SUPPORTING NEW SCHOLARSHIP AND CREATIVE PRODUCTION
2020–21 Senior Fellows
The Lunder Institute supports scholarly and creative research by scholars, curators, and artists. In the fall of 2020, we were pleased to announce the senior fellowships of artists Maya Lin and Naeem Mohaiemen and scholars Romi Crawford and David Park Curry.
Maya Lin is an artist, designer, and environmentalist who has received both the National Medal of Arts (2009) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2016). She began her illustrious career at Yale University where, as an undergraduate student, she won a public competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC (1982). Since then, Lin has built a practice that balances her interests in art and architecture while remaining firmly committed to what she terms her Memory Works. Focusing on key historical moments in this country’s history, such works include the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama (1989), the Women’s Table for Yale University (1995), the Confluence Project along the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest (2004–present), and What is Missing? (1999–present), a multi-sited and internet-based memorial to the planet.
Her fellowship with the Lunder Institute is an acknowledgement of her achievements as an artist who has re-envisioned monuments and whose practice actively contributes to a deeper understanding of human impacts on the environment. Throughout the year, Lin will participate in online collaborations with students, faculty, and community members, including academic engagements with Colby courses.
In the spring of 2021, the Lunder Institute will host a public conversation between Lin and some of her faculty collaborators to engage the community on topics related to the intersection between art and the environment. Additional events will highlight related collaborative work, academic engagement, and research at Colby. In keeping with Lin’s firm commitment to reduce carbon emissions and in light of the College’s plans related to COVID-19, Lin’s participation has taken place virtually. Jessamine Batario, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, is organizing Lin’s academic engagements and related programs, continuing the Institute’s collaborative work with the Center for Arts and Humanities and the Buck Lab for Climate and Environment on projects related to climate change.
At the outset of the fellowship, Lin noted, “I’m looking forward to participating in courses at Colby both in the fall and spring semesters, and to sharing my processes and approaches in my art practice, as well as to creating a working dialogue with faculty and students about my ongoing environmental project, What is Missing?”.
“As an artist, so much of my work has focused on issues surrounding the environment and our relationship to nature, and I look forward to these presentations and discussions at Colby, whose Environmental Studies department is one of the oldest in the country, and who also has such a strong commitment to the arts.”
Lin has consistently focused on utilizing scientific methodology to create artworks that draw the viewer’s attention to nature in order to consider our relationship to it. From large-scale earthworks to intimate sculptural mappings of terrain, waterways, and mountains, Lin’s work reveals aspects of the natural world that are oftentimes overlooked. Much of Lin’s artistic practice has focused on water as a precious resource. Her wall installations utilize recycled silver, glass marbles, and stainless-steel pins to represent aerial perspectives of rivers around the world. Her marble series Disappearing Bodies of Water likewise provides a visual record of a diminishing resource over time. Questioning both materiality and form, Lin’s “last memorial,” What is Missing?, is a virtual project and interactive website devoted to the global biodiversity crisis related to habitat loss. A memorial in a different form, the project documents shared stories and bears witness to the crisis as it unfolds, simultaneously raising awareness about our present while reserving hope for our future.
Lin’s artwork has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions, both in the United States and abroad. Her works are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Nevada Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the California Academy of Sciences. The documentary, Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1994.
The Colby College Museum of Art is proud to have several of Lin’s works in its permanent collection, including Pin River Kissimmee (2008) and Disappearing Bodies of Water: Arctic Ice (2013), both in the Lunder Collection. More recently, the Museum acquired Interrupted River: Penobscot (2019), a site-specific commission developed for Occupy Colby: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale That Society Has the Capacity to Destroy. Lin’s Interrupted River served as a centerpiece for the exhibition, and the large-scale glass marble installation localized the global conversation to the Penobscot River in Maine. In addition to her art being well represented in the Colby Museum, Lin delivered the Miles and Katharine Culbertson Prentice Distinguished Lecture at Colby in April 2016.
