Alumna/us Spotlight: Margaret Laster (Ph.D. 2013, Art History)

In January, Margaret Laster (Ph.D. 2013, Art History) was named the Assistant Curator of American Art at the New-York Historical Society — the skills for which she traces to her Graduate Center education. 
“My training, first as a student taking courses, and then as a dissertation writer, working under the tutelage of a superb adviser, Kevin D. Murphy, and a fine committee of readers, has remained crucial to my development as a scholar,” Laster said.
That training is well suited to the New-York Historical Society (pictured below), one of the country’s preeminent cultural institutions. Laster oversees a “stellar collection” of painting and sculpture, with works ranging from the colonial era to the 20th century. Her responsibilities include curating and collaborating with colleagues to develop exhibitions and other research projects.
“An important objective is to use art and visual culture to help frame the history of New York within a larger national and international context,” she said.
As a doctoral student, Laster specialized in 19th-century American art and material culture, with a focus on transatlantic collecting and patronage histories, and on the study of historicism in art, architecture, and design.

She was awarded numerous fellowships and residencies at institutions such as the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick Collection; the Huntington Library; and the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery.   
She later designed and taught courses at Parsons, the New School, and Baruch College, as well as wrote and contributed to a digital humanities component of the Smithsonian Provenance Initiative.
“These experiences — which continue to provide a foundation for my present work — were made possible by the support of the GC Art History faculty and community,” Laster said. “It is no exaggeration to say that one of the outstanding resources at the GC is its student body. I studied with a group of committed student colleagues, many of whom I remain in touch with today.”
One of those peers is Chelsea Bruner (Ph.D. 2013, Art History), with whom Laster is preparing an anthology of essays on the art worlds and urban landscape of early Gilded Age New York. The project evolved from a panel they co-chaired at the February 2015 College Art Association conference.
“Reflecting back on my doctoral years, I appreciate the extra layer of benefit accorded to all of us who have studied there by the fact of the university’s location at the center of a vibrant city,” Laster said.

Submitted on: MAR 30, 2015

Category: Alumni News | Art History | General GC News