Current Graduate Students Past Grad Students
Ümit Fırat Açıkgöz is currently writing his dissertation on the entanglement of local, national, and global agencies in the urban modernization of post-Ottoman Istanbul (1923-1950). At the most general level, he is interested in the ways in which politics, ideology, and identity inform the making of built environments. Açıkgöz's research focuses on the Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. He has presented papers at a number of conferences in the United States, Turkey, Portugal, Serbia, Croatia, and France. He has published in The Journal of Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association and Architectural Histories. Açıkgöz received his B.A. in History from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, and M.A. in Architectural History from Middle East Technical University, Ankara.
Bassi Cendra is a second year PhD student who previously studied and practiced architecture. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Universidad Ricardo Palma in Lima, Peru and her Master of Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her long-standing interest in art and architectural history led her to complete a MA in Art History at the University of Houston. 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. Bassi Cendra’s volunteer work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s International Center for the Arts of the Americas sparked her interest in the dynamic and interdisciplinary exchanges that existed between avant-garde groups in the US, Europe, and Latin America. Bassi Cendra plans to specialize in modern and contemporary Latin American art and architecture and to interrogate the ways in which transnational politics, economics, science, and ideology shaped art and the built environment during the twentieth century — and ultimately how these modern constructions inflected the Latin Americans’ relationship with the natural environment.
José is a Ph.D. candidate in the Art History program. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. After almost 17 years in the private sector, José enrolled in post baccalaureate courses in art history at the University of Houston focusing on Italian Gothic art where he co-edited and contributed several articles and catalog entries to the Sacra et Profana exhibition of medieval musical manuscripts in the Houston area. At Rice, José has served as department representative at the Graduate Students Association and curated the exhibition of Rice's collection of medieval objects for the 2016 Vagantes Conference held at Rice University.
His research interests are centered on the transnational and transcultural cultural exchanges involving medieval Iberia in the middle ages, especially as manifested in the arts, architecture, and urbanism of Seville in the decades before and after the turn of the sixteenth century.
Chelsea Dacus is a Ph.D. student on the museum professionals track at Rice University. She earned her BA in Art History from Mt. Holyoke College and her MA in Art History with a specialty in Maya Art from Southern Methodist University. She is also 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.
Jane Evans earned Bachelor’s degrees 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 considers the estate views of British landscape artist, JMW Turner, as a discrete body of work in relation to social, artistic, and biographic ideas about history, heritage, and legacy. She has held multiple fellowships at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, most recently acting as assistant curator with Gary Tinterow on the large retrospective, Degas: A New Vision. In addition to academic work, Jane has served as the External Vice President for the Humanities Graduate Student Association and continues to work as a consultant at the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication.
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 earned her BFA in studio art from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008) and holds an MA in Art History from the University of Houston (2013). Her master’s thesis focused on 19th century hairwork as a technology of memory. During her studies at Rice, she has been a Jameson Fellow 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). She is a recipient of a 2017 Summer Research Grant from the Decorative Arts Trust.
Her primary focus on 18th and 19th century painting in Britain has expanded to include portrait miniatures, drawings, prints, the decorative arts and art made by amateurs. She is especially interested in the transatlantic circulation of visual and material culture during the long 19th century between Britain and America. Her dissertation, After Angelica Kauffman, will explore the ways in which the work of Angelica Kauffman, RA (1741-1807) ‘went viral,’ in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Kauffman’s designs inspired copies made after her in a wide variety of media, from prints, decorative paintings, ceramics, embroideries, and even confectionery. Harmeyer's investigation of the “angelicamad” world will contribute to an examination of the late eighteenth-century culture of copying and Kauffman’s celebrity and legacy as a renowned artist within and beyond the British Royal Academy.
I am a 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 is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Art History at Rice University. He holds a master’s degree in Art History from Binghamton University, SUNY. In 2016, he completed the Center for Critical and Cultural Theory Program at Rice University. Kelleher was a Critical Studies fellow in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (2013-14) and in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Core Program (2011-13). He was a participant in the 17th Annual Berlin Roundtable on Transnationality (2013), organized by the Social Science Research Council Berlin and Humboldt University Berlin. Kelleher will publish a paper on the artist Paul Chan in an upcoming issue of Art Journal.
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’s study focuses on Italian Renaissance art. Prior to Rice University. She earned her Bachelor's degree in art history from Northwestern University. Her 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. Other topics of interests include Renaissance multiculturalism and issues of gender and sexuality.
In 2016, Natasha 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 allowed for her recent attendance of an archival research course at the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2017.
In 2017, Natasha published an article on the Renaissance puzzle cup, that is, prank drinking cups with hidden conduits. The article can be found in Natasha Mao, “‘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)). She has also recently 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 is a second-year Ph.D. student studying modern art, design, and architecture across the Americas and Europe. Her previous research and conference presentations questioned the agency of the choreographed viewer-subject. Shifting her focus to art objects, she remains engaged with art and sites in Latin America, but also studies Italian Modernism and the circuitous relationships between these geographies as seen in the work of Lucio Fontana. Current and future projects offer readings that question the modalities and narratives to which art and architecture are bound by articulating their innate formal and phenomenological qualities. Aja earned a Master's Degree in Art History (2011), while a graduate fellow at Southern Methodist University; she also holds a Bachelor's degree in Art History from the University of Houston (2008). She has held adjunct, director appointments, curatorial, and fellowship positions at major art institutions and organizations across Texas and has written exhibition catalog essays on contemporary art, and published in the art journal Semigloss.
