Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Binding Lives: Southern Photobooks and the Great Depression in America

    Author:
    Sharon Suchma
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Siona Wilson
    Abstract:

    In the 1930s and 1940s the University of North Carolina (UNC) Press published many photobooks on the American South that have since escaped serious scholarly attention. This study argues that a new type of photobook emerged within a regionally and culturally specific context. The UNC Press photobooks demonstrate a balance between being art objects and parts of a burgeoning mass media. They also represent attempts by academics to bring up economic and social issues, such as sharecropping during the Depression, to a mainstream public. Critically, most of the authors were Southerners themselves. This is important because the North had traditionally dominated the representation of the South, both visually and in writing. The Southern authors often employed the popular stereotypes of the South in order to engage a larger audience and ultimately reconstruct what were understood as Southern characteristics. The UNC photobooks represent a specific type of Southern photobook that includes colloquial speech and folklore, sociological data (literally or visually in the form of photographs), current issues, and a call for social reform. Their written and photographic acknowledgment of racial issues in the South was groundbreaking in comparison to the practices of the larger publishing profession. Under the influence of UNC sociologist Howard Odum and UNC Press director William Couch many photobooks utilized government photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and forged ties with certain government employees, such as Roy Stryker, director of the FSA Historical Division. Both the UNC and the FSA were interested in the way photography could be embraced by the social sciences and their collaborations went beyond the production of photobooks into projects involving university exhibitions and even course offerings. As such, this material not only expands the history of photography in and about the South and the history of photobooks, but of the FSA as well.

  • Boom and Dust: The Rise of Latin American and Latino Art in New York Exhibitions Spaces and the Auction House Market, 1970s-1980s

    Author:
    Taina Caragol Barreto
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Katherine Manthorne
    Abstract:

    Art of the Fantastic: Latin American Art 1920-1987 Hispanic Art in the United States: Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors

  • MANIERA DEVOTA/MANO DONNESCA: WOMEN, VIRTUE AND VISUAL IMAGERY DURING THE COUNTER-REFORMATION IN THE PAPAL STATES, 1575-1675

    Author:
    Patricia Rocco
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    James Saslow
    Abstract:

    The history of women's participation in religious movements during the Early Modern period in Europe has long been less commented upon in modern scholarship than that of their male counterparts. This project will enlarge our understanding of the participation of women in the visual program of the Counter-Reformation in the Papal State of Bologna. The study focuses on Bologna since the city had an unprecedented large group of active women artists as well as being a crucial site of Catholic reform. Knowledge of Bologna's women is still incomplete; therefore this dissertation is structured as a series of interlinked case studies, some of which rescue forgotten artists, while others add a new dimension to better-known figures. This research thus takes a necessarily broad approach, combining aspects of iconography, patronage, gender studies, and reception studies; it also integrates media neglected in previous studies such as prints and embroidery. The goal is to insert these artists into the larger philosophical and theoretical context of the city's intellectual history, first by investigating the links between religion, science, and naturalism; and second, by unpacking critical terms from the historiography of style that came to bear on their work. Lastly, the project explores the city's concern with women's virtue, as it is a constant thread woven into visual imagery of all media, from the sixteenth into the seventeenth century. The synthesis of all this material will produce a wider view of the still understudied and ill-documented relationship between women, religion and the visual arts in the complex period of the Counter-Reformation.

  • Apotheosis of the Public Realm: Civic Classicism in New York City's Architecture

