B.A., Wesleyan University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Delaware
Assistant Professor of Art
Art historian examining African and African American identities, music, the body, and feminism in 20th century and contemporary art.
My book project, Postmodern (In)visibility: The Rhythm of Glue, Grease, and Grime in Contemporary African American Art shows how artists Romare Bearden, David Hammons, Renée Stout, and Radcliffe Bailey use physical, sometimes metonymic, references in order to lessen the negative impact of stereotypes of African Americans. By examining how discourses such as music, literature and visual culture operate in concert with the cultural associations of the materials used by artists, I identify these discourses as noteworthy conduits through which the artists’ bodily presences prevail. I have also investigated the significance of music in my research in the work of artists such as Aaron Douglas, Moe Brooker, and Adrian Piper. Building upon these previous investigations into the aural possibilities of the visual, I most recently compared the career of funk rocker Betty Davis (former wife of Miles Davis) and the art of Renée Stout as expressions of black feminist power.
Much of my research focuses on artists of African descent in the US, but my knowledge of cultures of the Caribbean and Western and Central Africa has allowed me to teach the history of art beyond American borders. Field trips to places like El Museo del Barrio and PS1 in New York City or the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston have provided critical access to works of art. In the spring of 2012, during my two-year tenure as the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Art History and Africana Studies here at Wellesley, students accompanied me on a three-day visit to Philadelphia, where I incorporated a focus on African American art in that city. In January 2013, I gave a series of lectures on African Art at the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. Thus, as I continue to travel to new locations for research and teaching opportunities, such as England and Cuba, I plan to incorporate the many lessons learned abroad into my curriculum as well.
I am increasingly interested in the Digital Humanities. In my spring 2013 seminar, “The Body: Race and Gender in Modern and Contemporary Art,” for example, in an effort to break beyond the confines of the Wellesley College walls, we invested creative energy towards offering our ideas within a public forum vis-à-vis our class blog and Twitter. Combined with meeting artists and scholars on the topic, even virtually through Skype and Google Hangout, theses avenues of communication allowed students to process their readings within private and public spheres for richer class discussions and fruitful conversations beyond our seminar meetings.
I muse about my academic interests, travel, and the challenges of work-life balance in my blog nikkigphd.com.