Areas of Concentration: Outsider and folk art, African American art, institutional and museum history, and visual culture
Faculty Advisor: Jenni Sorkin
Committee Members: E. Bruce Robertson, Bridget Cooks (African American Studies, UC Irvine)
Dissertation: "Unaccountable Modernisms: The Black Arts of Post-Civil Rights Alabama"
M.A. Thesis: "How to Produce a Fantasy World: Henry Darger and American Hobby Culture," completed 2012
Aleesa Alexander is a combined M.A./Ph.D. Doctoral Scholars Central Fellow. She is currently a Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, writing a dissertation on black artists who lived and/or worked in post-Civil Rights Alabama, arguing that the frequent application of the term "outsider" to these artists is fundamentally inaccurate. Her project reframes the discussion of black art in Alabama as the intersectional product of migration, industrialization, and newly granted civil rights for Southern blacks. Her study focuses on four artists associated with the Birmingham area during the 1960s to the 1990s — Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, and Annie Mae Young of the Gee’s Bend quilting community. Though excluded from the primary narrative of American modernism, she explores how each of these artists represent distinct issues within the respective realms of assemblage history, relational aesthetics and performance, site-specific installation, and artist authorship.
Aleesa has received a Graduate Research Grant from the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design (2016), a CASVA Predoctoral Fellowship for Historians of American Art to Travel Abroad (2014), and is currently writing entries for an exhibition on American outsider and folk art that will open at the National Gallery in 2017. She also contributed to the exhibition catalog Henry Darger: 1892-1972, for the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, published in 2015. Prior to graduate school, Aleesa worked as a curatorial intern in the Prints and Drawings department at the Art Institute of Chicago. She graduated from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon with a B.A. degree in Art History in 2010.