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New Publication from PhD Candidate Ashley Bruckbauer

July 31, 2018

Congratulations to PhD candidate Ashley Bruckbauer, whose essay “Ambassadors à la turque: Assimilation and Dissimulation in Eighteenth-Century Images of French-Ottoman Diplomacy” was recently published in Tara Zanardi and Lynda Klich, eds., Visual Typologies from the Early Modern to the Contemporary: Local Contexts and Global Practices (New York: Routledge, 2019).


Fashion played an essential role in the performance of cultural and political identities in eighteenth-century France. This was especially true in diplomatic exchanges and depictions of diplomatic figures, who represented their king and country abroad. Cultural cross-dressing, or the assumption of foreign attire, complicated this function of costume, however. While art historians have examined cultural cross-dressing in eighteenth-century aristocratic portraiture and representations of masked balls, the ambassador has remained a peripheral figure in studies of the popular phenomenon. This essay situates diplomacy at the center of an analysis of French dressing à la turque, examining paintings of French and Ottoman ambassadors adopting the dress, customs, and accoutrements of their hosts. I analyze how these representations of French-Ottoman diplomacy engage with eighteenth-century diplomatic practices and theories as well as popular conceptions of the ambassador as a social type. Contemporary treatises advised diplomats to act as protean characters, assimilating the manners of their foreign hosts. Simultaneously, critiques of the profession characterized the ambassador’s shape-shifting abilities as signs of his duplicitous nature. I argue that images of diplomacy featuring cultural cross-dressing manifest these contested notions of the ambassador, casting the figure as both a sensitive intermediary and a deceptive performer.

Update from MFA Alumnus Ben Alper

July 2, 2018


Hands On Now Available + Exhibition in New York

I am happy to announce the release of my 4th artist book, Hands On, available now via Flat Space Books.  The book takes as its subject the gestural and poetic potential of hands.  You can read and see more about it over on the Flat Space site.

Hands On
Flat Space Books, 2018
28 pages, 14 black and white images
Softcover, saddle stitched
7 x 5 in. (17.78 x 12.7 cm.)
Edition of 50
Each book is printed and bound by the artist in Durham, NC
$20 (+ shipping)

Also, I’m excited to be in the group show I Surrender, Dear at Umbrella Arts.  The exhibition was curated by Frances Jakubek and explores aspects of how people navigate grief and loss. If you find yourself in New York on Tuesday, July 10th, stop by the opening and say hi.  Details in the image below.




































I Surrender, Dear
Umbrella Arts Gallery
317 E. 9th Street

Ben Alper


Alumnus Sam Van Aken solo show at McColl Center in Charlotte

June 12, 2018

The Open Orchard

I wanted to let you know about my new exhibition, The Open Orchard, at the McColl Center in Charlotte that runs from June 7th-August 25th.

Over the past four years I have been researching and studying the varieties that have been preserved through the Tree of 40 Fruit Project and have built an exhibition around this work, which includes Botanical Drawings, Herbarium Specimens, etc.

While in residence here, I will be making a series of hand-colored etchings based on the Botanical Drawings that will be available as a subscription that can be purchased to support preserving these varieties.

If you are in the Charlotte area on Thursday, it would be great to see you at the opening.


MFA Alumna Taba Saj named new director of Carrack Gallery in Durham

June 12, 2018

The Carrack, a Durham-based art and community space, is pleased to announce artist Saba Taj as its new Gallery Director. Taj assumes directorship as of
June 16.

Taj is a Durham-based artist, educator, and advocate who has been an active member of the local arts community since 2009. As a founding member of Durham Artists Movement and an arts educator, she has sought to help individuals from marginalized communities be empowered to create and share their own art. She has studied at North Carolina Central University (BA, 2011) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (MFA in Studio Art, 2016).

“I believe in increasing representation in the arts,” Taj says. “The issue of representation is not only relevant to works of art, but also within the landscape of galleries and art institutions. The Carrack has a legacy of centering artists and fostering an artists’ community that is collaborative and self-determining. I see this work as parallel to my own art practice, with values that deeply align with my own.”

