Dr. Louise Siddons
Department of Art, Graphic Design, and Art History
Dr. Louise Siddons immigrated to the United States as a child and has spent the bulk of her career trying to understand how this country imagines itself into being through visual culture. She believes that art has the power to show us our best selves and to articulate hope in the face of brutality, discrimination, and despair. That hope is embodied in the objects artists make, and so museum work has always been a core element of Siddons’ practice, from the highly visible work of exhibition research and development to the critical care of collections through behind-the-scenes conservation and study.
Siddons arrived at Oklahoma State University in 2009, and alongside her existing research and teaching program, immediately began working with the art collection. With the support of President Hargis, she became the founding co-director and curator of the OSU Museum of Art, building a museum staff, overseeing the renovation and design of the Postal Plaza building in downtown Stillwater, working closely with donors to build the collection, and conducting extensive research in order to author its first catalogue, Sharing a Journey (2014). Although Siddons is no longer part of the museum staff — having returned to teaching and research full-time in 2014 — she continues to research the collection and its history with her students, sharing that work on her unofficial collection blog.
The research for Sharing a Journey led to her monograph, Centering Modernism (2018), which radically reframed our understanding of postwar American art in terms of the global Utopianism of international modernism. Countering both exceptionalist and coastalizing narratives of American cultural development, Centering Modernism makes it clear that artists throughout the center of the country were part of a vibrant, transnational movement to unify humanity through the shared experience of abstract art.
Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Centering Modernism was accompanied by the first major museum retrospective of artist J. Jay McVicker, an internationally-recognized painter, printmaker, and sculptor who was on the OSU faculty. Siddons’s research consistently attracts major grant funding, including from the Terra Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Commission, and institutions such as the Newberry Library, the Henry Moore Foundation, and the British Library.
Siddons’s current book project focuses on the American photographer Laura Gilpin, examining the parallels between lesbian liberation and Navajo (Diné) sovereignty politics from the 1930s through the 1970s through the lens of Gilpin’s 1968 book, The Enduring Navaho. Early results of this research have been published in academic journals and solicited as contributions to books on tourism, queer studies, and more. Exploring both the potential and the limits of cross-cultural allyship, it is research that has an urgent relevance to contemporary American society and beyond, as evidenced by Siddons’s current position as a Fulbright Fellow at the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, which also supported the project at an earlier stage in its development. She recently shared some of her archival work in a blog post and talk (soon to be available at www.bl.uk/british-library-player) for the British Library.
Never content to have just one thing on her plate, Siddons also has upcoming publications and papers that address the representation of the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation in the Black Panther newspaper (forthcoming this summer in American Art), and the performance of diplomacy in a 1954 meeting between Acee Blue Eagle (Mvskoke, Pawnee, and Kitikiti’sh) and Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia. Her longstanding interest in the aesthetic of accumulation in contemporary art and visual culture, meanwhile, is the theme of her ongoing Tumblr, aestheticofaccumulation.