Fellows in Residence, 2009-2010

Dana Byrd

James Renwick Predoctoral Fellow in American Craft, Yale University

Reconstructions: The Material Culture of the Postbellum Plantation, 1861–77

In the postbellum period, myriad aspects of the South’s economy, society, and identity were in flux, and debates raged over its place in relation to the larger United States. Using material culture as a lens through which to view the period, I investigate the ways by which northern image-makers figured the southern ruined plantation as an icon of the defeated Confederacy. Most immediately, this period signaled the end of slavery, the central institution of southern life. The disintegration of a system of labor, a form of race relations, and the foundation of a distinctive planter class undermined the very physical structures that they upheld. This transition in productive systems was of interest to northerners on civilizing missions and aesthetic expeditions as well as southerners struggling to restore a semblance of normalcy to their lives. The plantation remained an obsessional object of investigation, commentary, and contestation. By analyzing four core sets of objects—a set of war-era photographs that critique the plantation, archaeological materials that testify to the appropriation strategies employed by newly freed slaves, transplanted northern architecture that took possession of the southern landscape, and an urban neighborhood far from the rural estate that replicated elements of the plantation environment—my project will chart the material formulation of the plantation as a colony occupied by the North. Figurations of the South as conquered alienated territory became the true organizing grammar for the relationship between a victorious North and a defeated South. Setting out from the discipline of art history in which I consider objects through an analytic framework informed by postcolonial studies as my primary documents, I will bring material evidence to bear on the ways that northerners came to know a South that was separate from the North and the means by which white and black southerners pushed back against this formulation. I hope to begin the process of rethinking monolithic representations of the region and to open the door for more critical readings of objects used in the postbellum South. Through my focus on the postwar plantation, I will open the possibility of new discourses of material culture inherent in the historical connections between objects and ideas.

Kathleen Merrill Campagnolo

Postdoctoral Fellow, Courtauld Institute of Art

Art and Homage in 1960s New York

A group of little-known early works by American artist Walter De Maria that encapsulate, in radically simplified form, critical ideas and strategies that shaped many of the developments in contemporary American art of the 1960s and ’70s has been the focus of my doctoral research. Each of these works is a form of homage, making reference to influential cultural figures John Cage, Joseph Cornell, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and La Monte Young, and documents a web of associations and friendships that map the transmission and development of radical strategies for art making from varied media including film, literature, music, painting, performance, and sculpture. At the Smithsonian I hope to expand the scope of my investigation of unconventional forms of portraiture and homage in 1960s American art, situating De Maria’s pieces within a broader field of practice. I also wish to pursue several previously unpublished discoveries concerning specific works by Cornell and Duchamp, Duchamp and Rauschenberg, and Cornell and Warhol that are obliquely referenced in De Maria’s sculptures.

Although De Maria is recognized as an important figure in American art, particularly in relation to minimal, conceptual, and land art, there is relatively little published about his oeuvre and there are no books or articles that address these early homage pieces. De Maria’s early sculptures both offer insight into the development of his later practice and reflect changing artistic approaches within the broader cultural community. Among the strategies explored in these works are activating the viewer’s role in the production of meaning, privileging conceptual content over image, minimizing evidence of the artist’s subjectivity, and incorporating space and time as central elements in the work of art. As a group, De Maria’s homage works also reflect an undercurrent of interest in portraiture and shifting models of artistic identity among avant-garde artists of the 1960s.

David Peters Corbett

Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow, University of York

Landscape, City, and Identity in American Painting, ca. 1840–1930

Leo Marx long ago noted the “persistent habit of representing America with images of landscape.” It is my aim to provide an enhanced account of landscape in the important period from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century by tracing the ways in which the representation of the organized urban life of towns and cities is linked to the representation of landscape. The project seeks to understand how the equivalence of identity and place, like the treatment of landscape as symbol of nationhood, became central to the painting of the newly important and powerful cities, and how new forms and meanings evolved. What was the impact of themes defined first in landscape representation on depictions of the city in the years between the 1840s and the early twentieth century? What did it mean to confront the imperative to represent the new urbanization of America when what was most powerfully available to depict the evolving nation was the landscape tradition? And what transformations did these themes undergo when they migrated to the new world of the cities? Tracing the transformation of these issues, the five chapters of the project build new connections between American landscape, city, and identity.

