Style and Subjective Identity: Hedda Sterne and the New York School


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Art History, School of Art and Design


Hedda Sterne’s work resonates with contemporary paintings from New York in the 1940s and 1950s, adding to the artistic vocabulary of the Abstract Expressionists. Yet, in sharp contrast to her male peers, Sterne has spent much of her career attempting to unhinge her own identity from her artistic practice. Rather than delving into her own psyche, Sterne turns outwards, shifting her mode of expression according to her immediate context. Sterne utilized a host of aesthetic styles, none of which expresses a single identity, but which taken together attest to a consistent artistic philosophy of flux. This dissertation contextualizes Sterne’s role within the New York art scene at mid-century, and calls into question deep-seated notions of authenticity, progress, artistic identity, and style.