Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellows in American Art

The Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art are awarded to graduate students in any stage of Ph.D. dissertation research or writing, for scholarship on a topic in the history of the visual arts of the United States. Although the topic may be historically and/or theoretically grounded, attention to the art object and/or image should be foremost.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Clara Elizabeth Barnhart
Clara Elizabeth Barnhart  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines painting, photography, and film to assert that Soviet montage theory and aesthetics had a critical impact on the American mural movement of the 1930s. It thereby revises the current assessment that montage in the early twentieth century was specifically a European category operating on European terrain. In addition to exploring the mural movement’s broader transnational context, this project also theorizes the significant cross-fertilization of media that took place during this period. It argues that some New Deal muralists adapted filmic and photographic montage for their painted murals in order to modernize and popularize American muralism, and to activate viewers through a more dynamic visualization of history. Concentrating on murals by Ben Shahn and Stuart Davis, whose montage aesthetics straddle the divide between realism and abstraction, this study works to reverse assumptions that have prevented our understanding of how socially conscious public art advanced American modernism.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Washington University in St. Louis  -  A New Unity: Montage in the Murals of Ben Shahn and Stuart Davis in the 1930s United States

Klint Ericson
Klint Ericson  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the material expressions of intercultural exchange in seventeenth-century New Mexico, focusing on the Purísima Concepción mission of Hawikuh Pueblo as a case study of architectural meaning in everyday life of the colonial American southwest. The Purísima Concepción was an arena of cultural encounter in which architecture and material culture accommodated interactions between the Franciscan missionaries and pueblo residents. This research project incorporates a detailed analysis of Hawikuh’s unpublished mission artifacts, a contextualization of the architectural form of the mission itself, and a critical rereading of primary documents to support an interpretation of the underlying metaphors that took material form as the Purísima Concepción mission.

Doctoral Candidate, Art Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  Sumptuous and Beautiful, As They Were: Architectural Form, Everyday Life, and Cultural Encounter in a Seventeenth-Century New Mexico Mission

Sarah D. Beetham
Sarah D. Beetham  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines citizen soldier monuments, which appeared after the Civil War in honor of the veteran, in an effort to understand the relation between sculptural form, national memory, and the marketing of multiplied art in the late nineteenth century. It also considers rich connections between the soldier monument and the Victorian culture of death, rural cemeteries, and gravestone carving. The project proposes that the citizen soldier monument catered to the memorial needs of the middle class in the wake of America’s first modern war. In this context, the copied monument, often considered unoriginal, becomes a material symbol of the enormity of Civil War death, the connection between local loss and national memory, and the taste of a public trained to experience sculpture through copies.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art History, University of Delaware  -  Sculpting the Citizen Soldier: Reproduction and National Memory, 1865-1917

Faye R. Gleisser
Faye R. Gleisser  |  Abstract
This dissertation tracks the deployment of guerrilla tactics in art in the US through five exemplary performance pieces staged by Chris Burden, Adrian Piper, William Pope.L, and artist collectives, Guerrilla Art Action Group and Asco. By examining how each art action recasts the staging of radical politics made legible by the rapidly developing media of network TV and popular film, the project argues that the guerrilla in art is catalyzed in part by the media’s representation of militant resistance, and in part by the artists’ own awareness of their status as socially marked subjects. Such a history of tactics reveals how the gestures and reception of guerrilla activists and guerrilla artists were shaped by common aesthetic and ethical concerns.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, Northwestern University  -  Guerrilla Tactics: Performance Art and the Aesthetics of Resistance in the United States, 1967-1987

Jill E. Bugajski
Jill E. Bugajski  |  Abstract
In the decades framing WWII, artworks helped shape the image of the Soviet Union as, alternately, an ally or enemy to the United States. At the same time, Soviet art helped establish parameters of a term new to American audiences, ‘totalitarianism,’ at once an elusive designation, the legibility of which grew in importance as the war drew to a close. This dissertation examines the impact of Soviet art in the United States order to trace the evolution of a visual identity for totalitarianism in the American context. In doing so, it argues that print media, paintings, architecture and exhibition design from the Soviet Union shown in the US served as transformative, dialogical sites of civic engagement in which new terms of democratic aesthetics were exercised and honed.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art History, Northwestern University  -  Totalitarian Aesthetics and the Democratic Imagination in American Art, 1933-1947

