Art Buzz February 21, 2012: Alan Pizer: Time abroad adds spice to art history professor’s lectures

ART & ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY NEWS

ART HISTORIANS’ NEWS

Time abroad adds spice to art history professor’s lectures

Source: The University Star, 2-21-12

A globetrotting Texas State professor regales students with stories of past less-than-legal antics.

Alan Pizer, art history professor, was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin when he studied abroad in Israel. While overseas, he traveled the world and took photographs, some of which were illegal.

Alan Pizer, senior art lecturer, reviews a photo from his office Feb. 20 taken inside an Egyptian tomb, where photography is prohibited.

Pizer studied in Israel at the University of Haifa. During his free time, he traveled to different parts of the Middle East taking photographs along the way.

In the 1980s, Pizer traveled to Egypt. He visited Tel el-Amarna, an Egyptian archaeological site that was once a powerful city ruled by Pharaoh Akhenaten.

Pizer said he went to the ancient tombs in Tel el-Amarna after he’d studied them in school.

His girlfriend, who was traveling with him, was sick with a stomach virus the day they planned on visiting the city. Later he discovered there was a travel warning issued to U.S. citizens in regards to an Islamist group known as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Pizer said as soon as he entered the city, an Egyptian police officer started to follow him. Pizer took this as a good sign, believing he would have protection if needed.

At the site, Pizer found a tomb that hadn’t been destroyed. He said an Egyptian police officer tricked him into taking a picture of the tomb, knowing it was against the law.

After taking the picture, the officer threatened to arrest Pizer unless he paid a bribe of $25. In response, Pizer said he would report the officer to the tourist police.

Pizer said the officer agreed to let him go, but the forbidden photograph has never been put on display.

While a student in Israel, Pizer traveled to Syria as well. He said he lied about his religion to acquire a visa.

“Looking back, I must’ve had a death wish,” he said. “In Syria, I pretended to take pictures of my then girlfriend. Instead, I took pictures of the Syrian army.”

Pizer said he met an Israeli journalist when he returned. When she asked him why he went to Syria, he said it was because “you can’t.”

Pizer said his students and colleagues tend to embellish the stories he tells.

Cody Marshall, photography senior, said he took Pizer’s class two years ago. Marshall said he vaguely remembers Pizer telling the class about his time in Tel el-Amarna.

“I really enjoyed having him as a professor,” Marshall said. “He’s like the Indiana Jones of Art History.”

Pizer received a master’s in art history at the University of Texas and is currently working on his dissertation. Alison Ricketson, art history senior, has seen the effects Pizer’s stories have on his students.

Ricketson is currently Pizer’s student assistant. She said his stories make him more personable as a professor.

“He has a lot of amazing photos to teach from that are not in the book,” she said. “What he’s seen has inspired me to travel.”

Pizer said he hasn’t had time to travel alone in recent years. He is currently the study abroad program director for Art and Design students and leads a trip to Florence every summer.

“As a student, I had a certain kind of rush,” he said. “I’ve seen things people will never see and experienced things people will never experience. I miss that freedom.”

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