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Call for Papers

Build your scholarly pathway with us!

Each year, HASA calls for papers in the Fall term in preparation for our Annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Submitting your paper to HASA gives you the opportunity to present at this conference. Additionally, your paper will be included in the annual release of our conference journal.


The theme of this year’s undergraduate conference is DE-CIPHER.

The camera's ability to transform reality into something beautiful derives from its relative weakness as a means of conveying truth.”

— Susan Sontag, The Heroism of Vision


Are clocks mechanical devices to tell time, or can they be strung up in the sky to function as moons? As seen in Max Ernst’s Aquis Submersus, appearances can be deceiving. Once images depart from the representational, it becomes imperative for the viewers or art historians to decipher the hidden meaning, or explore if there even is one. DE-CIPHER is an exploration of the fantastical, the uncanny, the whimsical, and their respective representations in art. 


Human beings have always been fascinated by symbols and hidden messages. Throughout history, messages have been encoded in various visual and written formats. From poetry to painting, it takes time to interpret what the creator of an artwork wants the viewer to see. Art can serve as a unique way of indirectly imparting a message upon an audience, whether that be a political agenda, an assertion of self-identity, or deep-rooted religious beliefs. In this symposium, we’re exploring the various ways these messages have been communicated from the artist to the viewer through art, both in the past and in the present day.


In interpreting these messages, one must consider our own context alongside the context of the artwork. The way in which we perceive and interpret a work of art is informed by our own individual life experiences and biases, which can differ dramatically from those of the artist who created the work. How do these differences affect our reading of an artwork? How do they affect how the artist would have communicated? What did the artist want the viewer to see? Who even was the intended viewer? These are all important considerations that we would like you to investigate. Returning to the theme of DE-CIPHER, hidden messages or intentional obscurity in art can further complicate its reading. Perhaps only certain individuals were meant to understand an artwork, while others were intentionally redirected. In this case, how can we, as people often temporally removed from these situations, read between the lines of nuance in order to understand an artist’s intentions? 


Overall, we hope to explore the various ways in which the messages have been encoded into art and received by different audiences across history. Some possible directions one might take when considering the concept of communication through art might be to look at a politically charged Dada collage by Hannah Höch or Freudian symbolism in the work of Max Ernst. One could also think about paintings of an individual, such as what’s being communicated about the subject via different codified portrait types, or even what an artist is communicating about themselves in a self-portrait, such as one of the many done by Rembrandt in the 17th century. Propaganda, like David’s paintings for Napoleon, is another route one could take in investigating how the artist emparts specific ideas on the viewer. The physical context of a work itself can further affect our interpretation. While a painting may now be housed in an art gallery for a public audience, where would it have been seen in the past and how would this have affected viewership?As these examples illustrate, art is riddled with symbolism, and these interconnected ideas are what we would like you to decipher. 


This theme is intended to be a broad concept from which many different topics can branch off. Some ideas include but are not limited to:

  • Artists’ biases presented in their work

  • Colonial art historical frameworks influencing widely accepted interpretations of art and architecture

  • Art utilized as propaganda to advance political or social agendas

  • Intended audiences and how works are directed towards certain groups of people

  • Underlying meanings of works informed by greater historical context

  • Religious architecture and how it serves and/or reflects the beliefs of those who use it

  • Emotion and history expressed through abstraction

  • Contemporary interpretation of ancient messages and ideas

  • Image making, artifice, and the dissemination of information

  • Institutional critique and decolonization


Submissions can cover any facet of this theme and can be written through a historical or religious lens, not necessarily limited by traditional art history methodologies. We hope for papers that reflect independent thinking and explore artworks, sites, and themes across a variety of time periods, geographical locations, and cultures.


We invite papers ranging from approximately 1,500 and 2,500 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography), though longer papers can be considered on a case-by-case basis. Papers can be portions of a longer work or stand-alone essays, but must have a well-constructed thesis and be supported by primary and secondary sources. Papers will be published in Chicago style, so we strongly encourage students to format their papers according to the most recent Chicago guidelines.

Papers should include a title page featuring your name, institution, year of study, paper’s title (or working title), course or supervisor, grade received, approximate length of the paper, and an abstract (max. 250 words). Everything should be submitted in a single file to this form ( by 11:59 PM on Friday, January 12th, 2024.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to connect with us at

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