Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Art, Art History, and Design
Laura Smith
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smith.pngAssistant Professor, Fixed Term
Art History & Visual Culture
105E Kresge Art Center
P 517-884-4099



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.


Horace Poolaw, Photographer of American Indian Modernity, University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming Spring 2016.

"Complex Negotiations: Beadwork, Gender, and Modernism in Horace Poolaw's Portrait of Two Kiowa Women," in Locating American Art: Finding Art's Meaning in Museums, Cynthia Fowler, ed., Ashgate. Under review.

"Beaded Buckskins and Bad-Girl Bobs: Kiowa Female Identity, Industry, and Activism in Horace Poolaw's Portraits," in For the Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw, exhibition catalogue. New York and Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in association with Yale University Press, 2014.

"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.