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Helen Langa Associate Professor Department of Art

Send email to Helen Langa
(202) 885-1682 (Office)
(202) 885-1132 (Fax)
CAS - Art
Katzen Arts Center - 233
Tuesdays 2:00 - 6:00 (by appt)
Wednesdays 1:00 - 2:00 & 5:15 - 6:15
Additional Positions at AU
Affiliate Faculty, Department of History
PhD, Modern and American Art, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
MA, Baroque Art, University of Colorado-Boulder
BFA , Tyler School of Art, Temple University

Professor Helen Langa  (now retired) taught a sequence of courses on American Art from the colonial era to the late 20th century with an emphasis on issues related to national identity, politics, race, gender, and cultural studies. She was Chair of the Art Department (Art History, Graphic Design, and Studio Art) from 2008-2010 and Director of the Art History Program (BA and MA) from 2008 to spring 2014. Seminar topics have included Transnational Issues in American Art 1890 to 1970, Shaking Things Up: The Politics of Identity in American Art 1960-1998, and Postmodernism since 1980: Controversial Art and Museum Responsibilities.

Her scholarly research continues to emphasize the work of American women artists and representations of women between 1900 and the 1940s; leftist interests in labor, gender, racial equality, and social change in 1930s art; and the pre-Stonewall history of American lesbian/gay/queer identity and visual representation. Her book Radical Art. Printmaking and the Left in 1930s New York was published in 2004. Two recently published articles are "Seeing Queerly: Lesbian Presence and Absence in American Visual Art, 1890 to 1950," in the Journal of Lesbian Studies (2010), and “’At least half the pages will consist of pictures’: New Masses and Politicized Visual Art” in American Periodicals (2011). Her anthology, co-edited with Paula Wisotzki, titled American Women Artists, 1935 to 1970: Gender, Culture, Politics was published by  Ashgate Press in January 2016.
See Also
Department of Art History
Women’s and Gender Studies
Department of History
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Langa’s research during the 1990s focused on twentieth century American realist and modernist art, especially art and leftist politics as expressed in prints, antilynching imagery, and the intersections of race, gender, class, and religion in American culture during the 1930s. Her current research continues these topics and also explores queer readings of lesbian life and desire in American fine art and visual culture from the 1890s to 1970.

Executive Experience

  • Member at Large, Board of Directors, Southeastern College Art Association 2005-2007

Professional Presentations

  • "Seeing Queerly: Reading Visual Art as Intertextual Representation," American University Lavender Languages Conference, February 2009.
  •  Together with Professor James Boyles of Meredith College in N.C., Dr Langa solicited papers and organized a session at the October 2008 Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC) annual meeting on “New Issues in Lesbian/Gay/Trans/Queer Studies" which will repeat with new participants in 2009.
  • “Observing and Subverting: American Women Printmakers and Social Justice in the 1930s,” invited lecture, Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York; February 4, 2008
  • “Lesbians in the Closet: Women Artists, Professionalism, and Same Sex Affections (Does It Matter?),” Southeastern College Art Association Conference, Charleston WV; October 2007
  • “Seeing Change, Seeking Justice: U.S. Women Printmakers and the Left in the 1930s,” invited lecture for “Art as Intervention,” a Symposium at the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH; May 3-5, 2007
  • “Immigrant Artists, Laboring Workers, and National Identities: Changing Visual Paradigms in 1930s New York,” American Studies Association National Conference, Oakland, CA; October 2006
  • “Deep Tunnels and Burning Flues: The Unexpected Drama of Industrial Production in 1930s Prints,” Southeastern College Art Association Conference, Mobile, AL; October 2002
  • “Illustrating Social Justice: New Masses and Politicized Visual Culture,” College Art Association, Philadelphia, PA; February 2002
  • “American Voices, Hybrid Identities: Jewish Artists in New York City during the 1930s,” Southeastern College Art Assocation Conference, Louisville, KY; October 2000
  • “Constructing Labor: Prints by New York Artists during the Great Depression,” Universities Art Association of Canada National Conference, Toronto, November 1999
  • “American-Style 'Tikkun Olam': Jewish Immigrant Artists, Liminal Identities, and Labor Iconography,” College Art Association Conference, Los Angeles, CA; February 1999
  • “Black Bodies, Political Ambiguities, Gendered Viewpoints: Reconsidering Two Anti-Lynching Exhibitions Held in New York in 1935,” American Studies Association Conference, Kansas City MO, November 1996

