Professor Alan Braddock Receives Smithsonian Fellowship

Tyler Art History Professor Alan C. Braddock was recently named a Senior Fellow in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2011-2012 academic fellowship program. The museum’s program grants awards for scholars and students to pursue research at the museum, including senior, pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships

During his fellowship Professor Braddock will complete a new book titled Gun Vision: The Ballistic Imagination in American Art, which explores the relationship between art and arms, seeing and shooting, during the years leading up to the emergence of the Avant-garde in the early twentieth century.

From his project description: This book project critically explores the relationship between art and arms in American culture from the Civil War to World War I, a period during which ballistic phenomena acquired new metaphorical meanings that implicated seeing with shooting in powerful and unprecedented ways. I have coined the term gun vision to designate that catalytic metaphorical relationship and the rich cultural discourse it produced—a discourse forged amid the technological revolutions of modernity, and yet so commonplace today as to seem primordial or timeless. Whenever we “shoot” a photograph, peer through a gun “sight,” or feel physically riveted by “bullet time” special effects in a Hollywood movie, such discourse speaks through us, but any number of other visual forms can similarly conflate or closely relate the act of looking with the explosive potential of ballistics. The discourse’s pervasiveness in our time bespeaks the naturalization of violence in American culture, including art, but it also reveals an important modern innovation in aesthetics and perception. Since the late nineteenth century, when the market for images became exponentially more diversified, industrial, and competitive through mass media and mechanical reproduction, artists have increasingly leveraged their ballistic imagination in order to make an impact and attract attention. The guns spectacularly pointed in our faces in recent works such as James Rosenquist’s Blue Nail or Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry (directed by Don Siegel), for example, belong to a tradition established by Winslow Homer, Charles Schreyvogel, Edwin S. Porter, and other post-Civil War artists whose works I examine. Although American artists were by no means alone in pursuing such ballistic effects, the peculiar configuration of historical factors in this country—frontier ideology, imperialism, and an extraordinarily productive arms industry—made the United States especially conducive to the invention of gun vision. That invention is the subject of my book.

The Smithsonian notes that, since 1970, the museum has hosted more than 380 scholars who now occupy positions in academic and cultural institutions across the United States. Fellowship opportunities include the Terra Foundation for American Art Fellowships for the cross-cultural study of art of the United States; the Patricia and Phillip Frost Fellowship for research in American art and visual culture; the Wyeth Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship for the study of the traditions of American art; the Sara Roby Fellowship in Twentieth-Century American Realism; the Douglass Foundation Fellowship; the Joshua C. Taylor Fellowship; and the James Renwick Fellowship in American Craft. The museum also hosts fellows supported by the Smithsonian’s general fellowship fund.

Research resources at the museum include extensive photographic collections documenting American art and artists and unparalleled art-research databases. An estimated 180,000-volume library specializing in American art, history and biography is shared with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. An active publications program of books, catalogs and the critically acclaimed journal American Art complements the museum’s exhibitions and educational programs.

Our congratulations to Dr. Braddock for receiving this prestigious fellowship!

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