Fellows in Residence, 2013-2014

Julia Bailey

Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, University College London

After the New Deal: American Artists and Soviet Friendship in the Early Cold War

This research will seek to uncover the complex networks that formed interpretations of art in the United States during the Cold War. Initial research indicates that the National Council of American Soviet Friendship in New York and a network of affiliate organizations across the nation initiated unofficial cultural exchange with the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s. Theories of ideology and reception will be employed to assess how display opportunities in the Soviet Union offered committed leftist artists a more ideologically-appealing alternative to engaging with the Western art market. Key to this line of enquiry is an evaluation of how the post-war activities of artists who participated in the public art programs of the 1930s and early 1940s were influenced by their interpretation of the New Deal experience. Primary source material will be accessed in the papers of individual artists held in the Archives of American Art and the Library of Congress, works on paper in the Smithsonian’s art collections, and state records in the National Archives at College Park. This research seeks to present a more diverse account of the American artistic experience in the mid-twentieth century. It will form a final chapter in a doctoral dissertation with the central thesis that U.S. intellectuals directed state cultural policy during the early Cold War period to support trends in American art that were considered effectively to resist Soviet propaganda.

Im Chan

Postgraduate Conservation Fellow, Independent Conservator

The Materials, Techniques, and Conservation Treatment of William H. Johnson's Works on Paper

William Coleman

Predoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley

Thomas Cole's Buildings: Architecture in Painting and Practice in the Early Republic

This dissertation will be the first comprehensive study of Thomas Cole’s architectural thought across painting and building. Such a focus stands to shed new light not only on the oeuvre of an influential painter but, moreover, on the meanings with which architecture was invested in the early republic. While the fictive architecture of Cole’s allegorical paintings is well known, it has not been understood that he was a sophisticated critic and designer of buildings in his own right. New archival discoveries and paintings previously unknown in private collections allow this case to be made for the first time. His images of the houses of patrons and designs for his own house and the Ohio Statehouse show active participation in transatlantic debates about style and how it shapes behavior. Architecture was, for Cole, the chief means of engaging with one of his major concerns: the ideal or utopic life. Cole’s paintings, drawings, and buildings constitute an overarching theory of architecture that has much to tell about his art and time. Cole’s architectural thought demonstrates the ways in which the visual cultures of architecture constructed class and identity during the period of rapid social change in which the artist lived.

Erin Corrales-Diaz

Joe and Wanda Corn Predoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Remembering the Veteran: Disability, Trauma, and the American Civil War, 1861-1915

“Remembering the Veteran” will analyze the ways in which American painters, illustrators, and photographers responded to the trauma and violence of the American Civil War through depictions of disabled veterans. From the start of the Civil War to the end of the semicentennial celebrations in 1915, my project investigates the changing social perception of war-induced disability and new visual strategies that artists developed to channel violent memories on a national scale. I look to the work of William Rimmer (1816-1879), John Rogers (1829-1904), Caspar Buberl (1834-1899), Winslow Homer (1836-1910), William Ludwell Sheppard (1838-1912), and Thomas Nast (1848- 1902) as respondents to a dialectic of art and collective trauma. This project investigates how American artists manipulated and projected the nation’s unresolved and overwhelming sense of loss onto the veteran’s maimed and mutilated body. In so doing, this dissertation will be the first to historicize the nineteenth-century American visual culture of war-induced disability and how visual artists addressed the lingering traumatic memories of the ruined landscape after the American Civil War.

Melissa Dabakis

Terra Foundation Senior Fellow in American Art, Kenyon College

A Cultural History of Italo-American Relations, 1760-1900

This book project concerns the cultural history of Italo-American relations between 1760, the year Benjamin West first arrived in Italy, and the last quarter of the nineteenth century when Venice, rather than Rome, became the desired destination for modern American artists. It builds upon my decade-long interest in cross-cultural exchange between Italy and the United States. To date, Paris and London have received the closest scrutiny from scholars of American art. In this study, I argue for the significance of Italy as a site of creative endeavor by scrutinizing the art and touristic economies that guided the careers of American artists and by considering the cultural and political currents that framed their artistic production abroad. In addition, I re-examine the notion of American exceptionalism by focusing upon the dynamic exchange between the United State and Italy from the founding of the American Republic to the waning years of the Gilded Age. In a series of five essays, I will discuss the ways in which American painters, sculptors, and illustrators engaged the social, political, and aesthetic life of the Italian peninsula. The following chapters will comprise the book: Benjamin West and Neoclassical Rome; Horatio Greenough and Hiram Powers: Neoclassical Sculpture and the Language of Republicanism; Garibaldi as American Icon: Thomas Nast’s Illustrations of the Sicilian Expedition of 1860; Picturing Arcadia, Excavating History: American Landscape Painting in Italy; and From Old Rome to Picturesque Venice: Henry James and John Singer Sargent in Italy.

