The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded Paisid Aramphongphan the 2019 Terra Foundation for American Art International Essay Prize for his essay “An Artist in the Secular World: Paul Thek’s Relics.” Aramphongphan reassesses the well-known works of artist Paul Thek, the “Technological Reliquaries,” commonly known as “Meat Pieces” (1964–1967), through the lens of religious visual culture. The jurors praised Aramphongphan’s work, stating that “the greatest strength of the essay is that it takes religion seriously, not only as an iconographical source but also as the conceptual basis of Thek’s work.”
Aramphongphan is the eighth winner of the biennial prize, which recognizes excellence in research and writing in the field of American art history by a scholar who is a non-U.S. citizen. Established in 2009, this award supports essays that advance the understanding of historical American art and demonstrate new findings and original perspectives. The essay will be published in the Fall 2020 issue (vol. 34, no. 3) of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s peer-reviewed journal for new scholarship, American Art.
A panel selected the winner from essays collected following a call for submissions. The 2019 jurors who awarded the $1,000 prize were Kirsten Buick, professor of art history at the University of New Mexico; Michael Hatt, professor of art history at the University of Warwick; Robin Veder, executive editor of American Art; and ShiPu Wang, professor of art history and visual culture at the University of California, Merced.
The jurors recognized “the creative ways in which Aramphongphan links Thek’s artwork with notions of religiosity and spirituality, embodiment versus disembodiment and corporeality versus industrial materiality to offer fresh insights and possibilities for reconsidering Thek and his work within the postwar American art scene, discourse and scholarship.”
Aramphongphan is currently a Terra Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and holds a doctorate in the history of art and architecture from Harvard University. He works at the intersection of visual art, dance and performance, specializing in queer theory and issues of sexuality in inter-media artistic practices. Aramphongphan has published in various journals, including Art Journal, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art and Movement Research Performance Journal. He also has served as an early career academic fellow and the Vice Chancellor’s 2020 Lecturer at the Leicester School of Art in the United Kingdom. In addition to his work on Paul Thek and a book manuscript on art, dance and queer embodiment in 1960s New York, Aramphongphan is currently researching the use of visual imagery in dance training and drawing in the 1970s.
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 at journals.uchicago.edu/toc/amart/current.
The essay prize is supported by funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art, which also supports a variety of initiatives at the museum that focus on cross-cultural dialogue about American art including research fellowships, scholarly symposia and exhibitions. A complete list of past Terra Foundation for American Art International Essay Prize winners and additional information about the award is available on the museum’s website, americanart.si.edu/research/awards/terra.
About the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the most significant and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. Both locations are closed temporarily as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.