Fellows

Alexis Monroe

2021 – 2022 Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

The Crisis of the 1850s: Western American Land and Landscape, 1848-1861

The Mexican-American War added a massive amount of territory to the United States, disrupting the balance of power between slave and free states and forcing Americans to confront whether slavery should be allowed to take root beyond their nation’s former borders. The debate over slavery’s expansion might have been an abstract one if not for the images, produced by artists assigned to the government-sponsored surveys that spread across the American West in the 1850s, that were distributed to Congress and the public. My dissertation examines the way these landscape images, perhaps anodyne to the modern viewer, were suffused with evidence of the power of sectional conflict and charged with the power to shape the country’s future. I argue that while Northerners opposed to slavery’s westward expansion were genuinely interested in the content of these images for what they conveyed about the varied landscapes of the West, pro-expansionist Southerners betrayed, through their indifference to visual descriptions of Western landscapes, a plot to achieve political and economic dominance over the North through the addition of more “slave states” and the construction of a transcontinental railroad linking Southern ports to the Pacific. Despite the overt political inflection of the US-Mexico Boundary Surveys, the Pacific Railroad Surveys, and other government-sponsored expeditions of the period, the drawings and prints produced for their official reports have yet to be studied in terms of their reflection of and influence on the sectional crisis that defined the 1850s. In our current moment of intense partisan discord, my dissertation offers perspective on another defining moment of seemingly insurmountable political conflict in our nation’s history.

Sara Morris

2021 – 2022 American Craft Predoctoral Fellow
University of California, Santa Barbara

Figurative Sculpture and the Crafting of Identity in Postwar American Art, 1960–1990

My dissertation examines the methods by which West Coast ceramic sculpture troubled aesthetic and cultural conventions of the statue, the monument, and the figurine, renegotiating sculpture’s historic limitations during the late twentieth century. I argue that artists trained in studio ceramics defamiliarized the conventions of modern sculpture, effectively politicizing human forms at a time of bodies’ participation in three wars, brewing social movements, and protests.

My goal for this project is to argue for the conceptual sophistication of figurative ceramics within the history of postwar art by bringing attention to the important but understudied works of artists on the West Coast, including Robert Arneson, Viola Frey, and Patti Warashina. Supported by the postwar boom in teaching positions in newly established college and university art departments, such as the University of California ceramics departments at Berkeley and Davis, ceramists experimented with new ideas and ways of making outside of the mainstream commercial system. The modality of ceramics has the capacity to formally and conceptually invest three-dimensional handmade objects with a bodily presence or weighty corporeality through the interplay of form, language, and labor. As such, handmade ceramic objects become vehicles for bodily metaphor, ideal for addressing midcentury gender and material hierarchies due to the medium’s associations with domesticity and kitsch.

The figurative ceramics that will form the focus of my study do not connote a discrete art movement so much as they describe a style of work that pushed back against self-referential, gestural art forms, such as Abstract Expressionism. In dialogue with the discourses of modernist sculpture and craft, this project broadens the sculptural methodology proposed by William C. Seitz in his exhibition, Art of Assemblage (Museum of Modern Art, 1961) to explore craftsmanship―applied manual skill―alongside issues of size and material-specificity. I utilize literary theorist Susan Stewart’s theories of scale in which she argues that bodily narratives of the miniature and the gigantic mediate our experience of the world. In mobilizing this framework, I will reconfigure clay as a medium that not only animates traditional figurative forms, but also the body.

Samantha Noël

2021 – 2022 Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow
Wayne State University

Diasporic Art in the Age of Black Power

Diasporic Art in the Age of Black Power seeks to examine the impact of the Black Power Movement on visual art as it emerged in the political, historical, and social contexts of the United States and the Anglophone Caribbean in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, it aims to identify instances in which the iterations of the Third World Left in the US and the Caribbean crossed paths and determined a need for internationalism in Black creative expression that worked in tandem with the political radicalism of that era. Diasporic Art in the Age of Black Power aims to determine whether or not these artists were able to create a connective notion of a trans-Black aesthetic that was distinct from American art and Caribbean art altogether and that could ultimately find an affiliation with art of the Third World. Within this trajectory, the international reach of art created in Kingston, Jamaica, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, could be vast. Despite the fact that abstraction created in the Western world may have been perceived as universalist, the art created by Black Caribbean and American artists may very well have been just as universalist in the Global South, which holds the majority of the world’s population.

