Mary Okin

Mary Okin
Graduate Student


Area of Concentration: American and Russian Art in a global context; California painting; issues of canon formation, center and periphery, and the underrepresented; art education and regionalism; Digital Humanities and computational approaches to the history of art
Faculty Advisor: E. Bruce Robertson
Committee Members: Laurie Monahan, Margaretta Lovell (History of Art, UC Berkeley)
Dissertation: "Painting in Place: Wayne Thiebaud in Postwar American Art"
M.A. Thesis: "Uncovering 'New Man' Feminism: Arthur F. Mathews at the San Francisco School of Design, 1890-1896" (San José State University, completed 2016)


Mary Okin is a PhD candidate specializing in the history of nineteenth and twentieth American art, Russian avant-garde theory, and digital humanities.

Her master's thesis, "Uncovering 'New Man' Feminism: Arthur F. Mathews at the San Francisco School of Design, 1890-1896," engages in the first feminist reading of San Francisco painter, muralist, educator, and decorative designer Arthur Frank Mathews (1860-1945) and his contributions to the rise of women artists in California at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Mary’s dissertation, "Painting in Place: Wayne Thiebaud in Postwar American Art," is the first dissertation to be written about the Sacramento-based painter and printmaker Wayne Thiebaud (1920 -), arguably the most important California painter and art educator of his generation. Drawing from ongoing interviews with the artist and explorations of his private archive, the dissertation investigates how Thiebaud’s early work, teaching practice and locale honed a distinctive synthesis of academic painting and high modernism that interrogates social relations in everyday American life and in the artworld. The dissertation also considers how Thiebaud's understudied work allows for critical (re)evaluation of the metadiscourse of American art history, including ongoing issues related to the Americanist/Modernist divide.

Mary is also the founder of Mining @ Tenth Street: Visualizing New York City’s Tenth Street Studio Building, a digital humanities project that reconstructs the historic social network and physical structure of Richard Morris Hunt’s Tenth Street Studio Building (1858-1956), the first building specifically designed to house artist studios in the United States. Assembling extensive big data about this canonical architectural structure and its multigenerational creative cluster, the project explores how computational approaches to the study of art and architecture can diversify and create a more inclusive history of American culture within and beyond the visual arts.