Caitlin Masterson is passionate about art and architecture's effect on social history, particularly between Europe and America. During her time at Rice, Caitlin has served as the Jameson Fellow at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens connected with Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Caitlin received her BA and MA degrees in Art History Criticism and Conservation from the University of Alabama. Recently published, her 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.
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.
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 received her BA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in Art History and Theology at the University of St. Thomas (Houston), and MA’s from the University of Texas at San Antonio and Rice University. Melisa’s primary interest is the relationship between Baroque sacred art and theology, spirituality, and mysticism. Her dissertation is about the iconography of divine charity as represented by a burning heart and heart-bearing saints and how this related to the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Melisa has also written several articles for the SmartHistory.
Karine 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. 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.
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's work currently analyzes fifteenth-century Northern European painting and illuminated manuscripts, and specifically examines representations of Hell, devils and demons. She received her M.A. from American University in Washington, D.C. where she focused on Quattrocento cassoni panels and American women printmakers at the turn of the twentieth-century. In 2017, Layla was awarded the Kress Foundation Two-Year Institutional Fellowship in the History of Art, which will allow her to be in residence for two years at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
Before matriculating in Rice's PhD program, she worked at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and The World Bank within the Archives of Development. Her doctoral research interests also include female spectatorship in late medieval private devotion, and the intersection of gender performance and economic class.
Dan Shan received a B.A. in Archaeology from Capital Normal University in Beijing, and completed a master’s degree from Fudan University in Shanghai. Her educational background also includes the exchange program in National University of Taiwan, and an internship at Institute of Archaeology in Puyang. In M.A. thesis, Dan wrote about the production and reception of one category of "auspicious and miraculous" image (ruixiang) in medieval Buddhism, with focus on archaeological discoveries along the Silk Road. Interested in multicultural studies, Dan is currently working on the transformation of religious visual culture in medieval Asia.
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. Interested in developments in style and taste, travel and the building of collections, and original documents, her current research explores the art and travel of 18th-century English artist William Kent in Italy. Her writing has been published in Notes on Early Modern Art. She has held curatorial internships and fellowships at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Newberry Library, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as a position at Christie’s. Her fellowships at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston have been supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is the 2017-18 William A. Camfield Fellow in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Allison Springer recently completed a master’s degree in art history at the University of Alabama. 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 current interests include nineteenth-century European art and the transatlantic commonalities of visual culture between America and Europe, specifically, social and cultural history as it pertains to changing social ideals, technological advances, and the development of modernism.
Before beginning her Ph.D. in Art History, Christine Starkman 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. Christine 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.
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.
Stephen Westich is a Ph.D. student in art history at Rice University with a special interest in architecture and medieval art. 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'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 and BFA from the University of Notre Dame. She recently served as a Co-Instructor for the HART in the World Rio de Janeiro course with Fabiola López-Durán, and taught a study abroad class on Latin American Visual Cultures for NYU's Buenos Aires Global program. For select publications, please see: https://rice.academia.edu/CarolineWolf
Yuri Yoshida majored in mathematics in his undergraduate study at Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. He began to study art history in graduate school, during which time he 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, he worked for mainly two exhibition projects, “Metabolism, the City of the Future” (2011) and "Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World" (2012). His 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. Yuri has 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. He earned Master's degrees both at Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2011 and Hunter College in New York in 2014. Before coming to Rice, he spent a year serving as Scholar-in-Residence at the Barnett Newman Foundation in New York.
Katia Zavistovski holds a Master’s degree from Williams College and a Bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, both in art history. Her research centers on modern and contemporary art, with a current focus on figurative painting practices in mid-century America. Katia’s dissertation, The Milk Bottle, The Blackboard, and The Smoking Gun: Picturing Common Objects in 1960s LA, examines the material conditions of representation, objecthood, and embodied viewing in postwar Southern California. While at Rice, Katia has held curatorial fellowship positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and The Menil Collection. She also curated a number of exhibitions in Houston, including Staring at the Wall: The Art of Boredom (Lawndale Art Center, 2012-2013) and Raid the Archive: The de Menil Years at Rice (Rice University Media Center, 2012).
In addition to her academic work, Katia is the Assistant Curator of Modern Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she is currently organizing the exhibitions Hidden Narratives (Spring 2018) and Robert Rauschenberg: The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece (Fall 2018); and assisting with a comprehensive reinstallation of the permanent collection of Modern Art.
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 art 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 received fellowships from Project Row Houses, Houston (2013–14), and the Menil Collection, Houston (2017–18). Before pursuing graduate work, Betsy spent eight years in the Publications Department of the Art Institute of Chicago, editing exhibition and permanent collection catalogues. She continues to work as a freelance editor for various institutions, including the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and Aperture Foundation. Most recently, she served as the editor of the Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonné of Painting and Sculpture, a five-volume publication authored by Roberta Bernstein and published by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute in 2017. She is currently the copyeditor of the Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonné of Drawings, forthcoming from the Menil Collection in 2018.