Elke Seibert

2012 – 2013 Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow
Frobenius-Institut, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Leo Frobenius's Prehistoric Rock-Paintings Exhibition in the USA (1937–39) and the Dialogue Initiated among Contemporary American Artists

This research project is concerned with the reconstruction of a U.S. exhibition tour of prehistoric rock paintings by the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius (1873–1938). The rock paintings were exhibited in thirty-two American cities (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Honolulu, Seattle, etc.) from 1937 to 1939 and triggered a huge response. This exhibition of approximately 150 “original copies” (oil paintings, drawings, and watercolors) made the art of prehistoric rock painting accessible to the Western world and probably inspired a number of renowned American surrealists and abstract expressionists, especially those who were engaged within the framework of the Federal Art Project in New York in 1937.

2013 – 2014 Short-Term Visitor
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

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

2014 – 2015 Short-Term Visitor
German Center for the History of Art (DFK), Paris

The American Abstract Artists (1936–1960)

2021 – 2022 Fulbright Visiting Scholar

The Imagination of Alberto Giacometti’s Sculpture in Twentieth-Century American Art

Kaegan Sparks

2021 – 2022 William H. Truettner Predoctoral Fellow
City University of New York, The Graduate Center

Mierle Laderman Ukeles and the Politics of Social Reproduction, 1969 to Present

This monographic dissertation frames five decades of installations and public performances by Mierle Laderman Ukeles (b. 1939) within an expanded conception of “reproductive labor.” Originally designating the renewal of labor power through domestic work and childcare, reproductive labor was theorized by socialist feminists in the 1970s contemporaneously with Ukeles’s early art. Marxist-feminist discourses have since elaborated social reproduction to encompass a wide range of undervalued activities that preserve systems necessary for material and social life, from nutrition and community to public infrastructures and a viable biosphere. Likewise, Ukeles’s practice progressively broadened the domain of her self-designated “maintenance art” from her personal experience as a mother and housewife to art institutional, civic, and ecological scales.

My study contextualizes Ukeles’s works vis-à-vis the US transition from New Deal–era and Great Society programs to the austerity measures of early neoliberalism. Touch Sanitation (1979–80), Ukeles’s signature collaboration with New York City’s garbage collectors, was developed and conducted in the wake of the city’s fiscal crisis and subsequent rollback of social services. I bring this sociopolitical framework into conversation with contemporaneous art historical discourses on postmodernism, arguing that Ukeles’s “maintenance art” offers two parallel critiques. In challenging modernism’s heroic, masculinist myths of creative originality and aesthetic autonomy, I contend, Ukeles’s work also interrogates neoliberal ideologies of progress and rugged individualism, which were newly amplified in the US during the 1970s–’80s to support the escalation of free markets and disinvestment from the welfare state.

Olga Tchepikova-Treon

2021 – 2022 Big Ten Academic Alliance Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow
University of Minnesota

Disability on Screen: Medicine, Art, and Experimental Film Cultures

My project examines visions of disability, deformity, and illness in cinematic works produced in avant-garde, experimental, and other non-mainstream film cultures. In particular, I juxtapose those cultures’ conceptions of impairment, incompleteness, and “defect” with medical films in which questions of disability are also treated, less with representation in mind than anatomization and diagnosis. A comparative study of these film genres permits an encounter with the ways that implicit and explicit ideals of difference, cultural hierarchy, and notions of otherness play a part in the social pathologization of disability. At the same time, I explore how such non-mainstream and experimental depictions of disability give form to an alternative horizon of possibilities―one in which people or characters who have historically been labeled freaks, geeks, monsters, curiosities, and cripples resist normative understandings of wholeness and perfection, thereby overturning conventional approaches to human variety.

My research at the Smithsonian Institution speaks to both the medical/disability and the film/artistic foci of my project. Working under the guidance of Katherine Ott at the National Museum of American History, Saisha Grayson at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Josh T. Franco at the Archives of American Art, my analysis will critically interrogate the public perception and inner organization of discourses on disability, deformity, and difference inside and in affiliation with medical, social, journalistic, and artistic practices and institutions.