Carl Fuldner

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Chicago

Evolving Photography: Naturalism and American Pictorialism, 1890-1917

“Evolving Photography” examines how American Pictorialist photographers visualized nature in historically distinct ways. It considers how Pictorialists sought to merge modern evolutionary ideas with traditional, Romantic aesthetics in order to establish a niche for photography among the fine arts. This evolutionary reasoning yielded a self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein Pictorialists gradually purged content coded as scientific from their work in favor of formal and iconographic conventions that self-consciously signaled artistic intent.

This distinct mode of evolutionary naturalism would eventually form the basis for the modernist conception of photography as a specific medium with discrete expressive potentials and limitations, whose scientific and artistic functions are fully differentiated. The increasingly specialized taxonomic schemes and critical criteria found in Pictorialist journals and exhibitions reveal a lineage for photography in the late nineteenth century that, at least superficially, developed as if by natural selection.

“Evolving Photography” additionally seeks to establish an expanded cultural context for American Pictorialism by recuperating its embedded position within late nineteenth-century American culture. It considers the nexus of nature, aesthetics, and photography within several early Progressive Era reform initiatives that were embraced by Pictorialists, namely Nature Study, Arts and Crafts, and the American Conservation movement.

Melanee Harvey

Predoctoral Fellow (joint with Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage), Boston University

Upon This Rock: Mapping Architectural and Material Histories of Protestant Black Churches, 1881-1969

This study will trace expressions of Black identity found in four African American Protestant churches by examining architectural design and material culture practices. By investigating the construction and material evolution of Metropolitan AME Church (Washington, DC), Abyssinian Baptist Church (New York City, NY), Mason Temple, COGIC (Memphis, TN), and the Shrine of the Black Madonna, PAOCC, Temple #1 (Detroit, MI), this dissertation will reveal the cultural and economic impact of these churches in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The objective of this dissertation is twofold. First, it will examine how African Americans constructed—and, in one case, repurposed—spaces, while also redefining architectural and visual vocabularies. Second, it will investigate objects crafted for sanctuary spaces such as pews and prayer consoles, while also documenting distinctive artifacts housed in church collections, such as Metropolitan AME Church’s antique candelabras, gifted to the church by Frederick Douglass. Each chapter will conclude with an analysis of the church’s iconography in American visual culture.

The Smithsonian Institution’s collections and archives will allow me to contextualize each church’s place in the American religious, architectural, material, sociopolitical, and economic landscape. At the earliest phases of African American Studies, W.E.B. Du Bois identified the African American church as a site that embodies the dynamism of the African American experience in the United States. This study aims to augment Black church studies, material culture studies, American architecture, and art history by documenting and putting forth an architectural, visual, and material schema that illustrates the physical development and material evolution of African American identity as found in the American urban built environment.

Jessica Horton

Postdoctoral Fellow, Independent Scholar

Diplomatic Choreographies: The Travels of Native American Dance Paintings during the Cold War

This postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum will support two interrelated projects. The first is to transform my dissertation, “Places to Stand: Histories of Native American Art Beyond the Nation” into a book that traces the aesthetic, conceptual, and historical dimensions of Native American artists’ movement beyond national borders, as they joined their international peers at art biennales and residencies abroad in the late twentieth century. I will work to answer two key questions: What can the inclusion of forgotten, transnational histories of Native American art tell us about the history of twentieth-century American art in general? What tools might we, as historians of American art, develop in order to reposition Native American artists as agents who have shaped our shared pasts in unexpected ways?

