Q: What is your title and how long have you been at the National Portrait Gallery?
A: Assistant curator of painting and sculpture. I started in September 2011.
Q: What is your academic background/how did you train to do what you do?
A: I majored in art history and English language and literature at Smith College, pursued a master’s in art history at Williams College, and completed a Ph.D. in art history at the University of Delaware. My dissertation is titled “Translations, Appropriations, and Copies of Paintings at the Dawn of Mass Culture in the United States, ca. 1900.”
Graduate study and dissertation research taught me to be interdisciplinary and to look across visual culture to situate my analysis of artifacts in relation to their social, cultural, and political contexts. My work considers the shifting status of media and the relationship between media as new imaging technologies are introduced.
Throughout my education I took advantage of museum internships in large museums and small college galleries. After I completed my master’s, I worked for three years as assistant curator of American art at the Corcoran.
The opportunity to work in museums as I pursued graduate school was extremely important for my understanding of the value of working directly with objects and the nature of museum work. A significant aspect of working in museums as a student was exposure to incredible mentors, many of whom are here at the National Portrait Gallery.
Q: If someone only had a lunchtime to spend at the National Portrait Gallery, what would you tell them to see?
If you have time for only one work of art, see Edgar Degas’s portrait of Mary Cassatt (below).
Q. Can you tell us a little about the upcoming Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and your role in that project?
A: I am coordinating the 2013 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. A jury of artists, critics, and art historians met in March to choose the semifinalists. In September they will reconvene in Washington to select the finalists, whose work will be shown in the exhibition (opening March 2013).
It is inspiring and fascinating to see what artists are doing with portraiture across media. I am especially intrigued by the broad ways in which artists are defining portraiture now and the influence of Facebook and other social media on emerging artists’ construction of identity, especially those working in new media.
Mary Stevenson Cassatt / Edgar Degas / Oil on canvas, c.1880-1884 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the Regents' Major Acquisitions Fund, Smithsonian Institution