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, including all facets of Native American art. Although the topic may be historically and/or theoretically grounded, attention to the art object and/or image should be foremost. Since 2015, the awards have included the Luce/ACLS Ellen Holtzman Dissertation Fellowship in American Art, named after the Luce Foundation’s Program Director for American Art, who retired that year after 23 years of service. The fellowship is awarded to an emerging scholar of demonstrated achievement whose research and writing concerns American modernism and art of the 1950s and 1960s.

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. 

Matthew K. Bailey  |  Abstract
This project historicizes the material processes of painting by Asher B. Durand, Winslow Homer, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and John Marin, exploring the ways in which they engaged with paint as a physical substance, and how these were shaped by aesthetic, philosophical, and religious attitudes towards the material world and sensuous experience. It argues that select paintings of Homer, Ryder, and Marin disrupted traditional, idealizing conventions of materiality, exemplified by the work of Durand. These paintings instead embodied processes in which the artists struggled with painting as rooted in the sensual world of the body and base materials, moments of disruptive materiality that are related to evolving conceptions of the mind, body, and matter in turn-of-the-century American culture.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Washington University in St. Louis  -  Turbulent Bodies: Disruptive Materiality in Modern American Painting, 1880-1930

Lauren Jacks Gamble  |  Abstract
This dissertation reexamines the art of John Trumbull (1756-1843). Although Trumbull has long been regarded as a preeminent history painter, this dissertation argues that his oeuvre extends far beyond painting. To understand his art, we must study the installations and environments which he designed to accompany his paintings. His works of art should not be regarded as just visual compositions, discrete objects, or bounded two-dimensional planes. Rather, they should be perceived holistically, as multisensory, environmental projects, responding both to their surrounding spaces and to the rhythms and structures of time. Space and time are an integral part of Trumbull’s art theory, and, as the research of other scholars suggests, this complex model has a broad resonance in early American art.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, Yale University  -  Accretions of Space and Time: The Environmental Art of John Trumbull

Amanda Douberley
Amanda Douberley  |  Abstract
This dissertation is a theoretical and historical account of abstract sculpture in US cities during the first three decades following World War II. Emerging theories about visual communication impacted both urban planning and the corporate image during this period, as urban renewal reshaped cities for maximum legibility and corporations commissioned designers to create new trademarks. It positions abstract urban sculpture within this larger contemporary theoretical discourse on urban planning and design through three case studies: Richard Lippold’s Radiant “I” (1956-58); Alexander Calder’s La Grande Vitesse (1967-69); and Claes Oldenburg’s Geometric Mouse (1969-75).

Doctoral Candidate, Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin  -  The Corporate Model: Sculpture, Architecture, and the American City, 1946-1975

Anna C. Katz
Anna C. Katz  |  Abstract
Though known today for being forgotten, sculptor Lee Bontecou (b. 1931) was broadly recognized in the early and mid- 1960s as the leading female artist of her generation. This dissertation, the first book-length study devoted to Bontecou's oeuvre, treats the metal and fabric wall reliefs which catapulted her to fame in the early 1960s; it studies her rather poorly received vacuum-formed sculptures of fish and flower forms in translucent plastic, made from 1967 to 1971; and it concerns the prints and drawings that Bontecou made consistently across the period 1958-1971. Focusing on the period of Bontecou's most active public production, this dissertation offers a long-overdue narrative of Bontecou's body of work, honing in on hybridity; it examines the artist’s reception; and it negotiates her position in the field of sixties and seventies sculpture as both eccentric and exemplary.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University  -  Hybrid Species: Lee Bontecous Sculpture and Works on Paper, 1958–1971

Jason Goldman
Jason Goldman  |  Abstract
Focusing on the years 1958 to 1969 and encompassing work by American artists Robert Smithson, Jay DeFeo, Wallace Berman, and Brigid Berlin, this project examines private, underground, or otherwise non-public artworks that were long invisible to art history and now occupy the margins of the discipline. As open secrets, these objects are no longer clandestine, but their significance to art history remains a matter of uncertainty, unease, and partial intelligibility. Working at the interstices of history and historiography, the project frames the dialectic between publicity and privacy as both a historically fixed aspect of postwar American art and an ongoing methodological constraint that continues to infect art-historical knowledge.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of Southern California  -  Open Secrets: Publicity, Privacy, and Histories of American Art, 1958-69