I also will pursue integral research in Smithsonian archives in Washington, D.C., and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, for a journal article tentatively titled “Diplomatic Choreographies: The Travels of Native American Dance Paintings during the Cold War.” The project foregrounds exhibitions of Native American watercolor paintings of ritual dances and everyday life that traveled to American embassies in Tehran, Jerusalem, New Delhi, and elsewhere under the auspices of the U.S. Information Agency and the Art in Embassies Program from 1953–66. As my title suggests, I am interested in investigating the multiple, intersecting forms of diplomacy— indigenous, national, and transnational—that surrounded the paintings as they traveled to meet local visitors abroad. Both “Places to Stand” and “Diplomatic Choreographies” seek to understand the ways in which works of Native American art interacted with local, national, and transnational imaginations across the twentieth century.

Wendy Katz

Senior Fellow, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The Politics of Art Criticism in the Penny Press, 1833-61

This study argues that the politics of the antebellum press affected the meaning of American art in ways that have gone unrecognized. The inexpensive “penny” papers that appeared in the 1830s, unlike older, larger “sixpenny” dailies with subscription lists, relied on advertising and so on sensational stories and breaking news that would sell papers on the streets. They thus innovated new kinds of coverage of local politicians, markets, crime, and personalities, including artists and art exhibitions. These papers also were explicitly or implicitly motivated by local political conflicts and conviction. Yet scholars who cite newspaper accounts of artists and art exhibitions often leave the ideologies behind these papers’ critical stances unexplored. My research for this book project accordingly systematically analyzes art commentary in New York newspapers before the Civil War, to identify moments of heightened conflict. Individual chapters chronologically address different art world exposés—undiscovered genius, influence of auctions, collusion, cliques, and other humbugs—manufactured and manipulated by the press. I argue that by locating antebellum art and artists within the competing political aims and agendas of the press, particularly the penny press’s drive to undermine cultural authority, the social and economic values that shaped art, its practice, its consumption, and the independence of the critic himself will be brought into closer view.

Dimitrios Latsis

CIC-Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellow (joint with National Museum of American History), University of Iowa

Nature, Nation, Narrative: The Discourse of Landscape in Pre-WWII American Cinema

My research will focus on the aesthetic and narrative aspects of natural landscape within American cinema, from pre-cinematic visual technologies until the outbreak of World War II, with particular attention to Nature (examination of form), Nation (examination of ideology), and Narrative (examination of story and discourse). Framing this exploration will be an inquiry into the ways that cinematic landscapes are in constant dialogue with prior forms of visual culture like photography, painting, postcards, panoramas, stereography, lecture slides, phantom rides and other amusements. I will trace the development and deployment of the various technologies of audiovisual representation that were involved in rendering sceneries and locales visible, aesthetically pleasing, and “consumable” for audiences in the relevant period. Particular film genres and modes of filmmaking that will be investigated include travelogues, early documentaries, government-sponsored or produced films, films by foreign filmmakers mostly set in U.S. landscapes, non-theatrical films (e.g. as part of amusements or other attractions), set design, and “artificial” landscapes. A comparative iconology of cinematic landscapes can reveal that during the transition from nineteenth- to twentieth-century modes of representation, landscape gradually came to be conceived of as a way to mobilize the national gaze away from older Eurocentric figurations and toward a “native,” albeit technologically-infused narrative of nation, harnessed land, and empire. If depictions of natural landscape had long been the principal artistic means of crafting an identity for this “republic of nature,” and if a narrative of progress accommodated by nature formed the primary representational methodology for this goal, then the distinctly American, temporal, and narrative medium that is cinema is the legitimate heir to photography and painting in the attempt to bring the uneasy but productive co-existence of nature and artifice to its full creative potential.

Joe Madura

Predoctoral Fellow, Emory University

Revising Minimal Art in the AIDS Crisis, 1984-98

The rise of AIDS directly affected the conventions of American cultural production from the early 1980s, generating a series of pointed debates regarding the legibility and influence of art in a time of crisis. This dissertation investigates a parallel phenomenon in which artists revised the morphology of 1960s minimal sculpture in the midst of the epidemic. While monographic accounts of Robert Gober, Félix González-Torres, and Tom Burr have emphasized the influence of minimalism for their respective practices, a broader analysis contextualizing their aesthetic choices within a polemical field of cultural debate is, as yet, unavailable. By situating these practices within the critical discourse and social conditions from which they emerged, this study comparatively approaches minimal art as a strategy of representation in the realm of art informed by AIDS.

