Fellows in Residence, 2006-2007

Jean-Philippe Antoine

Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow, Université Jean Moulin-Lyon 3

Invention, Imitation, and Reproduction in the Works of Samuel Morse

My plan is to write a study of Samuel F.B. Morse’s various careers as painter and organizer of the arts in America, inventor of the electromagnetic telegraph and of the alphabetic code that still bears his name, and daguerreotypist. Morse’s hesitant embrace of painting and technological invention was related to a drastic shift in the economy of signs, as embodied in the partial transfer to other media of functions traditionally ascribed to painting since the Renaissance. Seen in this light, his involvement in telegraphy and in daguerreotypy becomes not so much a flight from painting as an individual attempt to come to terms with the new, democratic and reproductive economy of signs that emerged in nineteenth-century America and to establish new tools for its implementation outside of the fine arts tradition.

This book, which attempts to delineate the shift from imitation to reproduction that underlies Morse’s complex career, should provide a more balanced account of this important figure in American culture. It should as well further the exploration of the changing economy of signs that has governed western societies during the last 200 years—an issue vital to current art history, media theory, and the communication sciences.

Heidi Applegate

Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Columbia University

Staging Modernism at the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair

Viewed as the last great fair in the tradition of the comprehensive, universal events of the long nineteenth century, the 1915 San Francisco Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) demonstrates how the American artistic establishment incorporated modernism into the conservative framework of the international exposition by promoting a broader definition of “modern” art, one that focused on works and artists that today are not typically regarded as up-to-date for 1915.

My study of the PPIE will situate the exhibition within the history of world’s fairs, and the specific context of American expositions, which performed the role of temporary survey museums during a period and in regions where such institutions were still rare. I will consider how the fine arts exhibition at the PPIE responded to the Armory Show of 1913 as well as other exhibitions of contemporary art in America. The study will include an analysis of the Palace of Fine Art guidebooks and how they organized, controlled, and encouraged certain kinds of viewing experiences; an examination of the Sargent and Bellows galleries as studies in how the one-man rooms were organized and received; and finally, an exploration of the commercial aspects of the art exhibition at the PPIE and the exposition’s influence on the collecting and exhibition practices of American museums.

Sarah Blackwood

Patricia and Phillip Frost Predoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University

Portraiture: Representing Interiority in American Culture, 1850-1920

My research project traces the path-breaking ways in which painters Thomas Eakins, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and James A. McNeill Whistler—along with writers Henry and William James, Kate Chopin, and Harold Frederic—altered the genre of portraiture. Together, these leading writers and artists became concerned in new ways with the accurate representation of interiority—defined in my work as the inner psychological life of human beings—and turned to the portrait to address that concern. The portrait crystallized the encounter between surface and depth, appearance and “truth,” that fascinated artists and writers who worked within (both following and challenging) the tenets of late-nineteenth-century realism. Influenced by and contributing to the burgeoning discourse of modern psychology, the aesthetic depictions of inner life found in literary and visual portraiture helped to develop the modern concept of psychologized interiority. To make this argument, this project draws connections between literary and visual portraiture of the period. I contend that, far from an untroubled endorsement of the new language of psychology, the realist portrait interrogated this language and its relation to aesthetic representation.

The proposed project makes a significant contribution to interdisciplinary scholarship. It insists that the relationship between writers and visual artists in the late nineteenth century was productive and broad, rather than combative and parochial. It defines “realism” broadly, as a set of contradictory representational techniques variously indulged in and rejected by the artists and writers under consideration. Finally, it argues that, far from a self-contained or specialized art form, portraiture was central to evolving notions of personhood and subjectivity between 1870 and 1920.

Lauren Brown

Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

WPA to NEA: Public Opinions of Federal Arts Funding

My dissertation explores the introduction of “Russian” ballet to the United States, its evolution into an “American” form, and the funding and political opportunities created as a direct result. I argue that Americanized ballet, most notably personified by the neoclassical stylings of Russian expatriate George Balanchine, was a more palatable type of modernism than that developed in America by modern dancers; it aligned more closely with government and philanthropic ideals for use domestically and abroad, due primarily to its Russian connections. As a result, I contend that American ballet was not just a side beneficiary of programs such as President Eisenhower’s Emergency Fund for the Arts and the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but instead a catalyst to private and federal arts funding developments not seen since the 1930s.

