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NMSU art history professor explores the Netherlands 'off the beaten path'

Art history and musical organs are the theme of the upcoming "Global Connections" lecture, "Organs and art: A cultural tour of the Netherlands," sponsored by New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences.

Janet Loman plays a centuries-old organ in the Jacobikerk in Uithuizen during a cultural excursion to the Netherlands. Loman and Margaret Goehring, assistant professor of art history, visited the country in 2010. Goehring will discuss the trip at the College of Arts and Sciences' Global Connections series Wednesday, Oct. 9. (Submitted photo)

Pictured is a fragment of the surviving decorations inside the Jacobikerk in Uithuizen. The photo was taken during a cultural tour of the Netherlands in 2010. Assistant professor of art history Margaret Goehring will discuss the trip at the College of Arts and Sciences' Global Connections series Wednesday, Oct. 9. (Submitted photo)

In May 2010, Margaret Goehring, assistant professor of art history, and Janet Loman, professor Emeritus of organ, ventured on a cultural tour of the Netherlands, accompanied by a group of Las Crucens.

"We hoped to foster a greater sense of community amongst organists, organ-enthusiasts and art-enthusiasts in this region," said Goehring, who will discuss her overseas trip at the second lecture of the series at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, in the Gerald Thomas auditorium.

"I am a specialist of Dutch and Flemish art of the 14th-16th century, so it was exciting to finally see some of the surviving ecclesiastical murals from the later Middle Ages, motifs and styles of which can be closely related to late medieval manuscript illumination - the focus of my own research; very little has been published on this, outside of strictly regional histories and technical journals," she said.

The cultural trip included visits to Alkmaar, the Hague, Haarlem, Groningen, Uithuizen, 's-Hertogenbosch, Kreward and Amsterdam.

"What we really wanted to focus on was a part of Dutch culture within its original context," Goehring said, describing the trip as off the beaten path. "It wasn't the traditional things that people go see. The Netherlands is far more than canals, the Red Light District and Rembrandt. While it is most famous for its 'golden age' of the 17th century, it has an extensive tradition going back hundreds of years that is worth exploring. I hope people who attend this lecture gain an appreciation of the organ as an art form; it's best understood by hearing it in its original context."

During the trip, the group witnessed the conservation process of a painting, attended special command concerts and demonstrations given by some of the top Dutch organists playing today, and met curators at museums. Also, organ players actually had the chance to play some of the classical instruments in the churches and museums.

Geohring said she was surprised at the Dutch organists' and scholars' willingness to share their knowledge with the group.

At the talk, she plans to share her slides, recordings and videos of the trip.

"It's hard to comprehend the experience of playing one of those massive instruments," she said. "It's something of incredible power. The sheer scale and massiveness is a visceral experience. You feel the vibrations and the floor trembling. Each organ had its own personality and required its own approach."

Goehring is currently in the process of planning a trip to China with Professor Elvira Hammond (history professor and co-director of the Confucius Institute) focusing on archeological sites.

The "Global Connections" series features faculty members' exotic trips around the world. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for members of the campus and surrounding community to listen and ask questions of NMSU professors about the kind of global first-hand experiences they might never otherwise encounter.

The College of Arts and Sciences series will be offered on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in Gerald Thomas Hall where patrons will have an opportunity to dine at 100 West Cafe prior to the talks.

100 West Cafe is a hands-on laboratory for students in NMSU's Hotel, Tourism and Restaurant Management program, offering buffet-style dining every Wednesday for $8.