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Liesl Marie Olson
Newberry Library (Chicago, IL 60610-3380)
Eye to Eye: Friendship, Art, and Collaboration in Mid-Century America

Research and writing of a book about artistic collaboration between writers, dancers, artists, and art collectors in Chicago from the 1930s through the 1950s, including Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), and Carlos Mérida (1891-1985).

"Eye to Eye" tells stories of artistic collaboration between writers Richard Wright and Gertrude Stein; dancer Ruth Page and sculptor Isamu Noguchi; curator Katharine Kuh and artist Carlos Mérida; and dancer Katherine Dunham and art collector Bernard Berenson. The idea behind the book is that the creation of new, often hybrid artistic forms requires a risk that is not just aesthetic but often very personal. By illuminating conversations, disagreements, impasses, and revisions, my aim is to tell the story of artistic process, the historical as well as intimate contingencies that shape the production of art, the physical and intellectual "work behind the work." The book focuses on the early 1930s through the 1950s, before the transformations of the women’s movement or the major social changes of the 1960s. During the economic strains of the Great Depression, the repressions of McCarthyism, and the violence of Jim Crow, what kinds of relationships could be equalitarian, reciprocal, equal?

Project fields:
Arts, General; Dance History and Criticism; Literature, General

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2022 – 8/31/2023