To reach this point, however, requires both a thorough understanding of the impact of the New Deal arts programs and the development of modernism in the United States. Thus the purpose of my proposed research is two-fold. First, using selected interviews from the Archives of American Art’s Oral History Program collection and New Deal and the Arts Program collection, I will assess where the United States—artists, politicians, and the public at large—stood on the issue of federal arts funding in the aftermath of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal One efforts. Second, with select manuscript items from the Archives that discuss dancers and the arts, along with the assistance of the Smithsonian staff, I will endeavor to place American ballet’s neoclassical aesthetic within the larger context of American modernism.

Luciano Cheles

Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow, Université de Poitiers

Piero della Francesca and America (1900-1960)

Piero della Francesca’s fortuna in the United States has never been studied systematically and comprehensively. The proposed research aims to fill this gap by looking at a range of issues. It will examine the role and influence of Piero advocates such as Bernard Berenson and Roger Fry, and the circumstances that led to the acquisition of several paintings by, or attributed to, Piero by private collectors. It will also investigate the curricula at major universities and art institutions to see the extent to which Piero was taught. The bulk of the research will be devoted to the art movements that, as suggested by preliminary work I have undertaken, were responsive to Piero. These include the postsurrealists (e.g. Lorser Feitelson), the precisionists (e.g. Ralston Crawford and Niles Spenser), the magical realists (e.g. Jared French and George Tooker), and the muralists of the 1930s and 1940s, in particular those who contributed to the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. This investigation will equally deal with the painting fellows of the American Academy in Rome (some of whom copied and imitated Piero during their stay in Italy), and with Piero-influenced artists who do not fit into specific movements or categories.

Michael De Baca

Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

Memory Work: Anne Truitt and Sculpture

Anne Truitt (1921–2004), a sculptor best known for her richly colored wooden blocks and plinths consistent with minimalist aesthetics, uniquely bridged the expressionistic quality of post-painterly abstraction and the detached, “cool” design of the sixties. Her Hardcastle (1962) drew the appreciation of Clement Greenberg, whose continued praise put her at odds with contemporaries such as Donald Judd and Robert Morris. In her three published artist-journals, Truitt addressed the formal qualities of her sculptures as remarkably sincere articulations of personal affect, experience, and memory. The connection between the internal force of recollection and its exterior manifestation as highly wrought geometric surfaces provides a guiding principle for Truitt’s work.

“Memory Work” attends assiduously to these internal forces of recollection in light of Truitt’s site of artistic practice in Washington, D.C. While certain artworks reference particular memories of the artist (which in some cases may be indecipherable), I am interested in how Washington and its “culture of secrecy” in the early cold war prompted new forms of visual expression. Along the way, this project offers close analyses of the earliest of Truitt’s minimal works such as First (1961), Hardcastle, A Knight’s Heritage (1963), and Valley Forge (1963), demonstrating an evolution of Truitt’s style, and enmeshing her within a web of social and material influences from Proust to Friedan, Giotto to Polaroid, and from the walls of the Guggenheim to the halls of the CIA.

Julia Dolan

 Sara Roby Predoctoral Fellow in American Realism, Boston University

I Will Take You into the Heart of Modern Industry': Lewis Hine's Photographic Interpretation of the Machine Age

During the fellowship period at the Smithsonian Institution I intend to study documents that will help to define Lewis Hine as social reform photographer, artist, and unlikely champion of Machine Age industry in the United States. Although the Smithsonian’s collection of Hine’s imagery is limited, archival documents concerning Hine are plentiful, and various repositories throughout Washington possess Hine’s photographs. The American Red Cross archive at the Library of Congress contains approximately 900 of Hine’s pictures. Hine served as a photographic correspondent for the Red Cross in Europe after World War I, and frequently stated that it was during this phase of his career that he revised his once negative opinions of industrialism. I will study these images in order to ascertain the manner in which Hine’s new attitude toward industry was manifested in his photographs.

The Elizabeth McCausland Papers at the Archives of American Art will also serve as a resource for interpreting Hine’s post-World War I commercial work. McCausland, a well-respected writer on art, was Hine’s close friend and champion. She wrote a number of articles about the photographer and maintained close contact with him during the 1920s and 1930s. In addition, I will study the photographic archive of Charles Rivers at the National Museum of American History in order to determine the manner in which Hine’s photographs may have differed in composition or meaning from those photographs produced by other photographers of the Empire State Building. Finally, the Roy Stryker oral interview at the Archives of American Art will help to illuminate the sometimes tenuous working relationships that the ever-independent Hine forged with his superiors.

