Current Graduate Students Past Grad Students

Ümit Fırat Açıkgöz, Ph.D. Candidate


Giovanna M. Bassi Cendra
Giovanna M. Bassi Cendra, Ph.D. Student
Modern and contemporary Art, Latin American art and architecture   PDF icon G.BassiCendra_CV2017.pdf


Currently a first year PhD student, Giovanna Bassi Cendra previously studied and practiced architecture. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Universidad Ricardo Palma in Lima, Peru and her Master of Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She recently graduated from the University of Houston with a MA in Art History. Her MA thesis “New Monumentality, Integration of the Arts, and the Shaping of Modern Life” adopted a transnational lens to chart several approaches to the notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk through which socially and politically engaged art and architecture came together in the 20th century. Her volunteer work for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s International Center for the Arts of the Americas sparked her interest for the dynamic exchanges that existed between avant-garde groups in the US, Europe, and Latin America. Giovanna plans to specialize in modern and contemporary Latin American art and architecture and to focus her research on the ideological implications of art as an integral part of the built environment.

José L. Candelaria, Ph.D. Student
Art and Architecture of Medieval Iberia  


Chelsea Dacus, Ph.D. Student

In addition to being a part-time Ph.D. student at Rice University, Chelsea Dacus is Assistant Curator of The Glassell Collections, African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, and Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She has worked at the MFAH since 2004, assisting in the production of multiple exhibitions including Pompeii: Tales from an Eruption and contributed to several museum publications. Chelsea earned her BA in Art History, cum laude from Mt. Holyoke College and her MA in Art History with a specialty in Maya Art from Southern Methodist University, but has now executed a 180 degree turn to study ancient Roman art. She has a particular interest in the role of women in Roman art and society.

Jane Evans, Ph.D. Candidate
18th/19th c. European
"To Explore the Culture of Soils": Towards an Ecology of British Landscape Painting, 1780-1850   PDF icon CV


Jane Evans earned her Bachelor's in history and French from Arizona State University then completed a Master's in art history from Syracuse University. Her MA work focused on early modern northern European art, a field that remains her minor. Her dissertation is an eco-social study of Romantic British landscape in which she hopes to use a variety of sources and methodologies to expand both landscape studies and current understandings of the human-environment relationship. She has held multiple fellowships at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, most recently helping design an exhibition of the works from the Habsburg Imperial Collection in Vienna. In addition to academic work, Jane currently serves as the External Vice President for the Humanities Graduate Student Association.

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Shane Harless, Ph.D. Student
Medieval Art and Architecture   PDF icon Harless_MS_CV_2017.pdf

Shane Harless’ research explores the intersections of narrative, performativity, imagination, and gender in the devotional art of medieval Europe. He is particularly interested in gendered areas within the worship space, and how architectural implementations designed to conceal monastic communities also affected their experience of the liturgy. In conjunction with the architectural aspect of his work, he is also intrigued by how manuscript illuminations function to restore sensory experience by providing an opportunity for virtual pilgrimage within the privacy of the monastery.

Before matriculating in Rice’s PhD program, Harless received his M.A. in art history from Tulane University in 2015 and earned his master’s degree in theological studies from Vanderbilt University in 2010.

Rachel Harmeyer, Ph.D. Candidate
18th and 19th century visual culture in Britain and America
After Angelica Kauffman


Prior to my studies at Rice, I received my MA in Art History from the University of Houston (2013) and my BFA in studio art from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008). While a PhD student at Rice, I've been a recipient of the Jameson Fellowship in American Decorative Arts and Painting at the Bayou Bend Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2015-16) and a Curatorial Fellow in the department of American Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2016-17).

My primary focus on 18th and 19th century painting in Britain has expanded over the course of my graduate study to include portrait miniatures, drawings, prints, the decorative arts and art made by amateurs. I am especially interested in the transatlantic circulation of visual and material culture during the long 19th century between Britain and America. My dissertation​ will​ focus on works made “after” Angelica Kauffman, RA (1741-1807) in a wide variety of media, from prints and decorative paintings to ceramics and embroideries​.

Rachel Hooper, Ph.D. Candidate
American Art
American Art Histories: Framing Race in Exhibitions, 1842-1876   PDF icon Rachel Hooper short CV July 2017.pdf


I am a 7th year Ph.D. candidate and a Brown Foundation Mentored Teaching Fellow in the Art History department at Rice University. In 2016, I was a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar at their Institute for College and University Teachers, and I received a campus-wide teaching award in 2017 from the Rice Center for Teaching Excellence for my first-year writing intensive seminar “Art Criticism in Context,” which I plan on offering again with the Program in Writing and Communication in Spring 2018. 

My dissertation American Art Histories: Framing Race in Exhibitions, 1842-1876 uses material culture methodologies to expose racial politics as a driving force behind the institutionalization of art history in the United States. Research for the project was supported by a Luce Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Fellowship in American Art, the American Philosophical Society, and the Brown Foundation.

