Fifth Class Of The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows Announced By Six Major U.S. Museums

The Art Institute of Chicago, the High Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are pleased to announce the 20192021 class of fellows designated for The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. The fellowship provides specialized training to students across the United States from historically underrepresented groups in the curatorial field and supports the goal of promoting inclusive, pluralistic museums. The students began their fellowships this fall. (More information about the need for a diverse educational pipeline into the curatorial field is available in the 2018 Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey.)

Fellows participate in The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program during their undergraduate career, with the goal of continuing their education through graduate work. The two-year fellowship provides students with hands-on experience in a museum setting, assisting curators and staff on exhibitions, collections, and programs. Fellows are matched with a curatorial mentor at each museum who works to enrich the academic experience and to increase exposure to the museum context while broadening a fellow’s understanding of art and art history. Fellowships include regular engagement during the academic school year followed by full-time engagement over the summer.

Since the program began in 2014, 30 fellows have completed the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship program. Two fellows have started the PhD program in art history at Harvard University, while nine others have completed Master’s degrees or are enrolled in graduate programs at the Courtauld Institute of Art; University of Chicago; University of Texas, Austin; University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies; Arizona State University; the Maryland Institute College of Art; the American University in Cairo; Cornell University; and the University of Southern California. Nearly half of the alumni are working in the arts either in staff positions or in other fellowship opportunities. 

The 2019-2021 Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows:

Art Institute of Chicago: Iris Haastrup is a second-year student at Wellesley College double-majoring in art history and architecture. Haastrup is from the South Side of Chicago with familial ties to Mississippi and Nigeria. In her time at Wellesley, she is the lecture chair for the black student association, on the programming committee of the Davis Museum student advisory board, and a member of TZE arts and music society. Academically, Haastrup is interested in research regarding black women artists, the relationship between art and activism, equity in the arts, and the effects of sustainability in architecture. She is inspired by the works of Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, and Carrie Mae Weems. In her personal life, she enjoys making crafts and zines, skateboarding, and watching movies. For the 2019–20 academic year, Haastrup will be mentored by Constantine Petridis, Chair of the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Americas and Curator of African Art.

Kyndal Gragg is a third-year student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) studying art history and urban planning. Gragg developed a passion for museums early in her academic career and believes that museums are like books in their storytelling capacity. Gragg is passionate about advocating for narratives from indigenous communities and the African diaspora so that they may be recognized for the longevity of their artistic contribution and seen as contemporary practitioners. Currently, Gragg is a collections assistant at UIUC’s Spurlock Museum and a research assistant for Krannert Art Museum where she researches and digitizes Andean materials for an upcoming reinstallation. Gragg is interested in supporting the collective history of the world and emphasizing a pluralistic appreciation for art. For the 2019–20 academic year, Gragg will be mentored by Andrew Hamilton, Associate Curator of Art of the Americas in the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Americas.

It’s an honor to once again have the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the ambitious work of developing our next generation of curatorial leaders. Our Mellon Fellows continue to bring fresh perspectives to the museum and we are excited to see participants from our first cohort embarking on graduate studies and beginning careers at cultural institutions across the country. We look forward to following their future accomplishments,” said James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-renowned art museum housing one of the largest permanent collections in the United States. An encyclopedic museum, the Art Institute collects, preserves, and displays works in every medium from all cultures and historical periods as well as hosts special exhibitions. With a collection of approximately 300,000 works of art, the museum has particularly strong holdings in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting, early 20th century European painting and sculpture, contemporary art, Japanese prints, and photography. The museum’s 2009 addition, the Modern Wing, features the latest in green museum technology and 264,000 square feet dedicated to modern and contemporary art, photography, architecture and design, and new learning and public engagement facilities. In addition to displaying its permanent collection, the Art Institute mounts approximately 35 special exhibitions per year and features lectures, gallery tours, and special performances on a daily basis. Location and Contact: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603 | 312 443-3600 | www.artic.edu

High Museum of Art: Destinee Filmore is a third-year student from Tampa, Florida studying art history and international studies at Spelman College. On campus, she is an active member and leader of several organizations, most notably, the Bonner Scholar Program, Social Justice Program, and Curatorial Studies Program. Filmore is interested in a wide range of research topics but is most intrigued by the impact made by African American artists on communities abroad during their voluntary or involuntary departures from the United States. Filmore intends to pursue a doctorate degree in art history following her time at Spelman and aspires to become a curator. She is also interested in advocating for the accessibility of arts-based education programs for low-income students and students of color as such programs were vital to her success. As a Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow at the High Museum of Art, Filmore is receiving mentorship from Katherine Jentleson, Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art.

Adeja Sterling is a third-year student at Emory University studying art history in hopes of becoming a curator, art writer, and one day a museum director. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Sterling has had a range of experiences in the Atlanta art scene, previously interning at ART PAPERS magazine, and with the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia (MOCA GA). As a Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow at the High Museum, Adeja will be mentored by Stephanie Heydt, Margaret and Terry Stent, Curator of American Art.