Marie Frank

James Renwick Postdoctoral Fellow in American Craft, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Denman Ross and American Formalist Aesthetics in the Early Twentieth Century

The research I plan to do at the Smithsonian will make an essential contribution to my book on Denman Ross (1853–1935) and American aesthetic thought in the early twentieth century. Ross was an influential writer, design theorist, teacher, and collector. He devoted his energies to developing the theory of “pure design,” a pedagogical method that emphasized the abstracted formal qualities of line, shape, and color in an art object. Pure design was intended not only for the study of art but also for the practice of art, and it attracted a wide audience, from Ashcan School artists, Arts and Crafts artisans, Prairie School architects, and art educators at the turn of the century to artists, designers, curators and historians of the 1930s. Because he worked out his theories in such detail, and because his theories were used by such a variety of people, Ross’s contributions provide a concrete means to better understand formalist aesthetics in American visual arts and scholarship—not only with respect to specific artists but, more significantly, also in terms of a larger, interdisciplinary cultural attitude.

At the Smithsonian my research will focus on two specific areas: the historical context for and the application of Ross’s theories. Ross’s interest in science (particularly psychology and the perception of form and color), geometry, and George Santayana’s aesthetics needs to be compared with that of contemporary critics and writers. The application of Ross’s theories is particularly relevant to my study. Significant artists, architects, educators, artisans, and historians knew his work. Documenting Ross’s specific contributions helps us to understand formalism’s presence in the visual arts.

Daniel Haxall

Predoctoral Fellow, Pennsylvania State University

Politics, Form, and Identity in Abstract Expressionist Collage

In 1943, Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery staged the first large-scale exhibition of collage in the United States. This show was notable for introducing the New York School to the medium; its artists would go on to embrace collage, creating objects that ranged from small compositions of handmade papers to mural-sized works of torn and reassembled canvas. Despite the significance of this development, studies of abstract expressionism and collage consistently overlook the collages of the New York School. By examining those who based their careers on the medium—Conrad Marca-Relli, Robert Motherwell, Anne Ryan, and Esteban Vicente―my dissertation presents a comprehensive view of collage during the era of abstract expressionism. My project explores what collage meant to these artists, questioning how they understood the medium and its capacities. Collage, I propose, connected the New York School to a wealth of ideologies, ranging from the formal and the aesthetic to the social and the political. Locating complex histories of national identity, artistic production, and philosophic thought within the papier collé of these artists, I argue that they contested the formal complexities of the technique while imbuing it with a social relevance previously unnoticed by scholars. For example, Conrad Marca-Relli replicated manufactured forms in canvas, vinyl, and aluminum, creating “mechanamos” that reflected developments in technology. Anne Ryan’s compositions juxtaposed traditional formats with recycled materials, eschewing conventions of consumer culture and femininity. Esteban Vicente asserted his work’s physicality while connecting it to the traditions of his hybrid identity as a Spanish-born American citizen. And finally, Robert Motherwell executed an abstract tribute to composer John Cage on a large scale, conflating music with collage while testing notions of composition and historicism.

Kimberly Hyde

James Renwick Predoctoral Fellow in American Craft, Case Western Reserve University

Louis C. Tiffany and the Business of Art

Louis Comfort Tiffany was the most successful American designer of the late nineteenth century and the one American who made a major contribution to international art nouveau. This dissertation will examine Tiffany’s design and business practices focusing on the parallel development of his visual aesthetic and his promotional activities. Despite Tiffany’s fame and the broad appeal of the objects his companies created, scholars have neither thoroughly explored the design process he employed nor fully determined the role he played in it.

Early scholarship on Tiffany was dominated by Robert Koch and Alistair Duncan who were actively involved in selling works by Tiffany and who consequently had a vested interest in raising their market value. Such writers tended to present every object from the Tiffany Studios as if it were personally designed by Tiffany rather than exploring the complicated process of design and manufacture that actually took place. It has long been known that from the early days of Associated Artists to the last days of Tiffany Studios, Tiffany hired talented designers and craftsmen to produce the art objects that bore his name, yet the role of these women and men has never been closely analyzed. This dissertation seeks to correct this and other gaps in the literature by examining the five major areas of Tiffany’s artistic activity: interior design, stained glass windows, world’s fair and international exposition displays, lamps, and blown-glass objects.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection and the National Museum of American History’s Tiffany objects, ephemera, business, and world’s fair materials, as well as the Archives of American Art’s manuscript holdings, make the Smithsonian the ideal location to research and write my dissertation.