This project proceeds from two modes of inquiry: the first assesses the sphere in which visual artists created artworks in response to the AIDS crisis in New York, and the second defines the dynamic reception of canonical minimalism by artists and critics in the 1980s-1990s. Ultimately, it contributes to reevaluations of minimalism and subjectivity, the larger discourse on political forms of abstraction, and the field of queer art history, which has until recently privileged discussions of iconography and expressionism.

Fabiola Martínez-Rodríguez

Terra Foundation Senior Fellow in American Art, St. Louis University, Madrid

The Mexican Connection: Shaping American Modernism in New York

Fueled by the “vogue of all things Mexican” (Delpar, 1996), particularly strong during the 1930s, many artists and intellectuals in the United States celebrated the naïve and “exotic” qualities of Mexico’s indigenous arts and traditions. Most importantly, however, would be the incorporation of pre-Hispanic art into a discourse of pan-American modernism. In this way, Native American cultures became the sources on which to anchor an authentic modernist aesthetic able to emancipate the Americas from the hegemony of European art. This research project aims to investigate the relationships and networks of exchange that developed between Mexican and U.S.-based artists, critics, and intellectuals living in New York from 1920 to 1945, in order to highlight the importance of North-South dialogues currently overshadowed by dominant historiographies of modern art.

New York, like Paris, became a city of émigrés who helped to shape the development of modern art in the Americas. The need to balance cosmopolitan trends with the inherent primitivism of modernism would produce a distinctive narrative that reflected unresolved debates regarding the significance of indigenous cultures in the Americas. Before the Cold War, the utopian project of uniting the continent through its pre-colonial heritage seemed a possible and palpable reality. At this point, a discourse of pan-American modernism flourished, fueled by a thriving cosmopolitan art scene in New York. By focusing on the work of Miguel Covarrubias, Rufino Tamayo, Marius de Zayas, and José Juan Tablada, I hope to investigate the cross-fertilization that occurred between Mexico and the United States at a time of intense and fruitful dialog.

Jennifer Quick

Phillip and Patricia Frost Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

The Dynamics of Deskilling: Ed Ruscha 1956-70

In this dissertation, I argue that Ed Ruscha’s practice constitutes an incisive and historically rich engagement with deskilling in twentieth-century art. Focusing on the years 1956–70, I map Ruscha’s development of a design-based, conceptual model of labor based on the aesthetic of the commercial artist’s light board and working table, tools that defined his education at the Chouinard Art Institute. Ruscha’s 1960s Standard Station prints, which feature a larger-than-life Chevron gas station, typify this model of labor. The artist based the Standard series on an image that he included in his first photography book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963). Translating the photograph into the clean lines of screen printing and dramatically tilting the diagonal of the roof, he transformed the conventional gasoline station into curiously sterile monument. The same image reappears throughout Ruscha’s oeuvre, in works such as the painting Burning Gas Station (1966) and the screen print Cheese Mold Standard With Olive (1969). The repeated reworking of a photographic imagery, filtered through the language of commercial design and transferred into multiple media, exemplifies Ruscha’s working methods in the 1960s.

Each chapter of the dissertation focuses closely on a key work of art to elucidate the specifics of Ruscha’s process and his engagement with the materiality of various media. In his drawings of commercial food products, in particular the 1960 study Box Smashed Flat, food packaging becomes a means to work through pictorial problems and to cultivate a schematic method of drawing (Chapter 1). The food drawings, in turn, presented a compositional basis for the Standard Station prints (Chapter 2), in which Ruscha develops do-it-yourself strategies of design and printing. For his painting The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire (1965–68), Ruscha borrowed techniques from the Standard prints to represent a public (and controversial) architectural institution, a place that signified the value of artistic labor more broadly (Chapter 3). The dissertation culminates in an examination of Ruscha’s photography books, considering the process of producing these objects and the archives from which they emerged (Chapter 4). While tightly focused on Ruscha’s work, my project also contributes to broader histories of deskilling—as a theoretical concept and a matter of process—in postwar art. Ruscha’s practice offers a means for understanding the complex renegotiations of skill definitive of the historical transition from productive to conceptual labor.