Naeem Mohaiemen is the inaugural recipient of an Alfonso Ossorio Creative Production Grant*, an endowed program overseen by the Lunder Institute. He is developing a new film based on collaborative research with Colby faculty and students, and with additional research at sites in Maine.
“Maine’s settler history has often surfaced in genre fiction. This fellowship is an opportunity to excavate the crevices within this popular literary form,” shared Mohaiemen.
This fellowship will allow Mohaiemen to further his interest in the dyads of promise and peril. During a year of research and exploration, the artist has been developing a film for exhibition at the Colby College Museum of Art in the winter/spring 2022. The work will build on ideas of the eroding-yet-surviving family unit explored in two earlier films: Tripoli Cancelled, 2017, set in Ellinikon Airport in Athens, Greece; and Jole Dobe Na (Those Who Do Not Drown), 2020, set in Lohia Hospital in Kolkata, India.
Mohaiemen develops films, installations, and essays to research socialist utopia, malleable borders, and rhizomatic families—beginning with Bangladesh’s two postcolonial markers (1947, 1971), and then radiating outward. Despite underscoring a historic tendency to misrecognize allies, a hope for a future transnational, class solidarity left—as the only possible alternative to current categories of race, religion, and nation—is the basis of his work. His practice delves into moments of rupture emanating from the last century and considers the possibilities, and failures, of imagination surrounding utopian revolutions.
As part of his engagement, Mohaiemen participated in a Zoom conversation with Desrosiers on as part of the inaugural Lunder Institute Talks series featuring the voices of scholars and artists who are shaping the field of American art.
Mohaiemen is author of Midnight’s Third Child (Nokta, forthcoming) and Prisoners of Shothik Itihash (Kunsthalle Basel, 2014); co-editor (with Eszter Szakacs) of Solidarity Must be Defended (Tranzit/ Van Abbemuseum/ Salt/ Tricontinental/ Asia Culture Center, forthcoming); editor of Chittagong Hill Tracts in the Blind Spot of Bangladesh Nationalism (Drishtipat, 2010); and co-editor (with Lorenzo Fusi) of System Error: War is a Force that Gives us Meaning (Sylvana, 2007). His work has been exhibited at Vasas Metalworkers’ Union (Budapest), Mahmoud Darwish Museum (Ramallah), Bengal Foundation (Dhaka), SALT (Istanbul), Kiran Nadar (Delhi), Tate Britain (London), MoMA PS1 (New York), Documenta 14 (Athens/Kassel), Sharjah and Venice Biennial, and the 2020 Yokohama Triennale.
*Established in 2019, the Alfonso Ossorio Creative Production Grant provides financial support to artists affiliated with the Colby College Museum of Art and the Lunder Institute for American Art to propel their intellectual pursuits, research, and creation of new artworks that expand the boundaries of American art.
Romi Crawford (Ph.D.) is a 2020–21 Lunder Institute senior fellow and is working on a monographic publication on Lunder Institute Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives Theaster Gates. It will consider the wide scope and dimensionality of his artistic practice, with a focus on the under-examined narratives of “extreme collaboration” intrinsic to Gates’s work as it relates to building and land procurement. As part of her fellowship, Crawford will host a public program centered around a Gates work in the Colby Museum’s collection and her research. She will also participate in a recorded conversation with Gates that will become part of the Lunder Institute’s Vocal Archive, an initiative that records contemporary artists speaking about their works in the Colby Museum’s collection.
Crawford is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies and Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Through her research and writing, Crawford explores areas of race and ethnicity as they relate to American visual culture (including art, film, and photography). She is co-author of The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago (Northwestern University Press, 2017). Additional publications include “Do For Self: The AACM and the Chicago Style” in Support Networks (University of Chicago Press, 2014); “Ebony and Jet on Our Mind” in Speaking of People (The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2014); Theaster Gates Black Archive (Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2017); “Reading Between the Photographs: Serious Sociality in the Kamoinge Photographic Workshop” in Working Together, Louis Draper and The Kamoinge Workshop (Virginia Museum of Fine Art, 2020), and Fleeting Monuments for the Wall of Respect (Green Lantern Press, 2020). She was the co-curator of the 2017 Open Engagement conference in Chicago and founder of the Museum of Vernacular Arts and Knowledge (MOVAK), a project-based platform for art-making that is out of sync with museum and gallery values. She was previously Curator and Director of the Education Department at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She received a B.A. from Oberlin College and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in English Language in Literature from the University of Chicago.
