Current MA/PhD Students
Educational History: Centre College, BA in Art History, 2019
Michael Baird is a doctoral student in the department of Art and Art History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is interested in the Western reception of African material culture and how the discourse of fine art was utilized in the fashioning of national identity at the end of the colonial era. His current work centers on how art education formed an integral component of the British colonial apparatus in the East Africa Protectorate and how this colonial instruction in making continues to influence understandings of art within the contemporary nation-state of Uganda and perceptions of Ugandan art abroad. In 2019, Michael’s senior thesis contended with representations of black masculinity in the oeuvre of Robert Mapplethorpe and the social construction of categories within visual culture. Following his graduation, he worked as a curatorial intern and later curatorial and education assistant at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The work he did at the museum was part of a larger initiative to re-evaluate the ways in which the museum characterizes, displays, and educates the public on African-inspired religions and objects that have acquired religious value.
Educational History: Virginia Commonwealth University, Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with minors in Sociology and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, 2021; The School of Visual Arts, completed coursework towards a BFA, 2009 – 2012
Callie is a second-year dual degree master’s student in art history and library science with a concentration in archives. Her primary interest areas include 20th-century – contemporary artist self-publishing practices (zines, small press work, artist books, etc.), material culture, and queer, women, and subculture-focused archives. She is currently the Research Assistant for Southern Futures at Carolina Performing Arts and an Audiovisual Digitization Graduate Assistant at Wilson Special Collections Library.
Educational History: The Courtauld Institute of Art, MA in the History of Art, 2012; Oberlin College, BA in Art History, 2009
Franny is a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, specializing in eighteenth-century French art and works on paper. She was advised by Dr. Mary D. Sheriff until Dr. Sheriff’s passing in fall 2016. Her dissertation, entitled “Drawing the Amateur,” is now being supervised by Dr. Melissa Hyde (University of Florida). Franny’s project examines drawings made by amateurs, particularly women, working outside of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in eighteenth-century France. Before arriving at UNC, Franny completed her BA in Art History at Oberlin College and her MA in the History of Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She completed her master’s degree in eighteenth-century French and British drawings, taught by Dr. Katie Scott and Professor David Solkin. Franny has held positions at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, The Frick Collection, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Ackland Art Museum. She has curated and co-curated a number of exhibitions, including “Visions of Antiquity in the Eighteenth Century” at the Dallas Museum of Art and “Celebrations and Revelries in Seventeenth-Century Dutch art” at the Ackland Art Museum. She also has expertise in student and faculty support, having worked at the UNC Writing and Learning Center and the Center for Faculty Excellence.
Educational History: College of William and Mary, B.A. in Art History with a minor in Management and Organizational Leadership, 2019
Rachel is a doctoral student in the department of Art and Art History at UNC. Her undergraduate honors thesis examined nineteenth-century urban ecology, public parks development, and antebellum racial politics through the previously unexplored painting “Servants at a Pump” (1840) by Italian-American artist Nicolino Calyo. Her current research, supervised by Dr. Maggie Cao, probes the relationship between racialized identities, labor practices, capital venture, and the environment in nineteenth-century American art. Before beginning her Ph.D. program, Rachel spent three years developing a visual arts integration initiative within the education department at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. At UNC, Rachel has served a Teaching Assistant in Art History, a Graduate Research Consultant in Comparative Literature, a Teaching Fellow at the Ackland Art Museum, and as Chair for the Eighth Annual Graduate Symposium: “Matters of Art: Materiality, Functionality & the Agency of Art Objects.” She lives in Chapel Hill, NC with her boyfriend and Giant Schnauzer, Ruby.
