Graduate students contribute significantly to the scholarly community within the department. As members of Art History Graduate Students Association (ARTH GSA), they organize an annual program of guest speakers, professional development workshops, and social events. This important suite of events fosters professional relationships among graduate students, faculty, museum professionals, alumni, and colleagues at other universities and/or in other fields.
Through their monthly meetings, the GSA also gathers input about departmental decisions that concern graduate students, such as requests for new technology (e.g., computers, printers, scanners) and policies/procedures for the Graduate Lab, which is a dedicated work space shared by all graduate students. GSA officers, who are elected each year, administer the association, while opportunities to serve on event planning committees are available to all members.
Current Graduate Students
Amanda Dalla Villa Adams
A Ph.D. candidate, Amanda specializes in post-1945 American art. Her dissertation is tentatively titled: “‘The Pain of Loving a Place:’ Sally Mann’s Gelatin-Silver Photographs of Home, Ortho Photographs of the South, and Wet-Plate Collodion Self-Portraits.” Amanda obtained her BFA in Sculpture from VCU and MA in Art History and Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Cincinnati; her thesis considered the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Before returning to VCU, she worked as a Junior Specialist in Fine and Decorative Arts at Cowan’s Auctions Inc. and taught studio art at Virginia State University. She has presented her research domestically and internationally, and this fall she will chair panels at the annual MACAA and SECAC conferences. In addition to contributing art criticism for publications including Artforum.com and Sculpture Magazine, Amanda’s research has appeared in the peer-reviewed, Archives of American Art, and graduate-journal, Montage. Recently, Amanda co-curated the exhibition, Hoss Haley: YIELD (Sept.-Oct., 2015), and curated the exhibition, Emily Erb: Loosely Loaded (June-Aug., 2016), both at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. This year, in addition to continuing to serve as a VMFA Statewide Speaker on the Arts, she will be teaching contemporary art at the College of William and Mary.
Andrea is a PhD candidate on the Curatorial track. In her dissertation, she examines the relationship between the artwork and pedagogy of Josef Albers, a twentieth-century German-born American painter. Her area of specialization is twentieth-century painting, with a special interest in theories of color, modernism, and the relationship between art history and philosophy. In addition to her work as a graduate student, Andrea is the Director of Exhibition at The Anderson at VCUarts. In this role, she oversees all gallery functions including planning, curating, and installing exhibitions as well as planning programming and events in the gallery. Andrea is the recipient of a five-year doctoral fellowship awarded by the Southern Regional Education Board.
Nora is first year MA student on the historical studies track. She received her BA in art history at Meredith College, located in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2016. In 2015 she presented at the undergraduate session at the Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC), “Challenges and Contradictions: Käthe Kollwitz and German Culture Between the Wars”, which explored the German Expressionist Käthe Kollwitz and her exclusion from Hitler’s Berlin Degenerate Art exhibition. During that same year Nora was a Modern and Contemporary Curatorial Intern at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Her research focus is in early 20th Century Central-Eastern European Expressionism artists, specifically Slavic women. Current countries of interest are Poland and the Czech Republic. This research examines the exclusion of these artists, despite their contemporary popularity, from the current art historical canon and how they depicted their nationalistic feelings through art.
Alex is a first year MA student on the Museums Studies track. She is a 2013 graduate of Christopher Newport University where she earned a Bachelor’s in Art History with minors in Anthropology and Leadership Studies. She is currently the Education Assistant for the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU where she is responsible for aiding in the development of education initiatives and fostering programming. Additionally, she is a docent and costume interpreter at Maymont, a turn-of-the-century Gilded Age mansion and estate in Richmond.
Matthew is a second-year M.A./Ph.D. student and Graduate Teaching Assistant. He earned his B.A. in Art History, with Honors, from the University of Maryland at College Park. Matthew studies nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century visual culture with an emphasis on commercial illustration and queer representation. He is currently continuing research on a project that investigates American illustrator J.C. Leyendecker and the queer coding of his advertising images. Matthew began this project at UMCP where he was the recipient of an Honors Research Grant. The grant funded travel to Stockton, CA where he visited the Haggin Museum and Archives to conduct research on Leyendecker’s work. He recently presented this research as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Tuesday Colloquium series. Additionally, this fall, Matthew will present his paper “Advertising Freakery: Zoomorphic Identity and the Anthropomorphic Turn in Gilded Age Visual Culture” at the 73rd annual Southeastern College Art Conference.
This year, while conducting thesis research on the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts, John will co-chair a graduate panel and present a paper at the Second Annual International Conference in Paragone Studies, and he will present a paper at the 2013 Southeastern College Art Conference. He is currently editor of the inaugural issue of “Paragone: Emerging Scholars,” a journal featuring graduate research and published by the Society for Paragone Studies. John was recently named the 2013 Friends of the Longfellow House Patterson Research Fellow.
