Professor, African & African Diaspora Studies
Cherise Smith is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in African American Studies in the Department African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin where she is affiliated with Art History. Her research centers on African American art, the history of photography, performance, and contemporary art. Smith completed the Ph.D. at Stanford University where she worked with Drs. Wanda Corn and Pamela Lee.
This year, Smith is an inaugural residential Scholar of the African American Art Research Initiative at the Getty Research Institute. Her project, titled Healing Old Wounds, explores how the contemporary artists Carrie Mae Weems, Charles Gaines, Rodney McMillian, and Cauleen Smith use appropriation and conceptualism to explore traumatic events from the American past.
She is the author of Michael Ray Charles: Studies in Blackness (University of Texas Press, 2020) which won the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The book places the artist’s work in the context of the 1990s, the rise in collecting of Black “memorabilia,” the challenges posed by art censorship, and Pop art among other historical trends.
Her book, Enacting Others: Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith (Duke University Press, 2011), examines how identity is negotiated in performance art in which women artists take-on the characteristics and manners of a racial, ethnic, and gender “other.” She has published essays in Art Journal, American Art, and exposure among other venues.
Currently, she is Executive Director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies where she spearheads Black Studies’ Art and Archive Initiative which seeks to expand UT’s holdings of art and material collections relating to people of African descent and increase its exhibition spaces. Under its auspices, she created two exhibition spaces—the Idea Lab and the Christian-Green Gallery—, and she has shepherded in donations of art by Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, and Charles White among others.
Smith is privileged to serve on the editorial boards of American Art and Art Journal, and she is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Archives of American Art Journal.
Her research has been supported by the Getty Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African American Research at Harvard University. She has worked in the curatorial departments of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Saint Louis Art Museum among other institutions.