Laura Smith

Assistant Professor, Fixed Term
Art History & Visual Culture

P 517-884-4099

600 Auditorium Road, 31 Kresge Art Center


Laura Smith is an art historian with specializations in North American art, Native North American art, and photography. Her recent research has focused on modern and contemporary Native American art, but she teaches a broad range of courses in American art up to 1945, Native American art and photography, the Western art survey, art historical research and methodologies, professional development, and the history of photography. She received a Ph.D. in Art History from Indiana University in 2008, completing a dissertation entitled Obscuring the Distinctions, Revealing the Divergent Visions: Modernity and Indians in the Early Works of Kiowa Photographer Horace Poolaw, 1925-1945. She holds a MA in art history from the University of New Mexico (2002). Upon receiving her BFA in Painting from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia in 1996, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology as a Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) project assistant. As a curator, artist, collections manager, and teacher, she has engaged the research, care, and/or exhibition of artworks since 1993.  Since August of 2009, she has served as Assistant Professor of Art History at MSU. Her research has been supported by a number of grants, including the Association of Historians of American Art, the Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship, the Smithsonian Pre-Doctoral Fellowship at the National Museum of American History and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., and most recently the Humanities and Arts Research Program (HARP) from Michigan State University.


Forthcoming projects include the revision of her dissertation into a book to be published by the University of Nebraska Press.   Her essay “Beaded Buckskins and Bad-Girl Bobs: Kiowa Female Identity, Industry, and Activism in Horace Poolaw’s Portraits,” will appear in the catalogue for the exhibition Photographer Horace Poolaw: The Calendar-Maker’s Son, at The National Museum of the American Indian, New York City,  opening September 2014.  She has also begun working with the MSU Museum staff to research and preserve sections of their extensive stereoview collection.


Recent Publications

“Modernity, Multiples, and Masculinity:  Horace Poolaw’s Postcards of Elder Kiowa Men,” Great Plains Quarterly31 (2), Spring 2011.

 “Picturing Zuni in the New Deal Era: The Clara Brignac Gonzales Collection of Zuni Day School Drawings and Paintings, 1925-1945,” American Indian Art Magazine, Spring 2005.

 “Photography, Criticism, and Native American Women’s Identity: Three Works by Jolene Rickard,” Third Text, 19:1, 2005.


Invited Lectures

Photography, Performance, Sovereignty, and American Indian Identity. Research Roundtable: Indigenous People of the Americas as Subjects and Makers of Photographs, The Wanamaker Collection: A Tribute to Susan Applegate  Krouse, Michigan State University, March 15, 2012


Bridges, Skyscrapers, and Factories from New York to Michigan: Icons of American Technological Achievement, 1880-1940. NEH “Picturing America: Michigan’s Legacy as the “Arsenal of Democracy” Conference for Lansing School District Teachers,” Michigan State University,  March 9, 2011.


Faces, Fashion, and Families: Horace Poolaw and the Kiowa Desire for a New Kind of Visual History. Session sponsored by the Society of Visual Anthropology and the Council for Museum Anthropology.  American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA,  December 2009


Indians by Non-Indians: Photographic Representations of Native Americans from the IUAM Collection, Indiana University Art Museum, April 2009.