See CV for full list.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Radical Art: Printmaking and the Left in 1930s New York (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004).
  • “Constructing Cultural Democracy: Ideology and Public Art in 1930’s America,” in The Political Economy of Art. Creating the Modern Nation of Culture, ed. Julie Codell (Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2008): 163-178.
  • “New York Visual Artists and the Spanish Civil War,” in Facing Fascism: New York and the Spanish Civil War (New York: Museum of the City of New York, March 2007): 100-115.
  • “Two Antilynching Art Exhibitions: Politicized Viewpoints, Racial Perspectives, Gendered Constraints,” reprinted in Nka.Journal of African Art 20 (Fall 2006): 96-115; originally pub. In American Art (Spring 1999): 10-39.
  • “Bold Gazes, Lively Differences: Women Printmakers’ Images of Women,” essay for catalog: Paths to the Press: Printmaking and American Women Artists, 1910-1960 (Manhattan, Kan.: Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University, 2006): 50-63.
  • “American Women Printmakers: Adventurous Choices, Modernist Innovations,” chapter in American Women Modernists: The Legacy of Robert Henri,1910-1945 (Rutgers University Press, 2005): 57-92.
  • “Deep Tunnels and Burning Flues: The Unexpected Political Drama in 1930s Industrial Production Prints,” Journal for the Society of Industrial Archaeology 28:1(Fall 2003): 43-58.
  • “Elizabeth Olds: Gender Difference and Indifference,” Woman's Art Journal 22:3 (Fall 2001/Winter 2002): 5-11.
  • “Two Antilynching Art Exhibitions: Politicized Viewpoints, Racial Perspectives, Gendered Constraints,” American Art (Spring 1999): 10-39.
  • “Egalitarian Vision, Gendered Experience: Women Printmakers and the WPA/FAP Graphic Arts Workshop,” in The Expanding Discourse. Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (Harper/Collins, 1992): 408-23.

Work In Progress

  • Book project: Queer Visualities: Lesbian Presence and Absence in American Art, 1890 to 1970
  • Article: “Seeing Queerly: Looking for Lesbian Presence and Absence in American Visual Art, 1890-1950”
  • Invited Lecture: “Heroic Men, Vulnerable Workers, Economies of Power: Re-reading American Industrial Prints from the Great Depression” for Steidle Symposium, Pennsylvania State University, May 2009

Professional Services

  • Consulting, Exhibition Planning, and Catalog Essay for Exhibition: “Spirited Moderns: The Women Art Students of Robert Henri,” organized by Marian Wardle, Curator, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, Utah, 2001-2005
  • Curator of Exhibition: “Theme and Variations: American Identity in New Deal Era Art,” University of Maryland Art Gallery, 2000 (curated exhibition and wrote brochure and wall text)
  • Visual Art Consultant for Video Project “Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality” by Julia Reichert, River City Pictures, Inc./Wright State University, 1994 - 1996
  • Book Review Editor, The SECAC Review (published by the Southeastern College Art Conference), 1999 – 2008

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

American painting and prints of the 1930s, American art from 1700 to the present, art history and antiracist activism, feminism and gender studies, gay/lesbian and queer history, postmodernism, postcolonialism

Additional Information

Helen Langa published Radical Art: Printmaking and the Left in 1930s New York in 2004 and has written articles on women artists, lesbian artists, labor imagery, and antiracist art. Her current research and publications focus on lesbian/queer artists in the United States and on issues of gender and race in U.S. art from 1890 to 1970.

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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