Art Through Time: A Global View
Conflict and Resistance
Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw: So much of visual arts production arises out of moments of military and political conflict. You have huge bodies of painting and public sculpture and popular press images, broadsides that were posted on walls. So much of the importance during those political moments was translated into visual imagery. Because the images themselves can often be more persuasive, especially if they are supposedly created around some true moment if they are supposed to be eyewitness scenes, they can convey much more than words alone.
The importance of the visual, the power of the visual, the power of it to change the ways that people think is a way to express dissent.
Segment Title: The Concerned Photographer
Melissa Harris: You have Koudelka, the thirty-year-old photographer at the time, who had never done any kind of photojournalism or documented any kind of news event. I think his girlfriend called him and said, “You know they say the Soviets are going to invade.” This is one week of work. That’s it. It’s just one week and that he got this is absolutely exceptional.
He was there as a Czechoslovakian. He was photographing, but where he is most impassioned is about what was going on with Czechoslovakia and this incredible moment of resistance and courage.
When you have somebody like Koudelka doing this, or you have Philip Jones Griffiths in Vietnam, or you have Gilles Peress in Rwanda, or Paolo Pellegrin in Lebanon or Susan Meiselas in Nicaragua, on the one hand you are talking about the evidentiary value of photography, so that whole sort of concept of bearing witness. The photographer is there, it’s happening in real time and space, and then it becomes evidence in some way. But still, the best of those photographs have a metaphorical value as well. That’s why they stay with you. We see evidence all the time, but those images that stay with you are the ones that sort of become transcendent. I don’t mean they become spiritual, I just mean that they somehow encompass all of this other kind of the weight of the history of all of this emotion and everything that has happened and the idea that somebody dies for something they believe in, or kills for something they believe in, and the savagery that we are capable of.
To be so intimate in the face of conflict and to be that close and have that immediate visceral gut response is extraordinary. Joseph’s signature image from this body of work to many people would be the image of the watch, which operates on a very metaphorical level and, in fact, doesn’t show conflict outside of the context. But you can go into this in many, many different kinds of directions. You can talk about war, you can talk about aggression, you can talk about conflict, you can talk about resistance, you can talk about courage, you can talk about gesture and facial expression. And you can talk about photography.
Segment Title: Perspectives on War
Christine Giviskos: Beginning in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, one of the big sort of changes that sort of signals the modern era is that artists are more willing to put very recent events into major paintings.
John Elderfield: Rilke, who was very deeply interested in painting. said once that what great artists do is put themselves in danger. And they put themselves in danger by carrying things through to their conclusion. Manet said once that you just have to dive in, it’s like you are diving into a river and you see what happens. And you know, I think that is what he did. And there was, I think, this quality in his work from the beginning of the1860s to be provocative.
All that said, with the Maximilian, obviously it’s a very different kind of subject to what he’s usually dealing with. Maximilian has been shot, and more news comes through about actually the truly horrible manner in which he did die, and the fact that the squad was inept and didn’t manage to kill him.
Manet’s response and, which is what’s so amazing, I guess it’s his modernism as well, it isn’t to increase the temperature of the paintings, but it’s to turn it down and down and down until it’s really cold.
He was criticized generally for being overly cool in terms of his relationship to his subject matter, but I think that the result of it is actually more powerful than overly expressed emotion.
When you look at what battle pictures were of that time, they’re heroic and they’re not particularly shocking in the way in which this seems to be shocking. It’s interesting to see him working through this whole thing, smoke everywhere and people are beginning to fall, and so it seems in a kind of sense looking back to the Third of May, the Goya prototype. Manet doesn’t give you things which are horrible in the way in which Goya would do.
Susan Galassi: By 1789 Goya was appointed painter to the king. He retained that position until the end of his life. But he nevertheless tread a very fine line. Goya, of course. had mastered traditional portraiture, but he wasn’t content with that.
Christine Giviskos: Goya created his print series The Disasters of War in direct response to the serious warfare taking place in Spain following the invasion of Napoleon’s troops in 1808. The essential theme is man’s inhumanity to man in times of war. There’s nothing heroic about war in these prints.
