Program

Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art , ACLS Fellowship Program

Project

Live Form: Gender and the Performance of Craft, 1940-1970

Project

Live Form: Women, Ceramics, and Community, 1945-1975

Department

History of Art and Architecture

Live Form: Gender and the Performance of Craft, 1940-1970

While the 1950s can be characterized by a widespread attention to form in American arts and letters, exemplified by Abstract Expressionism and New Criticism, the handmade has been occluded in discussions of mid-20th century formalism. This project reframes mid-20th century formalism within a discourse of gender, craft pedagogy, and artistic labor between 1940 and 1970. The dissertation focuses on three American women ceramists, each of whom utilized form as a conduit for social contact: Marguerite Wildenhain (1896-1985), Mary Caroline (M.C.) Richards (1916-1999), and Susan Peterson (b. 1925). At a time when women were virtually excluded from painting and sculpture, studio craft provided a vital arena for women as teachers, thinkers, and makers.

Live Form: Women, Ceramics, and Community, 1945-1975

Ceramics has been overlooked within the history of modern American art. Yet it is a medium in which women artists pioneered a hands-on, participatory teaching style, summer workshops, and therapeutic practices for returning war veterans. Through a series of three case studies focused on women potters, “Live Form,” examines the gendered legacy of craft pedagogy as it turned outward from an object-only orientation toward an embrace of community engagement, personal enrichment, and social participation during the post-war era.