Laura Turner Igoe
Laura Turner Igoe  |  Abstract
This dissertation investigates the ways Philadelphia artists and architects visualized, comprehended, and reformed the city’s rapidly changing urban environment during the early national period. It argues that for Charles Willson Peale, William Rush, Benjamin Latrobe, and others, the human body served as a powerful metaphor in Philadelphia circa 1800, not only for understanding and representing natural processes in political or aesthetic terms, but also for framing critical public discourse about the city’s actual environmental conditions. The project reveals how this metaphorical framework produced a variety of effects in art and architecture of the period, sometimes facilitating and at other times obscuring proto-ecological understanding about the natural world as an arena of dynamic transformation.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, Tyler School of Art, Temple University  -  The Opulent City and the Sylvan State: Art and Environmental Embodiment in Early National Philadelphia

Emily Ruth Capper
Emily Ruth Capper  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the early work of Allan Kaprow, an artist well known for inventing the so-called happening in the late 1950s. This mixed media, performance-based form is commonly understood to initiate and symbolize a paradigm shift in American art: from modernist formalism to postmodernism, and from aesthetic contemplation to active viewer participation. By contrast, this project will resituate the happening in its original context of production: the universities and art schools where Kaprow studied and then taught mainly art history for the duration of his career. Doing so will allow the project to recast viewer participation as a structured pedagogical activity and to re-conceptualize the happening as an extension of formalism.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art History and Department of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago  -  Allan Kaprow’s Formalism: Composing Pedagogy and Mixed Media in the Postwar American University

Erin K. Pauwels
Erin K. Pauwels  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the photographer Napoleon Sarony’s largely overlooked role in shaping American visual culture from the late 1860s to 1900, and proposes the concept of ‘living pictures’ as a framework for understanding the complex fusion of art and performance that constituted a central strand of artistic production in the late nineteenth-century United States. During this time, living pictures connoted a number of vivid modes of representation, including dramatic portraiture, tableaux vivants, and the display of motion pictures. This study further employs the term to describe the mannered mode of self-performance characteristic of Gilded Age American artists, and the eager acceptance of theater’s comingling of fact and fiction that informed contemporary viewing practices.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, Indiana University Bloomington  -  Sarony’s Living Pictures: Performance, Photography and Gilded Age American Art

Katelyn D. Crawford
Katelyn D. Crawford  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the paintings of portraitists working within the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world, demonstrating the impact of mobility on artistic practice and portraiture on identity construction. Considering a network of about ten portraitists, the canvases they produce, and the travel of both individuals and images throughout the British Atlantic in the mid eighteenth century, this study identifies a shift in the construction of artistic communities as artists take to sea. By considering portraits and conversation pieces across the Atlantic rim, the project reveals visual convergences (in empire-wide visual conventions) and divergences (between local idioms in various port cities) that illustrate the development of regional identities within imperial conventions.

Doctoral Candidate, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia  -  Transient Painters, Traveling Canvases: Portraiture and Mobility in the British Atlantic, 1750-1780

D. Jacob Rabinowitz
D. Jacob Rabinowitz  |  Abstract
This dissertation represents the first truly critical approach to the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. It will not only subject the work of these artists to rigorous scrutiny, but also develop a new approach for the analysis of Land art and other practices that rely on the public siting and construction of monumentally scaled installations, one that accounts for the specific complications that attend this mode of artistic production. Through a comprehensive analysis of the planning, funding, realization, and documentation of the 1976 Running Fence, this dissertation will generate concrete context-specific knowledge concerning crucial aspects of land art practice, that, to date, have received little if any attention.

Doctoral Candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University  -  Public Construction: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Running Fence