Educational History: UNC-Chapel Hill, MA, Art History/MS Information Science, 2018; University of Chicago, MA Religious Studies, 2010; Boston University, BA English/Religious Studies, 2008
Erin Dickey is a Ph.D. candidate and the Chester Dale Fellow (’22-’24) at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. Her dissertation, “‘Bad Information’: Networks, Knowledges, and Feminist Art in the 1980s,” analyzes the material histories of information art, online projects, video installations, and telecommunications experiments by Judy Malloy, Nancy Paterson, and Karen O’Rourke, contextualizing them against the politics and aesthetics of the “information age.” At UNC, she has taught ARTH 285: Art after 1960 and ARTH 488: Contemporary African Art, and in the Ackland Art Museum as Object-Based Teaching Fellow (’20-’21). As a master’s student, Erin was a Fellow in UNC’s IMLS-funded “Learning from Artists’ Archives” program. She has also worked for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, and the national oral history nonprofit Storycorps. Recent publications include “Organic Archives and Silent Presences: A Case Study of the Nlele Institute’s Photographic Archives,” with Carol Magee, in Silence and Its Derivatives: Conversations Across Disciplines (2022) and “Moving Images: Photography in Johannesburg,” with Diane Frankel, in Urban Cadence: Street Scenes from Lagos and Johannesburg (2019). Research interests: contemporary American, European, and African art, feminist and postcolonial media, telecommunications history, media theory, materiality studies, archival theory and practice, and oral history. Erin’s dissertation advisor is Cary Levine.
Educational History: University of Georgia, M.A. in Art History, 2019; Birmingham-Southern College, B.A. in History and Art History, 2016
Emily DuVall is an Art History Ph.D. student working with Dr. Tania String. Emily studies the French Renaissance court, specifically the origins and endurance of royal symbols. Her dissertation addresses the demonstration of power and the possession of space following the Hundred Years’ War, as seen in depictions of ceremonial entries and the royal hunt. She has worked as a curatorial intern at the Albany Museum of Art in Albany, Georgia, as a gallery assistant at Portraits, Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama, and most recently, as the Pierre Daura Graduate Intern at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Georgia.
Sarah Emily Farkas
Educational History: The University of Texas at Austin, MA – Art History, 2019; Oberlin College, BA – Art History and German Studies, 2012
Sarah is a Ph.D. student focusing on sixteenth-century English and German art of the Reformation, working with Dr. Tania String. She is especially interested in issues of gender, decorative objects, and jewelry in the early modern world. She is a 2020-21 Wilson Library Hanes Graduate Fellow working with numerous objects in the Rare Book Collection and was the 2020-21 Graduate Intern at the Ackland Art Museum. While an undergraduate at Oberlin College, Sarah also worked as a curatorial assistant for the Allen Memorial Art Museum.
Educational History: Wake Forest University, BA in Art History, 2020
Sophie is a Master’s student in Art History at UNC focusing on late 19th century and early 20th century French art. She is a recipient of a Graduate School Merit Fellowship and the Graduate Assistant for the John and June Allcott Gallery. Sophie is especially interested in studying artists who lived and worked in turn-of-the-century Paris and wants to explore the dynamic between form, perception, and psychology in relation to these artists’ creative processes. She hopes her background as a visual artist, particularly in painting and printmaking, will lend a unique perspective to her art historical research.
Educational History: BA in Art and Architecture History, Miami University – Oxford, OH (summa cum laude)
Sydney Herrick is a master’s student in the department of Art and Art History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is interested in African and African Diaspora arts and their intersectionality with gender, feminism, and sexuality. Sydney attended Miami University, Oxford, for her undergraduate program. She was awarded the Judith Paetow George Farris Award for academic achievement, the Faculty Award for student writing and research, and the Edna Kelly Scholarship for excellence in art and architecture. She has published several articles, including “Kara Walker, African/American” and “Performing Gender in African Masquerade,” which she presented at the 2021 Annual Dr. Johnathan Riess Colloquium at the University of Cincinnati, OH. Following her graduation, she worked as a curatorial writing intern at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center (2021-2022), a Visitor Relations Specialist at The Contemporary Austin (2021-2022), and a writing intern for the North Carolina Museum of Art (2022). Sydney also assisted in the revision of Dr. Jordan Fenton’s Masquerade and Money in Urban Calabar, published in February of this year. Sydney will be working under Dr. Victoria Rovine.
