Monica Steinberg Receives the 15th Annual Frost Essay Award for Her Article About George Herms

The editorial board of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s peer-reviewed journal for new scholarship, has awarded the Patricia and Phillip Frost Essay Award to Monica Steinberg for her article “Naming: Heteronymy and the Imaginary Artists of George Herms,” which appeared in the journal’s summer 2018 issue (vol. 32, no. 2). Steinberg discusses the work of California-based artist George Herms and focuses on his use of the conceptual literary strategy heteronymy to present his works under elaborate fictional artist-author attributions. The jurors praised Steinberg for dealing “lucidly and elegantly with the esoteric nature and complexity of Herms’ art while substantially illuminating a lesser-known but decidedly important aspect of the West Coast avant-garde in the post-war period.”

The Frost Essay Award recognizes excellent scholarship in the field of American art history by honoring an essay published the previous year in American Art. Each year, the winning essay successfully advances the understanding of American art history and demonstrates original research and fresh ideas. The award, established in 2004, is made possible through the Patricia and Phillip Frost Endowment.

A jury of three members of the journal’s editorial board selected the winner from articles published in 2018. The jurors who awarded the $1,000 prize were Mary K. Coffey, associate professor of art history at Dartmouth College; Rachael Z. DeLue, the Christopher Binyon Sarofim ’86 Professor in American Art at Princeton University; and Erica Hirshler, the Croll Senior Curator of American Painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The jurors wrote that Steinberg “intelligently articulates the relationship between George Herms’ heteronymy and the paranoia of the Cold War period, and she compellingly explores what his heteronyms suggest about the inevitable role played by fiction in the construction of actual authorial identities and scholarly interpretations. Steinberg’s exploration of the heteronym as both a practice and a concept is highly original and wholly convincing—a substantial and exciting contribution to the broader literature on the artistic and literary avant-garde, post-war and otherwise, and to the growing body of scholarship on fiction and para-fiction in the visual arts.”

Steinberg is a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. She specializes in the intersection of art, fictional attribution and the law, and she has published in various scholarly journals including Archives of American Art Journal and Oxford Art Journal. Currently, she is working on an article for American Art and a book manuscript, which considers art and fictional attribution in Cold War-era California. Steinberg received a doctorate (2016) in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

The journal American Art is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s active publication program of books and catalogs that complements the museum’s exhibitions and educational programs. Information about subscribing, purchasing single issues or submitting articles to the journal, which is published for the museum by the University of Chicago Press, is available online, A complete list of past Frost Essay Award winners and additional information about the award are also available on the museum’s website,

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the flagship museum in the United States for American art and craft. It is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. The museum’s main building, located at Eighth and G streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check online for current hours and admission information. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

Press Images

This is an image of an artwork by Iris Firewater
Press - Iris Firewater

Iris Firewater (George Herms), Untitled (Birthday Card), 1966. Collage, 15. × 13. in. Patricia Jordan Papers, 1870, 1949–1984, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. © George Herms.