Possession and Revolt by Caitlyn Wilson

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Kollar Symposium in American Art History: Legacies and Futures

Submitted on February 24, 2021 - 2:52pm


April 6, 2021, 4-6pm PDT Register Now

Organized by Juliet Sperling, Assistant Professor of Art History and Kollar Endowed Chair in American Art, School of Art + Art History + Design, University of Washington. This event is made possible through support from the Allan and Mary Kollar Endowed Chair in American Art.

In recognition of the opening of Jacob Lawrence: American Struggle at the Seattle Art Museum, this symposium asks: what constitutes a legacy? Broadly defined as something transmitted or received from the past, it is a term frequently associated with American artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), whose impact as Professor of Painting at the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design is honored today through the Jacob Lawrence Gallery’s Legacy Residency. Lawrence’s dedication to mentorship and complex engagement with stories of the past presents an opportunity to reconsider legacy as not a passive or ancestral inheritance but rather an intentional and active consideration in both practice and pedagogy. A keynote lecture and moderated roundtable conversation will explore how artists — past and present — have constructed and transmitted legacies in response to debates about cultural inheritance, transmission, racial identity, and history.


All times are PDT.

  • 4:00–4:15, Juliet Sperling, opening remarks
  • 4:15–4:50, ​Keynote lecture
  • 4:50–5:30, ​Roundtable discussion
  • 5:30–6:00, ​Audience Q&A

Keynote Lecture


Making History: Loïs Mailou Jones and her Legacy as Artist and Teacher on African American Art


Rebecca VanDiver, Assistant Professor of Art History, Vanderbilt University


African American artist Loïs Mailou Jones (1905-1998) was unapologetic in her desire to make history--professionally and artistically. This lecture considers Jones's legacy as both an artist and an artist educator on the canon of African American art. Dovetailing with the Jacob Lawrence exhibition and Lawrence's interest in "history," VanDiver will discuss Jones's engagement with Black "history" in her artwork including projects completed for Carter G. Woodson's Association for the Study of African American Life and History (formerly ASNLH) and the wave of African colonial independence, but the talk will also consider the significance of Jones's pedagogical legacy parsing the significance of her role as an arts educator.

Roundtable Participants

Moderator: Jasmine Mahmoud, Assistant Professor, Arts Leadership, Department of Performing Arts & Arts Leadership, Seattle University

Rebecca VanDiver, Assistant Professor of Art History, Vanderbilt University

Marisa Williamson, Assistant Professor of media arts at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford and 2020 Jacob Lawrence Legacy Resident at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery in the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design

Theresa Papanikolas, PhD, Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, Seattle Art Museum

Participant Bios

Jasmine Mahmoud

Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud is a curator, arts advocate, and historian of art and performance. An essayist, scholar, and arts journalist, her writing and interviews appear in Modern Drama, Performance Research, TDR: The Drama Review, Women & Performance, and in the edited volumes Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World and Postdramatic Theatre and Form, as well as in Art Forum, ASAP/J Online, Canadian Art Review, Common Reader, Howlround, Hyperallergic, and the South Seattle Emerald, where she writes a monthly column centering BIPOC artists. Her writing and research engage Black aesthetics, experimental theater and dance, performance studies, and theories of the avant-garde; race, feminist/queer of color critique, decoloniality, and anti-racism; public policy, arts/cultural policy, and political economy; and urban ethnography. In 2020, she curated Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis for Hedreen Gallery, Seattle University, a group exhibition of works that transitioned online given the pandemics. She is Assistant Professor of Arts Leadership in the Department of Performing Arts and Arts Leadership at Seattle University, where she teaches classes including “Fundamentals of the Arts Sector,” “Public Policy and Advocacy in the Arts,” and “Black Lives Matter: Art Leadership, Theory, and Practice.”

Rebecca VanDiver

Rebecca VanDiver is an Assistant Professor of African American Art at Vanderbilt University. Her book, Designing a New Tradition: Loïs Mailou Jones and the Aesthetics of Blackness, came out in 2020 with Pennsylvania State University Press. With a focus on 20th century women artists and artistic responses to states of emergency, she has published research in American Art, Callaloo, Archives of American Art Journal, Space and Culture, and Transition. She has received research support and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute for Citizen and Scholars (formerly Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Program), the Lunder Institute for the Study of American Art at Colby College Museum of Art, the College Art Association, the Society for the Preservation of American Modernists, the American Council of Learned Societies/Henry Luce Foundation, and others.

Marisa Williamson

Marisa Williamson is a project-based artist who works in video, image-making, installation and performance around themes of history, race, feminism, and technology. She has produced site-specific works at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (2013) and by commission from Storm King Art Center (2016), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2016), Monument Lab (2017), and the National Park Service (2019). Her work has been featured in exhibitions throughout the US and internationally including at Real Art Ways in Hartford, The Print Center in Philadelphia, Human Resources (LA), The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) in Berlin, Centro Pecci in Prato, and Stefania Miscetti Gallery in Rome. Williamson has been awarded grants from the Rema Hort Mann Foundation and the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. She was a 2012 participant in the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in 2014-2015. Williamson holds a BA from Harvard and an MFA from CalArts. She lives and works in New Jersey and Connecticut, serving as an Assistant Professor of Media Arts at the University of Hartford.

Theresa Papanikolas

Dr. Papanikolas joined the Seattle Art Museum in 2019 as its Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art. Prior to that, she was Deputy Director of Art and Programs and Curator of European and American Art at the Honolulu Museum of Art, where she led an innovative reinstallation of the permanent collection galleries and organized the exhibitions: From Whistler to Warhol: Modernism on Paper (2010); Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawaiʻi Pictures (2013); Art Deco Hawaiʻi (2014), and Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West (2017). She was also guest curator of Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawaii at the New York Botanical Garden (2018). At SAM, she is curator of Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations (2020), and is planning a major reinstallation of the museum’s American art galleries.

From 2006 to 2008, Dr. Papanikolas was Wallis Annenberg Curatorial Fellow at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has also held positions at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Rice University. A specialist in American and European modernism, she has published widely on Dada and Surrealism. She has earned degrees in Art History from the University of Southern California (BA) and the University of Delaware (MA, PhD). In 2016, she was a Fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership (2016).