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Research Profiles

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Susan Earle,
Curator of European and American Art

Susan Earle

Research Interests

  • artist-led inquiry
  • constructions of race and gender and African American art
  • European art, particularly 19th-century
  • contemporary site-specific and community-based public art

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Susan Earle has served as curator of European and American art at the Spencer since 1996, overseeing the collection of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from those regions. Earle earned a bachelor’s degree in English and art history with distinction at Williams College, and a doctorate in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She has curated or organized more than fifty exhibitions and works to promote artistic research among students, colleagues, and community members. She has commissioned major works of art from both local and international artists, including, most recently, the exhibition and book An Errant Line: Ann Hamilton & Cynthia Schira (2013). She also organized the first nationally touring retrospective of Aaron Douglas and edited the accompanying book, Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist (Yale, 2007). Additional recent publications include a current essay on the Spencer’s Le Discret by Joseph Ducreux for the exhibition and book America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting organized by the National Gallery of Art. Future projects include two exhibitions featuring African American narrative histories through quilts (summer 2017), an interdisciplinary re-imagination/re-installation of the Spencer’s 20/21 Gallery, and recreation of the community mural Pollinators in downtown Lawrence. Earle serves as affiliate faculty in the Kress Foundation Department of Art History and the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, both at the University of Kansas. She held a Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Getty Foundation in 2006 and received an Outstanding Educator Award from the Kansas Torch Chapter of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society in 2004.


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Kris Imants Ercums,
Curator of Global Contemporary and Asian Art

Kris Imants Ercums

Research Interests

  • pan-Asian visual modernity
  • Asian contemporary artistic practice
  • postcolonial science fiction
  • queer studies

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Since joining the Spencer in 2007, Kris Ercums spearheaded Project Redefine, which reconceived the Spencer’s permanent collection galleries into longterm thematic exhibitions that included: Nature/Natural (2010), Corpus (2011), Empire of Things (2012), and Forms of Thought (2014). Ercums has also organized international artist-in-residence projects at the Spencer with artists from China, Japan, Korea, and Mexico including: Up/Down: A Project by Wang Tiande (2009); Mobile Landscape: Kim Jongku (2010); Jin Shan: It Came from the Sky (2011); Prepared: Strategies for Activists with Chen Shaoxiong (2012); I Love Xijing­–Xijing School (2013) at the H&R Block Art Space, Kansas City Art Institute; and most recently Comanche is Dead: A Project by Diego Teo (2013). His recent exhibitions include Extra/Ordinary: Video Art from Asia (2010), which investigated new ways of transforming familiar experiences and daily routines into moments of expanded meaning, and xy (2009), an examination of the social construction of masculinity through objects drawn from the Spencer’s permanent collection. Ercums also organized the 2016 exhibition, Temporal Turn: Art and Speculation in Contemporary Asia, exploring a rich mosaic of ideas about time and history from a generation of artists embedded in what has been dubbed “the Asian Century.”


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Stephen Goddard,
Associate Director and Senior Curator

Stephen Goddard

Research Interests

  • printmaking in northern Europe (1450–present)
  • the graphic arts during World War I
  • art and the biological sciences

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Stephen Goddard joined the staff of the Spencer Museum of Art 1984, following the completion of this PhD at the University of Iowa and year in a post-doctoral position at the Yale University Art Gallery. His major projects at the Spencer Museum have included: The World in Miniature: Engravings by the German Little Masters, 1500-1550 (1988, 244-page exhibition catalogue); Les XX and the Belgian Avant-Garde: Prints, Drawings, and Books, ca. 1890 (1993, 400-page exhibition catalogue); An Eye on Flanders: The Graphic Art of Jules De Bruycker (1996, 111-page exhibition catalogue); Ubu's Almanac: Alfred Jarry and the Graphic Arts (1998, 49-page exhibition catalogue); Remembering the Family Farm: 150 years of American Prints (2001, 94-page exhibition catalogue); Brion Gysin: A Selection of Books and Works on Paper (2005); Book from the Sky to Book from the Ground: Xu Bing’ Book Works (2007); A Greenland Glacier: The Scale of Climate Change (2009);Trees and other Ramifications: Branches in Nature and Culture (2010, 170-page exhibition catalogue); Machine in a Void: World War I & the Graphic Arts (2010); and Cryptograph: An Exhibition for Alan Turing (2012, 44-page online catalogue). Goddard is currently working on the exhibition Big Botany: Conversations with the Plant World , which explores humanities changing attitudes and understanding of the plant world as perceived through that arts, sciences, and philosophy.


