Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral Scholar, Michigan Society of Fellows
Michaela Rife specializes in the intersections of environmental history and visual culture in what is now the United States, with a particular investment in the land-use politics of the American West. More broadly, she is interested in the possibilities of an environmental focus for the wider field of art history, which informs her teaching. Michaela is currently working on her first book project that examines New Deal-era murals and photographs in the Dust Bowl as a way to understand how art contends with environmental disaster while shoring up (or resisting settler colonialism). She is particularly interested in the work that art does for and against extractive regimes. A chapter on the 1940 film Boom Town is forthcoming in American Energy Cinema, an edited volume from West Virginia University Press, and her article on Alexandre Hogue’s work with the Texas oil industry (recipient of the 2018 Archives of American Art Graduate Research Essay Prize) is published in the peer-reviewed Archives of American Art Journal. While at U-M, Michaela is also in the early stages of a new project on the place of art in making and remaking American mining communities. This project is drawn from earlier research and writing, including articles on British artist Chris Drury’s controversial coal-critical sculpture Carbon Sink and the work of Will Wilson (Diné) and Jetsonorama in the Navajo Nation. Her research has been funded by a range of institutions, including the Getty Research Institute, the Terra Foundation for American Art, Crystal Bridges of American Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Fields of Study
- American art and visual culture (nineteenth and twentieth centuries)
- American West
- Environmental art history, energy history, and ecocriticism
- Settler colonialism and art history