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Barbara Nesin Is CAA President-Elect

posted by Christopher Howard — Dec 16, 2009

Barbara Nesin, the department chair of art foundations at the Art Institute of Atlanta, has been elected president of CAA’s Board of Directors for a two-year term, beginning May 2010. A member of the board since 2006, Nesin has served as secretary for the past two years. She will succeed Paul B. Jaskot, professor of art history at DePaul University in Chicago, who has served as president since May 2008.

An artist and educator, Nesin says, “The work of those who make, interpret, and preserve images in our global culture has never been more important than it is now. As a visual artist who has participated in the formulation of our association’s Strategic Plan for the next five years, I am particularly excited about this opportunity to tangibly demonstrate CAA’s special commitment to expanding services to our artist members. In addition, I view the work of art historians, museum professionals, and teachers as integral and inseparable from the work of artists and designers, and will advocate on their behalf. I am also excited about CAA’s renewed focus on developing partnerships with a variety of institutions, including our own affiliated societies, in order to further CAA’s goals.”

Previous to her appointment at the Art Institute of Atlanta earlier this year, Nesin was associate professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, where she chaired the Department of Art from 2002 to 2005. Before that, she taught art at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado—the largest community college in the state—while directing its Visual Art Program.

After receiving a BFA in 1975 from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Nesin earned an MBA in 1984 at Long Island University in New York. She worked in the financial industry for twelve years—as a registered representative of the New York Stock Exchange and a vice president and department head of pension trust administration—before attending graduate school, earning her MFA in drawing and mixed media at Indiana State University in Terre Haute in 1996.

An overarching theme in Nesin’s art is a visual bridging of cultural differences by making connections to all aspects of her mixed-diaspora heritage. While her work is clearly about cultural narratives, it is difficult to place it neatly in existing categories. Nesin comments, “Narrow definitions of identity seem outdated in this age of globalization, which follows centuries of migration, exchange, acculturation, and syncretism. We seem to have plenty of new media for deeply entrenched paradigms, and not enough truly independent thinking.” Her mixed-media paintings and drawings often include photo transfers, retablos, and installations in which she employs a strategy of métissage—“mixing” in the political sense articulated by Françoise Lionnet as a practice of cultural survival—to navigate the layered terrain of humanity.

Her work has been shown internationally, most recently in the 2009 Havana Biennial in Cuba and in Cryptablos: Creole, Black & Jewish, a solo exhibition at the Dillard University Art Gallery in New Orleans. She has also presented work in solo shows in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, and Accra, Ghana, among others, and in juried and invitational group exhibitions across the United States. She maintains her studio at the Arts Exchange in Atlanta.

Nesin has traveled to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, including numerous trips to Haiti. Her research, which informs her creative work, has been published in Anales del Caribe, Higher Education Exchange, and the Journal of Haitian Studies. Current projects include two books in progress and a creative collaboration with English faculty from Birmingham Southern University in Alabama, funded by a grant from Associated Colleges of the South.

At CAA, Nesin was chair of the Committee on Diversity Practices (2006–9) and cochair of the Governance Task Force (2007–9), which researched and drafted the proposed changes to the CAA By-laws. She also served on the Steering Committee, which wrote the recently approved 2010–2015 Strategic Plan. As secretary of the board, Nesin served on the Executive, Finance and Budget, and Audit Committees. She was also a board member of the Haitian Studies Association from 2005 to 2009 and was the president of Foundations in Art: Theory and Education (FATE), a CAA affiliate, for two years, following eight years of board service.

The CAA board chooses its next president from among the elected directors in the fall of the current president’s final year of service, providing a period in which the next president can learn the responsibilities of the office and prepare for his or her term. For more information on CAA and the Board of Directors, please contact Vanessa Jalet, CAA executive assistant.

Artwork: Barbara Nesin, Sefarad, from the series Art in a Time of War, 2005, mixed media, 36 x 24 in. (artwork © Barbara Nesin; photograph provided by the artist)