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Krista Thompson

Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art History; Director of Graduate Studies

Ph.D., 2002, Emory University
Curriculum Vitae

Krista Thompson is the Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art History, and affiliated faculty in the Department of Black Studies and the Department of Performance Studies. She teaches and writes about modern and contemporary art and visual culture of the Africa diaspora and the Caribbean, with an emphasis on photography, photographic archives, and lens-based practices. She is the author of An Eye for the Tropics (Duke University Press, 2006), Developing Blackness (The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, 2008), and Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice (Duke University Press, 2015). For Shine, Thompson received the Charles Rufus Morey Award for distinguished book in the history of art from the College Art Association (2016), the Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Award for theoretical and methodological contributions to Caribbean Studies from the Caribbean Studies Association (2016), and the James A. Porter Book Award in African American Art History from the James Porter Colloquium (2019). Thompson is the editor of Antonius Roberts: Art, Ecology, and Sacred Space (2023) and the co-editor (with Claire Tancons) of En Mas': Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean (D.A.P., 2015). She is the founder of the Institute of the Unarchived, a platform supporting privately-held photographic and videographic archives related to the Caribbean.

Much of Thompson’s research explores how the discipline of art history may be interrogated and expanded through the perspective, the side-long glance, of the African diaspora. Thompson’s articles on the field of African diasporic art history, on shine in the aesthetics of the African diaspora, on photographic absence and disappearance, and on the concept of Afrotropes (with Huey Copeland) have appeared in Art JournalArt Bulletin, RepresentationsAmerican Artand October respectively. She is also interested in fabulative and refractory modes art historical writing and academic performance. She has received grants and fellowships from the Dedalus Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and was awarded the David C. Driskell Prize from the High Museum of Art in 2009. In 2023, Thompson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Thompson has curated several exhibitions, including Bahamian Visions: Colonial Photographs of the Bahamas (2003); the Third National Exhibition (NE3) (2006); Developing Blackness (2008), and Antonius Roberts: Art, Ecology, and Sacred Space (2023) at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas; An Account of a Voyage to Jamaica with the Unnatural History of That Place, Fred Wilson’s reinstallation of the collections of the Institute of Jamaica (with Huey Copeland and Wayne Modest) (2007); and co-curated En Mas: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (with Claire Tancons) (2015), which traveled internationally through 2018.

Thompson is currently working on Refracting Light: Tom Lloyd and the Effect of Art Historical Disregard, a manuscript about artist and activist Tom Lloyd, electronic light, and archival recovery in African American art (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press) as well as The Evidence of Things Not Captured (forthcoming, Duke University Press), a book that examines notions of photographic absence, fugitivity, and disappearance in Jamaica. An article from the latter, “ ‘I WAS HERE BUT I DISAPEAR’: Ivanhoe ‘Rhygin’ Martin and Photographic Disappearance in Jamaica,” was published in Art Journal in 2018.

Program Area: Caribbean and African Diaspora; Global Modern and Contemporary; Photography

Regional Specialization: African American and the African Diaspora, Latin America and the Caribbean

Regional Interests: African Diaspora Modern and Contemporary Art, Photography, and Visual Culture

Selected Publications

Krista Thompson, "Introduction," Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

Krista Thompson and Claire Tancons. Eds. En Mas': Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean.  New York and New Orleans: Independent Curators International and Contemporary Arts Center, 2015.