Susan Galassi: When Picasso painted Guernica, he had to refer to Goya because Goya had made the greatest statements condemning war that had ever been made. In Guernica there are no victors, and that was a way of depicting war that began with Goya where there were no victors.
John Elderfield: Modernism has largely been about personal imperatives. It’s the rare artist who’s willing to take this on and understand that political subjects can be dealt with in this sort of way. Guernica, although obviously more modern chronologically and typologically, in terms of the actual approach it’s more traditional than the Manet because it uses old-fashioned allegory—you know, the dying horse, the light bulb, and so on—to actually transmit its message.
Segment Title: Caricature
Christine Giviskos: Social commentary is attractive to artists because of the variety and the opportunity to really tell a story, send a message, and to do it in an inventive way.
Steven Heller: The use of caricature historically was to break the strictures of academic and official art. But early caricature was really just taking the world and saying, “Okay we’re not going to romanticize it anymore, we are going to draw what we see, warts and all.” So that evolved into a form of commentary and a form of satire and it hit England, it hit France, anyplace that had a working press where you could either run off etchings or lithographs or a publication.
Steven Brodner: Caricature is a subcategory of illustration in which you are using the elements of the face to do those same things that you are using in general illustration to do. You are using eyes, a nose, a mouth, teeth, ears, wrinkles, waddles, hair, lack of hair, all these things as elements in storytelling. People with power need to be watched. They need to be watched very carefully because it corrupts them. Power corrupts. You have to keep your eyes on them.
Steven Heller: When Daumier and Rowlandson and Gillray and Cruikshank were producing their caricatures, they were making very strident critiques of society. They were being the tricksters of their day. And instead of doing it through fable, they did it through visual.
Christine Giviskos: Honore Daumier established his career with the lithographs that he made criticizing, satirizing, caricaturing the government of Louis Philippe.
Luis Philippe ascended to the throne in 1830. He really wanted to be a monarch in the old style. And Daumier was hired by a publisher named Charles Filipont who was extremely anti-royalist.
And his charge to the artists working for his newspapers was to keep the pressure on Louis Philippe and the legislature. Their constant criticism built up to eventually topple Louis Philippe’s government.
Segment Title: Art of the State
Steven Heller: In Soviet art, they were creating a new language that came about on the crest of the revolution. It wasn’t that the new language was instigated by the revolution, it was on the occasion of the revolution. It was tolerated by the revolution until it was no longer tolerated.
Jane Ashton Sharp: The pre-revolutionary avant garde experienced a tremendous sense of resistance to the Czarist state in the last years of the Russian empire. So that when the revolution occurs, many of these artists are thrilled, elated, and view it as their mission to really join forces. A kind of unity of leftist, political fervor, together with artists who had resisted all institutions of power prior to the revolution. It’s really the period I would say between 1917 and 1921. So there’s this shift from political opposition to supporting the state. It was primarily through the distribution of graphic images, posters, that are mass distributed, but also on what were called agitprop trains. And so this is a huge phenomenon, the sending of cars that were painted themselves like posters for a population that is largely illiterate, so the visual is tremendously significant.
Sylvia Wolf: If you think about the fact the images could be broadly disseminated, and images were being made in higher numbers and higher volume under different circumstances. I go back to the advent of the half-tone printing process, when for the first time visual images could be reproduced and newspapers could be disseminated with pictures.
Jane Ashton Sharp: In the late twenties you see this encroaching of state interference, so there’s discussion of “heroising” the worker, representing scenes of labor, representing the formation of Soviet power in its revolutionary development. What’s understood, however, is that art has to be realistic, based on the traditions of the Wanderers group, founded in 1870. Socialist Realism is the style. By the time it cycled through various art academies in China as well as in Cuba, people do know, they at least have models for what art should look like.