In her art practice, Taj challenges racism and xenophobia through empowered representations of people of color. Taj has been a 2017 Southern Constellations Fellow and a TedxDuke 2017 speaker, and has been featured in The GuardianHuffington Post, and Durham magazine.

Taj has been an active part of The Carrack’s community since 2012. She has had two solo exhibitions and curated numerous group exhibitions at The Carrack, served on its Advisory Board in 2016, and has participated through the years as a volunteer and collaborator.

“I am excited to be building relationships with artists and patrons,” Taj says. “I look forward to the challenge of fostering community and a sustainable, accountable space for artists and for Durham, and brainstorming new projects and initiatives that can expand our reach and our ties to the broader Durham community. And I’m just such a nerd about the arts so I’m pretty thrilled to be around it all the time.”

With outgoing director and founder Laura Ritchie, The Carrack’s Advisory Board conducted a rigorous review process of applicants and are pleased to announce Taj’s appointment.

“I have complete confidence in Saba,” Ritchie says. “She already feels like an extension of The Carrack’s family and we’re thrilled to now welcome her as Gallery Director.”

“For as long as I have known her, Saba has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the arts in Durham through her own art practice and as an advocate for other artists. It’s been an honor to grow with and learn from her as a peer in this community and I cannot wait to see where she leads this project.”

Ritchie expresses gratitude to The Carrack’s Advisory Board for their thoughtfulness through the process of considering applicants, and to her colleague Kerry Crocker, Operations Director at The Carrack, for her steadfast guidance and support in this transitional period for the organization. Ritchie also conveys a deep appreciation to The Carrack’s volunteers and donors for forming a strong foundation for The Carrack that will allow the organization to thrive in times of change.

The Carrack has recently launched a fundraising effort on the Patreon membership platform. With an imminent change into a nonprofit organization, The Carrack will soon phase out its fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas. The Carrack’s annual fall fundraising event, The Muse Masquerade, will soon be announced.

About The Carrack
The Carrack is an artist-centered, volunteer-run, zero-commission art space in Durham, North Carolina that hosts short, rapidly rotating exhibitions, performances, workshops, and community gatherings. The Carrack proudly supports the work of creators who are underrepresented in the art world at large, including artists of color; queer and trans artists; and artists who are emerging, experimenting, or producing temporal and/or site-specific work. All artists and organizers use The Carrack for free, have complete creative control over the presentation of their work, and keep 100% of what they make from sales if they choose to sell. The Carrack is entirely funded by grassroots donations and sustained by a team of volunteers. Since opening in Durham, NC in 2011, The Carrack has exhibited work by over 1,000 artists and hosted over 160 exhibitions and numerous performing arts events.

Art History Alumna Hannah Clager named 2018 Pickering Fellow

June 12, 2018

Hannah Clager is one of two UNC alumni selected as 2018 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellows. Recipients of the Pickering Fellowship receive two years of financial support and professional development to prepare them for a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Fellows also complete a domestic internship at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., and an overseas internship at a U.S. embassy.

Managed and funded by the U.S. Department of State, consideration is given to qualified applicants who have displayed outstanding leadership skills and academic achievement. The fellowship aims to support those historically underrepresented in the U.S. Foreign Service, including women, minority groups and students with financial need.

Hannah Clager, from Lake Worth, Florida, will attend Harvard University this fall to pursue her master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies. Her studies will focus on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa; human rights and refugee affairs; and cultural diplomacy in the region. Clager earned her bachelor’s degree in 2013 with a major in art history and a minor in African studies. At UNC-Chapel Hill, she completed her art history honors thesis on the 2012 Dakar Biennale after seven months of fieldwork in Dakar, Senegal. She worked as a full-time paralegal for close to three years and then spent 14 months in Morocco as a Fulbright Student Researcher beginning in 2016, where she studied Arabic and completed a case study of the new Mohammed VI Modern and Contemporary Art Museum in Rabat.