Kelly Johnson: 2012 Lancaster Award in Art History
This award is given in the spring semester to the outstanding graduating majors in studio art and art history. It was established in memory of the late Robert L. Lancaster, sculptor and chair of the Art Department in the Sarofim School of Fine Arts. Selection of the recipients of the award is made for studio art on the basis of a portfolio and general performances as judged by the studio art faculty, and for art history on the basis of general performance and special projects as judged by the art history faculty. As a merit-based award, it is given only to those students who have met the departmental standards and, therefore, may not be awarded in some years.
Honors Convocation presentation by Dr. Kimberly Smith, Associate Professor of Art History:
The Lancaster Award in Art History is given to a senior art history major for outstanding academic achievement. The Art History faculty select the recipient of this award based on consistently excellent scholarship in art history courses. I am very pleased to present the Art History Lancaster Award this year to Kelly Johnson. I have known Kelly for almost her entire time at SU, during which she has taken five courses with me. Kelly dives headlong into the material of every course, sifting thoughtfully through complex ideas and information. She is the kind of student who relishes the chance to think through those difficult, unfamiliar questions which do not have ready or obvious answers.
Kelly has a particular interest in theoretical issues, which has served her well in her research projects. Her engaged, creative, and well-informed scholarship was very much in evidence, to cite one of many examples, in a research paper she wrote for the class “Art since 1945”, in which she analyzed the challenging and pivotal performance pieces of Carolee Schneemann from a feminist perspective. Kelly brought a similarly perceptive approach to her research paper for my “Theory & Methods” seminar, in which she brought to bear a formidable understanding of theoretical problems to an analysis of Jenny Holzer’s textual installations, using deconstructionism as a tool for understanding Holzer’s language art as politically emancipatory. Kelly’s sophisticated interpretation of these works demonstrated that she sees the “big” questions and can address them in a way which poses convincing arguments while always doing justice to the complexity of specific issues.
Kelly spent a semester in New York City as part of the GLCA New York Arts Program. She worked as a membership intern at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and as a curatorial intern at the Brooklyn Museum’s, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Kelly returned from that semester with an even deeper commitment to understanding art, especially contemporary art, as cultural critique. Kelly has a passion for understanding how art can play a meaningful role historically and today. She has a very special ability to facilitate understanding and enthusiasm for even the most challenging contemporary work, a gift her future colleagues in museums or academia will surely appreciate.
I present to Kelly the “Art Pin”, a gold replica of the door plate at the famed Glasgow School of Art. The door plate was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose commitment to integrating art and life through functional, thoughtful design seems particularly suited to Kelly’s interest in the cultural effectivity and relevance of the aesthetic.