I teach Art History and Visual Culture, but I never ask my students what a visual image (of any kind) means. Instead, I ask them: how does it mean? And, why does it mean? In my teaching and research I ask: what is the purpose of the production, promotion, dissemination, and consumption of visual imagery?
Could there be a more important question today, when most of the meaning in our lives is constructed from visual images online, in apps, in ads, on social media, and so on? It is crucial that students learn the histories, complexities, and the powerful uses of visual languages in our and other cultures. To learn how to ask: Why a visual image was created? To whom does it speak and why? What does it want from us? How does a visual image claim and use power? Does it support or undermine the status quo, and why? And, how is visual communication different from other forms of communication?
My research and teaching focuses on a meaningful engagement with complex images and with the theoretical platforms that help students to frame significant questions with which to interrogate those images to find out how and why they mean.
Learning & Teaching
Modern Art and Visual Culture: 1750-1980 (ARTH-111), History of Photography (ARTH-211), America Art and Visual Culture-Colonial to 1939 (ARTH-212), New Art (Late 20th/21st Century) (ARTH-313), Methods of Art History and Visual Culture (ARTH-380), Art History Senior Seminar: Research (ARTH-408).
Joy Sperling is Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Denison University. She is currently working on a book manuscript on a re-evaluation of the contributions of New Mexico Anglo Women artists to New Mexico’s cultural and artistic history and heritage, as well as to their contributions to the e national visual discourse of twentieth century American Art. Her books include Double Visions; Claudia Esslinger. Columbus, Ohio: Double Vision Press and Ohio Arts Council, 2015): Jane Gilmor: I’ll be Back for the Cat (Iowa Arts Council, 2012), Jude Tallichet: Fragonard’s Shoe (Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York, 2010), Famous Works of Art in Popular Culture (Greenwood Press, 2003), and Out of Belfast (Three Women Artists from Belfast): Herbert, Kelly, and O'Baoill (Denison University Museum, 1999). She revised Book 6: 18th -21st Century of Art History by Marilyn Stokstad (Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2010).
Sperling has also published numerous book chapters, including, “Genres of Visual Culture and Art: An Historical Analysis.” In A Companion to Popular Culture. Edited by Gary Burns. (Wiley-Blackwell Press, 2016); and “Women, Tourism, and the Visual Narrative of Interwar Tourism in the American Southwest.” In Encounters With Popular Pasts by Mike Robinson and Helaine Silvermann (eds.) (Springer Verlag, 2015); and ‘“Wot is to Be?” The Visual Construction of Empire at the Crystal Palace Exhibition, London” (In Fear and Loathing in Victorian England (Ohio State University Press, 2013).
Articles by Sperling appear in a number of journals. They include "Reframing the Study of American Visual Culture: From National Studies to Transnational Digital Networks," and “From Magic Lantern Slide to Digital Image: Visual Communities and American Culture.” She is recipient of numerous grants and two major teaching awards; she served as president of the Popular Culture/American Culture Association.
Selected Recent Publications:
Books and Monographs
- Art History by Marilyn Stokstad. 4e edition, revision of chapters 29-32/ Book 6: 18th to 21st Century, Upper saddle River NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2010. Fragonard’s Shoe: The Art of Jude Tallichet. New York: Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York, 2010.
- Special Issue: American Art and Visual Culture. The Journal of American Culture, Blackwell Press. Volume 31, 1 (March, 2008). Co-Editor (with David Sokol).
- Famous Works of Art in Popular Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.
- Out of Belfast (Three Women Artists from Belfast): Herbert, Kelly, and O’Baoill. Exhibition Catalogue. Columbus Ohio: The Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and Denison University, 1999.
- “Reframing the Study of American Visual Culture: From National Studies to Transnational Digital Networks.” The Journal of American Culture. Vol. 34, 1, March 2011.
- “scampa wulla wussa olobo’: Clumpism and the Crying Moon.” In Clumpism: Paul Rhoads and Matt Freedman, Long Island University Gallery, 2009.
- “From Magic Lantern Slide to Digital Image: Visual Communities and American Culture.” In “Special Issue: American Art and Visual Culture.” The Journal of American Culture. Vol. 31, 1, 1-5, March 2008.
- “Art Cheap and Good:“ The Art Union and the Middling classes in England and the United States, 1840-1860.” Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide. 1:1 (February 2002).
- “Imagined and Aesthetic Communities: The Art Union of London and the American Art Union.” In Coleccion y Circulacion de las Artes, Memorias del xxe Coloquio Internacional de Historia del Arte, Patricio (ed. Gustavo Curiel), Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico (1997), pp. 409-438.
- ‘“Wot is to Be?” The Visual Construction of Empire at the Crystal palace Exhibition, London”. In Fear and Loathing in Victorian England, edited by Marlene Tromp, Marcia Bachman, and Heidi Kaufman. Columbus Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2011.
- “Sorry to leave so many weeds”: Jane Gilmor’ in I’ll be back for the cat: The Art of Jane Gilmor. New York, 2011.
- “Prints and Photographs in Nineteenth Century England: Visual Communities, Cultures and Class.” In A History of Visual Culture:Western Civilization from the 18th to the 21st Century. Jane Kromm and Susan Bakewell (eds). London: Berg Publishing, 2010. 296-308.
- “Artists Taking the High Road and the Low Road.” In Popular Culture Values and the Arts: Essays on Elitism versus Democratization. Ray Browne (ed) North Carolina and London: McFarland Press, 2009. 109-124
- “Popular Art in North America.” In The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Popular Culture: North America. Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. Gary Hoppenstand (general editor), Michael Schoenecke (volume editor) 19-46.
- “Popular Art in Europe.” In The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Popular Culture: Europe, Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. Gary Hoppenstand (general editor), Gerd Bayer (volume editor) 27-57.
Selected Publications on Pedagogy
- “Function and Meaning in Georges Seurat’s La Grande Jatte.” In Methodologies of Art History. Pamela Trimpe and Jacob Molyneux (eds). Princeton NJ: The College Board, 2005, 1-6.
- “From the Trenches’, article and sample syllabus for undergraduate Art History Survey Course, in The AP Art History Handbook for Teachers. Cheryl Hughes (ed), Princeton, NJ: The College Board, 2003. 123-130.
Selected Recent Curatorial Projects/Exhibitions:
- The Tourist View: From Grand Tours to Tramps Abroad. Denison University Museum, 2006. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Denison University Internship Program, and The Denison University Provost’s Office. September 10-December 10, 2006.
- Out of Belfast (Three Women Artists from Belfast): Herbert, Kelly, O’Baoill. Denison University Art Gallery. Funded by the Ohio Humanities Council, NEH, and the Ohio Arts Council, the Firestone Foundation, and The Aer Lingus Artists’ Program. September 1999-November 1999.
Recent Professional Positions:
- President, Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA). 2011-2013.
- President Elect, PCA/ACA. 2010-2011.
- Vice-President of Area Chairs PCA/ACA. 2008-2010.
- Co-President, PCA/ACA, 2007-2008.
- Vice-President/President Elect, American Culture Association (ACA). 2005-2008.
- Chief Reader, AP Art History, College Board, Princeton, NJ. 2004-2007.
- Chief Reader Designate, AP Art History, College Board, Princeton, NJ. 2003-2004.
- Test Development Committee, AP Art History, ETS/College Board, Princeton, 2004-2007.
- Posse Mentor Boston Posse 2012
- DURF Grant to support research on women artists in New Mexico (Aug. 2102)
- Mabel Dodge Luhan House writer’s residency (January 2012)