Kimberly joined the Department of Art History as a PhD student in 2015. Her work focuses largely on African diaspora artists and exploring the relationships between black craftsmanship in contemporary art, transcultural aesthetics, and black performance theory. She received her MA in History at Jackson State University in 2014. Her master’s thesis “Approaching Africanisms: An Analysis of Ornamental Ironwork in the American South” provided a close examination of ornamental iron balconies and gates in southern cities such as New Orleans, Louisiana and Charleston, South Carolina. She served as Gallery Director (2010 – 2015), and later as adjunct faculty in the Department of History and Philosophy at Jackson State. She has worked with the Mississippi Museum of Art on public programs and exhibitions including The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art (2012). As a Romare Bearden Fellow (2013-2014) at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Kimberly co-curated the exhibition Anything but Civil: Kara Walker’s Vision of the Old South (2014). She is currently a Curatorial Research Intern at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU.
Samantha Karam Encarnacion
Samantha is a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant whose research focuses on early- to mid-twentieth century American and European art, especially on theories of modernism and the avant-garde. Samantha is also interested in animal theory, feminist theory, and surrealist scholarship, which she incorporated into her 2013 master’s thesis, “Art and Becoming-Animal: Reconceptualizing the Animal Imagery in Dorothea Tanning’s Post-1955 Paintings.” As she begins her doctoral work, Samantha is expanding her research interests to include archival theory and practice, which she anticipates will form the basis of her dissertation.
M Hill is an MA Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in the historical studies track. They received their BFA in Kinetic Imaging from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016 and served as the curatorial assistant to the Depot Gallery during their undergraduate career. Hill’s area of focus includes the application of digital technologies to the discipline of art history, and investigating how the implementation of those technologies can serve to increase accessibility to the arts.
Sarah Kleinman is an Art History Ph.D. student and doctoral teaching assistant specializing in Modern and Contemporary Art and Museum Studies. In 2010, Sarah received her Bachelor of Arts in Art History, Political Science, and Studio Art from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Most recently, she completed her Art History Master of Arts at VCU. As a curatorial intern at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Sarah is assisting the director with exhibition of expatriate Hungarian photography. In April 2015, Sarah was invited to develop a digital platform to catalogue and document artwork by Richmond-based sculptor Rubin Peacock. Sarah is active in student government and served as President of the Art History Graduate Student Association during the 2015 to 2016 academic year. A recipient of numerous merit-based scholarships, including the 2016 VCUarts Dean’s Grant, Sarah’s first year of doctoral study will be supported by the 2016–2017 Hamad-bin-Khalifa Assistantship in Art History through VCU and VCUarts Qatar. Sarah’s dissertation will investigate former MoMA curator Kynaston McShine.
Maureen is a first year MA student and graduate teaching assistant on the Museum Studies track. She received her BA in History and English from the University of Virginia in 2015 and also served as a docent at the Fralin Museum of Art for three years, which led to her interests in museum education. Her area of specialization is early twentieth-century European modernism, with an emphasis on the avant-garde and feminist theory. Her current research explores the works of French artist Emilie Charmy and the relationship between male and female artists in major twentieth century artistic groups.
Kate is a first year PhD student on the Curatorial track focusing on 19th century art. She is particularly interested in understanding how and why the material culture of Greece and Rome was imported and interpreted by modern audiences, how it was displayed, what that reveals about the modern audience, and how this display affected their own artistic and architectural production. Before coming to Virginia Commonwealth University, Kate worked as the Associate Curator for Ruthmere, a historic home in Elkhart, IN. She recently completed her second Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Oklahoma. She received her first Masters from the University of Notre Dame in Art History and completed her thesis on the Temple of Roma and Augustus on the Athenian Acropolis. Kate presented this research at the 2015 Duke-UNC Classics Colloquium. Currently she sits on the Snite Museum of Art’s National Advisory Council.
After completing an MA in Art History, with a specialization in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century print portraits in Northern Europe and Italy, Saskia currently is a PhD student on the historical track with a major in nineteenth-century European art and a minor in Museum Studies. Her specific interest is in nineteenth-century reproductive prints. She works as a volunteer in the Frank Raysor Study Center of Works on Paper of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Charlena Michelle Wynn
Charlotte, NC native, Charlena Michelle Wynn, is a first year PhD student in the Art History program on the curatorial studies track. While her research focus has changed over the years, she is interested in exploring the relationship between water, memory, and art making process for queer and femme Black persons and the display’s role in upholding nationalism and shaping Blackness in the visual field. Before relocating to Richmond, she earned her MA in Liberal Studies from NC State University in May 2016 and her BA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina Greensboro in May 2013. Most recently she has presented her research, “The Art of Re-Membering: Molecular and Nature-Related Memory for Forming Cultural and Artistic Production” at the 45th Annual National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference in San Francisco, CA. As a mixed media artist and activist, she has shown her work at Visual Art Exchange (Raleigh, NC), the Carrack Modern (Durham. NC), and ArtSpace (Raleigh, NC). Professionally she has worked with performance art and trauma studies scholar Dr. Kristine Stiles at Duke University to co-curate “Pirate Party”, a show consisting of images from Paul and Damon McCarthy’s performance piece which increased her interested in curatorial work. In fall 2017, she will begin as one of several students on the inaugural Student Advisory Committee for the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU.