The Institute welcomed our first group of ISAAC scholars from Nanjing University last fall and we took our first research trip in early October to Chicago. The Terra Foundation of American Art staff, Director Elizabeth Glassman, Curator PJ Brownlee, and Carrie Haslett, Program Director of Exhibition & Academic Grants, welcomed us to the city. A special tour of their impressive collection included early American landscapes, portraiture and genre painting.
Our week included visits to significant American art museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Each institution’s curatorial staff graciously hosted our group and engaged in meaningful dialogue with the scholars. Midway through the week, we travelled to the South Side to meet renowned Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt at his studio. Executed in welded and cast steel, aluminum, copper, and bronze, Hunt’s abstract creations are in collections across the globe, including his 2016 installation at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
We also had the opportunity to visit four private collections. Works by the Chicago Imagists featured prominently in two of the collections; another contained a comprehensive collection of photographs that spanned the history of the medium. The fourth displayed Arts and Crafts collections in settings created to reflect the aesthetics of the movement, including the work of Gustav Stickley.
Following Chicago was a trip in mid-October to New Mexico, with time in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Abiquiú, and Taos. The scholars were introduced to the art, culture, history, and landscape of the Southwest. Our trip began with a drive to Albuquerque, the new home for Dallas artist Jean Lacy and her son Nathaniel Lacy, and her large collection of art and objects including folk art and Native American pottery. Lacy’s own work focuses on the African-American experience. She shared her recent work with the scholars, a series of cigar boxes that display small tableaus of found objects and text that respond to current issues of race and politics.
An important focus of the trip was on the life and work of Georgia O’Keeffe, with time at the O’Keeffe Museum and Research Center, and her Abiquiú home and studio. Scenic drives to and from our appointments revealed familiar landscapes and forms seen in O’Keeffe’s work. Other notable collections of folk art and Taos art were at the International Museum of Folk Art and the Harwood Museum respectively.
The scholars will take five more research trips this year before they return to Nanjing in August. Their travels will take them to Washington, D.C., up the Rockies from Denver to Cody, up the Mississippi from St. Louis to Minneapolis, to Philadelphia and New York City, and to Arkansas and Oklahoma. Opportunities to meet scholars, students, and collectors and to explore collections, archives, and libraries throughout the United States serve to train a new generation of Chinese art historians who are equipped to teach American art history at the university level throughout China.
Please join us on Tuesday, March 6th, 4:00 p.m. in the DMA Research Center for a research report from our ISAAC scholars. Liu Yi is working on a book about American landscape painting, and Gao Xin is working on a study of American Modernism and its interactions with various forms of European Modernism. Both are brilliant, personable, and very important for scholarly relations with China since each will write the first books in Chinese on American Art before 1945. Yi and Xin will each share their research projects and future plans to create an undergraduate seminar for their students upon their return to China. I hope you can join us in March and meet these exceptional scholars.
Coordinator of Special Programs
The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History