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Art History | Alumni News

Vanessa Rocco (BA '92) received her doctorate from The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is currently an adjunct assistant professor of the History of Art and Design at the Pratt Institute. Rocco's new book, co-edited with Elizabeth Otto, is entitled The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through 1960s. The book was published by the University of Michigan Press. An excerpt from the Pratt Institute news blog describes the book and its significance:

During the later part of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth, a range of iconic female forms emerged to dominate the global pictorial landscape. Chorine stars, female athletes and adventurers, flappers, garçonnes, Modern Girls, neue Frauen, suffragettes, and trampky were all facets of the dazzling and urbane New Woman who came to epitomize modern femininity. This construct existed as both a set of abstract ideas and ideals as well as a compilation of individual behaviors and experiences; these varied as they were translated across national contexts and through a range of key historical moments including First Wave feminism, colonialism, the First and Second World Wars, political revolutions, and the rise of modernism. While this incarnation of modern femininity set the trends for women worldwide, she often stood accused of dangerously subverting gender norms and encouraging lesbianism, mannishness, and other forms of deviance. Indeed the New Woman seemed to be such a universally recognizable icon of change that she could instantly inspire and simultaneously incite strong reactions of fear or even hatred.

Inaugurating a new chapter in the scholarship on the New Woman, this edited volume moves beyond nationally and historically focused narratives to examine the nuances of visual representations of this transgressive and border-crossing figure from her inception in the later nineteenth century to her full development in the interwar period and beyond. Bringing together generations of scholars of gender and visual culture—including professors of art history, film, and visual studies, as well as museum curators—The New Woman International addresses the ways in which these types figured in discourses on gender, race, technology, sexuality, agency, media representation, commercial culture, internationalism, colonialism, and transnational modernity. Sweeping in scope, through its focus on the modern media of film and photography—including photojournalism, artists' photography, and photomontage—the volume zooms in on the primary loci through which New-Woman figures were created and defined. Further, by concentrating on photography and film, this book looks at women both before and behind the camera to reveal them as agents in constructing the New Woman as a creative avatar of change. Through this rich array of original scholarship, The New Woman International will become the standard work on the representation of this figure who challenged, confronted, and forever changed norms of gender.

For more information visit the book's webpage at or visit "The New Woman International" on Facebook.


Notes from the Field

· Bryna Campbell (MA '03) presented her paper on Elaine de Kooning at the first annual Feminist Art History Conference (see details in departmental news).

· Elena Sanchez Cortina (MA '05) flew in from Mexico City in February to join faculty, staff, alums, and current students at the CAA conference reception for the AU art history program.

· Cynthia Jaworski Fischer (MA '05) announced that her paper on Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's Titanic Memorial in DC has been accepted for publication in the Woman's Art Journal. The paper will appear in an upcoming 2011 or 2012 issue. Cynthia writes that this was great news to receive while in the midst of coursework in the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) doctoral program. 

· Alejandra Gimenez-Berger (MA '98) presented her paper entitled, "Aesthetics of Ideology in Felipe de Guevara's Comentarios de la Pintura" at the annual CAA conference, February 2011.

· Sybil Keats-Bjorksten Gohari (BA '98) and Lynn Clement-Bremer (MA '08) continue to teach general education art history courses at AU.

· Karla Huebner (MA '02) Karla continues to teach art history at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. She presented papers at several conferences in 2010–2011, including:"Toyen and Heisler among the Paris Surrealists," Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, November 2010; and "Fire Smoulders in the Veins: Toyen's Expression of Queer Desire," CAA, February 2010. Karla's chapter "Girl, Trampka, or Žába? The Czechoslovak New Woman," is featured in the book The New Woman International, edited by Elizabeth Otto and fellow AU alum Vanessa Rocco (see page 9). 

· Liza Key (MA '08) is the new curatorial coordinator at the Phillips Collection.

· Olivia Kohler (MA '07), assistant director of the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery at GWU,met with fellow alumJamie DeSimone (MA '05) at the Addison Gallery on a trip to Boston in June. Olivia just finished a project for the University of Richmond Museums. Students and alums were asked to write entries for an online catalogue the museum is creating to accompany the exhibit Art = Text = Art: Works by Contemporary Artists, which opened August 2011. 