As we welcome a new class of Mellon Fellows to the High, we reflect on the remarkable impact this program has had on our institution, but also look forward to how it will continue to shape the future of the field,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High Museum of Art. “Bringing diverse perspectives to museum leadership will help to ensure that our organizations remain relevant and essential in our communities. We are honored to continue this important work with the support of the Mellon Foundation.”

The High is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States, housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano. With more than 16,000 works of art, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that reflective of the American south; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art including paintings, sculpture, new media, and design; a growing collection of African art with work dating from pre-history to the present day; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to a program reflective of the diversity of its communities, offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs as well as a host of new experiences that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. Location and Contact: 1280 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309 | 404 733-4400 | www.high.org

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Emily Le is a third-year student at the University of Southern California (USC), double majoring in art history and creative writing. Throughout her time at USC thus far, she has been working as a collections associate for the school’s Archaeology Lab and has also had the opportunity to co-curate an exhibit for the USC Fisher Museum, entitled Suppression, Subversion, and the Surreal: The Art of Czechoslovakian Resistance. As a first-generation college student and a child of Vietnamese immigrants, Le was not exposed to art, art history, or museums until later in life. Coming from this background, she wants to bring greater accessibility and diversity to the museum world, breaking down the idea of art as being a “cultural privilege.” Her curatorial mentor is Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art.

Jackeline Lopez is a third-year student majoring in anthropology with a focus in archaeology, as well as art history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, she strives to apply anthropology to curatorial work and is particularly interested in the process of making exhibitions accessible to underrepresented communities. Her goal as an aspiring archaeologist and curator is to protect and preserve cultural patrimony, and to encourage cross-cultural connections. Lopez is currently involved in an archaeological project based in Portugal and recently completed her second field season there. Along with writing an honors thesis based on the project’s research, she plans to co-curate an exhibition with the site director to make their findings accessible to the local, rural community. Stephen Little, Florence & Harry Sloan Curator of Chinese Art and Department Head, Chinese, Korean, South and Southeast Asian Art, will be her curatorial mentor during her first year in the program.

We are pleased to welcome the incoming class of Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Now in its sixth year, we are beginning to see the potential long-term impact of this important fellowship, expanding the canon and the voices we hear from for generations to come.”

Located on the Pacific Rim, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of nearly 142,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of artistic expression across the globe. Committed to showcasing a multitude of art histories, LACMA exhibits and interprets works of art from new and unexpected points of view that are informed by the region’s rich cultural heritage and diverse population. LACMA’s spirit of experimentation is reflected in its work with artists, technologists, and thought leaders as well as in its regional, national, and global partnerships to share collections and programs, create pioneering initiatives, and engage new audiences. Location and Contact: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036 | 323 857-6000 | www.lacma.org

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High Museum Of Art To Mount Largest Posthumous Exhibition Of Southern Photographer Clarence John Laughlin’s Work

Career-Spanning Exhibition Will Feature more than 80 prints from the Museum’s unparalleled collection of Laughlin’s photographs

Dubbed the “Father of American Surrealism,Clarence John Laughlin (1905–1985) was the most important Southern photographer of his time and a singular figure in the development of the American school of photography. This upcoming spring, the High Museum of Art (1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA, 30309, 404-733-4400) will celebrate his legacy with the comprehensive exhibition “Strange Light: The Photography of Clarence John Laughlin” (May 11, 2020 through Nov. 10, 2019).

High Museum of Art logo

The High Museum of Art began collecting photographs in the early 1970s, making it among the earliest museums to commit to the medium. Today, the High’s photography department is one of the nation’s leading programs with more than 7,000 prints in its collection. These holdings encompass work from around the world made by diverse practitioners, from artists to entrepreneurs, journalists and scientists. Spanning the very beginnings of the medium in the 1840s to the present, the High’s collection has particular strengths in American modernist and documentary traditions from the mid-20th century as well as current contemporary trends. The photography collection maintains a strong base of pictures related to the American South and situates this work within a global context that is both regionally relevant and internationally significant.

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), The Improbable Dome (No. 1), 1965, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Joshua Mann Pailet in honor of his mother, Charlotte Mann Pailet, her family, and Sir Nicholas Winton, 2017.427.

The High owns one of the largest collections of photographs of the civil rights movement and some of the country’s strongest monographic collections of photographs by Eugene Atget, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, William Christenberry, Walker Evans, Leonard Freed, Evelyn Hofer, Clarence John Laughlin, Abelardo Morell and Peter Sekaer.

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), The Ghostly Arch (#2), 1948, printed 1949, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, bequest of the artist, 1985.109

The High boasts one of the largest and most important monographic holdings of Laughlin’s works and “Strange Light” surveys Laughlin’s signature photographs between 1935 and 1965 from more than 80 prints in the Museum’s collection, including many from a landmark 2015 acquisition that will be on view at the High for the first time.