Anna Dezeuze

Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Manchester

The Everyday in American Art, 1958–71

My book project on The ‘Almost Nothing’: Dematerialization and the Politics of Precariousness examines the ways in which artists, from the 1960s to today, have challenged the traditional status of the artwork by questioning its existence as a stable, material entity. While this tendency toward dematerialization is often discussed as a challenge to museums and the art market, I would like to focus instead on the artistic, social, and philosophical concerns that have driven artists to explore innovative types of practices and new conceptions of the art object. One such concern, I argue, has been an in-depth engagement with the field of everyday objects and experiences, which is widely acknowledged to be a recurring theme throughout twentieth- and twenty-firstcentury art, but is often reduced to a generic desire to overcome the opposition between art and life. My research project at the Smithsonian will seek to articulate the exact nature of the everyday experiences that have interested artists, the range of means that they developed to capture such experiences, and the issues at stake in negotiating this elusive boundary between art and life.

After having been repressed by abstract expressionism during the late 1940s and 1950s, the everyday re-emerged at the beginning of the 1960s through experiments with new media such as assemblage, events, and happenings. My research into the works of Bruce Conner, Robert Rauschenberg, George Brecht, Allan Kaprow, and Ray Johnson aims to retrieve this crucial moment in the history of American art, and focus on the twinned concerns with obsolescence and disappearance, often related to an interest in Zen Buddhism. The second axis of my research involves mapping out connections between the early and the late 1960s, and between East and West Coast forms of dematerialization. Bruce Nauman’s early work, produced in late 1960s California, will serve as the starting point for a wider investigation of a later West Coast assemblage aesthetic, exemplified by “funk” artists Robert Arneson, Roy de Forest, and William T. Wiley, and characterized by an irreverent, Zen-inflected spirit of experimentation with everyday materials and experiences. In addition to these influential figures, I wish to compare Nauman’s work to the contemporary films of Terry Fox, thus outlining the emerging role of the photographic medium as a means to capture the elusive everyday. Finally, I will address the critical discourse of dematerialization, developed by critic Lucy Lippard to define conceptual practices at the end of the decade, in order to highlight their often-overlooked lineages to the early 1960s. More specifically, I will focus on the 1969 series of Street Works, organized in Manhattan over a number of months, as an example of dematerialized practices that actively sought to infiltrate the everyday life of artists and passersby alike.

Engaging with many of the artworks firsthand will allow me to articulate their inherent material instability, and their tendency towards self-effacement and disappearance into the fabric of everyday life—key features that have led me to define such dematerialized works as “precarious,” and to coin the term “almost nothing” to describe their mode of self-display. Artistic concerns with the accelerated obsolescence of consumer societies raise crucial sociopolitical issues surrounding the commodity value of objects, and, by extension, existential reflections on human subjectivity itself as a disposable commodity. Zen Buddhism recurrently emerges throughout the decade as an alternative to both the Judeo-Christian conception of mortality and nihilist scenarios of meaningless finitude, while encouraging artists to turn to everyday life as the repository of authentic experience and potential illumination.

Amanda Douberley

Predoctoral Fellow, The University of Texas at Austin

The Corporate Model: Sculpture, Architecture, and the American City, 1946–75

The National Endowment for the Arts inaugurated the Art in Public Places (AIPP) program in 1967, awarding its first commission to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Alexander Calder’s monumental stabile La Grande Vitesse. Two years later, the sculpture was installed on a plaza in front of new glass and steel civic buildings designed by the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), which replaced cramped nineteenth-century structures as part of a federally funded urban renewal project that remade forty acres of downtown. Although many scholars use La Grande Vitesse as a starting point for their histories of public art in the United States, I view this commission and its larger context as symptomatic of a corporate model for sculpture, architecture, urban planning, and federal policy that took shape during the first two decades following World War II. Through a series of case studies, this dissertation will sketch a critical history of the intersection at mid-century of the various phenomena that established the infrastructure for a modern public art in the U.S.

