Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows

The two-year Fellow was given the opportunity to pursue a research project while gaining teaching experience at a graduate level, and participating in a major international research initiative on the state of scholarship in the fields of art history, archaeology, and conservation.

Andrew Finegold
2015-2016 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Andrew Finegold received his doctorate in Pre-Columbian art history from Columbia University in 2012, completing a dissertation on the visual rhetoric of narrativity in wall paintings depicting battle scenes from Epiclassic period Mesoamerica. He has since held teaching positions at Skidmore College and Wake Forest University and offered courses on Ancient American topics at Columbia University and Pratt Institute.

His current book project, which centers on a close analysis of a single Classic Maya dish, examines the creative potentials attributed to negative spaces by ancient Mesoamericans. As with dozens of other Maya vessels, the so-called Resurrection Plate was pierced with a hole typically interpreted as “killing” it – releasing its spirit and ending its functionality following the death of its owner. However, the congruence of this perforation with the iconography painted on the dish suggests the drilling of the vessel was understood as being akin to several distinct, yet related ritual activities associated with creation, abundance, and life: the breaking of the living earth to release its agricultural bounty, the drilling of fire as an act of temporal renewal, and the piercing of human flesh in auto-sacrificial rites. As these ideas are examined in successive chapters, the discussion will be expanded to include a range of beliefs, practices, and material culture that together serve to demonstrate the consistent, widespread, and transmedial experience of voids as fecund nodes of generative potential in ancient Mesoamerica.

Noémie Etienne
2013-2015 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

The two-year Fellow is given the opportunity to pursue a research project while gaining teaching experience at a graduate level, and participating in a major international research initiative on the state of scholarship in the fields of art history, archaeology, and conservation.

In Fall 2013, we welcome Dr. Noémie Etienne as our new Postdoctoral Fellow (2013-2015) at the Institute. Dr. Etienne holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Geneva and University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, where she completed the dissertation The Restoration of Paintings in Paris (1750-1815).

The development of technical art history, conservation history, consumption studies, and material culture studies shows a growing interest in the material dimension of artworks. These perspectives call attention to the physical and social life of things. Addressing the artwork as a continuum, i.e., as a material object undergoing perpetual transformations, Dr. Etienne’s research focuses on the material existence of objects in time rather than on the context in which they were created.

Her current research project looks to analyze the transformation and display of “exotic” objects in connection with their various uses and contexts during the same period. She proposes a material and visual history of goods—in particular furniture and accessories coming from the Arab world—in Parisian society in the eighteenth century. A historiography that examines the construction of international spaces and exchanges through the movements of things and artworks is currently on its way. Her focus will be on their use and repair: When necessary, how are they repaired, restored, or redesigned? Rebuilt and recomposed? By whom and how? Taking into consideration the notion of agency, her research method aims to mix practices and representations while engaging with the interplay between visual and material cultures. From this perspective, Dr. Etienne is interested in the “carriers” of Native American objects during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in anthropology and art museums. Furthermore, she will explore cross-cultural conservation issues including topics such as public participation and non-professional expertise.

Anton Schweizer
2012-2014 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

In Fall 2012, the Institute will welcome Anton Schweizer as the second Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. Over the past six years, Dr. Schweizer served as Assistant Professor of Japanese art history at Heidleberg University’s Institute of East Asian Art History. At Heidelberg University he completed the dissertation The Ōsaki Hachiman Shrine in Sendai and the Phenomenon of Lacquered Architecture in Momoyama Japan. During his two-year appointment at the IFA, Dr. Schweizer will conduct research for his upcoming publication, Meaningful Spaces: Topography, Architecture and Art as Political Media in Early Modern Japan, whichinvestigates the building activities of Date Masamune, a provincial warrior leader in seventeenth-century Northern Japan.

The study is based on the hypothesis that Masamune’s building projects were primarily motivated by the desire to manifest power and to create an identity for his new territory. For these aims he appropriated existing cultural models and developed complex and innovative strategies of spatial and visual expression. The research will analyze individual works of architecture as well as the semantical reorganization of the entire territory. It will consist of a series of case studies organized into two sections which approach the construction of meaningful spaces in different contexts.

While the main political protagonists of the Early Modern period and their heartlands in central Japan have been discussed in numerous Western studies, there is need of more research on local warriors and their cultural politics. The rich culture patronized by the Date clan which received great public attention from the distressing tsunami disaster in 2011 is a particularly apt example. The resulting monograph will be of relevance not only for specialists of Japanese architectural history, but also for scholars and students of religious studies, Early Modern history, social history and visual culture, and addresses questions of nation-building, interregional culture migration, and discourses of legitimacy.

Jennifer Raab
2011-2013 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

2011-2012 marks the first year of the IFA/Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship. In the fall, Dr. Jennifer Raab will join the IFA to share her expertise in nineteenth-century American art. Her book project, The Art and Science of Detail: Frederic Church and Nineteenth-Century Landscape Painting, explores the concept of detail. What does it mean to see a work of art “in detail”? What, in fact, is a detail and how has the definition evolved? Focusing on the particularly contested medium of landscape painting, Raab argues for a fundamental shift in representation from knowledge to information during the second half of the nineteenth-century, from the assumption that all details could be contained in one great system, to a realization that details might delineate difference and even undermine order. While “knowledge” implied the pursuit of a unifying structure, “information”—a word more commonly used as the nineteenth-century progressed—made no such promises. The form and function of “detail” was increasingly debated, and no other artist was more celebrated, and criticized, for his handling of detail than the American painter Frederic Church. In the scientific discourse of his time, which Church carefully followed, Alexander von Humboldt’s cosmological unity yielded to Charles Darwin’s competitive vision of the world. Church’s landscapes reveal two conflicting impulses: a need to create a visual language for an emerging scientific realism, and a desire to convey the ideas of a Humboldtian romanticism—art as an expression of science, and science as an a priori form of humanism, even a confirmation of religious faith. Church’s pictures mark the waning of faith in universal knowledge and the birth of our contemporary information age.