D I S S E R T A T I O N   A B S T R A C T

Performing Exile: Cuban-American Women’s Performance Art, 1972-2014

My dissertation examines the work of four Cuban-American women artists who use the body in politically explicit performance art: Ana Mendieta, Carmelita Tropicana, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Coco Fusco. My project brings new knowledge to the field by demonstrating how the use of the body in performance art by these women allows for a unique expression of Cuban exile identity that is both distinct from the way in which exile has been expressed in the visual arts and also historically bound to the political relationship between Cuba and the U.S. I argue their work reveals how the U.S. embargo against Cuba (1960 to 2014) has shaped CubanAmerican art and identity to produce new notions of Americanness through their performances of exile.

Using the period of artistic production from 1972 through 2014 as this dissertation’s analytical timeframe, I craft four chapters as case studies of major works by each artist in relation to the Cuban exile diaspora and U.S. foreign policy since the 1959 Cuban revolution propelled mass immigration to the U.S. I conclude with a discussion of the ways in which works by Cuban artist Tania Bruguera are impacted by leadership and policy transitions to illustrate the effects that performance art has had and will continue to have—along with President Obama’s 2014 announcement to normalize relations between the two nations—as the political bridge between Cuba and the U.S. is rebuilt. My project is the first to critically engage Mendieta, Tropicana, Campos-Pons, and Fusco together in the context of the Cuban exile diaspora in the U.S. and its historical development, expanding research on the diaspora beyond Miami, FL, and considering how disparate locations produce radically different performances of exile. Ultimately, I examine these women’s work as American art to trouble this category and demonstrate the complexity and diversity of U.S. national identity.

E D U C A T I O N

Ph.D. ART HISTORY, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Expected 2018.

  • Advisor: Oscar E. Vázquez, Associate Professor of Art History
  • Major Area: 20th and 21st century Latinx and Latin American Art
  • Secondary Area: Contemporary Art, focus in Feminist and Queer Performance and Social Practice
  • Minor Areas: AfroDiasporic Art and Theory of the Caribbean and Latin America; Latina/Latino Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Museum Studies

WOMEN’S + GENDER STUDIES GRADUATE CERTIFICATE, Illinois State University. May 2013.

M.A. ENGLISH STUDIES, Illinois State University. 2011.

B.A. ART HISTORY, Florida International University. 2009.

L A N G U A G E S

Speaking Reading Writing
English Fluent Excellent Excellent
Spanish Fluent Excellent Excellent
Italian Good Good Good
French Fair Good Good
Portuguese Fair Good Good

 F E L L O W S H I P S

SMITHSONIAN PREDOCTORAL FELLOW. August 2017 to July 2018. Smithsonian American Art Museum; Washington, D.C.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE AND AREA STUDIES FELLOWSHIP. August 2016 to May 2017. U.S. Department of Education; Washington, D.C. and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

LATINO MUSEUM STUDIES PROGRAM FELLOW. June to August 2014.
Smithsonian Latino Center; Washington, D.C.

GRADUATE COLLEGE DISTINGUISHED FELLOWSHIP. August 2013 to August 2016.
Graduate College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

SUMMER PRE-DOCTORAL INSTITUTE FELLOW. June to August 2013.
Graduate College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

H O N O R S   +   A W A R D S

CERTIFICATE OF EXEMPLARY LEADERSHIP. July’s 2017, 2016, + 2015.
Graduate College, Educational Equity Programs, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

AWARD FOR SERVICE TO THE GRADUATE COLLEGE EDUCATIONAL EQUITY PROGRAMS. April 2017 + March 2016.
Graduate College, Educational Equity Programs, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

GRADUATE STUDENT ALLY AWARD. December 2016. 
The Brown Theatre Collective, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER SERVICE. April 2016 + May 2015. 
The Women’s Resources Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

2015 STUDENT ACE (ARTS, CULTURE, AND EDUCATION) AWARD. October 2015.
40 North 88 West, Champaign County Arts Council; Champaign, IL.

2015 WOMEN’S CENTER ALLY AWARD. May 2015.
The Women’s Resources Center, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE + GOOD CITIZENSHIP AWARD. April 2015.
Graduate College, Educational Equity Programs, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

OUTSTANDING FELLOW. August 2013.
Summer Pre-Doctoral Institute, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

 T R A V E L   F U N D I N G

ART + DESIGN GRADUATE EVENT TRAVEL AWARDS. February 2016 + 2015.
School of Art + Design, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

STUDENT TRAVEL GRANT. January 2016.
Latin American Studies Association; Pittsburgh, PA

PRESIDENT’S RESEARCH IN DIVERSITY TRAVEL AWARD. April 2015.
School of Art + Design, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

M U S E U M   T R A I N I N G

WATER EMERGENCY TRAINING. May 2014.
William R. + Clarice V. Spurlock Museum; Urbana, IL.

OBJECT HANDLING TRAINING. May 2014.
William R. + Clarice V. Spurlock Museum; Urbana, IL.

E Q U I T Y   +   I N C L U S I O N   T R A I N I N G

TRANS ALLY + BASIC LGBT ALLY TRAININGS. March 2017 + February 2017
LGBT Resource Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

UNDOCUMENTED STUDENT ALLY TRAINING. March 2017 + February 2017
LGBT Resource Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

MIDWEST SCHOOL FOR WOMEN WORKERS. July 2016.
Illinois Labor History Society and the Department of History at Roosevelt University; Chicago, IL.

RACIAL JUSTICE ALLIES AND ADVOCATES TRAINING. May 2016.
Diversity and Social Justice Education, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Affairs, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

ANNUAL FEMINIST ACTIVIST ACADEMIES. February’s of 2016 + 2015.
The Women’s Resources Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.