Leslie Reinhardt

Senior Fellow (joint with National Portrait Gallery), Independent Scholar

Copley's Death of Major Peirson

This project studies The Death of Major Peirson by John Singleton Copley (1782-84; Tate), proposing a new classical source and recontextualizing it within Copley’s experience in Italy (1774-75) and the broader currents of European neoclassicism. I propose that Copley drew directly on a Menelaos-Patroclus statue in formal and thematic terms, and suggest that this links him to other artists working in Rome at the time, among them some of the most innovative and talented of neoclassical and “proto-Romantic” artists in Europe. This context significantly expands our view of Copley’s study in Italy as well as our understanding of this painting, formerly studied primarily within the more limited context of Anglo-American history paintings of modern subjects.

My analysis of this image in terms of the period’s response to antiquity includes the transformation of modern dress of the last part of the eighteenth century. My research will address the ways in which Copley both recorded and manipulated contemporary uniforms in this painting. For example, the image of the black soldier, a fictional addition to the actual event, requires careful analysis. Identified in the subsequent print as Peirson’s servant, the elegance and dash of his appearance suggests other readings and a response to shifts in male fashion. My research will include establishing the relationship of this image to the general shift in this period of masculine ideals and norms, from the cultured graceful gentility dominant for most of the century to a heroic, athletic virility.

Anne Ronan

Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, Stanford University

Beauty and the Bestiary: Animal Art and Humane Thought in the Gilded Age

“Beauty and the Bestiary” investigates how American artists contended with the problems and exploited the possibilities of representing animals during the final decades of the nineteenth century. These years bore witness to the precipitous rise of not only Darwinism, but also the animal rights movement, affective modes of pet keeping, zoological parks, and modern conservationism. These developments fundamentally changed the ontological status of animals in the Anglo-American imagination, fueling fierce debate on and popular interest in the mental and emotional lives of nonhuman subjects. At the turn of the twentieth century, the pleasures and pitfalls of sympathetically relating to animals preoccupied artists and audiences alike. Since then, however, the advent of modernism has increasingly marginalized the intellectual, ethical, and aesthetic questions aroused by interspecies encounters, making these issues appear far less significant to the history of art than they in fact were.

This dissertation focuses on four American painters—William Holbrook Beard, Winslow Homer, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Astley D. M. Cooper—considered in relation to the wider visual culture of animals at this time. Their work charted the shifting boundary between the human and the nonhuman, thoughtfully interrogating the personal and political meaning of our relations, both lived and imagined, with other species. Revisiting and reconsidering these unruly visions is imperative, not only to nuance our understanding of American art, but to fully grasp how its legacy has profoundly shaped our present-day commitments to the natural world.

Xiao Situ

Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Yale University

Emily Dickinson's Window Culture, 1830-86

My dissertation argues that the poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) belongs in the history of art as well as the history of literature. While she became intensely reclusive after the age of thirty and rarely ventured beyond her family’s estate at 280 Main Street in Amherst, Massachusetts, Dickinson maintained a creatively productive relationship with the outside world through the medium of the window. Her daily interactions with windows were not mundane domestic occurrences, but deliberate aesthetic gestures that amounted to a sophisticated artistic practice.

My project explores how Dickinson drew upon the visual and material qualities of windows, the views they framed, and the atmospheric effects they produced, to compose “window pictures” in the spaces of her home. I analyze four kinds of primary sources: Dickinson’s poems and letters; the windows of her two Amherst homes; maps, photographs, and architectural plans that document the windows’ spatial positioning and the specific landscapes they framed; and the art and literature circulating in her intellectual sphere.

Dickinson’s incorporation of the window into her creative practice enabled her to participate in what I call her period’s “window culture.” She lived at a time when the window as both an actual object and a represented figure gained in social and aesthetic significance, permeating the art, art theory, and popular visual culture of her day. By examining Dickinson’s relationship to windows through the lens of art history and material culture studies, this dissertation reveals the poet’s complex engagement with nineteenth-century visual art and material objects. Her engagement was not a passive cultural consumption, but an active dialogue with the art and objects of her period to foster window culture in her own domestic realm. This practice transformed her profoundly hermetic existence into an atmospherically expansive one through the profusion of windows in her intellectual and physical environment. By focusing on this understudied aspect of Dickinson’s creative life, my project claims her place in the history of American art and material culture.

