Welcome Letter

Dear Colleagues, Students, Alumni, Auditors, and Friends,

Greetings. I hope that you’ve all had a good and relaxing summer wherever you decided to spend it.

I am thrilled to announce that Dr. David W. Norman is joining us for the 2023–24 academic year as the Henry John Drewal Postdoctoral Fellow! Dr. Norman is an art historian specializing in Indigenous modern and contemporary art with a focus on the circumpolar regions, particularly Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the easternmost region of Inuit Nunaat (Inuit homeland). Broadly, his research and teaching consider how Native artists—working in Europe, the Americas, and globally—have reflected on and advanced movements for Indigenous self-determination through strategies often associated with conceptual art. You can read the full announcement and write-up about Dr. Norman here.

I am also happy to report that Professors Preeti Chopra and Anna Andrzejewski are back on campus. Professor Preeti Chopra was the recipient of the 2023 Suzanne Deal Booth Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome, Italy. In a tradition spanning more than a century, the Academy has awarded the prestigious Rome Prize to support original and interdisciplinary work in the arts and humanities. While in Rome, Preeti worked on a project entitled Historic Preservation, British Monuments, and the Legacy of Ancient Rome in Modern India. Her work took the shape of an art installation entitled “A Room of Cultural Encounters—The Preeti Chopra Marble Collection,” exhibited in the AAR Summer Open Studios on 8 June 2023 during Trustees’ Week. Preeti’s most recent publication entitled “Greetings from Bombay! Pictures of Colonial Complexity,” in Dr. Éléonore Muhidine ed., Indian Architecture in Postcards: A New Perspective on a Modern Heritage, 67–88 (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2023) was written in residence at the American Academy in Rome.

In the fall of 2022, Professor Anna Andrzejewski held a semester-long IRH resident fellowship, and in the spring of 2023, she was a Hagley-NEH fellow at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware. These fellowships allowed Anna to complete her book manuscript on the history of vacation and retirement communities in South Florida, the first study to examine the history and meaning of this leisure landscape. Provisionally titled “Building Paradise,” Anna’s book examines the buildings, community plans, and recreational amenities of South Florida to consider what this regional suburban landscape reveals about the ways white, middle-class Americans sought to separate and segregate themselves in vacation and retirement. Anna’s article in Florida Historical Quarterlyabout the Orange Lake Village retirement community in St. Petersburg, was awarded the best article prize from the Florida Historical Society for 2022.

In the fall of 2022 as a J.S. Lee Memorial Scholarship recipient, a prestigious fellowship supporting the study of Chinese collection in the museums worldwide, Yuhang Li conducted research on her second book project at the Beijing Palace Museum in China for five months.  Her new research explores Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908), the de facto ruler of Qing China and various spectacle projects related to her birthday celebrations. During this fellowship, Yuhang concentrated on the chapter of Cixi’s involvement in the court stage reform. She worked with the Beijing Palace Museum’s experts closely and systematically study artifacts that are related to the plays staged for the empress dowager’s jubilee of her birthdays during the last four decades of the Qing dynasty. These artifacts include drawings and models of stage design, backdrops, stage settings, theatrical props, costumes, and the images representing theatrical subject. In particular, she investigates these artifacts from the perspective of stage craft-making and discusses how such materialization creates a spectacle of privileged imperial longevity. Yuhang has also received generous support from the Department of Art History and the College of Letters & Science at the UW–Madison to conduct her research in China. Based on her research as a J.S. Lee fellow, Yuhang has presented her new research at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in Boston, Ewha Womans University Museum in South Korea, and Heidelberg University in Germany.

While on the topic of awards and fellowships, I want to mention that Professors Jill H. Casid and Guillermina De Ferrari received the prestigious Kellett award, a mid-career award honoring outstanding research. Professor Casid was nominated by the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies with the support of the Department of Art History. An artist-theorist and historian, Professor Casid pursues a research practice across writing, photography, and film that is dedicated to queer, crip, trans*feminist, and decolonial interventions. Professor Casid exhibits their artwork nationally and internationally, including in recent exhibitions at Signs and Symbols and the Ford Foundation Gallery in New York, Documenta fifteen in Kassel, Germany, and the Steirischer Herbst Biennial Arts Festival in Graz, Austria. Professor Casid’s current projects concern the question of doing things with being undone in the Necrocene and what aesthetics can do in confronting the political problem of form in the situation of crisis ordinary. With the research support of the Kellett Mid-Career Award, Casid is completing a film trilogy, a book on photography that uses counter-photographic practices to contest data-mining extraction and surveillance of compulsory visualization, and a two-book project on ways of living our dying on a dying planet that contest disposability.

Professor Guillermina De Ferrari, Halls-Bascom Professor of Spanish and Art History, studies the literatures and visual cultures of the Caribbean and Latin America. A comparatist by training, she is interested in cultural production across languages and disciplines. Her current work focuses on how extreme circumstances shape contemporary art practices and ethical agency in Cuba, Haiti, and Puerto Rico.

We will be somewhat short-staffed during the fall 2023 semester. Professor Daniel Spaulding was awarded the coveted Wallace Fellowship at the Villa I Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. He is now getting ready to leave for Italy, where he will be working on his project entitled “Panofsky at the Crossroads: Hercules am Scheidewege and the Inscription of Subjectivity.” Professor Nancy Marshall will be on sabbatical, and Professor Nick Cahill arranged for a course buy-out to pursue archaeological excavations in Turkey.

Professor Marshall plans to finish her book Ashes and Sparks: Britons on Fire in the Nineteenth Century, an examination of case studies distinctive to Victorian Britain. The book argues that representations of fire help us understand the workings of an empire predicated on the ideologies of extractive capitalism, cultural superiority, and racial and gender inequality. During her sabbatical, she will also develop a class-led exhibition of artists who use fire in their work and design a 100-level survey focused on the elements via an environmental humanities angle blending science and the arts.

Professor Cahill is overseeing the construction of a protective shelter roof to cover the Lydian fortification wall that protected the ancient city of Sardis in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. The wall is a monumental construction, sixty-five feet thick and still standing more than twenty feet high, but it is built of unbaked mudbrick that needs careful conservation. Professor Cahill and his team have been working on this project for more than fifteen years now, and finally, with the help of a generous bequest from William Collins Kohler, it is happening. The combination of heavy construction equipment and delicate archaeology is full of potential conflicts, so Professor Cahill has had to stay on to see the construction phase through. In addition, he is working on the World Heritage List application for the site and rebuilding a Lydian tumulus tomb (burial mound) that was looted a couple years ago.

Unfortunately, we will begin a semester without Professor Jennifer Nelson, who has accepted a position at the University of Delaware. We thank Professor Nelson for her superb teaching and high-quality research while at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and wish her all the best in her future endeavors. We have requested authorization for a new hire in Global Early Modern Art/Architecture (1400–1750) to replace Professor Nelson and expect that our request will be granted.

Finally, I should mention that Art History is gearing up to celebrate the department’s 100th year in October of 2025. The Centennial Celebration Committee (CCC) is planning a series of events and activities to mark this important milestone, including capturing the stories of students and faculty (past and present). If you’re back for Homecoming, stop by the Art History department’s “Open House” on Friday morning, October 6th, and share your memories of the department with faculty, alumni, and members of the CCC. There are many other ways to get involved as well; you can share your story and achievements here or contact Professor Anna Andrzejewski, Chair of the Committee. Stay tuned to our social media accounts and weekly newsletter for updates!

If you are interested in learning more about our department, please do not hesitate to contact me.

My best wishes,

Kirsten Wolf
Professor and Torger Thompson Chair
Chair, Department of Art History