Art and Art History
Title: Assistant Professor of Art History
Department: Art and Art History
Building: ARC 117
B.A., art history and foreign languages, Wheaton College
M.A., art history, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Ph.D., art history, Rutgers University
Kaia L. Magnusen received her bachelor’s degree in art history and foreign languages from Wheaton College. She earned her master’s degree in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University where her advisors were Robert Rosenblum and Linda Nochlin. She completed her doctorate in art history from Rutgers University where her advisors were Susan Sidlauskas and Andrés Mario Zervigón. After teaching at several institutions of higher learning, including Florida Southern College and Polk State College, she became a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History at Sam Houston State University. As an Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Texas –Tyler, she teaches courses on eighteen and nineteenth century art, modern art, contemporary art, curatorial training, and critical theory and research methods. She continues to publish and present on her research and to curate a variety of art exhibitions.
Summary of Current Research
Magnusen’s current research is twofold. She has focused on the art of the Neue Sachlichkeit, especially the work of Otto Dix and other interwar artists including Max Beckmann. Her research addresses the manner in which the art of this period engaged highly contentious social debates pertaining to the changing role of women, interwar conceptions of ideal masculinity and femininity, and the linkage of “deviant” women, specifically New Women, with degeneration, disease and death. Her work engages various medical and sociological discourses pertaining to the body in order to investigate depictions of physical and mental manifestations of illness and visualizations of death. She also examines the cross-fertilization that existed between fine art and Weimar popular culture, including film, dance, and music. Attendant with this, she explores notions of performativity and the fashioning of identity including the construction of public artistic personas. In addition, Magnusen has expanded her investigation of World War I-era art to include American soldier artist, Harvey Dunn. Her research on Dunn addresses the artist’s visual construction of heroic American male soldiers in his wartime works. Dunn’s construction of heroic, martial, American masculinity functions as an interesting counterpoint to Dix’s self-presentation as a virile, German soldier and to Dix’s wartime and interwar depictions of wounded German soldiers.
Magnusen has also directed her research toward the recent artistic output of contemporary artists, such as American artist Jeff Koons and London-based Eritrean artist Aida Silvestri. Magnusen’s interest in contemporary art addresses the use of new technology, such as the recent augmented reality sculptures by Koons, and engages the semiotic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure. Her research into contemporary art that utilizes technology also discusses the effects technology have on the relationship between art and the viewer, art and language, and art and the art historical cannon. In her research on contemporary art, Magnusen also continues her interest in investigating images of women, constructions of the female ideal, representations of physical harm and mental distress, and artistic engagement with the body. These interests are evidenced by her research on Silvestri’s mixed media photographing images addressing FGM and the issue of women’s rights in Africa.