Luis Vargas-Santiago

Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, University of Texas at Austin

The Diaspora of Emiliano Zapata: From the Mexican Revolution to the American Imagination

Since the 1920s, Mexican Revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata has become an essential symbol to represent and define the country south of the border to both Mexican and international audiences. The Mexican government crafted an idealized image of Zapata, far removed from biographical accuracy, to embody the post-revolutionary regime’s ideas of race, nationalism, heroism, and masculinity. In public art and propaganda, Zapata served the purpose of controlling disenfranchised peasants and laborers. At the same time, Zapata became internationally known, promoting an image of Mexico at once charismatic and folkloric. In the context of the Cold-War United States, examples of these representations include Elia Kazan’s 1952 movie Viva Zapata!, as well as the cartoon Speedy Gonzalez. Regardless of official discourses, several groups along the Mexico-U.S. border adopted and subverted the image of Zapata as a community symbol to support their social struggles. Various Zapatas then appeared in different contexts, championing a wide range of contrasting political agendas on both sides of the border, such as the Chicano movement, the Mexican guerillas of the late 1960s and 1970s, the 1994 Chiapas indigenous rebellion, or East Los Angeles’s contemporary gangs. Looking at specific case studies, my dissertation aims to historicize the repertoire of Zapata’s image in art and visual culture. Here, I will be looking at images of Zapata as a malleable terrain wherein several cultural backgrounds and historical layers work out to negotiate the present and envision a better future for neglected and oppressed groups. Furthermore, my study attempts to locate and understand the hero’s role in articulating ideological projects that question and reframe Mexican and Mexican-American identities along the transnational territory of what Chicano scholars define as Greater Mexico. I argue that Zapata works as a cultural bridge between Mexican populations on both sides of the border, in other words, as a vehicle for mutual understanding. During the fellowship at the Smithsonian, I will locate and analyze records and works of art circulating in the U.S. during the twentieth century in which Zapata is explicitly represented or evocated.

Emily Warner

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

Crafting the Abstract Environment: The Abstract Mural in New York, 1935-60

The decades around World War II in America saw major shifts in art publics, the character of mass culture, and architectural notions of public and domestic space. Painted along walls and hung in spaces of dwelling and viewing, the abstract mural was especially suited to highlighting these shifts. Yet even as it assumed new popularity, the abstract mural’s definition and function remained ambiguous. Was it a picture or a wall? Did it divide disparate spheres—outside and inside, fine art and popular culture—or blur them together?

This dissertation looks at the abstract mural’s use and reception from the mid- 1930s through the 1950s in and around New York. In many ways, these murals drew on larger debates about abstraction and decoration, debates that had been fueled by seminal modernist works from Matisse’s color fields to De Stijl’s architectural environments. But these murals also responded to pressures particular to the modernization processes of urban and suburban America, and to the initiatives of government and art-world institutions around New York City. My study focuses on four overlapping phases in the history of the abstract mural in these decades: the W.P.A. public murals of the 1930s; the context of spectacle and industry muralism at the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40; the private patrons and audiences of the abstract mural in the 1940s and early 1950s; and the abstract expressionist mural in relation to the suburban home and landscape.

My dissertation builds on existing research into American murals at midcentury, while also providing a new framework for their consideration. Both synthetic—moving across a range of abstract styles and artists—and historically bounded—confining itself to the two and half decades around the Second World War—the study will bring together and evaluate a range of claims made for the abstract mural at a particular moment in American art history. The mural’s contradictory engagements with spatial environments prove far more complex than allowed by existing narratives, which tend to stress the dissolution of painting into architecture, the grand-scale abstract expressionist canvas as the inevitable end of muralism, or a move from pure painting into mixed-media assemblage. By including public and domestic mass cultures (in the form of the World’s Fair and the postwar suburban home, respectively), this study will examine other fusings of wall and image that competed for audiences’ attention, often in the very same spaces as the high-art mural.

Sarah Warren

James Renwick Senior Fellow in American Craft, Purchase College, State University of New York

Craft between Modernism and Counterculture: Rhinebeck and the Studio Craft Movement

Craft revivals have long occupied the discipline of art history as awkward squatters. Embodying pastoral and traditional values that were ostensibly antithetical to modernism, craft revivals were nevertheless deeply connected to the most confrontational avantgardes. In the postwar United States, the studio craft movement was a mode of resistance to both the conformity of mainstream American culture, and the individualist autonomy promoted within the art world. Craft occupied a potentially paradoxical position—an individualist corrective against conformity and a collectivist corrective against individualism. The concrete manifestations of this paradox were played out in the everyday mechanics of craft institutions, which I will study in order to address their effect on the aesthetics and production of actual craft objects.

