Erika Doss is a professor in the department of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in American, modern, and contemporary art and cultural studies. Her wide-ranging interests in American art and visual culture are reflected in the breadth of her publications, which include Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (1991), Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995), Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image (1999), Twentieth-Century American Art (2002), and Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010). Her recent monographs include The Emotional Life of Contemporary Public Memorials: Towards a Theory of Temporary Memorials (2008). Doss is also the editor of Looking at Life Magazine (2001), a coeditor of the Culture America series for the University Press of Kansas, and a member of the editorial boards of Memory Studies, Public Art Dialogue, and Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. The recipient of several Fulbright awards, Doss has also held fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her current research projects are "Spiritual Moderns: Twentieth-Century American Artists and Religion" and "I AM America: Art, Belief, and Ultra-Patriotism during the Great Depression."
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in 1933, the federal government responded to the crisis of the Great Depression with “New Deal” programs aimed at economic reform, work relief, and generating a positive sense of self and national survival among American citizens. American art played a major role in the New Deal: thousands of artists employed by various government agencies produced hundreds of thousands of prints, posters, photographs, films, paintings, murals, sculptures, and textile designs. Despite social and political stress on certain themes and subjects—such as national unity and confidence—the art of the New Deal was remarkably pluralistic. As this talk details, from 1933 through the mid-1940s, the New Deal legitimated diverse forms of American culture and spurred a renaissance in modern American art.