My study begins with the earliest commissions for art in architecture by SOM, one of the first firms to urge its clients to include art in new structures. The firm selected artists, including Calder and Isamu Noguchi, whose ideas about the spaces they shaped were informed by their experiences designing sets for theater and dance. By the early 1960s, open plazas and abstract sculpture were desirable components of urban corporate campuses and federal complexes. The second part of my study examines how sculptures by “modern masters” accompanied official architecture as a part of large-scale urban renewal schemes such as the one in Grand Rapids. Finally, I consider a shift away from the stage-plazas of Noguchi and Calder toward an urbanism and outdoor sculpture defined by notions of everyday life in the city. Less closely tied to architecture, multiple exemplars of sculptures by Barnett Newman, Tony Rosenthal, Claes Oldenburg, and others became new landmarks created on spec by fabricators such as Lippincott, Inc., and funded by municipalities across the United States.

Nika Elder

Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Princeton University

Show and Tell: Representation, Communication, and the Still Lifes of William M. Harnett

This dissertation offers a revised and systematic interpretation of the still lifes of the latenineteenth-century American painter William M. Harnett. The artist’s trompe l’oeil canvases have long been considered exemplary of the pervasive preoccupation with illusionism and deception in the Gilded Age. Rather, I consider the entirety of Harnett’s career through the lens of still life and situate his paintings in their cultural and intellectual context to understand the aesthetic imperatives behind his idiosyncratic practice. I argue that Harnett explored the social and cultural functions of different types of objects, experimented with composition, and exploited the interactive quality of trompe l’oeil in order to redefine painting as a linguistic medium—a way to render ideas material and, consequently, intelligible. The paintings themselves thus became objects that were intended to both visualize and stimulate the processes of logic and reason. As such, Harnett’s work takes its place in, and illuminates, the pervasive reevaluation of material culture (the way in which objects were made to mean) in his day. In the context of the decline of the art academy and the rise of the public museum, as well as the explosion of consumer culture and the delineation of Pragmatist thought, William Harnett sought to imbue both the process and the product of painting with cognitive potential.

Jason Hill

Patricia and Phillip Frost Predoctoral Fellow, University of Southern California

The Artist as Reporter: The PM News Picture, 1940–48

Published in New York City between 1940 and 1948, PM was a large-circulation Popular Front tabloid newspaper whose editorial independence and sophisticated visual program attracted the participation of many of the day’s most celebrated artists, illustrators, and photographers, from Weegee and Ad Reinhardt to Lisette Model, Ralph Steiner, and Dr. Seuss. My dissertation evaluates this newspaper’s neglected but crucial intervention into the American artistic and visual culture of the World War II era, situating PM between the period’s more familiar conceptual frames of Life and The Partisan Review as a pivotal location for the display of images, one which activated the technology of mass culture toward recognizably avant-garde ends. Whether through its organization of an exhibition of news illustrations at the Museum of Modern Art, its championing of abstract painting, its investigation into photographic meaning, or its emphasis on the importance of visual literacy to the left’s navigation of modernity in wartime, PM was much more than just a documentary reflection of its moment; it was an active and innovative participant in the visual and artistic culture of its day. For PM, rigid distinctions between avant-garde and kitsch, advanced art and mass culture, served only to inhibit the critical visual understanding of its complex world. Taken into fuller account, PM may also help to move our present historical reckoning with its moment past this old divide.

Joseph Larnerd

Douglass Foundation Graduate Fellow, Temple University

Recontextualizing The Throne: James Hampton's Material Iconology


Despite the iconic stature of the work as an exemplar of American visionary art, James Hampton’s monumental The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly (ca. 1950–1964) has yet to receive in-depth academic study. Building upon previous scholarship—especially that of curator Lynda Roscoe Hartigan—my project aspires to develop a focused critical interpretation of the object’s materiality, symbolism, and evocation of historical context. Arguing against the popular assumption that Hampton’s choice of medium—second-hand/found items—was determined solely by economic hardship, I will propose that Hampton purposefully mined the symbolic and material auras of such objects to construct The Throne as a means of articulating both a message of spiritual anticipation and social critique. Various originary contexts will be explored, including poverty in Washington, D.C., and popular evangelicals’ adoption of the nuclear threat into biblical eschatological prophecy. Though Hampton worked outside the sphere of fine art, his work offers an intriguing foil to contemporary proto-pop and pop art in its use of common, everyday objects and materials—another context to be considered. The final component of my project involves a critical comparison of Hampton’s original arrangement of The Throne to its subsequent museum display. I propose a new reading by revealing how Hampton’s intentions in producing and displaying The Throne differed from those governing its posthumous exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Kate Lemay

Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow, Indiana University

Forgotten Memorials: The American Cemeteries in France From World War II

Six cemeteries with the remains of 30,402 American soldiers killed in the Second World War are located on or near the battlefields in France. My dissertation addresses the many functions, both original and more recent, that these cemeteries have performed: as war memorials, as diplomatic gestures, as Cold War political statements, as prompts for debate about Franco-American relations and even about the nature of French identity itself. Furthermore, I analyze how those functions changed and intertwined over time. My goal is to demonstrate the importance accorded to visual and material expression as an indispensable part of diplomatic interactions between the United States and France.

