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I am a scholar of American art, with research and teaching interests that concentrate in three intersecting thematic areas: the art and material culture of North America from colonial settlement to the mid twentieth century; the theories and objects of media studies; and the construction of categories of race, ethnicity, and difference in visual culture. In all of my work, I am invested in recovering a fuller picture of how historic audiences — not merely the sliver of society that created and encountered fine art but a wider and more diverse population — perceived and made sense of the world around them.
My current book project, Tactile Encounter and the Moving Image in American Visual Culture, offers a new account of ways of seeing in the United States by charting a history of how, and to what ends, vision and touch cooperated during the transformative period between circa 1776–1910. At its center is a print culture genre of movable, physically interactive paper constructions that I term tactile images and that were, I argue, critical sites through which the purposes and politics of touch were negotiated. Anchored in the culturally specific meanings and movements of physically engaging with objects in nineteenth century America, this book asserts that touch, just like vision, has a history — one that is particularly essential to attend to as the discipline’s material turn forges forward. I have a second book-length project in progress, which unwinds tangled histories of landscape and race leading up to the Reconstruction era. It is motivated by my belief that a deep, critical knowledge of our nation’s visual histories is one of the most powerful tools for navigating the present moment. Foregrounding landscapes of the American South across print, painting, and material culture, the study historicizes a recent resurgence of rhetoric that roots nationalist identity in soil, but that does so by eliding violent histories of enslaved people’s labor and Indigenous displacement — precisely the discourses I seek to draw out.
I received my PhD in the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, and I was a faculty fellow at Colby College before joining the UW faculty in September 2020. My research has received support from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Wyeth Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. I am also a senior fellow and founding member of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. At the UW, I offer undergraduate and graduate courses on American art to circa 1950.