Philip Kelleher, Ph.D. Student
Modern and Contemporary Art  


Philip Kelleher is a PhD student in the department of Art History at Rice University. He holds a master’s degree in Art History from Binghamton University, SUNY. Kelleher was a Critical Studies fellow in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (2013-2014) and in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Core Program (2011-2013). He participated in the Irmgard Coninx Foundation’s 17th Annual Berlin Roundtable on Transnationality (2013). He has served as a lecturer in the School of Visual and Dramatic Arts at Rice University and the School of Art at the University of Houston.

Dasol Kim, Ph.D. Student
Northern Renaissance Art  

Dasol Kim earned her BA (2013) and MA (2016) in Art History from Seoul National University in Korea. She attended University of Helsinki in Finland as an exchange student from Fall 2011 to Spring 2012. Dasol argues in her Master's thesis, From Circumcision to Baptism: Albrecht Altdorfer’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt, that baptismal motifs in this painting allude to the conflicting attitudes of contemporary Christians towards Jews and Judaism. Dasol is interested in religio-political issues in Early Modern Northern European art.

Natasha Mao, Ph.D. Candidate
Italian Renaissance Art, decorative arts, gender and sexuality
Revealing and Concealing: Interactive Objects in Italian Renaissance Art, 1400-1600   PDF icon Natasha Mao Academic CV 2017.pdf


I am a sixth year Ph.D. Candidate with a focus on Italian Renaisance art. Prior to Rice University, I earned my Bachelor's degree in art history from Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) and have worked at art galleries and real estate firms. My dissertation, titled "Revealing and Concealing: Interactive Objects in Italian Renaissance Art, 1400-1600" explores the user's physical interactions with objects and sensory experience in early modern Italy. My other topics of interests include Renaissance multiculturalism and issues of gender and sexuality. 

In 2016, I returned from researching abroad in the UK and Italy, sponsored by the Wagoner’s Foreign Study Scholarship and Brown Foundation Dissertation Research Award. Further support from the Walter Read Hovey Scholarship of the Pittsburgh Foundation and a grant from the Humanities Research Center at Rice University will allow for my attendance of an archival research course at the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2017.

In 2016, I presented a paper titled "Italian Courtesans in Early Modern Interactive Art" at the Annunal Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Boston, and two recent publications include “‘Bevi Se Puoi:’ An Italian Renaissance Tantalus Cup in the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza.” (Faenza, Bollettino del Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche Cll, no. 2 (2016): 37-53) and, co-authored with Dr. Diane Wolfthal, “Newly Discovered Penitent Magdalen by Giampietrino.” (Source: Notes in the History of Art 35, no.4 (Summer 2016): 311-21). 

Aja Martin, Ph.D. Student
Modern Latin American Art & Architecture   PDF icon AM_cv_2016.pdf


I am a first year Ph.D. student studying spatial systems across modern art objects, design, and architecture. My earlier research on parks and gardens questions the agency of the choreographed viewer-subject. Shifting focus to discreet objects, I will remain engaged with the art and architecture of Brazil, Perú and other countries in Latin America. Future projects will offer readings of the underlying political, social, cultural and economic contexts of these objects and question the modalities and narratives to which they are bound.

Caitlin Masterson, Ph.D. Student
American Art, Architecture, Decorative Arts  


I am passionate about art and architecture's effect on social history, particularly between Europe and America. I am a second year Ph.D. student currently completing course work for my Doctorate Degree in Art History and Art Criticism at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Preliminary work is being done to prepare for my Doctoral thesis. Recently published, my Master's thesis concerning the Battle House in Tuscaloosa, Alabama focuses on Greek Revival architecture and its role in race relations as well as its use as further justification for the institution of slavery during the Antebellum period. I am currently the Jameson Fellow at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens connected with Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Danielle Meeker, Ph.D. Student
Early 20th Century European Art  


Danielle Meeker received a B.A. in Art History from The College of William and Mary in 2009. Her professional experience includes a curatorial internship in Contemporary Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, a curatorial assistantship at the Akron Art Museum, and a founding role at Transformer Station, a private art space dedicated to contemporary art operated in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art. She is currently in her second year as a PhD student in the Department of Art History.

