CHF 2008: Thinking Big
Erika Doss: Picturing New Deal American Art
Visual Art and National Identity, 1933-1945
Recorded on November 8, 2008.
The impact of the Great Depression was felt far and wide in the 1930s, and so were New Deal efforts to restore American productivity and national spirit. In her lecture "Picturing New Deal America: Visual Art and National Identity," art historian Erika Doss surveys art "work" produced in the United States under various New Deal federal work relief programs from 1933 to 1945. Under the New Deal, the federal government employed artists such as Berenice Abbott, Thomas Hart Benton, Stuart Davis, Jacob Lawrence, Jackson Pollock, and Grant Wood to create significant, lasting public artworks in schools, hospitals, and libraries as a part of a larger effort to provide much-needed economic stimulus to citizens on various state and local levels. Through the lens of our country's visual culture, Doss examines the ways that New Deal artists captured the tensions between class, race, gender, and labor, and the changing understandings of public participation, and the dynamics of national identity during a most challenging era.
This annual lecture recognizes a generous multiyear grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. The Terra Foundation is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts in the United States for national and international audiences.
The Chicago Humanities Festival has prepared a teachers' guide for this program. Download the Erika Doss Study Guide now!
Erika Doss's primary teaching and research interests lie in the areas of modern and contemporary American art history and material/visual cultures. She is the author of numerous publications including Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (1991), Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995), Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image (1999), Looking at Life Magazine (editor, 2001), and Twentieth-Century American Art (2002).
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