Melissa Chiu: Posters from the Cultural Revolution served a very important educational role. That when, in fact, we think about the Cultural Revolution, which spanned from 1966 to ’76, we think immediately of posters. In a time when China was really going through great political turmoil and change, it sought to modernize itself by destroying anything that resembled tradition. And posters became a part of that. They disseminated in a very quick way, political messages, but also the types of images that were deemed revolutionary in their time. What most people don’t realize is that the posters were actually based on large-scale oil paintings, many of them dealing with historical subjects or validating Mao’s role in the revolution, or even talking about the life of workers or peasants who were the heroic figures. Some of the oil paintings, such as Liu Chunhua’s Mao goes to Anyuan, were reproduced nearly a billion times. And so you had, I think, more than any other country and any other period in time, really wide dissemination of visual culture. There was not a person living in China during this period that did not know this painting.
Segment Title: Iconoclasm
Freyda Spira: The Reformation was a movement that came in waves. In the early sixteenth century Martin Luther really picked up the mantle of the Reformation in terms of cleansing the church of all its luxuries, of all its debauchery, of all the things that it was getting away with that it probably shouldn’t have been doing. The Reformation really used imagery to not only celebrate their own movement, but also to tear down the power of the church. It did that through circulating broad sheets and prints with imagery that showed the corruption in the church and did it in sort of ironic and fun ways so that it could be understood by the masses. It also created images with text so that there could be several levels of understanding in society of what was going on with papal authority. And iconoclasm was really another way for the Reformation to assert its own power. Iconoclasm is the destruction of images which usually have a political or religious leader, and the image is usually endowed with some kind of mediating power. The fear is that people will begin to worship the image. And so images needed to be cleansed from the churches and from religious worship. Most of the iconoclasm during the Reformation was happening in southwest Germany and in Switzerland. In some cases literally crowds or masses came into churches with axes and pitch forks and destroyed the images with their hands. Most of them were white-washed and the images that were really incredibly important to certain societies or villages were kept and they were just covered over so that the power of those images were negated from the ritual of the church.
Iconoclasm is something that happens all over the world in all cultures, for various reasons. We see it everywhere.
Tarek Kahlaoui: The emphasis on the idea of uniqueness of God is a central theme in the Islamic discourse from the beginning. The Prophet Mohammad was never seen as a godly figure. The Muslims decided to emphasize mainly an artistic discourse, a visual discourse, that marginalizes images because they were afraid that images may be used in a religious context to be venerated.
In the beginning of the formation of the Islamic empire was the Umayyad Dynasty, which was the first dynasty in Islamic history. We have an instance in Upper Egypt when an Umayyad prince, while visiting a Christian Coptic church, he saw the mural painting, or mosaic of the Virgin and the child and he was unpleased about that. But not because it was an image, he was unpleased because he saw that this is an example of Christians venerating Jesus, and this was a highly doctrinal issue for Muslims, and one of the major conflicts between Islam and Christianity.
Freyda Spira: With iconoclasm the images are at the center of the conflict and they become the main vehicle for expressing power or resistance.
One of the best known examples in our day and age of iconoclasm is the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas.
Tarek Kahlaoui: This is not simply a religious reading towards these Buddhas. This was part of a whole discourse from Taliban that includes also a rejection of Western European domination of Afghanistan. This was not a debate about what’s cultural and what’s religious. This was the whole package including the definition of the Buddhas. The power of the act of iconoclasm has its own way of projecting power.
And the Taliban was very aware of that process and that’s why they invited foreign journalists to cover the whole thing. Because they knew that this was something to be viewed. So here they used images to empower their iconoclastic act. So the act of desecration, viewable for later generations, is something that is an essential part of iconoclasm.
Segment Title: Race, Gender, and Sexual Politics
Lalla Essaydi: Coming from Morocco, when I started working in the beginning my investigation was really with Orientalist paintings. I wanted to use the female body to change that perspective in a sense and also to just show how Orientalist painting is still really a fantasy of the West.
I think that the writing was always present in my work. In my culture we don’t have that separation between image and the text that you find in the West. I just wanted the words themselves to become part of the skin of the women when they wear it.
