Ph.D. Candidate Elliot Krasnopoler Awarded Fellowship at the Smithsonian

October 5, 2021 By Elle Thompson '23
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Elliot Krasnopoler is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in art history at Bryn Mawr College currently working on a dissertation on contemporary art. This year, he is the 2021–2022 George Gurney Predoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

Krasnopoler is one of 15 fellows in a cohort all studying American art. His Smithsonian fellowship program includes both a curatorial fellowship and a research fellowship component.

Through the curatorial fellowship, Krasnopoler will support conceptual thinking and reinterpretation of the museum’s collection.The museum will be renovating and rehanging all of its exhibitions, and they’ve asked him to draft a checklist that deals with ecocritical issues in their permanent collection.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to think deeply about a collection, and to have mentorship from a senior curator to help me do that,” says Krasnopoler, who’s currently working with Eleanor Harvey, the Senior Curator of 19th-Century Art.

He’s currently co-chairing a reading group on ecocritical art history—which considers the historical and future-implicated changes that humans have wrought on the earth with Elizabeth Hutchinson, a professor at Columbia and Barnard. He’s also had the opportunity to attend a series of lectures, citing as a highlight a talk about writing on Indigenous art by Sascha Scott. 

Krasnopoler’s in-progress dissertation, titled “Timescapes: Geology and Place in Contemporary Art,” investigates the work of contemporary artists engaging with sites of American history. Instead of considering only how a work of art reflects other works of art, Krasnopoler wants to work on a central question about temporality: “How does a history of that place—human, ecological, geological, natural—inflect how we understand that work of art?”

Chapter one of the dissertation focuses on Sally Mann’s landscapes of the American South and “sites of trauma.” Chapter two focuses on Mark Bradford’s abstract work Pickett’s Charge (2017), which engages with 19th century artist Paul Philippoteaux’s historical narration of the Gettysburg battle in his 1883 cyclorama. Chapter three grapples with Tacita Dean’s 2013 film JG and its treatment of The Great Salt Lake, engaging with the environmental collapse of the Lake’s ecology, indigenous history of the site, and Robert Smithson’s earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970). Chapter four focuses on Roni Horn’s works with water, considering the interwoven forces of human history, futurity and climate change During his fellowship, Krasnopoler plans to focus on the first two chapters grappling with legacies of racial violence in the landscape of the American south. Learn more about his research on the Smithsonian Fellowship page.

Krasnopoler describes Bryn Mawr as a fantastic environment for learning. He cites as specific inspiration his advisor Lisa Saltzman, professor of history of art, from whose course he first researched Roni Horn’s work, considering her project glaciers as a memorial. He was able to contribute a chapter on Horn and her work with Iceland’s glaciers in Monument Culture: International Perspectives on the Future of Monuments in a Changing World. His chapter on JG, meanwhile, came out of Professor of History of Art Homay King’s course on film theory. In the spring, he'll be delivering a lecture on JG at the Barnes, titled “Sun. Salt. Spiral. Tacita Dean’s JG.”

“Bryn Mawr taught me a way of thinking that has allowed me to write a dissertation that is about history, humanity, ecology, geology, and natural history, all together,” he said of his Ph.D. courses. “I’m very grateful and I’m happy to be at Bryn Mawr. It’s a really special place.”


Krasnopoler comes to Bryn Mawr from Williams College's Grad Art Program. He currently resides in the Berkshires with his spouse. In his free time, he enjoys gardening and spending time with his dog, Willow, and cat, Juniper.

Graduate Program in History of Art

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