Fellows in Focus: Emily B. Frank

A woman in a courtyard with a book
Emily Frank (photograph by Claudia Gori)

Emily B. Frank is an objects conservator, a PhD candidate at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and AAR’s 2024 Suzanne Deal Booth Rome Prize Fellow in Historic Preservation and Conservation. Frank’s Rome Prize project, Object Agency and Intervention in Roman Art, will reassess how we think about material interventions in Roman art. Frank is looking into a wider range of physical interventions and the evolution of the technical skills in recarving, drawing on her experience in conservation and with an emphasis on tracing the histories of objects that may have often overlooked.

Frank also has her own conservation practice (Emily B. Frank Conservation), which specializes in on-site treatment and documentation of works of art, the conservation management of private collections, and consultation on artists’ material and production methods.

AAR spoke to Frank about her Rome Prize Fellowship.

What have you been working on while at AAR? Has your project changed since arriving?

My main project this year is interested in exploring patterns in the physical interventions made in existing sculptures in the Roman Imperial period. I am particularly interested in the relationship of these interventions to material and object agency, and the ways material changes over time create the circumstances for humans to change objects. This writing project is related to my conservation practice in its interest in how meaning and narrative move through material over time, especially at moments of human intervention. In this line of thinking, I am working with Zachary Fabri, the 2024 Nancy B. Negley Rome Prize Fellow in Visual Arts, on an exhibition interested in the ways art making conserves and conservation practice generates, which we will open this spring. Zach and I met in September, so it is very fair to say that I did not expect to work on this project, which has been hashed out over shared meals, and walks, and drinks, and the privilege of time to iterate on ideas in conversations that spread out over months and can be left and picked up again easily with just a walk down the hall.

What’s something that has surprised you about being at the Academy?

I am continually impressed by the warmth and intellectual generosity of this cohort and the larger AAR community.

What have you seen in the city of Rome that has made a strong impression on you?

Everything in Rome is a palimpsest and I am reminded of that daily; on every corner I can see objects, monuments, buildings, etc. that are collections of their lived experiences and forever shifting contexts.

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