Rachel Mohl, Ph.D. Student
Contemporary Latin American Art, Museum Curation



Nikki Moore, Ph.D. Candidate
Latin American Modern Art & Architecture History
Agritectures of the Green Revolution: Architecture, Art and the Agrilogistics of Transnational Aid from the United States to the Caribbean Region, 1930-1978.   PDF icon CVMoore.pdf


Nikki Moore is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History at Rice University.  After completing her S.M.Arch.S at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in 2005, Nikki continued her graduate studies at the European Graduate School (EGS), working with Avital Ronell toward a dissertation on mit-sein as conceived by Martin Heidegger and troubled by Jacques Derrida. Student teaching for Slavoj Žižek brought her to question the ideologies of nature and sustainability. Her current object oriented research focuses on the industrialization of food-based commodities and concurrent development practices in modern Latin America, focusing on their symbiotic relationship to art and architectural practice. Moore is a fellow with the University Based Institute for Advanced Studies’ Intercontinental Academia. Her work has received support from the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Brown Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation along with a Special Citation from the Graham Foundation for the Carter Manny Award. Her research has been published in Europe, Brazil and the United States.

Melisa Palermo, Ph.D. Candidate



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Karine Raynor, Ph.D. Student
Contemporary and Modern Art  

Karine Raynor is a first year Ph.D. student in Art History at Rice University. Previously, she was the Associate Director and Curator of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) collections in Montreal, Canada. Within this role, she established the health centre’s collection and was instrumental in leading a larger cultural initiative at the MUHC through its cultural flagship the RBC Art and Heritage Centre. Ms. Raynor completed a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Visual Art and a Master's degree in Museology at the Université de Montréal, in Montreal, Canada. Her research interests lie in contemporary and modern art, and more specifically in the representation of gender and sexuality in the work of Pop artists and those closely associated with the movement.

Adrienne Rooney, Ph.D. Student

Adrienne Rooney studies twentieth-century visual culture and performance in the Caribbean and United States, with a focus on narrative traditions and cultural memory. She received her B.A. in art history from Barnard College / Columbia University (2012) and worked as a curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2012–2015). She has conducted research for and programmed at Danspace Project (2012 and 2016) and published writing in Texte zur Kunst. Her work has been supported by the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD, 2015–2016) and the Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship (2017).

Layla Seale, Ph.D. Candidate
Late Medieval/Early Modern Northern European Art
Demons as a Cultural Species  


My work currently analyzes fifteenth-century Northern European painting and illuminated manuscripts, and specifically examines representations of Hell, devils and demons. I received my M.A. from American University in Washington, D.C. where I focused on Quattrocento cassoni panels and American women printmakers at the turn of the twentieth-century.

Before matriculating in Rice's PhD program, I worked at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and The World Bank within the Archives of Development. My doctoral research interests also include female spectatorship in late medieval private devotion, and the intersection of gender performance and economic class.


Dan Shan, Ph.D. Student
Chinese art and archaeology; Silk Road studies; medieval Buddhist visual culture.  


I have studied Chinese archaeology at Capital Normal University in Beijing, and then completed a master's degree in history from Fudan University in Shanghai. My past research has focused on two distinct, but related issues: the role of artworks in small-scale tribe society; and the way that people use material culture and space in the establishment and maintenance of religious culture. I have been exploring these issues through a couple of case studies on medieval Buddhist art via the Silk Road. I am very passionate about cultural encounter, and my current work has sought to place this powerful communication embroied by artworks in a wider context.

Claire Spadafora, Ph.D. Student
Italian Baroque Art and Architecture, 17th- and 18th-Century English Art and Architecture, Early Modern Prints and Drawings, History of Collecting  


Claire Spadafora received a bachelor’s degree in the history of art from Washington and Lee University, and completed a master’s degree in the history of art from the University of Illinois, Chicago.  Research for her master’s thesis centered on the movement of ideas and objects from Italy to England during the 17th and early 18th century, with a focus on the relationship between early Grand Tour travel and development of taste.  Interested in the building of collections, especially collections of works on paper, her current research explores the relationship between the growth of collections and establishment of authority, with an emphasis on collections assembled through or inspired by Grand Tour travel to Italy.  She has held internships and fellowships with several collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Newberry Library, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as a position at Christie’s. 

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Allison Springer, Ph.D. Student
19th- and 20th-Century European Art   PDF icon Springer_A_CV_2017 .pdf

Currently a first year PhD student at Rice University, Allison Springer previously embarked on a career in marketing and fashion before pursuing her academic studies in art history. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in apparel design and a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Alabama, Allison moved to New York City to pursue a career in fashion. After an internship at Sean John Designs, she began working for Saks Fifth Avenue and later Macy’s. After five years in the field, Allison came to the realization that her professional passions actually lay in the world of academia. This revelation led to Allison returning to the University of Alabama to pursue a master’s degree in art history, a field in which she had received a minor during her undergraduate studies. While her MA thesis, “Mixed-Race Fantasies: Abolitionist Propaganda as Spectacles of Race in the Nineteenth Century,” focused on the ways nineteenth-century American photography revealed latent ideologies and fantasies concerning race and miscegenation, her doctoral studies will be primarily based on nineteenth-century European art and the transatlantic commonalities of visual culture between America and Europe. She is particularly interested in social and cultural history as it pertains to changing social ideals, technological advances, and the development of modernism.

