Oral Histories in the Present Tense: Ben Gillespie, Liza Kirwin, and Wendy Red Star in conversation with Beth Finch

Recorded on via Zoom on Thursday, March 18, 2021, at 6 p.m., this program is part of the Spring 2021 Lunder Institute Talks, a series of live, unscripted conversations with scholars and artists who are shaping the field of American art.

How are artists responding to the challenges, demands, and losses of this moment as well as the opportunities it has offered for renewal, transformation, and growth? Over the Summer of 2020, the Archives of American Art created a new initiative, the Pandemic Oral History Project, that includes responses to the global pandemic across the American art world. This Lunder Institute Talk features the artist Wendy Red Star, a participant in the project, and Ben Gillespie and Liza Kirwin of the Archives of American Art in conversation with Beth Finch. The event will feature selected highlights from the eighty-five interviews, focusing on artists’ responses to this invitation to speak about their experiences during a time of interrelated crises. The conversation also touches on the Lunder Institute’s Vocal Archive, an oral history initiative dedicated to gathering artists’ reflections on works in the Colby Museum’s collection.

Liza Kirwin is interim director at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, a position she previously held from 2011 to 2013. She has also served as Southeast regional collector, curator of manuscripts, and deputy director. She helped establish the Archives’ exhibition and publications program, curating more than thirty archival exhibitions. Her most notable publications include More than Words (2005, reprinted in 2015), Artists in Their Studios (2007), With Love (2008), and Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations (2010, and winner of the Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize for outstanding catalogue in 2012). Most recently, she positioned the Archives to take a leading role in promoting the use of primary sources in teaching the history of American art worldwide. Liza earned a BA in art history from Johns Hopkins University, an MA in library science from Catholic University of America, and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland, College.

Ben Gillespie is the Arlene and Robert Kogod Secretarial Scholar for Oral History at the Archives of American Art. His research attends to the recuperation, preservation, and amplification of neglected artistic voices. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University.

Wendy Red Star was raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, and her work is informed both by her cultural heritage and her engagement with many forms of creative expression, including photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance. An avid researcher of archives and historical narratives, Red Star seeks to incorporate and recast her research, offering new and unexpected perspectives in work that is at once inquisitive, witty and unsettling. Red Star holds a BFA from Montana State University, Bozeman, and an MFA in sculpture from University of California, Los Angeles. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.