AAUW Awards Fellowship to Ph.D. Candidate Mechella Yezernitskaya

November 24, 2021 Elle Thompson '23
Ph.D. Candidate Mechella Yezernitskaya

Mechella Yezernitskaya, a Ph.D. candidate in the history of art department, has been awarded an American Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Founded in 1881, the AAUW is one of the largest and oldest scholarship programs in the world for funding graduate level education for women.

Mechella’s dissertation, titled “Wartime Art and Conflict in the Russian and Soviet Avant-Gardes, 1914–1928,” examines the visual canon produced in response to World War I in the Russian and Soviet avant-gardes. She explores the ways artists—including Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Olga Rozanova, Natalia Goncharova, and Aleksei Kruchenykh—experimented with the themes of war and conflict as figural and abstracted motifs in their works. Mechella examines such motifs in a variety of media including illustrated books, poetry, collage painting, opera, and early soviet film.

By drawing upon theories from war, memory, trauma, and disability studies, Mechella explores the role of the civilian and the combatant, the temporal boundaries of wartime and peacetime, the consequences of imperialism, the rise of nationalism, and the affective experiences of war.

“Through my research on Russian avant-garde war-related art, it is my goal to provide critical new insight into the human experience of the tragedy of state-sponsored violence,” she says. 

At Bryn Mawr, Mechella is studying with Homay King, professor of history of art, and Tim Harte, the College’s provost and a professor of Russian.

“The mentorship and support that I have received from my advisors has led my work to be deeply interdisciplinary but also theoretically driven,” says Mechella. “I have learned so much from their methodologies and approaches to the study of visual culture that integrates cultural, object-based, and theoretical inquiries.” 

Mechella has worked with her advisors by serving as a teaching assistant in courses in the film studies program on topics covering narrative cinema, film theory, and Eastern European cinema of the 1960s.

In addition to teaching, Bryn Mawr has also offered Mechella several curatorial opportunities beyond the classroom. Through a curatorial fellowship sponsored by Bryn Mawr College Friends of the Library in Special Collections, Mechella and fellow Ph.D. candidate Laurel McLaughlin created the dual-sited exhibition Beyond Boundaries: Feminine Forms at Bryn Mawr College and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in 2017–2018. From this opportunity, she went on to serve as a guest co-curator on the exhibitions Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA’s Permanent Collection and SWARM.

Additional Bryn Mawr fellowships from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences led to curatorial opportunities at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, which allowed her to explore areas of interest such as the institutional history of collecting and exhibiting Russian and Eastern European art in the U.S. 

Mechella has presented her dissertation and museum research at Södertörn University, Karazin University, Hofstra University, Temple University, and the Association of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, among others. She has received additional dissertation support from The Malevich Society, The New York Public Library, and The Pittsburgh Foundation. Her articles and reviews have been published in ARTMargins Online; Baltic Worlds; post: notes on art in a global context; and Slavic and Eastern European Information Resources. Most recently, her article "Civilians Seeing the War: Olga Rozanova's and Aleksei Kruchenykh's 1916 War," published in the edited volume Artistic Expressions and the Great War, A Hundred Years On (Peter Lang Publishing, 2020), was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Shulman and Bullard Article Prize competition given by the Association of Print Scholars, in recognition of compelling and innovative research on fine art prints and printmaking by early-career scholars.