Dana Warren

2021 – 2022 Visiting Scholar
Oregon State University

Exploring the History and Ecology of Hudson School of Art: What Can We Learn about Pre-Industrial Forests in Northeastern North America from Mid-19th Century Paintings?

Colin Young

2021 – 2022 Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow
Yale University

Desert Places: The Visual Culture of the Prairies and the Pampas across the Nineteenth Century

This thesis examines the visual culture of the North American prairies and the South American pampas in the long nineteenth century. Both regions were understood by settler colonists to be “deserts”―wastelands bereft of “civilization”―yet these grassland frontiers played a crucial role in the social construction, political ideology, and artistic development of both continents. Moving critically between maps, photographs, prints, and paintings, I argue for the necessity of looking at these zones as hemispheric desert places. The four chapters of this dissertation are divided thematically and focus on key tropes across these deserts: the construction of desert emptiness and indigenous erasure in the first photographic albums of the prairies and the pampas; race, archive formation, and anti-Blackness in the mythology of the gaucho and cowboy; nineteenth-century modes of looking and white performativity in George Catlin’s apocryphal South American period; and the desert as an ambiguous contact zone marked by racial, sexual, and geopolitical border crossings in images of frontier captivity and abduction. For the SAAM fellowship, I will be working on chapters three and four, which function as a self-inflecting pair in their convergence of Indigenous and settler bodies, perspectives, and epistemologies.

Anila Quayyum Agha

2020 – 2021 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow
Herron School of Art and Design

A Place to Call Home

My research at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Archives of American Art, will include studying major holdings of contemporary artwork, craftwork, and documentation of artists and craftspeople. Although particular interest will be given to individuals who have immigrated to the United States from the South Asian and African diasporas, I will also look at American-born artists who have been influenced by Asian and African motifs and creative processes. Research into artists engaged in political and social dialogues through their artwork, principally African American artists, will also be undertaken. A variety of materials will be explored, from interviews and artist archives to historic textile pattern samples and large-scale contemporary art created in the last several years. I will incorporate research from these sources into concepts for future artworks and learn from the variety of production methods and materials researched during my residency.

Chloe Chapin

2020 – 2021 Joe and Wanda Corn Predoctoral Fellow
Harvard University

Full Dress: Masculinity and Conformity in Antebellum America

In early nineteenth-century America, masculine formal eveningwear evolved into a uniform ensemble of a black tailcoat and trousers and a white shirt, waistcoat, and bowtie: a style that has changed little since. In my dissertation, I investigate the origins of this style of dress in order to consider broader relationships between masculinity and power.

Focusing on the process of sartorial standardization between 1820 and 1850, I examine the origins of the male evening suit in two ways: as an assemblage of material goods that adorned masculine American bodies, and as a symbol of power that emerged out of a particular historical moment. The rise of American cities, urban life, and industrial capitalism led to enormous prosperity and new ideas of equality and democracy among white men, but also to an increased instability of the masculine self, particularly as political authority and American citizenship were being redefined. I interrogate the critical shift in attitudes toward masculine adornment in the early nineteenth century, and the resultant ways in which men in early America chose to model themselves after (or in notable contrast to) their French and British counterparts as they reconceived attitudes about aristocracy, authority, and masculinity.

Antebellum American formality was a performance of class that was often disguised as the embodiment of morality and was part of a greater transition from public acts of piety to more secular performances of social status. When white American men marked themselves as critically different from both their European forebears and their Native and African American neighbors, they created newly American interpretations of both formality and civility. In this way, masculine evening suits articulated white racial formation through material choices in everyday life.

Building on scholarship linking gender studies with American social, political, and material history, I use the exterior body of the formal suit to examine interior relationships between independence, responsibility, and supremacy, focusing on themes of precarity, conformity, and exclusion. Through the examination of masculine evening suits, I consider how these connections are still being continually, materially reinscribed today.

