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Ellen C. Caldwell

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-born and -based art historian, writer, and professor. She writes about visual culture, the arts, and popular media for publications including New American Paintings, KCET’s Artbound, Riot Material, Desert Jewels, and more. Read more of her writing at eclaire.me.

Cast of Transparent

What Does Jesus Christ Superstar Have to Do With the Show Transparent ?

Jesus Christ Superstar is a global phenomenon, and with Transparent’s recent use of and even reboot of the rock opera, its fanbase is sure to keep growing.
EJI Slavery Museum

Bryan Stevenson and America’s First Slavery Museum

The Equal Justice Initiative's new museum seeks to lead a more “honest conversation about racial and economic justice."
Janet Jackson in concert

The Lasting Power of Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”

Twenty years ago, Janet Jackson released her single "Got ‘Til it’s Gone." Today, we celebrate the layered artistry that led to the video's timeless appeal.
Blue Black gallery view

Glenn Ligon’s “Blue Black” Exhibits the History of Race in America

Artist Glenn Ligon grounds his work in American history, addressing the inextricable link between history of slavery and the black experience in the U.S.
Lourdes Grobet

Mexico’s Radical Women Artists

Art by Mexican "Radical Women" artists capture the turbulent times of the feminist movement in Mexico in the 1970s and still ring true today.
Dreamcatcher at Walker Art Center

Honoring History with Edgar Heap of Birds’s Building Minnesota

Prior to discussions about appropriation art, artist Hock E Aye Vi (Hachivi) Edgar Heap of Birds honored the 40 executed Dakota men in "Building Minnesota."
Marian Beyonce

Beyoncé, the Virgin Mary, and the Power of Imagery

Why did Beyoncé pose as the Virgin Mary in her pregnancy and birth announcements? Learn about her art historical referents and iconic portraiture here.
SF MOMA text art project

A Museum in the Palm of your Hand

SFMOMA recently made headlines with its digital campaign to make art go viral with their Send Me SFMOMA project — but what museum exhibits came before this?
Pope Francis Sistine Chapel

How Pope Francis Will Redefine Art at the Vatican

Inaugurated in 2013, Pope Francis has been full of surprises and has redefined the papacy, including the ways in which he considers the power of art.
Jay Z on stage

Can Jay Z Help Students Read James Joyce?

Rapper Jay Z recently released his 13th studio album 4:44. Could this be used in the classroom to enlighten and educate students in secondary schools?
Ching Shih Pirate

Cheng I Sao, Female Pirate Extraordinaire

Learn more about Cheng I Sao, a female pirate (yes, women were pirates too!) dominated the coast of the Kwangtung Province between 1795-1810.
Untitled Basquiat

How Basquiat Went From Underrated to Record-Breaking

A 1982 Untitled work of Jean-Michel Basquiat broke records as the highest selling US-produced artwork. Learn how Basquiat and his work gained its fame.
Moana Maui

The Polynesian Origin Myths Behind Disney’s Moana

Like Disney’s Moana? Learn about the Polynesian origin myths Disney consulted to create the demigod character Maui, played by Dwane “The Rock” Johnson.
Marsden Hartley Lobster Fishermen

Was Marsden Hartley Really a Great Painter?

Was American painter Marsden Hartley an innovator, or an imitator? Some call him a great artist, while others say he didn't know how to paint.
Chim Pom border art

Can Art Make a Difference at the US-Mexico Border?

Japanese artist collective Chim Pom has stirred up controversy at the US-Mexico Border, building numerous artistic interventions near Tijuana’s border.
Anna Deavere Smith as Cornel West in “Twilight: Los Angeles.”

Remembering the L.A. Uprisings Through Theater

Just one year after the Rodney King verdict and subsequent L.A. riots, Anna Deveare Smith opened her one-woman show “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992."
Children behind barbed wire

How Photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White Showed Apartheid to Americans

Photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White dedicated her life to photography, including a trip to South Africa during the "dawn of the anti-apartheid era."
Rivera Painting

How to Talk About Diego Rivera and Mexican Art

Diego Rivera's artwork has always been intimately tied to the culture of his native Mexico, although this was not always seen as a sophisticated choice.
Liquid Traces still

Migrant Rights in the Age of Surveillance

Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani use digital technology and human testimonials to visualize human rights violations and to fight for migrant rights.
Billy Schenck painting

Retelling the American West in the Museum

In a time filled with “alternative truths,” historian Marsha Weisiger argues for more sophisticated approaches to telling the history of the American West.
Yusef Salaam

Unpacking the Racially-Charged Term “Superpredators”

In the ‘90s, racialized terms like “wilding” and “superpredators” conjured moral panic, which justified the Crime Bill and other similar propositions.
Jimmie Durham

Jimmie Durham and the Art of Interruption

Jimmie Durham’s first North American retrospective opens at The Hammer Museum this month. Learn about his art, performance, and undying need to interrupt.
New Yorker cartoon

The Enduring Humor of New Yorker Cartoons

With 90 years of New Yorker cartoons, readers learn much about changing trends in political and social history, all while celebrating through laughter.
Christmas Carol illustration

How Charles Dickens Set the American Christmas Dinner Table

How did a religious celebration turn into a holiday that is all about home, family, and Christmas dinner? Turns out Charles Dickens has a lot to do with it.
Little Big Horn ledger art

The American Counter-Narrative of Ledger Drawings

Plains Indian ledger drawings offer a rich counter-narrative to the often-glamorized, or forgotten, history of the American West.