Professor Emeritus of Art History
With Connecticut College: 1977-2011
B.A., University of Colorado; M.A., University of Texas; Ph.D., University of Virginia
Gender issues in the Machine Age
Portraiture in the 20th century
Barbara Zabel retired from teaching in 2011.
Zabel’s teaching and research interests focused on American and European modernism.
She has published scholarly essays in American Art and the Archives of American Art Journal, among other magazines and anthologies, and has written on contemporary artists in Arts Magazine and World Literature Today. Her interest in gender issues in the Machine Age resulted in publications including “The Machine and New York Dada,” in Making Mischief: Dada Invades New York (Whitney Museum of American Art, 1996); “The Constructed Self: Gender and Portraiture in Machine-Age America,” in Women in Dada: Essays on Sex, Gender, and Identity (MIT, 1999); and her first book, Assembling Art: The Machine and the American Avant-Garde (The University Press of Mississippi, 2004).
In addition to survey courses on American, modern, and contemporary art, Barbara Zabel taught a freshman seminar on “The Art and Film of the American West” and senior seminars on “Dada and Decadence in Postwar Berlin,” “Vienna 1900,” “New York Dada,” and “Issues in 20th-Century Portraiture.” On campus she has been active as chair of her department, as well as in the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, the American Studies program, and the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, where she served for many years on the board, and where she now chairs the Exhibitions and Collections Committee.
Zabel has participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar in Switzerland and a DAAD program in Germany, and has received research grants from the NEH, the Mellon Foundation, and from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Most recently, she received a Joshua C. Taylor Senior Scholar Fellowship from the National Portrait Gallery, where she began research for a book and exhibition on the portraiture of Alexander Calder. She presented the results of that research at conferences, including “Spirit of St. Louis: Calder’s Portrait of Flight,” at the meeting of the Society for Literature and Technology, Austin, TX (2003); “Wire Writing as Life Writing: The Portraits of Women by Alexander Calder,” The Theory and Practice of Life Writing, Istanbul, Turkey (2006); and “Writing Lives in Wire: Portraits of Artists by Alexander Calder," International Auto/Biography Association, University of Hawaii, (2008).
Barbara Zabel’s new book, Calder’s Portraits: A New Language, was published in conjunction with the exhibition she curated for the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, on was view from March 11 to August 14, 2011.