Edward M. Puchner
Edward M. Puchner  |  Abstract
This project addresses religion, cultural identity, and the politics of racial representation in the work of William Edmondson, Horace Pippin, Elijah Pierce, Minnie Evans, and Bill Traylor from the 1930s and 1940s. It explores what they all experienced in the church, asks why most professed a divine inspiration and discusses how a racialized theology helped them generate ways of confronting real life issues through scripture. Using individual case studies featuring artist interviews, church sermons, and popular religious imagery, this dissertation links their divine calling and faith to shifts in African American church theology. It looks at where the religious faith of each artist intersected with representations of race and how their visual language imagined a faith-based response to violence.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, Indiana University Bloomington  -  “speaking His mind in my mind”: Racialized Theology, Divine Inspiration, and African American Art

Edwin Rein Harvey
Edwin Rein Harvey  |  Abstract
Forwarding a broad understanding of artistic responses to modernity and of moments of artistic and cultural interplay between fraught pairs of terms such as “modern” and “traditional,” “place” and “space,” and “globalism” and “regionalism,” this project gathers and interweaves two loose historical threads: the concept of place and the alternately-maligned-and-celebrated work of the American painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009). Working outward from visual analysis of Wyeth's works, it investigates the art-historical (and also cultural, intellectual, and social) conditions that both contributed to and resulted from a renewal of interest in the concept of place among artists and thinkers in the United States and Europe in the twentieth century. At its most concrete, this project offers descriptions and historical explications of convergences and divergences between painting and place—as well as precise, local/contextual definitions of the latter—in Wyeth's artistic gains and willing losses.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, University of California, Berkeley  -  Place, Tradition, and Modernity in the Art of Andrew Wyeth

Katherine Elizabeth Roeder
Katherine Elizabeth Roeder  |  Abstract
Cartoonist Winsor McCay was celebrated for the skillful draftmanship and inventive design sense he displayed in the comic strips “Little Nemo in Slumberland” (1905-1914) and “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” (1904-1911). McCay created narratives of anticipation, abundance, and, ultimately, unfulfilled longing. This project demonstrates how McCay’s interest in dream imagery was symptomatic of a cultural preoccupation with fantasy that served to generate consumer desire. McCay’s role as a pioneer of early comics has been documented; yet no existing study situates him with regard to the larger visual culture of the early twentieth century. This dissertation connects McCay's work to relevant children's literature, advertising, architecture, and film in order to interrogate the commercial uses of the fantastic.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of Delaware  -  “Cultivating Dreamfulness”: Fantasy, Longing, and Commodity Culture in the Work of Winsor McCay, 1904-1914

Catherine Reed Holochwost  |  Abstract
This project examines dislocations, disturbances, and failures of vision in American nineteenth-century landscape painting. This focus contests the supremacy of the “magisterial gaze” in American landscape, resulting in a more nuanced interpretation of works that have long occupied a crucial position in the historiography of American art. It examines the vexed but productive relationship American artists had with the imagination, and explores how that relationship was worked out in painting, mass culture spectacles, and visual culture. The project traces varieties of multisensory experience in those media, showing how the body and its sensuous proxy, landscape, could be both an unfeeling machine and an engine of reverie.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of Delaware  -  Landscape as Machine: Vision and Imagination in Nineteenth-Century American Painting

Rebecca E.K. VanDiver
Rebecca E.K. VanDiver  |  Abstract
This dissertation investigates the connection between “Africa” and authenticity in the work of Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998) and selected twentieth-century Black artists. It posits that allusions to “Africa” in Black art are seen by critics as markers not only of the artist’s heritage, but their authenticity. Chapters look at the historiography of authenticity in philosophical and art historical discourses, the use of “Africa” by Black artists working during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, the Civil Rights and African Liberation Movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and the use of multiculturalism is the1990s. Via interrogations of selected works, art criticism, institutional networks, and archives, this intercession into American art history offers a new way to think about the role “Africa” plays in the construction of an African-American artistic identity.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies, Duke University  -  Black Artists, the Problem of Authenticity, and “Africa” in the Twentieth Century