Beatriz Cordero Martín

2020 – 2021 George Gurney Postdoctoral Fellow
Saint Louis University, Madrid

Beyond Guernica: The Influence of the Spanish Civil War on American Art

For Americans living in the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War was the definitive sign of the spread of fascism in Europe. Concurrently, it became a particularly attractive topic for American artists and writers, a phenomenon that resulted in no small part from the unequal nature of the struggle and the romanticization of Spain in nineteenth-century art and literature. The display of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937) at the Museum of Modern Art from 1939 to 1981 tapped into this preoccupation, captivated the public, and transformed one artistic interpretation of a specific attack on civilians into a universal icon for peace. This project aims to investigate the impact that the Spanish Civil War had on American artists from an ideological point of view. It analyzes how artistic representations of the subject evolved as US politics became more international in scope during the second half of the twentieth century. This study will also consider the significance of Guernica for artists working in the United States and the ways in which Spanish artists encouraged formal experimentation among their American peers.

Janine DeFeo

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
City University of New York, The Graduate Center

Food and the Social Body in U.S. Art, 1962–1983

Starting in the early 1960s, food began to literally appear as a material across the spectrum of American art production. This phenomenon emerged in the midst of a wider cultural reckoning around food and the body, as postwar developments in food production and consumption met a newly convulsive questioning of the quality, health, and ethics of the American diet. There has been little inquiry into how the material presence of food within art production alters conventional narratives of postwar art, and little attention has been paid to the specificities of food as a complicated non-art material with its own modalities and associations. Produced by economic and political forces as much as natural ones, food generates and sustains the body while simultaneously knitting it into the social world, from the family unit to larger categories such as ethnicity, class, nation, and gender.

This project argues that artistic engagement with food in this period was deeply significant, reflecting a changing American food culture and an evolving understanding of the body. Artists like David Hammons, Alison Knowles, Suzanne Lacy, Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden, Adrian Piper, and Barbara T. Smith identified food as a special kind of material that could connect economic, political, and social conditions with biological reality. They used the material of food to articulate an experience of the physical body as entangled with, interpellated by, and sustained by its social and political roles. My dissertation brings together food studies, art history, and the cultural history of food in this period to examine the work of a group of artists who used food in dialogue with the living body in order to ask: where does the body end, and the rest of the world begin?

Theo Gordon

2020 – 2021 Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow
Courtauld Institute of Art

Is there a Homosexual Aesthetic in Contemporary Art?

This study will account for the cultural, social, and political stakes of artists addressing gay and lesbian issues who first began to publicly exhibit their work together between 1969 and 1980. I ask how individual artists across the 1970s made homosexuality the subject of their work while simultaneously resisting the labels of ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ art. Looking backward from the New Museum’s 1982 exhibition, Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art, which was the first exhibition in the United States to show work by gay men and lesbians together, I investigate how collective exhibition practices and group associations of gay and lesbian artists developed in relation to the wider institutions of the art world across the 1970s. I contend that there was a tentative, exploratory, and historically contingent understanding of homosexual identities in art in the United States that developed in the period between the advent of modern gay liberation in 1969 and the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in 1981. Excavating this forgotten artistic and sexual experimentation is crucial to challenging the cultural, social, and political pitfalls of reified identity for marginalized communities in the United States in our present moment. Through an extensive program of research in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art into a range of artists, collectives, and gallery spaces operating in the 1970s, this study will form the heart of my new book manuscript on formations of anti-identitarian politics in queer artistic practices in the United States. This book will provide a new perspective on the relationship between institutional representation and cultural resistance in American art since 1969.

Ellen Harvey

2020 – 2021 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow
Independent Artist

LOVE/LOSS/USA

Unlike many countries where the ruins of the past provide the foundation for the myths of the present, the United States has historically used its natural beauties to support a national narrative of redemption and transformation. Artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Church, and Asher Durand used their paintings to favorably contrast the heroic splendor of the new world with the European reliance on the classical and medieval past for national and political legitimacy. This linkage of the natural world with the larger American national project is far from unproblematic, particularly in its depiction of the American continent as essentially “empty,” relegating Native Americans to a world of nature rather than of culture. Its emphasis on the aesthetic or picturesque value of sites also ignores the very real interdependence between the “viewer” and the “viewed,” even as it inspires much of the conservation efforts within the United States to this day, in particular the National Parks System. I will spend two months at the Smithsonian American Art Museum researching paintings of iconic U.S. natural sites in order to produce complementary paintings of those locations that reveal both the degree to which they have changed and to explore the ways in which these paintings have informed the collective narrative of our country. These paintings of natural sites will be included as part of my ongoing project entitled The Disappointed Tourist, which is a crowdsourced series of paintings of destroyed sites that people have nominated to be painted. My goal is to produce a traveling, on-going series of paintings that honors the trauma of the loss of our physical environment (both natural and man-made) to create a positive conversation that harnesses our love for place to create collective aspirations for preservation and creation.