    Author:
    Paul Ranogajec
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    In the years around the consolidation of Greater New York in 1898, a renewed interest in republican political theory among progressive liberals coincided with a new kind of civic architecture. For the first time in American history, cities and the urban public emerged as crucial parts of democratic citizenship, at least for progressives such as Frank Goodnow, Frederic Howe, and Herbert Croly. At the same time, New York City was promoted as the nation's cultural and commercial capital: the "American metropolis," in Croly's words. Architects, too, played a key role in articulating the city's and the urban public's new status and visibility. New York City was a site for the simultaneous reimagining of citizenship, the public realm, and architectural and urban form. In this context, an informal school of architecture in New York that I call "civic classicism" developed three distinctive design modalities to reform the city's public space: the ensemble of buildings in a garden-like terrace, the continuous street wall around a historic square, and the free-standing monument juxtaposed to the gridiron urban plan. By attending to issues of publicity--of public space and visibility--broadly considered, architectural works by Carrère & Hastings, Cass Gilbert, and others are shown to be linked to the civic, political concerns of their time. The dissertation thus moves beyond the conventional biases in the historiography of this architecture, which has treated the work in mostly pejorative terms. Chapter one traces the course of the nineteenth-century American "architectonic public realm"--that is, the ways in which political thought and architectural and urban form conditioned one another-- as a foundation for understanding the changes around 1898. In Chapter two, Herbert Croly's political theory and architectural criticism are studied together to reveal the connections between his republican politics and his pragmatic architectural aesthetics, which championed civic classicism's suitability to the modern city. Chapters three, four, and five examine the three architectural modalities at the Staten Island Civic Center, Bowling Green, and the New York Public Library, respectively. The conclusion briefly suggests some reasons why civic classicism declined in the 1920s and after.

  • Italians and the New Byzantium: Lombard and Venetian Architects in Muscovy, 1472-1539

    Author:
    Ellen Hurst
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    James Saslow
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores how early modern Russian identity was shaped by the built environment and, likewise, how the built environment was a result of an emerging Russian identity. I focus on the years 1472 to 1539 because they were crucial to the formation of this early modern Russian identity. Muscovite princes, seeking to rebuild Moscow's cityscape in a grander style, imported a large community of architects, engineers, stonemasons, and statesmen from Lombardy, the Veneto, and Rome. At least six architects, and an unknown number of masons, from Italy worked in Muscovy during these years, and their presence indelibly changed the face of Russian architecture and culture. The Muscovite princes sought to recreate the cityscape of Moscow as a symbol of the power gained when Ivan III freed his people from Mongol control and began consolidating Russian lands into an emerging, unified state. Furthermore, with the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, Muscovy declared itself capital of Orthodox Christendom, casting its authority across the Russian lands. Accordingly on the ascent, Muscovy actively sought to define its emerging sense of national identity in a new architectural language; it deliberately looked to the traditions of Medieval and Renaissance Italy to assist in this process. The resulting hybrid architecture was a combination of the revered architectural traditions of medieval Kiev and Novgorod with the Western Renaissance, all overlaid with a fervent Byzantine theological persuasion. Thus, Muscovy's use of foreign architects is emphatically not indicative of a deference to a "superior" West or of a desire to become or appear Western, as some older scholarship implies. Instead, it reveals the ingenuity of a culture on the verge of statehood, one that seems to have understood that artistic forms could be transferred and "repurposed."

  • Angels in the Americas: Paintings of Apocryphal Angels in Spain and its American Viceroyalties

    Author:
    Orlando Hernandez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quinones-Keber
    Abstract:

