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Smithsonian Announces Its 2023 Artist Research Fellows


The Smithsonian has awarded fellowships to 17 accomplished visual artists from an international pool of candidates as part of the 2023 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Program. Over the course of a one- to two-month residency, each fellow will conduct research at Smithsonian museums and research centers to inform the development of innovative, cross-disciplinary work.

Artists are nominated by art curators, scholars and former fellows and then selected by a panel of art experts. Over 100 artists from around the world have received Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Awards since the program began in 2007.

The 2023 fellows and their projects will be:

Sanford Biggers (based in the U.S.)
As a conceptual artist investigating the intersections of history, aesthetics, materials and narrative, Biggers will research the use and meaning behind various patterns, symbols and design motifs used in African masks, textiles and objects at the National Museum of African Art.

Andrew Demirjian (based in the U.S.): A New History of the Future
Demirjian will examine archival artifacts related to timekeeping and efficiency at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the National Museum of American History. Instead of timekeeping employed for surveillance and regulation, Demirjian imagines the possibilities in a world without time scarcity.

Lesley Dill (based in the U.S.): Healing with Unseen Energies
Dill’s research at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of American History will investigate attempts to harness “unseen energies” for healing throughout history by scientists, doctors and artists alike through artifacts and illustrations of early inventions that aspired to heal using invisible energies like magnetism, light rays and x-rays.

Godfried Donkor (based in the U.K. and Ghana): Out of the Archive
Donkor will explore the representations of Ghana as collected and represented within the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives and compare visual representations of Asante culture across collections, from ethnographical interpretations to contemporary artworks.

Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful Espejo Ovalles (based in the U.S.): All Portraits are Mirrors: Latinidad/Latinixidad within the U.S.-American Imaginary
At the National Portrait Gallery, Estévez will investigate representations of Latinidad/Latinxidad through portraiture within the context of the United States, with a focus on photographs and other media depicting Latinas/os/—especially, but not exclusively, those who have contributed to the collective imaginary of the nation.

Jana Harper (based in the U.S.): Looking for Nanaboozhoo
Looking for Nanaboozhoo studies the physical and spiritual traces of the Anishinaabe migration within the National Museum of the American Indian collection. As a member of the Mackinac Bands of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Harper will explore artifacts and conduct interviews with scholars about the agency of objects.

Suchitra Mattai (based in the U.S.): Sentient Bodies, Sacred Spaces
Exploring the collection and resources of the National Museum of Asian Art, Mattai will research the morphology of the Hindu temple and the history and uses of its iconography for future fiber-based art installations, sculptures and mixed-media paintings that complicate and reimagine a historically “sacred” space concerning the diverse experiences of the Indian diaspora.

Anna Mayer (based in the U.S.): Inherited Fragments and Intentional Erosion
Mayer will explore ideas of colonialism in archaeology and 1960s–1970s Land Art at the Archives of American Art and the National Museum of American History. The research will result in new ceramic work about breaking down, intentional erosion and planned ruins: sculptures designed to disappear or to only ever present a fragment of themselves.

Martha McDonald (based in the U.S.): Homemade Music: Tracing the Evolution of the Appalachian Dulcimer
As an interdisciplinary artist in history and music, McDonald will research the history of the Appalachian dulcimer at the National Museum of American History and Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and its impact on ballad singing and the evolution of regional playing styles to develop a new performance project.

Milad Mozari (based in the U.S.): Reverberations of the Radif: Connections between classical Persian and electronic music
Accessing the rich archives of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Mozari will analyze Persian experimental works such as Dariush Dolat-Shahi’s records within the collection and translate the notation and rhythmic elements of the music through computer programming.

Lisa Oppenheim (based in the U.S.): Ancient Libraries for Future Reference
Through the collections and expertise of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of American History and the Museum Conservation Institute, Oppenheim will conduct research into the material, social and economic histories around the material of celluloid film.

Rowland Ricketts (based in the U.S.): Imagery & Materials in American Coverlets: The invisible forces that shaped our nation
While studying and documenting coverlets, textile samples and stereographs in the collections of the National Museum of American History, Ricketts will explore the visual language of American symbols and the invisible histories of the 19th-century cotton and dyes for a new series of large, coverlet-inspired weavings.

Sherrill Roland (based in the U.S.): Your Letters are the Footprints I See in the Sand
At the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Roland will access and study letters written by those in the African diaspora who experienced confinement in the structures of slavery, incarceration, exile and indentured servitude within the American legal system.

Amy Russell (based in the U.S.): Gathering Material from Single Parent Outtakes
Russell will research the Human Studies Film Archive at the National Museum of Natural History and work with outtakes from the ethnographic film Single Parent (1975) by Huber Smith. These source materials will lay the groundwork for future artworks centered on personal history, truth and storytelling.

Clarissa Tossin (based in the U.S.): Preserving Life in Space
Using the collections and archives of the National Air and Space Museum, Tossin will research technologies of human colonization on other planets and the habitats of transport vehicles and spacesuits meant to encase and preserve life in space.

Pablo Vargas Lugo (based in Mexico): Bat Imagination
Studying bats requires immersion in their environment. Vargas Lugo will research bats at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to produce visual and spatial experiences centered on the bat’s perception of the world and the methods people use to understand it.

Amina Zoubir (based in France): Unfold the past body of desire, a North-African erotic exoticism
The research conducted by Zoubir at the National Museum of African Art will introduce questions and perceptions on how to decolonize the archives, deconstruct the body representation during colonial times and create new images and esthetics from the archive’s materials.

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