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Christine Starkman, Ph.D. Student
Modern and Contemporary Asian Art  

Currently a first year PhD student, Christine Starkman was recently in Seoul, Korea as an International Research Fellow at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 2017 Summer. She researched and presented a paper on the artist archive of the contemporary artist, Bahc Yiso. In January 2017, Starkman received an invitation to be Visiting Scholar at University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. She was Curator and Head of the Asian Art department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) (2000-2016) where she established the dedicated galleries of Asian art. She completed two site-specific commissions with contemporary artist Do Ho Suh and Cai Guo Qiang and also co-organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art two high-profile exhibitions: Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) (2014) and Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Art from Korea (2009). Christine plans to specialize in modern and contemporary art from Asia.

Ruoxin Wang, Ph.D. Student
Northern Renaissance Art  


Ruoxin Wang studies late medieval and early modern European art. Her research interests include art and ritual, gender and sexuality, cultural exchange, and viewer response. She received her MA in Art History from The University of Alabama at Birmingham and BA in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language from Zhejiang University, China. Ruoxin worked as curatorial fellow in Birmingham Museum of Art.

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Stephen Westich, Ph.D. Student
Medieval Scandinavian art, Northern Medieval architecture  

Stephen Westich is a first year Ph.D. student of medieval art history at Rice University with a special interest in architecture. His interest in the study of art led him to complete his B.A. in art history at Wheaton College (IL) and, furthermore, an M.A. in art history at Indiana University. His M.A. thesis focused on the Gotlandic picture stones and how their visual motifs relate to textual referents as both are passed down in various ways through the centuries. His dissertation work will involve situating the medieval stave churches of Norway in an international context by examining the various influences that converge in the creation of these buildings.

Caroline "Olivia" Wolf, Ph.D. Candidate
Latin American Art and Architecture, with Middle Eastern minor area
Migrant Constructions: Mahjar Monuments and Transnational Debates in Modern Argentina, 1910-1955   Microsoft Office document icon CV


Wolf's research explores migration, ethnicity, and identity in the visual culture and built environment of Latin America and its global intersections. Her dissertation focuses on the art and architectural patronage of Arab-speaking diaspora (mahjar) communities in modern Argentina as a response to transatlantic discourses. She also examines contemporary art in the context of the current migration crisis in Latin America today. In other projects, she has analyzed the costumbrismo movement in 19th century Peru as well as nationalist architecture in twentieth-century Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. In 2013-2014 , Wolf served as the Camfield Fellow in the Latin American curatorial department of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). Her research has been funded by the Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellowship, Brown Foundation Research Award, SAHARA award from the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship, and the Lodieska Stockbridge Vaughn Fellowship. Prior to studying at Rice, Wolf received her MA in the History of Art at Indiana University in 2011 and BFA from the University of Notre Dame in 2001.

For select publications, please see:


Yuri Yoshida, Ph.D. Student
Modern and Contemporary Art  


I majored in mathematics in my undergraduate study at Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. I began to study art history in graduate school, during which time I also worked for art museums, such as the Kawasaki City Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and the Mori Art Museum. At the Mori, I worked for mainly two exhibition projects, “Metabolism, the City of the Future” (2011) and "Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World" (2012). My research focuses on post-war American art, especially Barnett Newman, recontextualizing his work within a broader consideration of the sociopolitical/cultural meaning in the 1960s. I have published an essay in the scholarly journal Bijutsushi in 2012, “The Depth of the Canvas:The Transformation of Spatial Awareness in Barnett Newman’s Paintings,” which discusses the changes in spatial expression over the artist’s life. I earned a MA both at Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2011 and Hunter College in New York in 2014. Before coming to Rice, I spent one year serving as Scholar-in-Residence at the Barnett Newman Foundation, New York.

Katia Zavistovski, Ph.D. Candidate
Modern and Contemporary Art
Picturing Common Objects: Vija Celmins, Llyn Foulkes, and Joe Goode in 1960s LA  


Betsy Stepina Zinn, Ph.D. Student
Modern and contemporary art   PDF icon CV


Betsy Stepina Zinn holds a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in English from Marymount Manhattan College. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art, with specific interest in conceptual practices of the 1960s to the present and the intersection of art, language, and literature. Her work has been presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Boston University; and Indiana University. She has also been a fellow at Project Row Houses in Houston. Before pursuing graduate work, Betsy spent eight years in the Publications Department of the Art Institute of Chicago, editing exhibition and permanent collection catalogues on artists such as Cy Twombly and Mel Bochner. She continues to work as a freelance editor for numerous institutions, including the Menil Collection and Aperture Foundation. She is currently the editor of the Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonné of Painting and Sculpture, 1954–2014, a five-volume publication authored by Roberta Bernstein forthcoming from the Wildenstein Institute in 2016.