Artist Linda Besemer Named 2022 Guggenheim Fellow

Jim Tranquada Artwork courtesy of Linda Besemer

Besemer, Occidental College’s James Irvine Distinguished Professor of Art and Art History, has been honored with a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Besemer is the eighth Occidental faculty member to receive the prestigious award, presented annually by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to artists, scholars, writers and scientists on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

"I'm flabbergasted,” says Besemer, one of 180 fellows chosen this year from a field of almost 2,500 applicants. "I have applied for years and never expected to be offered the fellowship. When I opened the acceptance letter, I was still in disbelief. So I had to ask my partner to read and interpret it. She said, 'It means you got the Guggenheim!'"

Previous Guggenheim fellows include graphic artist Art Spiegelman, painter Jacob Lawrence, sculptor Richard Serra and artist Edward Ruscha. Nina Gelbart, Occidental Professor of History and Anita Johnson Wand Professor of Women's Studies, was named a fellow in 2006.

Besemer, an American abstract painter celebrated for their stunning, optical works that upend commonly held notions of what makes a painting, has taught and painted at Occidental since 1987. Their work was featured in the 2000 Whitney Biennial Exhibition and exhibited at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other major venues.

Linda Besemer: StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch, the first survey of their paintings, opened February 12 at Cal State Long Beach’s Carolyn Campagna Kleefled Contemporary Art Museum. Featuring almost two dozen works from 1993-2021, the exhibition showcases key moments in Besemer’s career, tracing the evolution of their practice from early traditional gestural abstraction, exploring their “detachables” works, and culminating with their most recent glitch series.

Besemer plans to use the fellowship to continue their work on her glitch series. "Simply put, I want to explore if the form of the glitch could be a model for expressing queer and trans subjectivities within abstract painting."

Guggenheim Fellowships are grants awarded to around 175 selected individuals every year. The purpose of the program is to provide fellows with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible. As such, grants are made freely, without any special conditions attached to them. Fellows may spend their grant funds in any manner they deem necessary to their work.

Created and initially funded in 1925 by Simon and Olga Guggenheim in memory of their son John Simon Guggenheim, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has sought since its inception to “further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions.”

Since its establishment, the foundation has granted nearly $400 million in fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award, and other internationally recognized honors.