Laura Katzman

Senior Fellow, Randolph-Macon Woman's College

Picturing Puerto Rico: American Photographs and the Making of a Modern Commonwealth

My research project examines the pictures created by American photographers working in Puerto Rico in the 1940s and 1950s. They were taken when this impoverished territory was emerging from its four-hundred-year history as a neglected colony of Spain and as a U.S. possession since 1898, and embarking on its fight for independence. With the radical activities of the Nationalist movement competing with the more flexible policies of the Popular Democratic Party led by the charismatic Luis Muñoz Marín (architect of the island’s commonwealth status), Puerto Rico’s independence was an issue of great urgency at this time—central to the contemporary public debates on the future of the region.

American photographers were at the forefront of documenting Puerto Rico’s distinct landscape and people at this critical moment in its history. Organizations such as the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) and the Puerto Rico Office of Information commissioned work from Jack Delano, Charles Rotkin, and Edwin and Louise Rosskam to record the dire social conditions on the island for public policy purposes and to secure assistance for rural workers. My project is concerned with the artistic, social, and political uses of these compelling pictures and the ways in which they operated in the cultural milieu of Cold War America and Puerto Rico. I will examine how these photographs established a documentary aesthetic for Puerto Rico as well as how they figured into the plans of the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments to transform the troubled island into a tourist paradise. I will analyze the place the pictures occupied in constructing a public image for Puerto Ricans both at home and on the U.S. mainland, which had absorbed a massive Puerto Rican immigrant population in these years.

Picturing Puerto Rico aims to contribute to revisionist literature on the documentary tradition, which reveals how photographs of underclass peoples can be used by empowered agencies as documents to shape and affirm dominant ideologies. It will amplify the historical and anthropological literature that shows how photography helped Americans to “categorize, define, dominate and sometimes invent” the Puerto Rican people as Other.

Michael Komanecky

Senior Fellow, Independent Scholar

New Spanish Missions in the American Imagination

This contextual book-length study will be the first to examine the rich heritage of Spain’s Franciscan and Jesuit missions in the American Southwest in art, literature, theater, and film from the 1820s to the 1950s. These missions inspired works by some of America’s most important artists: photographers John K. Hillers, Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, William Henry Jackson, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Paul Strand, and Laura Gilpin; painters John Mix Stanley, Henry Cheever Pratt, Ernest Blumenschein, Victor Higgins, Walter Ufer, E. Martin Hennings, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, Edward Hopper, and John Sloan; authors Helen Hunt Jackson, Charles Fletcher Lummis, Willa Cather, and Mary Austin; and filmmakers D.W. Griffith, Darryl F. Zanuck, and Alfred Hitchcock, among many others. Complex artistic, social, economic, and historical factors will be examined to elicit these works’ purposes and to understand their intended audiences through study of extensive primary sources and the lengthy bibliography of secondary sources available at the Smithsonian and other institutions in Washington.

This study will explore how mission imagery—produced almost exclusively by Anglo artists and associated with Spain’s attempted conversion of native populations— evolved. From the 1780s to the 1820s these pictures appeared as illustrations prepared for scientific reports by European and then American explorers to California. In the 1840s and 1850s they served as vital components of nationally strategic reports compiled by the U.S. Army and other federally sponsored explorations of the Southwest. From the 1870s on, mission images were gradually absorbed into the mainstream of American art, and by the 1920s were utilized by members of the modernist circle in New Mexico, where they also played an important role in cultural tourism. In California, novelists, playwrights, ethnographers, advertisers, and filmmakers affected mission imagery’s emergence into American popular culture through broad-based media. Portrayal of these missions figured prominently in constructing history and cultural identity in the American Southwest.

Anna O. Marley

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware 

Rooms with a View: The Topographic Landscape in the American Home, 1780-1820

This dissertation will examine the patronage and functions of overmantel and other landscape views in the American home during the early national period, 1780 to 1820. My research will focus on three important centers of economic and cultural exchange: the wealthy tobacco plantations of Virginia; the booming port city of Baltimore; and the rich farming and mercantile area of the Connecticut River Valley. By using a comparative approach to the study of landscape in this period, I will study how Americans in various regions of the country invested the landscape with competing meanings, and how they represented those landscapes within their homes.

