2024 Fellows Lectures

17 individual headshots


Join the 2023–2024 SAAM Fellows as they present new scholarship on a range of topics and time periods, media and messages. This multi-afternoon program will highlight a new generation of scholars who are engaging the Smithsonian’s collections and archives in order to tell new stories about American art. The lectures will be held in person and online.

Watch Wednesday, May 8 | Thursday, May 9 | Friday, May 10


Wednesday, May 8 

The first session features new research by predoctoral fellows Phillippa Pitts, Elizabeth Fair, and Natalie E. Wright. Their lectures discuss medicinal references in Frederic Edwin Church’s The Heart of the Andes, artist Nanying Stella Wong’s engagement with the architecture of San Francisco’s Chinatown, and disability-centric innovations in functionality in postwar American fashion. 

Session I: 1–2:45 p.m. ET
Moderated by Robin Veder, executive editor of American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum

  • Phillippa Pitts, Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Boston University 
    "Pharmacoepic Vision: Seeing and Unseeing in Frederic Edwin Church's The Heart of the Andes"
  • Elizabeth Fair, Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley 
    Drawing Out Ornament: Nanying Stella Wong and the San Francisco Chinatown YWCA"
  • Natalie E. Wright, George Gurney Predoctoral Fellow, University of Wisconsin—Madison 
    "‘Clothing that Works’: Disability and Function in Postwar America" 

The second session focuses on artworks that emerged from liberatory contexts within the United States in the nineteenth century, bringing together new scholarship by senior fellow Cassandra Good and predoctoral fellows Molly K. Eckel and Ashley Williams. Lectures in this session focus on (under)representations of women’s political participation in George Caleb Bingham’s Election Series, abolitionist messaging in Robert S. Duncanson’s Robbing the Eagle’s Nest, and reflections of post-emancipation life in H. Wilson & Co. pottery.

Session II: 3:15–5 p.m. ET
Moderated by Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum 

  • Cassandra Good, Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellow, Marymount University
    "Remembering the Ladies in George Caleb Bingham's Election Series"
  • Molly K. Eckel, Joe and Wanda Corn Predoctoral Fellow, Princeton University
    “The Prophecy of Divine Justice in Robert S. Duncanson’s Robbing the Eagle’s Nest (1856)” 
  • Ashley Williams, William H. Truettner Predoctoral Fellow, Columbia University
    "Marking Freedom: Wilson Pottery as Archive Within and Beyond Slavery"

Thursday, May 9

The third session focuses on representations of nature and landscape in the work of three twentieth-century women painters, featuring research by predoctoral fellows Kelly-Christina Grant, Chaeeun Lee, and Tyler Shine. Talks in this session shed light on Loïs Mailou Jones’s representations of the French landscape that engaged with modern artistic movements; aspects of melancholy in Bernice Bing’s Mayacamas Series, painted in the Napa Valley; and Alma Thomas’s artistic relationships to botanical and domestic spaces.

Session III: 1–2:45 p.m. ET
Moderated by Melissa Ho, curator of twentieth-century art, Smithsonian American Art Museum   

  • Kelly-Christina Grant, Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, Paris Nanterre University 
     "Beyond the Picturesque: Connecting French Impressions in Loïs Mailou Jones’s Landscapes"
  • Chaeeun Lee, SAAM Predoctoral Fellow in Asian American Art, City University of New York, The Graduate Center 
    "Haunted Landscapes: Race and Abstraction in Bernice Bing's Mayacamas Series (ca. 1963)"
  • Tyler Shine, Will Barnet Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania 
    "Infinite Radius: Alma Thomas's Homeplace and Garden"

The fourth session sheds light on artistic expressions of personal and communal identity, bringing together new research by predoctoral fellows Kéla B. Jackson, Sonja Gandert, and Li Machado. These presentations explore ideas of rupture and suture in the multimedia work of Faith Ringgold, activist aspects of luminosity in the fiberglass sculptures of Luis Jiménez, and expressions of queer Chicanx identity in the photographic and digital portraiture of Laura Aguilar and Julio Salgado. 

Session IV: 3:15–5 p.m. ET
Moderated by Randall Griffey, head curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum 

  • Kéla B. Jackson, Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, Harvard University 
    “‘All I Had to Do Was Fly’: Faith Ringgold’s Sutured Visions of Black Girlhood”
  • Sonja Gandert, Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow, City University of New York, The Graduate Center 
    Casting Resolana: Glitter, Shine, and Luis Jiménez's West as Protest" 
  • Li Machado, SAAM Predoctoral Fellow in Latinx Art, Temple University 
    “The Portrait as Archive and Activism in Queer Chicanx Los Angeles”   

​Friday, May 10

The fifth session brings together discussions of three contemporary artists and their relationships to museums and institutions, featuring new scholarship by predoctoral fellows Sadé Ayorinde and Adela Kim and senior fellow Alex Dika Seggerman. Presentations in this session address the use of invisibility as a strategy in the work of Glenn Ligon; Andrea Fraser’s interventions in curatorial methods of display at the University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley; and the relationship of artists Shirin Neshat, Ghada Amer, and Shahzia Sikander with both American art and the art of Islam. 

Session V: 1–2:45 p.m. ET
Moderated by Saisha Grayson, curator of time-based media, Smithsonian American Art Museum 

  • Sadé Ayorinde, Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, Cornell University 
    "You Might Wanna Get Ghost: Invisibility as Strategy in Glenn Ligon's To Disembark"
  • Adela Kim, Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Yale University 
    “In Appropriate Institutions: Andrea Fraser’s Tearing Critique, 1991–1993” 
  • Alex Dika Seggerman, Patricia and Phillip Frost Senior Fellow, Rutgers University-Newark 
    “Untangling Islam in American Art: Shirin Neshat, Ghada Amer, and Shahzia Sikander” 

The sixth session pairs new research by senior fellows Jenni Sorkin and Namita Wiggers on developments in American craft history over the last three decades. These presentations take as their subjects group exhibitions of textile-based sculpture in the 1990s and exhibitions trends in U.S. craft museums between 2000 and 2020. 

Session VI: 3:15–4:30 p.m. ET
Moderated by Mary Savig, Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, Renwick Gallery 

  • Jenni Sorkin, SAAM Senior Fellow in American Craft, University of California, Santa Barbara 
    “The Metaphoric Textile: Regional Group Exhibitions of the 1990s" 
  • Namita Wiggers, Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellow, Critical Craft Forum 
    “Making Craft History: Exhibitions in U.S. Craft Museums, 2000–2020” 

Image/Credit: SAAM 2023–2024 Fellows, courtesy of subjects