My main area of interest is artists’ publications: artists’ books, zines, Web-to-print work, and other kinds of printed matter. I came to artists’ publications as a writer and poet interested in how different embodiments of a text affect its meaning, so I’m very interested in the intersection of text and visual art, and in a postcolonial view of the book as just one among many technologies of content transmission across cultures. I’m a career library worker involved in collecting artists’ publications and teaching with them. I also have a studio practice creating them under the press name Blue Bluer Books. My poems, translations, and flash fiction have appeared in some literary journals over the years and my artists’ books are held in a number of library, museum, and private collections.
Educational History: University of Mississippi, B.A. in Art History, 2021
Savannah is currently a master’s student in Art History at UNC- Chapel Hill. Prior to joining the program, Savannah interned at the Grammy Museum in Cleveland, Mississippi. Broadly, she is interested in 15th & 16th century English court art. More specifically, her research consists of tracing the visual evolution of female beauty standards as seen through Medieval and early Renaissance portraiture.
I am a PhD student studying Contemporary African Art, with a specific interest in the intersection of art, visual culture, and design within East Africa. Currently, I am thinking about visual culture in and around Nairobi, Kenya and how artists/art collectives employ the aesthetics of visual and material culture to construct their own understandings of local, national, and international identity. As a subsection of this inquiry, I am fascinated with populist or ‘pop’ art in Kenya, its aesthetic make-up, and political ramifications. Prior to coming to UNC, I received my BA in Art History from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. During my time at Dickinson, I curated “Mafile Fen,” an exhibition of Bamana sculpture and textile that explored the relationship between performance and object in Bamana aesthetics. I have also held internships at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Museum of African Art in DC.
Educational History: The University of Alabama, B.A. in Art History with minors in Italian and Medieval and Early Modern European Studies, 2022
Olivia Riva Janson is a master’s student in the Art and Art History department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her focus is on the renaissance and the convergence of theology, Italian literature, and women. Olivia attended The University of Alabama for her undergraduate program. She was awarded second place for her paper titled “Le Donne Dietro L’Uomo: La Rete Femminile in torno per Girolamo Savonarola” (The Women Behind the Man: The Female Network surrounding Girolamo Savonarola) for the national Italian honor society, Gamma Kappa Alpha. She has presented several papers including “Vision as Worship in Medieval Culture: the Connection between St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Dante Alighieri” at the Richard Macksey National Humanities Research Symposium at Johns Hopkins University. Olivia also received the Russell J. Drake Scholarship and was nominated for Student Employee of the Year for her work as the Director’s Assistant at the Paul R. Jones Museum.
Kelsey is an Art History Ph.D. Candidate and Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellow at UNC-CH. She was advised by Dr. Mary D. Sheriff until Dr. Sheriff’s passing in the fall of 2016 and is currently advised by Dr. Melissa Hyde (University of Florida, Gainesville). Her fields of specialization rest in early modern Europe (though she often ventures to the 19th and early 20th centuries for various curatorial projects), with particular emphasis on eighteenth-century French art, works on paper, and women artists from 1450-1950. Her dissertation project explores women artists’ relationship to printmaking in eighteenth-century France, including their roles as designers, engravers, and exhibitors of prints. Kelsey is the recipient of numerous awards, internships, and fellowships, including the ‘Rare Prints Project’ Internship at the National Gallery of Art, D.C. (2017), the Object-Based Teaching Fellowship at the Ackland Art Museum (2017-2018), and the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Curatorial Internship for European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (2018-2019). She served as the curatorial intern for the DMA’s Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism as well as the major traveling exhibition, Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist. Kelsey also curated Violence and Defiance, a works on paper show of German and Austrian Expressionist prints, which debuted at the DMA in August of 2019.