    Around the mid seventeenth century paintings of individual angels became popular in the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain (essentially present-day Mexico and Central America) and the viceroyalty of Peru (originally most of South America excluding Brazil). However, the names and representations of individual angels found across the Spanish Empire do not correspond to the few narratives that appear in the Bible, which only mentions the angels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael by name. Some of these series of paintings include angels labeled as Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Uriel, who are mentioned in Jewish texts such as the Talmud and the Cabala, as well as other texts written around the first century but considered apocryphal or non-canonical by the Catholic Church, such as the Book of Enoch. Although these images were relatively popular in Spain and Mexico, their representation was far more abundant in South America. This project investigates the multiple theological sources of angel veneration in the early modern period in Italy and Spain. Tracing these literary sources illustrates how the Jesuits, supporters of the angelic cult, found inspiration in mystic Jewish tradition for their religious ideas, around the same time that Jews were being exiled or convicted across the Spanish Empire. This investigation also documents and compares the variants of angelic representation in Spain and the Americas. Pointing out their commonalities and differences demonstrates the creativity of the artistic circles of each viceroyalty in developing particular styles and trends based on the exposure to similar European sources but adapting them to different local tastes and necessities. As other scholars have suggested, the existence of many series of paintings of apocryphal angels in the Americas attests to Catholicism's use of these images as a cross-cultural tool to evangelize the Indians in the Spanish dominions by making connections between Christianity and indigenous religious belief. I suggest that these symbols, originally belonging to the conquerors, gradually became symbols of hispanicized American societies, and in Peru, of the hispanicized Indian nobility. The angels as protectors of territories also embodied an early form of local pride, which would later evolve into national pride and eventually lead to independence from Spain. Through this dissertation, I add a more complex reading of these paintings that goes beyond the scope of the arts of resistance and the amalgamation of Judaic, Christian, and indigenous religious elements. This study thus reveals a much more complex and layered syncretic product that reflects the adoption and re-adaptation of these symbols by Spanish-American colonial society.

  • From Berlin to Broadacres: Central European Influence on American Visionary Urbanism, 1910-1935

    Author:
    Margaret Herman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Kevin Murphy
    Abstract:

    In the 1920s and 1930s, Eliel Saarinen, Richard Neutra, and Frank Lloyd Wright each designed plans for real and imagined American cities. Saarinen's Chicago and Detroit plans of 1923-1924, Neutra's Rush City Reformed of 1926, and Wright's Broadacre City of 1935 are stylistically unique but all contain a similar fascination with hypothetical transportation networks and high-speed expansion that reflect a common relationship to the development of urban planning as a discrete field in Berlin and Vienna around 1910. This dissertation will highlight several features of turn-of-the-century Central European planning that played an outsize role in the development of these visionary responses to machine-age American urbanism, including suburban extension and infrastructure projects, municipal planning exhibitions, and a model of metropolitan expansion propagated by Otto Wagner. It will also root Saarinen's, Neutra's, and Wright's plans in their immediate context of interwar Chicago and Los Angeles, where the effects of the car and associated changes to the cityscape provided a rich backdrop for futuristic design. Finally, the dissertation will examine what these urban plans reveal about the perceptions of the new American car culture among modern architects.

  • Manuel de la Cruz González: Transnationalism and the Development of Modern Art in Costa Rica

    Author:
    Lauran Bonilla-Merchav
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Anna Indych-López
    Abstract:

    While scholars are increasingly scrutinizing twentieth-century Latin American art and inserting it into the canon of modern art history, studies of the region usually leap from Mexico to South America, skipping Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. This is not due to a lack of dedicated artistic effort in the isthmus, but rather to poor cultural infrastructure, which made being a modern artist in the region particularly challenging, and the underdeveloped state of local art histories, which have yet to traverse national borders. This oversight of Central American art makes it difficult to grasp the full scope of Latin America's adaptation of, and contribution to, international modernism. My dissertation counteracts the privileging of art from North and South America and introduces Costa Rican art history to an international audience by examining the art and life of Manuel de la Cruz González Luján (1909-1986), one of Costa Rica's most influential modern artists. It emphasizes the importance of the transnational cultural currents that influenced González and his colleagues, and systematically discusses two fundamental phases of artistic growth in the country, the 1930s and the 1960s. By placing González's artistic production within the socio-historic, cultural, and aesthetic contexts of Costa Rica, this dissertation is a groundbreaking case study of the development of modern art in this Central American nation. González prodded the boundaries of the provincial Costa Rican art world and moved beyond local frameworks to take part actively in the spread of modernist trends. He embraced regionalism, modernismo, and Latin American impressionism while in Costa Rica, and surrealism and geometric abstraction during the ten years he spent abroad in Cuba (1948-1950) and Venezuela (1950-1957). Upon his return, he shared his knowledge and experience of international modernism, but was faced with an unprepared and unpropitious artistic setting that neither accepted nor encouraged his geometric abstract art. What his story shows is that in order for a transnational style or idea to take hold in a country such as Costa Rica, which could be any "ex-centric" location, it is necessary to have a receptive context. This analysis of González's career thus highlights the tension of being a provincial artist, attuned to transnational cultural flows, yet challenged by the limitations of his environment.