The High has a longstanding commitment to supporting Southern artists, and we were one of the first museums to develop deep holdings of Laughlin’s work, which we began collecting in the 1970s,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High. “This exhibition will mark our largest presentation of his work and reveal the genius of one of the region’s most pioneering 20th-century artists.”

Laughlin considered himself a writer first and a photographer second, and he saw image making as a form of visual poetry. Known primarily for his atmospheric depictions of the decaying antebellum architecture that proliferated in his hometown of New Orleans, Laughlin approached photography with a romantic, experimental eye that diverged strongly from the style of his peers, who championed realism and social documentary.

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), The Enigma, 1941, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase, 75.76.
Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), The Bat, 1940, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection, 1981.93.

The exhibition explores Laughlin’s literary leanings in great depth by placing his photographs in relationship to Southern Gothic literature and other regional literary genres, which were widely popular in the 1940s.  “Strange Light” also attests to Laughlin’s innovative approach and insight into photography’s development.

From allegorical social commentary, to expertly constructed narratives, to bizarre material experimentation, Laughlin’s effort to access a higher artistic potential for photography is evident throughout his career,” said the High’s Associate Curator of Photography, Gregory Harris. “His desire to push the limits of photographic possibility paved the way for generations of artists and the growth of the medium into a tool of magical potential.

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), A Living Glance Out of the Past, 1939, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Robert Yellowlees, 2015.44.

The exhibition emphasizes Laughlin’s inventiveness, artistic influences, and deep connection to the written word, with sections focused on his inspirations and major bodies of work:

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), The Unending Stream, 1941, printed 1973, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase, 75.77.
  • Friends and Influences – Laughlin’s artistic education was self-directed and included extensive correspondences with fellow photographers (including Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Edward Weston and Wynn Bullock) and a legendary collection of books. This gallery will feature works by several of the key artists who influenced Laughlin’s development and will display some of the catalogues he worked on obsessively during his lifetime.
  • Antebellum Architecture – Hired by the Army Corp of Engineers to document the building of New Orleans’ levees in the 1940s, Laughlin used his spare time along the Mississippi River to document the abandoned plantation homes of the Old South. These eerie architectural images revealed crumbling ghosts of the antebellum past and were Laughlin’s first works to receive attention from galleries and publishers.
  • Natural Forms – Among Laughlin’s thematic groupings, he dedicated several to ubiquitous physical forms, such as rocks and trees. His depictions of the natural world, however, were not meant to be meditations on the beauty of nature but rather to demonstrate the transformative potential of looking at the subject with an imaginative eye. Through darkroom techniques, framing and high contrast, Laughlin animated these forms with emotional, spiritual resonance.
  • Architecture and Haunted Spaces – Architecture was what first inspired Laughlin to make photographs. In the 1940s and ’50s, as the post-war industrial boom was leading to the destruction of older buildings to make way for modern structures, Laughlin exhibited his love of the old by preserving New Orleans’ historic buildings through photographs. He was especially attracted to vaulted ceilings, staircases and molding details, which he photographed in ways that imbued them with haunted energy.
  • Visual Poems – Throughout his career, Laughlin sought to expand the metaphoric possibilities of photography, firmly believing that a picture was never merely about the thing it depicted. These “visual poems,” as he called them, embodied his lofty literary aspirations. In elaborately staged scenes often augmented by experimental printing techniques, Laughlin created countless narrative or poetic vignettes that offered an allegorical commentary on culture and politics while trying to express a deeper spiritual state of being.
  • Process and Experimentation – From double exposures, to collage, to camera-less photographs, Laughlin pushed the possibilities of photography to its physical limits. This type of surreal experimentation was popular in Europe in the early to mid-20th century, while the American school of photography was primarily concerned with documenting reality. As a result, it wasn’t until artists and photographers began to embrace experimentation in the 1970s and ’80s that Laughlin’s work received its overdue recognition and cemented his place in the canon as the “Father of American Surrealism.” This gallery demonstrates Laughlin’s varied disruptions to typical photographic processes and underscores his forward-thinking approach to image making.
Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), Figure with Iron Flames, 1940, printed 1981, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Robert Yellowlees, 2015.41.

Strange Light: The Photography of Clarence John Laughlin” will be presented in the Lucinda Weil Bunnen Gallery for Photography, located on the lower level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion.

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905–1985), A Figment of Desire: Woman as a Sex Object, 1941, printed 1981, gelatin silver print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Robert Yellowlees, 2015.42.


Strange Light: The Photography of Clarence John Laughlin” is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. This exhibition is made possible by Exhibition Series Sponsors Delta Air Lines, Inc., and Turner; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters the Antinori Foundation, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, and Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot; Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporter Anne Cox Chambers Foundation; Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporters Tom and Susan Wardell and Rod Westmoreland; and Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters the Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust, Lucinda W. Bunnen, Corporate Environments, Marcia and John Donnell, W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole, Peggy Foreman, Robin and Hilton Howell, Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones, and Margot and Danny McCaul.

Generous support is also provided by the Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Marjorie and Carter Crittenden, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund, and Dr. Diane L. Wisebram.