Held from 1973 to 1983, the Rhinebeck Craft Fair was one of the most important craft markets in the U.S. Focusing attention on an already thriving regional crafts community, Rhinebeck also illuminated the Hudson Valley, with its proximity to the commercial and artistic vitality of New York City, as a nexus of aesthetic and countercultural experimentation. The duration of the Rhinebeck Fair coincided with a broader cultural shift in the United States, from ascendant counterculture to boom economy consumerism. Rhinebeck and its attendant cultural milieu thus provide a framework for addressing difficult questions regarding postwar craft: contested and shifting aesthetic standards, the recuperation of the “dropout” craftsperson as allAmerican entrepreneur, and the deep connections between craft production and the multitude of communes and intentional communities in the region.

Clay Zuba

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware

Red, White, and White: Native Americans, Britons, and American Imperial Identity, 1676-1861

This dissertation examines how the representation of Native Americans in literary and visual culture played a central role in the development of an American identity between King Philip’s War (1676) and the U.S. Civil War (1861). Rather than rearticulating the binary model of savagism versus civilization commonly accepted by scholars of this period, my dissertation argues that an American imperial identity emerged from a triangular, racially-inflected system that relied on the representation of Native Americans in print culture in order to create and regulate difference between rival white empires. I analyze how Native Americans resisted and redirected this racial dynamic through print culture to assert their own tribal nationalisms.

My dissertation traces the development of this transatlantic system through the interaction of visual and textual depiction of Native Americans, as produced, reproduced, and modified in the material form of books and engravings, from its initial stages in the late seventeenth century through the Civil War. My first chapter examines how British metropolitans in London first introduced this pattern of racial representation in widely circulating prints like The Great Financier (1763) and The Able Doctor (1774), which deployed a combination of visual and textual representations of Native Americans to symbolize their American colonists. My second chapter shows that during the Revolutionary War, Americans redirected this structure against Britons by using frontispieces and illustrations in re-publications of early eighteenth-century Indian captivity narratives like Elizabeth Hanson’s God’s Mercy Surrounding Man’s Cruelty (1728), alongside narratives that portray British captivity of Americans, such as John Dodge’s Narrative of His Captivity at Detroit (1780). My third chapter shows how, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, Pequot writer and orator William Apess utilized text and image to contest this triangular system of imperial identity formation in his Eulogy on King Philip (1836). My dissertation culminates with a reading of the way that Nathaniel Hawthorne, on the eve of the Civil War, used conventions of neoclassical sculpture in The Marble Faun (1860) to destabilize this transnational triangle and flatten racial difference between American and rival white imperial identities. The Marble Faun initiates a shift from triangularity toward the racial binary of white Americans versus Native Americans with which we are more familiar today. As a corollary to analyzing the formation of imperial identities in early American print culture, my dissertation recovers a reading experience that recognizes the interdependence of the visual and textual in early North America.

Short-Term Visitor Award at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Elke Seibert

Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

Prehistoric Rock Paintings and their Reception in Twentieth-Century American Art

Other Smithsonian Appointments in American Art

Emilie Boone

CIC-Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellow (National Portrait Gallery), Northwestern University

Developing a Legacy through Photography: James Van Der Zee and the Making of Harlem's Visual Narrative

A black-and-white photograph by the African American photographer James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) depicts the Jamaican Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey along with his entourage. He stands, dressed in his usual formalities, complete with the feathered hat. This 1920s photograph by Van Der Zee, captured with a large and cumbersome 8 x 10 camera on the streets of Harlem, has lived many lives. The photograph was enlarged and displayed in the 1969 Harlem on My Mind exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is currently the first image that visitors to Jamaica’s Liberty Hall see upon entering the museum. Garvey’s image is one of more than 55,000 photographs, including staged studio portraits, historical street photographs, and arranged interior scenes, produced in Harlem by Van Der Zee from 1907 to 1982. Although a number of Van Der Zee’s photographs from his early period in particular have resurfaced throughout the twentieth century, others from his chronologically broad oeuvre have remained occluded from view. How has this selection or omission influenced the legacy of the photographer and the way that Harlem, as a site, has been imagined over time?