  • Disseminating Devotion: The Image and Cult of the Black Christ in Colonial Mexico and Central America

    Author:
    Elena Sifford
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Eloise Quinones Keber
    Abstract:

    Following the conquest of Mexico in 1521, Spanish conquerors and friars considered it their duty to bring Christianity to the New World. Even before the task of conversion began, they introduced Christian images, like the cross, to the native peoples they first encountered. Eventually, local artists began to create the sacred objects. This study is the first in-depth, art historical inquiry into the significance of the most prominent Black Christ crucifix images and cults in various regions of Mexico and Central America from the sixteenth to early nineteenth century. It traces the origin and history of the Black Christ, often found in traditional sacred locations among Nahua, Maya, Mestizo, and African converts and in connection with legends describing associated miraculous events that made the sites pilgrimage destinations. It also examines the misunderstood materiality of the crucifixes, which in most cases began as typical European flesh-colored figures that gradually blackened from exposure and ritual activity. The darkened color came to hold a myriad of connotations, and artists created replicas, deliberately painted black, for churches from New Mexico to Panama. This widespread process of dissemination is examined via reproduced paintings, sculptures, and prints in order to trace how the cult grew and changed in each locale, where the image of the Black Christ was constantly resignified. Some churches saw it as a sign of ancient pre-Hispanic sacrality and power, others as a connection to the famed Christ in Esquipulas, Guatemala; in other cases it mimicked the race of its African devotees. Looking at a traditional Christian image--a crucifix--through the lens of the local reveals how different communities, whether indigenous, mestizo, or African, shaped their spiritual landscape using the Black Christ as a powerful emblem of sanctity. Esquipulas also emerges as preeminent among all the Black Christ images, cults, and locales considered, highlighting the often overlooked importance of Guatemala as a progenitor, along with Mexico and Peru, of artistic and cultural developments in Colonial Latin America.

  • A Feminist Inheritance? Questions of Subjectivity and Ambivalence in Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley and Robert Gober

    Author:
    Marisa White-Hartman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Art History
    Advisor:
    Anna Chave
    Abstract:

    Feminist art of the 1970s was groundbreaking in many regards and importantly impacted specific projects by three male artists: Paul McCarthy's performance Sailor's Meat (1975), Mike Kelley's installation Half a Man (1989) and Robert Gober's 1989 installation at the Paula Cooper Gallery. Despite the general absence of feminist artists as possible influences in the critical literature on these artists, feminist sources have been hidden in plain sight in regards to these works. These artists all take up the problematic of identity formation within the domestic sphere, which was made a legitimate area of inquiry in art by numerous feminist artists in the 1970s. The artists under discussion responded to feminism at different points in its development from the 1970s to the mid 1980s, and so I trace the debates surrounding feminism relevant to the works under discussion during this period. Chapter One contextualizes McCarthy's performances of the 1970s with his male forebearers and feminist contemporaries and focuses on themes of personae and rituals. Chapter Two explores Kelley's referencing feminist art via the idiom of craft, both in terms of its implications for different expressions of masculinity, and for his deeply ambivalent relationship with feminism. Chapter Three proposes a connections between Gober and feminist art founded on the shared exploration of the ways subjectivity is constituted by the daily repetition of activities within the domestic sphere. In this regard, his work is discussed in relation to works by artists working in the 1970s as well as his contemporaries that highlight the psychic emanations of particular household objects, and conceptually, to those that demonstrate how the domestic environment socially conditions its subjects. I conclude the project by discussing how a younger generation of contemporary women artists have reinterpreted works by McCarthy, Kelley and Gober in ways in which they are able to recognize and recover strands leading back to feminism. The dissertation aims to demonstrate that the contributions of feminist art had a greater effect on the field of contemporary art than is often acknowledged.