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Saralyn Reece Hardy,
Marilyn Stokstad Director

Saralyn Reece Hardy

Research Interests

  • interdisciplinary inquiry
  • commissions of new creative work in and beyond museums
  • sustainability, ecology, and the environment
  • artistic freedom

Recent & Ongoing Projects

Saralyn Reece Hardy, the first Marilyn Stokstad Director of the Spencer Museum of Art, has led the Museum since 2005. Prior to her arrival at the Spencer, Hardy served as director of Museums and Visual Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts and director of the Salina Art Center in Salina, Kansas. Reece Hardy led the Spencer’s Phase I renovation project that transformed the Museum’s galleries, introduced a multi-use object study room, and expanded the teaching gallery and storage and research facilities. She currently serves as the primary investigator for the Integrated Arts Research Initiative, an interdisciplinary effort funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Upcoming curatorial projects will explore the outdoor spaces beyond the Spencer Museum in historic Marvin Grove. Reece Hardy recently spearheaded the Spencer’s initiative to highlight the work of renowned light and space artist James Turrell and pioneering conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. Among her ongoing projects is a series of interviews exploring aging and legacy with artists represented in the Museum’s permanent collection who are 70 years old or older.


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Cassandra Mesick Braun,
Curator of Global and Indigenous Art

Cassandra Mesick

Research Interests

  • Indigenous art of the Americas
  • Global health and wellness
  • Indigeneity, race, and multiculturalism
  • Elemental analysis and spectroscopy 

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Cassandra Mesick Braun joined the Spencer Museum as the curator of global indigenous art in 2012 after earning her doctorate in anthropology from Brown University. At the Spencer, Mesick Braun oversees a diverse collection of art and material culture from the Americas, Africa, and Oceania, which she integrates into the exhibition, programming, and teaching mission of the Museum. Mesick Braun has recently worked with Celka Straughn and Kate Meyer to develop the thematic permanent gallery installation The Object Speaks in addition to curating more focused exhibitions such as Inventing Childhood and Conversation XVII: Photographic Memory. She is currently working on a research project about the educational experiences of African American and Native American families in Kansas from the mid-1800s to present, as well as exploring the intersections of medical sciences, artistic practice, and community engagement with interdisciplinary partners. Future projects include conducting spectroscopic analyses of textiles and other objects in the collections. Mesick Braun serves on the Core Faculty of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kansas and will teach for the Honors Program beginning in 2017. She has co-authored Veiled Brightness: A History of Ancient Maya Color and has contributed to several volumes, including Re-Presenting the Past: Archaeology through Text and ImageFiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea; and An Inconstant Landscape: The Archaeology of El Zotz, Guatemala


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Kate Meyer,
Assistant Curator, Works on Paper

Kate Meyer

Research Interests

  • American art and material culture
  • Environmental Studies
  • Kansas

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Kate Meyer joined the professional staff of the Spencer Museum of Art in 2004 as a curatorial assistant. In 2011 she became part of the University’s academic staff as an assistant curator of works on paper. Meyer collaborates with faculty, staff, students, and the public across disciplines to integrate the visual arts into the teaching and research mission of the University by facilitating educational access to the Study Room. Her responsibilities include managing the Walk-ins Welcome Fridays program and overseeing the Museum’s Teaching Gallery. In 2011, Meyer completed her doctorate at the University of Kansas in American art history with her dissertation, Broken Ground: Plowing and America’s Cultural Landscape in the 1930s. This study of art related to the Dust Bowl evinces Meyer’s research interests in art and its intersections with environmental and agricultural themes—interests that have manifested themselves in the form of exhibitions such as 1 Kansas Farmer (2013), Climate Change at the Poles (2009), and Claimed: Land Use in Western America (2007). Meyer’s exploration of environmental art history led to her participate as an academic fellow in the National Science Foundation’s project, Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmer’s Land Use Decisions. She served as the logistical coordinator to project leader Kris Ercums on Project Redefine, a reinstallation of the Spencer’s permanent collection galleries resulting in long-term, thematic exhibitions: Empire of Things (2012), Forms of Thought (2014), and This Land (2014). Meyer recently collaborated with Cassandra Mesick and Celka Straughn to curate the thematic exhibition The Object Speaks.


