Fine Arts professor receives 2006-07 grant, fellowship from Harvard’s Warren Center to research history of the gun in American art
Fine Arts professor receives 2006-07 grant, fellowship from Harvard’s Warren Center to research history of the gun in American artApril 27, 2006Jaime Winne Alvarezjlwinne@syr.edu
Alan Braddock, assistant professor of fine arts in The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, has received a $35,000 grant and 2006-07 fellowship from Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History to conduct research for “Gun Vision: American Art and Logistical Perception, 1861-1918,” his book-in-progress on the history of the gun in late 19th- and early 20th-century American art.
Six fellows were selected for the program. The theme for the 2006-07 academic year is cultural reverberations of modern war. Fellows will consider the relevance of modern war to American culture in the broadest sense by examining what elements in creative arts and public culture allow or discourage a resort to war, cultural consequences of war-making, the impact on national self-understanding and individual artistic motivation when the state declares others as enemies, and how international conflict realigns American cultural interactions with other parts of the world. Their focus will span the period from the 1890s to the 1950s, an era that saw vast destruction of human lives by war and was a time of unprecedented technological advance and cultural innovation.
Applicants for the program included scholars in a wide spectrum of fields, including U.S. history, literature, music, dance, theater, film, visual arts, science, journalism, and ethnic and gender studies. Fellows will conduct their own research and writing and participate in seminars where they will present their work and discuss that of invited speakers. Harvard will provide fellows with campus offices and full access to libraries. Individual fellowship stipends were determined based on each fellow’s needs and the Warren Center’s resources.
Braddock’s research concerns the history of the gun as a catalyst and metaphor of vision in the work of various American artists around the turn of the 20th century. At a time when science, industrialism, military technology and new popular media were challenging traditions and the cultural authority of painting, a number of artists creatively adapted the visual power of the gun as a way of invigorating and modernizing their works.
As a result, art became increasingly militant and aggressive, leading to the emergence of a self-conscious “avant garde,” an art-critical term taken directly from the vocabulary of military logistics. Beyond simply depicting weapons, artists registered an awareness of how guns and militarization were transforming general perceptions of bodies in space, along with human subjectivity itself, by rendering them increasingly vulnerable to vision. During his fellowship, Braddock will conduct research for his book on artists Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Charles Schreyvogel and Edwin S. Porter, among others.
“Though my research for the book explores the historical moment circa 1900, it also excavates an archaeology of certain present conditions in the U.S. — where vision, violence and war operate as mutually sustaining agents of entertainment, social control and political power,” says Braddock.
Braddock’s research and teaching interests include American art and visual culture from the colonial period to present day, realism, politics, art and anthropology, and ecocriticism. In 2004, he was awarded a fellowship from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center in Santa Fe, N.M., to work on his book “Thomas Eakins and the Cultures of Modernity,” currently under review at the University of California Press. In November 2005, he chaired a session on moving toward a green history of American art at the annual conference of the American Studies Association in Washington, D.C.
His article “Jeff College Boys: Thomas Eakins, Dr. Forbes, and Anatomical Fraternity in Postbellum Philadelphia,” published in American Quarterly in June 2005, won the annual article prize from the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association. He recently published “Shooting the Beholder: Charles Schreyvogel and Spectacle of Gun Vision,” an article in the spring 2006 American Art journal which also forms the basis of a chapter in “Gun Vision.” He is currently editing and contributing to a volume of essays, with Christoph Irmscher from the University of Maryland, titled “A Keener Perception: Ecocritical Studies in American Art History.”