Educational History: University of North Florida, B.A. in Art History, 2020
Samantha is currently a master’s student in Art History at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her primary research interests are in medieval art, specifically representations of the body and emotion in manuscripts and architecture from the Romanesque era. Her research has also extended into later periods where she has explored the rabelaisian-like imagery in the works of Dutch Golden Age painter Jan Steen, as well as medievalism in pop culture. Samantha previously worked as a student docent for the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville in Florida.
Educational History: University of South Carolina-Columbia, BA in Art History with minors in French and Hospitality, 2011; Leiden University, Netherlands, MA in Arts & Culture: Museums and Collections, 2015
Brantly is a fifth-year PhD candidate and former museum professional. Her dissertation, “Rummaging Drawers, Opening Doors: An Inquiry into Sixteenth-Century Collectors’ Cabinets & their Contents,” imaginatively reconstructs early modern persons’ embodied experience of the Kunstkammer utilizing inventories, written accounts, and extant cabinets. These little-studied technologies of display shaped and reflect early modern perceptions of and interactions with collection objects, fostering attitudes of play, curiosity, and piety. Additional, thematic research interests extend from the medieval to modern periods and include the aesthetics of function and material; historical debates pitting the fine arts versus craft and the applied arts; the history of display, collections, and museums; the organization and production of knowledge in collections; and the visual and architectural culture of medieval pilgrimage. She has received grants from The UNC Graduate School (2020 and 21), Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program, UNC (2019), the University of Amsterdam (2018), and Leiden University (2014).
Aisha Marie Muhammad
Educational History: SUNY New Paltz, Bachelor of Arts in Art History and History (Cum Laude), 2012; School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Master of Arts in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory and Criticism, 2015
My research examines the confluence of performance and video media in sub-Saharan Africa. I am interested in how “new media” interventions affect traditional and contemporary performance rituals, including the evolution of iconography within established visual cultures. My writing and research primarily centers around West and Central Africa; I have extensively written on Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku with my master’s thesis entitled: “Humanity is ‘In the Red’: An Examination of Jelili Atiku’s Performance Series”. I am also interested in perceptions of the continent and blackness in the African Diaspora, and how contemporary media further affects visual symbols of Africa to its diaspora communities. Postcolonial theory is an important aspect of my research. Prior to coming to UNC, I was an intern at the National Portrait Gallery, and Instructor in art history at Genesee Community College (Batavia, NY). I am currently a Humanities for Public Good Fellow, working on a project that involves increasing visitor engagement in the North Carolina Museum of Art’s African galleries.
Jake L. Swartz
Educational History: University of North Carolina Asheville, Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Anthropology, 2019
I am a first year Master student and my research concerns ideas of power, prestige, and the materiality of statuette and arm reliquaries of the Holy Roman Empire. I am also interested in the veneration of saints during Medieval Europe. I published my undergraduate thesis titled “Divine artistry: The power of materiality and craft in statuette and arm reliquaries of the Holy Roman Empire.” with the UNC Asheville Journal of Undergraduate Research in May of 2019. I Presented this research at the at The Southeast Regional Undergraduate Research Scholarly and Creative Activity Conference in Milledgeville, GA during the spring of 2019. I also presented my research at The Spring Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Community Engagement in Asheville, North Carolina. During my time between undergraduate and graduate school I worked closely with the North Carolina Museum of Art, in the Advancement Department. I plan on pursuing my master’s degree in art history at the university of North Carolina and eventually pursuing a Ph.D. specializing in Medieval art and architecture.
