Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellows in American Art

The Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art are awarded to graduate students in any stage of Ph.D. dissertation research or writing, for scholarship on a topic in the history of the visual arts of the United States, including all facets of Native American art. Although the topic may be historically and/or theoretically grounded, attention to the art object and/or image should be foremost. Since 2015, the awards have included the Luce/ACLS Ellen Holtzman Dissertation Fellowship in American Art, named after the Luce Foundation’s Program Director for American Art, who retired that year after 23 years of service. The fellowship is awarded to an emerging scholar of demonstrated achievement whose research and writing concerns American modernism and art of the 1950s and 1960s.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

Related Links

Search for Fellows and Grantees

Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Aleisha E. Barton
Aleisha E. Barton  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the graphic representation of psychedelia in the United States during the 1960s. Arising from the counterculture scene of San Francisco, California, local artists utilized the medium of lithography to experiment with print’s somatic potential. This dissertation considers the ephemera of mid-century psychedelia alongside the built environment of the city and its history to identify the distinct and insular qualities of the Bay Area. Four thematic chapters—on experiment, experience, appropriation, and selling out— employ a phenomenological approach, applying multi-sensorial aesthetics to ephemera with the goal of expanding existing understanding of participatory artwork while recovering psychedelia’s foundation within the realm of protest art and revolution.

Doctoral Candidate, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities  -  Vibrating Boundaries: Psychedelic Aesthetics in the Post-War Age, 1966-1970

Jessica Larson
Jessica Larson  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the architecture of charitable and reform institutions built for African Americans in late nineteenth-century Manhattan. Due to the gendered nature of reform work, it was Black women who were most central to the creation and administration of these building campaigns. Through the analysis of institutions built in the three neighborhoods with the highest Black populations following the Civil War, this project articulates the strategies used by Black women reformers to advance a progressive social agenda through their architectural and spatial choices. To contend with the absence of architectural evidence, this dissertation engages visual culture and the fine arts to reconstruct the physical and sensorial details of Manhattan’s built environment. By situating the placemaking efforts of Black reformers alongside the established history of Manhattan’s urban development, this dissertation demonstrates how Black women consciously worked to build a city that reflected their aspirations for the future of their race.

Doctoral Candidate, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  Building Black Manhattan: Architecture, Art, and the Politics of Respectability, 1857-1914

Jack Crawford
Jack Crawford  |  Abstract
This dissertation theorizes “queer maximalism”: an aesthetic of unmitigated flamboyance and urgent exaggeration. Considering a diverse and interdisciplinary field of film, dance, theater, and cabaret performance primarily in New York City between 1960 and 1990, the project examines both the compositional strategies that constitute this performance aesthetic and its animating social and political functions—namely, enabling queer artists to both fashion intimate community and openly flout societal norms of gender, race, and sexuality. The central term, “queer maximalism,” consolidates a historically grounded constellation of performers, folks who have been described alternately as theatrical, Baroque, and Ridiculous, and positions them within an art historical frame.

Doctoral Candidate, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  Flamboyant Abundance: Performing Queer Maximalism, 1960 – 1990

Philomena Jazmin Lopez
Philomena Jazmin Lopez  |  Abstract
Beginning in 1969, Charles “Chaz” Bojorquez created large scale ephemeral image and text-based paintings using a large stencil, spray paint, and calligraphy. This research inquiry focuses on the fragmentation, reproduction, and circulation processes of Bojorquez's 1975 painting Señor Suerte, featuring an uncanny skeleton with two writing columns. Señor Suerte was first produced on a public wall surface. Tattoos of the skeleton that occur in a secondary social register remain distinguished from paintings on canvas that circulate in the third register of the art market. The operation of Bojorquez is a singular and significant case where the production of symbolic capital (as art in museums and galleries) remains differentiated from the appropriation, value-formation, and circulation of images in the spaces of marginality and exclusion of the working-class Mexican-American experience. Visual analysis, oral history interviews, and archival research provide a critical reading of Bojorquez's avant-garde temporalities and significance to American art.

Doctoral Candidate, University of California, San Diego  -  Breaking Boundaries: The Multilayered Value of Charles Bojorquez's Graffiti Art from 1969 to 2019

Connor Hamm
Connor Hamm  |  Abstract
What did modernism look like in the coastal Southeast? The Lowcountry, which stretches along the shores of Georgia and South Carolina, played host in the first half of the twentieth century to an unacknowledged strand of artistic modernism and a regional variation of modernization. Through dazzling case studies, this dissertation considers how the Lowcountry’s Southern marginality and coastal liminalities led to more fluid aesthetic practices than normative accounts of American modernism allow. Close attention is paid to the ways in which such artistic and cultural activities engaged the region’s tourism and fishing industries. Drawing on social art history and the environmental humanities, this project therefore introduces a critical coastal methodology in order to remap the canon of American art. Whereas prevailing modernist narratives observe artistic differences between cities and the countryside, scholarly attention is needed to address how artists in coastal areas have been uniquely positioned to contribute to twentieth-century American art.

Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Coastal Modern: Art and the Lowcountry, 1900-1950s

Alisa Prince
Alisa Prince  |  Abstract
This project examines domestic archives (collections of family photographs within the home) of Black people and posits them as objects that store and bestow ‘soul value,’ a concept of self-worth that is rooted in the Atlantic slave trade and defiant of the commodification of Black bodies, coined by historian Daina Ramey Berry. Tracing what becomes of these photographs at their ‘exit point,’ or way out of the domestic archive and onto the market, this project explores the practices of collectors, dealers, and curators of photography to establish economic and sociolinguistic histories of Black domestic archives. It argues that the quality of anonymity of most vernacular images on the market primes photographs for meaning and value to be projected onto them. To assess how the domestic archive and its aesthetics have been taken up in art, this project evaluates works by Dawoud Bey, Deana Lawson, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Doctoral Candidate, University of Rochester  -  Exit Point: Tracing the Value of Black Vernacular Photographs From and Beyond the Domestic Archive

Claire Ittner
Claire Ittner  |  Abstract
This dissertation is the first to consider the Rosenwald Fellowship, a grant-giving program in operation in the first half of the 20th century that allowed African American artists to conduct research travel for projects of their own design. It centers the work of five artists who won Rosenwald fellowships in the 1940s: Jacob Lawrence, Eldzier Cortor, Elizabeth Catlett, Rose Piper, and Haywood "Bill" Rivers, all of whom positioned themselves as "researchers" engaged in study of a particular issue or problem. Examining how travel and research became central to artistic practice in the 1940s, it also considers how artists' "fieldwork" was funded, and the importance that this kind of mobility held specifically for Black artists at this moment.

Ellen Holtzman Fellow
Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Berkeley  -  Fellow Travelers: The Artist-Researchers of the Rosenwald Fellowship, 1940-1950

Margaret Wander
Margaret Wander  |  Abstract
This dissertation focuses on artistic production that interrogates the intersection between United States imperialism in Oceania (the Pacific Islands and their U.S. diasporas) and the current climate crisis. The United States has been embedded in the region since the 19th century through settler colonial projects, resource extraction, and military occupation. The artists in this dissertation engage with this history and the way it continues to have devastating impacts on Indigenous lands, seas, and bodies. The analysis focuses on the aesthetic, material, and curatorial strategies Indigenous and diasporic artists are mobilizing in order to intervene in climate change discourse and in American art history, which rarely engage with a critical understanding of U.S. imperialism in the Pacific Ocean.

Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Santa Cruz  -  Artistic Responses to a Changing Planet: Creativity, Climate Change, and Colonial Cultures in Oceania