Sculptural Bodies of the Great Depression


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art

Named Award

Ellen Holtzman Fellow named award


This dissertation argues that in the 1930s American sculptors significantly reinvented the materiality, practice, and politics of figurative sculpture in response to the era’s societal turbulence, unprecedented aesthetic possibilities, and the rise of documentary photography. The grotesque gesture of Seymour Lipton’s 1938 wood carving “Flood,” the collective body of heads and torsos brought together in Minna Harkavy’s 1931 bronze “American Miner’s Family,” and the photographic body represented in Isamu Noguchi’s 1934 Monel metal figure “Death (A Lynching),” all reimagine the potential of the human body as a central sculptural motif. In each case, sculpture becomes a site where the inventions of modernist abstraction merge with struggles to represent the era’s natural disasters, labor conflicts, and racial violence.