Elizabeth Hutchinson

1996 – 1997 Predoctoral Fellow
Stanford University

Native Arts for Art's Sake: Indian Arts and Aesthetics, 1900–1920

2020 – 2021 Senior Fellow
Barnard College, Columbia University

Muybridge’s Pacific Coast: Guatemala

My current book project, Muybridge's Pacific Coast, investigates landscape photographs made along the western edge of North America between 1866 and 1875. The title comes from a phrase Eadweard Muybridge himself used to market these photographs. As I show, many of the works in these series are visually underwhelming; nevertheless, he published and distributed them to an audience curious to see these locations. The book comprises an introduction and four chapters, each of which is organized around a series of photographs of a specific site that Muybridge photographed for federal agencies or their close associates as part of projects to bring the region into control and profitable production.

My analysis of these images pulls out their thematics of compromised vision and vulnerability even as I document their connection to colonial projects along the coast. Central to my work are the critical strategies of ecocriticism and postcolonial studies. Rather than seeing the work as the exclusive creation of an artist, my readings take into consideration how the landscape itself constrained Muybridge’s practice and contributed materially to the making of the pictures. Central to my argument is the fact that, while the United States had long had an interest in oceanic travel and trade in the Pacific, the expansion of west coast settlement due to the Oregon Trail, the Gold Rush, and the Alaska Purchase forced the country to reckon with treacherous coastal conditions and barriers to settlement along the geothermally-active cordillera of volcanic mountains that stretch down the entirety of the coast of the Americas. In each chapter, I explore the ecology of both the landscapes in which the pictures are being made and the ecologies of wet-plate photography comprising the interactions of light, apparatus, chemicals, glass, paper, air, and water. At the same time, I bring in Indigenous relationships to these same places as they are made visible on the pictures. Each series captured sites that were homelands to Indigenous communities, and while Muybridge and his patrons were committed to a settler colonial view of these lands as territory, the glimpses of Indigenous dwelling in mutual relationship with their environments visible in some of the works open his practice up to alternate readings. Exposing the problematic nature of a colonial understanding of land as an inert and external object to be captured and owned, my readings demonstrate the labor (conceptual and applied) needed to make land conform to this constructed perspective.

Matthew Limb

2020 – 2021 Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow
University of California, Santa Barbara

“Living on the Edge": Ceramics and the Environment in the American West, 1961–2000

The history of traditional craft media remains an unwritten chapter of the environmental art movement. This is a serious omission as the materiality of craft necessitates a direct connection to the land in order to utilize raw, natural materials. My dissertation investigates three ceramists who negotiated relationships with the land of the American West and the complicated politics of appropriating indigenous traditions of making through their objects. Winfred Ng (American, 1936–1991), a ceramist-turned-designer who, in 1961, established the storefront Environmental Ceramics in San Francisco; David Shaner (American, 1934–2002), a Montana-based studio potter who advocated for low-environmental impact firing and appropriated indigenous North American ceramic techniques; and Rick Dillingham (American, 19521994), a studio ceramist who worked alongside artists from indigenous nations in the American Southwest to better understand their ecologically sound production methods. I repurpose the concept of the “ethical pot”—a term popularized by British studio craftsman Bernard Leach in A Potter’s Book (1940) to describe the humility and spirituality of the everyday utilitarian pot—to consider the implications of environmental degradation. Ceramists working in the American West faced a myriad of socio-ecological issues in their practice: corporate mining, nuclear testing and waste, oil spills, an energy crisis, the (de)colonization of indigenous lands, and the cultural appropriation of indigenous histories. The earth and energy-based origins of the medium made environmental concerns a key issue for these artists. The connection between maker, materials, and the land spurred a politically radical approach to artistic production that challenged the divisions between art and life and fostered a desire for socially aware, ethical forms of making that placed these potters at the forefront of the environmental movement.