The idea of calligraphy when I was growing up, it wasn’t really accessible to me at school. It’s a male art and the henna is a craft decorating the hands and the feet, so I wanted to merge this male art with female craft. The text is really my diary, and it’s the story of these women. The women became the pages, the chapters.
My work, sometimes it’s open to interpretation and you can see also how it deals with the veil and the time where they start using the veil, and when I talk about this, I’m really using the veil as a symbol, and also just to emphasize the stereotype that people always associate the veil and oppression and how women are submissive. And so I play with that in the sense that I seem to cater to that. People are drawn into the work, but in Morocco really women don’t veil any longer, specifically my generation. And that’s where you see a lot of fragmentation in my work as well.
Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw: The interest in very dark moments in our pasts is a desire to understand what these image worlds meant and how can we continue to deal with those legacies. You know, what are the ways that artists can engage them?
William Blake’s illustrations for John Gabriel Stedmund’s diary of his campaign against the Maroons in Surinam from the late seventeen hundreds, these were very popular images during their day. And these were images which were criticized in abolitionist circles, which were used to demonstrate the inhumanity of enslavement, but they’re also images which provided a certain type of prurient access to black bodies. And this is something that I think has received a lot of kind of visual criticism in the work of somebody like Kara Walker. She was somebody who was looking at the historical images from the eighteenth and nineteenth century from Europe, from the United States, referencing that earlier period through the medium that she is using.
It has a sense of the past, it has a flavor and kind of a smell of old rooms and old spaces and dramas played out and witnessed in the shadows or behind a curtain. And I think that’s one of the things about her work that is so disturbing to people, because it is about projection of your own issues in many ways colliding, of course, with her issues.
With Walker’s work, when she first came on the scene in the middle nineties, she was working with a medium—the cut paper silhouette—which had not been utilized by contemporary artists in any significant way. So her choice of material was very novel.
It really is about the power of that blackness, this kind of black hole into which everything can fall and can be absorbed and contained. This is a direct sexual reference to, you know, black women’s bodies, and the penetrability of them in racist, sexist discourse of the nineteenth and the twentieth century. By working with racist imagery and also by standing on its head the kind of myths of slavery, Kara’s work resists that desire to homogenize the past. She wants to go against these received histories and say, “There are many possible ways to look at this.”
How do we resist, the pull of these very visceral, and affecting images? How do we resist, the desire to be a voyeur, a witness to somebody else’s pain, to somebody else’s suffering, how do we do that from our safe spots? What does it mean for us to not be able to pull ourselves away?
Throughout history, groups and individuals have sought not only to maintain control over their own lives, but also to assert their power over the lives of others. Visual art has played an important role in documenting such conflict and resistance. It also has served as a means for expressing personal views on politics, war, social inequities, and the human condition.
All Video on Demand files are protected by copyright law and are free for this streaming purpose only. Downloading, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. Offenders will be subject to civil and/or criminal liability under applicable laws.
Jane Ashton Sharp, Ph.D., is an associate professor of art history at Rutgers University. In addition to teaching classes on Russian and Soviet art, unofficial art in the former Soviet Union, and twentieth-century avant-garde art movements, she curates the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Soviet Nonconformist Art at Rutgers’ Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. Sharp has published numerous articles and book chapters on the historical Russian avant-garde, and, more recently, on Moscow conceptualism and abstract painting in the Soviet Union after the Second World War. Her book Russian Modernism between East and West: Natal’ia Goncharova and the Moscow Avant-Garde, 1905–14 won the Robert Motherwell Book Award from the Dedalus Foundation. Sharp holds an M.A. in Slavic languages and literatures and a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University.
