American Art and Visual Culture Seminar: Amy Mooney, Columbia College Chicago, and Lauran Kroiz, University of Wisconsin

Friday, October 1, 2010

2 pm to 5 pm

American Art and Visual Culture Seminar

“Portraits of Noteworthy Character”
Amy M. Mooney, Columbia College Chicago

My paper draws from an ongoing project titled Portraits of Noteworthy Character that examines ways in which portraiture was utilized by individuals and social institutions in the United States to affect social change. In this chapter, I consider how the politics of racial uplift were aestheticized into a visual language that affected the representation of African Americans from the 1890s into the 1930s.  Looking to diverse sources such as John Henry Adams’ honorific drawings for The Voice of the Negro and the “before and after” photographs in Silas Floyd’s text, Duty and Beauty, I argue that the portrait became the ultimate means of self-determination.

“Picturing Things: Collage and the Composition of American Artists”
Lauren Kroiz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In 1925, Arthur Dove arranged a denim shirt, bamboo poles, and oil paint into a composition he shockingly entitled using a well-known racial epithet for African Americans. This chapter examines the work, now known as Goin’ Fishin’, closely and contextually, locating it both within the series of assemblages Dove termed his “things” and in period discourses of cultural regionalism. Comparing this “thing” with Dove’s forgotten 1920s commercial illustrations of dialect stories and jokes, and with Georgia O’Keeffe’s famous paintings of her New York collection of Southwestern bones and calico roses, this chapter considers the way American art’s “thingness” as imagined in the 1920s and 1930s might function to interrogate otherness in racial, cultural, and material terms.

Commentator: Patricia Smith Scanlan, Indiana University

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.