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. 

Anne Strachan Cross
Anne Strachan Cross  |  Abstract
During the US Civil War, “Harper’s Weekly” often relied on photographic sources for its wood engraved illustrations, including images of abused enslaved persons, disabled soldiers, and other abject bodies. This project contends that “Harper’s” strategically employed photographs of atrocity during the Civil War and Reconstruction to persuade readers of Confederate inhumanity, despite their ambivalence toward the photographic medium. During this time of media transition, photographs were not privileged over other forms of illustration, and publishers used photographs as one of many sources to fulfill their goals. However, this project argues that “Harper’s” drew upon photography’s evolving documentary status in its application of images of atrocity to orient readers to its Republican and pro-Union point of view. This project differs from past studies of Civil War photography that prioritized photographic prints over reprographic engravings and distinguishes intermedial images of human suffering as forms of news-picturing during the Civil War period.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of Delaware  -  “Features of Cruelty Which Could Not Well be Described by the Pen”: The Media of Atrocity in Harper's Weekly, 1862-1866

Dina Murokh
Dina Murokh  |  Abstract
This project examines the picture gallery as a material and conceptual framework that structured visual experience and social knowledge in the antebellum United States. Taking the proliferation of physical picture galleries as a point of departure, the project analyzes gift books, illustrated histories, subscription prints, and periodicals, charting the move from architectural space to the replicable, mobile, and intimate form of the printed page. Drawing on Frederick Douglass’s radical conception of the “soul of man” as “a sort of picture gallery,” it asks how these printed objects conditioned the self-knowledge he thought central to moral, social, and political progress. By working through the layered meanings and variable constructions of the picture gallery in the antebellum period, this project signals the complex role of art—whether on a wall, in a book, or in the mind’s eye—in brokering the relationship between the individual, the community, and the nation.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of Southern California  -  “A Sort of Picture Gallery”: The Visual Culture of Antebellum America

Caroline M. Culp
Caroline M. Culp  |  Abstract
This project explores the uncannily realistic portraits of colonial America’s preeminent artist, John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). By foregrounding the feeling of presence evoked by Copley’s colonial portraits—the impression of life from inert materials—the project examines the visual origins of these secular portraits in Christian icon painting and demonstrates how their “afterlives” became intertwined with religious and vernacular practices in American culture during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By uncovering connections between colonial art and American nation-building, this project puts forward fresh histories of not only Copley’s artistic identity, but also the sociopolitical and aesthetic ramifications of hyperrealistic portraiture in the United States.

Doctoral Candidate, Art and Art History, Stanford University  -  The Memory of Copley: Afterlives of the American Portrait, 1765-1925

Mallory Nanny
Mallory Nanny  |  Abstract
This project examines postwar artistic engagements with storytelling that represent the traumatic impact of the Vietnam War in transnational terms. It analyzes photographic series by Vietnamese American artists An-My Lê (b. 1960) and Tiffany Chung (b. 1969) and non-Vietnamese American artist Jessica Hines (b. 1958) as case studies that reconstruct fragmented memories and critical experiences into complex, diaristic narratives. Through borrowing narrational strategies from oral history, each artist conflates the portrayal of immediate trauma experienced during war with the secondary trauma inherited by family members. What results are narrative gaps that speak directly to the unknown traumas and silenced voices of those who remain absent. By using the photographic medium, these artists not only highlight the subjectivity of truth, but they also point to the tenuous connections between remembering and imagining and show that collective memory is full of omissions.

