Lunder Institute Talks
For the spring of 2021, the Lunder Institute for American Art was pleased to present the second season of its Lunder Institute Talks series.
The Lunder Institute Talks are live, unscripted hour-long Zoom conversations with scholars and artists who are shaping the field of American art. These conversations bring audiences up close with creative and research processes. Lunder Institute team members and invited guests delve into work in progress, engage with artworks and projects related to the Colby College Museum of Art, and connect these to contemporary questions about art and society.
The first program of the season, on Thursday, March 18, was Oral Histories in the Present Tense: Ben Gillespie, Liza Kirwin, and Wendy Red Star in conversation with Beth Finch.
How have artists responded 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.
On Thursday, April 22, we presented Reframing Modern Art of the American Southwest: Patricia Marroquin Norby in conversation with Jessica Horton.
University of Delaware professor Jessica Horton (2021–22 Distinguished Scholar) and the Met’s Associate Curator of Native American Art Patricia Marroquin Norby (2021–22 Research Fellow) explore new research shaping understanding of modern art of the American Southwest—the focus of the Lunder Institute’s Research Fellows Program in 2021–22. They discuss some of the questions guiding their research. How, for example, have the social and environmental upheavals of western expansion been registered—or suppressed—in art made during the first half of the 20th century by makers of diverse heritages? How might Indigenous and environmental justice change our analysis of historical materials? What methods are most needed today to address the legacies of colonialism and its contestation in Southwest modernisms and American art history more broadly?
Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha) oversees the Native American art collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing. An award-winning art scholar and museum leader, she served as Senior Executive and Assistant Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian-New York and as Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry in Chicago. Her forthcoming book, Water, Bones, and Bombs (University of Nebraska Press), examines twentieth-century American Indian art and environmental disputes in northern New Mexico. She earned her MFA from University of Wisconsin Madison and her PhD in American Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Jessica L. Horton is an associate professor of modern and contemporary art history at the University of Delaware and the 2021–2022 Distinguished Scholar at the Lunder Institute for American Art. Her first book, Art for an Undivided Earth: The American Indian Movement Generation (2017), traces the impact of Indigenous spatial struggles on artists working internationally since the 1970s. Her current book project, Earth Diplomacy: Indigenous American Art and Reciprocity, 1953–1973, examines how artists revitalized long-standing Indigenous cultures of diplomacy in the unlikely shape of Cold War tours, translating Native political ecologies across two decades and four continents.
We ended the season on Thursday, May 6, with Memorializing the Natural Environment: Maya Lin in conversation with Jessamine Batario, Danae Jacobson, and Chris Walker.
In this conversation, we considered how art, science, and history converge in Maya Lin’s “last memorial,” What is Missing?, a multi-sited and multimedia project devoted to the global biodiversity crisis related to habitat loss. As a 2020–21 Lunder Institute senior fellow, Lin has been working with several Colby College courses and engaging with the local community to make contributions to the project. This Lunder Institute Talk features Lin in conversation with her Colby faculty collaborators, Chris Walker (Assistant Professor of English) and Danae Jacobson (Visiting Assistant Professor in History). Together, they reflect on this year’s creative projects and research, discussing art’s capacity to convey urgent scientific information and the role of community participation in the formation of a public history project.
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). Since designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC (1982), Lin has built a practice that balances her interests in art, architecture, and the natural environment. She has remained firmly committed to her Memory Works, of which What is Missing? is the ongoing final project. 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.
Danae Jacobson is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Colby College. She received her PhD in Environmental History from Notre Dame in 2019, and is now working on a book manuscript. Her work focuses on intersections of gender, religion, and race in the U.S. West; specifically, she studies the roles of Catholic nuns in 19th century settler colonialism and empire. In addition to her research, Danae enjoys engaging with students about the multiple ways history shapes the kinds of communities we build, the kind of earth we inhabit, the kind of people we identify with, and the kind of change we imagine possible.
Christopher Allen Walker is Assistant Professor in English at Colby College, where he researches and teaches in the environmental humanities. His book project, Narratives of Decay: Environmental Change and Speculative Form, argues that 20th-century scientists and artists developed shared speculative languages in response to newly discovered processes of material decay. He is co-director of the Colby Summer Institute in Environmental Humanities.
Jessamine Batario is an art historian of modern and contemporary art and the Linde Family Foundation Curator of Academic Engagement at the Colby College Museum of Art. She received her PhD in Art History from The University of Texas at Austin, where her research project, Contemporary Transgressions: the Byzantine-Modern Connection, received support from the Dedalus Foundation, Getty Research Institute Library, and the Vivian L. Smith Foundation at The Menil Collection. Her published work can be found in the Journal of Art Historiography, Different Visions, and the Brooklyn Rail.
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 purchase 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.