· Maria Mahon (MA pending) is working full time as a teacher at Bishop O'Connell High School, teaching AP art history and world history. 

· Gretchen Martin (MA '10) is very pleased to report that she is now the Assistant Registrar for Visual Resources and Collection at The Phillips Collection.

· Allison Pace (BA '93) writes to let us know that her new novel, A Pug's Tale, will be out this summer. Publishers Weekly calls it "a charming mystery with abundant personality." Booklist says it's"a winningly affectionate tribute to art, love, New York City, and pugs." 

· Ellie Pinzarrone (MA '10) is working with a professor at Northwestern University on a project to catalog his extensive personal collection of Tibetan and Indian art.

· Brooke Rosenblatt (BA '99) is Manager of Public Programs and In-Gallery Interpretation at The Phillips Collection. This position has provided her with the opportunity to develop a range of cross-disciplinary programs connecting the visual arts to the performing arts, language arts and music and collaborate with a range of cultural institutions in Washington, DC. Brooke also contributes to the museum's popular Phillips after 5 program. Outside of work, Brooke's family has been growing. In July 2010 she welcomed son Adrian Barbin. So far, being a mom has been the greatest adventure of her life.

· Vanessa Rocco (BA '92) was awarded a Pratt Faculty Development award for her work on The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through 1960s. Published by the University of Michigan Press (2011), it is co-edited by Elizabeth Otto.

· Lillian M. Wilson (MA '09) received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study at Black Mountain College + Art Center, summer 2011.

Past Events

Ruth Iskin, Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting

The 'New Woman' in Impressionist Painting and Visual Culture

4th Annual Distinguished Scholar Lecture in Art History (2009)
featuring Dr. Ruth E. Iskin

Wednesday, September 30, 8:00 pm, in the Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center

Ruth E. Iskin (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles) will explore whether Impressionist painting represented the "New Woman" and how the latter's images functioned in diverse genres of visual culture, from caricatures to posters and photographs. By looking at a broad range of visual representations that circulated in the late nineteenth-century, the talk probes images as intervening in discourses, arguing that the latter were shaped across a dynamic field of art and print culture.

Professor Iskin is a Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce Visiting Senior Fellow at The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, The National Gallery of Art. Her areas of research include Impressionist painting and consumer culture; nineteenth century art, graphic arts and culture; gender and modernity. She teaches nineteenth-century art and visual culture; women's art; and museum and curatorial studies at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She has held an Andrew W. Melon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Penn Humanities Forum, the University of Pennsylvania; The Ahmanson-Getty Research Fellowship at the UCLA Center for Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Studies, and The Killam Memorial Fellowship at the University of British Columbia. Her book, Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture, has been published by Cambridge University Press (2007), and her essays have appeared in journals, anthologies and museum exhibition catalogues.



Vanessa Rocco New Woman

Art History Alumni

Art History alumni enjoyed camraderie at a reception in Philadelphia on April 30, 2009. The American Association of Museums (AAM) Annual Meeting was held in Philadelphia at that time, making it a convenient place to meet. Alums had a chance to catch up with old friends and make new connections in the arts and museum communities.

AU Art History alumnae Stephanie Thornton and Ruthann Uithol invited the AU community—faculty, students, local alumni, and friends—to an evening at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens on April 16, 2008. It was a crisp spring evening and attendees were delighted to walk through the gardens and enjoy the outdoor fountains and pathways. The staff at Hillwood had gone “all out,” with an open bar, appetizers, and an invitation to explore the mansion and its unique collection of fine and decorative art. With the museum closed for our private party, we were able to wander through the gardens, explore the mansion, and partake of refreshments on the patio. The students who attended fell in love with Hillwood and Stephanie and Ruthann were gracious hosts. What a wonderful chance for our current students to meet alums who graduated from AU with a strong academic foundation, and applied that knowledge and skills base to forge interesting and impressive careers in the museum field. It was great to see the mix of new students and alumni.