The College Art Association (CAA), the world’s largest professional association for visual artists and art historians, is holding its annual conference this week and eight Department of Art and Art History graduate students and alumni have been invited to present new scholarship.

Stephanie M. Strauss, Rose G. Salseda, Katie Anania, Gretel Rodríguez, Uchenna Itam, C.C. Marsh, Julia Detchon and Dorota M. Biczel will join an anticipated 4,000 attendees to present papers on their original research. As a premier opportunity to connect and learn from others in the field, the CAA conference topics span a wide variety of fields and research interests. The work of graduate students from The University of Texas at Austin promises to be equally diverse, pushing at the bounds of current knowledge to deliver excellence in research.

We reached out to some of the doctoral candidates who are presenting material at the conference to learn about the research they will share. Here’s a glimpse, in their own words:

Stephanie M. Straus
Presenting her paper, “The Materiality of Inscription: Sculptural Surfaces in Epi-Olmec Art” in the session for Emerging Scholars of Latin American Art

“While the pristinely cut and polished surfaces of Classic Maya stelae are well-known, a handful of inscribed Maya monuments preserve the more natural contours of their source material. These rare examples are carved from the most precious of materials – hewn from a harvested stalagmite, or a uniquely hued stone. The act of making a surface proper for Epi-Olmec inscription is balanced through the preservation of the stone’s rough materiality. In exploring this intentional meeting of prepared and uncut surfaces, this paper attempts to place monuments such as the La Mojarra Stela, Tres Zapotes Stela C, and the Alvarado Stela into the greater schema of Mesoamerican sculptural practice. It also contrasts the aesthetic ordering of inscribed portable objects (like the Tuxtla Statuette) with models from the coeval visual culture programs of Kaminaljuyu, Tak’alik Ab’aj, and San Bartolo.”

Wangechi Mutu. Hangin' in Texas (2004-2005). Mixed-media installation. Dimensions variable. Source: Artpace, San Antonio, Texas.

Uchenna Itam 
Presenting her paper, “Smell Blood: The Politics of the Senses in Wangechi Mutu’s Installation Art” in the session titled Flesh.

“Soft fur pelts, sticky brown packing tape, and bulky felt moving blankets engage the sense of touch; and performance-based video projections envelope the viewer in sound, light, and motion. Using reoccurring elements such as inverted glass bottles that drip red wine or milk, and white walls pockmarked with crimson painted scars, Mutu treats the ceilings and walls of exhibition spaces like flesh—able to bleed and milk, both vulnerable and nourishing. In examining the sensuousness of Mutu’s installations created between 2004 and 2007 with regards to her concurrent ascension from recent art school graduate to internationally renowned artist, this paper situates Mutu’s early installation art practice within the wider context of a burgeoning contemporary African diaspora art discourse. A phenomenological approach to exploring the installations as multisensorial encounters becomes a way of perceiving the Kenyan-born, New York-based artist’s practice as “smelling blood”—acting against, and taking advantage of, stereotypical narratives of race, gender and nationality.”


Julia Detchon
Presenting “Video Practices before Video Art: Lea Lublin’s Fluvio Subtunal” in the session titled Genesis of Video Art in Latin America (1970s and 1980s).

Some view the invention and arrival of the Sony Portapak, with its relative affordability and portability, as a catalytic event that decentralized the production of video and allowed artists to develop independent practices, generating a robust experimental video scene in South America in the 1970s. But even before the emergence of “video art,” artists in Argentina had for years been making works that incorporated experimental video practices. Works such as Marta Minujín and Ruben Santantonín’s La Menesnuda (1965) and Lea Lublin’s Cultura: Dentro y fuera del museo (1971) appropriated both video technologies and the set of social relations engendered by the ubiquity of television in Argentina by the early 1960s. These works reveal the paradoxical emergence of experimental video practices in Argentina before the widespread use of videographic technology.

Through Lublin’s site-specific installation Fluvio Subtunal (1969) – a sprawling and immersive parcour traversed by visitors to an abandoned department store – I consider the origins of the vocabularies of video art prior to the emergence of the technology it required. These early experimentations suggest that video art exceeds material definition, responding rather to the socio-political interrelationships that support video as idea."

Rose G. Salseda
Co-founder of the US Latinx Art Forum (USLAF), Salseda will be participating in a plenary for the advocacy organization that has made waves in previous CAA conferences. Since, USLAF has published new data and information on the representation of Latinx art at CAA 2017, which can be found here.

“The plenary will explore Latinx art as a growing field and as a framework for examining the discipline of art history. Given the recent election and executive orders, the plenary is especially urgent. Run as a moderated conversation, scholars, organizational leaders, and museum staff who specialize in Latinx art and/or other adjacent subjects will address the discipline in light of institutional structures and the current political climate."

C. C. Marsh
Recently appointed as the research assistant to the Deputy Director of The Getty Research Institute, Marsh will be presenting her paper, “Between Art and Propaganda: Photo-Monde in the Service of the UN” in the session titled Photography in Print.

“Overlooked by historians, Photo-Monde’s photo-albums of 1955 and 1956 illustrate UNESCO’s belief that photography in general and the photo-essay specifically could function morally and diplomatically to foster mutual understanding between cultures. Photo-Monde’s editor and officials from UNESCO’s Department of Mass Communications collaborated to create these special issues which attempt to balance art and propaganda, humanism and institutional publicity. My paper analyzes these final issues of Photo-Monde to consider how UNESCO mobilized photography to craft universalizing pictorial narratives in support of the United Nations’ cosmopolitan ideology.”

Cuentos Bárbaros No. 1, drawing on canvas, 1.05 m x 1.95 m

Dorota M. Biczel
Presenting her paper, “From Depth to Rebellious Surfaces: Toward a New Postcolonial Andean Identity through the Work of Claudia Coca” in the session titled Passages and Crossings: The Sea in Contemporary Art of the Global South.

“I am thrilled to be talking about the new monochromatic body of seascapes and skyscapes under the title Cuentos bárbaros (Barbarian Tales) by Claudia Coca, one of the most respected female artists of mid-generation in Lima. Coca has critically examined the issues of race and class for almost two decades. To do it through a monochromatic and almost abstracted landscape is a curious and radical move, however, and I am excited to explore its implications. In a gist, I suggest that Coca works against the models of auto-ethnography and self-exoticization prevalent with the recent rise of art market in Lima.”

Feb. 15, 2017
Art History