Through a close examination of overmantel paintings in these three district regions, my project will explore what landscape representations signified in early American homes. How did the overmantels refer to the world outside the parlor—the local, the national, and the Atlantic world at large? Why were landscape scenes in particular the focal points of the parlor? How did these objects interact with the spaces and objects around them? Perhaps most importantly, how did overmantels represent and contribute to ideologies of imperialism? In addressing these questions, my dissertation explores a genre of landscape representation that has all too often been left out of the history of American art, thereby yielding new insights into late-eighteenth and earlynineteenth-century American conceptions and representations of nature, home, land, and empire.

Laura Groves Napolitano

Sara Roby Predoctoral Fellow in American Realism, University of Maryland 

Longing and Loss in Lilly Martin Spencer's Images of Children

In genre painter Lilly Martin Spencer’s lifetime (1822–1902), the concepts of childhood and child rearing changed not once but twice for middle-class Northeastern parents. In the 1830s, as the ideas of eighteenth-century philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau became more widely accepted in the United States, parents started to view their children as unformed clay ready to be molded, as innately innocent rather than depraved. Still, absolute obedience and moral uprightness were expected from children as young as one year. By the 1870s, however, child-rearing ideologies called for parents to be more indulgent. Parents were to encourage children to follow their whims and cultivate their imaginations.

My dissertation examines Spencer’s images of white, urban, middle-class children at this critical juncture when child-rearing concepts were evolving for a second time in nineteenth-century America. In these images, which Spencer produced in New York and Newark, New Jersey, during the most lauded period of her career, a nuanced outlook can be found that sometimes supports and oftentimes rejects antebellum societal ideals about childhood and child rearing. An analysis of Spencer’s works reveals the ambivalences felt by parents during this time, equivocalities that are not reflected in the era’s prolific advice manuals or prescriptive children’s literature.

In four theme-based chapters, I explore the different ways in which Spencer both accepted and challenged the status quo with her images of children. The first chapter considers Spencer’s reflections on the widespread experience of infant and child mortality. The second looks at her depictions of fathers’ and grandfathers’ interactions with children at a time when men’s participation in child rearing was at a perceived low. The third investigates Spencer’s portrayals of mischievous children as a reaction to the social problem of the urban poor. The fourth explores the artist’s use of children in her paintings to cope with the effects of the Civil War. The study ends with an interpretation of Spencer’s self-proclaimed masterpiece, Truth Unveiling Falsehood (1869, now lost), which can be read as an ambitious summation of her society’s views on child rearing during this period.

Sarah Powers

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware

Images of Tension: City and Country in the Work of Charles Sheeler, Edward Hopper, and Thomas Hart Benton

In the years between the two world wars, demographic changes in the United States disturbed the traditional political, economic, and cultural balance between metropolis and countryside, leading the very meaning of such terms to become increasingly unstable. This project investigates how the discourses and debates surrounding city and country during the interwar years can be related to a perceptible tension embedded in paintings of urban and rural scenes by artists working in a wide range of styles. My dissertation examines the complex meanings behind urban and rural representations through case studies centered on three artists who approached these subjects from very different and, at times, strongly opposed perspectives. I explore such ambiguous spaces as the industrial landscape, the rural retreat, the sprawling suburb, and the artists’ colony, which do not fit into the mythical notion of the agrarian countryside. Chapters will focus on Charles Sheeler, Edward Hopper, and Thomas Hart Benton. By examining a group of diverse artists, I hope to come to a new understanding of what was at stake in portrayals of urban and rural themes during this critical period. Using each artist as a starting point, I will investigate how issues of city and country emerge in the cultural and artistic production of the era, and how this work can be related to specific political, social, and economic factors between the wars.

Katherine Rieder

Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

The Remainder of Our Effects We Must Leave Behind': American Loyalists and the Meaning of Things, 1765-1800

My dissertation examines the personal and political meanings invested in “things”— portraits, furniture, and other material objects—that belonged to those who remained loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution. Many loyalists abandoned their homes and permanently fled the North American colonies during the conflict, leaving most of their possessions behind. My study will look at the evolution of meaning as these items were possessed, then lost, and in some cases, possessed again. The visual encoding of this meaning—in the narrative content of portraiture and in the personalization of items such as engraved pieces of silver—will also be extensively investigated. Overall, the dissertation will employ anthropological and art-historical methodologies to explore this nexus of meanings in an attempt to bring issues of materiality and possession to the forefront of art history and material culture studies.

