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Meet the Fellows: 2016 Women’s Studies Fellow Erin McCutcheon

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This is one of a series of posts featuring Fellows from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation network.

The Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies supports the final year of dissertation writing for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences whose work addresses women’s and gendered issues in interdisciplinary and original ways. The 2016 class of Fellows includes Erin McCutcheon, a doctoral candidate in art history and Latin American studies at Tulane University. Below, Ms. McCutcheon talks about the points of personal passion that have sustained her research:

I began my academic career at the age of 18 with aspirations of becoming a painter. Fortunately, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to hack it in that profession, yet my love for art endured. I had always been interested in art made by women, and was struck that in all of my undergraduate courses, women, and especially those from outside a Euro-American center, were absent from our discussions. Where they were included, their work was treated one-dimensionally, usually in terms of biographical details, and not given the critical analysis afforded to their male contemporaries. During this same time, I was in the middle of my own discovery of feminist theory, which gave me the vocabulary I desperately needed to voice my frustrations. I resolved to devote myself to not simply unearthing the histories of forgotten or overlooked women artists, but to forging new strategies of representation that might disrupt the structures and processes that kept these marginal histories from view.

To my amazement, roughly 15 years after beginning my academic journey, I remain on the same path. Not enough seems to have changed; however, it is encouraging to see more projects under way that resist repeating the mistakes of art history. Most recently, I was a part of one such project: the first retrospective exhibition of an artist at the center of my dissertation research, Mónica Mayer. The exhibition’s format resisted traditional tropes and mechanisms that have historically worked to exclude women artists, and instead functions as a “retrocollective.” This simple shift more accurately reflects Mayer’s own commitment to the feminist movement and numerous collaborations over the course of her career. The exhibition, “Si tiene dudas… pregunte: Una exposición retrocolectiva de Mónica Mayer” will run through July 2016 at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City – a great reason to take a trip to Mexico this year!

Ms. McCutcheon’s dissertation title is Strategic Dispositions: Women, Art and Tradition in Mexico, 1975–1990. For more information on the 2016 Women’s Studies Fellows and a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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