Cyle Metzger

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
Stanford University

Deep Cuts: Transgender History in American Art after World War II

This dissertation asks: what happens to traditional narratives of gender in the history of American art when we consider transgender artists and works that specifically illuminate transgender embodiment? This project contends that works by and featuring Forrest Bess (1911–1974), Candy Darling (1944–1974), Greer Lankton (1958–1996), and Cassils (b. 1971) do at least three things: first, they demonstrate why sex and gender cannot be determined through visual information alone; second, they show how social and scientific histories can be interwoven to carefully assess the appearance of sex and gender transformation in art; and third, they highlight the subtleties of sex and gender that can emerge throughout art history when “male” and “female” are seen as just two of many categories of identity. Works of art made in the United States after WWII are the focus of this dissertation because the US became a springboard for contemporary global movements in art and transgender medicine after Nazi occupation forced the centers of both modern art and transsexual medicine to move from Europe to the US. Each chapter in this dissertation progresses chronologically to follow charged shifts away from terms like “transsexuality” and “hermaphroditism” in the twentieth century and toward “transgender” and “intersex” in the twenty-first.

My first chapter addresses how Forrest Bess uses abstract symbolism in his paintings from the 1950s and 1960s in ways that draw new and potent connections between contemporary transgender medicine, early twentieth-century sexual science, and medieval alchemy. The next chapter in this project examines how nude images of Darling signal intersecting histories of drag and transsexuality as well as conflicts between her expressed desire to be seen as a woman and the celebrity her transsexuality engendered within the American avant garde of the 1960s and 1970s. Chapter three contends that Greer Lankton’s dolls, sculptures, and drawings from the 1980s and 1990s picture the artist’s otherwise invisible traumatic experiences of “sexual reassignment” in ways that rhyme with the aesthetics of AIDS and addiction produced by her close friends David Wojnarowicz and Nan Goldin. The last chapter of this dissertation shows how Cassils’s performance works from the early 2000s through to the present question transsexual surgeries while also calling attention to violence committed against contemporary transgender people.

Kelvin Parnell

2020 – 2021 Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow
University of Virginia

Casting Bronze, Recasting Race: American Sculpture in the Mid- to Late Nineteenth Century

This dissertation studies the role of bronze and naturalism in American sculpture during the mid-to-late nineteenth century. It considers the ways in which sculptor Henry Kirke Brown (18141886) and his first pupil, sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward (18301910), expressed a commitment to bronze and naturalism that entangled materiality and aesthetic style with national identity. The dissertation demonstrates that bronze became a significant point of interest for nineteenth-century audiences and my project will emphasize how both sculptor and viewer shared an understanding of a work’s relevancy and value through the specific material in which it was created. More pointedly, the project articulates how bronze and naturalism function as representational tools to fashion distinctively American subjects emblematic of the country’s history and values. By analyzing Brown’s and Ward’s use of bronze and their varied styles, I articulate how material and style were combined to articulate, construct, and differentiate racial identities in sculptural representations in mid-to-late nineteenth-century America. In so doing, my dissertation offers new avenues for understanding the ways in which sculptural representation, materiality, and aesthetics had an impact on racial formations within the United States between the 1840s and 1890s, a period art historian Wayne Craven has described as “America’s Bronze Age.” Thus, this study balances the social-political connections between racial imagery and sculpture produced in the U.S. during this period with materiality in order to determine how bronze and an amalgam of sculptural styles are critical vehicles in American sculpture for inscribing racial difference and hierarchy.

Pierre-Jacques Pernuit

2020 – 2021 Terra Foundation for American Art Predoctoral Fellow
Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Light In media res: The Art of Mobile Color in America, 1910–1970

The many-colored-light devices created by American artists between the 1910s and the early 1960s, such as Stanton Macdonald-Wright’s Color-Light-Machine, Thomas Wilfred’s Clavilux, or even Charles Dockum’s Mobile Color Projector, were considered a new medium for the fine arts by their creators and a cohort of critics. What was termed the new “art of Mobile Color” consisted of the projection of colored light through “visual organs” or other light devices of varying sizes onto screens in improvised, abstract compositions. Mobile Color artists considered their machines a technological improvement on the medium of painting and an alternative to such mediums as photography and film. The most emblematic example of Mobile Color is what the Danish-born artist Thomas Wilfred called lumia, an art which received significant institutional attention in postwar America.

