Nikki A. Greene
B.A., Wesleyan University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Delaware
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Africana Studies and Art
Art historian examining African American and African identities, the body, feminism, and music in twentieth-century and contemporary art.
I envision my role in the arts and academia as not only providing awareness of artists who have traditionally lacked exposure, but also as demonstrating their significance and value to the larger public. In the Philadelphia area, my interest in community-based research has included enhancing the chronological history of a settlement house-turned-community center and cataloging the African American art collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. During my two-year fellowship at Wellesley, I—and my students—will actively engage in the arts community of the greater Boston area.
Music has played a significant role in my research. While I used to sing in choirs and vocal groups, I’ve directed my passion for music into my scholarship. I have investigated the significance of jazz in the work of artists such as Aaron Douglas and Philadelphia-based artist, Moe Brooker. My dissertation, The Rhythm of Glue, Grease, and Grime: Indexicality in the Works of Romare Bearden, David Hammons, and Renée Stout , shows how all three artists use physical, sometimes metonymic, indexical 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’ metonymic bodily presences prevail.
Building upon these previous investigations into the aural possibilities of the visual, my current book project will treat the art of David Hammons and Renee Stout through the lens of FUNK, the music and its visual aesthetic. In particular, I am analyzing the sounds and style of funk rocker Betty Davis, former wife of Miles Davis. The jazz musician said of her in 1989, “If Betty were singing today she’d be something like Madonna; something like Prince, only as a woman. She was the beginning of all that…” As a result, students who find their way to my office at the Newhouse Center may just be greeted by the music of John Coltrane, Parliamentary Funkadelic, or Jill Scott at any given moment.
Blog: Nikki G Ph.D.