Sascha Scott

Predoctoral Fellow, Rutgers University

Modernism on the Move: New York-New Mexico Artistic Exchange, 1914-1942

Several vanguard artists in the United States turned from the interior architectures of the studio and gallery toward material landscapes during the 1960s and early 1970s, engaging outdoor spaces as a critical medium and testing ground. Specifically, many were attracted to “wastelands,” those landscapes that were actually or perceived to be ruined or contaminated. Although art historians have often collapsed landscape-based art from this period into the categories of “land art” or “environmental art,” this dissertation foregrounds the actual sites where such projects were staged and proposes that art in wasteland spaces represents a distinct branch of aesthetic practice. It maps, therefore, a genealogy separate from that for artists working with different kinds of landscapes and draws together performance artists, post-minimalists, conceptual photographers, ecological artists, and others in order to examine new ways that artists came to know and work with the land at this time. It contextualizes these artworks in relation to a precise socio-historical moment, namely the shift from industrial to postindustrial economies in the West, as well as longstanding landscape aesthetic traditions (e.g. the picturesque, the American technological sublime). This dissertation argues that the emergence of the postindustrial was evident in the production of new landscapes, new conceptions of landscape, and new crises of relation with land, to which artists shared an aesthetic response. It therefore complicates understandings of both postwar art and space via an exploration of the interplay between critical aesthetic imperatives and the landscapes in which they have been tested. It simultaneously traces the radical transformation of the American landscape, literally and metaphorically, in the same era: as technological testing ground, modern ruin, and repository of contamination.

Emily Taub

Predoctoral Fellow, Emory University 

On Site-Specificity: A Genealogy

My dissertation will provide the first historicized reconstruction of the initial development of site-specificity, thereby charting a critical shift in the meaning of place for American art of the late 1960s. In reaction to the recent developments of minimalism and as a challenge to the modernist paradigm of a timeless and placeless sculpture, artists during the years 1967 through 1969 began to create works that responded to and remained linked to their individual locations. Siting an artwork came to entail more than choosing its location; for creators of process art, conceptual art, institutional critique, and land art, site itself emerged as an essential problem of artistic conception.

This advance, however, affected more than the production of artworks. It impacted art exhibition, as well. Site-specific art demanded new methods of display. In response, curators produced new kinds of exhibitions, varying from indoor gallery displays in which artists employed earth as their medium to shows organized entirely outdoors. With a chapter devoted to each year’s production, this dissertation will systematically document the development of site-specificity through a close analysis of works, the exhibitions in which they were displayed, and the criticism they generated.

Scholars first considered the meaning of site-specificity for postmodernist theory of the 1980s. More recently, a new generation of academics has focused on the artwork and critical debates of the late 1960s and 1970s, offering various definitions of sitespecificity and providing its general history. No study, however, has reassessed the concept’s beginnings. This project remains significant for examinations of those siteoriented practices to come both during the 1970s and today. Contemporary artists have turned their attention to the relation between art and place on a global scale. By documenting the emergence of site-specific art of the late 1960s, this thesis will establish the historical lineage of these developments.

Leslie Ureña

Predoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University

Lewis Hine at Ellis Island: The Photography of Immigration and Race, 1904-1926

My dissertation concerns hundreds of photographs of newly arrived immigrants taken by the photographer and reformer Lewis Hine at the Ellis Island Immigration Station in New York between 1904 and 1926. I argue that in these photographs Hine unwittingly documented the imposition of racial categories upon newcomers by governmental authorities. As a social reformer, Hine’s agenda was to use photography to improve the treatment of immigrants and elevate their standing. Yet the compositions and their captions make clear that Hine actually reinforced and perpetuated the same racial stereotypes he wished to eradicate.

My careful examination of these photographs will expand upon current Hine scholarship, which uncritically locates these photographs within the documentary tradition and tends to sentimentalize both Hine, as a photographer and reformer, and the immigrant subject. By utilizing the contemporaneous literature on immigration and “whiteness” studies, I will reveal how Hine’s photographs are essential to our understanding of immigration and race relations in the United States. This project also questions our common notions of photographic history by taking into account photography’s historic role in shaping public opinion and policy.

I open with a consideration of the political and social circumstances that framed the definition of race in Hine’s time. In the subsequent three chapters, I distinguish between the three phases of Hine’s work at Ellis Island, establishing how changes in immigration laws and the definitions of race affected Hine’s artistic production, and how in turn his photographs served to alter public opinion. The final chapter focuses on Hine’s return to the subject of immigration in 1940 and how this retrospective glance alters our understanding of his earlier work.

