Luther College professor Kate Elliott publishes art history book

October 29, 2020

Dr. Kate Elliott, Luther College associate professor of art history, has published an art history book that explores visual representations of the first contact between European settlers and Native Americans. "Framing First Contact: From Catlin to Russell" is available for purchase where books are sold today. 

"I actually got to work on the project during my last year of graduate school," said Elliott. "I was interested in the representations of Native Americans by white American artists, and I kept noticing these history paintings of contact in all sorts of contexts. Asking why they were so popular in American art was enough to launch the entire project." 

Elliott holds a Ph.D. in American art history from the University of Iowa and teaches a range of art history courses at Luther including American Art, History of Photography and Twentieth Century Art. "I always tease my students that there are few art history classrooms in America where so much attention is paid to George Catlin and Charlie Russell," said Elliott. "We talk a lot about how paintings do not illustrate history, rather they help construct history and offer the artist's specific agenda in the presentation of history."

Elliott's book helps uncover the less obvious messages of first contact paintings and forces readers, and her students to think about why we tell the stories we do and why those stories matter. 

"I'm still so excited about these paintings, and these artists, that I can't help but to demonstrate that to the students," Elliott said.  "I also know that they won't all become art historians, but if I can model how to interrogate paintings and think critically about how stories from history are told visually, I know that they will become more sophisticated consumers of images in their own lives."

Published by the University of Oklahoma Press, "Framing First Contact: From Catlin to Russell" will be available for purchase at the Luther Book Shop as well as local and major booksellers. 

In addition to teaching, Elliott is the director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and curator of the Fine Art Collection at Luther. She is the recipient of the Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, sponsored by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington; the United States Capitol Historical Society Fellowship, Washington D.C.; and the H. George and Jutta F. Anderson Faculty Development Fund from Luther College. 

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