An art historian’s job, in the most basic and purest sense, is to find artifacts, documents, and stories that shed more light on a specific person or art genre—and Herrera excels at this. With her widely acclaimed 1983 book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo
, Herrera cemented her place as a foremost scholar on ’s
life and work. The biography went on to inspire the 2002 film starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina, and is still an important resource for learning about Kahlo’s artmaking, romances, and health issues, among other topics. Herrera has also published biographies on artists like
; a Guggenheim
fellowship recipient, she earned her Ph.D. at the CUNY Graduate Center.
As an artist and
art historian, Willis focuses primarily on photography as both an art practice and a subject of study. It’s a deeply personal topic for Willis. In a 2013 New York Times
article on her show “Framing Beauty,” the artist recalls the exact moment she first saw black people in photographs. (It was in The Sweet Flypaper of Life
, a book first published in 1955 with photography by
and text by Langston Hughes.) That moment made a lasting impact on Willis, who has contributed her own thoughts on black visibility and photography to the art-historical canon. With BFA, MFA, MA, and Ph.D degrees—plus countless accolades such as Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships—Willis is proof that artmaking and art history-making can exist together in a dynamic praxis.
No consideration of women in art history can be complete without a close reading of Nochlin’s iconic essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Originally published in 1971, it continues to inspire many critics, artists, and art historians to take a more incisive look at how the art world continually excludes female artists. Her critical work has also sparked important conversations in the genres of Realism and contemporary painting and sculpture. In 2007, Nochlin co-curated the Brooklyn Museum
exhibition “Global Feminisms,” the inaugural show for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
While the faction of art historians who focused on the Old Masters was long an elevated boys’ club, it was a woman who shook up how scholars and critics approached the genre. Alpers was best known for her influential 1983 text The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century, which asked that art historians shift their focus from searching for symbols in paintings to considering them more widely within their socio-political context. Alpers co-founded the journal Representations Vol. 1 in 1983 and served as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley from 1962 to 1994.
The founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey, Shabout continually works to increase the visibility of art from communities that often go overlooked in the contemporary art world. She’s the author of many significant texts on the topic, including Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics. Shabout also maintains a focus on ethics with articles like “The Iraqi Museum of Modern Art: Ethical Implications,” and is currently a professor at the University of North Texas. Outside of academia, she regularly contributes to conversations around Arab art for media outlets like NPR.
As the Curator for Latino Art and History at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian
, Caragol looks at Latino history through the lens of portraiture. Though currently working in a primarily curatorial capacity, she previously served in positions such as Latin American Bibliographer for the Museum of Modern Art
. She has focused primarily on Latin American art from 1750 to the present and will serve as an important voice in conversations on Latino art history and contemporary art production of Latin America.