Midori Yamamura

Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow, City University of New York Graduate Center

Yayoi Kusama: Biography and Cultural Confrontation, 1945-1969

Japanese-born artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) was active among major United States artists in New York City in the sixties, a key moment of transculturalization in American art history. However, the social orientation at the time led to a critical oversight of gender and ethnicity that excluded this Japanese woman from mainstream art history. Moreover, her voluntary residence in a mental health facility since 1977 positions Kusama as an outsider artist. This dissertation will examine her work and influence between 1945, the year the United States government began dictating policy in Japan, and 1969, the last year Kusama actively worked in New York City. I will focus on the issues entailed in her work and on U.S. cultural politics as they bear on her situation and her practice.

Kusama came of age in the period following World War II, arrived in the United States in 1957, and was active in the New York art scene between 1959 and 1969. She showed with the pop and minimalist artists during their formative years. Beginning in 1960, she also exhibited with the Zero group in Europe. But the level of recognition enjoyed by Kusama’s white male peers has long eluded her in this country. Some scholars have suggested that Kusama had considerable influence on the work of Donald Judd and Claes Oldenburg, among others, but no one has yet demonstrated it.

After her permanent return to Japan in 1973, Kusama was virtually forgotten in the United States until her retrospective at the Center for International Contemporary Arts in New York in 1989. Kusama’s residence in a mental health facility since 1977—which she attributes to “depersonalization” driven by trauma—has been conceived of by some scholars as “insanity” and has distracted them from discerning her full historical contribution. The issue of women’s mental health, at once problematic and significant, is one I will examine.

The key to an alternative view of Kusama’s career as well as those of her peers lies in the rich personal and public archival materials from this period and in Kusama’s 2002 autobiography. By examining artworks by Kusama and her peers and grounding my study on archival research and oral history, I hope to draw a more comprehensive picture of emergent postwar cultural diversity and internationalism. I hope to show that what constitutes cultural value is not the artwork alone, but the cultural politics engaged in by the artists themselves as well as collectors, dealers, critics, and governments.

Other Smithsonian Fellowship Appointments in American Art

Ellen Fernandez-Sacco

Latino Studies Senior Fellow (at National Museum of American History), University of California, Berkeley

Mundillo: The Handiwork of Revival and Transformation in Puerto Rico

Mundillo, the traditional Puerto Rican art of bobbin lace, is a practice in the midst of change. As a result of new technology and increased travel, the availability of patterns and materials is far beyond that afforded to the previous generation. Once a series of patterns passed among townspeople and training centers, mundillo has expanded with Internet access, tourism, and inexpensive airfares to Spain and other countries with a lace tradition. Furthermore, lacemaking is not restricted to females. The establishment of a museum dedicated to mundillo recognizes its history and relationship to Puerto Rican culture, while the marketing of Moca as El Capital del Mundillo points to an identity shaped by tourism.

Through a historical study of mundillo, this project seeks to establish an understanding of women’s labor and gender relations in the production of lace, and thereby show how mundillo became representative of Puerto Rican culture between 1900 and 1940. As a cultural and historical study of women’s labor as mundillistas, the project will also contextualize mundillo’s role within Puerto Rico’s tourism-based economy. The study of mundillo affords a means of examining these ongoing processes of representation, specifically in relation to the construction of gender and cultural identity. I accomplish this through the following methods: historical research on the production of lace by Puerto Ricans, visual analysis of cultural representations in photographs, contextualization of the material culture of mundillo within museum collections, and oral history interviews.

Jonathan Katz

Senior Fellow (at Archives of American Art), Yale University

The Silent Camp: Sexuality and Resistance in Cold War American Art and Culture

Sexual difference remains the great unthought in postwar American art. The abstract expressionists—not only almost uniformly heterosexual, but often the very embodiment of the Cold War’s highly anxious gender tropes—were challenged less than ten years after their first emergence by a remarkable generation of American artists. As a cohort, the group was remarkable for many reasons, not least because it contained so many closeted gay and lesbian artists. That this new generation, which included Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Agnes Martin, Andy Warhol, and John Cage, achieved its first critical and commercial success in the most homophobic decade of the twentieth century demands explication. The anti-authorial aesthetic strategies of this group—born of the specific social conditions of constraint faced by lesbians and gay men―rapidly advanced over a more traditionally expressive aesthetic as emblematized by abstract expressionism. This is the chief concern of my project.