Zainab Bahrani, Ph.D., is the Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art History and Archaeology and the director of graduate studies in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, New York. A native of Baghdad, Iraq, her research focuses on the art and archaeology of Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean, philosophies of aesthetics and representation, gender and feminist theories. Prior to her position at Columbia, Bahrani taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the University of Vienna, Austria. She has also worked as a curator in the Near Eastern Antiquities Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has been most recently elected to the Slade Professorship in the Fine Arts at the University of Oxford. Bahrani has authored, co-authored, and edited a number of books, including Rituals of War: the Body and Violence in Mesopotamia, The Graven Image: Representation in Babylonia and Assyria, and Women of Babylon: Gender and Representation in Mesopotamia. She received her M.A. and Ph.D from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
Steve Brodner has been a satirical illustrator for more than thirty years. After earning his B.A. from Cooper Union, Brodner began working for a local newspaper, and then launched a freelance career, illustrating pieces for the New York Times Book Review, Harper’s magazine, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Playboy, Spy, National Lampoon, and other publications. In visual essays, Brodner covered eight national political conventions for Esquire, the Progressive, and the Village Voice. He covered the Dole presidential campaign for the Washington Post; George W. Bush for Esquire; Oliver North, Pat Buchanan, and the Million Man March for the New Yorker; the farm crisis for the Progressive; and the Colonias communities for Texas Monthly. Brodner has also illustrated a number of books, including his own projects, Fold ‘N Tuck and Davy Crockett. “Freedom Fries,” a career retrospective was published by Fantagraphics Books in 2004. He produced “September 2001,” a documentary short and collaborated on the Naked Campaign, a series of films produced for NewYorker.com. Brodner has received numerous awards, including the Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, the Society of Illustrators Hamilton King Award, and the Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society for Best Magazine Illustration of the Year. Brodner also teaches narrative art at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Melissa Chiu, Ph.D., is museum director and vice president for global art programs at the Asia Society in New York. An expert on Asian contemporary art, Chiu is responsible for establishing the museum’s contemporary art collection along with curating path-breaking exhibitions. She is a frequent media commentator on arts and culture and has lectured at universities including Yale, Columbia, and Harvard. Prior to joining the Asia Society Museum, Chiu founded the Asia-Australia Arts Centre in Sydney, Australia. Chiu has also authored many articles and books, most recently, Breakout: Chinese Art Outside China. Chiu holds a Ph.D. in Art History and an M.A. in Arts Administration.
Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw, Ph.D., is an associate professor of American art and the director of the Program of Visual Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her primary research interests include race, sexuality, gender, and class in American art, with particular emphasis on the role that visual culture plays in cultural conflicts. She lectures widely and has published numerous articles and books, including, Seeing the Unspeakable: The Art of Kara Walker and Portraits of a People: Picturing African Americans in the Nineteenth Century. Prior to her position at the University of Pennsylvania, Shaw taught at Harvard University and earned fellowships through the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Ford Foundation. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University.
John Elderfield, Ph.D., is chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Since 1975, Elderfield has held a number of titles at the museum, including Chief Curator at Large. Exhibitions curated for MoMA include “Matisse Picasso,” “Bonnard,” “Henri Matisse: A Retrospective,” “Kurt Schwitters,” and The ‘Wild Beasts’: Fauvism and Its Affinities.” Elderfield has authored and co-authored numerous books, including Martin Puryear, Helen Frankenthaler, Pleasuring Painting: Matisse’s Feminine Representations, Visions of Modern Art: Painting and Sculpture from The Museum of Modern Art, and Henri Matisse: A Retrospective. He studied at the University of Leeds and earned his Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Elderfield has also been the recipient of a number of fellowships, including a Harkness Fellowship to study at Yale University, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and an associate fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. In addition, the French government awarded him an Officier des Arts et des Lettres and Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people of 2005.
Lalla Essaydi is a Moroccan-born artist who works with a variety of media, including video, film installation, painting, and photography. Essaydi’s art, which often combines Islamic calligraphy with representations of the female body, addresses Arab female identity and Muslim gender stereotypes. Essaydi’s work is represented in many collections, including George Eastman House, the Williams College Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the British National Museum, and she has been represented in exhibitions from Chicago and New York to the Netherlands, England, Germany, Switzerland, Dubai, Morocco, and Syria. Essaydi earned her M.F.A. from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University. She is currently based in New York City.
