in American Studies from William & Mary and specializes in early American visual culture. Recent curatorial projects include re:mancipation, Resource & Ruin: Wisconsin’s Enduring Landscape, and Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist. Her scholarship on colonial art and portraiture has been published by Winterthur Portfolio, American Art, Panorama, and the DAR Museum. She is the researcher behind Colonial Virginia Portraits, a digital project produced in collaboration with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture.

Images: American The Fowler Children, 1854. Oil on canvas 49 x 61 ¼ inches. Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Ernest C. Schnuck, FIA 1976.1



Dr. Noah Charney, Guest Lecturer

Dr. Noah Charney, the internationally acclaimed bestselling author and art historian specializing in art crime, will present two independent lectures on the same day. Following each lecture is a Q&A and book signing in the Lobby. Pre-register to enjoy a boxed lunch for $13 with complementary tea and coffee prepared by the Palette Café from 12:00p to 1:30p in Isabel Hall.


The Thefts of the Mona Lisa

July 18 | 2p | FIA Theater | FREE Admission

Dr. Noah Charney, Guest Lecturer

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait, the Mona Lisa, is without doubt the world’s most famous painting. It achieved its fame not only because it is a remarkable example of Renaissance portraiture, created by an acclaimed artistic and scientific genius, but because of its criminal history. The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 by an Italian man that was under the mistaken belief that the Mona Lisa had been stolen during the Napoleonic era, and he wished to take back for Italy one of his country’s greatest treasures. His successful theft of the painting from the Louvre, the farcical manhunt that followed, and the subsequent trial in Florence were highly publicized, sparking international media attention, and catapulting an already admired painting into stratospheric heights of fame. Charney’s lecture reveals the art and criminal history of the Mona Lisa.


Brushed Aside: The Untold Story of Women in Art

July 18 | 6p | FIA Theater | FREE Admission

Dr. Noah Charney, Guest Lecturer

How many female artists can you name? Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marina Abramovic? What about female curators, critics, patrons, collectors, muses, models, and art influencers? Dr. Charney will discuss the role, influence, and empowerment of women through art—including women artists, but going beyond those who have taken up a brush or a chisel. He will show that not only have there been scores of great women artists throughout history, but that great women have shaped the story of art.

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