Katherine Roeder

Predoctoral Fellow (at National Portrait Gallery), University of Delaware

Cultivating Dreamfulness': Fantasy, Longing, and Commodity Culture in the Work of Winsor McCay

Cartoonist Winsor McCay (1867–1934) is celebrated for the skillful draftsmanship and inventive design sense he displayed in the comic strips Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905–14) and The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (1904–11). McCay created narratives of anticipation, abundance, and, ultimately, unfulfilled longing. My project will demonstrate that McCay’s interest in dreaming and fantasy was symptomatic of a larger cultural preoccupation with fantasy imagery that served to generate consumer desire in this period.

McCay’s most recognizable character, Little Nemo, continually embarks on epic journeys and encounters wondrous spectacles only to have the magical vision vanish when his mother awakens him in the final frame. I am particularly interested in how Little Nemo in Slumberland contributed to the proliferation of fantastic imagery at the turn of the century, and the concurrent rise of consumer culture and mass entertainment. Comic strips were a disposable commodity, one that relied on a lack of narrative closure to induce readers to purchase the next installment. McCay’s use of the comic strip medium managed to reflect upon its status as a commodity and reveal how fantasy and desire were used to advance consumerism. While McCay’s role as a pioneer of early cartoon and comic art has been extensively documented, no study yet exists that situates him in relation to the larger commodity culture of the early twentieth century. I hope to contextualize McCay’s work in relation to children’s literature, advertising, architecture, and film of the period in order to interrogate the commercial use of the fantastic.

Maia Toteva

Predoctoral Fellow (at National Portrait Gallery), University of Texas at Austin

Language Strategies and Ideas in the Art of American Conceptual and Post-Conceptual Artists

In the late sixties, conceptual artists including Joseph Kosuth, John Baldessari, Mel Bochner, and Lawrence Weiner questioned the ability of traditional media to convey art’s essential characteristic—the idea. Rejecting the “formalist modernist canon,” conceptualism borrowed theoretical notions from analytical philosophy, structuralism, and post-structuralist thinking. In the context of a “linguistic turn” in the humanities of the second half of the twentieth century, language became a form of expression in art.

To date, there is no art-historical investigation of the linguistic strategies employed by conceptual artists. The majority of studies merely assume a descriptive mode or document the increased use of words in art. Analyzing primary sources such as oral interviews, artists’ writings, exhibition catalogues, and gallery records, my research will examine the specific linguistic, structuralist, and post-structuralist notions that influenced the art of the sixties. Furthermore, I will explore how those ideas were appropriated and transformed in conceptual artworks and artists’ writings.

A new generation of artists of the seventies and the eighties (e.g. Vito Acconci, John Latham, Hans Haacke, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin, Barbara Kruger, and Jenny Holzer) took on the conceptual use of language to advocate more socially oriented messages. Examining primary materials, I will investigate the linguistic nature of their techniques. The main goal of the project is to put conceptualism and its successors in a new methodological perspective, analyzing various artistic strategies of language use.

Megan Walsh

Graduate Student Fellow (at National Portrait Gallery), Temple University

Depicting American Identity: Deception, Portraiture, and Charles Willson Peale

This dissertation examines issues of narrative and storytelling as they apply to nineteenthcentury visual culture, focusing particularly on objects produced between 1830 and 1870. Genre paintings, historical scenes, landscapes, illustrations, sculptures, and even ephemera-like games and advertisements produced during this time period often relied heavily on narratives to enchant viewers and communicate specific messages. It is easy to oversimplify such images because of their popularity or perceived sentimentality; however, they allow for analysis of narrative as a structural force, as well as viewers’ multiple reactions to visual representations of narratives.

The project focuses on understanding viewer involvement with these works and the values and meanings that such objects signified in their time period. There are three main subjects for investigation: 1) the American viewer’s experience of objects and the propensity to tell stories about and in front of works of art; 2) storytelling as a process engaged in by the artist, with particular focus on self-conscious works constructing stories about telling stories; and 3) stories about art and the ways in which nineteenthcentury art criticism and popular fiction treated images and objects. An analysis of narrative as process and an investigation into the cultural history of sound and orality as part of the multisensory experience of an artwork will serve as the theoretical underpinnings of this approach. Ultimately, this dissertation aims to answer the basic questions of why storytelling emerged as a subject for serious artistic representation between 1830 and 1870 and how the viewing process might be seen as interactive, learned, and multisensory.