David Park Curry
David Park Curry (Ph.D.) is a 2020–21 Lunder Institute Senior Fellow, an appointment made in association with the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies. A highly respected scholar and curator of American and European art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Curry is undertaking research and writing in preparation for the exhibition and publication Some Old Curiosity Shops: Whistler, Commerce, and the Art of Urban Change. Scheduled for 2023 and 2024, the exhibition will appear at the Colby Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and additional venues. The project takes a fresh look at James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), revealing a lifelong engagement with social and economic change despite his professed aversion to topical themes, examining why so determined a modernist addressed the past rather than the present when it came to depictions of the changing urban scene, not only in London, but also in Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and elsewhere.
Dating from the mid-1880s, the artist’s best-known shopfront pictures feature strict geometries, suppressed detail, flattened spaces, and close cropping; they numbered among Whistler’s most formally advanced compositions. Yet the shop fronts also coincide with the rise of modern merchandising and ambitious civic construction projects that displaced the working poor and demolished neighborhood landmarks. Whistler repeatedly focused upon earlier commercial venues and long-established trades. By the end of his life, the controversial artist, himself a participant in this primal moment of urban renewal, had attracted a somewhat undeserved reputation as an historic preservationist.
Curry’s project grew out of a symposium organized by the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies at Colby College, and his preliminary findings were published in 2015. See David Park Curry, “James McNeill Whistler: Aestheticizing Realism,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 30, no. 2 (2015): 44–51.
Curry holds a Ph.D. in the history of art from Yale University. Since retiring from his position as Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, American Painting & Sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2016, Curry has continued to pursue projects exploring cultural crossroads where art, decoration, and commerce intersect. He has also lectured widely in the United States and England, and published on Homer, Whistler, Sargent, American Impressionism and Realism, folk art, Victorian architecture, world fairs, and period framing. From October 2017 through May 2019, he was a Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where he conducted research in Washington, Paris, and elsewhere for a projected book, Courses of Empire: Theodore Davis and the Hayes Presidential Dinner Service, 1879–1881. He is the author of James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art (1984); his 2004 monograph, James McNeill Whistler: Uneasy Pieces, followed the 2003 Freer exhibition Mr. Whistler’s Galleries, a reconstruction of the artist’s controversial 1883 White and Yellow display of Venice etchings.
Early in his fellowship, Curry was interviewed by Nicholas Malkemus ’21, a student who held the Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies internship. As the Lunder Consortium intern, Nick performed detailed work, tracking down historical images and creating a database for Some Old Curiosity Shops: Whistler, Commerce, and the Art of Urban Change. A printmaker and a Whistler enthusiast, Malkemus asked Curry about their shared fascination with an American artist whose career and life embodied the transnational experience that has shaped American art.
Header Image: Maya Lin, Interrupted River:Penobscot (detail), 2019. Glass marbles and adhesive, 288 x 264 x 120 in. (732 x 671 x 305 cm). Museum puchase from Sandy ’78 and Sissy Buck, Laura Keeler Pierce ’07 and M. Vassar Pierce Jr., Seth A. Thayer ’89 and Gregory N. Tinder, the Bruce C. Drouin ’74 and Janet L. Hansen ’75 Maine Art Endowed Fund, and the Robert Cross Vergobbi ’51 Museum Acquisition Fund; 2020.026.
Inline Images: Maya Lin in her studio. Photograph by Jesse Frohman; Naeem Mohaiemen, Baksho Rohoshyo (Chobi Tumi Kar?), 2019; Romi Crawford; David Park Curry.