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Joey Orr,
Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Curator for Research

Joey Orr

Research Interests

  • hybrid methods
  • public scholarship
  • social practice

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Joey Orr joined the Spencer Museum of Art in 2017 as part of the Integrated Arts Research Initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Specifically trained in hybrid and artistic research methods, he received his MA in Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and completed a practice-based, interdisciplinary PhD as an Arts and Sciences Fellow in the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University. He recently co-edited “Participatory Research and Visual Methods,” a special issue of Visual Methodologies (Research Methods Lab, Switzerland) and was an associate editor in the inaugural years of the Journal for Artistic Research (Bern, Switzerland). His most recent curatorial post was as the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where his major project aligned three exhibitions around artistic inquiry (Chicago Works: Andrew Yang, MCA Screen: Camille Hennrot’s Grosse Fatigue, and Diana Thater: The Sympathetic Imagination). He is currently co-editing “Inhabiting Cultures,” a special issue of the Journal of American Studies (Cambridge University Press) and his chapter “Collecting Social Things” will be out in the volume Rhetoric, Social Value, and the Arts in 2017 (Palgrave Pivot). He is a founding member of the idea collective, John Q, whose projects explore collaborative notions of public scholarship.


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Celka Straughn,
Andrew W. Mellon Director of Academic Programs

Celka Straughn

Research Interests

  • modern European art and artist networks
  • exhibition and collecting histories and practices
  • global museum discourses
  • social justice in museums
  • eco-critical art history

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Since 2009 Celka Straughn has served as the director of academic programs; she is also a co-investigator of the Spencer’s Integrated Arts Research Initiative  (IARI) and with the College Art Association’s Resources for Academic Art Museum Professionals (RAAMP). In addition to her museum work, she teaches courses for KU’s Honors Program and Undergraduate Studies, and is affiliate faculty in German Studies. She received a PhD from the University of Chicago; her dissertation and related publications examine Jewish art and expressionism in early 20th century Germany. In 2015 she participated as a fellow in the Getty Leadership Institute and more recently as a 2016 Social Justice Fellow with the Office of Multicultural Affairs at KU. Currently she is organizing a student-generated exhibition with Ellen Raimond, Office of First-Year Experience, on the theme of the American Dream and the 2017 KU Common Book (spring 2017) as well as Civic Leader and Art Collector: Sallie Casey Thayer and an Art Museum for KU  (fall 2017). Previous Spencer exhibition projects include Politics as Symbol/Symbol as Politics (2012) with Burdett Loomis, professor of political science, and Media Memes: Images, Technology & Making the News (2010) with Michael Williams, associate professor of journalism, and Luke Jordan, lecturer in visual art. She also organized the artist residency and exhibition by Dan Perjovschi, (2010) and collaborated with Kate Meyer and Cassandra Mesick on the current collection installation, The Object Speaks.


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Mary M Dusenbury,
Affiliate Research Curator

Research Interests

  • East and Central Asian textiles

Significant & Ongoing Projects

Dusenbury documented and oversaw the conservation and rehousing of the Asian textile collection in the Spencer, wrote a catalogue raisonné of the collection, Flowers, Dragons and Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Spencer Museum of Art (New York and Manchester: Hudson Hills Press, 2004), and curated an exhibition of the same title. Dusenbury organized a colloquium in 2010 and a major international symposium in 2013 for an interdisciplinary study of color in ancient and medieval East Asia. These collaborations resulted in the publication Color in Ancient and Medieval East Asia, which was edited by Dusenbury and published by the Spencer and Yale University Press in 2015.