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Alumni Spotlight

Sheila Crane

Sheila Crane

Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Ph.D. 2001

From my current perspective, teaching in the Architectural History Department at the University of Virginia, I have gained a deep appreciation for the generosity of the faculty at Northwestern with whom I had the privilege of working as a graduate student. From the initial meetings of the Methods seminar Whitney Davis taught our first semester (which Karl Werkmeister often also attended), it was clear that this was a place where debate was encouraged and expected. The culture of serious intellectual exchange fostered in the department was founded on the expectation that we each articulate a position and explain our ideas in terms that would transcend the particularities of our specialized interests. The faculty’s commitment to students extended far beyond the formal classroom, from impromptu evening lectures Whitney Davis offered on Kant and his legacy, to walks along Chicago streets where we tried valiantly to keep up with David Van Zanten’s vigorous pace, impassioned evening discussions on Angela Rosenthal’s terrace, and summer travel seminars that allowed me to see Prague through Larry Silvers’ eyes and to experience a singular Berlin, framed by Ikem Okoye and the city’s unparalleled collections of Benin art. This was also a time of lively cross-town exchange, encouraged especially by the legendary seminar that Holly Clayson and Marty Ward co-taught. My understanding of Chicago and its architectural landscape was shaped in part by innumerable trips taken by ‘L’ and bus to the U of C to take seminars with Katherine Fisher-Taylor, even as many of my peers “down south” made the pilgrimage northward to take classes at Northwestern. These experiences helped to forge an extraordinary sense of community amongst students and faculty, connections that have continued long after I left Evanston to pursue my dissertation research on urban transformations in Marseille during and after the Second World War.

After three years in France, I began teaching in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department at the University of California Santa Cruz. In 2007, I joined the faculty at the University of Virginia. Teaching in the School of Architecture has provided me with an invaluable informal education in contemporary design discourse and the chance to work closely with my colleagues in Art History in the context of our joint PhD program.  In 2011, I published Mediterranean Crossroads: Marseille and Modern Architecture(University of Minnesota Press), which was awarded the 2013 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. While based on my dissertation research, the book benefited greatly from the opportunity to expand and reshape its focus while in residence at the Shelby Collum Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University and at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. What began as a project focused on the politics of urban planning in the shadow of war became an examination of how architects and urban planners responded to mythic ideas about Marseille as a port city, a gateway onto the Mediterranean, and a dynamic hinge between metropolitan and colonial terrains. I was recently awarded a research grant from the Graham Foundation to pursue my current book project, tentatively entitledInventing Informality, which considers the history of the bidonville, or shantytown, as a defining new urban form, subject of visual representation, site of knowledge production, and object of social and spatial reengineering that emerged first in North Africa and later in France, during the long process of decolonization.  I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to continue my work on this project next year as a Fellow at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA.

David Getsy

David Getsy

Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Chair in Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
MA 1996; PhD 2002

I came to Northwestern from Oberlin College and was the first doctoral student in the department’s new “Theory and Interpretation” track. My intention was to work on contemporary art and queer theory, with a focus on Minimal and Postminimal sculpture. My advisor, Whitney Davis, urged me to get a grasp of the trajectory of sculpture theory of the modern period, and I started working through the origins of modern sculpture in Germany, France, and then Britain. When I hit the British material, I encountered an episode comparable to Minimalism in which sculpture, for a time, took the lead as the central site of innovation. Ultimately, I focused my dissertation on this material, arguing that late-Victorian sculptors chose to retain verisimilitude but activate it through materiality and an attention to the bodily encounter with the viewer. For this project, I received a two-year Kress Fellowship at the Courtauld Institute of Art and, after completing the dissertation, a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. My book based on this material, Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877-1905, came out in 2004 with Yale University Press. In that same year, I brought together new approaches to British sculpture in an anthology titled Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain.

I returned to the U.S. to take up a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with the Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth College followed by a year at Harvard University as a Getty Postdoctoral Fellow. During this time, I redirected my interests to questions of bodily interactivity in new media and focused my historical work on modern art in France. In 2005, I began the tenure-track at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago teaching nineteenth-century art. The research from these years manifested itself as two books. First, I published with Yale in 2010 a book on Auguste Rodin titled Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture, in which I argue that Rodin’s famously sexualized artistic persona emerged from a reaction to Michelangelo’s homoeroticism and became embedded in his manipulation of nineteenth-century sculptural practices (and not just his subject matter). The second project was an anthology on game studies and art history titled From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art (Penn State, 2011). Since that time, I’ve expanded my writing to include post-war art and performance, and many of my new projects are in that arena. Later in 2012, I will publish a book of Postminimalist artist Scott Burton’s writing titled Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965-75, and I am completing a book on post-war sculpture and its affinities with transgender theory, preliminarily titled Abstract Bodies in American Sculpture, 1962-76, for which I was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. I was tenured in 2008 and appointed to the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Chair in Art History. I was SAIC’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2007.

Martha Tedeschi

Martha Tedeschi

Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums
Ph.D. 1994

Martha Tedeschi, formerly Prince Trust Curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings and later Deputy Director for Art and Research at the Art Institute of Chicago, has been named Director of Harvard’s Art Museums. Succeeding former Director Tom Lentz, she oversees the Fogg, Busch–Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler Museums in Cambridge, MA. Tedeschi received her B.A. with honors from Brown University, an M.A. from the University of Michigan, and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She began her career at the Art Institute of Chicago as an NEA Intern in 1982, becoming full curator in 1999. She is a specialist in British and American art, with a strong secondary interest in the history of printmaking in early modern Europe as well as a broad interest in print and drawing techniques and materials. She is the general editor and co-author of the two-volume catalogue raisonné The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler (1998), winner of the George Wittenborn award. She has published extensively in scholarly journals and has organized numerous exhibitions for the Art Institute of Chicago. She was the organizing curator of the exhibition Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light, (2008) as well as for its sequel, John Marin’s Watercolors: A Medium for Modernism (2011). Prior to her new positions, she served as director of the Art Institute’s Print and Drawing Club and directed the respected Internship Program in Prints and Drawings. An active member of the Association of Art Museum Curators, the College Art Association, and other professional groups, Tedeschi is a former chair of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Curators Forum, current President of the Print Council of America (2009-2013), and a 2012 Fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership. Reflecting on the role of her graduate work at Northwestern, she commented:

As a young member of the curatorial staff at the Art Institute I was encouraged to pursue my doctoral work at Northwestern while retaining my full‐time position at the museum. Those were challenging years, an exercise in intellectual multi-tasking. At the time, radical art history was being embraced (actually, pioneered) by the faculty at Northwestern.  In the field of art history in general, museum scholarship, exhibitions, and the traditions of connoisseurship were being deconstructed. A significant ideological divide appeared to be opening up between the academy and the museum. And there I was, beating a path between the Art Institute and Northwestern, week in and week out.  Working with objects all day and reading social history and Marxist theory at night was a heady combination. I began to think about works of art in new ways, not just as examples of the human creative impulse but as important primary documents for historical inquiry; I became and remain very interested in technical art history as a result of this realization. This is when I found my independent voice as a scholar, and I began to focus on the intersection of media, artistic practice, audience, and the art market. I credit Larry Silver for recruiting me to Northwestern and for being my “print mentor,” Sandra Hindman for introducing me to the codicological method in her famous Newberry Library seminars, Nancy Troy for ably directing my dissertation (from afar, as it turned out), and Holly Clayson for participating on my committee and remaining to this day an invaluable sounding board for all things nineteenth century.

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