Ellen Holtzman Fellow
Doctoral Candidate, Art History, Florida State University  -  Framing Absence: Photographic Narratives of the Vietnam War

Miriam Grotte-Jacobs
Miriam Grotte-Jacobs  |  Abstract
This project analyzes the Washington Color School, a loose designation for artists in Washington, DC during the 1960s, and argues that their achievements were deeply rooted in unique conditions germane to their adopted city. Key Washington Color School figures are frequently understood to share an interest in the possibilities of abstract color, a reading that foregrounds formal affinities and situates their work within the broader legacy of color field painting and abstraction in the United States. Such an approach, however, overlooks the impact of the specificity of place on these artists. Close readings of work by Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Alma Thomas, Anne Truitt, and others elucidate practices that both respond to local conditions and intersect with tendencies across the globe. Far from confining the impact of the Washington Color School to its site of origin, this project assesses its significance through discrete moments of transnational exchange.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, Johns Hopkins University  -  Capital Art: Rethinking the Washington Color School

Molly Superfine
Molly Superfine  |  Abstract
This project explores the materiality of conceptual sculpture and assemblage in the Americas during the late 1970s by artists united in their disenchantment with second-wave feminism. Beverly Buchanan’s frustula are poured concrete structures; Feliza Bursztyn’s camas (beds) are metal structures audibly gyrating beneath silk; Senga Nengudi’s R.S.V.P. sculptures of pantyhose filled with sand are pliable and performative. Materials become sites of investigation into memory, body, and precarity. By sourcing non-traditional artmaking materials within what this project calls the “haptic imaginary,” these artists disrupt both the second-wave feminist and conceptualist art imaginaries and offer new epistemological methods of engagement that retaliate against the hegemony of the visual.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History & Archaeology, Columbia University  -  Radical Touch: Performative Sculpture and Assemblage in the 1970s

Matthew K. Limb
Matthew K. Limb  |  Abstract
The history of traditional craft media remains an unwritten chapter of the environmental art movement. This is a serious omission, as the materiality of craft necessitates a direct connection to the land, and its processes utilize unprocessed, natural materials. This project investigates three ceramists who negotiated relationships with the land in the US West and the complicated politics of appropriating indigenous traditions, processes, and designs through their objects. The connection between maker, materials, and land spurred a politically radical approach to art production. It challenged the division between art and life and fostered a desire for socially aware, ethical forms of making which placed these potters at the forefront of the environmental movement.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  “Living on the Edge”: Ceramics and the Environment in the American West, 1961-2000

Isabel Frampton Wade
Isabel Frampton Wade  |  Abstract
This project examines the rise of architectural photography in mid-twentieth-century discourses around the intersection of art practice and urban redevelopment in Los Angeles. Architectural photography is conventionally studied as a technical practice; this project redefines it as a capacious field of images harnessed to create meaning out of buildings in relation to raced and classed spaces it helped construct. Through photobooks, magazines, artist books, and city surveys—all collaborative publications aimed at reimagining and circulating Los Angeles’s urban form as a model for the rest of the nation—the project reconsiders how architectural photography made palatable a mode of representation that seemingly integrated place, race, and nation within one frame. It argues that from 1940 to 1980, photography’s failure to visualize the social and racial complexities of particular urban spaces exposed a growing crisis over civic and cultural identity in US cities more broadly.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of Southern California  -  Glossy Buildings, Planned Images: Architectural Photography across Contested Spaces in Los Angeles, 1940-1980

Laurel Vera McLaughlin
Laurel Vera McLaughlin  |  Abstract
“(Un)Bound” argues that performance artists Ana Mendieta, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Adrian Piper employed ritual performative strategies that disclosed their specific migratory journeys, thereby constructing liminal and resilient identities in the United States. Their techniques, which originated in the 1970s, persisted and transformed between the 1980s and 2010s in performances by artists and collectives such as Urban Bush Women, Spiderwoman Theater, Shirin Neshat, Coco Fusco, Tania Bruguera, and Tania El Khoury. Drawing upon diverse media and documentation such as performance art, theater, dance, video, and pedagogical forms in associative case studies of select works, this project analyzes the affective and geo-political dimensions of such rituals shaped by migration—movement, memory, heterochrony, and contact—and theorizes “performative migratory aesthetics,” which alternatively constitutes identity construction.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, Bryn Mawr College  -  (Un)Bound: Towards a Contemporary Migratory Aesthetics of Performance in the United States by Womxn-Identifying Practitioners, 1970-2016