Besemer Wins Rome Prize Fellowship in the Visual Arts
Linda Besemer, professor of art history and visual arts at Occidental College, has been named one of four winners of a prestigious Rome Prize Fellowship in the Visual Arts, one of the most coveted awards bestowed on gifted American scholars and artists.
Awarded annually by the American Academy in Rome, the prize will allow Besemer to live and work at the Academy, located atop Rome's highest hill, the Janiculum.
Propelled by contemporary criticism and philosophy that have linked a reinvestigation of the baroque era with post-modern art practice, Besemer plans to use her $20,000 Rome Prize to study baroque art and architecture to understand their impacts on ongoing art practices.
“In particular, I’m interested in studying the uniquely non-narrative character of Boromini’s architecture,” Besemer said. “During the 17th century, art and architecture were intensely allegorical and narrative, yet Borromini’s architecture stands out as distinctly non-narrative among his contemporaries. As an abstract painter working in an intensely narrative culture, I’m curious about this distinction in Borromini’s work and the import of abstraction in historical and contemporary art forms.”
Besemer, who has taught at Occidental since 1987, will spend 11 months in Rome, starting in September. She is no stranger to the city, spending the first nine months of her master’s study at the Tyler School of Art’s Rome school. Besemer graduated a year later at Tyler’s Philadelphia campus.
The Rome Prize is awarded through an annual, open competition that is juried by leading artists and scholars in various disciplines. The American Academy in Rome is one of the leading centers for independent study and advanced research in the arts and humanities.
Besemer won the prize for her multicolored and geometric acrylic paint “bodies” that can be displayed folded or rolled over rods, or attached directly to architectural environments. She creates her art by applying sheets of acrylic paint to glass or polyethylene substrata. When the paint dries, Besemer removes the sheets for display. The compositions range from 22 inches square to 14-foot-tall creations.
At Occidental, Besemer teaches courses that range from studio art to the history of feminism. In 1999, she received a $20,000 Louis B. Comfort Tiffany award and the following year saw her work displayed in the 2000 Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is now on a yearlong sabbatical thanks to an extension grant from the George A. and Eliza Howard Foundation that allows her to create oversized paintings that will be exhibited in New York at Cohan, Leslie and Browne Gallery. The exhibition is scheduled to open May 2 and will continue through June 8.
This year, 31 Rome Prizes were awarded in the fields of architecture, design, historic preservation and conservation, landscape architecture, literature, musical composition, visual arts and ancient studies, medieval studies, Renaissance and early modern studies, and modern Italian studies. Winners represented 16 states.
The Academy’s Rome Prize winners are part of a residential community of 65 to 70 people each year. The artists and scholars who make up this multidisciplinary community also have the opportunity to foster their work through exchanges with members of the Italian and newly united European artistic and scholarly communities.