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Erin McCutcheon, Ph.D., assistant professor of art history at Lycoming College, recently won a $9,000 grant from the College Art Association of America (CAA). The grant is part of the CAA’s new Art History Fund for Travel to Special Exhibitions, and will allow McCutcheon to take her “Art & Politics in Latin America” students to San Francisco to see works of art in-person after studying them in her class this past fall.
The Art History Fund for Travel to Special Exhibitions is designed to cover travel costs associated with attending museum special exhibitions throughout the United States and worldwide. The purpose of the grant is to enhance students' firsthand knowledge of original works of art. The original itinerary for McCutcheon’s class centered on visiting “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Unstable Presence” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). This exhibition was unfortunately put on hold due to COVID-19, however, McCutcheon hopes to bring her students to see a modified version of the exhibition along with other works by Latin American artists in San Francisco in the fall of this year.
McCutcheon’s course, which she will teach again in Spring 2022, offers students an academic and participatory introduction to the major artists, artworks, scholars, and themes of twentieth and twenty-first century Latin American art, approached through the critical intersection of art and politics. Throughout the course, students come to understand the ways in which artistic developments occurred in tandem with, and often in direct response to, moments of revolution, dictatorship, uneven development, and social upheaval, as well as make connections to critical issues of U.S.-Latin American relations. They engage with texts, ideas, and perspectives from various disciplines that incorporate concepts of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality into their analysis of art from this critical period in history.
“Lozano-Hemmer’s interactive works engage with a number of pertinent themes in the course, including histories of political violence and trauma, memorials and monuments, activist appropriations of public space, and the incorporation of new media and technologies into participatory works. He is an incredibly innovative artist whose work is geared toward public participation achieved through his installations and manipulation of technologies,” said McCutcheon. “I believe students’ direct engagement with art is a powerful part of the learning process. Students in this class participated in an art project with the Mexican feminist collective, Bordeamos por la paz, during the fall of 2020 that gave them first-hand insight into the working methods of collective artistic activism so central to the histories of Latin American art. The CAA grant helps add another dimension to the learning process, giving students the opportunity to experience new works by one of the leading Latin American artists today, in dialogue with the history of Latin American and Latinx art that can only be experienced in San Francisco.”
“I am impressed with Dr. McCutcheon’s teaching and the innovation that she brings to our curriculum,” said Philip Sprunger, Ph.D., provost and dean of Lycoming College. “As a professor, Erin has energetically embraced her position, and she connects well with students, who rave about her teaching.”
While in San Francisco, McCutcheon plans to also take students to see Diego Rivera's Pan American Unity mural at City College and tour public art in the Mission District. “There are some really interesting connections to be made with Lozano-Hemmer’s contemporary work that engages the community and Diego Rivera’s murals created specifically for this US-American context and the ongoing creation of public murals, predominantly made by Chicanx artists, in the Mission District,” said McCutcheon.
McCutcheon has a doctoral degree in art history and Latin American studies at Tulane University, with research focusing on feminist art in Mexico. She received her master’s degree in art history at the University of Leeds in England. After holding teaching positions at both Millsaps College and Tufts University, as well as positions in curatorial departments at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Henry Moore Institute, she joined Lycoming College in 2019. In addition to teaching a variety of survey courses from ancient to contemporary art, she offers students more focused special topics courses with a particular emphasis on art and activism, art from Latin America, and the study of art through the critical lenses of gender, race, and sexuality.
CAA, as the preeminent international leadership organization in the visual arts, promotes these arts and their understanding through advocacy, intellectual engagement, and a commitment to the diversity of practices and practitioners.