Each of the cemeteries contributes to a remarkable and compelling stylistic dialectic of the era, which includes major examples of Neo-Classicism and Modern Gothic. I hope to demonstrate that these style dialogues reflect and symbolize a calculated evolution of American postwar identity, one that posited the United States as an ideal world leader or even superpower force. Part of my argument focuses on how such commemorations of war sacrifice, which incorporate a specific Christian rhetoric and comforting visual symbols pertaining to everlasting memory and afterlife for the fallen hero, erase a history of violent death. I hope to not only record a forgotten history of the cemeteries’ design and construction, but also to address whether the aestheticization of war and death ultimately contributes to the perpetuation of aggression by disallowing a serious questioning of war’s reality.

Nenette Luarca-Shoaf

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware

The Mississippi River in Antebellum Visual Culture and Imagination

This dissertation considers visual representations of the Mississippi River between 1830 and 1861, building on recent scholarship that has dealt primarily with text-based narratives and descriptions. I focus on images of the river that circulated widely, such as the landscape paintings in George Catlin’s Indian Gallery, the American Art-Union subscription prints made after George Caleb Bingham’s iconic river boatmen, popular tours of moving river panoramas, pictures of steamboats, urban views, and river maps. These objects helped to construct and cultivate different aspects of the river’s character. Depending on the audiences they reached, the river might have appeared as a boundary line, or perhaps a connective and commercial thoroughfare, a pathway to freedom, or the route to bondage. I will study the images’ exhibition histories, provenances, and receptions in different locales to situate the river in regard to several publics: in the eyes of viewers in the East, in relation to communities along the river, and to spectators both northern and southern.

Considering how the river was seen all over the country addresses its shifting place within the American cultural landscape of the Middle West, a region typically left undistinguished from the Far West in studies of nineteenth-century imagery. Indeed, during the pivotal decades considered by this project, the Mississippi River figured in discussions about the nation’s economic development, increasing sectional conflicts over slavery, the settlement of immigrant populations, and the removal of Native American peoples. In the face of these issues and thanks to advances in printing and transportation technology, images of the river proliferated in a variety of media. This study posits that the abundance of representation was also due to the difficulties that artists confronted in containing the unpredictable and malleable visual and symbolic qualities of the Mississippi River.

James Meyer

Senior Fellow, Emory University

The Return of the Sixties: On the Meaning of the Sixties in Contemporary Art and Culture

The artistic and political movements of the 1960s and early 1970s have emerged as a major focus of contemporary art since the 1990s. Many of the artists who make work about the 1960s were born during or in the wake of that era, the most dramatic period of social transformation of the last half-century. Others were born long after the 1960s; their memories are second hand, drawn from films and books. Their practices exemplify what I call the 1960s return. For in the works of these artists the 1960s reemerges as a seminal moment of artistic and personal origination, and as a perpetual source of fascination.

This project is comprised of six chapters—six accounts of 1960s effects. The introduction considers the 1960s return as a theoretical model, as manifest in the practices of Kerry James Marshall and others who interpret the 1960s as history, as memory, and as an object of nostalgic longing. Chapter One analyzes the current monumentalization of Robert Smithson’s entropic art. Chapter Two describes the expansion of Institutional Critique during the 1990s. Chapter Three traces two legacies of site-oriented practice— the site-specificity of Richard Serra and the mobilization of place advanced by Smithson. Chapter Four recounts the emergence of the artist-traveler during the 1960s and his or her return during the 1990s, in concert with the nomadization of the art world during the current era of globalization. Chapter Five is a narrative of sculptural scale that leads from the somatic encounter of Minimal Art to the giganticism of today’s mega-installations. In each of these accounts, the meaning of “the 1960s” is explored. The contemporary is conceived both as 1960s effect and as a path out of the 1960s—as the end of the end of the 1960s.

John Ott

Postdoctoral Fellow, James Madison University

Brotherhood on Paper: Giacomo Patri and the Representation of Interracial Solidarity in the American Labor Movement

In his 1944 comic-book history of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Association, print artist Giacomo Patri showcases the racial integration of the San Francisco-based, CIOmember union. Typical of his commitment both to genuinely proletarian art and to interracial solidarity, Patri’s commission is also symptomatic of the ideals of and challenges for industrial labor unions in their efforts toward workforce integration. Like other artists employed by the Congress of Industrial Organizations at this time, Patri documented, celebrated, and advocated for its interracial unionism, but his work also demonstrates that the visual and textual rhetoric of labor solidarity did not always perfectly align with the goals of racial integration and workplace egalitarianism. This research is one component of a larger book project entitled “Mixed Media: The Visual Cultures of Racial Integration, 1935–65.”

Stephen Phillips

Postdoctoral Fellow, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Towards a Research Practice: Frederick Kiesler's Experiments in Morphology and Modern Design

Austrian-American architect Frederick Kiesler (1890–1965) was an avant-garde theorist, designer, and educator who radically transformed disciplinary relationships between art, architecture, theater, philosophy, and science during the mid-twentieth century. Kiesler was an enigmatic and multi-faceted character who elaborated a unique and complex synthetic design practice through a wide-variety of furniture, stage, film, sculpture, exhibition, building, drawing, and writing projects. Although he constructed very few buildings in his lifetime, he developed an innovative model for experimental design research that has since proven inspirational for generations to follow.

Through his diverse and alternative approach to design research and its education, Kiesler derived a ―second ‗modern‘ order‖ that opposed normative panel and frame rectilinear glass and steel construction in favor of advanced technologies that might achieve continuous and more naturalized organic building structures. Kiesler invented new ways to modulate the built environment in response to multiple spatial habits of a perceiving body in motion situated and evolving through time. His architectural projects were designed to be ―elastic‖—mobile and flexible—able to expand and contract to perform multiple dwelling tasks. Kiesler became one of a small number of counterfigures during the twentieth century whose innovative experimental research developed themes and strategies fundamentally different from the major protagonists and building practices of modern design.

Although marginalized in his lifetime, Kiesler‘s work and methodologies have since become extremely relevant to the developing interests of the most recent generation of speculative artists and contemporary architects. Kiesler‘s unconventional lines of experimentation established an alternative trajectory for architects to develop interests and ideas in the arts and sciences outside the limits of normative building practices. My research and writing project on Kiesler, as initiated in my dissertation at Princeton University School of Architecture, presents a detailed and synthetic analysis of Kiesler‘s formative approach to architecture design. My plan while in residence at the Smithsonian is to study, document, and develop my writing for the first major scholarly monograph on Kiesler‘s architecture research practice.

Sarah Rogers

Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow, Southern Methodist University

Innocents Abroad, Again: American Art in Beirut, 1953–75

In 1964 the United States Information Agency sent American abstract expressionist John Ferren to Beirut as the first artist chosen for the agency’s annual artist-in-residence program. Indeed, Ferren was one of many American artists—including sculptor Alexander Calder, ceramicist Jeremy Leech, and painters Tracy Montminy and John Colt—who spent time in Beirut in the decades preceding the Lebanese civil war (1975– 1990). A decade earlier, in 1953, American University of Beirut President Stephen Penrose had recruited Maryette Charlton from the Art Institute of Chicago to be the first professor of the newly established Department of Fine Arts. Within the politically tense climate of the cold war, the U.S. government struggled for cultural authority amidst the competing agendas of Lebanese nationalism, Palestinian Liberation nationalism, panArab unity, and international politics. Significantly, this growing American presence in Beirut can be traced formally: It is precisely at this moment that abstraction and primitivism, dominant trends in American art during this period, emerged on the Lebanese art scene. This marks a radical shift from the previously dominant trends of figurative, still lifes, and landscapes painted en plein air. This project tracks the introduction of American art in an international context through the case study of Beirut, examining its aesthetic and discursive reformulations on both an individual and institutional level. The broader aim is to understand why, and how, influence travels across perceived cultural boundaries. Through an interdisciplinary methodology that combines close formal analysis of art works with an examination of primary sources, critical writings, and historical material, I account for both the American and Lebanese contexts, thereby proposing a model for a cross-cultural history.

Julia Sienkewicz

Joshua C. Taylor Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Citizenship by Design: Art and Identity in the Early Republic

Although modern disciplinary practices separate art, architecture, and landscape, this project, entitled Citizenship by Design: Art and Identity in the Early Republic, explores a period in the United States preceding such boundaries. It considers the diverse creative practices and theoretical convictions of Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827), Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764–1820), Thomas Cole (1801–1848), and Horatio Greenough (1805– 1852). By studying painting, sculpture, architecture, and landscape architecture in the context of artists who worked across these fields, this study locates meaning in the particular modes of viewing and reception these artists invoked. This project suggests that Peale, Latrobe, Cole, and Greenough all developed creative techniques that utilized the embodied experience of the viewer to transmit social and moral values. It identifies a multisensory viewing experience theorized by these artists and present in their works—a mode of viewing through which these artists believed that their art objects could alter a viewer’s character. In pursuing creative careers that juxtaposed paintings with buildings or gardens with galleries, these artists were not simply following a young nation’s economic and social caprices, but rather were working to create social change through artistic practice. Ultimately, this project suggests that these artists, who were working in a country still struggling to define itself, hoped to mold receptive individuals into ideal citizens.

Catherine Walsh

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware

Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Orality in Nineteenth-Century American Visual Culture

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.

Short-Term Visitor Awards at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Sara Butler

Roger Williams University

Donna McColm

Queensland Art Gallery, Australia

Other Smithsonian Fellowship Appointments in American Art

Alexandra Davis

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

The Vogue of Art: Representations of Artists in American Fashion and Lifestyle Magazines, 1923–51

My dissertation charts the changing image of the artist in American fashion and lifestyle magazines from 1923 to 1951. These dates span Condé Nast Publications’ hiring of modernist photographer Edward Steichen for its staff in 1923, and the featuring of Jackson Pollock’s paintings in a 1951 Vogue fashion shoot by Cecil Beaton. By engaging in close visual analysis of published images of artists and placing them in a larger cultural context, my study ties developments in the depiction of artists to the trend of increasing interconnectedness of art and American consumer culture. Through a systematic survey of three decades of Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar, the era’s leading fashion and lifestyle magazines, I examine three themes: the use of the contrasting media of caricature and photography to characterize the figure of the artist; the intersection of the spheres of art and fashion through the celebration of novelty and celebrity; and the diversity of the modern art market with regard to identity, geopolitics, and artistic affiliation. Providing an essential addition to the narrative of American artistic identity, my dissertation underscores the ways in which the public representation of artists during the second quarter of the twentieth century anticipates postmodern art practices and artistic personas of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, in its chronological scope beyond the traditional break of 1945, my study emphasizes the continuity between pre– and post– World War II in the narrative of the development of the image of the artist in American society.

Amy Mooney

Postdoctoral Fellow (at National Portrait Gallery), Columbia College Chicago

Portraits of Noteworthy Character

My book, Portraits of Noteworthy Character, examines the central role played by portraiture in fostering social mobility in the United States during an era of class, ethnic, and racial tension. In particular, I consider the overlooked social function of the portrait from the 1880s to the 1950s, when U.S. civic organizations, like Hull-House, utilized art to assist their migratory and immigrant populations. Believing that the models provided in portraits could uplift and change society, diverse institutions such as The Chicago Character Guild and the Harmon Foundation launched a multi-tiered educational campaign encouraging African Americans and immigrants from eastern and southern Europe and Mexico to fashion self-images conforming to Anglo American middle-class norms. Examining literary and visual texts in tandem, I look to case studies, conduct manuals, photographs, and painted portraits that offered the promise of citizenship, equality, and happiness to those who adopted the specified codes of appearance and behavior. My study breaks new ground in understanding the social utility of portraiture by tracing the impact of these efforts on artists and their audiences. The conventions of costume, iconography, gaze, and pose that continue to influence popular portraiture today reflect a complex historic framework fraught with aspirations for social equality that deserves further consideration. Accordingly, my study will illuminate the genealogy of our contemporary notions regarding self and society.


1 The Canons of Good Breeding (Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1839), 12.