My dissertation examines Mobile Color as an unexplored moment in the history of American art, critically overlooked as a significant early encounter between technology and avant-garde theories of abstraction. In the first half of the twentieth century, Mobile Color artists sought to implement technical solutions to aesthetic problems. My dissertation specifically examines the colored light machines that these artists created, interpreting them as a theory of art and technology put into mechanical form. I aim to contextualize Mobile Color within the art of its time by closely studying the discourse that accompanied these technological experiments at two different moments: their elaboration in the early decades of the twentieth century and their postwar exhibition in American museums.

Ali Printz

2020 – 2021 William H. Truettner Predoctoral Fellow
Tyler School of Art, Temple University

Appalachian Regionalism: Reimagining Modernism on the Periphery of American Art

“Appalachian Regionalism: Reimagining Modernism on the Periphery of American Art,” identifies the neglected Appalachian region as possessing its own unique regionalism in the history of American Art. I argue that artists working in Appalachia are distinct within the scope of modernism and beyond in that they have produced informed work that combines aspects of folklife, craft, and fine art, as well as religion, labor, and elements of flora and fauna characteristic of the region. Additionally, many of these artists have focused on elements of environmental exploitation, such as mining and timber clearcutting, and their pollutive, socioeconomic, and societal effects. By looking at these artists through a socio-art historical and ecocritical lens, one can trace both the toll that the industrial revolution took on the environment in one of the most exploited areas of the country and the need for its inclusion in Appalachian visual culture. Artists like David Gilmour Blythe, Robert C. Duncanson, Blanche Lazzell, and Charles Burchfield among countless others, focused on the Appalachian environment with a keen modernist eye, in hopes of giving agency to the beauty of the region and drawing attention to its cultural merits. The “Appalachian aesthetic” has been appropriated by American culture for centuries, but never given the credit that it deserves. In the wake of revisionist art histories that seek to be inclusive of marginalized peoples and misunderstood cultures, this project will explore the importance of Appalachian regionalism within American art and make the case for its addition to the canon of art history.

Z. Serena Qiu

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
University of Pennsylvania

Visions of a Pacific Empire: The United States, China, and Japan at American World’s Fairs, 1876–1915

“Mounting Pacific Ambitions” asks how the United States’ spectacular displays of modernity at domestic world’s fairs around the turn of the century expressed transpacific imperial ambition. I assert that the United States crafted its self-image alongside and in response to the evolving imperial presentations of China and Japan on the international stage of expositions—especially as all three countries became increasingly bound in a competition that would reshape the image of Pacific empire from one of dynastic legacy to one of extraterritorial colonization. Through analyses of exposition-related architecture, print media, painting, craft objects, and human exhibits, I demonstrate how China, Japan, and the United States collectively enforced an increasing alignment between imperialism and modernization. Doing so reveals how the coincident emergence of transpacific travel, mass media technologies, and international spectacles in industrial America gave rise to an imperial aesthetic with geopolitical consequences.

Three chapters and a conclusion engage expositions between 1876 and 1915—each staged nearer to the Pacific coast than the last—to explore how the United States’ fervor for world’s fairs enabled competitive imperial posturing with China and Japan. Chapter one asks how American print representations of East Asian labor at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial belie anxieties about industrial progress. Chapter two traces negotiations of sovereignty through anthropological representations at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Chapter three asks how oil painting at the 1904 St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition became a key instrument in legitimating imperialist cultural supremacy. The conclusion questions the United States’ iconographic self-positioning as the modern gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic worlds at the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Giuseppe Rizzo

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
Ruprecht Karl Universität

Transmission of Taste and Techniques for Bronze Sculpture from Florence to the United States, 1850–1900

My research will examine the transmission of taste and techniques for monumental bronze sculptures from Florence to the United States, where bronze became a favored medium for public symbols from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. It will examine the contribution of Clemente Papi, Royal Founder in Bronze (1843–1875), who created the most important bronze foundry in Europe in the 1830s and reintroduced the ancient lost wax technique. It will study the how Papi’s work was discussed, publicized, and taken up in the US. Papi exhibited statues at the 1853 New York World’s Fair and created the first US public statues in bronze, all made using the lost wax technique, including that of Daniel Webster (1858, Hiram Powers, Senate House, Boston) and The Falconer (1874, George Simonds, Central Park, New York). American sculptors and writers who spent time in Florence, such as Henry Kirke Brown, Wetmore Story, and Truman Howe Bartlett, looked to Papi and his foundry as a source of important information and inspiration about bronze and the lost wax technique, which was introduced in the US in the 1890s. Important American sculptors such as W.G. Turner, R.H. Park, P. Powers, F.E. Triebel, as well as the Florentine-American G. Trentanove, used Papi’s foundry after his death to cast their statues.