Educational History: University of Massachusetts Amherst, Dual Degree BA in Art History and History, Certificate in Medieval Studies, 2021
Rachel is a master’s student in the department of Art History, and her primary research interest is early medieval art of the British Isles. More precisely, she is interested in studying both insular art of the period and the history of early medieval art’s reception and display during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is also interested in medieval revival movements, contemporary medievalism – in both its uses and abuses – and more broadly in decolonization and recontextualization of museum displays, art historiography, and art historical pedagogy. Her BA thesis, titled “Cultural Heritage on Display: A Comparative Analysis of British Insular Art and Mexica Art at the British Museum,” compared the British Museum’s display history of early English art and the art of the Mexica, and centered the ways in which the museum as a theater for imperialism continues to underserve its collections sourced from colonialist projects. She is interested in continuing to explore the intersections of the framing and display of early medieval art in a modern context and the appropriation of medieval symbolism by contemporary hate groups. Prior to coming to UNC, Rachel was a long-term curatorial assistant at the Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts, working primarily with local folk art and textiles and aiming to re-evaluate the museum’s collections and exhibitions in order to highlight the historic Black and Indigenous presence in the region.
Educational History: George Washington University, BA in Classical Studies and Art History, 2019; University of Pennsylvania, Post-Baccalaureate in Classical Languages, 2020
Eve is currently a second-year dual degree master’s student in art history and library science at UNC Chapel Hill. Her primary research focus is Classical Art of Greece and Rome, and she is particularly interested in the connection between art and literature. She has held internships at the George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum, the American Academy in Rome, and most recently, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology. Eve has additional interests in digital humanities, archives, and special collections which she hopes to explore further through her coursework at SILS.
Educational History: Harvard University, Ed. M.; American University, M.A. in Art History
Jennifer is a Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She specializes in the art of Europe, 1400-1700, and her areas of research include image-text relations, gender studies, and material culture. In her dissertation, directed by Dr. Tania String, she explores metapaintings in early modern England. Jennifer’s interests include the praxis of teaching in both classroom and museum spaces. She has served as the Samuel H. Kress Fellow for Museum Education at the Ackland Art Museum. Currently, Jennifer is a Teaching Fellow and instructor of record at UNC and has been teaching courses on Italian Renaissance art. She recently co-taught an interdisciplinary Royster First-Year Seminar, In the Flesh: The Constructed Body in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. She co-authored a pedagogical essay based on this experience, “The Constructed Body in a Disembodied Platform: Interdisciplinarity and Team Teaching in the Age of COVID-19,” for the Sixteenth Century E-Journal, Early Modern Classroom supplement, 2020. Jennifer is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Paul Mellon Centre, the Yale Center for British Art, the Harvard Art Museums, and the Folger Institute (Folger Shakespeare Library).
Educational History: Seoul National University, MA in Art History, 2021; Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Department of Philosophy, 2015 – 2016; Seoul National University, BA in Religious Studies and Media Arts, 2013 – 2018
Jihyun Yang is a first-year PhD student in Art History at UNC. Jihyun is especially interested in studying images of the Passion and viewers’ psychological and even physical responses to them in Germany and the Netherlands during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Jihyun hopes to use the lenses of phenomenology and cognitive science to focus on not only the mental but also the physical responses of viewers to these images of suffering. While a graduate student at Seoul National University, Jihyun worked as a researcher for the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation.
Weixin Zhou is a Ph.D. student in Art History. She is originally from Shanghai, China, and completed her undergraduate studies at Shanghai Normal University before earning an M.A. Degree in Creative and Media Enterprises in Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies at The University of Warwick in the U.K. Weixin’s main research interest is Western modern art, specifically European modernism and art movements in nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is interested in the interdisciplinary approach of reflecting art and art history in the intellectual and cultural context.
Alexandra Ziegler is a doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill working with Christoph Brachmann. Her research interests lie in the art and architecture of early modern Europe, with particular attention paid to intersections of politics, gender, and religion within portraiture. She is originally from Hawaii but has spent several years on the West Coast, where she received her BA from Humboldt State University and MA from the University of Oregon. Her Master’s thesis, entitled “Divinity and Destiny: Marian Imagery in Rubens’ Life of Marie de’ Medici” investigates the construction of identity, femininity, and authority in the Medici Cycle. She continues to explore these issues in her current research, looking more broadly at the tradition of saintly imagery in representations of female royals in the seventeenth century.