New PhD Graduates at HAA

May 22, 2020

Please join us in congratulating our recent PhD graduates.

We asked our new graduates to provide a brief reflection on their time at HAA, including their research focus, fondest memories, and what their future plans are. These are reproduced in full below. For more information, please visit the HAA Instagram page.

Victoria Addona: "Victoria's research focuses on architecture's intersections with the figural arts and technical sciences in late sixteenth-century Italy. Her dissertation, "Bernardo Buontalenti and the Unity of the Arts in Practice," explores how experiments in perception, geometry, mechanics, and natural history shaped the Florentine court architect Bernardo Buontalenti's multimedia designs for the granducal city, and elaboration of expressive visual-spatial strategies for communicating absolute power. As an FRQSC postdoctoral fellow at McGill University, Victoria looks forward to extending this study by examining how architect-engineers grappled with natural phenomena and managed their precarious imposition on the early modern built environment. Victoria is grateful to her advisor, Alina Payne, for providing many opportunities to develop nascent ideas on-site, to her committee members, Joseph Koerner and Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, for their steadfast support and probing questions, and to the many HAA friends who shared ideas and gelato."

Meredyth Winter: "Meredyth’s research focuses on Iraq and Iran in the 10th to 13th centuries as Abbasid caliphs turned to vassal dynasties to administer their empire. Using textiles from two tombs outside Tehran, her dissertation correlates changes in pattern, technique, and use during Buyid and Seljuk reign to a subtle manipulation of Abbasid ceremonial norms. These dynastic rulers used the textiles to project new kingly and sultanic self-images that approximated modes of Islamic rulership closely enough to satisfy their subjects, competing elites, and ultimately, in the sepulchral context, God. Because of twentieth-century forgeries, this textile corpus has long been regarded as controversial, and so Meredyth is particularly grateful for the unerring support and encouragement she received from her advisors, Gülru Necipoğlu and David Roxburgh."

Jennifer Chuong: "A few weeks ago I defended my dissertation, “The Nature of Surfaces in Early America,” which recovers the artistic, scientific, and philosophical fascination with surfaces as sites of physical transformation in the eighteenth-century Anglo-American world. As a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, I’m looking forward to revising this work to emphasize how unstable, mutable surfaces sponsored new ways of thinking about difference—social, political, economic, historiographic—in a colonial and postcolonial context. I’m grateful to my advisor, Jennifer Roberts, for her confidence in this project from its nebulous beginnings, and to all of my committee members (Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Matthew Hunter, and Ethan Lasser) for their invaluable guidance over the years."

Alejandra Rojas: "Within my field of colonial Latin American art, my dissertation focuses on some of the first images of American plants produced after the conquest. Looking at images of economically and ritually significant plants such as cacao, tobacco, and the cactus, I show how both indigenous and European artists negotiated their place and identity within the new colonial order. Alongside publishing this work and other academic pursuits, I am the founding director of Early Literacy Fund Ohio. This non-profit is committed to reducing reading failure, addressing the needs of dyslexic students, and promoting reading science. Aside from meeting my husband, my most joyful memories of graduate school are long dinners at Tom Cummins’ house, where professors and students shared generously in the twin passions of art and food."

Gwen Collaco: "Gwen's research focuses on pre-modern Islamic art with a specialty in Ottoman manuscripts. Her dissertation traced the development of the commercial art market for single-folio paintings in Istanbul during the 17th-18th c. from production to consumption in albums. This year she was hired as Asst. Curator for Art of the Middle East at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), where she will contribute to upcoming exhibitions, including Dining with the Sultan (2023) and the reinstallation of the permanent collections following museum renovations. Gwen is especially grateful for the fellow researchers who offered advice and good cheer over many delicious meals as she completed her fieldwork in Turkey and across Europe. May the merriment continue in Los Angeles."

Steffani Bennett: "My field is Japanese art history and my dissertation was on the subject of the monk-painter Sesshū Tōyō’s journey to China between 1467 and 1469. Some of my fondest memories of my graduate career at Harvard were going on excursions with fellow students and with Professors Yukio Lippit, Melissa McCormick, and Eugene Wang to see exhibitions, private collections, and even the caves at Dunhuang. Being able to see everyone again at the Zoom defense reminded me of those happy times! I’m so grateful they were there to share the experience with me."

Mira Xenia Schwerda: "My dissertation discusses images of political power, violence and protest. It focuses on the art and visual culture of the first Iranian revolution, the so-called Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911). During my years of dissertation research, I spent extended time periods in archives and private collections around the world, including two trips to Iran. I’m grateful to my dissertation committee for their continued support and to the Aga Khan Program and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies for supporting my many research travels. My favorite memories at Harvard stem from my time working at the Harvard Art Museums, where I had the privilege and pleasure to contribute to an exhibition on modern Iranian art curated by David Roxburgh and Mary McWilliams.”

Nicole Pulichene: "Nicole's research looks at the connection between ancient material culture and the Christian liturgy. Her dissertation focuses on a group of late antique Roman ivories known as consular diptychs that were reused as luxury writing tablets in the churches of Western Europe. Nicole will continue working on medieval ivories as a 2020 Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Research Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She will miss her HAA family very much, but she hopes they might like to visit her in NYC too."

Fletcher Coleman: "Fletcher Coleman (HAA '20) is a specialist on the art historiography and religious arts of China, whose research spans the early medieval through modern periods. His current project examines the antiquarian and pedagogical practices utilized by American scholars during the creation of East Asian art history as an academic discipline at the turn of the twentieth century. Coleman’s fieldwork has taken him to Buddhist sites across India, Central Asia, and China. He works closely with the Longmen Grottoes in Henan Province, China, and actively collaborates on international initiatives for the preservation and conservation of Chinese antiquities.

As the son of independent artists, Coleman seeks to foster a sense of curiosity within the classroom through hands-on engagement with the materials, processes, and contexts of art. His students have immersed themselves in Silk Road sites through digital modeling software and produced mural paintings using the technology of medieval Chinese workshops. This fall, Coleman joined the University of Texas, Arlington, as an assistant professor of art history. He teaches a wide range of courses on Chinese art, Silk Road studies, Japanese art, Buddhist art, collecting practices, the art of the supernatural, and the religious arts of China."

Congratulations also to Joanna Wendel and Katherine Taronas.