This dissertation is the first critical full-length monograph on Van Der Zee, who is considered by many photo historians as one of the most influential American photographers of the twentieth century. It is also the first to consider the afterlives of his photographs beyond the Harlem Renaissance era. I study the circulation and reception of Van Der Zee’s most reproduced images as well as the parts of his oeuvre that have garnered little attention. This study illustrates the transformative role that specific James Van Der Zee photographs had in shaping and reshaping our contemporary visual understanding of Harlem and, by extension, African Diasporic visual culture and artistic practices. In so doing, this dissertation confirms the necessity of analyzing the selection, circulation, and translation of photographs within art historical studies. Without such considerations, we risk bypassing constitutive aspects of what it means to construct black identity within the American experience.

Monica Steinberg

Predoctoral Fellow (Archives of American Art), The Graduate Center at City University of New York

Finish Fetish: Art, Artists, and Alter Egos in 1960s Los Angeles

This dissertation researches how Los Angeles Finish Fetish artists developed art works and alter egos that problematized industrially fabricated, East Coast Minimalism as well as signifiers of artistic identity in post-war America. Finish Fetish, also known as Los Angeles Minimalism or The Cool School, roughly defines a group of works that emerged in Los Angeles in the 1960s and that exhibited a high degree of surface finish. The works were constructed by hand using new technologies developed on the West Coast by the aerospace industry, as well as polishing and spray techniques that were more commonly employed to finish surfboards and cars. Many of the artists associated with Finish Fetish—including Craig Kauffman (Maurice Syndell), William Bengston (Billy Al), Larry Bell (Dr. Lux), and Judy Gerowitz (Judy Chicago)—combined minimal forms with an intense studio practice while simultaneously fostering alter egos with a specific identity and look. Contemporary analysis of Finish Fetish has consistently and inaccurately approached West Coast handmade works as a binary to East Coast industrially fabricated and theoretically motivated minimalism. Alternately, my scholarship will question the conventional standards by which one approaches a dominantly technical and craft-based, West Coast movement using minimal forms.

I will use collected papers and oral history interviews in the Archives of American Art to explore how Finish Fetish artists addressed the shifting status of the art object and artistic identity in post-war America by constructing handmade works and humorous alter egos. Of specific importance to my research project are the unmicrofilmed papers of Craig Kauffman, Billy Al Bengston, The Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Nicholas Wilder Gallery, and more, within which I hope to find evidence of this handmade identity play. Concentrating on correspondence with artists, critics, curators, dealers, and exhibiting institutions, as well as journal notes regarding material usage and working processes, I will relate the manipulation of material to the manipulation of identity. Furthermore, I will search for evidence of the acquired agency of alter egos via attributions of speech, authorship, and artworks. Within the Archives’ oral history interviews with Billy Al Bengston, Larry Bell, Ken Price, and others, I expect to find discussions of material/working processes and plays with artistic identity. Since Finish Fetish has yet to be critically framed or discussed in depth, this study will contribute not only to the field of art history, but also to our understanding of the American experience as it relates to the art object, authorship, and artistic and national identity in post-war America.

Amy Torbert

Predoctoral Fellow (National Portrait Gallery), University of Delaware

Going Places: The Material and Imaginary Geographies of Prints in the Atlantic World, 1770-1840

London publishers during the 1770s created numerous satirical prints in reaction to the escalating conflict with the American colonies. Publisher Robert Sayer (1725–1794) issued a series of five mezzotints in 1774–75 based on newspaper reports of Americans’ rebellious reactions to the Boston Port Bill. My dissertation takes these prints as a foundation to examine the visual and material culture of the transatlantic print trade in the late eighteenth century. Through their combination of a nuanced knowledge of American geography with the artistic vocabulary of caricature, this set of prints created a figurative map of the conflict for audiences in London and North America. In turn, the prints provide a lens through which to study the entangled histories of place in the Atlantic world.

This project turns away from stylistic and iconographic debates within print scholarship to engage critical approaches to cultural geography and Atlantic studies. By focusing equally on the role of the publisher and on the material conditions of each print’s production, the interactions between the imagined places depicted by the prints and the actual places through which they traveled come sharply into focus. I track Sayer’s Boston Port Bill prints through four distinct places—the engraver’s workshop; the London street of the 1770s; Boston and New York City during the 1830s; and an American shellwork frame—to consider how prints shaped the ways in which American and British viewers conceptualized ideas of empire and nationhood in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.