Allison Robinson

2020 – 2021 Predoctoral Fellow
University of Chicago

The Political Biography of Dolls: Pedagogy and Reform through Work Projects Administration Programming, 1933–1946

Histories of Progressive Era reform, such as that of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, traditionally end in 1929 and often far earlier. My dissertation argues that a second generation of craft adherents who came of age during the movement’s heyday repurposed its core tenets and used them to design programs through the Work Projects Administration. Entitled “The Political Biography of Dolls: Pedagogy and Reform through Work Project Administration Programing, 1933–1946,” my dissertation examines four WPA programs that used the surge in federal funding to introduce tax-supported institutions to Progressive Era ideas through dolls. I explore how WPA administrators borrowed design and production theories from the Arts and Crafts movement to make the dolls. I push my research further to bring race and childhood into the history of the Arts and Crafts Movement by investigating how the dolls portrayed stereotypes and different categories of identity, teaching children lessons about race, gender, and Americanness through play. I will combine documentary, material, and oral research to conduct my research, consulting resources crucial to my project at the National Museum of American History and the Archives of American Art.

Ana Rodriguez

2020 – 2021 SAAM Latinx Art Predoctoral Fellow
Courtauld Institute of Art

Outbound/Inbound: Tracing Puerto Rican Graphic Arts, 1940s–1960s

My research at SAAM concerns the work of Puerto Rican graphic artists from the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression to the 1950s and 1960s peak in printmaking on the island. I will focus on figures such as Lorenzo Homar, Rafael Tufiño, José Antonio Torres Martinó, and Carlos Raquel Rivera, who, as part of the “Generación del 50,” revolutionized the arts during the period of radical political transition marked by the 1952 designation of the island as an official US Commonwealth. Though deeply tied to the local context, Puerto Rican graphic artists also lived abroad and traveled extensively. My research challenges notions of the Puerto Rican graphic arts movement as a limited insular manifestation and traces the far-reaching networks that local printmakers established with international artists and workshops, particularly from the United States and Latin America, including Antonio Frasconi, Rufino Tamayo, and Ben Shahn, in addition to American New Deal artists Edwin and Louise Rosskam and Irene and Jack Delano, who settled on the island. These cross-cultural links unearth fresh aspects of local artists’ eclectic social-realist visual language, political reasoning, and commitment to social issues, while situating the Puerto Rican graphic arts movement within the wider cultural landscape of the postwar era.

This fellowship received Federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

Sirpa Salenius

2020 – 2021 Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellow
University of Eastern Finland

Edmonia Lewis, Sallie Mercer, and Sarah Remond: Nineteenth-Century African American Women in Italy

This project fills a gap in transatlantic, gender, and African American studies by focusing on three black women who lived and worked in Rome and Florence during the second half of the nineteenth century: the sculptor Edmonia Lewis (c. 1844–1907), abolitionist and obstetrician Sarah Parker Remond (1826–1894), and Sallie Mercer (c. 1828–1894), the assistant of actress Charlotte Cushman. I will consult primary sources including correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and folders produced by these three women and by expatriates and travelers who met or heard of Lewis, Mercer, and/or Remond while living in Rome and Florence, so as to construct an understanding of the challenges and opportunities the three black women encountered when moving from the United States to Italy. I will also look at photographs, paintings, drawings, and sculptures of and by them to form a better understanding of their realities and the context in which they negotiated their identities. Thus, the project will explore Lewis, Mercer, and Remond in the context of travel, cultural encounters, and crossing of borders—be they national, cultural, intellectual or related to gender, class, ‘race,’ or sexuality. In Italy, where they had access to acculturation, education, professional success, and social ascent, Lewis, Mercer, and Remond could reinvent their identities, both as women and as African Americans.