Susan Galassi, Ph.D., is senior curator of the Frick Collection. Prior to this position, Galassi served as an associate and assistant curator at the Frick Collection and founded the museum’s education program. She also served as a senior lecturer at the Museum of Modern Art and taught at Columbia University, New York University, and Vassar College. She has curated a number of exhibitions for the Frick Collection, including “Whistler, Women and Fashion” and “Goya’s Last Works.” In addition to collaborating on numerous exhibitions on the artist, she is the author of Picasso’s Variations on the Masters: Confrontations with the Past. Galassi has also served as the vice president and chair of the Annual Conference for the College Art Association. She earned a B.A. from Finch College, an M.A. from Wellesley College, and a Ph.D. from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.
Christine Giviskos is associate curator at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. Prior to joining the Zimmerli, Giviskos was assistant curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She is co-author of The Language of the Nude: Four Centuries of Drawing the Human Body. Exhibitions she has curated or co-curated include “Dark Dreams: The Prints of Francisco Goya,” “Oudry’s Painted Menagerie,” and “Defining Modernity: European Drawings 1800–1900.”
Melissa Harris is editor-in-chief of Aperture magazine and the editor/curator of numerous projects for the Aperture Foundation. Under Harris’s leadership, Aperture magazine has received many honors including ASME’s National Magazine Award for General Excellence and the FOLIO gold Eddie award. In addition to her affiliations with Aperture, Harris teaches at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Columbia University’s School of Journalism and is a contributing editor to Interview magazine. She has curated photography exhibits for Aperture Gallery in New York, Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, France, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the ICA (also in Philadelphia), and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, among other venues.
Steven Heller is the co-founder and co-chair of the M.F.A Design program and co-founder of the Design Criticism program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. After several years working as art director on the New York Times OpEd page, Heller became art director for the New York Times Book Review, a position he held for almost thirty years. He now writes the “Visuals” column for the New York Times Book Review. Heller is the author, co-author, and/or editor of more than 120 books on design and popular culture and has been a contributing editor to Print, Eye, Baseline, and I.D. magazines. He has produced and curated numerous exhibitions, including “Art against War,” “The Satiric Image: Painters as Cartoonists and Caricaturists,” and “The Malik Verlag.” He is also the recipient of the AIGA Medal for Lifetime Achievement. He is the editor of the AIGA VOICE, its online journal, and author of the Daily Heller blog at Printmag.com.
Tarek Kahlaoui, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Islamic art and Islamic history at Rutgers University. His research focuses on Islamic cartography, urbanism, and codicology, and he has taken part in excavations in Islamic and ancient sites in Tunisia. Kahlaoui has lectured widely—from the U.S. to Italy, Morocco, Switzerland, and Montreal. He has also authored articles in scholarly journals including “Towards Reconstructing the Muqaddima and the Idrisian World Map” in The Journal of North African Studies and “Tracing Urbanization in Early Modern Jerba” in The Mediterranean Medina.
Freyda Spira, Ph.D., is an assistant curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Spira specializes in Early Modern German art, works on paper, and Reformation imagery. She has authored several articles, including “Daniel Hopfer and Early Etched Armor in Augsburg” and “Daniel Hopfer’s St. Paul Preaching and the Question of Mediation,” both of which are forthcoming, and is currently curating an exhibition on Renaissance Augsburg at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Spira earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Sylvia Wolf is the director of the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has also been a curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In these positions, Wolf has organized over fifty exhibitions and written over twelve books on contemporary art and photography, including Julia Margaret Cameron’s Women; Visions from America: Photographs from the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1940–2001; Michal Rovner: The Space Between; Ed Ruscha and Photography; and Polaroids: Mapplethorpe. Wolf has taught studio, art history, and museum studies courses at the graduate and undergraduate level, most recently at Columbia University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the School of Visual Arts, New York. Wolf received a B.A. in French literature from Northwestern University, an M.F.A in photography from Rhode Island School of Design, and is currently writing her dissertation as an international fellow at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. She has been awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her promotion of French culture in the U.S.